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  • 11-15-2009 1:23 PM

    Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Locked Contact

    I am posting this as a post as the system is not letting me post it as an article at present. Apologies to the author, Soundproof, who sent this in a beautiful pdf. I hope I have not murdered it too much.

    A vintage listening experience!

    What I heard, may not be what you would hear! I'd like to start off with a caveat. The following is based upon my personal listening experiences, over a period of time, in my listening room and at my leisure. In other words, a very subjective experience and report. I've tried to be as precise and fair as possible when comparing different playback-chains, and I have double-checked for integrity throughout in order to give each component under review as fair a showing as possible.

    Set-up

    As you can see from the photograph, I have a vintage set-up with a few modern components. For the review, I moved the chair into the listening position and placed the tables on either side, to avoid any reflections from them. The carpet absorbs reflections from the floor, and the ceiling is too high to be a problem.


    The centrepieces are my Beolab 5000 and Beomaster 5000, recently completely refurbished by Classic Audio in Denmark. The units have been calibrated to as new condition, with better specs than the factory parameters they were originally manufactured to.


    The Beolab 5000 amplifier is connected to a pair of Dynaudio Focus 140 speakers, considered my many to be an astonishing achievement by Dynaudio. The Beolab 5000 delivers ample power to the speakers, in spite of being rated at 2x60W  I think that ís because of the unique design of the amplifier. If you have a look at the Beolab 5000 page over at BeoCentral.com, you'll find a more detailed description of why this amplifier performs as well as it does. I have a properly serviced and calibrated Beogram 4000 connected as one source; as well as a Grace m902 DAC relaying from my music server via an Airport Express (AE) unit from Apple. As the AE is limited to 16bit/44.1kHz when receiving music via wireless, I use an optical Toslink connection from my MacBook Pro to the DAC, for playback of high-resolution files.

    The listener


    I'm 52. My ears are definitely not as acute as they were when I was in my late teens, but I've been fortunate. Hearing is across the range on both ears, and with equal balance. Sensitivity has dropped in the upper 'mosquito-tone' range, but you'd be surprised to know how little musical information there is in that range in the first place. The absolute majority of the music we listen to (and that means 95 per cent plus) has been recorded with microphones that are sensitive up to 13,5-15 kHz. Which means that as long as your hearing is acceptable up to that level, you'll be getting your music's worth.


    This reviewer loves music and goes to a lot of concerts. I'm particularly fond of acoustic music across a number of genres, both instrumental and vocal. I prefer my music straight up, delivered into a microphone with no effects and as little post-processing as possible.


    Most of my listening takes place in my BeoLab 5 equipped listening room, but for the purposes of this test I used my vintage listening room, which is spacious and where I've spent some time setting up for best possible playback. This is the room I use when reading, and I'm quite accustomed to listening to music here.

     
    The Test Subjects

    The purpose of the listening test is to judge whether there are any significant differences between the following cartridges,
    in the order in which I listened to them during the review.


    1. SMMC20EN
    2. MMC5000
    3. SMMC20CL+


    All are designed to be used with the kind of Beogram I own.


    (1) and (3) are manufactured by Soundsmith, which is doing a fine job keeping our Beograms alive now that B&O no longer make neither turntables or cartridges.
    (2) is a refurbished original B&O cartridge. The work of Axel Schurholz, who has a repair and retipping service for PUs and phonogram cartridges. (Schallplattennadeln.de).
    All three were easily attached to my Beogram 4000, and played without any difficulty.

    The Music

    Rather than listen to a lot of different kinds of music, I decided to keep things comparatively simple. Mostly based upon my personal experience from similar tests, as well as the experiences of others.


    In those instances where people have managed to ascertain differences between components such as cables, choral music has turned out to be particularly revealing. For the purposes of the test, I got a pristine pressing of Linn Records' Handel's Messiah recording, with the Dunedin Consort. This is a multi-LP set, and I would therefore be able to play a 'virgin' side with each cartridge, of the tracks I selected for the test. For the test to be fair, having pristine sides for each cartridge to give me a first impression is a good solution, and this then became a fair way of giving each the same reference material to shine from.


    During my first listening session, I played a side with each cartridge, while taking notes. This session was to gain a general perception of the playback. The entire recording is with the same choir and musicians, in the same place, and done with the same method - which means that there aren't any significant differences to speak of between the record sides.

