Worth it to upgrade stylus on AT91 cartridge?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Grateful Ed, Jun 15, 2017.

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  1. Grateful Ed

    Grateful Ed Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vermont
    I see hyperelliptical and shibata stylus upgrades for this cartridge body on turntable needles and LP gear.

    Is it worth spending $80 -$160 on one of these stylus shapes for a cartride that only costs $30?

    How much a a difference does a cartridge body make?

    How would an AT91 with a hyperelliptical stylus upgrade (~$110) compare to an AT440MLB ($200) or VM540ML ($250)?
     
  2. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    It's not gonna sound like those other carts because the body and internals are different. That said, styli can make a big difference, IME, using different types of styli on my main cart.

    Instead of spending that much on an upgrade stylus for that cart, just buy a better cartridge.
     
    nosliw likes this.
  3. McGruder

    McGruder Eternal Musicphile

    Location:
    Maryland
    Most definitely go with the upgraded cartridge instead. AT440 would be fine, but you should consider the Ortofon 2M Red.
     
  4. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    @Grateful Ed, what is your budget for a cart upgrade? What turntable is it going on? What kind of sound do you prefer?
     
    PhilBiker likes this.
  5. Grateful Ed

    Grateful Ed Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vermont
    Well I just returned a Planar 1 due to skipping issues I couldn't resolve. Any tracking force 2 grams or less would result in repeating the same groove towards the end of a side. I suspect something with the arm or the auto bias system. I spoke worth another forum member who has been dealing with the same issue for almost a year now.

    I'm now considering a U-Turn Orbit to replace it. I have Audioengine HD6 powered speakers. I definitely like detail but don't want overly bright sound. I was thinking the AT440ML or similar would work well with the HD6 speakers as they are on the warmer side.

    I can't really afford that cart right off the bat though. I'm thinking about getting the Ortofon OM5e as the stock cartridge and upgrading to a more advanced stylus profile in 6 months or so.

    $200 would be the most I'd really want to spend, but I would go to $250 for the VM540ML to get a micro line stylus.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
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  6. Grateful Ed

    Grateful Ed Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vermont
    I was definitely leaning towards buying a whole new cartridge, but I was intrigued by the stylus upgrades. I read someone on another forum compare it to "putting a formula 1 engine in a Toyota Corolla"
     
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  7. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    If you do buy an Orbit, I think the Om5E is a good choice for that turntable. It's a cheap but decent cartridge and will give you time to consider other options in the long run. If you are looking to eventually mount a $200+ cart on your turntable, I would strongly recommend getting some kind of record cleaning system (Spin Clean minimum, preferably RCM) and also buying a better turntable than the Orbit.

    If you want plug and play ASAP the Orbit is okay. If you want long-term flexibility find a good used turntable for the same money or less that will perform better.
     
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  8. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    More like putting Formula 1 tires on a Yugo. Nothing wrong with upgrading styli on carts but start with a good foundation first. If you are interested in the AT brand, that means buying a $100 cart for later stylus upgrades. Same thing with most brands.
     
  9. MIA2RDU

    MIA2RDU Well-Known Member

    Location:
    North Carolina
    What cart did you have on the Planar 1? The stock Carbon or something else?
     
  10. OldSkoolFool

    OldSkoolFool Forum Resident

    Location:
    Thousand Oaks
    The OM5E is a wonderful budget cartridge. If your speakers are on the warmer side then the OM5E would be a great match IMHO. The Orbit is a wonderful TT for the price and you can do some upgrading as well before you need to jump up to the next level of TT. I would think that the Orbit with an OM5E and some upgrades (acrylic platter, cue arm) would keep you satisfied for a while.
     
  11. Grateful Ed

    Grateful Ed Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vermont
    Originally I had the Bias 2 which was giving me major skipping issues on certain albums (that are brand new and played fine on other tables). Then I put the Carbon on and things were better for a while. One day I was experimenting with VTF, and when I got to 2 grams I started getting some skipping again. Rega says the Carbon can handle 2-3 grams VTF. That's when I started getting suspicious about the arm bearings or the auto bias system and decided to just return it while I was still in the 30 day window.

    One reason I'm looking at the Orbit is the customer service. It's really difficult to get direct support for products like Rega, Project, Music Hall, etc.
     
  12. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Very true. Forums like this are basically default customer service/troubleshooting for some of those brands if you don't have a good local dealer.
     
    Grateful Ed likes this.
  13. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I would not upgrade the stylus on an AT91. That is their cheapest design cart. But keep it around to get a 78 stylus for it if you need to play 78s. To stay within a budget, you could go the next AT step up to an AT95e. I think you would hear a noticeable upgrade in sound right away. That one would be worth an upgrade to the next up Lpgear stylus type. Beyond that you should get a cart that is a whole level better as noted above.
     
