Crazy good-sounding ceramic cartridge

Discussion in 'Turntables' started by needlestein, Feb 13, 2017.

  1. needlestein

    needlestein Super Member

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    Well, I had to try it just for fun. A Sontone 9TA HC appeared on eBay basically for free, so I jumped on it. I'd heard that it represents the height of the Sonotone line.

    I don't have any special fancy way to hook it up. I just stuck it in a headshell, set tracking force to 2.5g and turned the gain on my Bellari Rolls VP129 way down.

    In a word: impressive!

    I don't think that most people in a double blind test would ever guess that this is not a moving magnet cartridge and an excellent one at that. Room-filling, full, rich sound, better than acceptable tracking, great bass without being boomy, minimal distortion, I could go on.

    Most impressively, cymbals have a sharp metallic edge to the sound, right at the strike, that I only really know from having been a drummer myself in a former life. Maybe this is what the hubbub about transients with ceramics is about.


    This is definitely High Fidelity.

    image.jpeg

    Looks like a little gold boat.
     
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  2. NoTransistors

    NoTransistors AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I seem to recall that ceramic cartridges, because of the way they work, require No RIAA equalization. Your Bellari unit is a preamp with equalization, so it is most certainly altering the signal, perhaps emphasizing the brass.
     
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  3. needlestein

    needlestein Super Member

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    Maybe, but it sounds great! I'm not that familiar with the Bellari's circuit, but if the reducing gain actually increases resistance, it could be that the Bellari actually sort of acts like a Cer-Mag adaptor. As for the RIAA equalization, whatever it emphasizes, it's not a problem. The sound out of this thing is kind of incredible, but the bass doesn't sound heavy or overdone at all.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
  4. NoTransistors

    NoTransistors AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I am beginning to miss my BSR mini-changer with genuine diamond stylus.
    Actually, whatever makes you happy is all that matters.
     
  5. Doug G.

    Doug G. Addicted Member

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    I remember hearing some relatively expensive consoles, back in the day, that sounded marvelous; dynamic and realistic. I am sure those had ceramic cartridges in the tonearms. One was a late fifties Magnavox monaural console my friend's parents had and our Beatles 45s sounded fantastic on it.

    Another was a higher end mid sixties Sears unit another friend's parents had and we listened to Zeppelin on it and were blown away. It was all there.

    Doug
     
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  6. NoTransistors

    NoTransistors AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I remember, clear as day, my high school chorus teacher playing 'Something' on the school phonograph. 'Till this day, I have never heard it played back with such a powerful, dynamic presence. Like yesterday, but was 1974.
     
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  7. Doug G.

    Doug G. Addicted Member

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    I have a similar story but it was our Junior High School system in the music class room. A Heathkit AA-21 amp with a matching tuner (I can't remember the model) and speakers mounted in the wall. My seventh grade teacher let us bring our 45s to school and play them. To this day, I still feel privileged to have been able to hear those records on such a good sounding system. I can still hear JoAnn Shatek singing along to "Get Off Of My Cloud".

    Oops, I guess this is off topic because I'm sure the cartridge in that system was NOT a ceramic. :D

    Doug
     
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  8. mhainz

    mhainz Well-Known Member

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    With the higher output and no RIAA equalisation, would it mean you could plug the TT straight into a line input or tape input?
    Pardon my ignorance here...
     
  9. NoTransistors

    NoTransistors AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    That is what I was taught.
     
  10. needlestein

    needlestein Super Member

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    Theoretically, I could. But my amp doesn't like it. Sounds terrible.
     
  11. Beobloke

    Beobloke Super Member

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    Not quite. The levels may be right but a ceramic cartridge needs to see a load of 1-2MOhm and a line level input generally only gives the standard 47kOhm.

    Interestingly, some ceramics 'behave' like an MM when loaded with 47kOhm but equally behave like a ceramic when loaded with 1-2MOhm. The Decca Deram is one that springs to mind which works quite well into an MM input, albeit with a fair bit of microphony!

    If you want to hear an old ceramic at its best, one of the easiest ways is to find an old amplifier with a ceramic input. You can then take the tape record output of this amplifier and feed it into one of your regular amp/preamp's line level inputs if you want to keep the rest of the replay chain the same.
     
