| Search | Login/Register
   Home » Analog Playback» The Softer Side of a Hard-Tracing Cartridge (13 posts, 1 page)
  Print Thread | 1st Post |  
Page 1 of 1 (13 items) Select Pages: 
   Target    Threads for related reading   Most recent post in related threads   Forum  Replies   Views   Started 
  »  New  Buying a last cartridge...  Lucky you...  Analog Playback Forum     80  536273  09-05-2008
  »  New  Tell me about more about Ortofone SPU Sound...  Earthy matters...  Analog Playback Forum     54  355110  12-01-2004
05-24-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,130
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 1
Post ID: 10573
Reply to: 10573
The Softer Side of a Hard-Tracing Cartridge
fiogf49gjkf0d
I started in hi-fi with LPs and I have never stopped using them as my principal source for hi-fi.  Some time ago I decided that master tape was better than vinyl, but I could not afford to go that route; so I settled on the next best thing: a cartridge, TT and arm that got as close to master tape as possible.  Rather than refer readers away, I wll say (again) that I use the Ortofon MC 3000 II cartridge with its matching T-3000 transformer, a Sota Star (vacuum) TT, and a weighted-down Well Tempered Reference arm.  I am presently pleased with a modded, hot-rodded, mm-only K & K SE phonostage and a Bent Audio TAP TVC pre-amp.  You could say that all of my gear is there to help make the most of this most-tape-like cartridge.

So, what do I mean by, "make the most of"?  To begin with, I want to address this in generic terms, so it doesn't really matter whether or not Ortofon still sells the MC 3000.  One way or another, the idea I want to put forward is the potential of the "hard-tracing", "objective-sounding" cartridge, and how to use it.

I never cared for any of the early MCs I heard, dispite their obvious "advantages" with respect to clarity, detail, transients, impact, imaging, etc., etc.  The main reason I did not like them was that they always sounded artificial, and then they went and shouted their artificiality from the rooftops.

The MC 3000 is the first MC I heard that could actually be confused with master tape, or even, at times, with live sound.  Not all the time, but it could do it, and I figured that was a start (but it was hardly the end of it...).

It has taken me several years to finally arrive at the point that I can consistently get the best of the MC 3000.  And the trouble I've had with it - what is "wrong" with it - is probably one of the best things about it, namely its hard-tracing "Replicant" stylus, which Ortofon developed specifically to trace as closely as possible what the cutting stylus cut into the master.

It is ironic and grimly amusing that it has taken me most of the life of this cartridge to really start figuring it out, to develop an effective means of measuring records and correlate this information to repeatable arm height/VTA settings.  And all other operating parameters are also critical for the best results, so all bear regular check-ups.  Just last night I discovered I had been running the thing for some time at sub-optimal azimuth.  And so it goes.  What a pain!

But what beauty and expression, and pitch, timbre, inflection, etc., etc., when it's right, as it is most of the time now, at long last.

Setting the records themselves aside for a moment, the main thing I wanted to say here is the the MC 3000 proves by example that a hard tracer need not be simply hard, but it can come as close as possible (with another format) to the exquisite quality of master tape, in case anyone thinks this is worth pursuing.  Yes, it takes scrupulous attention to settings; but the stress is gone now that I have developed a simple, effective system for dealing with it.

I just bought a Poang chair and footstool to relax in while I listen to music, and I don't plan to be getting up except to change sides.

