Review: AKG P100-LE. Cartridge

Category: Analog

Dear friends: Do you know which is the main difference between a Royal/Aristocrat personage and a multi-millionaire one?

No not his blood color, IMHO: CLASS/Distinction in all " life's orders ".

Well for the very first time I found an Aristrocrat/Royal cartridge/personage that stand alone against any other ( I knew/know ) phono cartridge/multi-millionaire.

The AKG P100-LE is that Royal/Aristocrat cartridge!!!! and we have to treat it like that, in change this Royal cartridge give us an experiences so exclusive that only audio Gods can enjoy till today.

Almost all of us knows about AKG enterprise ( ). Two splendid main design and build products: Microphones and Headphones.

It is posible that the recording you are enjoying right now was recorded through AKG microphones and monitored through AKG headphones.

AKG was and is commited to quality and nothing but quality.

However it is curios that in all AKG site we can't read any single word about AKG phono cartridges ( that was part of AKG enterprise history. ).

My first AKG cartridge was the P25MD, that I still own ( I own three samples. ) that is very good one. After this I bought the AKG P8ES Super NovaII/VdH that is a P25MD with VdH stylus. After this comes the AKG P8E that is an older design.

I knew about the AKG P100-LE through Japanese magazynes but through more than 15 years I never has the luck to find it in any condition.

Finally like a year ago my quest on the AKG take end: I found it on ebay through a Swiss seller ( not the original owner that pass away. ) ina " buy it now " status.
I don't ask nothing before I bid: just bought it in the same " minute " that I saw there.

I just can't believed I will put my hands on the P100-LE!!!!!, I was exited for say the least.

When the AKG arrived I take the packing box trying to unpack just like a 4 years old child opening a present on his birthday: I was need it more hands to open faster that cartridge box!!

I mounted and heard it for the firsat time and my " reaction " was: Hey what is all this I'm hearing?, was something " new " for me, if I remember I made a brief post that time.

In almost this same time ( when I was hearing it. ) I thought: I have to email the seller asking if he has another sample or other different top vintage cartridge.
Guess what?, the seller had a second sample ( from the same owner. ) and I bought for the same price than the first one!!!!, yes I have two samples of this Royal AKG cartridge.

The " usual " VdH refresh was/is first rate. Btw, VdH made the AKG P100-LE original stylus so I have an " Original and New " stylus replacement any time I need it!!!

The LE on the cartridge denomination model means: Limited Edition and for the very first time I recognize what a Limited Edition truly means.

First I understand that AKG build only 50 P100-LE cartridges that was marketed mainly in Japan and Europe.

Each cartridge comes in that double box ( wood and carton. ) that you can see in the picture and comes with each one AKG signed Certificate of LE status with its serial number that comes in the cartridge body too.

AKG had a five years full warranty on this model.

Everything of the hardware, certificate, box, manual and information that comes with the cartridge reflect the AKG proud and the AKG people proud that represent this design for all of them. Nothing was left to random. A Royal luxury.

The AKG 100-LE was " born " in 1984 and its retail price was $ 1,300.00 ( old dollars !!! ) for a MI cartridge design.
In those times an Ortofon top of the line MC 2000 was retailed at only 1K and the Audio Note I/O was at 1.25K and the Dynavector DRT at 1.2K where the FR MC-702 for 750.00 and the Goildbug Brier for 900.00 and the Koetsu Rosewood for 900.00.

The MM/MI other top of the line cartridges price was " ridiculous " low: Stanton 981 at 250.00, Grace F9E for 200.00, ADC TRX-3 for 300.00, AKG P25MD for 250.00, etc, etc.

So 1.3K " old dollars " for the AKG P100-LE was outstanding by any price cartridge standards!!!!! and the P100-LE was not a LOMC cartridge and does not had a especial cartridge body build material like the Koetsu or Kiseki's on those times, it was and is a " plain and simple " cartridge to the eyes: even " ugly ", you can't see its Royal/Aristocrat " blood " anywhere but when you heard it or through its packing.

The first thing that you note for a 1984 cartridge design is that comes with screwed mount holes ( it does not needs nuts . ), in the hardware you can find a pair of golden screws of special tiny thickness, so we can use a normal other cartridge screws.

Second thing that you note is that the AKG P100-LE has non user stylus replacement ( like a LOMC cartridge. ), for retip you had to send it to AKG ( in those days. ) and today to VdH.

Third thing you are aware is that ( as you can see in the picture with stylus guard. ) in the side are two allen screws that we can use it to change the cartridge VTA/SRA. Yes the cartridge comes with a simple and clever self VTA/SRA mechanism!!!

The AKG P100-LE manual begin with this sentences:

" This story is about an individually handcrafted instrument for the reproduction of music. " and continue:

" a cartridge to serve music, nothing but music.
There is the mediocrity of mass production and the excellence of individually handcrafted instruments which posses that intangible magic quality that makes music an inspiring experience .

