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Stanton ST-150, Cartridge/Stylus and Pre-amp recommendations?, Value-for-money, and objective performance in-mind!
JacksonGrey
post May 9 2010, 23:44
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Hey everyone,

Following your advice in my previous thread on a record player, I finally purchased a Stanton ST.150 (the one with the kinked arm). It was in my price range, and seems to have solid reviews.

With this in mind, I'd appreciate some advice on the following:

I need to get a new cartridge/stylus and a pre-amp. I figure I have 100 for all 3 of these, and I don't mind buying second hand where appropriate - so probably not the cartridge?

Would anyone care to lend some advice on which cartridge is a good, affordable choice for this record player? As for the pre-amp, I'm aware that the price (but not necessarily the EQ accuracy) of these devices rises exponentially, so does anyone know of an economical, high quality (perhaps pro-audio?) pre-amp to use with this record player? Same goes for the cartridge - I don't want to spend heaps on snake-oil, but I'd like to get an objectively proficient model.

Any advice is appreciated. smile.gif

Thanks!

Edit: I should probably add that this record player will be used solely for listening, not DJ'ing/scratching/etc. Furthermore, I'm looking for uncoloured playback, so I'm not too keen on any device which introduces its own EQ/tonal characteristics, as I suspect many of these audiohile solutions do... wink.gif

JG.

This post has been edited by JacksonGrey: May 9 2010, 23:47
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DVDdoug
post May 10 2010, 19:59
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QUOTE
I figure I have 100 for all 3 of these...
I'd only consider it two purchases, since the cartridge comes with a stylus. wink.gif

I haven't been in the market for this stuff in quite a few years, so don't have any specific recommendations...

If you put half of your budget into the cartridge and half into the preamp, I think you can get a very good cartridge, but you might feel the need to upgrade the preamp at some point.

You might be able to find an older used receiver with a built-in phono preamp. But, if you don't need the whole receiver the bulk might be an issue (Somebody gave me their old receiver when they upgraded to "home theater".)

For the preamp, to me the biggest factor is noise. I could always hear some hum or hiss from my phono preamp (with the volume up). I don't worry too much about super-accurate RIAA equalization. I don't think it's too difficult to get +/- 1dB (or so) accuracy. The RIAA curves were originally designed with simple RC (analog) filters in mind. And, assuming your records are from the "vinyl age", they were produced with analog RIAA filters, and IMO a lot of older records need some additional EQ anyway (a little high-end boost).

For the cartridge, you'll probably be OK as long as you avoid "DJ" cartridges. But, I would expect the cartridge to make a bigger difference in sound quality (frequency response, etc.) than your choice of preamp. Shure's top-of-the-line M97 cartridge can be found online here in the US for about $60 USD (plus tax & shipping). If you can find a similar deal in the UK, my feeling is that "you can't go wrong with Shure's best". Or for the about same price, you can get a bottom-of-the-line Grado cartridge. The lower & mid-priced Grados were always known as good values.

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JacksonGrey
post May 10 2010, 21:48
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Thanks for your reply, DVDDoug. I checked the prices in the UK, where I'm from, and the cheapest I can get the Shure for is about 87, or ~$130. This is quite a bit more than I had hoped to spend, though I'm going to look into import options - the reviews seem very positive. smile.gif

I already have a receiver without phono, but have taken a look at:

NAD PP2
Project Phonobox
Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3

Does anyone have any comments on these? Many of the reviews seem a little untrustworthy, and seem to attribute them with qualities/flaws that couldn't possibly be the fault of a pre-amp. biggrin.gif
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JacksonGrey
post May 10 2010, 23:05
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Can I also add the Cambridge Azur 540P to that list. Any advice/experiences from you objective folks is appreciated. wink.gif
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cliveb
post May 11 2010, 08:43
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ May 10 2010, 21:48) *
Thanks for your reply, DVDDoug. I checked the prices in the UK, where I'm from, and the cheapest I can get the Shure for is about 87, or ~$130. This is quite a bit more than I had hoped to spend, though I'm going to look into import options - the reviews seem very positive. smile.gif

If you can't stretch to the Shure, consider models you can afford from the likes of Ortofon, Audio-Technica, Goldring, Grado, Sumiko, and probably others I've forgotten. Get a model that has an elliptical (or fine-line) stylus.

