Opinions Please- Stanton 881S Cartridge

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by stereoguy, May 24, 2019.

  1. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo! Thread Starter

    Hi guys,

    Just soliciting opinions. What do you think of the Stanton 881S cart from the 1980s?

    I happen to have found one in my collection, and I'm going to give it a try in my Rega P2 (2016 model).

    I have ordered a generic stylus for it just to see what it sounds like.

    ti-triodes and Twelvepitch like this.
  2. Twelvepitch

    Twelvepitch Singer Songwriter and Independent Record Producer

    Dadeville, Alabama
    You can't go wrong with Stanton.. great cartridge!
    bluemooze likes this.
  3. Loved the 881s from Stanton. Had about three of them with some lower models too. The brush was so cool at the time. Of course their were audio guys saying the brush assembly added weight but I thought they were very good sounding. John M.
    Twelvepitch likes this.
  4. My Dual and Garrard had 881s and 680 from Stanton. Only the Empire edr9 bested them, but that was in 1978. John.
  5. ti-triodes

    ti-triodes Forum Resident

    Great cartridge. The problem with all the Stereohedron Stanton/Pickering cartridges is the replacement stylus. Nothing actually sounds as good as the Stereohedron stylus did but there are some decent sounding generic stylus. There are also some retipping services that do excellent work.

    There are some great threads over at Audiokarma that deal with this. I got some great advice from those guys.

    Here’s a great website that I’ve done business with. He’s very helpful and is on top of what’s the latest and best sounding for the Stan/Pick cartridges.

    Voice Of Music, V-M Audio Enthusiasts
    bluemooze, snorker and vwestlife like this.
  6. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo! Thread Starter

    Thank you So Much Guys! Looking forward to seeing what mine sounds like. I would think its going to sound better than the Shure M95ED which I *was* going to install in the Rega.
    ti-triodes and apesfan like this.
  7. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member

    East Tennessee
    I'm going to go against the general consensus here. I love the 681, especially with the stereohedron stylus, but I could never warm to the 881. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, it just sounded really polite to me. I'm searching for the right word here and it's difficult to find a good one - to my ears it has no personality at all, it's just "fine." But, yes, it's a good cartridge and by all means mount it up and see what you think.
    McLover, PhxJohn, jusbe and 1 other person like this.
  8. classicrocker

    classicrocker Life is good!

    Worcester, MA, USA
    Great cartridge! I have one I bought back in 1980 to use on my then new Technics 1700MKII rig and it was one of the best MM cartridges back then IMO. I have read this vintage cartridge can still go toe to toe with the better modern MM cartridges but I have never compared myself.

    Stanton used a Stereohedron diamond cut which is a modified Shibata so it is very detailed yet IMO it is neutral as well as it has a fairly flat frequency response. With an original stylus the 881S will track just about anything at a VTF of 1.25 grams.

    I still use mine on a regular basis but it does have an original stylus which I understand is key to getting the best sound from it.

    Stanton had a patented tie wire design on the cantilever which contributed to the unique sound of the 881S so I would not judge it solely based on an aftermarket stylus as they usually don't have the tie wire and as a result don't sound exactly the same as an OEM stylus.

    I also have a Jico Shibata replacement stylus for my 881S and when I gave it a listen it sounded very nice but it was brighter than the OEM stylus. Maybe with some break-in time, it will mellow out.

    Also, the brush that came on the original D81S stylus was natural hair (horse?) and is very soft. The aftermarket brushes tend to be synthetic fiber and a little stiff which I understand impacts the tracking and sound quality. If you have the old original stylus I would swap the brushes as I have heard it makes a big difference to the sound. Also, try taking the brush off and see if you like it better.

    Keep in mind that you need to add a gram to the VTF if you keep the brush on so if you set the want to track at 1,25 grams you add 1 gram so your VTF should be set for 2.25 grams. If you take the brush off you set the VTF as you normally would.

    And a nice review

    Stanton 881 MkII and Audio Technica ATML-70

    Sorry for the long-winded post but I love my 881S!

    Enjoy your new find and let us know how it sounds with the aftermarket stylus. Which brand aftermarket stylus did you buy as they all sound a little different on this cartridge?
  9. classicrocker

    classicrocker Life is good!