Paul S
05-25-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
drdna
San Francisco, California
Posts 488
Joined on 10-29-2005

Post #: 2
Post ID: 10574
Reply to: 10573
Hard trace
fiogf49gjkf0d
Paul,
As you know I am also a believer in the hard tracing, and have likewise consistently rejected all MC cartridges due to the lack of realism and their inability to penetrate beyond the most superficial layers of audio splendor, though these they do well. I still use likewise a heavily weighted Well Tempered Arm, so it is some consolation that what I am doing is not totally without precedent.  
I am glad to hear you are taking the time to sit down and enjoy the music. I should do that more often. I know what is wrong with the rest of my phono set up and have made the necessary purchases, but have just not had the time to set things up lately.
Interesting to hear about the Ortofon MC. Maybe I need to re-examine the Blue Mantis MC cartridge.  I can't remember if you have ever heard the Decca cartridges in your system or not? I'd be interested to hear your comments.
Adrian
05-25-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,130
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 3
Post ID: 10577
Reply to: 10574
A System is Manditory
fiogf49gjkf0d
Adrian, I have not tried the top Deccas for many years.  My last experience with them was as ever: I absolutely loved their unrivaled immediacy and presence, which I found totally addictive, and it also made other cartridges sound pretty pathetic by comparison.  But they were for me like a 45 amp run "FR", in that they had so many problems that I just could not overlook.  Add to that the chronic variability and poor reliability, and they became for me like a drug that is better remembered than imbibed.

IMO the key to using the hard tracer is set-up, including record-to-record with respect to VTA.  Height adjustment is simply not optional with the modern "long-line" styluses (plural per OED), and it is absolutely not an option with the Replicant.  One simply must have a system that enables one to ascertain and correct for record thickness, which varies by a factor of nearly 3 (according to my most recent data).

I do not buy into the "damping qualities of carbon fiber", and I certainly did not buy the WT Reference because of the carbon.  Rather, I bought it because it allows easy access and quick, reliable adjustability of all set-up parameters, including arm height/VTA.  It is tough to dial in tracking weight, but who cares?  I came up with my own modification that allows me to keep track of arm height, and I also came up with a simple system for correlating arm height to record thickness.  Now I can accurately measure a record for thickness (if it still needs measuring), put the thickness and its arm-marking correlary info on the sleeve (on architect's tape), and from then on I need only look at the numbers, set arm height and play the LP, which takes less time than dusting the record.  IMO, difficult and/or non-repeatabe height adjustment would make ANY arm a non-starter for use with a hard tracer.

A funny, surprise benefit is that correct VTA (etc.) makes bad electricity decidedly less problematic.

Like I told Romy a few months ago, I think Ortofon has tried to standardize their lines and get rid of the exotic sintered ceramic bodies; but they have released the Uber-Replicant-bearing MC Windfeld, which looks to be a tweaked Jubilee with a super-polished version of their Replicant stylus.  And like I said back then, I like it very much that all of the "reviewers" had a hard time ascribing adjectives to its sound.  This is always a good sign, in my experience.  Problems?  Asking price, for openers, coupled with the usual problematic fact that it takes so long to integrate and evaluate a cartridge, and since all base adjustments must (obviously) be set by ear.  And this means you pretty much have to swallow hard and buy the damned cartridge before you really, seriously get a handle on it.


Best regards,
Paul S
05-25-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
drdna
San Francisco, California
Posts 488
Joined on 10-29-2005

Post #: 4
Post ID: 10578
Reply to: 10577
Ortofon Windfeld cartridge?
fiogf49gjkf0d
Hi Paul,
Yes, I agree with everything you have said.  I love the Well Tempered system because it is extremely simple and elegant, as you say, making it easy to work with.