    At a later session, I used all three cartridges on each of those sides, rotating them.
    And then I did a sum-up session - saving the three remaining virgin sides for this. Again one play-through for a general perception, and then rotating the cartridges on selected tracks.


    In addition, I chose an audiophile stalwart: Steely Dan's Aja recording, in an audiophile grade pressing. This is music I've played to the point of abstraction, on a variety of playback chains - any significant differences from the components under review would quickly get my attention, as Iím very familiar with the music. It was used as a base reference and Iím not delving into the details of that listening session.


    I'm a solid fan of Ahmad Jamal's music, and have a very good pressing of his Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival 1985 concert. I spent time listening to each of the cartridges, while relaxing and enjoying a nice bottle of wine, while Jamal and his crew did their best to get my foot tapping.

     
                        
    My impressions


    I listened over a substantial period of time, over several sessions.


    Experience has taught me that we're incredibly good at adapting to various forms of music playback. For instance, how is it possible to go from listening to music on a pair of BeoLab 5s, in a dedicated listening room, and then listen to the same music in one's car, against a backdrop of traffic din, wheels against asphalt and the hum of the engine? That's because we're brilliant at adapting to listening environments - with our musical memory filling in the blanks when something is missing or amiss.


    I'm also an audiophile skeptic. I'm not into cable mumbo jumbo, and find most of the audiophile prose in magazines and fora to be amusing, at best, and not very informative. We tend to exaggerate how well we remember the characteristics of playback components, and to draw extreme conclusions on the scantiest of evidence. Said evidence often proving lacking when weíre subjected to a more controlled listening test.
    And that's why I chose Handel's Messiah from Linn as one of the records to be used when evaluating these cartridges.

    This is an audiophile recording of extreme quality, which has been carried out in order to highlight the capabilities of Linn Records' production facilities. It has received a number of awards, and extravagant praise. In addition, you can purchase the work in a variety of formats - as the LP-set I bought, as a CD, and as a high-resolution 24bit/88.2kHz download.


    The latter format is advertised as 'Studio Master' by Linn, and would provide me a benchmark against which to evaluate the cartridges. A unique advantage that was unavailable to reviewers during the years when gramophones were at the peak of their popularity.


    I connected my MacBook Pro to my Grace M902 DAC (digital-to-analog-converter) using an s/pdif optical Toslink cable.


    The Grace m902 was connected to the TAPE IN on my BeoLab 5000. I now had a way of first playing the cartridges against one another, each being given two pristine sides on the Messiah set. Following that, I would play a selection of tracks with each cartridge - after which I would compare the preferred cartridge to the Studio Master 24-bit/88.2kHz downloads of the same tracks. That's a set-up which I believe both allows for my own subjective judgement of quality, as well as providing a standard


    against which to measure my preferred performer among the three. I have both 'Aja' and the Ahmad Jamal recording on CDs, but chose to concentrate on the chorus and orchestra recording from Linn. As mentioned earlier, when cable tests have been carried out, whatever significant differences have been perceived were usually revealed using such music. Its many layers and intricate structure, seems to create a very detailed and revealing backdrop for critical listening.

    Revived vs. Production


    One last point. Soundsmith manufactures cartridges, while Axel Schurholz revives them. The difference is significant. What Soundsmith delivers, aims towards a repeatable standard of reproduction. In contrast, I'd dare the claim that you're more likely to experience variations with Axel Schurholz products, as his cartridges are 'worn out' originals that have been resuscitated. It would be interesting to listen to a number of cartridges from his rehab clinic, in order to determine whether they all perform alike!


    One Soundsmith cartridge, the SMMC20EN, reached me from BeoWorld together with the MMC5000 review sample. I had earlier bought the SMMC20CL+ direct from Soundsmith when I got my Beogram 4000. I chose to include the latter in the listening test. Based upon what I heard, and given what others have told me about Soundsmith's cartridges, I believe I can state that they have a sound signature. Whether that's the case for Axel Schurholz' cartridges I do not know as I've only listened to one, though as stated above I believe there could be some variation.

    Play music


    Let me reveal right off the bat that the MMC5000 performed well. About 90% of the music I listen to is acoustic, either recorded live, or made in a way that prevents much use of editing or post-production - in other words music for which one has fairly good real sound references. The MMC5000 opened up the door to this music in ways that had me impressed when it came to the Messiah-recording and all of its intricate details of voice and placement. The Ahmad Jamal recording, with its amazing first track, jumped straight into my living room and put a big smile on my face. To begin with the latter. It has lots of details, the drums and piano are hard at work with both force and nuances, and it's a recording that can sound messy and unengaging in an unbalanced playback chain. Not so with the MMC5000 I was supplied. Instruments shone, their interplay never in doubt, the music surging at me - audiophile cliches such as finger work on the bass strings and the realistic sound of hands and fingers against percussion were all there. As was a solid sense of presence - as alive as this recording has ever sounded through this system.


