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Cartridge, turntable and prestage matching

StratDoc

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2020
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I am new to the site but have been an avid reader of What Hi-Fi reviews for some time.

I upgraded the cartridge on my turntable - music hall 1.3 - to a Goldring E3.. It is paired with a Rega MM MK3 prestage with an AS701 Yamaha amp and Wharfedale Diamond 250 speakers. The needle is still breaking in, but the sound is extremely brite - hi frequency and mid-range dominate. Separation and clarity are good. Is this brite sound common with the E3 or is it a function of my equipment paired with the E3? I was hoping for a more balanced sound across frequencies than the stock needle.

Thanks,

StratDoc
 

EricLeRouge

Well-known member
Jan 15, 2020
29
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Not knowing the rest of the system, my first choice would be to check and fine tune the cartridge setup — re-checking alignment with a vinyl engine protractor, for a start. Re: bass, a common mistake is to set the weight too low. Tilting this up by a notch will often result in a more stable image and deeper, tighter bass. Other factors such as isolation of the TT, different mat, etc, are also reported to make a difference. Time spent experimenting and fine tuning in vinyl audio can be a little frustrating, but it’s usually time well spent.

NB - Make sure that the vinyl you are playing has the bass content you are after. Some vinyl records, especially in the old days, had considerably less bass than is considered common nowadays.
 

Al ears

Moderator
I am new to the site but have been an avid reader of What Hi-Fi reviews for some time.

I upgraded the cartridge on my turntable - music hall 1.3 - to a Goldring E3.. It is paired with a Rega MM MK3 prestage with an AS701 Yamaha amp and Wharfedale Diamond 250 speakers. The needle is still breaking in, but the sound is extremely brite - hi frequency and mid-range dominate. Separation and clarity are good. Is this brite sound common with the E3 or is it a function of my equipment paired with the E3? I was hoping for a more balanced sound across frequencies than the stock needle.

Thanks,

StratDoc
You don't have that Rega MM plugged in to the phono sockets on the back of your amplifier by any chance do you? :)
It would appear you have three possible phono preamplifiers in your set-up, why?
No wonder it sounds harsh.
I don't mean to be facetious but why did you spend money on these unnecessary components?
 

StratDoc

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2020
43
10
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Thanks for the replies. Al Ears, I have it plugged in to line-in and am bypassing the phono amp on the turntable. The turntable prestage is low quality and the Yamaha built in prestage while good, is no where near the sound of the Rega.
 

StratDoc

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2020
43
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45
The E3 has a recommended weight of 2.0 grams. When you say by a notch do mean going to 2.1 to 2.2 grams? I will also recheck alignment with protractor.

Thanks
 

Al ears

Moderator
Thanks for the replies. Al Ears, I have it plugged in to line-in and am bypassing the phono amp on the turntable. The turntable prestage is low quality and the Yamaha built in prestage while good, is no where near the sound of the Rega.
OK, thanks.
I was a bit concerned you had it wired up incorrectly. You obviously know what you are doing.
Odd to hear the Yamaha phono preamp is poor.
Is there a possibility the tracking angle of the cartridge is out. Do you have any facility to adjust VTA on that turntable?
 

Al ears

Moderator
OK, thanks.
I was a bit concerned you had it wired up incorrectly. You obviously know what you are doing.
Odd to hear the Yamaha phono preamp is poor.
Is there a possibility the tracking angle of the cartridge is out. Do you have any facility to adjust VTA on that turntable?
Are you a geologist by any chance?
 

daytona600

Well-known member
Oct 5, 2012
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Music hall 1.3 cartridge fitted as standard is lower profile & designed for 3.5gram tracking force not really designed to be modified as a " Plug & Play " turntable
Goldring cartridge will track at much lower VTF around 2.0grams & lower bias force
cartridge body will be 3/5mm deeper & tonearm will not be parallel to record( nose up ) with this VTA sound will be different

MH do offer nice decks but this is one from there lifestyle ranges , higher Spec MH , project or rega would be a better option
 
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StratDoc

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2020
43
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Daytona,

Your explanation makes sense. There is noticeable difference in sound. It is not bad, but certainly lacking, in my opinion on this turntable. Any recommendations on a good, not break the bank turntable preferably one with out a cartridge since I have the E3? That would complement the E3 and Rega MM MK3? Can the weight be tweaked slightly higher without damage?
 

Al ears

Moderator
Music hall 1.3 cartridge fitted as standard is lower profile & designed for 3.5gram tracking force not really designed to be modified as a " Plug & Play " turntable
Goldring cartridge will track at much lower VTF around 2.0grams & lower bias force
cartridge body will be 3/5mm deeper & tonearm will not be parallel to record( nose up ) with this VTA sound will be different

MH do offer nice decks but this is one from there lifestyle ranges , higher Spec MH , project or rega would be a better option
Quite agree, it was the VTA that bothered me as the E3 is considered pretty good and neutral. The only way it's going to sound bright is an incorrect VTA setting, this is obviously linked to tracking force.
Just wondered if StratDoc is actually using a stylus force gauge to set the downforce or is simply adjusting the dial on that tonearm that may not be entirely accurate.
There can, of course, be some difficulties these days in purchasing a cheapish turntable that doesn't have a prefitted cartridge unless you go second-hand.
 

