Choosing Hi-Fi Cart/Stylus

Discussion in 'rec.audio.pro' started by Doughboy, Aug 27, 2003.

  1. Doughboy

    Doughboy Guest

    I'm trying to choose a suitable Cartridge & Stylus that will give good
    quality results when recording my records onto my PC. I've already got
    a good soundcard (Audiophile 24/96).

    I've currently got Stanton 500AL's and Shure M44G's. The stylus'
    probably need replacing on these anyway, but I find that my recordings
    (through the phono input on my amp, so bypassing my rather crappy
    Vestax mixer) are somewhat distorted (particularly on the bass) and
    the occasional record (mostly R&B tunes) sounds very sibilant.

    I'm considering an Ortofon DJ S, which has the advantage of being
    directly mounted to the tonearm, rather than via a headshell, which
    would eliminate setup errors in attaching the cart to the headshell. I
    can get one of these for £50. I can't really afford to spend much more
    than this. Would this be a good choice?

    Is it correct to say that elliptical stylus' are better in terms of
    quality than spherical? Are they that much better that it's worth
    considering? If so, are there any such cart/stylus combos that I could
    get for about the same price as the DJ S?

    Cheers
    Doughboy
  2. Scott Dorsey

    Scott Dorsey Guest

    In article <0b5pkv4h84oi8k42764n9vhpa1np3eafup@4ax.com>,
    Doughboy <anon@invalid.com> wrote:
    >I'm trying to choose a suitable Cartridge & Stylus that will give good
    >quality results when recording my records onto my PC. I've already got
    >a good soundcard (Audiophile 24/96).
    >
    >I've currently got Stanton 500AL's and Shure M44G's. The stylus'
    >probably need replacing on these anyway, but I find that my recordings
    >(through the phono input on my amp, so bypassing my rather crappy
    >Vestax mixer) are somewhat distorted (particularly on the bass) and
    >the occasional record (mostly R&B tunes) sounds very sibilant.


    How much of that is your amp?
    What arm are you using?

    >I'm considering an Ortofon DJ S, which has the advantage of being
    >directly mounted to the tonearm, rather than via a headshell, which
    >would eliminate setup errors in attaching the cart to the headshell. I
    >can get one of these for £50. I can't really afford to spend much more
    >than this. Would this be a good choice?


    This is generally a bad idea because it doesn't allow you to adjust
    the cartridge properly at all. It's very popular for DJs because
    they can swap them out quickly. You really do want to spend some time
    and set the cartridge overhang up properly; it makes a big difference in
    tracking.

    >Is it correct to say that elliptical stylus' are better in terms of
    >quality than spherical? Are they that much better that it's worth
    >considering? If so, are there any such cart/stylus combos that I could
    >get for about the same price as the DJ S?


    In general, a fineline will track a worn record much better than an
    elliptical, and an elliptical will track much better than a spherical.
    But, the cartridge you want is the one that is a good match for your arm.
    --scott
    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  3. P Stamler

    P Stamler Guest

    Depending on the arm, you may want to consider a Grado cartridge -- the more
    expensive ones are better, but even the low-priced ones are much more
    listenable than the competition. Make sure you clean the stylus well (a camel
    hair brush and alcohol works fine), and clean the records well too.

    Everything Scott says about setup is correct; make sure you do it properly or
    have it done properly. And set the stylus pressure toward the top of the
    cartridge's recommended range; you'll get better tracking and, surprisingly,
    less wear.

    Peace,
    Paul
  4. Doughboy

    Doughboy Guest

    On 27 Aug 2003 15:26:44 GMT, pstamler@aol.com (P Stamler) wrote:

    >Depending on the arm, you may want to consider a Grado cartridge -- the more
    >expensive ones are better, but even the low-priced ones are much more
    >listenable than the competition. Make sure you clean the stylus well (a camel
    >hair brush and alcohol works fine), and clean the records well too.
    >
    >Everything Scott says about setup is correct; make sure you do it properly or
    >have it done properly. And set the stylus pressure toward the top of the
    >cartridge's recommended range; you'll get better tracking and, surprisingly,
    >less wear.
    >
    >Peace,
    >Paul


    Thanks for the tips Paul. As I mentioned in my post to Scott, my decks
    are a Gemini PT-1000, and PT-2000, and the latter has a height
    adjustable arm. Would the Grado carts be any good with either of
    these?