    The individual voices and sections in the chorus during 'The Lord gave the word' and 'How beautiful are the feet' from the Messiah, were likewise just as they should be, with a character that was very revealing, yet realistically detailed. The voices in the chorus stood out as individual people, as the various soli entered with their parts. I could clearly hear the song moving from one pair of lips to another, and found myself shifting my gaze accordingly.


    Much of this is due to the excellent recording - but it was all well presented, with a wide soundstage that extended beyond the Dynaudio speakers, and where I could clearly sense the placement of singers and instruments - a very enjoyable experience, which was well balanced throughout. When the brightest voices hung notes high in the air, the sound never shimmered or wavered, it was just there without any risk of it cracking against a performance ceiling. Even the difficult timpani sections of 'Hallelujah' came across with separation, and with a delightful weight to the accompaniment. I had purchased the Soundsmith SMMC20CL+ and listened to that before I received the review cartridges. After calibrating my Beogram 4000, I declared myself satisfied with the 20CL+, though I kept switching between that and my previous cartridge, not quite at ease with the sound from the new one.

    Trusting that it was a question of the cartridge needing to be run in, I kept using it, though never leaving it permanently attached. When I received the review cartridges, I first listened to the SMMC20EN, and recognized the sound from my own 20CL+.
    The two cartridges I have tried from Soundsmith are both very revealing and distinct - they present a detailed soundstage, and there's excellent placement of sources throughout. They resolve a surprising amount of detail, and seem to be unfazed in any difficult passage of music - these are responsive and quick styluses. For instance, they handled the timpani sections of 'Hallelujah' better than the MMC5000, managing to phrase the thuds with better detail. So why am I not enthusiastic about these cartridges?


    The sound is too sharp, and to my ears bordering on strident. I write this with some trepidation, as Soundsmith is really going to bat keeping our turntables alive with fresh cartridges. But to my ears something is not as it should be. There's a glassiness to the sound that becomes tiring after a period of listening - it's quite possible that this is not as noticeable with certain kinds of music, but if you're listening to an orchestra with an ample string section, as well as a chorus with lots of bright voices, it just gets too distinct.


    For the tests, I left my bass and treble settings at neutral, and I did change the tone arm weight from one stylus to another - in fact doing what I could to ensure that each cartridge played to its best potential, as measured against my personal preference. For the Soundsmith cartridges, these efforts weren't enough to keep me engaged.


    So what's up here? Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith has explained that when evaluating how to voice his cartridges, across the quality range, he consulted with several customers as to which sonic characteristic they preferred - and the feedback guided his decision to go for a more distinct sound, as compared to 'a more relaxed, smoother' voicing.


    Why did his customers prefer the sharper version? I can only proffer a few guesses - one being that it's a sound that better approximates today's dominant medium - the CD - and that this could explain the preference; the other that Soundsmith could be doing to old LPs what Axel Schurholz is doing to old cartridges!


    LPs, compared to CDs, degrade slightly with each subsequent playback - good turntables with excellent tone arms do less damage, but itís unavoidable - no matter how careful you are, you will be taking the edge off your records simply through playing them. And it's the top of the frequency range that goes first.


    Therefore this theory: customers listening to their LPs through the sharper sounding cartridges heard their records come alive again, while the test cartridge with the 'more relaxed, smoother sound' fell back in comparison.
    This became very clear to me after I switched to the MMC5000, which to me delivers a more enjoyable and believable playback than do the SMMCs. Once I had listened to the MMC5000, I was dealing with two distinct sound signatures, and was not in doubt as to which I preferred.
    Given that most of my records are well taken care of, most of them recent purchases and so clean that I rarely hear a speck of dust, the shimmer of the SMMCs took the sound 'over the top' and made it too sharp, in some instances strident. The MMC5000 was simply a better pitched instrument, to my ears.


    I know that Soundsmith is willing to produce cartridges to the 'relaxed, smoother' specification, and would very much like to hear one of these. I was so confounded by the experience that I actually took my Beogram 4000 to a friendís place, where I played the music through another amplifier and different speakers, just to be certain that it wasn't my system that was at fault.


