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10 rules for selecting a pickup head

After purchasing a turntable, the next step is selecting the pickup head. Yes, today most of the budget turntables are delivered already with the cartridges installed on them, but we believe that there is no limit to perfection, and we offer ten simple rules to remember when upgrading and replacing the head.

Rule № 1

Determine the price

The logic suggests that the potential of an expensive head with a movable coil is unlikely to unfold completely on the not the best tonearm and turntable. However, there is a certain catch. Still, the sound of the turntable is determined to a greater extent by the quality of the cartridge. Figuratively speaking, an inexpensive turntable with an expensive head mounted on it will sound better than a more expensive turntable with a cheap SG. Therefore, in the long run, everything will depend on the thickness of the wallet. Experience suggests that the cost of the cartridge should not exceed the cost of the player itself, otherwise - the choice is yours.

Rule № 2

Learning the tonearm

One of the main factors limiting the freedom of choice of the head is the tonearm model. True, I must say that tonearms with a high and ultra-low effective mass are not found on the market today. And, consequently, almost all modern models are able to work successfully with almost all new pickup heads. The exception among the popular cartridges is the same legendary Denon DL-103, which necessarily needs a heavy tonearm for optimal matching. The second important point is the ability to adjust the height of the tonearm base to set the correct vertical angle of travel (VTA). If the base is rigidly fixed in height, this severely limits the range of potential candidates for purchase. In general, the general rule is as follows: modern heads of the initial and middle level are in good agreement with all modern tonearms of the same level. Yes, by the way, players Rega originally intended to use only their own heads, if you install cartridges of other manufacturers on them, you will not be able to accurately adjust the angle of the needle. And the installation of gaskets under the base of the tonearm gives an accuracy of "plus-minus kilometer", which, in the case of a needle with a complex sharpening, will certainly adversely affect the sound.

Rule № 3

Look carefully at the phono stage

Of course, to buy a low-sensitivity MS-head in the absence of a corresponding section in your model does not make sense. If only you do not plan to use a step-up transformer, in this case, you can get by with the usual MM-proofreader. However, the path of separate amplification and correction of a weak signal from the MS head is a matter for already experienced users. Today, the market has enough mid-range models, coping with heads of any type. If you have such a device, you need to pay attention to the level of amplification for each type of head. For MM-cartridges it is better to have a stock at least in 40 dB, and for confident operation of MS with low sensitivity it is desirable to see in the passport a figure from 66 dB. As for the load resistance, the standard 47 kOhm for MM and 100 Ohm for MS is quite enough for most scenarios.

Continuation of the article read here.

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