MM vs MC

 

New member
Username: Scout

Post Number: 7
Registered: Oct-04
Why would a person buy MC over MM?
Will a person with a $2,000.00 turntable (all in) notice a large differnce, and what is the best option on phono stages in the $600.00 (US) range.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


The technical advantage of a MC over a MM is the moving mass to which the stylus/cantilever assembly is attached. Obviously in a MC the cantilever is moving the mass of the coils within the fixed field of the magnets. This allows more detail retrieval but, generally less output. MC's generally track at a higher tracking force than a MM. Most MC's require a step up device before the signal can be fed to the phono pre amp. This requires more gain stages which can be detrimental to the sound. If the step up device, either active or transformer based, is outboard, there are additonal cables and connection points to consider. MC's normally require loading with resistors for the best sound. Some pre-pre amps have the avilability if DIP switches to set the loading. A MC quite often does not have a user replaceable stylus assembly. This means retipping the cartidge when the stylus is worn.
The advantages of a MM are the opposite of all of the above.



 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 195
Registered: Sep-04
Most MC manufacturers offer body credit so if you don't fancy getting the cartridge retipped, you can always get something back for the body and get a new cartridge instead. MM stylus replacements are really expensive by comparison to the cost of the cartridge so body credit is an interesting option from the MC point of view.

As to phono stages, look at the Tom Evans Microgroove or the Dynavector P75 if you can stretch to it. The Dynavector has MM/MC and variable loading of MC by opening up and moving jumpers around. It's the best phono stage I've heard below $1500, just very fluid with excellent detail and great pace.

Regards,
Frank.
 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 196
Registered: Sep-04
By the way, yes, you would notice a large difference between the two in the same way as you'd notice a large difference between different makes of cartridge.

Regards,
Frank.
 

New member
Username: Scout

Post Number: 9
Registered: Oct-04
Thanks to all, I geuss its MC for me, now I need to settle on the phono stage, any thoughts on the Pro-Ject Tube box?
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


The cost of a MM cartridge is, in large part, in the stylus and cantilever mechanism. Frank is correct that some stylus replacements for MM can be almost as much as the cartridge. This is a variable from manufacturer to manufacturer. Several cartidge makers that keep catridges and stylus configurations in their line for long periods (Shure, Ortofon, Grado, etc.) have reduced the cost of stylus replacements over time. When you are discussing the small movements and signal strength involved in phono cartidges one disadvantage of a replaceable stylus assembly is the precision with which the parts go together. Your chances of getting the stylus in exactly the correct spot is less than a fixed stylus made when the cartridge is asembled, as is the case with most MC. Tolerances for removable styli are greater than fixed designs.
The credit for returning a cartidge is available and often the best solution for a cartridge you wish to keep. If on the other hand you prefer to change the sound of your system with a new cartridge a MM can be less expensive to replace. If you play old records, particularly 78's, several makers allow MM replacement styli for different functions such as mono records which do best with a conical stylus.
The sound of many less expensive MC's is considered "bright" by many listeners. Not all have a rising high frequency content but know this can be a problem in many systems. Also many MC's do not compete with trackablility when compared to MM's. This can be a consideration since mismatching the cartridge to the tonearm will drastically alter its reaction to warps and foot fall, not to mention a very mismatched cartridge/tonearm can literally jump out of the record groove trying to track/trace heavily modulated passages. Telarc's "1812 Overture" used to be a severe test for tracking and would betray many arm/cartridge combinations.
You will notice the difference between different cartridges just as you will between different speakers. Both are transducers, taking one form of energy and converting it to another form. As such they will influence the overall balance of your system. If your system is geared towards CD now you might want to get a cartridge that matches that balance. The sound of the phono section is, as with other electronics, up to you to decide what sound you wish to have.




 

New member
Username: Scout

Post Number: 10
Registered: Oct-04
Thanks, I think.....Is it possible to understand less the more you learn?
So your saying the cheaper MC is no bargain compared to a comparable priced MM. What about cartridges like the Benz Ace? or the Grado Platinum, are these MC's getting in the ballpark of great sound or do I need to go to the next level? If I did go with the Scout (being in N.A.) is there a cartridge MM or MC that is a prefered component based on ballance and compatability?
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


