Description

Earlier version of my system here. Something I put together 10 years ago, many components are gone, some are still in my present system. This is a retrospective of my system and I like to see it this way. The core does not change: I'm still with high efficient speakers and low power amps (tube and solid state), still mix together new high-end and vintage high-end. My journey into the obscure world of vintage MM and MC cartridges, turntables and tonearms began in 2011. At that time my desire for serious system upgrade was so obvious, it was such a great period of my life. I wasn't new to vinyl, having been doing it since the mid '90s, my record collection was big enough and finally I decided to pimp up my pair of Technics SL1210 mkII I've been using since 1995. Surprisingly I ended up with a new Technics SP-10 mkII in my main system and then my old SL1210 mkII slowly migrated to another room from my main system. My collection of cartridges and tonearms started to grow slowly and I was fascinated about improvement in sound with my new discoveries. This chapter of my gallery is dedicated to 2011 - 2017. Would be nice to read your comments.  

If you want to see stuff purchased later please switch to my System TWO in the next gallery.
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    • Technics SP-10 mkII
    This SP-10 mk2 in a custom made teak wood plinth was my reference turntable since 2013. Absolutely stunning Direct Drive machine in immaculate condition. My working horse for a long time with different tonearms and cartridges.
    • ZYX Premium 4D SB2 (Copper Coil, LOMC)
    Great example of two ultra high-end LOMC cartridges from the Japanese brand ZYX. Premium 4D model (on the left) with Copper Coil was purchased from the Sorasound as an upgrade over previously purchased R1000 Airy 3 with Silver Coil. These two are the most expensive cartridges I have ever bought so far. Later I discovered some of the best vintage MM and MC cartridges (NOS) for much lower prices and to my ears they are better than modern overpriced high-end LOMC. More expensive gear is NOT always better when it comes to phono cartridges - lesson number one! 
    • WLM Minueta (push-pull tube amp)
    Made by Trafomatic Audio for WLM Acoustics (Austria), the retail price for my version was about €2800, but I bought a demo unit from a WLM distributor in Finland at a big discount. Immediately replaced stock tubes with very rare NOS military Telefunken E84L and ecc801s. For my Zu Audio Druid speakers it was an amazing tube amp and I've been using it for a long time. Good reviews on 6 moons.  
    • Audio-Technica ART-2000 (Limited Edition)
    Limited edition model for the Japanese market only! The ART-2000 was released in 2000 (millenium special). First LOMC is 21st century from Audio-Technica. We've been waiting for the apocalypse, but they made a new cartridge :) 
    • Thomas Schick 12 inch tonearm
    For Technics SP-10 mkII this is one of the most beautiful modern "12 inch tonearm money can buy. Excellent for low compliance MC cartridges, but also nice for mid compliance MM. Made in Germany.
    • Ortofon SPU Spirit (Limited Edition)
    Ortofon made only 500 units and mine was number 500 according to serial number (imagine, it was the last one). Ortofon SPU Spirit was a special limited edition series made for the Japanese market only.
    • Telefunken E84L (NOS)
    Military Telefunken power tubes in my WLM Minueta push-pull amp. This is extremely rare E81L tube purchased NOS (matched quad) from The Tube Museum in New York City. One of the best EL84 tubes ever made. I still have have them in the vaults.
    • Zu Audio Druid MK4 (stage-1 upgrade kit included)
    I bought my Zu Audio Druid speakers in 2011 and soon upgraded them in 2013 with Stage-1 upgrade kit provided by the manufacturer as follows: 

    1x Matched pair high-output nanotech (Zu103ND/G1-16) drivers w/ 600 hours burn-in. 16x #9 Torx T-25 stainless FRD mounting screws. This kit is all about giving as much of what’s hot in the Druid Mk.V as possible.

