Tell me about switching from MM to MC carts

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Vibrolux_Reverb, Nov 24, 2021.

  1. Vibrolux_Reverb

    Vibrolux_Reverb Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Orleans, LA
    Right now I am currently playing a Clear Audio Virtuoso with an AT VMN95-ML stylus on a Marantz TT15S1 table. I think it sounds really really good, but have always been curious about MC carts.

    I mainly listen to jazz, but i also dabble in all types of music that ranges from Pscyh and Prog Rock to Vocals to Metal and Classic Rock.

    What kind of differences should I expect by moving to an MC cart, and what is a good starting point for me? I would want something that would offer a VERY noticeable upgrade from what I already have. Is this even possible for under $1500????

    Also, unlike my MM cart where I can just replace the stylus myself every year, I would have to send the MC cart in to get retipped. I don't know much about that. What is the cost in such services and what are the lifespans on most of these MC carts? Anything else I should know before making a plunge into MC's ?

    Ingenieur likes this.
  2. RemyM

    RemyM Forum Resident

    Following this. Can your amp handle MC?
  3. Ingenieur

    Ingenieur Forum Resident

    Following also
  4. Vibrolux_Reverb

    Vibrolux_Reverb Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Orleans, LA

    Yes. I have a Yamaha A-S1100. It has an MC stage, although I hear that it isn't quite as good as the MM.
    RemyM likes this.
  5. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    In my limited experience the MC gets you much more refinement in the top end. More detail and air, but tone is still smooth without brightness. You will need a decent phono.

    I like my MM carts fine, but in the future I will likely be 100% MC
    nomad709, chili555, bluesky and 2 others like this.
  6. RemyM

    RemyM Forum Resident

    What would be a decent price point to start with? Like, what's the turning point? In my case compared to a 2M Black, and for the thread starter, AT VMN95-ML.
  7. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    Others should weigh in. I jumped from from Ortofon 2M Bronze and Rega Exact (great carts!) to the Apheta 2 around $2k. I am sure there are great MCs for less.
    Slimpickens likes this.
  8. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Portland, OR, USA
    One of the first significant differences is that you will lose the treble hump from loading (that is, if you already haven't gone to efforts customizing phono stage settings to optimize the cartridge). The coil of the Clearaudio is closer to a VM95's coil inductance than to a VL540 (as was recently compared here with recordings), but the typical MM phono stage's 220p capacitance will still give it a treble increase.

    Frequency response difference: VM530EN vs similar stylus AT-OC9XEN MC

    Instead the higher airy treble range output of MC will depend on the resistance loading setting, something that also requires options or at least research.

    A moving coil cart has about 1/10th the voltage output, needing a more sensitive phono stage with high gain or step-up transformers. This can make it more susceptible to electric interference.

    These "refinements" in sound are just electrical phenomena, and audiophiles like MC for the same reason as turntables in general, the sound differences that digital doesn't offer gives them something to fuss with.

    (Not your personal shopper)
    wrat, chili555, mackat and 6 others like this.
  9. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict Scientist's have opinions too

    As you know the A-S1100's phono pre is capable of good sound with MM, and it offers MC and it's acceptable to some, but for others unquestionably leaves some sound potential on the table - and those who have compared would recommend an external pre if you have the budget and goal is to maximize sound quality with MC. That's a roundabout way of saying the 1100 is "meh" on MC. But again, realize it's a choice and some are just fine with the 1100's MC stage.

    Then you have to deal with the fact that to get a capable external MC stage, you may have to plan a fair chunk of change because even with external pre's that offer both MM and MC, it's the same drill that the lower end MC stages are capable but not optimal. Again, there are many out there happy with running MC on something like a Mani, but those in the know realize it is fair to midland and leaves obtainable gain on the table.

    There are a couple of upgrade paths if you're looking next level - first you could buy a capable MM only external pre, dial it in with a good MM cartridge to see if it's to your liking, then find some way to step that up (active or passive) for MC. If you're not one who swaps cartridges frequently a dedicated MC step up is more palatable, and could be a more cost effective way to match something to your favorite cartridge.

