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Tell me about switching from MM to MC carts

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

  1. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington DC-ish
    I can chime in. I went from a bunch of MM carts - Ortofon 2M blue, the entire line of Nagaoka, the Grace F9E, etc. - to MC carts - various Denons, Dynavectors, etc. As others have mentioned, the biggest change is the MCs offer more air and dynamics on the whole (individual carts may vary, I'm just speaking in general) and more often than not more detail. I tried going back to MMs a couple of times just for fun, but ALWAYS returned to MC carts. I do still like Empire moving iron carts and keep one on my secondary turntable.

    MC carts do NOT have to break the bank. If you like your Yamaha MM stage, you can either buy or build a step-up transformer that will amplify your MC's signal enough that it can go through the MM stage. That's actually what I do on my LTA Z10 amp, which doesn't have a MC stage. A lot of folks think SUTs actually sound better than straight-up MC phono stages. I built one for ~$300 using a soldering iron, a power drill with a few bits, a switch and a steel case available on Amazon. The biggest decision is figuring out which transformers match best with whatever cart you're using. At that point you can either source the parts yourself or find someone who builds them and buy it complete from them.

    The carts themselves can range pretty high in price but again you have choices. I got my Hana SL used from an audiophile friend for $200 after picking up something for him off a local Craigslist and shipping it to him in another state. That was a good deal and it's by far my favorite cartridge after having gone many. A Denon 103r or Denon 301mkii pre-supply chain SNAFU went for around $300 new. Those are both excellent carts, especially for someone just getting into MCs, but I would wait for things to settle down again before buying one (they're currently closer to $400-500, which is just way too much). You will eventually have to retip it, but usually not as often as the manufacturers advise. And you can get something retipped either at its original level for not too much money or upgrade it.

    In fact, you can use retipping to your advantage. You can find used MC carts that have damaged cantilievers for usually less than $200 and have them sent to a retipper to get a brand new TOL cantilever and have yourself a very nice cart for ~$500.

    Just my two cents.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
  2. Ingenieur

    Ingenieur Forum Resident

    Location:
    Gone
    On a side note. How do I block guys like you, @avanti1960 , @timind, @JP et al, that have extensive knowledge that I respect and who plant seeds?
    You folk are trouble. :D

    Sometimes I think you're just messing' with my head. :shrug:

    j/k
     
  3. Davey

    Davey NP: Boards of Canada ~ Music Has the Right to ...

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    If I was you, I'd go with a SUT and a medium cost LOMC, and then probably later invest in a nice no-feedback type MM phono stage. The MC gain stage in the Yamaha isn't really appropriate for most LOMC carts these days, with the 50 ohm input impedance and 100uV sensitivity, loading is too heavy and overload margin is very low due to that sensitivity, plus it has multiple electrolytic capacitors in the path along with 2 sets of relay contacts (though the MM setting has the same two relay contacts, so guess that's not an extra detriment).

    Anyway, my preference is to use transformers for the extra MC gain, all passive. Maybe something like the very good Cinemag 1254 transformers, you can get one assembled from nclayton in the US via ebay for $540, or if handy, buy separate transformers and install in box, there are occasional group buys on diyaudio where you can get a pair delivered for around $250, but they are still awaiting delivery on the last one, lots of pandemic production delays. Lots of other new and used and vintage routes to take, and lots of existing threads here. Lundahl and Jensen make reasonably priced transformers too. I like the Silk transformers from SAC Thailand, I have a set of the MC-220A with 1:10 ratio and 100 ohm termination, very reasonably priced, but not sure on current supply. They are also available packaged for about the same price as the 1254, around $540 at current Thai baht exchange rate ... SAC Thailand

    [​IMG]

    For the cartridge, I'd go with the AT-OC9XML, boron cantilever and MicroLine stylus in a very well machined threaded aluminum body, $494 delivered via goknight, though out of stock at the moment so they have it as pre-order. Audio-Technica offers a trade-in program for their MC carts, so when it is ready for a retip, you just send it in with $281 and they send you a new one. Or for a little more you can move up the ladder to one of their more expensive models, though the OC9XML is very good for that $500 price.

    In the future, I'd probably move away from the Yamaha to a separate no-feedback MM phono stage, something like the made in USA Darlington Labs MP-7 with whatever options you want. So that would be another $529+. They have a new MC gain stage out soon too, the SU-7 for about that same price, has front-mounted loading switch, should be a good one. I still like transformers, though. Or maybe the SAC Thailand Minute tube phono stage for a little more, though not sure on stock there, they quit making them at the beginning of pandemic due to supply shortages.