    Later I purchased STAGE-2 upgrade kit.  
    • ZYX R1000 Airy 3 (Silver Coil, LOMC)
    ZYX Airy-3 with Silver Coil was in my system for a long time, I bought it for my upgraded Technics SL1210 mk2, then it was on EPA-100 tonearm on my SP-10 mkII. Finally I shipped my Airy-3 back to Japan (via SoraSound) to get Premium 4D with Copper Coil for a special price. For my ZYX cartridges I bought CPP-1 Headamp from the same brand (still in my system).  
    • Micro Seiki CU-500 Mat
    Micro Seiki CU-500 (2.8 kg) is extremely rare, but definitely the best mat for Technics SP-10 mk2 platter. The CU-500 is thicker and heavier than cheaper CU-180 copper mat. In my opinion Micro Seiki copper mats (often called gunmetal) are the most beautiful. They are still in my system and will be there forever.
    • ADC Astrion (with Sapphire cantilever)
    I had a brief experience with the ADC Astrion MI cartridge in my system, this is a rare model with a Sapphire cantilever. Long time ago it was much easier to find NOS cartridges than today, so I bought my Astrion quickly from KAB. It wasn't even close to my favorite vintage MM from Technics, Grace, Stanton, Pioneer and Audio-Technica. I still don't understand why some people keep praising ADC Astrion and related models from ADC. But I like Sapphire cantilevers, they are nice under my macro lens on the images.
    • Technics EPC-205c mk4
    This cartridge blew my mind nearly 10 years ago, it was clearly the best MM cartridge in my system for a long time (until I discovered something better). I tried it with mega rare genuine stylus, with JICO S.A.S. replacement stylus, and even with Axel's refurbished stylus. As a Technics fanboy I was fascinated by Technics top of the line MM cartridges - absolutely amazing on Technics tonearms. Even on my cheap (upgraded) SL1210 mk2 turntable with KAB fluid damper it was stunning performer! Of cource on the EPA-100 tonearm on SP-10 mk2 turntable is was even better. I was crazy about Technics cartridges and purchased many of them, not only for myself, but for some of my friends too, everybody were shocked by the sound quality!
    • Technics EPA-100 tonearm
    It will be hard to find any better tonearm for MM cartridges. The EPA-100 has a number of unique features, this is one of the most user friendly tonearms, almost any cartridge can be adjusted quickly and easily. VTA on the fly, counterweight with dynamic damping for cartridges with different compliance etc. Simply amazing tonearm for a reasonable price! Technics made the EPC-100c mk3 cartridge primarily for this tonearm, cartridge with integrated headshell has the same titanium nitride finishing. 
    • Reed 3p "12 inch Cocobolo tonearm
    In 2015 I went to Lithuania to meet people from Reed team in person and to buy their demo version of Reed 3p "12 inch Cocobolo tonearm (with cryo copper wire and WBT connectors). Reed tonearms are Made in Lithuania. In my opinion they are the best high-end tonearms in the market today, but very expensive (the reason I bought used demo). It's still one of  my reference tonearms in the vaults.
    • Ortofon SPU Classic GM mkII
    Old school SPU sound with a conical stylus tip and high tracking force on heavy tonearms is not what I've been looking for, but I had to try it myself to make sure! When someone claims that classic SPU are "more musical" I think it's not true. Later I discovered a superior SPU Spirit (Ltd) with an Elliptical tip and then SPU Royal G mk2 with Replicant-100 (I really like those two models)
    • Grado PH-1 (phono stage)

    Long time discontinued Grado PH-1 phono stage with high and low gain switch for MM cartridges. Originally the input impedance was standard 47k Ohms, but later we modified them with Vishay Naked Foil 100k Ohm resistors, it was a noticeable upgrade. It was one of those small and inexpensive phono stages I've been using for a long time with my entry level Grado cartridges. After modification I've been using PH-1 with various top class vintage MM and later upgraded to an expensive WLM Phonata Reference MM/MC phono stage.
    • Argent MC500HS (Moving Coil Cartridge)
    1.9mV Argent MC500HS with Sapphire cantilever and Nude Parabolic 0.3 x 0.6 stylus tip (30 years ago retail price in the USA was $260).