    Or, buy a capable MM / MC combo stage - but again, don't think $500, think $1000 - $2000 and consider used to get more for the money. In my humble opinion. If you're one looking to maximize the experience, this would be a good option too.

    All this being said, today's higher end MM carts on capable MM stages can be a better sweet spot budget-wise, pound for pound. If your goal is to get similar experience from MC, you'd have to spend more comparatively. There are many happy MM only owners out there making very nice sound.
  10. Vibrolux_Reverb

    Vibrolux_Reverb Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Orleans, LA

    Good post.

    I kind of figured that this may be what I was looking at. The Yamaha has a fantastic MM stage, so maybe it is better to play off of that, but I don't know if I would be able to get the upgrade I am looking for for under $1500, which is about the max I want to spend on a cartridge. My virtuosos with microline stylus does sound pretty sweet, so perhaps I am chasing a very marginal upgrade for a lot of money in the long run.
    TheVinylAddict likes this.
  11. Tourswede

    Tourswede Forum Resident

    I was looking at moving to MC but the extra gear and cost put me off. Ended up with an Audio Note IQ3 MM cart which should be well below 1500 and sounds incredible to my ears. And like yourself I play everything from death metal to jazz to folk etc. There’s a load of reviews out there for the cart.
    JoelWat likes this.
  12. Vibrolux_Reverb

    Vibrolux_Reverb Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Orleans, LA
    Interesting looking cart. How frequent, easy, and costly are stylus replacements?
  13. fish

    fish Forum Resident

    NY, USA
    Have you looked at High Output MC's? They work with MM phone preamps although the gain is lower than a MM cart.
  14. Pmds55889397

    Pmds55889397 Forum Resident

    I would say, so many good MM's are available, - going MC will be really expensive if VERY noticeable improvement needed.

    Ask yourself are current kit up to the challenge ? (lovely deck btw - you haven't described other kit apart from a Yamaha amp.)
    Are you prepared to experience some factors where MM do sound better anyway,? coherence or speed for example.
    Most MM stylus can be replaced, at a cost.
    MC need retip, at a cost plus refit.
    Forget high output MC.
    wrat likes this.
  15. Sam

    Sam Senior Member

    Rochester, NY
    How about the best of both worlds? Get yourself a Clearaudio Charisma V2 MM. Read the reviews. I have one and say "Outstanding!" Of course, the price has now gone up to $2195. It's not your father's MM.
  16. captwillard

    captwillard Forum Resident

    In my experience, MM can do a better job of giving the user that “analog warmth” while MC have a more open and airy treble and can dig a little deeper into the detail of the recording. Moving from MC to MM initially sounded a bit muted to me but I enjoyed the warmer presentation. In the end, I feel more comfortable with a nice MM that I can replace the stylus on. I didn’t feel comfortable with a $1000+ MC in which one tipsy mistake leads to an expensive replacement. Plus, it is much more affordable to get an excellent MM phono stage.
    sotosound and macster like this.
  17. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    An example in time-
    MM Ortofon 2M Black to LOMC Audio Technica ART9.
    Both cartridges optimized in terms of mechanical and elecrtrical setup and break in.

    2M Black retail at the time $750
    A very good sounding cartridge.
    Detailed and clear.
    Good bass, excellent midrange, good treble.
    Good soundstage.
    Dynamics seemed sluggish and weak compared to digital sources.
    Treble like cymbal strikes and percussion lacked refinement compared to digital sources. Amplifies recorded distortion.
    Overall a very nice sound yet often slow and occasionally slightly noisy amd edgy by comparison.