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  12. tubewade

    tubewade Super Member

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    A ceramic cartridge is, in a way, like a variable capacitance, although it generates a voltage. The impedance is high at low frequencies and lower at high frequencies. The equivalent capacitance is probably something on the order of 1000pF. Using these into 47k inputs, phono or modern aux., will pull their output down some by loading, but also changes their characteristic from constant amplitude to constant velocity, like a magnetic. The most likely problem using a ceramic into a magnetic input is gross overload, but if its output isn't too high or you can adjust the gain then it may work fine. Loading the cartridge at 1k instead of 47k would get the level pretty close to what is needed for a magnetic input. To use a ceramic into a line level/auxiliary input the input impedance needs to be at least 1M ohm to prevent loading or changing of the characteristic.

    The Sonotone 9TA may be the best sounding ceramic ever, but they aren't that easy for most people to source nowadays, but Joseph has a good luck cloud following him around, it seems. The little ceramic in the Zenith Micro-Touch changer is also a pretty good sounding ceramic and has low enough output that I've plugged them directly into a magnetic input with good results.

    Wade
     
  13. ripblade

    ripblade Super Member

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    Wouldn't this be technically the same as a strain gauge system? These are highly regarded.
     
  14. needlestein

    needlestein Super Member

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    I'm not sure. Strain gauge needs some kind of bias voltage to generate current. But I don't know if that's an advance on the ceramic idea or a different animal.

    I'll get one of those Panasonoc set-ups one day.
     
  15. needlestein

    needlestein Super Member

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    @tubewade I think you're 100% correct. I thought I was hearing mistracking, but after reading your post about overload, I turned the gain on my preamp down so low that I have to turn the volume up on my amp all the way to get a nice listening level and all the sibilance and very mild breaking up sounds I heard at loud vocal passages disappeared totally.

    I'm going to work on one of those circuits in the Sonotone manual and see how that works.

    But what I'm hearing sounds so unbelievably good that I'm pursuing this. It's effing amazing.

    I've heard a lot of people say "sounds like the musicians are right in the room with you." Well, I've never quite had that. Maybe because I'm a musician myself. So I'm not really sure. But the way this ceramic does transients, there is a new level of dynamics that makes moving magnet cartridges (and I have a few of them) and even moving coil cartridges sound flat

    Shure made huge deal out of tracking and that was a huge contribution, but there are I times when I listen to this cartridge that I feel gypped that ceramic technology came to a halt. What another fifty years of technological progress and development could have done boggles the mind. I'm just left with a feeling of loss.

    I gotta get a Micro-Acoustics MA 2002e.

    Also, you want to talk about zero surface noise and incredible blackness? I haven't heard a magnetic type in my system that even approaches this.

    image.jpeg

    Hi Fi Goodness!!!
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
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  16. Harryconover

    Harryconover Active Member

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  17. Harryconover

    Harryconover Active Member

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    Hi a ceramic cartridge generates a voltage by trasilating mechanical Movment of stylus to voltage directly no bias voltage is required and no equalization with line level output but the load impedance must be 100k or greater because the impedance of its crystal is high unfortunately the stylus tip (needle) is of poor quality . The stran straingage type has severel advantages the frist being is the grind of the diamond also the linearity on the straingage element and the improved suspension of the moveing assembly they both require no eqlization but the strang gage requires a bias voltage becase it generates it doesn't generate any output but changes its resistance instead the company I ran service for had good contacts with Panasonic a guy brought a turn table in that he got in japan that used the strain gage so its servese manual so I got one as a replacement part brand new factory packaged never opened I also have a PC card to use with it needs plus and minus 16 volts I intended to put it on my revox b790 table witch has the required voltages all ready but I use the ortaphone mc-30 I have three and I really like them so I sat on it . The board needs to either be mounted in a preamp or a separate box which do you think would be better ?
     
  18. onwardjames

    onwardjames Hoardimus Maximus Subscriber

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    Hey Needlestein, I FOUND a pile of these 9TA HC's in the trash awhile back. 2 spare needles and two carts with new needle. All appear unused.

    Never hooked them up, guess I'll have to give a whirl.

    P.S. These were the unsung finds during that big score I made 2 years ago. Scored a Shure M3, a Shure M7N21D, and that Empire 888-TE. All sitting in a tackle box in the trash by the family of my dead neighbor. They said "You missed all the equipment".

    Jesus wept, what probably got tossed...
     
  19. ripblade

    ripblade Super Member

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    Some guys are just born lucky....
     
  20. onwardjames

    onwardjames Hoardimus Maximus Subscriber

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