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Audio Technica cartridges for best CD-4 performance

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quadex

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Hey there you vintage quadiophiles! I know- this topic has been kicked around until the diamond fell off the Shibata 😁 but I'd really like your collective input on my question/situation here in the land of old school quad. My setup is a Sansui FR 5080S TT into the QRX 9001 (fully restored by QRX Resto) using low capacitance phono cables. My current cartridge/stylus is an AT14SA bought as NOS a few years ago and used approximately 100 hours. I get a nice strong CD-4 radar signal every time on the QRX and my CD-4 records all sound very nice, with clear discrete 4 channel separation on my records, which are generally VF+ to NM- However, always wanting to improve things, I'd like to upgrade the cartridge to either the AT440MLB ( discontinued I know, but which can buy as NOS) or the newer AT VM750SH. I really love AT products so I'd like your opinions as to whether it is worth it to upgrade, and also, especially, how much a PITA it is to use the mounting screws upside down when trying to align things! Thanks so much for your input. Stay safe out there.
 

J. PUPSTER

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Hey there you vintage quadiophiles! I know- this topic has been kicked around until the diamond fell off the Shibata 😁 but I'd really like your collective input on my question/situation here in the land of old school quad. My setup is a Sansui FR 5080S TT into the QRX 9001 (fully restored by QRX Resto) using low capacitance phono cables. My current cartridge/stylus is an AT14SA bought as NOS a few years ago and used approximately 100 hours. I get a nice strong CD-4 radar signal every time on the QRX and my CD-4 records all sound very nice, with clear discrete 4 channel separation on my records, which are generally VF+ to NM- However, always wanting to improve things, I'd like to upgrade the cartridge to either the AT440MLB ( discontinued I know, but which can buy as NOS) or the newer AT VM750SH. I really love AT products so I'd like your opinions as to whether it is worth it to upgrade, and also, especially, how much a PITA it is to use the mounting screws upside down when trying to align things! Thanks so much for your input. Stay safe out there.
I have a QRX-8001, and have been running a AT440MLb through it, seems to do a nice job per most folks, but have heard the AT14's-AT15's do a great job also.
I also have tried the AT VM740ML through it and thought it was just a gnat's tooshie brighter, (but need more testing to be sure.)

And yeah, the upside down mounting screws are a real PITA - at least for me.
 

vinylguy4

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I have a AT150Sa (w/shibata) and a AT440ML(with mla stylus) I just could not get a good CD-4 sound from the shibata stylus on the AT150Sa. I put the at440mla stylus on the AT150 and then got a good sound from the CD-4. I have 2 shibata styli for the AT150Sa and the both acted the same, so did not seem to be a bad sample.
So next time I need a new stylus or cartridge, I'll be getting a ML.
My AT20sla is still my favorite for CD-4, but finding a new stylus will be difficult.
 
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n8nagel

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This is literally the only cart I've used with CD-4, but I have two used AT-15Sa bodies with a JICO Shibata stylus and it's rock solid. I'd be tempted to just get a JICO stylus for your AT and keep on rollin'.

I chose to go this route rather than an AT440MLx because while the two options were about the same price, the AT-15Sa was specifically designed and listed for CD-4 reproduction, and also the aftermarket styluses are available (although not cheap)
 

n8nagel

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My AT20sla is still my favorite for CD-4, but finding a new stylus will be difficult.
What's the difference between a Sa and SLa? (honest question, I don't know) JICO makes a Shibata tip ATN15, I am using one now, that would fit an AT20Sa
 

Doug G.

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I have some of each and, in my opinion, you won't better anything with newer cartridges as compared to the 14, 15, or even the 12 series. They never falter but my 440MLa does have trouble, sometimes, Not often but... The only advantage of modern ones, of course, is the availability of styli.

Doug
 

n8nagel

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I have some of each and, in my opinion, you won't better anything with newer cartridges as compared to the 14, 15, or even the 12 series. They never falter but my 440MLa does have trouble, sometimes, Not often but... The only advantage of modern ones, of course, is the availability of styli.

Doug
My own personal calculus was the opposite - an AT440MLb is $209 from LPGear while I can get a JICO ATN15 for slightly less direct from Japan, or $140 if I'm willing to wait for LPTunes to get it back in stock (right now I have two bodies but only one known good stylus, so I am definitely on the mailing list for when that happens). So actually the "classic" CD-4 cartridges have the advantage here in my mind.

If there is a downside to running an old AT-15Sa or AT-20Sa, it's that the stylus available is a Shibata and that's your only option (for CD-4; you can get ellipticals as well.) would be nice to have the option of using a micro-line but apparently JICO doesn't see the need to offer one. TTN does offer a "linear contact stylus" for the 15/20 but it's "BLISSpro" who knows who makes that, and it's also $220...