    Would method do you recommend to clean the records? I remember reading
    that wet cleaning is a bad idea as this leads to sludge in the
    grooves.

    Doughboy
  5. Doughboy

    Doughboy Guest

    On 27 Aug 2003 10:42:32 -0400, kludge@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote:

    >In article <0b5pkv4h84oi8k42764n9vhpa1np3eafup@4ax.com>,
    >Doughboy <anon@invalid.com> wrote:
    >>I'm trying to choose a suitable Cartridge & Stylus that will give good
    >>quality results when recording my records onto my PC. I've already got
    >>a good soundcard (Audiophile 24/96).
    >>
    >>I've currently got Stanton 500AL's and Shure M44G's. The stylus'
    >>probably need replacing on these anyway, but I find that my recordings
    >>(through the phono input on my amp, so bypassing my rather crappy
    >>Vestax mixer) are somewhat distorted (particularly on the bass) and
    >>the occasional record (mostly R&B tunes) sounds very sibilant.

    >
    >How much of that is your amp?
    >What arm are you using?


    Hard to say what the amp's contribution is. I could record directly
    from my Vestax mixer into my PC, but the mixer seems to be worse than
    the amp's phono input (when going mixer-amp-PC).

    The arms are whatever Gemini put on their decks. I've got a PT-2000,
    which has a height adjustable arm, and a PT-1000, which doesn't.

    >>I'm considering an Ortofon DJ S, which has the advantage of being
    >>directly mounted to the tonearm, rather than via a headshell, which
    >>would eliminate setup errors in attaching the cart to the headshell. I
    >>can get one of these for £50. I can't really afford to spend much more
    >>than this. Would this be a good choice?

    >
    >This is generally a bad idea because it doesn't allow you to adjust
    >the cartridge properly at all. It's very popular for DJs because
    >they can swap them out quickly. You really do want to spend some time
    >and set the cartridge overhang up properly; it makes a big difference in
    >tracking.


    What's this overhang then. Not a term I'm familiar with. I saw a
    review that recommended the DJ S, which said that it was the best for
    scratching, which suggests it's tracking is ok doesn't it?

    Doughboy
  6. >What's this overhang then. Not a term I'm familiar with.

    http://website.lineone.net/~dcr2/pickup.html
    If you swing the tone arm to the centre of the record, you'd maybe
    expect it to hit dead centre. In fact, optimum tracking is achieved
    by pushing it a little froward from this. By an amount referred to as
    the overhang.


    > I saw a
    >review that recommended the DJ S, which said that it was the best for
    >scratching, which suggests it's tracking is ok doesn't it?


    Nope. It just suggests that the cartridge will put up with
    considerable abuse. If you want to do the things DJs do to their
    records - back-cueing, scratching - you need a peculiarly robust
    cartridge and stylus. This won't necessarily be the best-sounding or
    the best at tracking. In fact, it almost certainly won't sound as
    good as one designed for normal use.
  7. James Boyk

    James Boyk Guest

  8. Scott Dorsey

    Scott Dorsey Guest

    Doughboy <anon@invalid.com> wrote:
    >
    >The arms are whatever Gemini put on their decks. I've got a PT-2000,
    >which has a height adjustable arm, and a PT-1000, which doesn't.


    I would seriously recommend investing in a good arm. Those Gemini arms
    really ring horribly, and that is a lot of your problem. You can play
    around with trying to damp down parts with felt and move some mass around
    so it doesn't ring so badly.

    >>>I'm considering an Ortofon DJ S, which has the advantage of being
    >>>directly mounted to the tonearm, rather than via a headshell, which
    >>>would eliminate setup errors in attaching the cart to the headshell. I
    >>>can get one of these for £50. I can't really afford to spend much more
    >>>than this. Would this be a good choice?

    >>
    >>This is generally a bad idea because it doesn't allow you to adjust
    >>the cartridge properly at all. It's very popular for DJs because
    >>they can swap them out quickly. You really do want to spend some time
    >>and set the cartridge overhang up properly; it makes a big difference in
    >>tracking.