    Worcester, MA, USA
    Interesting experience Tim. The 881S has a very flat frequency response and is neutral sounding to my ears whereas the 681EEE I have is a little bit warmer IMO so do you find the same thing?

    Maybe it has something to do with the 881S being MM while the 681 families are Moving iron? Don't get me wrong I like both but prefer the neutrality of the 881S.

    Here is a page out of a vintage 881S brochure I own which has reviews from different publications from the day. Maybe a little hard to read but you can see the frequency response plot which is almost ruler flat out to 20kHz.

    Another Brochure of all Stanton products of the day

    http://lcweb2.loc.gov/master/mbrs/recording_preservation/manuals/Stanton (Misc.).pdf
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
  10. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member

    East Tennessee
    Yes, that is definitely what I hear. I've heard the 681 described as having a strong mid-bass/lo mid "bloom" and I think that's a very good description. It also happens to be a sound I seriously love, especially on rock and pop records. I think I was disappointed when I didn't hear any of that in the 881. I don't know a thing about the mechanics or materials of either cartridge, so I can't say what causes the differences in the two.
    PhxJohn and classicrocker like this.
  11. I’ve not heard the 881, but I recently bought a very clean 981hzs from eBay and I am very impressed. It’s the best moving magnet cartridge I’ve heard, and rivals moving coil cartridges IMO.

    There’s one catch, as noted above by @classicrocker ...you need a NOS stylus to really capture the magic. I was fortunate to find a couple (one is actually a Pickering, but they’re essentially the same). When I got the cartridge it came with a new generic, and it’s nowhere near the originals. Nobody has figured out how to duplicate the suspension, which allows the thing to track to 100uM at only 1.25 grams...unheard of today. It is also rated at 35db channel separation, which only really expensive moving coils can achieve these days.

    So, these are great if you can find a NOS stereohedron stylus to go with it.
  12. PB Point

    PB Point Forum Resident

    San Diego
    I just recently acquired one on Pioneer Pl630 from Ebay.

    Sounds amazing. Like it more than the Ortofon Bronze in the Pioneer and also in my Technics 1600mk2. It’s my favorite.

    I have no idea on the condition of the stylus so I just ordered a replacement from Jico. It’s on the way. Hoping it will be somewhat close.

    I have the weight dial/anti skate set at 1.25 but the scale is reading .56 on the needle and sounds amazing and tracks perfectly. I totally see the benefit of the brush.

    Word of caution....

    When I was cleaning the cart, I got the bright idea to use some Isopropyl alcohol on the body with a qtip to maybe get some light grime off it. Well, after doing that, then remounting it in another headshell, I took off all the ink on the Stanton sticker. I’m such a dummy sometimes. Never going to sell it though so no worries.

    Wear gloves when remounting it. That ink on the sticker is not paint.

    Anyone ever see replacement stickers?

    bluemooze likes this.
  13. Pythonman

    Pythonman Forum Resident

    Never had one and kick myself for not grabbing a few. Did have a Pickering XV-15 400E back in the day. That cart sounded great on a pals Scott system complete with a Scott DD turntable. Really good.
  14. classicrocker

    classicrocker Life is good!

    Worcester, MA, USA
    I found the JICO stylus to be very good but I thought it was brighter than OEM.

    I have a low hour original so only played the JICO for a few hours. Maybe it will mellow with break in but I think you will like it.
    PB Point likes this.
  15. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo! Thread Starter

    Thank you guys. I have a $24 Swiss Pickering stylus on the way (this model works in several different carts) just to hear what the 881S sounds like. I will be sure to post when its installed.
  16. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo! Thread Starter

    By the way, the first LP that will be played on it will be the Hor Zu Please Please Me LP, as I know every inch of that LP by heart and will be able to pick out where its good or bad.
  17. 56GoldTop

    56GoldTop Forum Resident

    Nowhere, Ok
    I grew up on my dad's 881's. To my ears, "magic" BUT, BUT, BUT...