StratDoc

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2020
43
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I am not using stylus force gauge - using the dial on the tonearm set to 2.0 grams.

Putting back in original stylus cartridge until I can get a better turntable for the E3.

The Music Hall 1.3 vertical tracking is set to 20 degrees which is the specified angle for the E3. Tracking weight range is 1.5-2.5 with 2.0 recommended. I think I will try at 2.5 grams and see if there is a noticeable difference.
 
Last edited:

Al ears

Moderator
Quite agree, it was the VTA that bothered me as the E3 is considered pretty good and neutral. The only way it's going to sound bright is an incorrect VTA setting, this is obviously linked to tracking force.
Just wondered if StratDoc is actually using a stylus force gauge to set the downforce or is simply adjusting the dial on that tonearm that may not be entirely accurate.
I am not using stylus force gauge - using the dial on the tonearm set to 2.0 grams.

Putting back in original stylus cartridge until I can get a better turntable for the E3.

The Music Hall 1.3 vertical tracking is set to 20 degrees which is the specified angle for the E3. Tracking weight range is 1.5-2.5 with 2.0 recommended. I think I will try at 2.5 grams and see if there is a noticeable difference.
Perhaps you need to purchase a cheap stylus force gauge as I am pretty sure replying on the tonearm alone is not accurate.
 

StratDoc

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2020
43
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Gauge is being delivered tomorrow.

Is there a better match cartridge match for the Rega MM MK3? Its specs and E3 specs would suggest they are a good match, but... I am wondering if Rega MM cartridge might be a better match? Don't know anything about Rega cartridges and they don't seem to have that many in the mid-price range like the E3.
 

Al ears

Moderator
Gauge is being delivered tomorrow.

Is there a better match cartridge match for the Rega MM MK3? Its specs and E3 specs would suggest they are a good match, but... I am wondering if Rega MM cartridge might be a better match? Don't know anything about Rega cartridges and they don't seem to have that many in the mid-price range like the E3.
I would suggest that the E3 is better, as you noticed the Rega range is a little restricted.
If in doubt look at the Audio Technica range.
 

StratDoc

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2020
43
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45
So measured the tracking force with the Shure gauge - nifty device. Why would you go digital?

Anyway, the tracking force was off between 3/10ths and 4/10ths grams - which is a big variation. I sent the tracking force to the upper range limit of 2.4-2.5 grams. I also rechecked the cartridge alignment using the DBS protractor - also a nifty device. I found the sound starting to warm up but found that it varied consdirably depending on the album. For example, Black Keys El Camino, Steely Dan Aja, Loggins and Messina Angry Eyes (Live) all sounded terrific. Linkin Park Numb and Crawling - still seemed bright with muddled bass, Bruce Honsby The way it is - seemed bright as well. Maybe it just needs more time to break in? It is interesting I neve noticed the variations with inexpensive conical needle that came with the turntable - probably because it made everything sound the same.

Is this why folks have multiple cartridges they swap out? If I were going to try to get better sound, is the next investment in a better turntable? Is there a good one in the $500 range that would be an upgrade and have adjustable VTA?
 
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Al ears

Moderator
To be honest I would not have expected such a difference across various albums and it it is playing Steely Dan etc to your liking it probably is broken in.
What better cartridges, and stylus types can do is read the groove better and some do it so well you know when you've got a poorly pressed disc. They sort of tell it like it is.....
I don't have multiple cartridges that I swap regularly. I do have one as a backup and, if I owned any mono LPs I might invest in one specifically for mono but wouldn't keep swapping just find one you ready like.
The E3 may improve further, let us know.
I will think more on the turntable and get back to you, however you might look into the cost of the Pro-ject X1 where you are, it's around £680 here in the UK, it's a very good deck for this sort of money.
 

EricLeRouge

Well-known member
Jan 15, 2020
29
8
45
So measured the tracking force with the Shure gauge - nifty device. Why would you go digital?

Anyway, the tracking force was off between 3/10ths and 4/10ths grams - which is a big variation. I sent the tracking force to the upper range limit of 2.4-2.5 grams. I also rechecked the cartridge alignment using the DBS protractor - also a nifty device. I found the sound starting to warm up but found that it varied consdirably depending on the album. For example, Black Keys El Camino, Steely Dan Aja, Loggins and Messina Angry Eyes (Live) all sounded terrific. Linkin Park Numb and Crawling - still seemed bright with muddled bass, Bruce Honsby The way it is - seemed bright as well. Maybe it just needs more time to break in? It is interesting I neve noticed the variations with inexpensive conical needle that came with the turntable - probably because it made everything sound the same.

