Dear friends:The main subject of this thread is start a dialogue to find out the way we almost all think or be sure about the thread question :  " true " answer.


Many years ago I started the long Agon MM thread where several audiophiles/Agoners and from other audio net forums participated to confirm or to discover the MM/MI/IM/MF/HOMC world and many of us, me including, was and still are" surprised for what we found out in that " new " cartridge world that as today is dominated by the LOMC cartridges.


Through that long thread I posted several times the superiority of the MM/types of cartridges over the LOMC ones even that I owned top LOMC cartridge samples to compare with and I remember very clearly that I posted that the MM and the like cartridges had lower distortion levels and better frequency range quality performance than the LOMC cartridges.


In those times j.carr ( Lyra designer ) was very active in Agon and in that thread  I remember that he was truly emphatic  posting that my MM conclusion was not  true due that things on distortion cartridge levels in reality is the other way around: LOMC has lower distortion levels.


Well, he is not only a LOMC cartridge designer but an expert audiophile/MUSIC lover with a long long and diverse first hand experiences listening cartridges in top TT, top tonearms and top phono stages and listening not only LOMC cartridges but almost any kind of cartridges in his and other top room/systems.


I never touched again that subject in that thread and years or months latter the MM thread I started again to listening LOMC cartridges where my room/system overall was up-graded/dated to way superior quality performance levels than in the past and I posted somewhere that j.carr was just rigth: LOMC design were and are superior to the other MM type cartridges been vintage or today models.


I'm a MUSIC lover and I'm not " married " with any kind of audio items or audio technologies I'm married just with MUSIC and what can gives me the maximum enjoyment of that ( every kind )  MUSIC, even I'm not married with any of my opinions/ideas/specific way of thinking. Yes, I try hard to stay " always " UNBIASED other than MUSIC.


So, till today I followed listening to almost every kind of cartridges ( including field coil design. ) with almost every kind of tonearms and TTs and in the last 2 years my room/system quality performance levels were and is improved by several " stages " that permits me better MUSIC audio items judgements and different enjoyment levels in my system and other audio systems. Yes, I still usemy test audio items full comparison proccess using almost the same LP tracks every time and as always my true sound reference is Live MUSIC not other sound system reproduction.


I know that the main thread subject is way complicated and complex to achieve an unanimous conclusions due that exist a lot of inherent differences/advantages/unadvantages in cartridges even coming from the same manufacturer.


We all know that when we talk of a cartridge we are in reality talking of its cantilever buil material, stylus shape, tonearm used/TT, compliance, phono stage and the like and my " desire " is that we could concentrate in the cartridges  as an " isolated " audio item and that  any of our opinions when be posible  stay in the premise: " everything the same ".


My take here is to learn from all of you and that all of us try to learn in between each to other and not who is the winner but at the " end " every one of us will be a winner.


So, your posts are all truly appreciated and is a thread where any one can participates even if today is not any more his analog alternative or is a newcomer or heavily experienced gentleman. Be my guest and thank's in advance.




Ag insider logo xs@2xrauliruegas

I think tis is personal preference. From my experience going through MI, MM, HOMC and LOMC I like the last one the most. None of these mentioned were ultra high end but the sonic differences were noticeable to me. 

There isn't a definitive answer to this, Raul. Everything is a trade-off. There is likely an aphorism to be made out of "dynamics, details, low cost - pick any two"!

For me, I'm very happy to use my MI cartridges that can go up against more expensive LOMCs. I think everyone knows my favourites so I won't repeat myself. I think they provide the best price:quality ratio.

Raul, I know it’s been a lightning rod in the past and my particular usage case is rather unique to say the least, but I’ve spent the last several months carefully comparing a Soundsmith Strain Gauge with several custom truncated elliptical stylii for 78s with a Shure V15 Vx with the same size and shape truncated elliptical stylii. These tests have been through the same tonearm.

Across the board, I’m fairly confident in saying the Strain Gauge picks up less groove noise and traces the groove better with far less distortion. It’s true I have to do a lot of digital EQ adjustments to reverse the RIAA, but I have to do that anyway when I restore my 78s. The original recording equipment was rather crude and variable in terms of bass response and things like microphone distortion. I’ve also found that on loud transients like trumpet and trombone accents, the Strain Gauge is more tonally pure. It also picks up significantly less inner groove distortion. The Shure tends to be harsh, even when I transfer at half speed and double in software. The Strain Gauge is just pleasing to the ear and brings you closer to the recording. The Shure may be relatively flat in terms of frequency response, but that’s irrelevant if it’s flawed in all those other ways. I keep transfers from both cartridges, but I’m increasingly questioning why I keep the Shure ones being that they almost never sound as good as the Strain Gauge transfers.

