Replacing the Shure M97xE Cartridge/Stylus

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by retroboxman, Aug 7, 2018.

  1. With your favorite type of music, and preferring Mono, what you want is a conical stylus. If you can still find one, the Pickering NP/AC cartridge is a high output punchy cartridge with a good frequency range and it comes with a conical stylus. These are the same as the Stanton 400 series.
    If you are meaning Stax and Motown 45's, then definitely you need a cartridge with a conical stylus and preferably jumpered to Mono. For Motown 45's, you need to track them at 3-5 grams.
    The original Motown 45's of the 1960's into the early-70's were mixed really hot and were difficult to track. You almost didn't need an amplifier to hear them. In the 1970's, Motown backed off on their mixes and began using a .7 mil groove on everything as well as making stereo 45's. The first of the Motown Yesteryear re-issue series used the original mono masters but gradually also switched to the .7 mil grooves and upgraded many to the stereo versions.
    On another subject, probably the first time we were able to hear clear and clean versions of the original Motown Mono recordings was the first Hitsville U.S.A. CD boxed set.

    You definitely don't want to play those Stax and Motown 45's with a Shure M97xe cartridge. That is like putting high performance expensive racing tires on a Yugo. Way overkill. And then blowing big bucks on a Jico SAS for the Shure to play Stax and Motown 45's? That is pure insanity! The cartridge manufacturers designed a cartridge to sound a certain way and provided their choice of stylus to achieve that sound. Making any modifications or putting in a different stylus will give you a different sound and it could be better or worse. As a rule of thumb, I try to use only original replacement stylii when I need to change them.
    JohnO and floweringtoilet like this.
  2. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Hi There -

    Most of the music I listen to is on LP, not 7", do you still stand by the same advice?
    For some reason I read that conical stylus may damage the LPs, is there any truth to that?

    So to recap, you suggest a Mono cart with a conical stylus for mono recordings with my Pioneer PL-500?
    And what are your thoughts on the JICO stylus upgrade for my Shure M97xE? There seemed to be a loud consensus here that that replacement stylus pulls out more detail by sitting deeper in the groove.

    Thanks for weighing in!

  3. floweringtoilet

    floweringtoilet Forum Resident

    The M97xE has a bit of an upper mid-range suck out. From the frequency response graphs I've seen of the 2M series the Blue will have a lot more presence in this region.* As a result, you will likely hear more surface noise with the Ortofon than with the Shure, even if it is not technically "picking up" more surface noise (it would likely be more a matter of emphasis). The 2M Blue should be superior to the Shure in certain respects as it has a nude mounted elliptical where the Shure's is bonded. But it's hard to say whether its tonal balance will be to your liking or not, especially if you like the sound you are getting from the Shure.

    For punchy mono recordings I'm not sure the SAS is the best choice. You might consider finding a .7 mil conical stylus for the M97xE, and save the SAS for stereo recordings where it really shines due to its enhanced stereo separation compared to the stock Shure stylus. The SAS definitely brightens up the sound of the M97xE. Not everyone likes this, but it's a good thing IMO, as I find the stock M97xE too dark.

    *Full disclosure: I've not had a 2M Blue in my system so take with a grain of salt.
    SteelyNJ likes this.
  4. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    The 2M Blue and the M97 both have .2 x .7 elliptical styli. The difference is you get more top end clarity with the Ortofon because the stylus is nude and the Blue is voiced a bit brighter than the stock M97. Personally I wouldn't bother with the 2M Blue.

    Instead I would do like others said and buy a cartridge with a conical stylus for your mono singles. If you can swing it, consider a mono conical cartridge. Just make sure you get one for playing 33s and 45s and not something made for 78s.

    With your existing Shure cart you can go Jico. The SAS is one of most advanced stylus profiles on the market. Far more advanced than the ellipticals on the M97 and 2M Blue. The SAS is going to fare best on pristine records that are well pressed. It will sit deeper in the groove but is probably not the best choice for scratched up old singles.

    The nice thing about your Pioneer is that it has a removable headshell. You can simply get more carts and headshells and mount various carts on them, then use the right tool for the job when you play your records.
    SteelyNJ and SandAndGlass like this.
  5. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thank-you for chiming in. This is the direction I am leaning. I still would like to learn more about the Mono carts and be assured that I won't be damaging my HTF early Motown 33s by dragging a stylus through them that tracks at 4-5 grams. Do you have any specific recommendations for a conical cart and stylus? They seem much less expensive. Why is that? And is it TRUE mono if it's still coming out of two speakers?

  6. Mitsuman

    Mitsuman Forum Resident

    I posed this earlier, and you probably didn't see you have a mono switch on your preamp? Conical's are not much in favor by the masses these days, and they are much cheaper to produce than other profiles. There are several exceptions, and there are some rather fine cartridges out there using conical styli, but most consumers, and therefore manufacturers, have been focused on the more complex diamond profiles for 40+ years.
    As far as your last question, it's semantics really. I've heard a true mono kit, with a single Bozak speaker. Mono has to do with the way the record is cut, as the stylus only modulates left and right, not left and right and up and down as in a stereo recording. This is one of the main reasons for us suggesting a conical stylus profile. I wouldn't worry about the higher tracking forces shown for the conical styli, you weren't around I'm guessing when those records were cut and everyone used much higher VTF.

