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Which cartridge to get for good SQ (general listening, archival)
christopher
post Oct 25 2010, 19:02
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At work we have a turntable (Numark TTX, with the integrated USB ADC) which we use for slowly going through some of our back catalogue and digitising (the company's been around a LONG time, before the advent of the CD!) However the turntable we were using before has a distinctly sub-par cartridge, hence why we've not done much archival in the past few years.

The deck's been left to fester and we've finally decided to fix it up - give it a service and buy a new cartridge for it. However the boss has VERY little technical knowledge of turntables, and he defaults to the cheapest option wink.gif (as do all bosses? wink.gif) but I'm determined that we get a decent cartridge.

Sadly I'm a bit deficient myself in turntable knowledge, especially with the slightly higher end stuff. We're talking "prosumer" level here - Ortofon M2 Red etc. In fact, that's one of the cartridges I've been looking at recommending, but given some of our vinyl is old and quite worn I'm wondering if it'd be more advantageous to get a cart with an elliptical stylus.

We're looking to spend 40-70 on a cartridge and then if I can convince the boss (through A/B comparisons!) that buying a more expensive cart has its rewards hopefully I'll be able to upsell to a three figure cart in the long run. For the interim though, we need a decent, balanced cart which has good tracking and reading abilities on vinyl which isn't pristine. A slightly robust construction would also help given it won't always be me handling it with kid gloves... rolleyes.gif

I use Shure Whitelabels at home but the boss has already pooh-poohed even considering them (they're elliptical but have a good tracking response, if a little groove noise for noisy records - but my needs are quite different; I have a pair of 1210s so they're well suited for what I mostly play on them but they do sound great on my funk, soul and old 45s)...

Aside from the Ortofon M2 Red I'm open to suggestions - anybody got any?


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DVDdoug
post Oct 25 2010, 20:33
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I haven't been in the market for a phono cartridge for a long time, and I'm not going to make a recommendation. I usually just suggest that a Shure M97 should be "good enough" for almost anything and I don't recommend buying anything much more expensive than the M97 for something that's never going to sound as good as a CD, no matter how much you spend. My attitude is that you shouldn't go too cheap with vinyl/analog, because there is a correlation between cost & quality. But, there's no point in going overboard chasing an unreachable goal either... (Again, I'm not recommending the M97... Its just a cost-reference point...)

I don't get why 100 or so is a big deal to a business. You didn't say what business you're in or what business purpose this has... Presumably this is an investment, and there is a payoff. If someone is getting paid to do this, the cartridge investment is insignificant compared to the labor cost. And, if there is going to be any "clean-up" of the digitized recordings, it could consume many labor hours. (And with EQ & de-clicking, the clean-up step can potentially make a bigger improvement than a different cartridge.)

QUOTE
...and then if I can convince the boss (through A/B comparisons!)
How are you going to compare, other than your Shure White Labels? Are you going to "drag" him tor a store? It doesn't sound like he's that interested... And, if he's not particularly interested, he might not hear enough difference to justify the cost.

QUOTE
I use Shure Whitelabels at home but the boss has already pooh-poohed even considering them
Why? Cost? Because they are "DJ cartridges"?
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christopher
post Oct 27 2010, 03:23
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Oct 25 2010, 19:33) *
I haven't been in the market for a phono cartridge for a long time, and I'm not going to make a recommendation. I usually just suggest that a Shure M97 should be "good enough" for almost anything and I don't recommend buying anything much more expensive than the M97 for something that's never going to sound as good as a CD, no matter how much you spend. My attitude is that you shouldn't go too cheap with vinyl/analog, because there is a correlation between cost & quality. But, there's no point in going overboard chasing an unreachable goal either... (Again, I'm not recommending the M97... Its just a cost-reference point...)

I don't get why 100 or so is a big deal to a business. You didn't say what business you're in or what business purpose this has... Presumably this is an investment, and there is a payoff. If someone is getting paid to do this, the cartridge investment is insignificant compared to the labor cost. And, if there is going to be any "clean-up" of the digitized recordings, it could consume many labor hours. (And with EQ & de-clicking, the clean-up step can potentially make a bigger improvement than a different cartridge.)

QUOTE
...and then if I can convince the boss (through A/B comparisons!)
How are you going to compare, other than your Shure White Labels? Are you going to "drag" him tor a store? It doesn't sound like he's that interested... And, if he's not particularly interested, he might not hear enough difference to justify the cost.

QUOTE
I use Shure Whitelabels at home but the boss has already pooh-poohed even considering them
Why? Cost? Because they are "DJ cartridges"?