    >
    >What's this overhang then. Not a term I'm familiar with. I saw a
    >review that recommended the DJ S, which said that it was the best for
    >scratching, which suggests it's tracking is ok doesn't it?


    What you want for transcription work is almost totally opposite from what
    you want for a DJ turntable.

    Take a look at a good introduction to turntable setup; the little booklet
    that Old Colony sells is a good one. Also, get a good cartridge alignment
    tool and read the instructions that came with it to adjust the various
    parameters. You need to make sure the cartridge is in the right place so
    that it can track properly, that it is at the right angle with respect to
    the record, that it is in the right angle with respect to the groove, and
    that the tracking and anti-skate forces are set for best tracking (NOT just
    set according to the numbers on the data sheet, but actually set for best
    performance on your arm).

    You might consider the Grado DJ-100 cartridge... it will work acceptably
    well on that sort of arm, without the kind of low frequency problems that
    most of the Grados will. But you're going to have to do some serious
    tinkering with that arm.
    --scott
    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  9. "Doughboy" <anon@invalid.com> wrote:

    > The arms are whatever Gemini put on their decks. I've got a PT-2000,
    > which has a height adjustable arm, and a PT-1000, which doesn't.


    Then the overhang is correctly when you use a concorde version. BTW: In this
    deck (high mass tone-arm) I would not use an OM-5 cartridge (and the OM
    Super 10 is completely out of the question). So your best bet would be the
    Night Club E (OM version is headshell mounted and very fairly priced,
    Concorde version is quite a bit more expensive).

    --
    André Huisman
    New-Line licht & geluid
    huisman@new-line.nl
    http://www.new-line.nl
    --- pardon my French, I'm Dutch ---
  10. Doughboy

    Doughboy Guest

    On Wed, 27 Aug 2003 18:19:35 +0100, Laurence Payne
    <l@laurenceDELETEpayne.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:

    >>What's this overhang then. Not a term I'm familiar with.

    >
    >http://website.lineone.net/~dcr2/pickup.html
    >If you swing the tone arm to the centre of the record, you'd maybe
    >expect it to hit dead centre. In fact, optimum tracking is achieved
    >by pushing it a little froward from this. By an amount referred to as
    >the overhang.


    Thanks for the explanation and link. I've learnt something new :)

    >
    >> I saw a
    >>review that recommended the DJ S, which said that it was the best for
    >>scratching, which suggests it's tracking is ok doesn't it?

    >
    >Nope. It just suggests that the cartridge will put up with
    >considerable abuse. If you want to do the things DJs do to their
    >records - back-cueing, scratching - you need a peculiarly robust
    >cartridge and stylus. This won't necessarily be the best-sounding or
    >the best at tracking. In fact, it almost certainly won't sound as
    >good as one designed for normal use.


    Cheers for clearing up the difference.

    Doughboy
  11. Doughboy

    Doughboy Guest

    On 27 Aug 2003 13:55:51 -0400, kludge@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote:

    >Doughboy <anon@invalid.com> wrote:
    >>
    >>The arms are whatever Gemini put on their decks. I've got a PT-2000,
    >>which has a height adjustable arm, and a PT-1000, which doesn't.

    >
    >I would seriously recommend investing in a good arm. Those Gemini arms
    >really ring horribly, and that is a lot of your problem. You can play
    >around with trying to damp down parts with felt and move some mass around
    >so it doesn't ring so badly.


    Is it possible to change the arm on these decks? Certainly the one on
    my PT-1000 needs attention, as it seems more wobbly/loose than it
    should be, but as you suggest, the PT-2000 arm is rather lightweight
    as well.

    >>What's this overhang then. Not a term I'm familiar with. I saw a
    >>review that recommended the DJ S, which said that it was the best for
    >>scratching, which suggests it's tracking is ok doesn't it?

    >
    >What you want for transcription work is almost totally opposite from what
    >you want for a DJ turntable.
    >
    >Take a look at a good introduction to turntable setup; the little booklet
    >that Old Colony sells is a good one. Also, get a good cartridge alignment
    >tool and read the instructions that came with it to adjust the various
    >parameters. You need to make sure the cartridge is in the right place so
    >that it can track properly, that it is at the right angle with respect to
    >the record, that it is in the right angle with respect to the groove, and
    >that the tracking and anti-skate forces are set for best tracking (NOT just
    >set according to the numbers on the data sheet, but actually set for best
    >performance on your arm).
    >
    >You might consider the Grado DJ-100 cartridge... it will work acceptably
    >well on that sort of arm, without the kind of low frequency problems that
    >most of the Grados will. But you're going to have to do some serious
    >tinkering with that arm.
    >--scott


    Thanks for the advice, I'll get myself the right tools to set up my
    carts, and look into the Grado DJ-100.