What I'm saying is a cartridge will make more difference in the balance of sound than any other component in your system. It will affect the sound of your speakers and each cartridge will have a sound of its own. Companies such as Grado, Ortofon and others have an identifiable sound that is consistent within the line. Others, such as Shure, will have a different sound for each cartridge they make.
Whether a lower priced MC suits your system and taste is for you to decide. I'm afraid I can't give much direction there.
I most often chose not to go with a MC merely by choice. The Grado and Ortofon MM's are "induced magnet" designs. Their principles of operation fall somewhat between MM and MC. A small piece of iron is attached to the end of the cantilever and is placed within the field of the fixed magnets. It creates a system with low moving mass and a good output level. Another advantage of MM's is the higher the output voltage of the cartridge, the lower the noise floor in the phono stage is likely to be. For all the detail they can retrieve, a MC's detail is often lost in the noise of the pre amp. This is very much a problem if you should be running vacuum tube pre amps.
The Grados are often considered to be the only MM's which can give the detail of a MC without the disadvantages of a MC. They are a warmer balance than any MC I've heard or owned, yet they can retrieve good detail and have good power in the bass. They are not a clinical sound such as what I associate with ClearAudio's MCs. But, they will not hold up against a top flight Koetsu (which is in a differnt price category also). They are not for every turnatble/arm combination as they are unshielded and can hum in some set ups. If you decide you wish to try a Grado buy it from a dealer who can assure you of no problems in the set up you decide to buy.

A cartridge is matched to the arm and not the table. An arm is matched to a table not a cartridge. Work from the table to the arm to the cartridge.

And, yes, it is always the case that the more you know the more you realize you have to learn. It is those who feel they have nothing more to learn who you must avoid at all costs.

One of the most often repeated phrases I had when selling was, there is no free lunch. Normally in audio, if I give you one advantage I will also be presenting you with at least two disadvantages. And vice versa. I don't believe this is anywhere more true than in a turntable set up. It is the ultimate bumble bee which should not be able to fly but does.




 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 201
Registered: Sep-04
John

I disagree with you on one point in all this. You say that MCs cannot compete with MMs on trackability. IN fact the converse is true - it's the MMs which have problems with tracking rather than the MCs, and the reason for this is down to their mode of operation. There are some MMs which are notable for being able to track well (typically the Shures) but these are the minority.

The mode of operation of an MM is to have a cantilever fulcrumed in the middle with a light small stylus at one end and a relatively large heavy magnet at the other which moves between the coils to generate signal. The poor ol' stylus is constantly battling against the magnet at the other end of the cantilever which is swinging about with significant inertia.

On the other hand the MC cantilever is approximately half the length of the MM's, has the stylus at one end and is fixed at the other end. The much lighter smaller coils are fixed very close to the fixed end of the cantilever and sit in the magnetic field around them. The stylus now does not have to contend with a flying weight on the other side of a fulcrum which lowers the inertia of the movement very significantly. This makes it much easier for the stylus to track the groove since it only has its own inertia to counter.

This explains why the MC output is so low by coparison to the MM. The movement of the coils, being right next to the fixed cantilever end is very slight. The movement of the moveing magnet is much greater. The distance travellled is proportional to the amount of signal generated.

Moving Iron cartridges like the Grado still use the moving magnet principle of operation but move apiece of iron which weighs less than typical magnets. Hence you get lower output than a standard MM (because the size of the signal is also proportional to the mass of moved material) but you get a bit more of the delicacy and detail that you get from MC.

There are also High Output MC's. These use the MC principle of operation but apply much larger coils to get a similar amount of signal to a Moving Iron (still a bit lower than MM). Since the end of the cantilever is fixed, you don't get the bad fulcrum effect but the larger coils do mean you don't get quite the detail and poise of the low output Moving Coils. Some manufacturers (such as Dynavector) manufacture the same cartridge in both High and Low output versions. It's relatively easy to hear the difference the two make, although you are using different cartridge loadings on the phono stages so you need to ensure this is as low a variable as possible by using a quality stage that does both MM and MC such as Dynavector's own P75.

Finally, I agree that low priced MC cartridges are not such a good idea. I don't know why this is but they do not seem to cut the mustard. Below a certain price point (around £200 here in the UK) MM rules the roost. Above this MC's and high output MC's take over. There are still exceptions of course. The Grados are good MI cartridges, and I have heard good things of the Tracers which also retail for around £400. However, above this the MC's really begin to rule the day bringing levels of detail and poise which the lower price ranges only hint at - if that. It saddens me whenever someone with a decent record collection tells me s/he's never heard a high end cartridge through a decent phono stage.

Regards,
Frank.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Scout

Post Number: 13
Registered: Oct-04
Wow, all this great info. So is the Benz Glider worth looking at, and how would it compare to the Sumiko Blackbird? Are these high end enough to show an improved sound over the Grado Platinum?