I’ll grant that the Strain Gauge has a bit of its own sonic signature and isn’t ruler-flat in terms of RIAA, but 78s need EQ, anyway, so I’m fine making that minor concession in the pursuit of the best raw transfers with the least distortion. I haven’t tested it with LPs and don’t have a strong opinion in that regard. I think both you and Peter Ledermann have made good points in the past worth considering, although I suspect I might side with Peter if the SG with LPs has the same benefits as with 78s.

I wish it was easier to get something like a MC or MI cartridge for 78s at a practical price point. Stylus swappability is not really negotiable. Down the road I may look into getting two or three MC or MI cartrdiges with commonly-used 78 stylii if possible, but I’m currently busy enough as-is, and I’m not sure they would be able to keep up with the Strain Gauge!

The best explanation came from J. Peter Moncreiff (IIRC) who said that moving magnet/moving iron cartirdges impart a fuzziness to the instruments that is missing from a moving coil.  The effect is subtle, but noticeable as an overall cleaner, more transparent sound.

How can fuzziness improve fidelity to the real? Furthermore any quality “imparted” by the cartridge is per se a distortion. Nevertheless, if you put a gun to my head, I’d say I prefer MI. I don’t say it too loudly because I’ve never heard a $10K+ LOMC in my home systems.

I've used LOMC, HOMC, MM and MI.  All can sound great, but for my money given the suitable supporting equipment, LOMC is where it's at IMHO.  But if you're going to put it through a subpar phono stage, you're defeating the purpose and probably better off with MM or a HO MC or MI.

I believe I am at a place in life where the Cart' no longer really matters. 

Historically, I have been through MM, HOMC and LOMC.

I believe I have heard enough Cart' Types to come to a point in time, where I was convinced LOMC was the most desirable option to be maintained in use. Especially when used with Phono Amplification Support, that allows the Cart' design to work at its most attractive as an audible impression.

Today and many years on, I am certain, the ears are lesser in their hearing range, so a alternative and more affordable Cart' type should suffice for my basic needs. I have no interest in pretending my most expensive Cart's Types are making myself hear more frequency range than I can actually hear.

Approx' 8 years passed at a hearing test, I made it known about my investments in audio and my interest in the hearing test. The nurse said after, I was getting a good return on my investments. I take it I was very simply informed my being able to detect the audible frequency range was reasonably accurate?

Now I am getting close to being 60 Years of Age, I see no reason why the Stored MM's, HOMC and Ceramic Cart' that have all at some time very much hit the right note with me, should remain stored. It is time to get them out and attached to some of the Head Shells stored away as well. These models no longer need to be hidden from the main system. 

As for knowing which is better as a performance? I don't see myself taking the time to be analytical, as along as the presentation of any design is able to listened to for extended periods of time without desiring a change to be put in place, then for me this is the win, as it is a win with all assessments of audio equipment I undertake where devices in use are desirable to be maintained. 

It would be off interest if contributors stated an approximate age, as the younger ear as is the younger eye, a little more reliable with being accurate.


But Pindac, you did not mention MI (Moving Iron) types.  Do you own one? Have you heard one in a familiar system? If you are a mere 60 years old, do not sell your ears short. Unless you have been exposed to very loud noises due to occupation or rock concert going or have had a disease that causes degeneration of hearing acuity, you should still be fine.


This is an easy one for me. The London (Decca) moving iron pickups make music sound more like live music than anything else I’ve heard. Startling attack, immediacy, presence, full-bodied tonality, dynamics, and imaging. The musician’s touch on keyboard, fretboard, or drumhead, the singer’s lips, throat, and vocal chords---the "life" in music.


Dear @knock1  : " but the sonic differences were noticeable to me. "


against live MUSIC?  I ask because you posted  that's " a personal preference " and I not disagree with you but that preference is against live MUSIC' this is the issue.




Dear @dogberry  : Yes in audio and specially in the analog alternative always exist trade-offs.


You said you are very happy with your MI and that's good, I like MI too but everything the same ( pprice no object or mid price high end cartridges or even low prices. ) your choice is MI or it is only the one whci today makes you happy?



The best LOMC I have (LP-S) is close to the sound of the London Decca Reference, but the Decca wins. If I had to live forever with just the Sussurro or the MP-500 I would cope just fine.

