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A&R
P77

MM

Approx 50 Hrs
Recording Level 5.8
Tracking 1.8g
Bias 1.5
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Dave's Thoughts: A nice full and deep bottom end Ė a rounded fat thump to bass drums with a clear deep reverb to double bass string plucks. Over many MMís thereís an extra warmth in the mids giving (to me anyway) a natural tone to instrumentation and vocals. Up top there are no treble excesses and everything is crisp and clear. Thereís absolutely no hint of sibilance and no accentuation of any naturally sibilant productions. Nice broad stereo image with clearly defined positioning of instruments and vocals pin point centre stage. A little on the mellow side when compared to other MMís, but in this respect itís all very much down to personal tastes. Not quite as open and dynamic as say the AT-OC9 ML II, but then youíve got that notably brighter tonal character to go alongside this. Itís up there with the best MMís Iíve heard, giving a nice crisp and warm overall character into standard loading. Up against say the Grado Reference Sonata 1 and Denon DL-S1 it loses out a little in dynamics and ultimate definition, but itís certainly not at all shamed.

ADC
36 QLM III

MM

Approx 10 Hrs
Recording Level 8.2
Tracking 1.2g
Bias 1.2
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Dave's Thoughts:Overall a generally neutral balance. Vocals and strings are a little recessed. Higher frequencies not as forward as in the Goldrings or AT 440.
Note: Although the stylus is new it looks like it is a re-manufactured item.

Audio Technica
AT 95e

MM

Approx 100 Hrs
Recording Level 7.3
Tracking 2.0g
Bias 1.8
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Dave's Thoughts:Well extended bass but not as tight as other MM's. Upper midrange and treble slightly rolled off leading to a lack of definition to some instruments and vocals. No notable sibilance but upper frequencies lack some bite and attack.

Audio Technica
AT 150MLX

MM

Approx 10 Hrs
Recording Level 6.8
Tracking 1.25g
Bias 1.1
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Dave's Thoughts: Possibly seen as a MM version of the AT 0C9 MLII. Some of the OC9 treble lift is retained, but it is less pronounced. Also the lower mid range is filled out a little, losing some of the slightly lean character of the OC9. However, I did find that the 150MLX was not quite as open and spacious as the OC9. Overall a highly refined and articulate cartridge, delivering a more neutral presentation than the AT440MLa and AT0C9MLII.

Audio Technica
AT 440ML OCC

MM

Approx 50 Hrs
Recording Level 7.0
Tracking 1.25g
Bias 1.3
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Dave's Thoughts:Taut bass but leaner than the Goldring 1042, sweet midrange and vocal coverage with an extended treble. This is a refined and exciting listen but generally bright, needs to be carefully matched.

Audio Technica
AT 440MLa

MM

0 Hrs
Recording Level 7.0
Tracking 1.4g
Bias 1.3
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Dave's Thoughts: Recorded "Out of the box": Marginally leaner bass than the G1042 but slightly deeper than the AT440ML OCC. Rich mid-range & vocals with a more subdued treble lift as witnessed on the AT440 ML OCC, clean and precise percussion. Overall still a bright yet refined, taut and punchy cart.
Follow Up: Cartridge re-appraised at approx 40 Hours - I was unable to detect any noticable change in character.

Audio Technica
AT 5625AL

MM

Approx 30 Hrs
Recording Level 7.0
Tracking 2.0g
Bias 1.8
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Dave's Thoughts:Quite a deep bass but lower frequencies could be tighter. Midrange (vocals, guitars and strings etc.) a little veiled and lacking the clarity of the better MM's. Upper frequencies, including cymbal splashes, lack some life. Soundstage also notably narrower than the other better MM's.

Audio Technica
AT 5625AL Expert Stylus Para-Trace

MM

Approx 10 Hrs
Recording Level 7.0
Tracking 2.0g
Bias 1.8
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Dave's Thoughts:Very similar in character to the standard AT-5625AL, some very subtle improvements in low frequency control and upper frequency refinement. Would recommend purchase of a better quality cart instead of re-tipping a low cost item.

Goldring
Elektra

MM

Approx 50 Hrs
Recording Level 5.8
Tracking 1.8g
Bias 1.7
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Dave's Thoughts:Good wide soundstage. A strong, tight bass response - Double bass well controlled and not at all flabby. Midrange and upper frequencies well defined, broad and open. Instruments and vocals are cleanly defined. Percussion is crisp and sharp without being over exuberant. Is bettered in overall refinement by the top flight MM's and MC's, but an excellent performance from a budget item.

Goldring
1012GX

MM

Approx 200 Hrs
Recording Level 7.0
Tracking 1.5g
Bias 1.6
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Dave's Thoughts:A punchy strong bass, dynamic overall sound, some slight harshness in the upper frequencies when compared to the 1042..

