Mono y mono

October 13, 2015


I haven't traded e-mail with you for quite some time, but I have continued to enjoy The Audio Beat tremendously, so thank you!

As opposed to my very complicated main system, which is based on the Legacy Whisper speakers, subs and DSP -- with so many cables it makes my head spin (and therefore makes it difficult to tackle issues of power conditioners, cables, vibration and isolation) -- I am attempting to change my bedroom system into a very simple, purely mono listening experience (due in no small part to past discussions with you).

I was planning on using my top-line LFD integrated amp and phono amps. These are British-built, no-frills solid-state gear, and I am planning on purchasing a Palmer turntable and mono cartridge, possibly the Ortofon Cadenza, and perhaps upgrading my Harbeth Compact 7ES3s to 30.1s.

Here is my big question for you: is it enough to have a mono cartridge to play mono LPs or do I need I stereo/mono switch on either the phono stage or preamp because neither of my LFD products have a switch? (I am hoping the switch is for switching a stereo LP to mono, say, for example, if I want to hear an early Dylan MoFi stereo release without the extreme separation). Can you please explain to me how this all works and what I need to play my mono LPs? Any comments on my planned system and do you have any recommendations on mono cartridges?

Jeff Levine

You don't need a mono cartridge to play mono LPs. A stereo cartridge will do it. In fact, most (perhaps all) of today's newest mono LPs are cut with stereo cutter heads and not to the same specs as vintage mono LPs, so playing them with a stereo cartridge may make the most sense. However, I can say from a lot of experience that a mono LP played with a mono cartridge does sound better than played with a stereo cartridge, even a contemporary mono LP. There's a directness and purity that are endearing, and they are not the same with a stereo cartridge. A mono cartridge will also reduce noise from small scratches and groove damage. If you have a mono cartridge, you don't need to use a phono stage or preamp with a mono switch. Even with a stereo cartridge playing a new mono LP, such a switch isn't mandatory, but it can lock in the center image if your cartridge mounting isn't optimal.

As for which mono cartridge to buy, Ortofon has a few MC models that I'm sure are very good, but the one I would choose is the Audio-Technica AT-33MONO, which is a low-output moving-coil (.35mV) from Audio-Technica's top series of cartridges. It also appears to be a from-the-ground-up mono design, not just a modified stereo cartridge. You can't buy it in the US, but it is available on eBay directly from Japan, where it's made. It will cost around $300. If your phono stage has enough gain, this cartridge should provide all of the sonic splendor of your mono LPs. -Marc Mickelson

Ypsilon amps and "natural timbres"

October 5, 2015


I just read with great interest your report on the Aaudio Imports system with Ypsilon electronics. I was wondering if you found the system to have SET-type natural timbres (I just don’t like the word neutral that most reviewers use, as to me it usually means lacking full harmonic structure), microdynamics and transparency, given the SET 100 Ultimate amps in the system.

I know this was a totally new system for you, so it's hard to isolate contributions, but if the overall system had these characteristics, then I would imagine the Ypsilon amps must be contributing something toward these characteristics. Perhaps Aaudio may give you a pair of SET 100 Ultimates to review! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Ashish Varma

I think what you're describing is what I was getting at with the sentence, "That the Ypsilon electronics can sustain such extreme treble resolution is noteworthy; that they can do so while still sounding natural is an aberration." That is, the Ypsilon electronics had the definition and speed, especially in the upper regions, to keep up with the massless Lansche plasma tweeter, but they didn't achieve this at the cost of a more easeful, natural portrayal of the music -- a true oddity for audio electronics. I would love to review the SET 100 Ultimate amps, but Aaudio doesn't stock them, due to their high cost, so I'm sure a demo pair -- other than the amps in Brian Ackerman's listening room -- doesn't exist. -Marc Mickelson

Joining the TAB reader list

October 1, 2015


Would you kindly add me to your distribution list?

I am particularly interested in the Ayre KX-5 Twenty/VX-5 Twenty review.

Mike Kuoppis

You're on the list. If others want to join TAB's reader e-mail list and find out about new articles first, they can send a message to rl@theaudiobeat.com.

As for the Ayre review, it's underway, although I can't say for sure when it will be published. However, you'll see it first now that you're on the reader list. --Marc Mickelson

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