The older top of the line Decca London Jubilee has incredible presence but was not a perfect tracker and would not give the very last word in detail. I don't know if you have heard the newer Reference, but it eliminates those problems, retaining all the living presence and emotional connection of the Jubilee, but improving tracking, dynamics, and giving retrieval of inner detail as good as any MC cartridge I have heard.  I admit I have not heard the Blue Mantis or the Ortofon Windfeld however.  It is my weakness, but I am always thinking about trying another new phono cartridge, probably because I do not fully understand them and cannot make them myself, so they retain some audiophile magical thinking for me.
So I am curious as to whether it is worth exploring the Windfeld.  As it is very similar to your Ortofon, would you say that you chose the Ortofon over the Decca because of the Decca's flaws and despite the Decca's superior living presence, or would you say you chose the Ortofon because of certain superior qualities that the Decca was lacking?
Adrian
05-25-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,130
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 5
Post ID: 10584
Reply to: 10578
The Flaw in My Ointment
fiogf49gjkf0d
Adrian, it was my thinking that if I could have whatever I wanted, then I would have a hot-rodded Studer and a big library full of 15 ips master tapes and 1st generation dubs.  But since I could not figure out/afford the tape thing, I went with the next best thing: the Ortofon MC 3000 II mounted in the WTR arm, tracking dead flat on the vacuum HD Sota, etc.  Like I keep saying, the MC 3000 actually sounds almost exactly like tape at its best.  The Deccas, etc., don't.

The biggest problem I had with the Deccas was what I perceived to be a lack of "integration", meaning I kept being conscious of their sonic parts, and those parts seemed to me to be a little erratic, to boot.  No, the MC 3000 does not have quite the uncanny presence of the top Deccas.  FWIW, I've never heard the equal of the top Deccas on that score (except MAYBE the old Wynn strain gauge cartridge; and what a piece of shit it was, otherwise!).  But the MC 3000 sounds like great tape, meaning it is, when used properly, a very natural sounding cartridge.  Nothing flashy; it just gets it about as right as I've heard, in the same totally straight-forward way master tape does.  There have been times when I have mistaken its ease for reticence; but then, when are you conscious of "speed" as a separate factor when listening to music?  Again, and the whole point of this thread, getting the best from any hard tracer takes some attention, during initial set-up and every time the record thickness varies.  Under these circumstances, the MC 3000 is "good enough".

I really can't say that the Windfeld is like the MC 3000 II, which was known as Ortofon's "studio" cartridge, and they never really "marketed" it.  If i had to guess, I would guess that the Windfeld is most like the Jubilee in terms of character, since they share a body, a designer, etc.  But it is VERY interesting to note that Ortofon made the Windfeld's response very flat despite the fact that listening panels consistently preferred a 3 - 6 dB tilt up to 20k Hz.  Again, the reviewers just sputter about it and then say it would be their choice for transferring LPs to CD, etc.  And I think this consensus says more than they realized or intended.

BTW, am I just fuzzing out, or do I remember that the top Deccas were among the most VTA-sensitive cartridges out there?  In fact, I'm thinking I remember that one had to be adjusted frequently for temperature, humidity, age, etc., ad nauseum?  None for me, thanks!

Best regards,
Paul S

05-26-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
drdna
San Francisco, California
Posts 488
Joined on 10-29-2005

Post #: 6
Post ID: 10603
Reply to: 10584
The new Decca
fiogf49gjkf0d
Hi Paul,
Well, that sounds very intriguing.  Of course, the low end Decca cartridges like the Gold are exactly as you describe: infernal, insufferable, tempermental, occasionally wonderful.  The new Decca Reference is quite different, i would say as if the trajectory of Decca and the best low output MC's collided at the top of the mountain, that would be it. Minimal set-up issues also, unlike the Decca Jubilee and others which did require more fussing around to get them right.
Still it sounds intriguing enough that maybe I will look into a Windfeld, just to revisit the MC world again.
Adrian
05-27-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Markus
Posts 68
Joined on 03-07-2007

Post #: 7
Post ID: 10607
Reply to: 10603
Carts
fiogf49gjkf0d
The Windfeld apparently suffers from production inconsistency. I'd avoid it. Ortofon have just released a new cartridge, the A90, which looks promising.

I agree about the Decca Reference, I recently heard one in an SME 312 arm and it was very good, no tracking issues, very linear across the entire range, very good dynamics. Too bad it's too expensive for me.

