Comparing a $20 Phono Cartridge to a $250 Cartridge

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Rivcuban, Sep 14, 2020.

  1. Rivcuban

    Rivcuban Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Currently, I am using an Ortofon Blue cartridge. I am not a hardcore audiophile but I do like good sound at a budget price. Yesterday, I took out my first turntable (Audio Technica AT LP60). It is equipped with a bottom of the line Audio Technica cartridge which costs less than $20. I did a comparison between the two cartridges. I was amazed on how good the Audio Technica cartridge sounded. Yes, the Ortofon Blue had more detail and a better soundstage. Other than that, the AT gave the Ortofon a run for it's money. I do know that certain companies in China take the AT $20 cartridge and change the color of the housing and sell them for around $100. I have seen comparative reviews of the AT $20 cartridge on YouTube and they say basically the same thing...the AT $20 cartridge sounds damn good! So, for any beginners out there, I would highly recommend the Audio Technica LP60 turntable with the cheap cartridge (around $100).
     
  2. aphexacid

    aphexacid It’s not Hip Hop, it’s Electro.

    Location:
    Illinois
    Those things are awesome for the money. I’d rather folks that are only half way serious about LP’s get one of those rather than an all in one unit.
     
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  3. gitters

    gitters Forum Resident

    The Audio Technica AT LP60 is pretty good for the price range.
     
  4. Glfrancis2

    Glfrancis2 Overworked and underpaid state employee

    Location:
    Birmingham al
    Just a question, no judgement intended...did the lp60 limit how much difference could be heard between the cartridges? Nothing wrong with saving some $ if it still gives you the sound you want....happy listening :edthumbs:
     
  5. Nathan Z

    Nathan Z Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    The LP60's tracking force increases as you use it, so I wouldn't recommend it as it'll ruin records.
     
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  6. gitters

    gitters Forum Resident

    I didn't realize that. I appreciate the info.
     
  7. Tom Hakala

    Tom Hakala Forum Resident

    Location:
    Helsinki
    30vs165_a.wav and 1 more file
    Nirvana - In Bloom (Bernie Grundman) 96/24bit

    Ortofon Dual DN 165 E vs Ortofon 30. 69€ vs 259€ stylus.

    I did tests betweem those two. I recorded many songs from different vinyls. But the difference was the same for all the songs. I can hear the difference (even in ABX test), but I was surprised how small the difference was.
    I also did compare Nagaoka MP-110 and Ortofon Dual 165 E. The difference was there, but still small. I preferred Ortofon. What I'm saying here is that if you a chance to record both then you can really compare them :)
     
  8. nosliw

    nosliw Azunyan! にゃーーー!

    Location:
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    You're comparing it to a nude elliptical stylus from the Blue versus a conical stylus. Both cartridges have different cartridge capacitance loading requirements for better performance, depending on your phono preamp. Plus, you're dealing with stylus shapes and other parts that influence the sound from the record.

    The LP60 with its bog-standard AT3600L cartridge is not good, especially if you're sensitive to inner-groove distortion. Conicals can be useful for beater records or if you want a certain sound signature, but that's about it.
     
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  9. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    The AT3600 on it's own (not attached to the horrible LP60) is fine for what it is. It's AT's cheapest cartridge and sells for between $10-20 depending on where you buy it. For a beginner cart, or a beater record cart it is fine.
     
    nosliw likes this.
  10. Rivcuban

    Rivcuban Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I'm not sure what you are asking. The difference in sound quality was a lot less than I expected. :)
     
  11. Rivcuban

    Rivcuban Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    If that's the case, I will take out my stylus scale to get the exact tracking force. If it's too heavy, I will refrain from playing my most expensive LP's on it. Thanks for the info.
     
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  12. Nathan Z

    Nathan Z Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    I didn't realize it either until I saw a couple videos where people measured it at the time of buying and then after a few plays. Quite a shock as I know lots of people playing good records on those things.
     
    gitters likes this.
  13. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek Drum machines are not inherently evil.

    Location:
    Austin, TX
    I think he implied that maybe if the two carts’ performances were compared on a more expensive turntable then the race wouldn’t be so close.
     
  14. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Fish tacos.

