Originally Posted by grokit
Thanks for the reply. As far as looks, AVA Hifi's version isn't bad at all:
I haven't done the exact math yet but I've ballparked it from looking at the examples, and I'm pretty sure the standard Prestige series carts are in the sweet spot for the SL1200 MKII with the standard arm/headshell and no extra weight (details below). My plan at KAB is to have Kevin set it up with a Grado Silver after he does the mods to see if I like the Grado house sound with my system.
If I do, it seems the ideal would be to have KAB's upgraded "Paratrace Line Contact Diamond" stylus featured in his KAB Gold1 installed into one of AVA's Longhorn Gold carts, pictured above. The way AVA describes the Longhorn benefits:
The Longhorn Stabilizer acts to eliminate cartridge/tone arm interactions, reduce high frequency resonances from propagating to the tone arm bearings, lets unipiviot arms behave with better stability, and dramatically improve imaging and sound stage capabilities.
AVA also internally damps the coils of their Longhorn carts to "eliminate microphonics", and they damp the suspension to "eliminate mechanical resonances".
But I doubt that it will be possible to combine the two, as KAB doesn't mention anything about their stylus being user-replaceable, just "warranted". And evidently AVA does some stylus improvements of their own. As I have a wide variety of records from Grandma's classical albums and stepdad's Time/Life series to 70/80's pop/rock/jazz and half-speed masters/Japanese pressings to modern 180/200g audiophile pressings, do you think that I would I benefit more from the Longhorn mod or from a line contract stylus?
I am thinking that the AVA-improved stylus would be somehow in-between the KAB stylus and Grado's "specially designed elliptical diamond" stylus performance-wise, but I really have no idea at this point as I'm just going by the prices and descriptions from the makers. AVA does the Longhorn mod and internal damping, and adds their "specially treated user-replaceable stylus assemblies" to both of their Longhorn carts; the Longhorn Gold supposedly features additional "special musicality improvements".
KAB's sole improvement seems to be their super-duper line contact stylus. The only opinion I can find comparing the two seems to agree that I should try and put the KAB stylus on the AVA Longhorned cart for ultimate Gold1 performance.
I have no idea what AVA's actual stylus tip modifications are. But the fact that it's user-replaceable appeals to me, and they do want a pretty penny for it compared to their Longhorn Green replacement stylus so there must be some improvement over stock. Overall their modded Longhorn cart is $50 cheaper than KAB's Gold1 with their line contact diamond. That's why I'm just going with the Silver1 for now, so I can decide which Gold1 to upgrade to later if I so desire after I sell the Denon stuff off.
I suppose that if the added weight of the Longhorned cart throws the RF formula off too much, then it's a moot point? In that case would an added counterweight help to compensate for the heavier cart, or is it still all about the mass of the arm/headshell? I'll have to find out the added weight of the Longhorned cart and do the math. I'm pretty sure that the stock Technics arm/headshell is 12g, plus .5g for the hardware, and the stock Prestige carts weigh in at 6.5g. The compliance of the stock stylus is 20 but I don't know about the upgraded ones.
This is complicated! Do you think I'm on the right track? Please be gentle.
edit: I did the calculations and the RF for the stock cart should be 7.295 Hz if I did it right. I suppose it's already at the low end and the Longhorn mod would then be detrimental? I hope not because I'm kind of sold on it.
also: I guess all the Prestige series styli are user-replaceable after all:
Imagine this is elementary school : Grokit , you get a 5 ( European system ) an A ( American system ) for your about as internet researched homework as it gets !
It is a little hard to be gentle with Grado, harder when any Grado mod is concerned, harder still when AVA Longhorn is concerned, and the hardest when you want to crisscross Expert Stylus' Paratrace stylus ( what KAB Gold 1 really is ) ( Paratrace is a Ven den Hul in all but name ) with AVA Longhorn - WITHOUT being familiar with the Grado house sound in the first place. Trouble with Grado, ANY Grado, is the fact that if you do not like the sound of the cheapest model you are not likely to find TOTL to your liking either.