05-27-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,130
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 8
Post ID: 10612
Reply to: 10603
6th Sense
fiogf49gjkf0d
Adrian, I am cynical enough to take seriously news of QC issues from any manufacturer.  I heard about sagging cantilevers with the 3000, way back when, but went ahead, and it worked out for me.  But I would certainly do my homework before I shelled out that kind of money.  Hard to tell with Ortofon, who seem to be trying to bone up on the "consumer" front, and no doubt this entails more outsourcing, etc.  I no longer have the connections to determine whether the top of the line stuff is still made, assembled and tested in Denmark (not that this, in and of itself, means a hill of beans...).

Another consideration with any LO MC is that it needs a step-up transformer, and IMO the "universal step-up" is suggested a good deal more often than it is realized.  Ortofon used to have a "companion" step-up for each of their top 4 cartridges: the 2000, 3000, 5000 and 7500.  I am not sure, but I think they may have scuttled these, as well, in their efforts to standardize and solidify their mainstream operations.

Juki is honorable and he might have any of this stuff (or he won't...) at a substantial savings; but I am not sure about the factory warranty if you bypass the high-dollar gate keepers.  OTOH, you could use Romy's technique and negotiate the best price from a dealer and then just keep after it until you wind up with what you want.  After all, mediocraty is the only sure thing in audio, at any price.

Anyway, the point of the post was really to remind that a step-up tranny needs to be considered as part of the LO MC cartridge.  Also, one has to recognize and move on a good thing, since the opportunity to do so may not come along again.  It almost requires a sixth sense.

Best regards,
Paul S
05-29-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
drdna
San Francisco, California
Posts 488
Joined on 10-29-2005

Post #: 9
Post ID: 10647
Reply to: 10612
The ideal cartridge
fiogf49gjkf0d
So, having thought about it, there are enough concerns about the Windfeld, I do not care to have yet another $3000 experiment.  The moving coil-cantilever system is to me fundamentally flawed.  The primary differences we hear seem to very frequently have to do with the stylus tip, case in point the Ortofon Replicant.
Since my Decca Jubilee needs repair (I am using the Reference now), I will see if I can get it re-tipped with something similar to the Replicant type tip, namely a very long line contact tip.  That should be an interesting experiment, and not too costly.
Adrian
05-29-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,130
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 10
Post ID: 10648
Reply to: 10647
Big Effects From Tiny Bits and Pieces
fiogf49gjkf0d
All the research and theory; all those exotic, expensive little bits and pieces; too bad there's no way to tell if a cartridge will work until you try it.  And then there's precious little you can do to fix it if it doesn't.

In plotting an end-around, remember that Ortofon has some very sophisticated facilities, some well-heeled vendors and a whole lot of historical data to work with in producing an integrated phono cartridge.  Not to say this will necessarily yield good results, but I don't believe that a good cartridge is as easy to make as, say, a phono stage.  I mean, this is not something that can be DIY'd or thrown together by just anybody.  And it would not take much in the way of change to radically change the sound of a phono cartridge.  A new stylus or new suspension components could totally alter the sound of the cartridge you know, or it might just mess up internal resonance - or something like that - to where it simply ruins the sound.

By the way, I am curious to know more about the reports of problems you have seen.

Best regards,
Paul S
10-27-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Axel
South Africa
Posts 80
Joined on 07-18-2009

Post #: 11
Post ID: 12062
Reply to: 10612
Windfeld QC issue(s)
fiogf49gjkf0d
Paul,
I can give you a first hand idea about the QC issues, since I personally experienced them.

A brand new Windfeld was from the start what I'd call 'very low riding'. It didn't perform badly though i.e. better then my Jubilee it replaced --- this in turn having been another QC issue with a skew cantilever and a split open body (between inner and outer body).
Yet again this Jubilee performed OK after the skew cantilever had been corrected by the factory (not the body split though).

Still with the Jubilee, the cantilever then once again started to go out of centre, plus given the unresolved split open body (could look through it from front to back), I ask for a replacement which was granted.