@rauliruegas well, I think that that comparison to LIVE performance is a very complex issue. Again based on my experience, there are so many factors in live performance sound quality, depending on venue, listening location within the venue and not to mention the PA sound engineering. I had been in quite a few concerts, even by prominent musicians, when the experience was really disappointing sound quality wise. The philharmonic venue, that I had been visiting frequently, was providing  me with considerably different sound qualities depending on my seating location. I always picked center of the main floor, the difference in just a few rows was really something. Therefore it comes a conundrum, how one is to know the "correct" sound of an orchestra, a band or an instrument itself? I guess what is the most pleasing at the moment, since there is always the possibility that the liking might change upon hearing it on different system or location, even under different circumstances. This is my take on it.

@lewm Len Gregory has been synonymous with MI Cart's in the UK.

Even though not having owned a Cart' from this producer, I have encountered the design in use many years ago and in use in conjunction with the system and environment the Cart' was being used, there was not enough on offer to get my inquisitiveness going for a further follow up experience.

It was either a MM or HOMC that was the Cart' to be used from the result of investigations undertaken from this period of time.

I know individuals today with substantial monies that can be spent on their audio hobby, but remain loyal to HOMC Cart's as their choice. It is impossible to make an individual like anything more than what they like.

I know there are endless notions why a Ceramic Cart' should not be taken seriously in the world of audio, but I encountered one in use by pure chance, that has a Paratrace Styli fitted. The impression made on myself was profound, I own the Cart' with spare styli. I will state that many may be selling themselves short, by not having a Ceramic Cart experience, to see what is the impression that can be made.

As stated, for myself, I am only interested in what is the devices experienced in use, that are capable of encouraging myself to keep them in use for extended periods and are proven to be devices wanted to be maintained as part of the home system.

There is not a recommendation for a device, that is able to be a guarantee to the above being realised, following an encounter with any types of audio device.

In relation to Cart's and Phono Amplification, I have been demo'd many devices. Which many have been repelled and without any doubt not wanted to be experienced any further.

A much smaller quantity of devices experienced in use are ones I have developed an attraction to and there has been something indelible about the encounter.

A smaller quantity again, are those that have been very attractive, hence, selected to be maintained for long term use in the home system.   

I don't run/cycle like I have as a younger person. I don't have stamina like I had as a younger person. I don't have sight like I had as a younger person. I will take a wild punt, the hearing test if done today, will not be as kind as a description as the one given previously.

I am willing to 'err on the side of caution' and lean more towards a description on assessment of produced sound from particular Cart' types from the younger of the ears being used to gather info to be described on produced sound.

Then there are those who use the math over their ears to determine the sound to be produced, I have no ageism concerns for math being produced, but also no interest in the math only, as the notion the math is the guidance for the choice to be made.        

So you have no extensive experience with MI cartridges. OK. Of all types with which I have experience, the HOMC is on the bottom. There are great things about LOMC, MI, and MM, but I have no love for HOMC when any of those other types are available. For me, the HOMC appears to be an MC cartridge developed expressly for those who own MM phono stages and who can be lured to try an MC but don't want to or cannot afford an upgrade to a high gain phono stage suitable for an LOMC. It’s pure marketing. (Please do not conclude that I condemn them all; I am sure some are just fine. And by "HOMC", I mean an MC with greater than 1mV output.)

@lewm I have been active in a few forums and over the years met up with more than 300 audio enthusiasts which are owners of dedicated systems.

To date I have not shared with or met any who are in possession of identical twin systems. Owned systems by any enthusiast will be in general unique as the system evolves in relation to the system owners developing unique preferences.

As stated earlier in a post: " It is impossible to make an individual like anything more than what they like." I'm sure there are many with an interest in producing a Closed - Won as an outcome of a meeting,  who spend plenty of their energy attempting to change another's thoughts on 'what they like'.     

All Audio Enthusiast who put together audio systems, are unique in relation to the end sound they are attempting to create. There is not a ubiquitous approach, apart from Devices capable of generating a Electronic Signal and Electronic Devices to Amplify and produce Sound are the requirements for most who want to experience recorded music. 

I myself, as a contributor, attempts to remain within the objective to share only on  experiences had. I do not deter anybody from increasing their own experiences and gathering extended knowledge, that could be very beneficial to their own interests in this hobby.

I do not see having limited experiences in a very small area of a particular type of Cart' design, as a reason to discredit ones overall experiences. Nobody has extensive experience of being in the Company of all options available. All contributors are deficient in their experiences had in this respect. 