    Doughboy
  12. P Stamler

    P Stamler Guest

    >As I mentioned in my post to Scott, my decks
    >are a Gemini PT-1000, and PT-2000, and the latter has a height
    >adjustable arm. Would the Grado carts be any good with either of
    >these?


    Should be, but he's also right about the arms needing to have their ringing
    damped. I've found that making a small doughnut from Mortite (a rope-caulk,
    sold at hardware stores) at the halfway point on the arm, and another one at
    the 1/3 point (the one closer to the pivot) can be surprisingly useful. Squish
    the Mortite so that it's a flat band, about 1/4" wide. Really bad arms are also
    helped by a third band, right near the pivot.

    >Would method do you recommend to clean the records? I remember reading
    >that wet cleaning is a bad idea as this leads to sludge in the
    >grooves.


    A record-cleaning machine is best, one that sucks the gunge out of the grooves
    with a vacuum setup. On records that are only a little dirty, I find that a
    Discwasher can work okay. Not great, but okay. Wet it with their own liquid, or
    with distilled water.

    Peace,
    Paul
  13. James Boyk

    James Boyk Guest

    P Stamler wrote:
    > Should be, but he's also right about the arms needing to have their ringing
    > damped. I've found that ...a small doughnut from Mortite ...can be surprisingly useful....



    Sure, but this ENORMOUSLY increases the effective mass of the arm, and thus LOWERS the resonant point of arm/cartridge assembly. In most cases, this is a very bad thing. (I'm speaking from a lot of experience dealing with this issue in a variety of setting
    s.) The right solution is to get a good arm of appropriate mass for the cartridge.

    James Boyk
  14. Doughboy

    Doughboy Guest

    On Thu, 28 Aug 2003 10:22:48 -0700, James Boyk <boyk@caltech.edu>
    wrote:

    >P Stamler wrote:
    >> Should be, but he's also right about the arms needing to have their ringing
    >> damped. I've found that ...a small doughnut from Mortite ...can be surprisingly useful....

    >
    >
    >Sure, but this ENORMOUSLY increases the effective mass of the arm, and thus LOWERS the resonant point of arm/cartridge assembly. In most cases, this is a very bad thing. (I'm speaking from a lot of experience dealing with this issue in a variety of settin

    gs.) The right solution is to get a good arm of appropriate mass for the cartridge.
    >
    >James Boyk


    So would replacing the arm on my PT-2000 with a SL1200 arm a) be
    possible and b) be a good choice (bearing in mind that I want to
    continue to use this turntable for DJ work as well as transcription).

    If so, what cartridge would be the best match for the SL1200 arm out
    of:

    Ortofon OM-5
    Ortofon OM Super 10
    Ortofon Nightclub E
    Grado DJ-100

    Doughboy
  15. Doughboy

    Doughboy Guest

    On 28 Aug 2003 17:17:02 GMT, pstamler@aol.com (P Stamler) wrote:

    >>As I mentioned in my post to Scott, my decks
    >>are a Gemini PT-1000, and PT-2000, and the latter has a height
    >>adjustable arm. Would the Grado carts be any good with either of
    >>these?

    >
    >Should be, but he's also right about the arms needing to have their ringing
    >damped. I've found that making a small doughnut from Mortite (a rope-caulk,
    >sold at hardware stores) at the halfway point on the arm, and another one at
    >the 1/3 point (the one closer to the pivot) can be surprisingly useful. Squish
    >the Mortite so that it's a flat band, about 1/4" wide. Really bad arms are also
    >helped by a third band, right near the pivot.


    Interesting idea. I'll probably give the Ortofon DJ E cart a go first,
    and then try your damping tips to see what difference it makes.
    Although I'm also considering getting a better arm (if possible).

    >>Would method do you recommend to clean the records? I remember reading
    >>that wet cleaning is a bad idea as this leads to sludge in the
    >>grooves.