Goldring
1042

MM

Approx 200 Hrs
Recording Level 7.0
Tracking 1.5g
Bias 1.6
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Dave's Thoughts:Although the 1012GX does a pretty good job, the 1042 does everything that bit better. Bass is tighter (and still strong), vocals cleaner and slightly more forward. A more refined treble, especially in the higher frequencies. A very dynamic and engaging cartridge.

Linn
K9

MM

Approx 200 Hrs
Recording Level 7.5
Tracking 1.75g
Bias 1.6
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Dave's Thoughts:Good overall performance although it was difficult to eradicate all sibilance during set up. Other MM's (especially the Ortofon 2M Black and AT 440MLa) offer enhanced midband separation plus extra control to the higher frequencies.

LP Gear
Deft 2

MM

Approx 8 Hrs
Recording Level 5.8
Tracking 2.0g
Bias 1.8
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Dave's Thoughts: A good quality budget offering. Bass response lacks that ultimate control when compared to the best MM's. A warm overall presentation and a good option for those wanting to avoid or tame a bright front end, look elsewhere if you want some bite and attack.

Ortofon
2M Black

MM

Approx 20 Hrs
Recording Level 5.0
Tracking 1.5g
Bias 1.4
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Dave's Thoughts: Tight, controlled and punchy bass, well balanced tonally, no notable accentuation of any specific frequency range. A very strong performing MM with relatively high output (despite the 5.0mV spec.). Marginally bettered by the AT OC9 ML II and DV 17D3 Karat for midrange transparency and upper frequency extention and crispness.

Ortofon
510 Mk II

MM

Approx 200 Hrs
Recording Level 6.4
Tracking 1.5g
Bias 1.4
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Dave's Thoughts: A good capable performance from an entry level MM. Vocals a little recessed and upper frequencies not quite as crisp as the better MM's.

Ortofon
530

MM

Approx 200 Hrs
Recording Level 6.9
Tracking 1.3g
Bias 1.2
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Dave's Thoughts: Well controlled and punchy bass with a totally neutral and refined presentation throughout the frequency range, similar in character to the VMS30 II. Articulate and clear without the slightly bright edge of the AT 440MLa.

Shure
M75 ED II
Shure ED-T2

MM

Approx 200 Hrs
Recording Level 6.2
Tracking 1.2g
Bias 1.1
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Dave's Thoughts: Taut bass with good depth, well defined midrange with all vocals and instruments being well defined. Although cleanly presented, upper frequencies are marginally recessed when compared to the V range of Shure Carts giving it a slightly warmer overall presentation..

Shure
M75 ED II
Pfanstiehl
4760-DE

MM

2 Hrs
Recording Level 4.4
Tracking 2.0g
Bias 1.8
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Dave's Thoughts:Again, taut bass with good depth. Vocals and instruments being reasonably well defined. Upper frequencies are presented a little further forward in the mix when compared to the ED-T2 stylus, however it does lack some of the refinement.

Shure
M95-ED

Jico Stylus

MM

Approx 65 Hrs
Recording Level 6.9
Tracking 1.0g
Bias 1.0
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Dave's Thoughts: A significantly different character to the V15 III. This is altogether brighter with an extended treble that borders on harsh at times. Midrange, especially vocals are also a little ill-defined when compared to the better MM's.
Please note that there is a notable hum on the sound clips. This was prevalent when first installed and gradually regressed on useage.

Shure
M97xE

Shure N97xE

MM

47k Ohms
340pF

Approx 50 Hrs
Recording Level 5.5
Tracking 1.25g
Bias 1.0
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Dave's Thoughts: A full and warm character, with the top end a little rolled off into generic settings. Increasing input capacitance to 340pF (excl. cables) improves the tonal balance, bottom end remained full with a nice body to lower mids and highs are brought acceptably to the fore. A slight bloated feel to bass registers which could be a tad more punchy. A hint of sibilance, especially on inner tracks. Compared to loftier carts it was just that little bit more difficult to pick out nuances that Iíve come to recognise in my familiar test tracks. However this is very much a budget cart - On this basis this is a pretty impressive performer, get the loading right and it delivers a pleasant full bodied presentation. Yes it has a few little loose edges, but at its price point, Iíd say itís difficult to look elsewhere, especially if a slightly warmer presentation is preferred.