    Location:
    San Diego
    I recommend the LP Gear CF3600le version of the cart(about $35). Uses an elliptical stylus and tracks at 2.5g. Lowish output at 2.5mv. I think it sounds better than any other bonded elliptical I own including Sumiko Pearl, AT95e, Ortofon OM10 and others. It's very open sounding on top and has natural midrange and good clarity. Tight, tuneful bass..not heavy sounding. Gives the AT120eb(nude elliptical like the 2M Blue) a run for it's money.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2020
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  15. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    That's just the unverified report of one person who was unfamiliar with how to properly measure a spring-balanced tonearm. I tested a heavily used Aiwa turntable from 1999 with the same tonearm as the AT-LP60 and it measured at exactly the factory spec of 3.5 grams. Every other one of these turntables that I have seen measured properly has been within a few tenths of a gram of the factory spec. Even Michael Fremer -- who insists that Crosleys and Victrolas will "chew up the grooves" in as little as five plays -- says the LP60 is a good beginner turntable and will not damage records.

    And here is a direct audio quality comparison between an AT-LP60 and a vintage Technics SL-1900 (links to download uncompressed audio samples in the video's description):

     
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  16. robertash

    robertash Forum Resident

    I actually did the same type of test years ago with a AT3600 I got in a bag for cheap. I was using an AT440MLa at the time. I was surprised at how good it sounded. I guess that's why Rega uses it as it's stock cart on the P1/2.
     
  17. Nathan Z

    Nathan Z Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    How else would you measure VTF aside from placing the stylus down on a stylus tracking gauge? I also wouldn't be so doubtful of these findings as the ones I've seen have literally showed the process of them placing the stylus down and reading the number.

    As for how Michael Fremer recommends the turntable, I'm assuming he's measuring that on a brand new model in which case it would be perfectly safe. The thing is that it increases over time that's scary.
     
  18. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    You need to measure it at the correct height in order to get an accurate reading, as explained and demonstrated at 3:12 in this video:

    It would be scary if there was more than one report of it happening out of the millions of these turntables that have been sold since the early 1990s.

    I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm just saying that a single anecdote isn't enough data to establish it as a problem worth worrying about.
     
  19. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Fish tacos.

    Location:
    San Diego
    Right. The Rega Carbon uses the carbon fiber cantilever but with a conical stylus..like the AT91. The stock 3600 uses aluminum. The CF on the LP Gear version also carbon fiber but elliptical.
     
  20. Glfrancis2

    Glfrancis2 Overworked and underpaid state employee

    Location:
    Birmingham al
    Pretty good summation. I was attempting to be politically correct since I wasn't sure how much of a difference a better turntable would make. My "good" turntable is a 40 year old pioneer pl-600 silver. I cant be too much of a snob.
     
  21. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    The secondary problem here is how are you comparing the two things, to make comparisons you need good equipment starting with good quality speakers and everything upstream the same. Otherwise you will never know how different they really sound.

    Now, the important problem here is records are an expensive commodity. A few records will pay for the value of the turntable you are recommending. That turntable and cartridge will cause your records to wear and will not reproduce the sound you are paying extra for, in my view it is a false economy.
     
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  22. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict ___The Enforcer___

    I am not sure comparing a $20 cartridge to a $250 cartridge using a $99 turntable will give a comprehensive delta between them...... the quality of the TT might limit the upper end of capability. Besides, the quality of the rest of the system has a lot to say on said comparison too.

    Whereas comparing them on a more capable TT on a more resolving system - you might hear more difference. I would bet a donut with sprinkles I would hear a difference between a 3600 and 540ml on my system...
     
  23. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict ___The Enforcer___

    Just because one owns a better TT than the LP60 doesn't make them a snob :) it just means they spent more and have a better table.... it is what it is........ no labels required in either camp.

    I don't look down at others that have $99 tables, as I don't envy or look up to those that have $10K tables!
     
    AKA-Chuck G likes this.
  24. Rivcuban

    Rivcuban Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for the info. I trust most things Michael Fremer says.
     
  25. Rivcuban

    Rivcuban Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I don't look down at them either. My Pro-Ject turntable is my main living room turntable connected with my best speakers. I use my AT LP60 turntable with an old Onkyo integrated amp in my bedroom and I am more than pleased.
     
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