    This is an extremely tough cartridge to get right... ...aftermarket. Take that from someone who listened to this cartridge from age 8 to 18 almost non-stop with every genre of music. I'm still on a search for the most perfect match. I haven't tried the paratrace, yet. Maybe that's it. (LP Gear: too shrill, SoundSmith ruby/NCL: very good but brighter, on some LP's can get fatiguing after a while but not shrill like the LP Gear, JICO from Japan: very good, the best of the three I've tried but suspension failed within a month :/ ). Next? perhaps another JICO from Japan or a Paratrace...

    Unfortunately, I do not believe throwing a temporary stylus in there will actually give a real clue as to what the cartridge can do with the "right" stylus. Having the "correct" stylus in the cart will make or break the sound of the cart. Without the right stylus, this cart is no better than any other and quite probably, worse.

    I've taken a temporary hiatus from my search for the perfect match for this cart. In the meantime, I found at least two other MM carts which seemingly have a knack for "doing no harm". One is an Empire. The other is an ADC. The Audio Technica's I have are lighter in the bass (compared to the 881) and my Shure's are more rolled off in the highs (compared to the 881). The 881 really did do this amazing balancing act of appearing strong (or neutral) from LF to HF without sounding bloated or shrill.
    snorker and classicrocker like this.
  18. I’m disappointed nobody can emulate the Stanton/Pickering suspension and stylus. I’ve got two NOS stylii for my 981hzs, and I figure when the first wears out I’ll send it to Expert Stylus in the UK for a re-tip with the Paratrace. KAB says they’re very good and has used them a lot. It won’t be exactly the same as the Stereohedron, but probably the next best thing.
    56GoldTop likes this.
  19. 56GoldTop

    56GoldTop Forum Resident

    Nowhere, Ok
    Let me know how that goes. If you like it, I may go for it, as well.
    snorker likes this.
  20. Will do, but it will be a while. I’ve just started using the first stylus May 11. I’m going to run it to about 1200-1500 sides or so (400-500 hours). For the first time I’m trying to keep track with a counter app on my phone. It will be a tall order to duplicate how this Stereohedron sounds though!
  21. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    My first real cart was the Pickering XSV/4000, identical to the Stanton 881S (except the Pickering did not have a calibration sheet so was $15 less). The turntable I bought the same day turned out to be a tragic dud, a story I mostly detailed on another thread. I got a better turntable at a different store, and that cart and tt served me beautifully for the next 20 years (as I used it less and less and also tried different carts to save the 4000 stylus).

    Which is that? The Pf... 4608-DEX or 4825-DEZ? I have the DEX... It will "work" but it will not reveal the full sonic beauty of this cart, and it won't track as well as a real Stanton/Pickering stylus.

    For anyone who wants the most inexpensive real Stanton/Pickering stylus for these right now, a seller on ebay has new old stock of the Stanton N890E stylus. That is elliptical .4 x .7, and tracks at "2 - 5 grams", but it will show off the sonic beauty of the cart, and it will track well, as well as a "2 - 5 grams" stylus will. The seller's listing has a detailed explanation of this stylus and all the Stanton and Pickering models it will work with (all XV15, all XSV/XEV, all 680/681, all 881, all 89x.) The seller is running low now and increasing the price. (I've got mine.)

    Another seller has a new stylus imprinted as D4000, but it seems to be an aftermarket, and the seller is not really clear on what he has. The real D4000 was the original stylus for the XSV/4000 and was identically interchangeable for the 881S. I don't have one from that listing.
    Last edited: May 25, 2019
    bluemooze and Tim S like this.
  22. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo! Thread Starter

    John, thank you posting that.
  23. rl1856

    rl1856 Forum Resident

    881s is an outstanding cartridge and one of the best from 40yrs ago. Doug Sax endorsed it as the cartridge he used when mastering LPs. I used one for several years and loved what I heard. It was an improvement from an Empire 2000Elll and Shure V15-lll. The problem know is condition of the suspension, any damping materials and of course a used stylus. A retipper can perform their magic on the stylus, very few can rebuild the rest. Enjoy it while you can.
  24. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo! Thread Starter

    UPDATE: Thanks to JohnO for that wonderful info.

    I have canceled the generic stylus and have bought a couple of the OEM Stanton N890E stylus. So I should be in good shape. The only question now is how will the Stanton work in the Rega P2 arm.
    JohnO likes this.
  25. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Brooklyn, NY
    Great cart
    bluemooze likes this.

Share This Page