Grado line with replaceable stylus can be viewed as either to have advantages or disadvantages compared to user nonreplaceable woodies - depends on how you use it. Fact is that for the ultimate super duper alignment of the stylus ( to be precise - part of the 4 pole pieces that are integrated in the stylus holder ) relative to the cartridge ( to be precise - the other 4 pole pieces with coils on them ). There is a certain amount of "free play" as just how precise you insert the stylus holder - it can be optimized (and fixed in position by some semi-permanent glue as by AVA ) using test record and an oscilloscope. You can not eyeball it with anything like the precision of test record method.
Above assumes that your tonearm is DEAD CENTER PERPENDICULAR/PARALLEL to the record surface as regards the azimuth. By fixing the stylus holder in this way, you have to make certain that your arm is indeed dead center perpendicular/parallel to the record for azimuth. Sl 1200 offers fine azimuth adjustment only if and when a headshell with azimuth adjustment is used. FORGET the two tiny screws that hold the headshell bayonet in the arm tube - the amount of adjustment is usually too tiny to be possible to make so small adjustment there without introducing a wacky mechanical joint - which is obviously a no go. The headshells that do allow for the azimuth adjustments tend to be rare, the ones that do not weigh a ton are rarer still - and vintage light ones with azimuth adjustment go for silly money on ebay.
II usually use Grados with replaceable styli with arms that do not allow for azimuth adjustment as follows : using a test record and an oscilloscope, I adjust the stylus in its "free play window" relative to cartridge body for the most symetrical output/channell separation possible - usually it is possible to get it spot on. In cases of no azimuth adjustment of your arm, a fixed stylus is a liability - but you have to know how to adjust it in the first place to be able to use this feature that was not thought to be used at all for this or any other purpose.
Grado uses "goo"
around and over its elastomer suspension - DO NOT REMOVE IT, untidy as it may appear, it is ESSENTIAL to the performance. By varying the amount of this "goo" it is possible to fine tune the cantilever damping. AVA takes advantage of this an will make certain that each and every cart performs to the max. You have to know that Frank Van Alstine is great tinkerer and has MANY aces up his sleeve - there are more mods to the stylus, I had a good laugh when seeing the first AVA stylus back in the early 80s - and as unruly and untidy it may have appeared to the "innocent bystander audiophile" - there IS a sound engineering reason behind it. In short - Frank took "each and every, fair and unfair method" ( remember the speech delivered by the officer to the cadets in An Officer and Gentlemen movie ? ) to bring the best out of Grado.
Since you mentioned LPs "in less than pristine condition" - this makes things tougher still. Usual record wear, not to mention too light tracking, will leave permanent demage in the groove - and playing such LPs back with anything but a stylus with so large large scanning radius that it can "bridge" the demaged portion of the groove will result in unsatisfactory playback - simply too distorted. This means large scanning radius of 70 microns or larger - VdH II, VdH I, Micro Line/Ridge/Reach/SAS, Fritz Gyger II, I and S styli - and that VdH in disguise called Paratrace on KAB Gold 1.
If you can, try ANY Grado first on your table. If it proves to be basically to your liking - play "less than pristine LPs" with it. If they sound thumb down - try playing them on Audio Technica AT440MLa ( the least expensive Micro Line stylus at the moment ) - if that yields clean enough result and you like Grado family sound better than AT, I wish you luck. Because you will need it, to persuade KAB and AVA to cooperate ( or at least not fight each other ) to produce a FrankenGrado with the the best of both worlds united in a single cart. Without burning too deep a hole in your pocket.
Regarding the resonant frequency - yes, this below 8 Hz is too low already. Only way with SL1200 is by using lower mass headshell - wish you luck finding it on ebay in reasonable future - but it will not be cheap. DO NOT FORGET TO TAKE THE RESONANCE FREQUENCY TEST / MEASUREMENT WITH HFN TEST RECORD - as stated, compliance varies a bit sample to sample and can vary more with mods.
I believe you will not find this answer exactly gentle. BUT I have tried - the best I could possibly do after discovering yesterday a cart/preamp combo that finally seems to be THE answer to all my prayers regarding toothpick that will do justice to the signal recorded in the vinyl grooves. Trouble is, as usual, it looks expensive - at 12K, no way I can afford it in forseeable future ...
P.S: To all firms offering loans - FORGET keeping sending me spam with such offers, I had to learn to live within my finacial capabilities and will stick with this decision. A-men!
Edited by analogsurviver - 3/29/13 at 2:22am