On the subject of knowledge of products available from Past production and Present, there is very easy to access info to assist with research. If one wants to extend their knowledge base about a design intent for a particular product, this info  can be found. Specification for a Particular Product will be quite successfully found. This info type being discovered, does not increase or broaden ones experiences of how a product encountered is capable of making an impression at the time of a demo'.      

A thread such as this, will become a place to share ones own unique preferences, for a Cart' Design. Which will then most likely, and as already seen, extend to individuals expressing where they are different, about where they believe the design is to be found that is most satisfying for their unique preferences.

The Group that is very satisfied with LOMC will most likely not have the same Cart' Model from a Brand as their preferential model, or will not have the same Brand as the preference.

I myself today has in use a LOMC Cart' that has never been designed by any Manufacturer. As a end design it is Bespoke Built and Unique. It has a Ogura Vital Styli > Beryllium Cantilever, WRD from a upper range Model and never used in the Donor Cart' model when in production. This is a Cart' I really would like to be able to make Old Bones with. 

The same as said for the LOMC will be seen to be realised for all Cart' designs referred to in the OP:  MM/MI/IM/MF/HOMC and Ceramic.

I do have experience of Grado Cart's, I have heard a range of Grado's Models in home systems belonging to others and at Commercial events. Where I fall short is not being able to confirm if these were MM or MI, but again, the end result was that not enough impression was left to encourage myself to pursue the use of one to be used in the home system.  The Len Gregory design is the one I can confirm is a MI and possibly a Grado by original design taken to the LG level of presentation ?  These are now very distant from the past recollections.

I hope this Thread becomes very populated with the preferences of others, I am always keen to be introduced to something quite new to my knowledge base.

As to being interested in the comments offered by those being Younger in years

Presbycusis ( Age Related Hearing Loss) has plenty of research carried out and info produced to show the impact on the general population.

In relation to 60 - 69 years of age, research which is very easy to understand shows statistics that from 250Hz to 8000Hz, there are a substantial amount of Males with hearing impediment not able to detect these frequencies, especially with the impediment impacting on typical audible communication.

As the age rises into the 70's and 80's the Men with hearing loss grows in much increased number to the above frequencies.

There is the likelihood some who are to report within this thread, even myself, are reporting with a proportion or the full impact of this type of hearing loss being present.

Hence, in my own case, why the idea of using owned Cart's has an attraction, in place of investing into Cart's that may never be fully experienced across the entirety of the Bandwidth designed for them. 

This still does not Wane me from my intention to invest in having a few more bespoke built Cart's produced, especially a Cacti Cantilever on one such build and a Boron Cantilever with FGS on a Ceramic.

As a child, the record player at home had a ceramic cartridge, and when I bought my first amplifier (in 1976), one could select ceramic or magnetic inputs on it. Excuse my ignorance, but I'm assuming there were separate inputs as they have differing output voltages? How do connect your ceramic cartridge these days, @pindac ?

I have read (maybe it was here) that someone asked PL why he makes LOMI/MIMC cartridges, and he replied that it was purely because there was a demand for them, but he did not think there was any benefit himself.

Dear @mke246  : Well, your kind of audio " fun " is a very specialized for say the least and I could think that almost no one out there " lives " as you.

Anyway, is interesting that you experienced lower distortion levels in the SG design and even at inner grooves.

I hasd and listened in diffeent top room/systems as 4 times that Srain Gauge you own and against top LOMC cartridges the differences are significant and nit for the better.

My first time with was in top system with MBL speakers and I just can't tlerate its distorted high frequency range tonality that is not near my near field seated live MUSIC experiences. No, it's not a bad cartridge design and unfortunatelly we have to listen it through its dedicated phono stage so this is an additional " variable " in any comparison due that it's not the usual with other cartridge designs.

Good that work for your dedicated audio world. Maybe in the future you can try your SG with today analog LP's.


Dear @jhnnrrs  : So, your post means that that is your way of thinking as PM? I have to say that for years I had a suscription at IAR. I respect his opinion but that adjective he used could means several things and in reality for me it's not very clear.

Could you explain it in a widest way?. Thank's.



Dear @lewm  : " if you put a gun to my head, I’d say I prefer MI. "

Well. I know which MI cartridges you own because I still own or owned for some years ( including MP500 that's moving permalloy. ) and well rigth now I have mounted two MM cartridges and 1 HOMC that overall performs better ( not day and nigth differences. ) than your MI samples and I own several LOMC cartridges that do the same and of course that your samples could be better that some other kind of designs.

