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Time for a New Phono Cart (and maybe preamp)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by youraveragevinylcollector, Feb 23, 2021.

  1. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hartwell, GA
    I am in need of some recommendations for a new phono cartridge. Why? My Goldring E3 has more IGD than what my ATN-3600L had. I've tried fiddling with anti-skate and VTA to no avail. My budget is around $400, but I can go up to $500 (thanks mostly due to my lovely tax return).

    There are too many options out there for me to narrow down. I need something that's very musical, has a wide soundstage, and is not harsh or cold sounding. Microline or Shibata stylus preferred, as my AT440MLB had zero IGD (but was too harsh for my tastes). I also hope to get one already premounted in a headshell, as my shaky hands have gotten worse, and trying to adjust a cart just right is something I can barely do.

    My preamp is a U-Turn Pluto. A simple but good preamp. But how it would handle some other carts is beyond me. May even upgrade to a tube preamp for some of that extra "warmth."
     
  2. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    Location:
    USA
    If you can't adjust the cart yourself, maybe you can get someone to help you? Premounted carts are not always aligned to any standard, and even if they are, they are usually aligned to the 52mm Technics standard.

    The Pioneer PLX-1000 listed in your profile needs 54mm alignment, so not the same.

    Here is an overhang gauge that would work with your PLX:

    Pioneer PLX-1000 Overhang Gauge by LesE on Shapeways
     
  3. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    You did not identify what model turntable you own. If it's a Technics, like something in the SL-1200 series, you can purchase a Plug N Play cart/headshell which is good to go with a simple twist of the tonearm's headshell locking collar. You could instead buy a A-T 540 ML pre-mounted to a headshell, which would seem to be along the lines of what you are looking for; but, you will still need to align it to honor some notion of a proper tracking error scheme.
     
  4. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frenchtown NJ USA
    Anti-skate and VTA probably aren't the culprits here. You're on the right track with a pre-mounted cartridge. Also, maybe you can find someone to adjust your current cartridge. A new phono preamp won't help with IGD but it might be nice to get anyway. Good luck. :)
     
  5. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hartwell, GA
    This was actually one of the ones I was thinking of getting.
     
  6. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hartwell, GA
    I just want some deeper sound from my records. The Pluto kind of doesn't have much depth at all.
     
  7. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hartwell, GA
    I can adjust it myself, it's just near impossible! My hands only shake when I'm working with small tools and objects... Exactly what phono carts are! I've got a way I could measure the overhang, I could see if that helps.
     
    JackG, patient_ot and bluemooze like this.
  8. JackG

    JackG Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ
    Is this the original Pluto? Looks like there's a Pluto 2 now. I have the original Pluto somewhere I bought as a stop-gap when the phono stage in my Onkyo A-9555 went belly-up a few years ago and for $500 I'd rather have a better phono stage/cheaper cart than blow the budget on a cart.

    I hate this task as well but I don't trust it'd be done properly by anyone else. :) You can still buy a pre-installed cart which gets you past the (to me) really annoying part of fiddling about with (and losing) the tiny screws and nuts to attach the cart. Then maybe just loosen to adjust it?
     
  9. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    OP, patient_ot said your stylus to headshell tail distance is 54mm. The manual has a scale ruler of that distance, so if you do get a cart pre-mounted to a headshell, like the A-T VM540ML, perhaps you could get someone more dexterous than you to assist cartridge adjustment. The cart just needs to be slightly loosened and moved back or forward to 54mm while remaining squared to headshell.
     
  10. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hartwell, GA
    It is the original Pluto.
     
  11. plugmeintosomething

    plugmeintosomething Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I 'll be interested to see what you replace the Pluto with. Good luck!
     
  12. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hartwell, GA
    But, that's the thing, I have no clue what to replace it with! :eek:
     
  13. plugmeintosomething

    plugmeintosomething Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I'm intrigued by the Darlington Labs stages but the only way to hear one is to buy it.
     
  14. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    I have both the original Pluto as a built-in on my Orbit and a Pluto 2 I use with my Technics. The Pluto 2 is better to my ears (and higher gain).
     
  15. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    A very good sounding cart is the Denon DL-110 - a well-rounded performer, musical, not harsh, and not dull. It is, however, "only" an elliptical, not an ML. Plus they don't come pre-mounted, unless you make a special request with the folks at LPGear - they may even align it for you on a PLX-1000, if they have one on hand.