Shure
M97xE

JICO SAS

MM

35k Ohms
220pF

Approx 25 Hrs
Recording Level 4.5
Tracking 1.25g
Bias 1.0
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Dave's Thoughts: Whereas the stock stylus was warm and a little laid back into standard settings, this thing is lean and lithe, however mids lost some body and the upper frequencies were much more forward in the mix and, for me, too accentuated. Even at my lowest capacitance setting of 120pF this was still brighter than the stock stylus at 440pF. I needed to tweak input resistance, settling on 220pf (at the phonostage) and 35k Ohms input resistance, on my rig and to my ears this gave the best overall balance. Here it still lacks a little of the warmth, but any further reduction in resistance is then detrimental to top end delivery. But thatís only part of the story; otherwise everything becomes tighter and more refined. Bass instruments have added punch and control. Vocals and instruments are cleaner and just that little bit more distinct in complex mixes. High hats and cymbal splashes were noticeably crisper with sharper attack. Tracking is pretty much spot on, with no notable sibilance present. Load to personal tastes and you are rewarded with a detailed, tight, crisp and clean presentation, just lacking that slight dose of warmth I personally prefer.

Shure/Realistic
R47XT

MM

Approx 50 Hrs
Recording Level 6.0
Tracking 1.2g
Bias 1.1
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Dave's Thoughts:Overall a very mellow presentation. Upper midrange and treble recessed when compared to most MM's. Compared to the Shure V15III or the M75 ED this is a little lifeless.

Shure
V15 II
Improved

MM

Approx 10 Hrs
Recording Level 7.0
Tracking 1.3g
Bias 1.1
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Dave's Thoughts: A similar character to the M75 ED II. Again an overall warm presentation but with improved openess in instrumentation and vocals. The top end is slightly more forward giving it a slightly brighter tinge.

Shure
V15 III

MM

Approx 100 Hrs
Recording Level 7.0
Tracking 1.0g
Bias 1.0
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Dave's Thoughts: A very musical cartridge that drags you into the whole as opposed to accenting any specific dynamic, yet all instruments remain well defined. Tracks difficult passages very well. A well balanced, neutral and musical cart.

Shure
V15 VST V

MM

Approx 300 Hrs
Recording Level 7.0
Tracking 1.5g
Bias 1.4
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Dave's Thoughts: Builds on the strengths of the V15 III, delivering a strong controlled bass, well defined vocals and midrange with crisp refined highs. A highly engaging cartridge - bold, controlled with an articulate presentation.

Stanton
500

MM

Approx 300 Hrs
Recording Level 6.0
Tracking 2.0g
Bias 1.8
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Dave's Thoughts: Deep and reasonably tight bass, vocals and midrange instruments lack definition on complex tracks when compared to the better MM's. Emphasised treble†with†some harshness in percussion and sibilance on vocals. These failings are less evident when playing straight forward Rock and Pop.

Stanton
500
D71EE

MM

2 Hrs
Recording Level 7.3
Tracking 1.3g
Bias 1.2
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Dave's Thoughts: Bass remains strong but a little tauter. Midrange separation, especially vocals and strings, is notably improved. The higher frequencies remain accentuated but are much better controlled, some slight sibilance remains, however the high hat splashes are significantly crisper. Not a giant killing cartridge, but if you have a 500 and want a cheap (20USD) upgrade then this is certainly a good option especially if Rock and up tempo Pop music is your thing.

Stanton
500 II
D71EE

MM

2 Hrs
Recording Level 7.5
Tracking 1.3g
Bias 1.2
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Dave's Thoughts:Much of the overall character of the 500/D71EE was preserved, however some of the accentuated treble returned along with mild harshness to the percussion and notable sibilance. This failing did marginally regress with increase VTF. Once again though throw some fairly basic Rock and Pop at it and it will have your feet tapping. Tight, punchy and great fun, if not overly subtle.

Stanton
881S

D81S-II

Without Brush

MM

50 Hrs
Recording Level 6.4
Tracking 1.0g
Bias 0.9
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Daves Thoughts: A deep bass response with a small element of added punch over the 681. Again a slightly warm presentation to instruments and vocals but with further added clarity and separation over the 681. Upper frequencies are cleanly presented without any sibilance and are a little furhter forward in the mix over the MI 681. Overall an intriguing combination - A strong, refined and slightly warm presentation, without at all being dull.

Stanton
881S

D81S-II

With Brush

MM

50 Hrs
Recording Level 6.4
Tracking 2.0g
Bias 1.8
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Daves Thoughts: I struggled to pick up any notable differences in presentation with and without the brush.
However, on some pressings slight background noise was occasionally picked up by the trailing bristles when in contact with the lead in groove. This is evident here on Clip 1.

Stanton
CS-100

MM

150 Hrs
Recording Level 6.8
Tracking 1.0g
Bias 0.9
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Daves Thoughts: Upper frequencies are notably more forward and it does not possess some of the warmth and extended lower mid/upper bass of the 881s/681EEE. Quite lean in the bass/mid presentation, you get something more akin to an AT MM approach. However, it is very well controlled, no wooliness in the bass - in fact very tight. Although a little bright, there's control with no sibilance or harshness.

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