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Grado cartridge question

Discussion in 'audio' started by Phil Bishop, May 22, 2022.

  1. Phil Bishop

    Phil Bishop pfm Member

    Wondering if anyone might be able to offer some advice on Grado cartridges?

    A few years ago I inherited a Dual 505 turntable with a Grado FT+ cartridge. I believe this cartridge model, now unsupported, has a conical stylus.

    Despite being told it's not a great fit for the Dual arm, too deep, etc, it sounds fabulous. In fact, I have tried the Dual with supposedly more suitable cartridges such as Ortofons and nothing sounds as good as the Grado. The Grado has a full bodied sound which sounds great to my ears.

    So, I'm thinking I should future-proof this cartridge by at least getting a replacement stylus but I can't seem to find one. This has me wondering what a modern Grado might sound like in the arm, the Black for example. Do all Grado cartridges have the same house sound which to my ears is warm and full bodied?
     
  2. audiopile

    audiopile pfm Member

    Sold and used a lot of Grado's over the last 40 years - I share your enthusiasm for their sound. You have a couple of options : 1.) if you are VERY lucky -you have a audio dealer with a 200X microscope who can examine your cart for you -if worn out -send it to a retipper. You can either get it retipped with whats on it now -.6 or .7 conical or upgrade either or both cantilever or tip to something more exotic/higher performance -maybe longer lasting even. or 2.) Try a series 3 Prestige series Grado. I'm not confident about this -simply because I haven't heard a Prestige "3" yet ? I own a half dozen or so Grado carts - but these are all older models whose styli in my opinion are far superior to what comes in a prestige body today. So -this is worth trying to see just how much of the presentation or flavor the newer Prestige line can deliver ? I did not find the Prestige 2 carts I owned particularly good sounding compared to what Joe was turning out 30-40years ago -but they did have the tonal balance of my older Grados and also the immunity to capacitive loading issues. 3.) So -whose spent enough time with Prestige 3 Grados to have a solid opinion -Phil and I are both curious ?
     
    Phil Bishop and Wright like this.
  3. Phil Bishop

    Phil Bishop pfm Member

    Thanks very much for that insight. I'm tempted to try a modern Grado Black just to see how it compares so would be interested to see if anyone has any experience. I did try a Green a few years back and was a tad disappointed but I did not try it in the Dual.
     
  4. lordmortlock

    lordmortlock A Linde Mann

    I only have experience of the current production tp4 Grado cartridges. I wanted to love them, especially as I’d had a couple of very happy years using a cartridgeman MM3, but despite giving a Prestige Gold a good go I decided they weren’t for me. The tonal balance just wasn’t there, and there was a roughness that just didn’t calm off, despite extended run in.
     
  5. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig Trade: ^'- -'^

    I have a Grado Green 2 here with about twenty hours on it so effectively new. Keep forgetting about it but I'll sell it at a good price if you want it.

    Another option is the Rega Exact. To me it has all the attributes of the Grado but better. As it should I suppose as it costs more. Same full bodied sound and natural midrange, real sing along cart, but better behaved at the top and bottom.
     
    Phil Bishop likes this.
  6. uncl_nigel

    uncl_nigel pfm Member

    Grado Sonata 2 on SME 20/2a into Simaudio Moon Evolution 810LP

    While it's not bad, the Grado is definitely the weak link making the whole sound a little lacking in energy and sparkle compared to the dCS Rossini that deals with the digital side of things.
     
  7. Phil Bishop

    Phil Bishop pfm Member

    Thanks, that's a very kind offer and I would have taken you up on it but I have already pressed the button on a Black 3.

    Funnily enough, I have always been underwhelmed by the Rega Exact. I must have tried three or four and it was the same each time, just boring and nothing to get excited about to my ears. I love the current AT range, particularly the VM95ML which I think is a gem but it's the old Grado that seems to work so well on the Dual.
     
  8. audiopile

    audiopile pfm Member

    phil -have you shimed the Rega's to get them more or less arm parallel to record surface ?
     
    Phil Bishop likes this.
  9. Phil Bishop

    Phil Bishop pfm Member

    They were factory fitted on Rega decks - RP6s.

    I did have a couple of duff ones - there were some QC problems to start with. However, even good ones sounded a bit lacklustre to me. I think cartridges are so much personal preference and synergy dependent?
     
    Mr Pig likes this.
  10. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig Trade: ^'- -'^

    Very much so. I can understand why the Grado is a good match for the 505 but the Exact is very like the Grado except better in every way. Although to be fair, it was a bit crazy recommending the Exact for a Dual 505 considering how much it cost relative to the performance of the 505. The Grado is about the most I'd spend on a cart for that deck.
     