As for the Free Lunch, that came from a famed economist by the name of Milton Friedman...Reagonomics was based on his principles. Scary stuff.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


I have no experience with the current Benz line. They have always been good cartridges that deserve their reputation. They are reasonably priced and offer good service to the client. The Sumiko is a cartridge I have not heard, but, it appears to be an upgrade from the basic Sumiko Blue Point sound which is good but can be ragged at times with a definite brightness that creeps into most systems. The Blackbird seems to be a substantial improvement in terms of smoothness and detail, with more bass definition. It reads in the reviews, though, to favor Rock and progressive Jazz. The Grados are my personal favorite. They offer what many feel is a quite good balance between power and delicacy, detail and smoothness, and favor no particular type of music. The mids on a Grado are the best part of what they can do. There are cartridges that offer better than a Grado can give in every area when taken individually; but, on a whole, there is little to fault Grado's sound. Because they are such all round designs they can be looked down on by other audiophiles as less than whatever they prefer. Somewhat like bringing a Honda Prelude to a road rally against more expensive competition.
If you are considering a tonearm such as the Rega model any of the above cartridges would work well with that arm. It comes down to what sound you want to have from your phono system.

Frank - Trackability and traceability have been bandied about as to which type of cartridge can do better. It is rather a silly argument akin to arguing whether down draft or side draft carbeurators are the optimum choice. Both MC and MM have good and bad points and the buyer must decide which set of compromises suit their system best. And poor trackability can be a badge of honor to those who choose certain cartridges, "Yes, it can't track very well but when it does, oh, my God, what sounds it makes!!!" If I remember right, that was the justification for the early Decca, the Denon MCs and a host of other MC's in the late 70's.
One aspect of trackability on cartridges is the MCs normally require a higher tracking force than a MM. The argument has been that tracking force is not a factor in record wear unless the cartridge cannot track a groove. When that happens, whether the cartridge is MM or MC, record wear is accelerated. And a Shure V15 will track and trace virtually any groove at 3/4 gram force, but, I never could find the sound appealling.






 

Bronze Member
Username: Scout

Post Number: 17
Registered: Oct-04
Well I am very close to pulling the pin, I am leaning to the VPI Scout, Grado Platinum, Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 SE, Monitor Audio Silver S2, and the amp is still unconfirmed but the Bryston B60, & Simaudio Moon i3. If a person were to try to save a little cash for now and go with the Nad 320BEE with the intent on upgrading down the road, would they find the Nad to have decent sound?
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


I guess that depends on what equipment you have been listening to until now. If you are coming from a mass market receiver I would think the NAD would be, in almost all areas, a step up in sound quality. If you have been listening to older separates, what you find in the NAD would be a matter of what you have owned previously.

The NAD sound has been a bit dicey to my ears. It is musical in the sencse that it doesn't offend with the typical nastiness that afflicts most products any where near its price range. Even the Rotels can be tiring depending on matching components and your taste in music. What has always bothered me about the NAD sound is its sins of omission. Normally I prefer audio gear that will leave out the details and openess of more expensive equipment if the budget designer feels it can't be done well. I think of Rega Planar 2 & 3's, the original BK ST140 amp and Dynaco tubes when I think sins of omission. They all have a quality that makes up for their lack of ultimate resolution. They are quite true to the spirit of the music even if they cannot reproduce every last bit of it.
The omissions that are different about NAD's sound is they just leave out some of the music. Maybe I've never heard the NAD in the right context. I haven't sold NAD for more than a decade so my experience with NAD currently is limited to their AV gear and what I hear set up in the local dealer. But even in a modest system there is something that just makes me wish for more with the NAD. It never sems to finish a note properly and there is a lack of spark which that imparts to the music for my tastes. I don't think everyone agrees with me on this. And remember that I am used to tubes for amplification.
That said, the NAD is one of the best in its price range and should be given a good audition before you decide whether it will suit your needs. As I said it is a musical amp. And far better suited to a starting point than most others. The price is right, the reliablitity seems good at this point, and it is an easy resale when you are ready to move up. If you find the sound to your liking I would give it a try.
And I really have no other recommendation if you don't care for the NAD. I seldom give recommendations since there is so much product out there and I have no idea what anyone is looking for in sound. It is still a personal thing to me that requires a personal decision based on listening and system set up. There are several good lines of products to choose from available in most areas or through the internet. (I tend to favor talking to a salesperson who can demonstrate equipment to you, but, that is not available to everyone.) There is also the used market and the wonderful world of DIY where you are likely to learn more about audio than if you simply open a package and plug in your amp.



