I’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…
Recently I have had some doubts about my blinded preference for anything Grado. I used to think such good guys could not make anything actually wrong. But this is not what a Hifi enthusiast is supposed to do when selecting items to spend money for. Well, I actually like the sound of my Grado cartridges but for a while I was not sure: my Grado cartridge styli were damaged, I was forced to listen to something else and I did like what I heard anyway. But when I had the chance to come back to using Grado cartridges…. WOW!!!
Taking advantage of the big step forward Grado made in offering the Prestige 2 series, I bought the cheapest Grado Black 2 stylus and revived my old Gold0 body, following a suggestion from my favorite cartiridge retipper. He experienced extremely good performance by this inexpensive stylus replacement, so I gave it a try -> Well, I was amazed! I love how my old Gold0 is sounding today with a simple Black2 (?) stylus (more on this later). But surprisingly, the Grado Labs came out recently with their Prestige 3 series! And people say they completely outperform the preceding Prestige 2! Some found a Prestige Blue 3 almost being better than a Gold 2 on certain aspects! The separation and imaging appear to be superior, they’re less susceptible to hum, and no inner grove distortion has been experienced (I never had with my older ones, too, anyway). First Gold3 purchasers speak of a realistic sound, natural and organic. The Gold3 seems to be quite and dynamic enough. Bass is reportedly very strong and the top end not extremely extended and detailed, although it does not appear to miss anything.
At Grado Labs they made improvements on both bodies (inner wirings) and styli. Grado do not update their products just for profit, as there have been no price increase in the Prestige series – at any past upgrades. They do update when they think they can introduce a noticeable improvement. I would certainly go for a Prestige 3 series cartridge as soon as I could. But my doubt here is: I have a splendid Signature 8MX cartridge. The Signature series shows less separation than the Prestige 2 series, let alone the Prestige 3. But, guess what: Grado also improved the 8MZ stylus replacement! The new 8MZ seems to be going back to the original size, a 0.2 x 0.6 bonded diamond (much more refined than the Prestige Gold 3’s bonded 0.3 x 0.7 one), with a tremendous amount of detail, more open mids and a wider soundtage. People I know who are close to John Grado say the new 8MZ has astounding performance and it would make any Signature or Prestige body sing with slamming bass and fabulous top end, far superior to what the already revered 8MZ did – and even at the same price!
So, Grado did it again. They say John Grado himself is enthusiastic about his own new products. I would have imagined the new Prestige 3 series to blow out the Signature performances (there were suspects the Gold2 and the old 8MZ styli were the same), instead they came out with an improved 8MZ design over the Prestige Gold’s tip profile.
But there’s more to it. Some say their new Grado Prestige 3 cartridges have 2019 stamped on them. How can it be? The Grado Labs claim they actually started production of the Prestige 3 Series in July 2019 but shipped them as Prestige 2. I bought a Black “2” stylus last October: chances are it is actually a Black 3 stylus. That would explain the surprising performance I am experiencing (like people far more experienced than me were) with that cheap stylus on just a Gold0 cart from 2005! But I can’t be sure because it depends on when the dealer received the stylus he sold me, before or after July 2019.
I remain with another Hifi dilemma: should I go for a Prestige 3 cartridge, maybe up to the Gold3, or I’d be better off with a newly redesigned 8MZ for my Signature 8MX cartridge? Who knows, maybe both? After all, the new 8MZ replacement stylus seems to remain a good upgrade even for the new Prestige 3 bodies…