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TIU

Cart or tonearm, which has the most influence?

38 posts in this topic

I've heard it said that a reasonable budget cartridge on an expensive tonearm and deck will easily outperform an expensive MC cartridge on a reasonable budget tonearm and deck.

Those who believe in the source first maxim may not agree. I have always thought the cartridge would play the larger part in vinyl reproduction but now I'm not sure. Is the cartridge the last, less important piece of the puzzle to drop in place?

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I've always found that the TT makes the most difference, usually followed by cart then tonearm..

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the theory is that i 20 quid audio technica cartridge in a super deck like the sme 30 will sound better than say a van den colibri in a rega planer 3.

i have never tried it but i'm sure many have.

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the cart makes the most difference to the sound, but as has been said, you'll only hear 30% of a £2000 cart in a £20 arm, but %99 of a cheap cartridge in a £2000 arm. Why not just buy an arm that is good enough to do justice to any cart you might afford in the future?

like an :zip::)

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Easier said than done rocky? I am starting to think that your first statement is not true. The rest of the TT plays a bigger, more crucial part? Certainly has more influence than a cdp casing over its transport and DAC. Maybe the answer is to buy one of those older Thorens or Garrard decks (which used to be unreachable high end when new) with standard arm fitting and invest in the best tonearm you can afford, and then look at the cart?

Think about it, almost all carts, even £50 ones will quote a full frequency range of 20kHz to 20Hz and beyond. It's what is done with it that counts.

How many members have posted for advice on which cart to upgrade to in order to upgrade their TT when in actual fact they should be upgrading their tonearm instead for a much bigger improvement? This is true if we are to believe Rudi's comment above, which seems to make sense.

It has got me thinking, hmmm.....

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While it's not perfect, the RB250/300 is good enough to let almost any cartridge do its stuff mechanically and is perhaps the cheapest available 'proper' arm.

You'd need to be using a pretty decent TT to really get the benefit of something better armwise.

I'd even say that once you'd got such a TT then you could use a fairly exotic cartridge (and rest of system) before that arm started to become a limiting factor.

Once upon a time cheap arms really weren't very good but that's not the case now.

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I don't know if this will help sort it out in your mind.

A bad turntable (note I didn't say a cheap one) will fnark everything up no matter what arm/cart combo you put on it. Ditto the arm.

Think of the arm and turntable just as a platform which will (or won't) enable a cartridge to show what it is capable of. Assuming that the cart is a good match with the arm in terms of resonance.

If you have a good solid and stable platform the cartridgeif itsreasonably competent will sound good ... a better cartridge will however sound better :) But only if you got to first base with the TT and arm in the first place.

There's a lot more than quoted frequency range figures - tracking, compliance, stylus shape, tip mass, resonance characteristics ... after all most amps and speakers also will quote at least 20Hz to 20kHz ... they don't all perform equally well.

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I understand fully what you are saying Uncle Ants and Murray, but this is the part I'm puzzled over.

If you have a good solid and stable platform the cartridge assuming its reasonably competent will sound good ... a better cartridge will however sound better. But only if you got to first base with the TT and arm in the first place.

This is what I thought but I'm now questioning this belief (slightly). For example, you have a standard Rega P3 with the good quality RB300 arm, or whatever Rega supply with it, and you want to make a first upgrade. What do most owners do first? Upgrade the cart when in actual fact they should be keeping the supplied cart and upgrading the tonearm for a much better improvement. I'm just questioning the importance of the cart over the tonearm, that's all. I do agree that a better cart on a good solid deck with a quiet motor will reap dividends but not as much as a better tonearm. I won't quote any frequency range figures again as I agree they're mostly meaningless.

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murray johnson wrote:

While it's not perfect, the RB250/300 is good enough to let almost any cartridge do its stuff mechanically and is perhaps the cheapest available 'proper' arm.

You'd need to be using a pretty decent TT to really get the benefit of something better armwise.

I'd even say that once you'd got such a TT then you could use a fairly exotic cartridge (and rest of system) before that arm started to become a limiting factor.

Once upon a time cheap arms really weren't very good but that's not the case now.

:goodone:yep the rega is a super arm. 95% an sme v without sme v prices.
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sorry TIU, I didn't see the 'deck' part of your comment...just cart vs arm. NATCH as an owner of a (ok I'll shut up) I'd say more or less what uncle ants said, and I agree with Murray about modern arms, but there are plenty of awful arms from pre 1990 fitted to quite decent decks (with thorens, for example, being guilty...I owned one on a 150Mk11 ..luvly deck...good sound, but the arm was el crapola). I tend to agree too that there is a big synergy thing going on here...compliance is vital, but sounds must work together too musnt they, just as dry amp/cd/speakers will drive you insane (unless you like that sort of thing), so will clean forward cart/ neutral arm and cold detailed deck....shiver).

So look for a good manufacturer or a dealer who has taken the trouble to try and put sympathetic kit together, and tune to taste with cart. Always worked for me, but then I got a good deck....:minikiev:

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TIU wrote:

For example, you have a standard Rega P3 with the good quality RB300 arm, or whatever Rega supply with it, and you want to make a first upgrade. What do most owners do first? Upgrade the cart when in actual fact they should be keeping the supplied cart and upgrading the tonearm for a much better improvement.

Because they want to upgrade, not buy a better deck. The weak link in the P3/RB300 combination probably isn't the arm relatively speaking. If you wanted to totally maximise the performance of a competent but relatively budget cartridge, you would keep the RB300 and buy a better deck ... but for most people that isn't an attractive proposition.

Besides the P3 is fairly competent in itself, its not like an upgrade from say a Goldring Elektra to a 1042 isn't something you will notice, you will - and for a lot less than the price of a new tt. Upgrading the cart is effective and cheaper.

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I have messed about with a few decks over the years, and would say that its deck>arm>cart. You can put a better cart on a less good arm, but not get all it can do, or stick a less 'good' cart on the better arm and get much more from it it.

There is also the point to bear in mind, that in theory the deck and are a long term hardware investment, and a cart is replaceable software. i.e. when buying a deck/arm set up, if you have to save anywhere save on the cart, you can replace that easily later.

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Strange that I was thinking about this today whilst driving to work.

I ended up with cart,deck,arm but I can't remember why. Will think about it again.

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