Is this why folks have multiple cartridges they swap out? If I were going to try to get better sound, is the next investment in a better turntable? Is there a good one in the $500 range that would be an upgrade and have adjustable VTA?
Sounds cool - if you get results to your liking with some records, it is safe to assume that your cart is properly set up. Some records (in fact, many) are just not well pressed, or poorly mastered - it’s always a good idea to check for comments on a pressing in Discogs.

Another factor which makes a huge difference is the proper cleaning. I use a manual device called Discostat, whih has been around since the 1970s, together with non-mineral water (important) and a German cleaning product called L’Art du Son. I used a vacuum machine (Nitty Gritty) before but I find the manual cleaning better.

Finally, the cartridge. Over the past decade I have found that the Ortofon 2M Black was a great MM cartridge, truly neutral and musical at the same time. it can be found at 500 during sales. Some people prefer more lively cartridges, I think the 2M black is a safe bet for any kind of music, and the Shibata stylus is very forgiving with older records (surface noise is greatly reduced). You can experiment with 2M Red and upgrade later with blue or black.

Hope this helps. Enjoy the music!
 

Al ears

Moderator
Sounds cool - if you get results to your liking with some records, it is safe to assume that your cart is properly set up. Some records (in fact, many) are just not well pressed, or poorly mastered - it’s always a good idea to check for comments on a pressing in Discogs.

Another factor which makes a huge difference is the proper cleaning. I use a manual device called Discostat, whih has been around since the 1970s, together with non-mineral water (important) and a German cleaning product called L’Art du Son. I used a vacuum machine (Nitty Gritty) before but I find the manual cleaning better.

Finally, the cartridge. Over the past decade I have found that the Ortofon 2M Black was a great MM cartridge, truly neutral and musical at the same time. it can be found at 500 during sales. Some people prefer more lively cartridges, I think the 2M black is a safe bet for any kind of music, and the Shibata stylus is very forgiving with older records (surface noise is greatly reduced). You can experiment with 2M Red and upgrade later with blue or black.

Hope this helps. Enjoy the music!
Are you suggesting he replace his Goldring with the 2M Red?
He was asking about a turntable upgrade. I certainly wouldn't want to use the 2M Black on a $299 deck, or where you just commenting on the cartridge?
His question regarding the upgrade of turntable is quite obviously the way to go as his current deck has items he doesn't use, it's the base model, and cannot easily be adjusted.
I think turntable first and cartridge upgrade much later, however that's just my thinking.
Also when commenting on cartridges you have to be mindful of the tonearm you're suggesting it being fitted to, the compliance of the cartridge isn't going to make it a good match to every tonearm
 
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EricLeRouge

Well-known member
Jan 15, 2020
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Are you suggesting he replace his Goldring with the 2M Red?
He was asking about a turntable upgrade. I certainly wouldn't want to use the 2M Black of a $299 deck, or where you just commenting on the cartridge?
His question regarding the upgrade of turntable is quite obviously the way to go as his current deck has items he doesn't use, it's the base model, and cannot easily be adjusted.
I think turntable first and cartridge upgrade much later, however that's just my thinking.
Also when commenting on cartridges you have to be mindful of the tonearm you're suggesting it being fitted to, the compliance of the cartridge isn't going to make it a good match to every tonearm
You are correct, it makes more sense to upgrade the TT first, and the cart second. I do think that the 2M Red would make a difference on his/her TT, but I cannot guarantee it as I have never used this TT model.

If the budget is for a TT, I would shoot for a second hand Rega P3, sometimes they even sell with a very decent cartridge mounted. — But that TT is not automatic.
 

Al ears

Moderator
You are correct, it makes more sense to upgrade the TT first, and the cart second. I do think that the 2M Red would make a difference on his/her TT, but I cannot guarantee it as I have never used this TT model.

If the budget is for a TT, I would shoot for a second hand Rega P3, sometimes they even sell with a very decent cartridge mounted. — But that TT is not automatic.
Thanks, but if you look at the thread again the Rega is the last thing the OP requires. The lack of VTA adjustment etc is exactly the issue with his current turntable.
Not saying it's not a good deck, I have owned one myself, but adaptable it is not, not easily anyway. Any deck where you have to remove the whole tonearm to adjust VTA will be a non starter for most.
 

StratDoc

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2020
43
10
45
So I did some experimenting last night. I reduced the tonearm weight and tracking force slightly. Most importantly I started messing with the phase and crossover settings on my subwoofer. I never really adjusted these before. The old stylus produced sound relatively unchanged regardless of phase or crossover setting. Gain was the only thing I ever adjusted. With this new needle adjusting the sub makes a significant difference. The cartridge is starting to grow on me.

Still would like to find a more adjustable turntable with VTA. Most that have this feature are outside my budget.
 

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