    Until the mid 90’s the Argent was a trademark of Direct Sound Corporation filed as a Domestic Business Corporation in the State of New York and is no longer active. This corporate entity was filed on Monday, August 9, 1982 and expired on Wednesday, March 13, 1996 as recorded in documents filed with the New York Department of State. On June 5, 1996 the Argent Audio, Inc. was born as recorded in documents filed with the New York Department of State. Chief Executive Mr. James T. Laudeman. Current entity status is inactive. Their latest product was called The Argent Room Lens for Acoustic Room Treatment. The last review dated May 11, 1999. Argent Audio closed the business in 2003. Mr. Ric Cummins was a designer of the fabulous Argent Room Lens. Mr. Cummins is a sculptor by trade. His name is related to another company called Argent Cable - manufacturer of the speaker and digital cables. It’s easier to find reviews about Argent cables and Room Lenses than any info about mysterious Argent cartridges!

    • Technics SL1210 mk2
    I have a paid of SL1210 mk2 since 1996-1997. Both turntables were rewired in 2011 with Cardas Litz (internal tonearm wire) and Zu Audio Mission Phono RCA. Stock fee replaced with Isonoe feet. KAB Silicone fluid damped added to tonearms. Those modified Technics are still in my second system.
    • Luxman PD-444
    For those who would like to mount and adjust almost any tonearm quickly and easily without drilling armboards and thinking about "a better plinth" ! Thanks to Luxman and Micro Seiki for proper engineering, superb build quality and attractive design. As a long time Technics fanboy I never regret my Luxman PD-444 purchase. In fact I sold my SP-10 mk2 later, but PD-444 is still in my system. It's SUPERLUX. Direct Drives forever!
    • Supex SD/909 mkII
    Sugano-San was a traditional sword artisan and the genius designer of Supex cartridges. He may be employed in Supex but the Supex owner and designer was Asakura-San (Grace was owned by his brother). Sugano-San left Supex respectively to found Koetsu. The rest is history. 

    The story with my Supeх SD/909 mkII is a bit strange... I got this cartridge for free with a headshell I actually paid for, but even for a headshell I paid less than $100, so a cartridge was more like a gift and it was in perfect condition. Lucky me! It was mounted on Reed 3p "12 inch tonearm with cocobolo armtube (the heaviest possible from Reed). 
    • Technics SP-20 Direct Drive
    The SP-20 was released ONLY for the Japanese market in the mid 70s. It has a unique wrinkle black finish (special surface treatment of the aluminum die-casting) that you will not find on any other Technics models. As you might know, the ultimate boron Technics EPA-100mk2 high-end tonearm is also black color. Technics SP-20 turntable looks simply amazing in that special black finish.
    • Stanton 881s mkII (Stereohedron)
    This is the mk2 version of the legendary Stanton 881s (MM) cartridge. It was an official monitoring cartridge at Doug Sax's Mastering Lab for monitoring disc production by comparing test pressings to the master tape.

    Stanton/Pickering history:
    Interesting that Pickering's factory manager was none other than Walter Stanton, who later went out on his own. By 1960, Mr.Stanton bought out Mr.Pickering. He later established Stanton Magnetics Inc in 1961. He was the chairman and president of both Pickering & Co and Stanton Magnetics Inc until 1998.

    Walter O. Stanton, the inventor of an easily replaceable phonograph stylus that was crucial to creating a consumer market for audio equipment. Stanton and Pickering carts are the same with interchangeable styli despite the very different looking plastic bits and brushes - the trick is figuring out the interchanging model numbers. Pickering XSV-3000 is equal to Stanton 881s, both come with Nude Stereohedron diamonds on aluminum cantilevers.