We have some nearfields in the office, it's not exactly ideal (I cringe when I encounter the standing waves) but it serves its purpose. The vinyl restoration is somewhat ancillary, I have to slowly build up to a point where I can "convincingly convince" him to invest a sufficient amount. For the business I work in, a 100 spend on a turntable cartridge is a significant spend on something which isn't business critical (important but the company can keep on going without it). I'm fighting my own little corner here but it has to be a "softly, softly" approach.

The turntable came with a 500.V3 which has been a bit abused, mismounted (so uneven wear and I suspect damaging groove walls - I was NOT at the company during this period of time otherwise I woulda bitchslapped whoever did it!) but there's my own personal carts and then one other older cart from a previous deck which I've not even looked at, it's probably an incompatible old MC cart rolleyes.gif Since I've been working there full time (on MANY things, not just vinyl archival) I've tried to work with what I have but I have to make a case for ANY purchase irrespective of how insignificant the ticket price is. (there's only me and the boss as full-time employees, we have interns but the business has slimmed down a LOT in the past two/three years). Income isn't what it is either which doesn't help, the pressure's always on.


Sorry I didn't say where I worked, it's a VERY small record label of 30 years, a lot (a LOT!) of back catalogue, a large amount of which is on reel to reel and which I must somehow figure out a way to beg/borrow/steal a player to archive them off! These days the music takes a sideline more often than I wish, we do all kinds of things, including a lot of work with Fairtrade cotton and t-shirt printing, in order to get by and earn enough to keep the lights on. I'm trying to build out our back catalogue so this has been a big personal project for me, I have to convince the boss of the usefulness of investing what to him is a lot money into a needle ( rolleyes.gif !) when that 100 could pay the phone bill for a month. (see the kind of setup I'm working with here?)


We (me and the two interns) are all qualified music technicians and sound engineers so we all do a comprehensive cleanup stage, but we've been hampered by the deck and the worn stylus. I've persuaded him to spring for a service for the deck, just have to find the right cart that will give us superior SQ from what we've had to date. (he never listens to the audio and although he appreciates good sound he wouldn't be able to tell just by comparing spectral plots, I'm slowly teaching him but he's not trained like that nor does he have a particular interest like us audionerds smile.gif)

A lot of our records in late 80s and 90s were DMMs so they're particularly harsh on the high end, I got overmodulation and sibilant distortion on some never-previously-played records even on my home gear (which I keep in good condition) so I'm guessing that my own choice of carts isn't ideally suited to the music or the pressing method. I've not spent hours comparing carts so I don't have a great knowledge of what constitutes a neutral-sounding cart, what's going to flatter records or what has a naturally low groove noise / what's the best compromise of elliptical stylus and SQ.

Learning as I'm going here!


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[SIZE=1][B]Don't forget International Talk Like A Pirate Day! September the 19th![/B][/SIZE]
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alanofoz
post Oct 27 2010, 05:43
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Silly thought...

If you were to buy it yourself for the company, would that be tax deductible?

Maybe not such a silly thought. cool.gif


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Alan
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cliveb
post Nov 1 2010, 19:32
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QUOTE (christopher @ Oct 25 2010, 18:02) *
At work we have a turntable (Numark TTX, with the integrated USB ADC) which we use for slowly going through some of our back catalogue and digitising (the company's been around a LONG time, before the advent of the CD!)
...
We're looking to spend 40-70 on a cartridge

I'm intrigued by what you mean by "going through our back catalogue and digitising". I may be completely wrong, but it sounds to me as if your company owns some sound recordings on vinyl which it wishes to preserve. Is your company effectively the "keeper" of some important historical recordings? If it is, then they deserve better (MUCH better) than a Numark USB turntable with a 70 cartridge. Where you are now isn't even remotely near the right ballpark.
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2Bdecided
post Nov 2 2010, 11:01
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Maybe it's a radio station that doesn't play the old vinyl much any more, but wants to load some of it into the playout system?

Unless you're doing it for free, the major cost isn't the turntable or cartridge, it's the time of the person doing the transfers.

Many companies have a strange attitude to their employee's time - seeing it somehow as free, even though it's their most expensive outgoing - so they won't spend much money at all to save time. Strange. (but it means the most economic source of action is to buy the content on CD if available).

Anyway, cliveb is right, this isn't "archiving" - it's making a casual copy. Which may be fine for your intended purpose - you haven't said what this is!

When considering the overall sound quality (e.g. how forgiving the chosen cartridge is to worn records), it's probably worth checking the whole signal chain in the intended application - automatic declicker, optimod, lossy encoding, whatever. The most forgiving cartridge when auditioned on its own might just stop the rest of the chain from working very well.

Cheers,
David.
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