    >
    >A record-cleaning machine is best, one that sucks the gunge out of the grooves
    >with a vacuum setup. On records that are only a little dirty, I find that a
    >Discwasher can work okay. Not great, but okay. Wet it with their own liquid, or
    >with distilled water.


    Thanks for the tips. Most of my records are just in need of a little
    sprucing up, but I do have some that were caught up in a fire and need
    more thorough cleaning. Luckily, they weren't burnt or warped, but
    they got soaked by the firemen and the grooves are clogged with ash!

    Doughboy
  16. James Boyk

    James Boyk Guest

    Doughboy wrote:
    > So would replacing the arm on my PT-2000 with a SL1200 arm a) be
    > possible and b) be a good choice (bearing in mind that I want to
    > continue to use this turntable for DJ work as well as transcription).


    > If so, what cartridge would be the best match for the SL1200 arm out
    > of:
    >
    > Ortofon OM-5
    > Ortofon OM Super 10
    > Ortofon Nightclub E
    > Grado DJ-100



    I don't know the answers to these questions. I should think no one knows the ans abt arm replacement except someone who's done it; and as for arm/cartridge matching, you need to know: "effective mass" of arm, mass of cartridge, "dynamic complian" of cartri
    dge (NOT static compliance, and not the usual "compliance" figure wh is given, wh is indeed static). You can get this info from the mfrs. Get that data & we can calculate the vertical resonant freq.

    jb
  17. P Stamler

    P Stamler Guest

    >Sure, but this ENORMOUSLY increases the effective mass of the arm, and thus
    >LOWERS the resonant point of arm/cartridge assembly. In most cases, this is a
    >very bad thing. (I'm speaking from a lot of experience dealing with this
    >issue in a variety of settings.)


    Does it increase the effective mass of the arm? Of course. In practice, I
    haven't found that to be a problem most of the time, especially with the sort
    of inexpensive arms that need de-ringing. Probably their relatively-high
    bearing friction damps down the resonance. I don't apply this treatment to
    decent arms, but cheap ones, in my experience, usually benefit from it.
    (Provided they're not being used with ultra-high-compliance cartridges like a
    Shure V15.)

    Peace,
    Paul
  18. Doughboy

    Doughboy Guest

    Just thought of another copule of questions re: transcription.

    Would I get better results by:

    a) using just the slipmat (as per DJ'ing)

    b) using just the turntables rubber mat

    c) using both

    or would it be unlikely to make much difference?

    Also what would be the best setting for the tone-arm height
    adjustment. For DJ'ing/scratching, I understand it is best to have it
    set high (something to do with increasing the weight at the headshell
    end), but of course this may not be useful when transcribing.

    Doughboy
  19. Scott Dorsey

    Scott Dorsey Guest

    Doughboy <anon@invalid.com> wrote:
    >Just thought of another copule of questions re: transcription.
    >
    >Would I get better results by:
    >
    >a) using just the slipmat (as per DJ'ing)
    >
    >b) using just the turntables rubber mat
    >
    >c) using both
    >
    >or would it be unlikely to make much difference?


    Put the record on. Tap the platter. Which one rings more? The one
    that rings less is the one you want.

    >Also what would be the best setting for the tone-arm height
    >adjustment. For DJ'ing/scratching, I understand it is best to have it
    >set high (something to do with increasing the weight at the headshell
    >end), but of course this may not be useful when transcribing.


    That depends on the arm, cartridge, stylus, and the actual record. The
    vertical tracking angle should be about fifteen degrees, but if you are
    using a microline stylus, it will be critical enough that you will have
    to adjust it for every record. With an elliptical you can afford to be
    a little sloppy and you can just set the height for best separation on
    a test record.
    --scott

    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  20. James Boyk

    James Boyk Guest

    Re tracking angle: Only the angle built into the cartridge allows having a stylus rake angle of 90 degrees; and [a little-realized fact] the distortion increase from incorrect rake angle is worse than that from having a somewhat incorrect tracking angle. T
    herefore, if one wants 15-deg. tracking angle, one needs to buy a cartridge with that angle built in. Otherwise, if you alter the arm settings to get the 'right' tracking angle, you will screw up the rake angle.


    James Boyk

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