 

Bronze Member
Username: Scout

Post Number: 19
Registered: Oct-04
Thanks, my exposure has been RCA System c/w TT as a kid, Technics c/w TT as a teenager, then Sony AV Rec. with Sony CD, and Polk Audios 5JR's, then on to Flagship HK AVR 8000, Denon SACD/DVD Audio, Pioneer elite CD, and top end Polk LSi15's.
I am turning 40 next month and this system is a bit of a personal journey into a time when music was more than a convenient format. My Sony set up is in my woodworking room, my HK is in the family room, this new system is for 2 channel audio only in a seperate area where it can be enjoyed with a glass of wine or some nice single malt. I geuss I just don't want to go overboard in my quest to go back to a simpler time.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


Though they are quite different in their sound, I would guess the exposure to the HK would make it difficult to listen to the NAD without some sense of something missing from the music. Have you heard the 320BEE or just read about it? How fixed are you on the Monitor Audio's? And how are you with a soldering iron?




 

Bronze Member
Username: Scout

Post Number: 20
Registered: Oct-04
No I have not heard the Nad, I have been reading a lot of reviews, I have heard the Moon i3, and the Creek 5350SE, I liked both of them, the local Hi Fi fellow realy pushes the Bryston and has actually been trying to push me away from Creek, he said they are a nightmare to service. As for the Monitor Audios, I am trying to find a good bookshelf to listen to Jazz, Clasical, and Rock (Zepplin, Pink Floyd, the who) I was leaning towards the Paradign Studio 20's but was told they are more of a HT speaker. as for the soldering iron, I am very handy, I have done lots of wiring.
 

New member
Username: Flaxton

Post Number: 9
Registered: Nov-04
I have a rega planer 3 with a goldring 1042 mm cartridge which sounds great using my Audiolab 8000a intergrated amp phonostage. I asked my dealer if it was worth getting a seperate phonostage. He said tha 8000a has a very good one.
 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 205
Registered: Sep-04
Stephen,

The MM stage in the 8000A was ok (no great shakes, but ok). The MC stage in the 8000A was awful. Very high noise floor etc.

Frank, I've had only a little exposure to Moon. What I've heard I've found to be quite bright and clinical, but as I say, very little exposure to it.

Your local HiFi fellow probably gets great service from Bryston so he's happier to push that. I have to say if a customer asks me about kit that I know is a nightmare to service, then I'll tell him simply because I don't want to face the music when the kit comes back for repair. Creek have been through many changes in the last few years and Mike Creek is now back in charge. The problem is that building back a good service organisation after all those changes can be a bit difficult. Not saying it's a problem, but if your man is having trouble then you need to take that at face value really.

What does your hifi man say you should look at for bookshelf speakers? Here in the UK, I'd recommend AVI Neutron 4, Dynaudio Audience 42 or 52, Totem Dreamcatcher or Mite or wait for the new Naim N-sat which looks to be a cracking fun speaker. Monitor Audios tend to the more laid back approach. I've also heard good things about ATC and PMC.

J. Vigne, the V15 is exactly the cartridge I was thinking of. Could track anything but not particularly musical. Some older MCs tracked at 4gms but the typical tracking weight is under 2 gms nowadays. Most MMs are between 1.5 and 1.9gms so there isn't that much difference between the two types. There are exceptions of course, but they're few and far between.

Regards,
Frank.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Scout

Post Number: 22
Registered: Oct-04
The fellow I am talking to is suggesting the Quad 12L, and the monitor Audio Silver S2.
I have listened to the Quad 11L & Totem Rainmakers and thought they were good but thin. The problem is the speakers are not all available at one place so I am listening to a Creek with B&W at one place and the Moon i3 with the Quads at another. When I bought my Polks, they sounded amazing in the sound room but when I got them home they were missing something. Later I upgraded my Pioneer Elite DVD/CD to a Dennon SACD/DVD Audio and the sound improved substantially. I just don't have the ability to hear the different speakers with different Amps, with different TT due to the limited lines offered by dealers. This is why I turned to the message board. All I want is a TT that I can upgrade if I find the need to seek utopia, a speaker that with acurately portray the music, and an Amp that will not modify the sound. Am I asking too much?
 

Matt L.
Unregistered guest
With turntables I am not much help, I am trying to figure all of this out to buy my first one. But I have heard the paradigm studio 20's and in their price range they do have a good sound. They are not the best I have heard, but in their price range they are very good.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Scout

Post Number: 36
Registered: Oct-04
I pulled the pin on the Amp, I ended up going with the Musical Fidelity X-150, I am going with the Quad speakers, either 12L or 22L, the VPI Scout, Grado Platinum MM Cart. and I will use the phono stage in the X-150 until I can afford the Graham Slee MK V. I will also add the MF Head Phone can, and possibly the tube buffer along the way. I will stick with the Pioneed Elite as a CD source for now, it will be the last comp. I change. I am satisfied having made all of these decisions, I appreciate all of the input I received and hope I will be able to reciprocate in the future.

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