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  14. Grateful Ed

    Grateful Ed Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vermont
    No local dealers that I know of in Vermont, Unfortunately. I went through all the troubleshooting steps recommended here - got out the spirit level, set VTF with calibrated digital scale. Must have spent 6 hours aligning the cartridge with Stevenson arc protractor (printed correctly).

    It's a shame because I really loved the look and feel of the Planar 1
     
  15. Grateful Ed

    Grateful Ed Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vermont
    Those are the exact upgrades I was thinking about. Might go ahead and get the cork mat too while I'm at it. Probably will get the built-in Pluto as well. It has great specs for the cost, and is probably well suited for how far up the analog ladder I can go with the Orbit table or any cartridge that would be reasonable to put on it.
     
  16. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Yeah, all the help in the world won't fix a factory defect though. I would've returned that as well.
     
  17. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    The problem with Orbit custom options is they increase the price substantially for minor improvements in performance. If you must get an Orbit, I would just get the cue lever, the Om5E, and leave everything else stock. This way you don't have a ton of money tied up in it. If you stick with vinyl, you'll want an upgrade later. One thing that really sticks out to me is that the wow and flutter figures for this turntable are high relative to other options. It doesn't even meet radio broadcast standards from the 60s and 70s, for example.

    I also wouldn't get the preamp from Uturn unless you only plan on using carts with 5mv or more of output. The gain on that preamp is 36db, which is too low IMHO for some MM carts that have lower output. Personally I would get something else where the default is at least 40db of gain, or preferably, something with adjustable gain.
     
  18. Grateful Ed

    Grateful Ed Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vermont
    Good to know about the output. What would you consider an acceptable level of wow and flutter? The Planar 1 hardly listed any specs. I at least give U-Turn credit for being super open about their specs.
     
  19. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Rega doesn't list specs on the RP1 because it would show them in a bad light. A few years back a German mag actually measured specs and they were not pretty. I agree U-Turn deserves credit in this regard.

    Re: acceptable, you'll find most belt drives at the entry level get w/f down to .10.

    Personally I want to see those figures even lower, which is why I run a Japanese direct drive. Some really nice belt drives can get it down to .06-.07 IIRC, which is very respectable for a belt drive TT.
     
    Grateful Ed likes this.
  20. H8SLKC

    H8SLKC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston, MA
    I'm going to provide a confirmatory vote for the Orbit, partly because I think their turntables are very well done, partly because mine has worked really well and sounds good, and partly because their customer service is truly outstanding. My Orbit has a Pluto preamp installed and I like the sound immensely. W&F figures with acrylic platter are .125, certainly respectable these days. Good luck figuring it out Ed. In any event you should wind up with a machine that works!
     
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  21. Grateful Ed

    Grateful Ed Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vermont
    What does everyone think of Music Hall's new entry level table, the mmf 1.3? Besides the ****ty cartridge that tracks at 3.5g..
     
  22. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I'd pass. Looks like it's from the same factory that makes the TEAC tables, which are plagued with speed stability issues. $300 buys a lot on the used market. I realize Vermont might not be the land of plenty when it comes to good used decks, but rather than throwing money away, take a trip to nearby area that has a better selection and buy something that will last.

    Re: the cart on that table, its' a $20 cheapie, the cheapest cart AT makes, even cheaper than the AT91. 3.5g is on the high side for contemporary MM home listening carts but I'd be more concerned that it tracks correctly at that weight (which we hope it does) than the actual tracking weight.

    This video does a pretty good job of laying out some of the issues with a few popular ~$300ish new tables on the market:

     
  23. SpeedMorris

    SpeedMorris Forum Resident

    Location:
    Iowa
    Asian. Denon, Pioneer, Fluance, Teac, Akai, A-T and maybe Thorens all seem to have badged one of these.

    The MMF-2.2 is the same price (was $449 before replaced by the 2.3). Budget room for a cart upgrade, if desired- once you figure out if you want "detailed and incisive" or "richer, warmer and analoguey". :p Until then, the Magic (allegedly an OM10) should do just fine, or maybe it'll just stay fine.Put on a handsome deer hide mat or the Herbie's Way mat if feeling self-generous. 60 day trial from MDirect.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
    Grateful Ed likes this.
  24. SpeedMorris

    SpeedMorris Forum Resident

    Location:
    Iowa
    Oops, meant to write Dual in paragraph 1, I do believe.
     
  25. nosliw

    nosliw Azunyan! にゃーーー!

    Location:
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    You're correct in your assessment that these companies simply sourced these turntables from Hanpin and Ya Horng Electronics Co. in Taiwan. Apparently, no effort was made to create a whole new turntable from scratch.
     
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