    I have read good things about the Pluto, it is actually better than its price might suggest. However, if you go with the DL-110, the Pluto's 36 dB of gain will be sadly insufficient, as the 110's output is listed at only 1.6 mV - it's HOMC.

    BTW, the reason you were underwhelmed by the Pluto even with your Goldring E3 may be because the E3's output of 3.5 mv requires more gain (around 43 dB) than the Pluto's 36 dB to sound good. The Pluto is good with carts of about 5.5 mV output - like the Ortofon 2M series, for example.

    As an alternative solution, I might suggest buying a Piccolo2 head amp from Hagerman Labs. It has three levels of additional gain: 12 dB, 20 dB, and 26 dB. By setting it to 12 dB gain, combined with Pluto's 36 dB, will give you a total gain of 48 dB - enough to make that Denon DL-110 sing, and sing it does!

    On to p of that, the other two gain settings of the Hagerman make it useful with LOMC carts, if you ever want to try one. The Hagerman Piccolo2 is $259 new. The Denon DL-110 is $230 from 2juki on eBay - a reputable dealer from whom many members of this forum have bought - including myself. In fact, I bought my 110 from him.

    Combined, the two items roughly approximate your budget of $500. - But you will have to have someone align the cart for you. If you buy the cart pre-mounted from LPGear - the price will be roughly doubled.

    Piccolo2 - MC Headamp

    Denon DL-110 High Output MC Cartridge, Made by Denon, 100% Brand New from Japan 4988001700395 | eBay

    Denon DL-110 phono cartridge 1.6mV - plus headshell plus pre-mount fees.
     
  16. Davey

    Davey I'm just saying that I just can't see you tonight

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    But that's true of most phono preamps we talk about around here, and even if you can see and hear one in a store, you can't really live with it and hear it in your system, and they do offer a pretty solid satisfaction guarantee ...

    30 Day Money Back guarantee - Audition the unit in YOUR system and judge the results for yourself. We will even pay for return shipping (in the lower 48 US states).

    They do have a loaner program going on through Super Best Audio Friends too, along with some pretty satisfied listeners ... Darlington Labs Phono Preamps
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2021
    Stone Turntable and JackG like this.
  17. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hartwell, GA
    Well, if I could find it. There may be a PDF of it somewhere. Went through a move a couple months back.
     
  18. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hartwell, GA
    May have to put this stuff temporarily, car issues are holding me back! However, how does the Schiit Mani stack up against the Pluto 2? I kind of had my mind set on a VM540ML. If only Shure M97XEs were not outrageous on the used market. Should've bought one right as they were discontinued. A Jico SAS stylus and I'd have been set!
     
    Sterling1 likes this.
  19. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    I can only comment on the VM95ML through the Orbit 2...sounds really good. For $265 all in, can't imagine better sound for the money. The VM95ML is more neutral than the 2M Red it replaced, and the Pluto 2 seems very balanced as well.
     
  20. 33na3rd

    33na3rd Forum Resident

    Location:
    SW Washington, USA
    I’ve got the AT-VM95ML on my PLX-1000, hooked up to my Lounge LCR MK III Silver. The VM95ML and the Lounge really have a strong synergy thing going on in my system right now, really nice combo!
     
  21. plugmeintosomething

    plugmeintosomething Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Yeah that's true. That 30 day deal is tempting.
     
  22. aunitedlemon

    aunitedlemon Music is medicine, dose often.

    +1 for the pre-mounted Audio Technica VM95 or VM540 series. I've been using a VM95ML for the past year and recently got a VM95SH for comparison's sake and neither of them suck. Excellent values. The plus in the convenience category goes to the VM95 in that the cartridge itself is essentially threaded (captive nuts).
     
  23. JackG

    JackG Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ
    The combo of the MM-6 and AT-VM95ML is silly good. Been keeping me up way past bedtime.

    Priorities, man, just walk.
     
  24. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    I have a Shure M97xE running to a Schitt Mani which is connected to a Parasound P6. I've got to tell ya, backgrounds are black as coal and all other elements necessary for satisfaction are completely fulfilled: depth and breadth of sound stage, flat frequency response, and "all there is in the groove" detail. And, this is coming from said cart mounted to the tonearm of a 46 year old Sony PS-4750 Turntable. [​IMG]
     
  25. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    If you print from a PDF just be sure to print at 100%.
     

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