The Vdh II AKG cartridge stylus is mounted in a berylium tapered cantilever. The coils in the P100 are sealed in beeswax to prevent corrosion and to damp internal resonances within the body. All cantilever part are artificially aged prior to assembly for long term stability.

Each cartridge is fully documented and the test records are kept at the company. "

The P100-LE weights: 6.35 grs with 25cu on compliance and optimum VTF: 1.35 grs. Its output level is: 2.5mv. No other AKG cartridge specs .

I mounted and made the set up in our self design tonearm prototype: VTF 1.35 grs, no antiskating, positive VTA/SRA, Azymuth at dead center, 100K on load impedance along 150pf on total capacitance and geometry cartridge/tonearm set up using Löefgren B.

So where are those old 1.3K dollars????

in the Majesty of its overall quality performance!!!!

it is useles to talk about: frequency ranges, inner detail, focus, soundstage and the like.
The cartridge " represent " and performs beyond all what we already learn on cartridge quality performance reviews/listening.

However there are two or three special/unique cartridge performance characteristics:

tonal balance, here we not only have a " perfect " real music tonal balance but a different " tone " in that tonal balance cartridge factor that is what made the difference between other " mundane " cartridges and the luxury unique Royalty of the AKG one.

Very difficult to explain because is the first time I experienced that but is something like if the recording tonal balance was " refined " or " tailored " with " lasser " cuts to leave outside any " symptom " of that we are listening to a recording.

You and me know when we are hearing live music and when what we are hearing comes from an audio system, well something like that.

Other AKG characteristic is in the " layering " recording presentation.

Many times we read elsewhere that " through this fenomenal audio item I heard things that never did before ".
Well never more true than with the P100-LE. How is this in the AKG cartridge performance?:

the three, four or more " layers " where the instruments where in the soundstage comes perfectly idetified because each one layer SPL permit not only to " see " and identifie the layer but to hear in precise tone/pitch/level any single note coming from that single layer. In no other cartridge I know happen this with so much realism like in the AKG.

The incredible ( for me ) is that each layer SPL is different in level but all has the same transparency and precision, we don't loose music notes through the P100-LE. Obviously all these has an impact in the unique AKG tonal balance quality performance.

Like the Technics EPC P100CMK4 the AKG P100-LE is a model of accuracy and precision: both channels with the same output level, azymuth dead centered, etc, etc.

Other unique characteristic is how the AKG handle the " silence ", the music " surge " from a " dead silent " environment and I mean it.
This permit detect the very first attack on music/instruments transients and in the last hearing of the note/harmonic time decay.

This experience is something that put you in " shock ", where we can ask: where in the hell I already heard this kind of performance? and the answer was/is easy:
only in live music events!.

Can I detect any cartridge drawback or something that I can ask for more?, not really: I can't imagine how any one of us can ask for something different or something additional.

The very top cartridge quality performers ( either MM/MI or MC ones ) like: Technics 100CMK4, AT 20SS, Empire 4000D3, Ortofon A-90, Lyra Olympos or whatever you own/heard are IMHO away on the AKG P100-LE quality performance level.

All these cartridges and many more are just " mundane " cartridge samples against the real and unique luxury that possess the Royal/Aristocrat AKG P100-LE.

Every single LP you heard through the AKG P100-LE is a totally NEW experience, useles to say that or this from the Caballe voice performance or about L. Amstrong recordings or the like.

I only can say that I wish that every single day had 50-100 hours instead 24 hours to stay enjoying all those remaining day additional hours the MAGIC Royalty performance of the MUSIC through this AKG phono cartridge!!!!

Regards and enjoy the music,

PS.: 10 ***** in the cartridge ranking performance level ladder: NOTHING CAN TOUCH IT !!

AKG enterprise: congratulations and my " hat off " for your achievement.

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In the review.
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Raul ive mounted my le with axels repair. New cantilever and stylus. Right from jump i can hear what you described. Going to let her break in before i get into more and deeper observations. From what im hearing now its going to be a very enjoyable ride.

Hello, I have 2 AKG P8Es and when I saw a P-100 on a Japanese auction site I did a quick Google search and found this thread. I was fortunate enough to win this beauty. It arrived today and I anxiously opened the package. Would it look as nice in person as in the pics? Yes, this is a beautiful sleek cartridge and looks truly stunning. 

I will initially install this on a Victor TT-81, then maybe move it later to a Lenco project, starting sometime this fall.

I would love suggestions on a tonearm worthy of this rare beauty. I'm guessing that it will be a good match for an arm with a low effective mass. If I'm wrong please let me know. I have a few candidates here. My current tonearm choices are: a Well Tempered Arm, an SME series iii with dampening trough, a Pioneer PL-7 with the ceramic/aluminum arm, or an Alphason HR-100S Tonearm. I am expecting a Grace 704 arm to arrive in the next week or 2, so that's another consideration. 

Thanks in advance for any suggestions,