In comes the Windfeld (adding extra $$$) as a Jubilee replacement.

I decided after some time to measure it with a test record and oscilloscope and found out, it had gone way out of kilter in terms of channel separation mostly, but also other test parameters.

It was send back to the factory, which found it had an "VTA error" (call it a sagged cantilever). Recall, it was really down from the start.

A once again granted replacement is VERY differently looking in deed, riding higher by at least 1,5 - 2mm! Also the finish and fit of the sintered body is much improved and fits far better then was the case with the first item(s).

So, yes they did have some issues.

Greetings,
Axel

10-27-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,130
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 12
Post ID: 12069
Reply to: 12062
The Benefits of Persistence
fiogf49gjkf0d
Axel:

One wonders how much one must pay to get it right from the start...

Actually, the "sagging" cantilever is not peculiar to the Jubilee or the Windfeld, but it has been a long-standing problem for Ortofon on a number of their more expensive cartridges.

I bought my MC 3000 II via the "gray market", and I sweated bullets until I was satisfied that it was OK.

You mention the "sintered body".  Sintered what?  Ceramic?  And this is then sandwiched between slabs of stainless steel?  Is the "sandwiched part" of the Jubilee also sintered (ceramic)?

Will you offer some thoughts on the sound/character/performance characteristics of the Windfeld?

And how about the new Ortofon releasing the A-90 so hard on the heels of the Windfeld?  Based on this, can an A-1000 be long in coming?


Yes, we must all be prepared to fight for the goods we've paid for!

Best regards,
Paul S

10-28-2009 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Axel
South Africa
Posts 80
Joined on 07-18-2009

Post #: 13
Post ID: 12073
Reply to: 12069
[how] to get it right from the start...
fiogf49gjkf0d

Paul,

the Jubilee never had a sagging cantilever but one that had moved out of alignment to the left of the body when viewed from the front (the preferred misalignment...?!).

The "sintered" outer(and inner)-body is baked out of non-magnetic metal powder (austenitic = non ferritic stainless steel).
It then has the inner part (was modified for the Windfeld compared to the other cheaper cart's of same body shape*) pressed between the cheeks of the outer body -- that's where a gap could come about. (The inner body piece contains the cart's 'motor')

*) the Windfeld inner body contains the mounting screw-hole-threads as compared to the outer body's screw threads with the cheaper cart versions (including Jubilee). This was meant to prevent the gapping of the earlier / 'simpler' body design.

It is immediately apparent listening to the Windfeld, that is has a more powerful bass presentation and a more refined treble when compared to the Jubilee (no slouch at it either but...)

Sound character of Windfeld is so 'neutral' it can be mistaken for a very good (the best) CD presentations.
However, it still likes a tube in the system, being an MC, lest it sounds to 'hyper neutral', dry-ish, lacking radiance, giving it a lesser involving presentation with most but the very good recorded (and pressed) vinyl.

Can it still get bettered (A90 -> A1000)? YES! as soon as MCs find a way to have their detail, speed and bass presentation more integrated with a less  'mechanical' (over-detailed?) presentation i.e. more radiance.
Good MMs are somehow doing this better, alas lack the last bit detail and speed compared the top LO-MCs like the Windfeld.

I keep on going back to MMs these days. Since I have not tubes in my system it is the ~better trade off and more musical.

Greetings,
Axel
Page 1 of 1 (13 items) Select Pages: 
   Target    Threads for related reading   Most recent post in related threads   Forum  Replies   Views   Started 
  »  New  Buying a last cartridge...  Lucky you...  Analog Playback Forum     80  536273  09-05-2008
  »  New  Tell me about more about Ortofone SPU Sound...  Earthy matters...  Analog Playback Forum     54  355110  12-01-2004
Home Page  |  Last 24Hours  | Search  |  SiteMap  | Questions or Problems | Copyright Note
The content of all messages within the Forums Copyright © by authors of the posts