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The $ensible Choice List: Phonograph Cartridges.

For many years, when friends asked me what phono cartridge to buy, I would recommend they purchase either the Shure V15 Type VMR or else get a Grado Signature. If they really wanted to save money, then I would suggest one of the inexpensive Grados. When Joe Grado retired and Shure withdrew the V15, my advice was looking pretty shaky -- but with the advent of CD, I was never asked.

As Tom Nousaine has noted, however, the LP is now enjoying its last spurt of popularity, and a significant minority of audiophiles and music lovers are interested in phono cartridges. Although my old advice has been of necessity modified a bit, it still pretty well stands, as you will see below, where I have listed a number of recommendable cartridges in ascending order of price -- which unlike some magazine's lists, does not necessarily indicate ascending order of preference. The list price (but note that cartridges are typically discounted heavily) for each model is given in parentheses, then there is an indication of when the model was reviewed, and by whom, followed by a brief discussion of the unit's performance and features. And guess what -- with John Grado carrying on in his uncle's footsteps, and Shure Bros. deciding to get back into the high-end cartridge game, my old advice does not need replacing, just a little updating, that's all. But there are plenty of good cartridge choices out there, and you'll see that our $ensible Choice list consists of more than just Shure and Grado.

Having given the matter considerable thought, we have decided to discontinue our previous practice of singling out a few products as "$ensible Standards," a practice that seemed to indicate that there were only a handful of products in any given category that we were really recommending. As usual, final choices were made and the short summaries were written by the editor, who is the one willing to shoulder the blame for any glaring sins of omission.

Grado Prestige Green ($60) Reviewed by TM in Issue 66. If you really don't want to spend very much money on a cartridge, this is the model to get. An outstanding bargain.

Grado Prestige Red ($110) Reviewed by JTF in Issue 66. Slightly more refined than the Green, but for not that much more money, you can move up to one of the models below. Still, an outstanding bargain in the best Grado tradition.

Sumiko Blue Point ($195) Reviewed by JTF in this issue (73). In addition, WCH and TL have reported on their experience with the original Blue Point, a high-output moving coil model that was replaced by a model with essentially the same inner workings but a new body. The Blue Point is still a nice cartridge, but it faces fierce competition nowadays. JTF, for example, preferred the Grado Prestige Red and an older Shure V15 V overall.

Sumiko Blue Point Special ($295) Reviewed by WCH in this issue (73). WCH has settled on this model as his cartridge of choice, and TL has had good success -- and heartbreak -- with this model in the past. A souped-up, stripped-down variant of the Blue Point that is most recognizable for its "nudity." It does not have a body per se, and is recommended only to the very, very careful.

Shure V15 VxMR ($300) Reviewed by SGB and KAL in Issue 66. Arguably the most accurate phonograph cartridge made at any price, and the one that will treat your vinyl with the most tender loving care.

Grado Reference Platinum ($300) Reviewed by KAL in Issue 66. Subjectively more emphatic bass than the Shure. Unlike previous Grados, the stylus is not user-replaceable.

Stanton W.O.S. Collectors Series 100 ($463) Reviewed by TL and TM in Issue 61. This cartridge tends to be discounted quite heavily, making it a direct competitor for the Sumikos. Most audiophiles would probably prefer it to the less expensive Blue Point. It is sonically competitive with the Blue Point Special -- not to mention more reliable and less expensive to maintain.

Grado "The Reference" ($1,200) Reviewed by KAL in this issue (73). Although the law of diminishing returns is hard at work here, there is no denying that this is a truly excellent cartridge for those who insist in the very best and have a budget that allows for shameless extravagance every once in a while.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Sensible Sound
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Words:729
Previous Article:Sumiko Blue Point.
Next Article:B&W CDM2SE.
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