    Anyway, as you can see, in the end you would have a whole new LOMC phono system for around your $1500 price, kind of a modular approach, and I think much better sound, though I haven't heard your current setup so it's just a guess. I'd also guess you have a pretty substantial 8-10kHz frequency response peak with the capacitance in the Yamaha and the Clearaudio tonearm cable, so the MC route would be smoother through that region, more neutral sounding, maybe not as much to your liking :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
  4. Soundsense

    Soundsense Forum Resident

    Location:
    Colorado USA
    About five years ago, I 'downgraded' to MM from MC......I did not want to spend many hundreds of dollars to replace my excellent but worn out Ortofon Quintet Black MC. I have to say I lost no enjoyment of my music, and my vintage Shure cartridge with JICO SAS stylus gives fabulous air, clarity and detail. I would never go back.

    In terms of 'noticeable upgrade' between MM and MC, my experience was that I didn't perceive that it was significant enough to invest in.
     
    Mike Rivera and jeffrey75 like this.
  5. Helom

    Helom Forum member

    Location:
    U.S.
    Your built-in phono preamp will be a limiting factor, especially since it has a permanent loading of 50 ohms. Unless you get a different preamp, probably best to stick with MM or HOMC.

    Am appreciably better phono preamp will set you back >$1K.
     
  6. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict ___The Enforcer___

    LOL you can run, but not hide from some of the characters you mention... all enablers too! (and all have tried *many* things, and what I look for.)

    Of course I'm messing with your head.... and your wallet! Because I sense, overall, you want to... you have the means... and I think you would enjoy the experience even if you didn't like it and backed out. Plus we'd all benefit too from hearing what you find - you're right, Luxman has a good stage, being an Accuphase guy I realize that the additional premium does mean additional build quality at times.
     
    Ingenieur likes this.
  7. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor.

    ubiknik and Ingenieur like this.
  8. Ingenieur

    Ingenieur Forum Resident

    Location:
    Gone
    btw: you're one of the bad influences I was referring to :D
     
    Davey likes this.
  9. JP

    JP Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brookfield, CT
    Not me, at least not on this topic. Meanwhile, can I interest you in an SP-10MK3?
     
    Ingenieur likes this.
  10. old music lover

    old music lover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Salonta, Romania
    AT-OC9XML and Denon AU-300LC MC Cartridge step-up transformer. Relative cheap, but a good answer. You don't need MC preamplifier...
     
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  11. Ingenieur

    Ingenieur Forum Resident

    Location:
    Gone
    Yes...but my wife has grown accustomed to having heat and food :D

    That is one beautiful piece of engineering art.

    That would lead to a dangerous path: upgrade all down the line.

    pics please in the Technics thread ;)
     
  12. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict ___The Enforcer___

    The way I see it, the amount you've spent talking about it (MC), you could already have it installed and listening.... you're wasting valuable time!
     
    ubiknik, avanti1960 and Ingenieur like this.
  13. Davey

    Davey NP: Boards of Canada ~ Music Has the Right to ...

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Yea, good approach, you can buy the old AU-320 all day long for around $250 to $275 in good shape (bunch on ebay and hifido right now), clean the switches, or rewire to bypass them, or just cut a good phono cable in half and solder the AU-320 inline, clean and easy. I'd still opt for better transformers myself, but that definitely gets you going for not much outlay. The AU-340 comes up on hifido quite often for a good price too, a bit nicer with separately packaged transformers and more robust switches...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
    bjlefebvre and old music lover like this.
  14. old music lover

    old music lover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Salonta, Romania
    I have a rip made with AU-3ooLC and it sound good, but perhaps, as Davey said, 320 is better!
     
  15. BillWojo

    BillWojo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Burlington, NJ
    Well I never owned any of the high end MM carts that people talk about, the replacement cost of the stylus always scared me away but I did want to see what all the fuss was about with those MC carts.
    Since I already had a great MM phono stage built into my Audio Research SP8 preamp I figured a Denon DL-103 paired with Denon's AU-320 step up transformer would make a nice entry level entry into the world of MC cartridges.
    Found a nice low hours cartridge on Audiogon from a dealer and a used AU-320 SUT from a friend at a very reasonable price. So on a low budget I assembled a nice setup that I still use today. Along the way I started collecting broken DL-103 of different versions, usually paying about $85 bucks for a rebuildable core and letting Steve at VAS Audio do his magic on them.
    So that is my budget MC setup and it was a major upgrade from the MM carts that I was using. The Denon's are very musical in all of their DL-103 versions, glad I tried it out.
    You don't have to spend big bucks to get into this and at my age I have enough high frequency hearing loss that I doubt I'm missing much on top. No need to spend big bucks for something you will never hear.