    I would like the Soundsmith cartridges to have a richer mid-range, while holding back at the top register - in my system this would deliver a better playback.


    I would love to have the option to choose between sharp and smooth voicing in future orders.

    Up against the Studio Master


    I connected my MacBook Pro to the Grace m902 DAC and played the full resolution 24bit/88.2kHz files of selected tracks from Handelís Messiah. ('The Lord gave the word,' 'How beautiful are the feet,' 'Why do the Nations' and 'Hallelujah.')
    This was the first time I listened to this music, at this resolution, through my vintage system. I was very pleased with how the Beolab 5000 did its job. First the bad news - there was more detail in the bass than had been the case with either the MMC5000 and the SMMC cartridges. It was better resolved, with a greater distinction between each beat of the bass, whether from male voices or instruments. There are many reasons why this was so - and we shouldn't discount that my Beogram may be shirking its duties in the nether regions - but the more likely explanation is due to the better noise floor and greater headroom of 24bit/88.2kHz files.


    The good news - the MMC5000 wasn't thrown out of the ring.


    It's two different listening experiences - where I'm tempted to give an edge to the smoothness delivered by the
    MMC5000. I'm not a vinyl addict, and have long since adopted hard disk storage for my music listening. My vintage system is in my reading room, a perfect complement to the fine moments I spend in it. When I have visitors who wish to listen to my BeoLab 5s, we usually begin by listening to an LP through the Dynaudio speakers, followed by iTunes playback through the DAC to the Beolab 5000 to the same speakers. We then move into the dedicated listening room where the BeoLab 5s are placed.


    The reaction I get from people is usually one of enjoyment at the LP system and playback, followed by surprise as we switch back and forth between the LP and CD, with some stating that 'LPs still sound nice, don't they?' We then move into the BeoLab 5 room, where the speakers totally outperform the Dynaudio Focus 140 speakers with the same CD-file - demonstrating what a full-range speaker will do for your music.


    I have, of course, also experimented with analogue playback through the BeoLab 5s, though I chose not to do so for this cartridge test. A while ago, I came across a pristine, unused set of musicassettes containing the Solti Wagnerís Ring as recorded by John Culshaw for Decca. The boxes with the cassettes from the late 70s were still inside their cellophane wrapping. I set up my Beocord 6500 for playback through the BL5s, and the assembled enthusiasts ended up preferring the voices from the tapes, compared to the 1997 CD-version (there have been different remasters.)
    The same thing happened when I listened to the MMC5000 version of the Messiah compared to the high-resolution version - I ended up preferring the analog playback of voices from the LP over the voices from the high-resolution files. But the musical reproduction overall was truer across the board from the high-resolution files, with a greater balance from bottom to top, and more 'detail in the details.' The needle in the MMC5000 simply couldn't describe everything that the high-res file contained.

    Curtains


    Am I any wiser? Are you, after reading this lengthy review?


    I have two record players and am very pleased that LPs are becoming popular again. One of my worries is the quality of the cartridges for my Beogram 6500 and Beogram 4000. Having access to the services of Axel Schurholz and Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith takes the edge off that worry. I'm pretty clear in my preference as concerns the cartridges I tested, but there's no definite guarantee that Axel Schurholz' next cartridge will perform as well as the one I listened to - maybe it will do better or worse? In comparison, Soundsmith has a set voicing it works to, and delivers this voicing. As I mentioned above, I would clearly prefer being able to choose the 'relaxed, smoother' version when I place my next order!


    (A final point. As Peter Ledermann has explained, the CL+ and SMMC1 cartridges 'use very advanced stylus shapes, shapes not used on the original models. While these styli shapes can perform extremely well, they can also misbehave under certain circumstances, as well as show defects in recordings that other designs will not due to integration of the tracing information - a smoothing due to slower response.' This corresponds well with my experience, where I find that the CL+ had trouble with a few of my LPs, including a few audiophile pressings of recordings by the artist Kari Bremnes, while the 20EN cartridge navigated those records without any distortion in the sound.)


  • 11-15-2009 4:41 PM In reply to

    • Jon
    • Top 500 Contributor
    • Joined on 03-05-2009
    • Posts 138
    • Bronze Member

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Thanks for posting this! That was an interesting read. I love B&O turntables, and Dynaudio makes excellent, top-notch speakers.