    Phil Bishop likes this.
  11. Phil Bishop

    Phil Bishop pfm Member

    The Dual 505 was a bit of an eye opener for me. I picked it up a few years ago off Facebook marketplace as part of an 80's retro system with Nad 3130, etc. The Dual was the only component I ended up keeping. For a flimsy feeling, plastic deck I was amazed at it's SQ. Likewise, the Pioneer PL-12D which I have only recently discovered. I think find good ones, give them a basic service and fit a nice cartridge and they can sound really good. I'm currently working on an original 1978 Planar 2 too, love the looks with the wood surround plinth and smoky dust cover - very 1970's retro :)

    I'm not sure why the Exact never worked for me as many rate it highly. Never had much success with Rega cartridges, I was rather indifferent about the Ania too. Much prefer the AT-VM95ML I'm using now :)
     
  12. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig Trade: ^'- -'^

    Can't agree. I bought one brand new, my first turntable, but the Planer 3 which replaced it was so much better for not much more money it was a joke. No comparison.

    The Exact is the only Rega MM I like. I really like Audio Technica cartridges too, like you say it's a matter of system matching. I'm using a £700 AT cart just now and like it but there as still things about the Exact I miss. If you love AT cartridges it's not something I'd try to talk you out of, great carts.
     
    Phil Bishop likes this.
  13. audiopile

    audiopile pfm Member

    I missed the mating with a Rega turntable -thought you were trying a Rega cart on the 505. Sold a lot of Duals back in the day -they didn't disappoint me or my customers. But -I always used them with relatively high compliance cartridges . I'd imagine a relatively stiff moving coil in one would fall well short of a match made in heaven.
     
    Phil Bishop likes this.
  14. Craig B

    Craig B Re:trophile

    Tonearm matching aside, the thing to remember with Grado cartridges is that with their über-low 50mH coil inductance into a typical 47kOhm//200 - 300pF load there will be a gradual rolloff that isn't countered by a HF electrical resonance peak until well beyond 30kHz. This isn't to say that these cartridges are 'flat to 30k', only the tonal balance reflects this gradual slope with a wee bit of zing up top where the mechanical resonance of the cantilever/suspension kicks in. IOW, the electrical resonance doesn't broadly coincide with the mechanical resonance like with many MMs. Regardless, the general subjective impressions of a smooth, warm, slightly rolled off sound quality is borne out by the objective electrical resonance characteristic.
     
    Mr Pig likes this.
  15. Del monaco

    Del monaco Del Monaco

    Grado appear to be a favourite for Thorens TD 166 mk 2. I currently use an Ortofon Vms20 se mk2. Would a Grado add anything?
     
  16. Phil Bishop

    Phil Bishop pfm Member

    Yep, I have just fitted the Black to my Dual 505 and straight out of the box to my ears it sounds just what I want - smooth and warm but with enough sparkle up top.

    Coming to the conclusion I can't get on with Ortofon MMs - too thin sounding for my liking but I realise a lot is system dependent.
     
  17. Craig B

    Craig B Re:trophile

    Nah, VMS20E MkII is a lovely thing; proper nude tip, the equivalent of that of 2M Blue. These days, you'd have to spend a lot on a Grado that comes close to this.

    Although also an induced magnet design, Ortofon's VMS range had a more typical 600mH inductance cf. that of Grado. If you wish to try changing the overall balance somewhat, you could try getting the loading closer to 400pF, as per Ortofon's recommendation.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2022
    Del monaco likes this.
  18. audiopile

    audiopile pfm Member

    Really-like a number of cartridges from long ago and far away (OK-maybe not that far) -you really haven't listened to a VMS series Ortofon until you bump the capacitance up to around 400 pF. Couple of days ago I cut a trade with a budy to get a VMS-3E Ortofon . Installed it onto my Sony PS-X555es into a Bryston BP-1.5 -combination of table and dip switch capacitance is around 270 pf. I will add another 100pF to this today via Db system capacitor kit -but the difference between zero capacitance set with the Bryston (84 pF from the Sony' arm leads) and the max added via dip switches on the Bryston is stunning. With 84 pF as a load this is a old MM sound boring no high frequency detail -I'd have to have speakers with a pretty pronounced high frequency peak to delude myself that there was much going on above 6 or 7 kHz with this cart. Properly loaded I can't believe this was the BOTL "throw in with the turntable package" cart of that era. But this also points out one of the big advantages that caused me to sell hundreds of 25 buck Grados back in the day -i could sell somebody a Grado based on what it sounded like at my store and they had a real good chance of getting that sound at home. And of course I cheated because that price included installation and testing via CBS test record and O'scope if they brought in their turntable and left it for a couple of hours.
     
    Mr Pig likes this.
  19. Waxxy

    Waxxy pfm Member

    My first "real" cartridge was a Grado Gold about 20 years back. I thought it was great but didn't have much cartridge experience at that point. I did find it wasn't the best match for the heavy tonearm on my TT at that time, a Kenwood KD-990, and my next cart, a Dyna 10x4 had less grain and tracked better.

    Now I have much more cartridge experience and recently purchased a retipped Grado G2+ with original silver coils. I'm struggling to understand why it sounds so good! I don't want to shoot my mouth off too much and make a fool of myself (again!) so I'll reserve any further comments until I've had more listening time.

    My recommendation would be a retip or another vintage Grado.
     
  20. audiopile

    audiopile pfm Member

    Darn Phil -I'm trying to work a 12 step program for cartaholics and now I'm probably going to fall off the delivery truck again and buy some sort of Prestige 3.And I was about to get a 30 day pin !
     

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