God to know your preference.





Dear @jdougs  : Yes, to make this kind of comparisons I agree with you on the crucial importance of phono stage.


Now, your Umami Red is a LOMC cartridge that is a true challenge for LOMC cartridge in the over 10K price range, so you are in good hands.



I have yet to experience the Ceramic Cart' as a basic design on my home system.

I have purchased a Ceramic Cart' of the same model that I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing in use, I also purchased spare Styli. The idea of a Boron Cantilever and FGS is as strong now as it was when first put forward as a design for it. A Cadenza Blacks Cantilever may prove to be the donor part. 

When I do eventually get to the place this is to be used, from recollection a small tweak is required to the circuit of an MM Phonostage to get the best from it.

Having Cart's stored is not a unusual practice for myself, I have a collection of Cart's awaiting their day to be put back into service.

I still have a A&R P77 and AT MLX 150 MM to go head to head at some time.

The idea of a Gold Plated Boron Cantilever on a MM, that does get ones pot simmering

A&R P77 are to found on offer today where a Boron Cantilever is used, but this does come with a fair price attached to achieve it.

It might be cheaper to find a spent AT Cart' with a Gold Boron Cantilever and have the Retipped Cantilever put onto the P77.

There is also a Cadenza Black to have a Cactus Cantilever and PC Triple C / EX wire taken directly from the coils, bypassing the Lead Out Pins. This will be the least interrupted signal path I have used on a Cart'. 

Dear @bdp24  : " Startling attack, immediacy, presence, full-bodied tonality, dynamics, and imaging.  "


I know very well wat you are talking about due that I not only listened to the London Decca but I owned two other cantileverless cartridge from Ikeda LOMC that were the REX9 and 9C.

MUSIC and MUSIC quality levels belongs to Transient Response in a home audio system or live MUSIC.

hat Transient Response is what gives us first than all immediacy followed by dynamics.

Your other adjectives are good in cantileverless design cartridges but other design cartridges even can have a little advantage.

Cantileverless cartridge design is not perfect and one f its trade  offs is its tracking abilities due that are not very good to " negociates " high velocity recorded grooves.

Can I live with the London? sure I can, is very good performer and good that you appreciated in that way.



@rauliruegas I couldn't relate to what JPM was saying until I started switching between my moving magnet (Shure, A/T), Moving iron (Grado, Stanton) and LOMC (Dynavector Ruby).  Then it became more and more apparent.  The MC was just more transparent than the others.


I can only compare MC and MI's - haven't had the need to try MM's.  I just started listening with the Soundsmith Hyperion Mk 2 ES and I can say that there is some refinement with the MI technology. It has become my favorite cartridge now.


Disclosure: this is not my typical response, but I am simply going to channel your personality, and the way that you respond to others in this response, and perhaps you may learn something:

What kind of stupid question is this?  Do you not have a brain?  Do your ears even work!?  This is like asking which is better: a Ferrari, a Kia, or a Yugo.  Obviously you know nothing about anything!  


I suppose a more proper imitation of @rauliruegas would be something more like this:



(As in life, so on the internet: bullies won’t cease being bullies until you just punch them in the face.)

OK, let’s try and get back on track and away from the typical nonsense that seems to often creep into these threads.

For whatever it may be worth, some thoughts and opinions based on my personal experiences with cartridges of every persuasion (MC, MI, MM) :

I agree with @bdp24 about the Decca cantilever-less cartridges and could not have described what I hear from them any better:

*** The London (Decca) moving iron pickups make music sound more like live music than anything else I’ve heard. Startling attack, immediacy, presence, full-bodied tonality, dynamics, and imaging. The musician’s touch on keyboard, fretboard, or drumhead, the singer’s lips, throat, and vocal chords---the "life" in music. ***

That “life” in music is FOR ME the most important consideration when comparing audio equipment. Assuming no gross tonal problems, even more so than tonality (timbre) issues, That quality is what gives the rhythmic integrity of music meaning and without rhythmic integrity music is pretty meaningless. As some musicians like to say “No one ever got fired for having a bad tone”. An exaggeration to be sure, but the point is that, in performance, rhythmic accuracy and feel trumps everything else. A musician can have a beautiful tone, but if his rhythmic accuracy and feel is not so great there are going to be problems.