    One speaker, two speakers, it's all up to you.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018
  7. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    No Mono button. In terms of currently manufactured carts, I had a helpful chat with the folks at Needle Doctor and was recommended the Ortofon 2m Mono.
  8. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thank-you everyone for your advice. I had a great chat with the folks at Needle Doctor today and decided to start by purchasing a dedicated Mono Cartridge (since my TEAC amp doesn't have a mono button).

    After realizing that some (ok, most!) of the mono carts recommended on this forum (the Pickering/Stanton) are no longer manufactured, I opted for the cart recommended to me by the Needle Doctor, the Ortophon 2m MONO which is a spherical/conical stylus. The reviews are great. Retails for $375. I purchased a new one for $200. I got the plug and play version which is already mounted to a head shell. I know I will still need to calibrate and likely need some help.

    Has anyone had experience with the Ortophon 2M Mono and setting it up?
    Is it possible to calibrate it to the head shell in a way where I can easily swap between my Shure M97XE and it?

    Next step, the JICO stylus!
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  9. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    You will still have to adjust your VTF and antiskate each time you swap. If the cartridges are different heights, you will also have to adjust your tonearm lifter screw. You can get a digital scale to make adjusting the VTF a little easier.
  10. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Pardon the novice question: Is Vertical Tracking Force your tonearm weight setting? The Mono cart tracks at 1.8 and my Stereo can track between 1.5-2 and so I feel as though I could leave it at 1.8 for both.

  11. For mono LP's from the 1960's, I would definitely recommend a conical stylus. The conical type of stylus is not hard on any record. They do have more contact with the groove, but used with minimal tracking force, the conical would actually be easier on a mono LP. Mono LP's of the 1960's were purposely cut to be played with a conical stylus, as it was the most common. That was the purpose behind the RCA Dynagroove records.

    As far as riding deeper in the groove, the size of the stylus would determine that. A modern stereo stylus has a basic size of .7 mil, whereas a normal mono stylus is 1 mil, to match the cut of the groove. Playing a mono record with any type of stylus which is a basic .7 mil will ride lower in the groove than a traditional 1 mil stylus. The .7 mil stylus on a mono record can possibly ride lower than the surface damage. Vinyl records are so soft that a scratch or wear can go deeper so a smaller stylus may not cover up that damage. Standard 78's are a different story. Mostly made of a hard compound and the standard groove size is 3 mil, a stylus like the Shure N78S at 2.7 mil will usually ride below the surface damage. If you get smaller than .7 mil, then you get in the danger zone. I have one phonograph which was specially designed to play ultra-microgroove records and the stylus is .5 mil and conical. That stylus will fit other Pickering cartridges but will destroy a .7 mil stereo or 1 mil mono record.

    There are some dedicated mono magnetic cartridges around but the most common is externally jumpered mono. In a stereo cartridge, the stylus travels in a circular pattern. With a stereo cartridge playing a mono groove, the stylus may bounce around in a mono groove. If you split the mono groove down the middle, one side is mirrored opposite on the other side. The mono groove shifts the stylus left to right. This is why you might hear a tick or pop only in one channel of a stereo rather than both. Only one side of the groove may have an imperfection. A dedicated mono stylus puts everything into one output so you will get the same sound out of both stereo speakers.

    I have not tried a Jico SAS stylus on any of my cartridges because I don't have to. I still have genuine replacement stylii. OK. So the Jico SAS stylus may pull more sound out of a groove, but that also includes imperfections that you may not have realized were there. My first magnetic cartridge back in the early-1970's was an AudioTechnica AT-12S(Shibata stylus), which was a CD-4 quadraphonic cartridge with a frequency range of 10 or 20-50Khz. Talking about bringing out the imperfections. When I switched to an AT-14 elliptical, it still brought out the imperfections, but they were much more tolerable.

    I have always been fond of Pioneer turntables and see nothing wrong with a PL-500. A turntable I once had is my favorite of all time, the Pioneer PL-12D-II. It was my first belt-driven manual turntable and I bought it new in the 1970's. Everytime I think about it, I kick myself in the butt for trading it for a Dual 506.
  12. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident

    A Shure SC35C conical stylus will work with the M97xE body. Stock up, because they're about to become unavailable.
    SandAndGlass and H8SLKC like this.
  13. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for this helpful reply. I ended up ordering the Ortofhon 2m Mono Cart. We'll see how it works out!
  14. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    Possibly, if both cart+headshell assemblies weigh the same. Remember, you have to balance the cart+stylus+headshell and give it 1.8g force and antiskate.
    If the assemblies weigh slightly different, you may be able to put a tiny weight on one to equalize them, which would allow you to simply swap headshell+cart and keep the 1.8 settings.
  15. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Yes, the weight, but since the carts and headshells aren't the same weight, not going to work.
  16. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Might work but not a great idea. OP should just do it the right way.
  17. You are welcome! The Ortofon 2m mono cartridge that I have seen is the White one. It comes with a spherical stylus(same as conical) and is what it seems your desires are for those mono R&B, Soul and Motown LP's. A very expensive cartridge, but of excellent quality. You can also buy one at Amazon for a few dollars more already mounted in an exclusive headshell. Because you have a real turntable in the Pioneer PL-500, as opposed to the mickey-mouse, straight tone arm with fixed headshell turntables currently flooding the market, the pre-mounted cart in a headshell would be plug 'n play.
    You can also buy universal headshells so you can just swap the headshells with the cartridges already mounted and save yourself frustration to create your own plug 'n play setup, plus, you can A/B cartridges within seconds.
    While they are still available, I would advise getting an original replacement stylus for your Shure cartridge. With the expense of the 2m mono, it shows you are not shy of spending a buck or 2.
    Please let us know how your new cartridge works out. I'm pretty sure you will be impressed.
    retroboxman likes this.
  18. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for your help! The version of the Ortofon 2M Mono cart I ordered is their "plug and play" version for universal tone arms:

    ortofon plug and play mono - Google Search :

    So I assume when I switch between this cart and my stereo cart, I will have to adjust:

    1. Tone arm tracking weight
    2. Anti skate

    What other tools do I need to ensure the set-up is correct? Because it's pre-mounted, do I need to adjust the screws and angle of the cart on the head shell?

    I know how to balance a tone arm etc . . . just seeing if I am missing anything.

    I have kept my previous styli for my Shure M97xE which have varying hours on them and still sound good. I haven't purchased an extra one yet, do you know something I don't about availability!? They are cheap - like $60. I am very interested in trying a JICO.

  19. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Right so it's just a matter of re-balancing and adjusting the weight and anti-skate when I switch between the two, correct?
  20. Mitsuman

    Mitsuman Forum Resident

    Um, maybe. How can Ortofon know what your tonearm length and proper overhang is for your tonearm? The distance from the pivot point on your tonearm, to the stylus tip is a critical dimension. To call this plug n' play is somewhat dubious IMHO. Assuming you have the Shure properly mounted in the tonearm now, you are maintaining the proper overhang of the stylus in relation to the spindle, meaning the distance from the tonearm pivot point to the stylus tip is correct. It would seem to me impossible for anyone to offer a headshell/cartridge combination like you are purchasing, to simply be slapped into the locking collar on the tonearm, and have the overhang be correct for any turntable/tonearm with a removable headshell.
  21. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Yet they sell them. I wonder what information we're missing. I suppose I will find out when it arrives!?
  22. Mitsuman

    Mitsuman Forum Resident

    I have to believe they specifically mean plug n' play due to the fact that their headshell will fit a universal bayonet on any tonearm with that style of connection. You will have to initially adjust the cartridge for overhang and proper alignment when you receive it. Once you've done that, if this is indeed the case with this cartridge/headshell, then yes you should be able to simply re-set the VTF and anti-skate when swapping. Depending on the height difference of the Ortofon vs. the Shure, you may have to also adjust Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) to assure that your arm is parallel to the record surface.
  23. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I have the manual for my PL-550. It says the weight of a cartridge should be between 4 and 14.5 grams but it doesn't indicate the weight of the head shell or take that into consideration. Here's the specifics on my tone arm:

    a) Type: static-balance type, s-shaped pipe arm
    b) Effective arm length: 221 mm
    c) Overhang: 15.5 mm
    d) Arm height adjust range: +5mm

    Here's what I know about the plug and play Ortofon 2M Mono I've ordered:

    1. Cart alone is 7.2 grams
    2. Cart on pre-mounted head shell is 20 grams

    More specs here: 2M Mono

    Should I be concerned about compatibility?
    What other "setting-up" do I need to do aside from balancing the tone arm, setting proper tracking force and anti-skate?

    Thanks for the help,

  24. retroboxman

    retroboxman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thank-you. Very helpful. What tools do I need to set:

    1. Overhang and proper alignment?
    2. Vertical Tracking Angle?

    Those are two settings I have never had to adjust.

  25. Mitsuman

    Mitsuman Forum Resident

    Right, I'm familiar with that series of Pioneer decks. The overhang of 15.5 mm is the sticking point, and why I posted what I did earlier. Looking at the Ortofon you are purchasing, it appears that the cartridge fits tight up against a lip molded into the headshell. It's hard to tell how much adjustment you can get if you needed to move the cartridge forward to achieve the proper overhang. From the picture, it would seem that the cartridge can only move backwards to the hard stop molded into the headshell. Most headshells allow for a fair amount of cartridge adjustment, fore and aft. This is necessary to position the stylus to the proper overhang, because not all tonearms are the same length. I hope I'm being clear.

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