    Jon

  • 11-16-2009 2:03 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Thank you very much for posting, very interesting reading :-)

    I can't wait to have my aging MMC20CL and 2 defect MMC2 Cartrigdes refurbished by Axel!

    Nice Beolab 5000 system + a perfect Beogram 4000 Smile

    Beocenter 9300, Beogam CD50, Beocord 5500, Beomaster 3400, Beomaster 4400, 2 Beogram 4000, Beomaster 8000, 2 beogram 8002, Beovox S-75, Beovox MS150.2, Beovox RL6000, Beovox S-35, Beomaster 6000, 2 Beocord 9000, Beocord 8004, Beocord 5000, Form 1, 2x Beolink 1000, Beo4, MX3500, LS4500. Born 1993.

  • 11-16-2009 8:05 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    very interesting test review and a very nice system as well... ;-) how would you describe the soundquality from your beolab5000/dynaudio setup compare to the original beolab5000/beovox5000/beovox2500 setup?

    regards

     

    ps: monocle is a cool contemporary style mag...

  • 11-16-2009 9:06 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Peter's done a great job reformatting the text. Did you pull it from the pdf, Peter?

    I haven't heard the Dynaudio speakers and the Beovox 5000/2500 combo in the same room. But I have heard Frede Kristensen's, and I think they can safely be stated to be excellently maintained and tuned. Loved listening to them - and brought along a CD I know well for the listening session at his place.

    I chose the Dynaudios for two reasons - they sound wonderful, and don't take up as much space as the original combo. But when I next move, I'm entertaining getting the proper vintage speakers . Must say I'm extremely pleased with the natural sound from the tweeters in the Focus 140s, though.

    Cheers!

     

  • 11-16-2009 11:38 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Actually Keith did though it didn't like apostrophes at all! I think I caught most of the glitches though my attempt at getting the photos on has failed miserably! I hope the links are appropriate - I did actually initially link all references but managed to delete the file as I posted it! The second time was done rather more quickly and possibly with less care! Smile

    The cartridges have arrived today are sitting next to me at work so I will start listening tonight. I have also found an original MMC5000 which is fascinating to listen to in comparison - I'll send it back with the others. Might persuade Lee to part with his MMC6000 so that all the options are covered - my 6000 is looking a bit worn. You didn't mention just how red the cantilever on the CL+ is! Came as quite a surprise!

    Best wishes,

  • 11-16-2009 2:24 PM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    unfortunately i haven't heard the dynaudio focus 140s neither some beovox 5000/2500 setup. my favorit vinyl shop in zurich use some rogers ls3/5a bbc monitors as main speakers. they sound really great. i think peter use these also with his beolab 5000.

    space and price was for me the reason to get some beovox 2400/2500. i know, not the perfect match for my beolab 5000, but it sounds i.m.o. good. i'm working on the restoration of these speakers. frede was so nice to support me with the beovox 2500 cubes. i want to change the capacitors and the speaker cables from my beovox 2400 as well. i've read that dillen sales capacitor-sets for some older beovox models. is that true?

    cheers!

  • 11-16-2009 3:46 PM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Well that has confused me!! Just had a quick go with a Beogram 4004, Beomaster 5500, Musical Fidelity X-Can3 headphone amplifier with Grado RS-1 headphones.

    Impressions:

    The Soundsmith cartridges are very clear - lots of perceived detail and a very bright sound. The bass is there and detailed - I was using the Musical Fidelity recording of Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon and the track The Great Gig In The Sky. In the entry one can hear the bass guitar come in and this is much more distinct with the SMMC20CL+ and EN that with the MMC5000 which was retipped. It is all a little in your face though. Cymbals are again very clear with very defined sound.

    The two Shibata Axel cartridges struggled initially but got much better when I increased the tracking weight. Not as much brightness but the music was all there.

    I then used a good condition MMC5000 - completely different! Much louder for a start! No idea why. Bass was much more pronounced - too much in my view.

    Switched to a MMC20CL - sounded horrid - increased temp and tracking weight - sounded much nicer! Tried a different fully warm CL and that sounded the best so far!

    I think I will do some recording as wav files and see if we can get this on site! Obviously it will be influenced by my system, but maybe we can have a poll on preferences - or even better, make it a blind test!! Will have to wait as the transformer for my monitor has gone bang so will have to get a new transformer! Using my Mac Air at present. I will use my 4000 but will probably stick to the 5500 amplifier as it has so many connections. The alternative would be the Beolab 5000. Any thoughts? Should be getting a mint copy of The Snow Goose by Camel so I might use that.