So, does this mean that I think that MI designs “has better quality performance? Really?” I don’t think so. As much as I have liked some of the qualities of the Grado carts that I have owned, they didn’t come close to having the sense of life that the Decca’s have. I will let the more technically astute postulate as to why this may be so, but to my simple mind it points to the issue of compliance and why MC’s have been FOR ME second best in this regard, some a close second. MC’s tend to also be of low compliance. Coincidence? They also tend to share with the Decca’s tonal attributes that in my experience tend to elude most high compliance MM’s that I have used. Of course, there is more at play besides compliance.

To my ears the MM and, to a somewhat lesser extent, MI (not the Decca) designs that I have used seem to rob the music of some of the natural color of the sound of acoustic instruments. “Color” is a maligned term in audiospeak, but live music has tons of natural color. I hear what I can only describe as a “grey” or bleached tonal quality in the sound of even the best MM/MI cartridges in my experience. Some consider this quality to be “neutrality”. I disagree.

I think that as much as much as we hate to admit it, when we consider tonal issues in audio systems we are mixing and matching the tonal qualities of the various components to achieve a tonal quality that we like or feel that is closest to the sound of music. Regardless of what specs may tell us, no piece of audio gear is truly “neutral”. We can add or subtract a bit of this or that in the overall frequency spectrum by the choice of certain components, but it seems to me that the sense of “life” cannot be added to the sound if it was not present at the source.



There are so many variables here. But IMO, generally the SQ of a good LOMC is the preferred sound. If one is into RAP and head banging music, on the kind of system one sees at a club, then perhaps a higher tracking force MM would be preferable. To this, we add the newest optical designs and again the variables extend. 

Purely for listening to classical, jazz and some rock, my preference is for the better LOMC's, with a very very close second being the best optical designs. YMMV.


I suppose it depends on history…why don’t you do a little look through posts on the site, and I think the conclusion is quite apparent…

Sadly, the London Decca Reference cartridge is no longer available.

It seemed that the next best thing was the Grado Epoch 3 MI.

That is what I bought for $12K and have been enjoying for quite some time.

Grado has been manufacturing cartridges in Brooklyn for decades and the Epoch 3 is their best effort to date. It replaced a fine Lyra Atlas SL. The Epoch far surpasses the performance of the Lyra. It is just more musical and natural. 
Grado has been stellar in their customer support. A family owned company,

I feel happy to be part of the family.

'Live Music' sounds completely different depending on where you're hearing it from. Forget about reproducing it. That's the job of the artist and producer.

Interesting Post from @mglik, Using the typical usage life on a Cart' is suggested to be 1000 hrs.

The Cart' that superseded a $14 per hour Cart's was superseded by a Cart' costing $12 per hour and quite different as the fundamental design.

I don't think many contributing to this thread will have any experience of or come close to being able to describe the impression to be had, using a $12K MI Cart' for creating the signal that is to be presented as produced Sound. 

It is quite interesting to hear of such a Cart' being selected for use, certainly more interesting than the LOMC's that seem to get all of the High Price Tag coverage.  . 

It is unfortunate that some feel that because reproduced sound will never sound EXACTLY like live music, to strive for a sound that is as close as possible to that experience (certainly as concerns the two most important aspects of music, rhythm and timbre) should be considered to be pointless. I couldn’t disagree more with that sentiment. This hobby took a turn for the worse when the idea of live as a reference was abandoned by many.  This is the very reason that there are so many “audiophile” systems that do, in fact, sound “completely different” from live. Not because a reasonable facsimile is not possible.

Hello Raul, throughout your epic thread I accumulated many vintage TOTL MM/MI cartridges, many NOS, and was finally convinced that on identical tonearms a Stanton 981LZS was pretty close to a Lyra Etna. Not to mention top Grace, Precept, Astatic, even an inexpensive Sonus Blue-- a fast and lovely sounding very high compliance design. My vinyl setup is in storage, but recent communications with several reliable audio guys suggests that the latest DS Audio optical cartridge and electronics prevail uber alles. But none of my skin in the game at present.

Hi Dave! Good to hear from you. I too was influenced by Raul’s thread, which led me to purchase several highly regarded vintage MM and MI cartridges. Two of those were Stanton 980LZS and an NOS Stanton 981LZS. I loved the 980 until I wore it out. But I only recently unboxed the 981, and I installed it on my Viv Float (underhung) tonearm. It’s on my modified Lenco driving my Steelhead via MC inputs, which drives my Beveridge 2SWs. The combo is fantastic. For those who don’t know, the 981 is a low output MM cartridge (0.3mV), requiring MC gain. The 981LZS is just a selected version of the 980LZS. There are also high output versions, HZS suffix. I’m using 1000 ohms load. 47K also works fine.