    The Stereohedron Stylus:
    Like its cousin, the Quadrahedral, the Stereohedron stylus is shaped to provide an enlarged area of record groove contact, while providing the ability to accurately trace the high frequency, high level modulations found on today's records. Thus, the Stereohedron stylus provides superior performance with low stylus wear and low record wear for your records.

    Dustamatic brush:
    A patented feature of Pickering cartridge is the inclusion of a brush assembly that helps keep the record grooves clean. It does not in any way detract from the overall performance since the brush assembly is independently suspended from the cartridge. The brush is located off-center to allow it to clean the record groove ahead of the stylus.
    • Technics EPC 100c mk3
    Using Technics top of the line MM cartridges over the years my choice was the 205c mk4, but this 100c mk3 was very close! I’ve been using both models in my system at least for 5 years until I discovered better vintage MM such as AT-ML170, AT-ML180, Grace LEVEL II BR/MR and some more (they are all better than Technics cartridges, but very rare and expensive).
    • Denon DL-107 (MM)
    The DL-107 was made for broadcast use on NHK radio stations in Japan in 1968 as a Moving Magnet alternative to the DL-103 Moving Coil design (introduced earlier in 1962). The benefit of the Moving Magnet design of the DL-107 is the replacement stylus (DNS-20) and relatively high output. Unfortunately the DL-107 MM is no longer available from Denon. 

    The company was originally established in 1910 as part of Nippon Chikuonki Shokai (Japan Recorders Corporation), a manufacturer of single-sided disc records and gramophones. The company was originally called Nippon 'DENki ONkyo Kabushikigaisha' which was shortened to the name of DEN-ON in Japanese. There followed a number of mergers and tie-ins over the next few decades as firstly the company merged with Japan-US Recorders Manufacturing in 1912 and then in 1928 the brand “Columbia” was introduced when the company became Japan Columbia Recorders. A further change of name occurred in 1946 when the company renamed itself Nippon Columbia. The Denon brand was first established in 1947 when Nippon Columbia merged with Japan Denki Onkyo. 

    The Japan Broadcasting Corporation, better known as NHK, is Japan's national public broadcasting network, as established under the 1950 Broadcast Law. NHK traces its origins to the Tokyo Broadcasting Station, which aired Japan's first radio transmission on March 22, 1925. Through NHK the country as a whole was able to hear live broadcasts of such important events as the special programs aired to celebrate the enthronement of Emperor Hirohito in November, 1928. NHK was an early pioneer of satellite transmission technology. Virtually as soon as the first public circuits were opened, NHK began news feeds from the United States, Europe, and Africa. The first use of live satellite coverage came in 1963, when reports on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was carried live on NHK.

Comments 8

128x128
I like your system(s) and write-ups.

markusthenaimnut

Center
Owner
@subterranean6 thank you. If you have an appropriate tonearm for Ortofon SPU then you will definitely like Miyajima cartridges.

chakster

Center
I don't know much about a lot of this gear, but I love the care you took in photographing it. Also dig that you're clearly chasing your own predilections with this stuff. The only way to do it, in my opinion. 

I love my Grado Sonata, but at some point I want to hear an Ortofon SPU... 

subterranean6

Center
Owner
@toro3 You are welcome. 45 is a special number when you're 45 y.o. surrounded by Vintage 45s (vinyl) and 45 triodes (tubes). LOL

chakster

128x128
Love the narrative and all of the pictures. Glad to see someone else in their 40's (I'm 40) on Audiogon. Fifteen years seems long, but age seems to go quicker these days. See you when we get there!

Ag insider logo xs@2xtoro3

Center
Owner
@jond Time flies, I'm 45 this year, which is still considering "young age" on audiogon and I'm glad to hear that :) Imagine my system in the next 15 years. A mix of vintage and new gear is what I like.

chakster

128x128
Chakster another great iteration of your system and I see now you're working backwards. And I have to say you're way younger than I expected with all this cool vintage gear good for you man!

jond

128x128
Holy moly look at all those vintage goodies! Great system Russian.

knollbrent

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