    BillWojo
     
    bjlefebvre likes this.
  16. BillWojo

    BillWojo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Burlington, NJ
    @Davey , look at the specs for the AU-320, particularly the frequency range, it beats a lot of the other SUT's handily. Somewhere I have a set of Cinemag CM1254 transformers I need to finish up. Will be nice to compare the two. Bob's Devices used those in his 1K plus SUT.

    BillWojo
     
    Davey likes this.
  17. Davey

    Davey NP: Boards of Canada ~ Music Has the Right to ...

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    No, I don't know that the 320 is better sounding than the 300, and I don't know if there was an advantage to packaging both transformers in one case like in the 320, most of their SUTs used separate transformers. The 300 is available for pretty cheap, around $150, so makes a good starter package, and then one can move up later, though I tend to skip the starter package and go for the better one up front.

    I know, you are right, they are a quality transformer, that's why I mentioned it, and many of the vintage transformers had amazing frequency responses at the standard termination, they had big companies with huge engineering budgets behind them, but not all is determined by specs, and there are much better sounding packages, albeit not at the prices you can get these Denons for, they were pretty big sellers. And I'd love to hear your impressions comparing the Cinemags to the Denon, that would be fun and educational, so get busy, or send them down to New Orleans for @Vibrolux_Reverb to play with :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
  18. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    For ine of my tables that currently has an MM, the RP6, my next cart will likely be a Dynavector 20x2L. Have not heard the DV yet, but at around $1,100 I am expecting a pretty decent improvement.
     
  19. Tourswede

    Tourswede Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin
    To be honest I’ve only had the cart for a few years so I actually don’t know tip replacement costs. At least it’s an easy diy job.

    Perhaps one day I’ll have an upgrade itch but so far after several years of playing records everyday with this cart I still think it corrected what bothered me and what I searched for over many years.
     
    Davey likes this.
  20. Davey

    Davey NP: Boards of Canada ~ Music Has the Right to ...

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Those do seem like very nice MM cartridges, with the tapered titanium tube cantilever and AN stylus, pretty unique, do they have a replacement hours recommendation for the stylus? Do you know how many hours on it now?
     
    Tourswede likes this.
  21. PopularChuck

    PopularChuck Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bay Area
    I went from an Ortofon 2M Bronze to a Dynavector 20x2 high-output moving coil a few years ago. My Graham Slee Reflex M moving magnet phono had no problem handling it.

    I was surprised how much better records sounded. I won't waste your time with purely subjective terms like air and depth and yada yada. I'll simply say it was money well spent.

    At the time (2018) Dynavector offered trade-in credit for old carts, so I got mine for $750.
     
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  22. Tourswede

    Tourswede Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin
    I actually don’t know how many hours they suggest. I’ve never worn out a cartridge (to the best of my knowledge).

    This one has close to 3 years and being used daily for at least a couple of hours. Weekends more for sure. We are a 90% vinyl playing home :)
     
  23. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    many people think a step up sounds better, i have never used one.
     
    RemyM likes this.
  24. Davey

    Davey NP: Boards of Canada ~ Music Has the Right to ...

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Wow, that's a lot of hours, many people would probably say you are way past the time it should've been replaced so you should start thinking about it. I think the lower models use a Fritz Gyger 1 or 2 tip, so the AN diamond is probably some variation on the more extreme line contact shapes, and will last long, but I don't think any shape is gonna give you much over 2000 hours under the best of conditions, and many people will tell you 1000 hours is the point, but you can find any answer you want to hear on the internet. You can always get a new stylus for it and compare, and save it for later if you don't hear any difference :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
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  25. aunitedlemon

    aunitedlemon Music is medicine, dose often.

    Location:
    Oregon
    I too will be checking out MC at some point in the not-too-distant future.
    Until then I'll recommend getting a separate phono preamp for your sweet MM cartridge. As a happy Yamaha amp owner, and with no intended discredit to their built-in phono stages, a dedicated phono pre can showcase your sound much more convincingly.
    I thoroughly enjoy my Graham Slee Reflex M and am looking forward to pairing the GS Elevator EXP with it and a MC cart.
    Good thread.
     

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