    Audio Technica ART9 retail at the time $900
    A delightful, colorful sounding cartridge.
    Detailed and clear yet polished.
    Excellent bass, excellent midrange and outstanding treble.
    Huge soundstage.
    Impressive energy, speed and dynamics that rival digital sources.
    Treble clarity and refinement that was superior to digital sources.
    Overall a superior, high end refined sounding vinyl experience.

    the physics of a low mass dynamically moving coil are optimized for critical dynamic movement of stylus and cantilever while tracing the undulating geometry of LP record grooves when compared to higher mass moving magnets.
    the results are obvious with cleaner, refined more dynamic and energetic sound for LOMCs.
    Tim Irvine, grive, fish and 7 others like this.
  18. motorstereo

    motorstereo Forum Resident

    I made the move from mm to mc about 3 years ago and I'd have to say it's easily my best upgrade ever for my vinyl rig. Just this morning I was taken aback that an old Billy Idol record could throw an enveloping soundstage several feet beyond the speakers. Equipment is a CA Emotion; Satisfy arm with a Stradivarius mc cart. At this point I can't imagine going back to a mm cart as the Strad just plain does everything better than the CA mm cart it replaced.
    Echoes Myron likes this.
  19. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    low cost retips for MC cartridges are available from sound smith and VAS that will often sound better than the original and cheaper than new stylus.
  20. MGW

    MGW Less travelling, more listening

    Scotland, UK
    To be fair to the OP, he has listed his equipment in his profile, where you should also have listed yours according to the SHF house rules.

    For my part, I actually agree with much of your post, although I have no experience of HOMC so simply cannot comment.

    I switched from MM to MM in about the late-1990s. At that time a £500 LOMC and £500 phono stage was more than adequate for the job and I had many years of use from mine.

    Recently, I upgraded my phone stage to the Moon 310LP and 320S (£3,300 when new, fortunately, £1,500 to me). I have just recently ordered a Kiseki BlackHeart which will be a massive step-up on my current cartridge.

    The reason for all that detail is that I would not even dream of going back to MMM. MC has, for me in my system, provided a much more musical and life-like performance, lower noise floor. Last year's RSD ChangesNowBowie is a good example, Lady Stardust in particular, as it seems that the man himself is performing right in front of me. I certainly do not recognise the 'warmer presentation' from MM or that 'MC has too much treble' statements that others have experienced. Yes, there is more space and air in the top-end on a good MC set-up but this should not, in any way, come across as 'aggressive or too much.

    While I have been typing @avanti1960's post has appeared and that mirrors my experience and views formed from those experiences.
    macster and Ingenieur like this.
  21. Ingenieur

    Ingenieur Forum Resident

    Putting bad thoughts in my head :)

    My Luxman has a reportedly good MC section.
    I think my TT can handle one if I do my part in set-up.

    I see an AT OC9XML in my not so distant future. Need to acclimate to my speakers first. Lol

    You guys are killin' me!
    Tim Irvine, JoelWat, ubiknik and 3 others like this.
  22. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict Scientist's have opinions too

    These days, $250+ for a cartridge and a good $500 MM stage gets one pretty far up the sound reproduction curve. For many who might be budget-minded and looking for the sweet spot and in both $$$ and time invested, it's the point where the "diminishing returns" model starts to kick in.

    I run more than one TT, and right now I have a 1200G with a AT 150Mlx MM cartridge on it. Sounds pretty good. :) But so do my TT's running MC carts! Honestly, if all I had was the 1200 with the MM cartridge like the 150, I could be happy....
    sotosound likes this.
  23. RemyM

    RemyM Forum Resident

    Do you think there will be a lot of loss when using a decent step up? Say 500 dollar used, 1000 dollar new.
  24. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict Scientist's have opinions too

    It's just a matter of time, if not just for the fun of it.

    I mean, why not? You seem to be into it and enjoying the hobby... :)
    Ingenieur likes this.
  25. Ingenieur

    Ingenieur Forum Resident

    that is the problem, I've been doing this for 40+ years and enjoy it. Only a few interests (not people) in my life have stuck around that long: my profession, cars, fly fishing and karate.

    Now after diving back in I have the means to do some damage. :biglaugh:
    TheVinylAddict likes this.

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