Regarding your quest for a phono preamp. Have you tried out the Stanton's built-in preamp? I have no experience with this turntable, and wouldn't be surprised to hear that its phono preamp is not up to scratch, but for the time being it can't hurt to try it and see. Pretty much all phono preamps will have approximately correct EQ and moderately lowish distortion (which, given how inaccurate vinyl records are, is good enough). The only thing that really sets them apart is their noise levels. Note that ALL phono preamps will have a little bit of hiss - it's the nature of the beast.

If the Stanton's preamp doesn't exhibit too much hiss and/or hum, it's probably good enough. Try it out with the cartridge that came with the deck to check for noise levels - that won't be affected much by the specific cartridge. If it's OK, you can use your entire budget for a nice cartridge.
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JacksonGrey
post May 11 2010, 11:45
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As far as I'm aware, this turntable doesn't come with a built-in pre-amp. If it does, would that be for the RCA out?
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cliveb
post May 11 2010, 14:29
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ May 11 2010, 11:45) *
As far as I'm aware, this turntable doesn't come with a built-in pre-amp. If it does, would that be for the RCA out?

According to Stanton's website, the ST.150 has both Digital Output [S/PDIF] and Selectable Phono or Line Output. Therefore it must have a built-in phono preamp (and an A/D converter, for that matter).

The info on their website is a little sketchy, but my guess would be that it has three RCA sockets: a single socket carrying the SPDIF output, and a L/R analogue pair that carries either a phono level (unequalised) or a line level (and RIAA equalised) signal depending on some switch setting - probably on the back or underneath.

EDIT: Just downloaded the ST.150 user manual and it clearly states that you can switch the analogue outputs to line level using a switch that sits on the back, between the L/R analogue output sockets and the (single) SPDIF output.

This post has been edited by cliveb: May 11 2010, 14:33
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RonaldDumsfeld
post May 11 2010, 14:42
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From the review published in Remix Feb 2004 by Jason Blum

QUOTE
The STR8-150's rear panel sports a wide range of connectors that are rarely seen on the average turntable. As expected, a pair of standard RCA phono outputs is provided for basic connectivity to DJ mixers. But the similarities end there: Also included are a pair of RCA line outputs for connection to inputs that don't have phono preamps, as well as a S/PDIF jack for hooking up the deck to digital mixers or directly into digital recording devices like DAT players and computer soundcards. A switch between the phono and line outputs selects which output is active. There's also a power switch on the back panel; this is a bit of a departure from the top-mounted rotary on/off switches on other decks. All of the STR8-150's cables, including the power cable, are removable and replaceable a major improvement upon fixed cables.


Job done really. At least try it out before spending more money on replacement cartridges/styli and particularly phono preamps.

I bought a Cambridge Audio Azur 640P because I wanted to try a Denon DL-103 MC cartridge on my Technics and it was very well reviewed in audiophile mags. More fool me then when it turned out to be noisier than either my 15 year old mixer and 20 year old Kenwood receiver. I have come to the conclusion that the only affordable way to get a significantly better phono stage than the most basic is to buy one of those kits and build your own battery powered one. But I'm open to suggestions as much as the OP.
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JacksonGrey
post May 11 2010, 14:46
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Thanks for this info Cliveb/Ronald; the turntable hasn't arrived yet and I was unsure quite what to expect regarding pre-amplication. smile.gif

I'm beginning to have some doubts about the Shure M97XE; some reviews suggest the Orofton 2m Red offers better bang-for-buck, which is something I'm particularly interested in given my budget. Unfortunately, the same reviews tend to be heavily subjective; it seems there's a lack of any technical data on these cartridges. I can only assume this is because the testing methods aren't available to reviewers, or aren't popular with the manufacturers... wink.gif

Does anyone know of any objective reviews of these (relatively) affordable cartridges, i.e. with technical measurements taken?

This post has been edited by JacksonGrey: May 11 2010, 14:48
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JacksonGrey
post May 12 2010, 19:31
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Ok guys, I've done a lot more reading/googling, and I think I'm split between the Denon DL-110 and the Shure M97XE. The latter is a little cheaper... Does anyone have experience of both/either? I'd appreciate any info on whether this 110 is worth the extra money.

Thanks. smile.gif
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cliveb
post May 12 2010, 19:58
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ May 12 2010, 19:31) *
Ok guys, I've done a lot more reading/googling, and I think I'm split between the Denon DL-110 and the Shure M97XE. The latter is a little cheaper... Does anyone have experience of both/either? I'd appreciate any info on whether this 110 is worth the extra money.