  • 11-17-2009 6:45 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Seems to correspond with my impressions.
    It does depend on the kind of music one listens to - I chose the Linn Händel as the decider, since it contains information that would reveal this tendency towards stridency that has been a comment as far as the Soundsmith cartridges are concerned.

    As I comment, the Soundsmith cartridges handled the difficult timpani sections of the Messiah best (revealing more detail).

    I also found that the cartridges are sensitive to the weight setting (which they should be), and that there is no standard weight that they all play well at. The initial reviewer agrees with the two of us when it comes to setting the greatest tracking force on Axel's cartridges, for best results. That seems to be the same on three different turntables, which is good to know.

    As I indicate in my review, the Soundsmith cartridges reveal the information that's there, and I believe I say "these are quick styluses." My chief objection was a tendency for them to be too sharp sounding, almost glassy, compared to the sound I got with Axel's MMC5000. But I would absolutely like to have the responsiveness of a Soundsmith cartridge, with a warmer voicing - then I'd feel I got a new cartridge with excellent vinyl sound.

    My Händel's Messiah is a three record set, and I don't think I could listen to the entire work in one run-through with my 20 CL+ - but I can do that with the MMC5000 that Axel reconditioned. However, I have only listened to one of his cartridges, and don't know if they all deliver to the same standard - which I do know that Soundsmith does, since they have a set voicing.

    So the issue is one of whether Soundsmith will provide a choice of voicings, which I understand they have said they can.

    (On my Beogram 4000, the CL+ plays best with the lightest tracking force of all three.)

     

     

  • 11-17-2009 9:50 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    It sounds to me that you would like a good old CL - I'll send one along when I send the package. I can hear a difference between the two Axel cartridges - the one I sent you seems slightly better but that was before I increased the tracking weight. I'll do the wav files so we can all have a go though! I do wonder if the Beolab 5000 might actually accentuate the brightness of the Soundsmith cartridges. It always seems a very lively amplifier - I might use the 4401 as this always seems the most neutral of my collection.

  • 11-17-2009 11:01 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Peter :

    I do wonder if the Beolab 5000 might actually accentuate the brightness of the Soundsmith cartridges. It always seems a very lively amplifier - I might use the 4401 as this always seems the most neutral of my collection.

    That's why I took the Beogram to a friend's place for a comparison run, as mentioned in the review - wanted to check with another amplifier/speakers. Still had the telling brightness. Was fun to compare the cartridges!

     

  • 11-18-2009 11:25 PM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    It is an excellent review!  His findings agree with what I have noticed between original CL and SMMC 20CL on Beogram 8000.  I do agree that SMMC is better in detail retrieval and extension to high freq extremes.  I can see how it could sound bothersome for some people.  The original CL sounds very smooth and soothing to the ears.  My conclusion was the original CL sounds more pleasing and easier to the ears, but SMMC sounds more realistic.  When I say realistic, I mean it in the context of comparison with real music, not compared to the sound of CD.  Anyways, we all have different preferences, and the goal of this hobby is to find something that I like, not what others like.  I prefer more accurate presentation that could be ruthless sometimes.  I can see others prefer more smooth and relaxed presentation.  And the good thing is we can achieve either way with our Beogram turntable.

  • 11-19-2009 12:24 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    I've noticed the "glassy" sound was mentioned in the review.  I could understand the sound of SMMC 20CL could be perceived as bright, but but to my ears it is never glassy.  I have had a share of "glassy" sounding equipments, like NAD M55 universal player, Sony MCH analog preamp, and some of the earlier Rotel amps, and I understand what it means to sound glassy.  Typically when a component is replaced with more transparent component, it would also bring out the hidden flaw in the system that was previously undetected.  I would guess that was what happened when the reviewer used SMMC 20CL.  I consider myself to be somewhat of a picky listener, and Beogram 8000 + SMMC 20CL combo sounds pretty close to Rega 25 + Benz Micro Glider MC cartridge, which is a phenomenal combo, not to mention the $$$ difference.

  • 11-19-2009 2:43 PM In reply to

    • chartz
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    • Joined on 07-20-2009
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    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Hi,

    To add my pennyworth, I have just compared the Grace Jones Nightclubbing album I have on CD and vinyl, knowing that the LP was mastered with the CD. Well they sound exactly the same. My cartridge is SMMC20EN, not CL.