Sadly, the London Decca Reference cartridge is no longer available.

The new owner tells me he hopes to have them back in production, along with a new version by August of this year. Perhaps then there will be no need for a few lone voices in the wilderness to keep enthusiasm alive for these wonderful cartridges. I have never heard an Epoch3, but I do know my Statement3 doesn't come close to the sound of a cartridge with no cantilever. In my view, it is the absence of the cantilever that makes all the difference, rather than the moving iron nature of them. I was interested to hear that Raul reports the Ikeda MC variant on the concept sounds similar. I wish it were still available.

Dear @knock1 : " I always picked center of the main floor, the difference in just a few rows was really something. Therefore it comes a conundrum, how one is to know the "correct" sound of an orchestra, a band or an instrument itself?  "


We can't know for sure but only when we seated in the venuelistening it.

I almost always ( for comparisons. ) talk of live MUSIC as reference.If we don't attend often/frequently to listen live MUSIC thenagainst what we are comparing what we listen in the home room/system. We just can't do it and with out first hand live MUSIC experiences we only can say that what we are listening in our home audio system is " what I like ".

No,wecan't mimic in any home roo/system the live MUSIC experiencesbut if we are interested in true MUSIC enjoyment then that must be our reference and yes as you posted :


" I think that that comparison to LIVE performance is a very complex issue. "


But for me it's themoreideal tool at our handstomake those kind of tests.





The search for the Holy Grail.  Frankly there is no right answer for a number of reasons:  Everything changes with time especially technology; the live music reference is not an accurate gauge because every live venue is different; every recording is different - who mastered it? - what mics were used? - How many?  Artists have good days and not so good days;  Ask any reed player how consistent reeds are;  ask any piano player how good the piano was; ask everyone involved in the recording how the acoustics of the studio or stage or wherever were; the list of variables in the live part is endless.  Then in addition to the variable of the cartridge itself we must consider the interface: wire, tonearm, perhaps headshell, phono stage, cables.  The answer, the only answer is to chose what sounds good to you that is compatible with your needs and your budget.  Most importantly, have fun.

+1 @billstevenson Using live music as a standard for reproduced music by a stereo in a home is really a farce much like “The Absolute Sound” is a farce (as are their reviews, but that’s another story). Most music is recorded in a studio save for maybe classical, so should even studio recordings be made to sound live even if they weren’t recorded or intended by the recording engineer to sound that way? That’s just misplaced and misinterpreting what’s on the recording not unlike if a playwright’s script is changed to alter the story/meaning of a play counter to the original intent. That’s counter to what “high fidelity” is. The definition of “fidelity” from Webster’s dictionary is:

the quality or state of being faithful, accuracy in details : EXACTNESS, the degree to which an electronic device (such as a record player, radio, or television) accurately reproduces its effect (such as sound or picture)

If something is recorded live or made to sound live it should be reproduced that way and likewise for studio recordings intended to sound like studio recordings — to do otherwise is by definition not even fidelity much less high fidelity. So why apply a standard of live music when it doesn’t even apply to a lot of music we listen to? That’s just unrealistic and untruthful, but if someone’s goal is to make everything somehow sound live more power to them. Although for me using live music is not a proper or useful bar, I think Bill said it best in his above post…

The answer, the only answer is to chose what sounds good to you that is compatible with your needs and your budget. Most importantly, have fun.


Dear @soix @billstevenson  :  Both are rigth as is @knock1  ( please read wmy answer posted to him.

The issue is only these:


How do you know a flugehorn kind of sound, or the kind of sound of a double bass or a piano instrument if you never heard it live?

In this thread what we will try to find out is which kind of cartridge design/cartridge motor ( everything the same that is a premise on the OP. ) performs faithful and accurated to MUSIC.


Tha's all. I'm not trying to analize live MUSIC and all its implications involved or the recording proccess: NO.



Dear @dogberry  I can live with the LP-S or London Decca but not the MP 500 that's a good cartridge but nothing more than that.



Dear @rdk777  : " the MI technology. It has become my favorite cartridge now. "


Perhaps you need to listen the Atlas Lambda SL in your system ( really nice system you own. ) against the Hyperion that I know why you like it.

The thread is not a competition but to talk about first hamd cartridge experiences in between. An agoner posted  in the last few weeks his preference of that Lyra over the Hyperion, he owned both along the Orton Diamond that he like it too.


" haven't had the need to try MM's . " well I think that it's not necesssarily a " need " but only an additional experience when you own two respectable phono stages to listen MM cartridges. 