So far the combination of a used AT-15Sa and a JICO ATN-15 is working well for me although as I said above this is the only combination that I've tried to use for CD-4 playback.
 

quadex

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My own personal calculus was the opposite - an AT440MLb is $209 from LPGear while I can get a JICO ATN15 for slightly less direct from Japan, or $140 if I'm willing to wait for LPTunes to get it back in stock (right now I have two bodies but only one known good stylus, so I am definitely on the mailing list for when that happens). So actually the "classic" CD-4 cartridges have the advantage here in my mind.

If there is a downside to running an old AT-15Sa or AT-20Sa, it's that the stylus available is a Shibata and that's your only option (for CD-4; you can get ellipticals as well.) would be nice to have the option of using a micro-line but apparently JICO doesn't see the need to offer one. TTN does offer a "linear contact stylus" for the 15/20 but it's "BLISSpro" who knows who makes that, and it's also $220...

So far the combination of a used AT-15Sa and a JICO ATN-15 is working well for me although as I said above this is the only combination that I've tried to use for CD-4 playback.
I have a AT14SA (in service), AT15S and an AT15SA. All have new or near new styli. Can't be beat.
Thank you for your input. I think I'm going with an AT15Sa with a lightly-used ATN15SS stylus. Would this be a good combination in your experience?
 

Doug G.

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My main thrust above wasn't stylus availability but performance. While it is generally touted that modern micro line styli work better for CD-4, I don't believe that to necessarily be true. My old cartridges with good Shibatas or contemporary cuts, perform as good or, actually better, than my modern cartridges with later diamond cuts.

Doug
 

gvl_guy

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Don't forget that the JVC branded CD-4 cartridges are also actually Audio-Technica. I have a 4MD-20x and it works great, although I prefer my Shure M24H which I bought new waaaay back when quad was actually around. As a backup, I recently bought the JVC (N-O-S) and a N-O-S replacement stylus too.
 

Doug G.

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Bah, after I wrote the above post, I realized, or I should say re-realized, it is more likely due to electrical differences between the old designed-for-CD-4 cartridges and modern cartridges people are using for CD-4 that account for performance differences rather than the cut of the diamond. There's no reason a straight micro ridge or linear cut stylus should not work well for CD-4.

The cartridge response/separation of modern cartridges are probably not specifically designed with CD-4 in mind and so performance may not be quite as good.

Doug
 

jaybird100

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I have some of each and, in my opinion, you won't better anything with newer cartridges as compared to the 14, 15, or even the 12 series. They never falter but my 440MLa does have trouble, sometimes, Not often but... The only aa of modern ones, of course, is the availability of styli.

Doug
They offer a very fine new model, the AT-VM95SH, that has the Shibata stylus, and works quite nicely for CD-4. It's not cheap, but it's the best option I know of right now.
 

fredblue

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has anybody here using an AT440MLa/b managed to get a stable "meep" 30kHz carrier tone with one of the automatic carrier lock model demodulators?

i've tried everything i can with both of my auto carrier lock demodulators (Marantz CD-400B and Grundig Quadro) to get the tone to "meeeeep" rather than "waahhh" with the AT440MLb, adjusting VTF, VTA, anti-skating, azimuth, to no avail.. 🤷‍♀️

however i can adjust the carrier level on a JVC 4DD-5 and get the 30kHz test tone to "meeeeep" like a bell with the AT440MLb and when i use the AT15S (and even my JVC 4MD-10x that is a complete horror-show that can't demodulate a bean noise-free in my rig) i can get that 30kHz tone meep-ing rather than waahhh-ing thru the CD-400B.

fascinating, n'est pas...!? 🤔
 

Doug G.

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I haven't really messed around with that but my 440MLa works very well with CD-4, generally, but has problems in some difficult passages (loud violin/orchestral/Hugo Montenegro stuff) where my old made-for-CD-4 cartridges don't.

What would need to be done is a frequency sweep/separation test to see if there is a shortcoming at the ultrasonic end.

Doug
 

fredblue

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I haven't really messed around with that but my 440MLa works very well with CD-4, generally, but has problems in some difficult passages (loud violin/orchestral/Hugo Montenegro stuff) where my old made-for-CD-4 cartridges don't.

What would need to be done is a frequency sweep/separation test to see if there is a shortcoming at the ultrasonic end.

Doug
after fiddling about with an AT440MLb for CD-4 use on and off the last 5 or so years, i suspect the stylus is probably upto the job but the cart itself maybe isn't...

how much effect would you say the 47k Vs 100k loading thing has on CD-4 performance?
 

Doug G.

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I guess it would depend on how much that affects the frequency response/separation at the high end but I believe history has shown that that is not as critical an aspect as some of the other CD-4 parameters.

Doug
 
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