The DL110 is a high-output moving coil type. But even a "high output" MC cartridge will have a significantly lower output level than a moving magnet such as the Shure - in this case it's 1.6mV compared to the Shure's 4mV. It is entirely possible that the gain in the Stanton's phono preamp might not be enough to get a decent signal level, especially since it is probably optimised for the 680 cartridge that comes with the ST.150 - that cartridge has an output level of 7mV. The Denon will also be much less compliant and likely not to track as well as the Shure. I'd say that the Shure is the safe option.
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mixminus1
post May 12 2010, 20:27
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At the risk of getting a little OT here (although it does pertain to the OP's "finalist" cartridges), what are the practical, real-world differences in performance between moving-magnet and moving-coil?

I have a basic understanding of how each one works on a mechanical/electrical level, but as I've never had hands-on experience with a moving-coil (and only one moving-magnet, the aforementioned Shure M97xe), I'm curious as to what the actual audible differences are between the two technologies, generally speaking.


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JacksonGrey
post May 12 2010, 22:00
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Thanks Cliveb, I think I'll go with the Shure. smile.gif
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cliveb
post May 13 2010, 08:50
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QUOTE (mixminus1 @ May 12 2010, 20:27) *
At the risk of getting a little OT here (although it does pertain to the OP's "finalist" cartridges), what are the practical, real-world differences in performance between moving-magnet and moving-coil?

I have a basic understanding of how each one works on a mechanical/electrical level, but as I've never had hands-on experience with a moving-coil (and only one moving-magnet, the aforementioned Shure M97xe), I'm curious as to what the actual audible differences are between the two technologies, generally speaking.

Over the years I've owned a number of moving magnet (ADC VLM, Ortofon FF15E, Grace F1) and moving coil (Dynavector 10X, Supex 901E, Linn Asak, Linn Karma) cartridges. From this admittedly limited sample size, I'd say that as a general rule moving coils tend to have a greater sense of "drama" about the sound they make, with more timbral texture. Moving magnets tend to be more neutral and laid-back. Also, the high frequencies tend to be a bit sweeter from moving coils. That said, I've never owned a top-flight moving magnet (eg. Shure V15, Stanton 681, etc).

From a trackability perspective, moving magnets as a rule have better ultimate tracking capability. That said, very few music LPs have grooves that cause a properly set up moving coil any difficulty. It's the torture cuts on test records that trip them up.
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mixminus1
post May 13 2010, 14:20
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Excellent summary, thanks!


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Arnold B. Kruege...
post May 19 2010, 01:15
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ May 12 2010, 14:31) *
Ok guys, I've done a lot more reading/googling, and I think I'm split between the Denon DL-110 and the Shure M97XE. The latter is a little cheaper... Does anyone have experience of both/either? I'd appreciate any info on whether this 110 is worth the extra money.


The M97XE ia currently Shure's top-of-the line cartridge. I don't think that anybody has gone wrong buying Shure's top-of-the line cartrdige for maybe the last 50 years. It is an outstanding tracker, and with appropriate capacitive loading, it is very sonically accurate.
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chadergeist
post Sep 14 2012, 03:27
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I bought a GRADO BLUE cartridge with stylus. It sounds really good and costed me about a $110.

This post has been edited by chadergeist: Sep 14 2012, 03:27
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slks
post Sep 14 2012, 19:24
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I bought an M97XE a few years ago. I don't have experience with any of the other carts mentioned here, but I've been very impressed with the M97XE's performance. Several reviews have mentioned that high frequencies roll off a bit, which I think is true. When comparing vinyl rips I've done to the CD versions, it seems to have a few dB less treble. This doesn't bother me at all though. It's perfectly listenable as-is, but turning the treble knob up a notch or two matches the sound to CD quite well.

I'm uncertain how much of that is due to inherent limitations of the vinyl format, potentially different masters between CD/vinyl, or my pre-amp which is several decades old and of uncertain quality. But just looking at cartridges, the Shure seems to be a "sure bet" - there are certainly much worse cartridges out there. Maybe you can spend 3x more and get a marginally better cartridge, but that wrecks the bang-for-buck ratio pretty bad.

It was around $90 USD on Amazon at that time. You may want to check if that deal is still there (if they ship to UK).


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