How do you know a flugehorn kind of sound, or the kind of sound of a double bass or a piano instrument if you never heard it live?

How do you know what a flugelhorn or piano recorded in another venue as interpreted by the recording engineer sounds like if you weren’t there and/or were the recording engineer?  Hearing a flugelhorn or piano live on certain occasions in various venues doesn’t mean that translates to or what was captured on a certain recording nor what you should expect.  It’s by definition a moving target and thus hearing something live somewhere is an unreliable and unrealistic reference point as to what you think you should hear on a recording.  I play drums but don’t use the sound of my drums as the standard by which I hear drums on a given recording — there are just too many variables involved to make that a viable standard or useful benchmark for reproduced recorded music at home.  Anyway, I’m otherwise very much enjoying the various takes on the sound of different cartridge designs — very interesting and educational.

As Raul wrote, the key is extensive exposure to live music.  No offense intended, but those who oppose using live music as a reference are copping out and/or are listening to the wrong things when (if) they spend much time attending live performances.  There are aspects of live sound that can be appreciated no matter the venue, musician, your seat in the venue, etc,; all those “variables” that for some invalidate the use of live as a reference.  

**** So why apply a standard of live music when it doesn’t even apply to a lot of music we listen to? ****

Fair question, but the answer is simple: because live unamplified musical sounds have the most information available to the audiophile.  And, yes, those who listen to amplified music primarily are at a disadvantage in this regard.  Sorry, but true.  Dynamic, rhythmic, timbral and textural nuance are there to be heard on a level much richer and finer than in amplified/processed music.  Nothing wrong with not using this as one’s guide and simply striving for a sound that is liked, just as there is nothing wrong and certainly not a “farce” to believe in using it.  However, to not use it is the reason that so many “audiophile” systems make sounds that one never hears live, while some which are assembled with this in mind can get reasonably close.  And that is a worthy goal for some.  

Dear @frogman  :  I think I know you on MUSIC/audio reproduction targets and of course rhythm  is at the top chatacteristic and is not for free or at random because exist several reasons behind it.

From where comes/came that live MUSIC rhythm?. Well and this is only my take about:

months ago maybe years in other Agon forum was opened a thread with a dialogue about rhythm and I participated down there and what I posted is that differences for the better or bad belongs to Transient Response here is where starts MUSIC and from that Transient Response ( instruments/audio system ) is developed the Rhythm and MUSIC Dynamics.

That first attack that @bdp24  is exactly where start Transient Response but the Rhythm that is developed depends of several issues:

first which the rhythm proposed by the MUSIC composer and is very important because  ( example ) the Orchestra Director needs a correct explicit interpretation of what the composer try to achieve and the Director must has to transmit that issue to the Orchestra players  that's why so many training sessions to show a MUSICAL score to the Hall public seated there. 

But here exist some troubles: one is the venue that has implicated part of the natural color of tha MUSIC score, then the quality level of all the player instruments and obviously their talent invloved there but each human being today can have a rhtyhm/feels and 6 hours latter a little different one due to changes in the mood or for whatever other reason.

With out transient response rhythm can exist, overall is to complicated to explain it and needs a new thread but at the end that rhythm is what makes the differences between cartridges even coming from the same manufacturer.

The ones like me that owns or listened in their system several cartridges know exactly what I'm talking about. Each cartridge has its own rhythm that sometime makes us to move our legs/foots very easy and other times not so easy or even no movements at all and yes we  all have our own rhythm too.

Cartridges with out rhythm are cartridges with bad transient response or not so good levels.




Raul, I agree with what you wrote and I can only add that it goes even much deeper than that as concerns how rhythmic nuance is conveyed by audio equipment. Transient response is key, but only one piece of the puzzle it seems to me. And I do believe it is a puzzle because I have not seen entirely satisfactory explanations, from a technical standpoint, for all that contributes to the sense of immediacy and tension/release that one hears in well performed live music and from well reproduced recordings.. All things that contribute to great rhythmic feeling. One example:

A string section in a great orchestra plays a musical passage that consists of sustained chords. One hears the initial transient attack of one chord that has to be perfectly timed within the overall context of the music for it to be correctly rhythmic. This sustained chord then resolves to another sustained chord that likewise has to be perfectly timed. However, it is not just the temporal relationship between those two transients that matters, it is also what happens in between those two transients that makes the difference. It is the excitement created by the sense of tension/release of one chord leading to the next, like a coiled spring finally releasing that makes all the difference. Some audio gear does a much better job of conveying this type of nuance than others do.