Digital quandaries – or analog ones?

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…

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The Gold is Blue… or viceversa?

 

grado-gold-black2a-300x300After 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?

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I have no words….

I’ve spent some money in the past on turntable cartridges and styli. It’s nothing exaggerated, it’s not a typical feature of mine, I’m not a serial collector and I don’t buy things just for the sake of it; I only do it if I need something. So I spent what today would be about 200e for the first serious cartridge I had, a Grado Prestige Gold first series. To replace the stylus years later I spent I think a hundred euros. Then I read about the performance of the 8MZ replacement stylus and spent 150 Euros between cost and shipping. So I wanted to try a Signature Series body and found a used 8MX for 100 euros. Recently I wanted to try a Grado Prestige Black 2 stylus on the Gold 0 body. About $50. As you can see, nothing transcendental or impossible.

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A Signature Story (remembering a man I never met)

My two and a half readers should know I am fond of Grado cartridges for reasons that go beyond the inherent value and performance. Soon after I started spinning vinyl records again, I wanted a cartridge my Thorens turntable deserved. I asked for advice on TNT-Audio and among the various brand names among which I was solicited to search there was Grado. I already had amazing Grado headphones. The Italian name also kind of attracted me, so I went for the top of the Prestige line, the first edition of the Gold cartridge. Many years later I learned it was loaded with an 8MZ-v stylus. It must have been a mistake at Grado Labs while assembling the very specimen that would find its way to my address. Much, much later I discovered the 8MZ was considered a noticeable upgrade for Prestige cartridges. For years, I ran that cartridge with no realization about this. I didn’t even know how important was to correctly setup a floating chassis turntable like the Thorens. I finally consumed the stylus I though was just a Gold 0 and replaced with a then new Gold1 stylus. That’s when I discovered the Audiokarma forum.

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Grado Prestige reaches level 3

hifi-grado_prestige_goldI’ve always been fond of hifi products from Grado Labs, this is no secret. I also sympathize with the Grado family for some reasons. They have just revived their phono cartridge lines. My beloved Prestige Series are now at the number 3 edition. And rumor has it they are excellent! Mine is not a review nor a test. I don’t have any Prestige 3 yet (maybe). I’m just summarizing what I heard from others. Basically, it seems the whole Prestige 3 Series is hands down superior to the preceding Prestige 2. Of course John Grado seems to be convinced about it, but some early purchaser is already listening something better out of their new Prestige 3 Series…

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