    I tested this on B&O gear ( 1982 Beomaster 6000+CD 3300) and my all-valve setup, plus a Pioneer DV-717 (a formidable CD player) with the same results.

    However, the Regatta de Blanc Police vinyl album is vastly superior to the CD, being more detailed but certainly not overbright. That said, it is an original, fully analogue pressing. 

    With The Wall, the sound from my worn LP is more detailed, with more bass punch, but far less aggressive than the CD.

    Another funny thing is that when I transfer a CD onto my mint A77 reel-to-reel, it sounds more like an analogue recording !

    Go figure.

    Jacques

  • 11-19-2009 5:43 PM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Just had a play! Very interesting - decided to record all onto wav files and keep the same recording levels. Will change this!! The levels recorded are very different! I attach a snap shot of the wave form recorded! There are 8 and a bit tracks - all are the same piece of music - Take Five by The Dave Brubeck Quartet. The short and over recorded bit between track 5 and 6 is the original MMC5000 which has a much higher output than all the others! I stopped after a short time as it was clearly going to be pointless!


  • 11-20-2009 1:53 PM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    interesting test... take five from the dave brubeck quartet is my absolutly favourite song. i've got a 180g repressing manufactured from classic records, inc. under license from sony music made in 1995. this was my first vinyl lp. :-) second was the mingus ah um lp from the same label.

    cheers

    dario

  • 11-20-2009 3:03 PM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Mine is the CBS Jazz Masterpiece version - re-mastered. Very quiet vinyl.

  • 11-20-2009 5:07 PM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    i've found a interesting link: http://www.discogs.com/Dave-Brubeck-Quartet-Time-Out/master/34081

    i've bought mine in a high-end shop. it's a columbia us-version and also remastered, sounds perfect... ;-) but mine is not on the list.

  • 11-20-2009 6:59 PM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    I have a nice pressing of Take That, and enjoy listening to it immensely. Simply wonderful.
    Good thing those plots were so different, Peter. Imagine my pontificating about differences and nuances, and then everything coming out looking nearly identical! Big Smile

     

  • 11-21-2009 2:37 AM In reply to

    • chartz
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    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Hello,

    Mine is an original CBS pressing (1964 Dutch version) I bought in 1982. Nice too. A little bass light maybe, and tape hiss is very obvious, almost annoying on "Strange Meadow Lark". Is it the same on yours ?

    Jacques

    Jacques

  • 11-21-2009 3:16 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    You can certainly hear hiss but it doesn't detract from the music.

    I do actually have another version - thanks to a very good friend, I have a Japanese Gold pressing of Time Out. Needs a jolly good clean - but these are supposed to be the ultimate versions! I cannot tell you the year as the label is almost all in Japanese! The catalogue number is CSJ-330. A most generous present. One sign of the quality of the pressing is that the first side takes up the entire side as opposed to the new version which has a long lead out after Take Five - no fancy varigroove here!!

  • 11-21-2009 3:25 AM In reply to

    • chartz
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    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    What would be interesting is a comparison of the first few bars of Strange Meadow Lark (including hiss!) coming from different LP versions, with different B&O cartridges—or SMMC—versus CD. In full resolution WAV or AIFF of course. I wonder whether this is legally feasible.

    By the way, I have two Decca-B&O LPs, La Symphonie Fantastique and Rossini Overtures (bought by me in 1981). The Berlioz has the Beosystem 8000 featured, and the Rossini has the 6000 (back covers). Are there more?

    Jacques

  • 11-21-2009 3:48 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    I don't see why not - I think if we use only a small part and even do a link to Amazon where the music can be bought, there could be no complaints. My only problem is where to stop! The music develops over quite a period!

  • 11-21-2009 1:45 PM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Equalised the tracks and here is a picture of the wave forms - a bit more similar!


  • 11-22-2009 7:14 AM In reply to

    Re: Cartridge choices - an independent test

    Right! For what it is worth, I have downloaded 9 aiff files to my iDisk. If anyone would like to download them they are here and the password is eleanor. I expect anyone who does download them to say which they think is the best - I will do a poll on this. Clearly some of the detail mwill be lost in the transfer to digital. The system used was a Beogram 4000, a Beolab 5000 was used as the RIAA and this was then sent to a PowerMac G5 which used CD Spin Doctor to digitise the input to an aiff file.The files are about 60Mb in size each.

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