When I was young there were “pen pals,” remember? People wrote to each other without perhaps ever meeting, and they were usually foreigners with whom we practiced a language other than our own. Maybe it was the school that put you in touch. Actually at that time I never did, I didn’t have pen pals of my own. Today with internet forums it’s all different but certainly it’s easier to meet people with similar interests with whom you interface only textually and maybe even end up meeting one day. That’s how a few years ago I made friends with an Italian-American from New York whom I met on a famous high-fidelity forum.
I’ve been a little indecisive lately about using cartridges on my Thorens TD-160 turntable. I’m fond of the Grado brand because I really like the idea that in today’s USA there is a family-owned company making cartridges and headphones by hand in an old Brooklyn workshop using even old machines that were born for watchmaking. But with the Grados I had big problems. Not because of them (no Grado dance, Grado hum or… “deGraded” performance in the innermost part of the records). The fault is entirely mine. I was extremely clumsy in replacing stylii. I ruined three of them. A very precious 8MZ (I’m still in mourning), a Gold1 and a Black2. All while I was in economic conditions that did not allow me to spend money on Hifi.
Since I started buying and reselling HiFi equipment, I came across a few really good deals. At the beginning the money I spent has been quite a lot, at least for my economical “status” (unoccupied student). But the original core of my first real serious system revealed to be a good investment. Plus, later I happened to find some good stuff just by chance. The amplifier I bought in late 1991 to pilot the loudspeakers I wanted (the TDL Studio 0.5 transmission lines) proved to be a very good investment since I bought it for 1.35 million Lire and sold it in 2019 for 500 euros. although 1 million lire of those days would actually compare to 1000 euros today, mathematically speaking it is almost the same figure (500 euros are around 1 million Lire), therefore the old Italian-made Unison Research Mood kept its value fairly well.
Every now and then I vent on this blog the hifi quandaries that arise after certain reflections. Obviously I choose the exaggerated word quandary to be ironic about the problems that often attack the minds of hifi enthusiasts, known as audiophiles. How can these really be existential problems? Much more should we worry about and turn into a real quandary. So let me be self-ironic and get to the point, because for someone who has a blog titled “I still play vinyl” and shares tips on how to best adjust Thorens turntables, this could be a real revolution, something total that shakes the foundations. On the plus side, questioning oneself and one’s ability to change ideas and contradict oneself is sometimes a good thing…
If my two and a half readers have followed my posts about turntable cartridges, they will have found them rather erratic. In one of them I admitted complete confusion. There are reasons to that. The first one is I had changed integrated amplifier, speaker cables and listening room in a short time period. I lost control on my overall sound so I was not sure what was going on. My few readers would know I am fond of Grado cartridges and the way the company is family-run in the old legendary labs in Brooklyn, NY. But I had some misfortune with my Grado styli and broke the two I had just when I had lost my job and could not spend money on that stuff. Something happened in that period that made me think twice about my favorite brand and caused some confusion in what I believed were my tastes. I found a Shure cart for free from a broken turnable.
After having used Grado cartridges for years, I am now running a Shure M97HE body with a Nagaoka N97ED stylus. It is not the best the M97 body could do because it deserves a hyperelliptical stylus tip, but it still sounds really good. I also have another option, a surprising Audiotechnica AT95 upgraded with an LP Gear HE stylus. Stunning performance. A proper Shure M97HE should be even better but I still haven’t found a hyperelliptical stylus. And my Grado cartridges? I have an old Prestige Gold0 body. It had been outperformed by the following Gold1, completely outshone by the Gold2 and killed definitively by the latest Gold3 version.
The Prestige Series 3 has been a major performance upgrade by Grado. I have been considering buying one for months. But I have a nice Signature 8MX body that would deserve a proper stylus, usually the choice is the venerable 8MZ, also recently upgraded by Grado. What to do?