What am I hearing in conicals?

Discussion in 'Turntables' started by DavidTT, Jun 1, 2018.

  1. DavidTT

    DavidTT AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    For those of you who have discriminating hearing and lots of experience with different stylus shapes, help me understand why I've been "regressing" of late to much enjoyment of conical styli. It started with an experiment (on a lark) with the Shure sc35c, that most cave-man of cartridges. It sounded so good with its OEM stylus on my main turntable that I uninstalled "better" cartridges on lesser tables in the last few days and am now using AT91 and AT3600l cartridges, again with much pleasure, some of which I guess has to do with conical styli.

    There is something related to tone, perhaps "air", perhaps sibilance, or something I cannot quite figure out, about these cartridges that I'm truly enjoying. Now, before you assume I don't know how to set up carts, or to consider adjusting VTF by ear, or raising and lowering VTA to tweak the sound, I'm comfortable doing all of those things. It's not that I can't set up ellipticals, HEs and shibata tips well, it's that there is something I'm trying to put my finger on about the sound I get from conicals that I like so much.

    Maybe my ears are garbage, maybe I'm nostalgic for crappy playback of my youth, but these simple conicals hit the right notes for me. I'm not sure why, but it makes me wonder about the Denon 103, the Ortofon SPU and other more highly praised carts that use conicals. What is it about them that's "right", and how does that correspond to conicals at these low-budget levels?
     
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  2. kmp14

    kmp14 Active Member

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    Interesting discussion. I have read a lot about the how and why the more complex shapes sound better, and I sure do enjoy my AT440MLa on my tangential tracking Harman Kardon ST-8, but for a pivot arm, nothing sounds right to me but my DL-103. Of course it may just be what I am used to, but eveything just sounds "balanced" thru my DL-103 (and my recent upgrade to a DL-103r). By balanced I mean I don't hear any frequencies boosted or cut, no "holes" in the music.

    I wouldn't consider myself a golden ear, so take that for what it is worth.

    I have had a theory, born of nothing other than my simple way of thinking about it: with a pivot arm and eliptical stylus, even if perfectly aligned, the eliptical will only be sitting somewhat perfectly in the groove at the null points, whereas, a conical will always at least be sitting in the groove just fine regardless of the arc it follows. I realize it is way more complicated than that, and the angle of the canteliever is also important as that what ultimately sends the vibrations to the cart's engine....but at least the diamond is always smoothly in the groove since it is round. Again, no science here, no in-depth knowlege on my part, just a layman's theory.

    I have been meaning to start a thread to present this and then learn how wrong I am :confused::)
     
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  3. setup1

    setup1 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I've been using mostly conical styli equipped cartridges for at least 20 years - Denon DL103, R and C1, Shure M3/7D, SC35C, Stanton 500, mono GE RPX and Denon DL102. Last year I treated myself to a SPU#1s. This cartridge plays even more LPs than my mid 90s Classic GME. :)
     
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  4. tnsilver

    tnsilver AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Very difficult question b/c it's all subjective. The two commonly accepted traits of the 'conicals vs. ellipticals' debate are that conicals aren't as sensitive to alignment as ellipticals and that ellipticals are better at extracting details from the groove and at reducing the tracking error. Conicals, on the other hand, tend to smooth out pops and clicks and make older worn records sound better, on expense of detail and pronounced lows. There's a lot more to the discussion but it's been dealt with too much. Ortofon summed it up in this document and it's all over the audio forums on the www. I won't delve into it.

    My bottom line is, there's more to how a cart sounds than the shape of the tip of the stylus. Most Ortofon SPU's and Denon DL-103 variants that use a conical stylus had been refined for nearly 50 years. That's a lot of time and they're simply designed and executed very well. With the right tonearm they can sound superb with their nude diamonds and good cantilevers and motor with powerful magnets. There are also some entry level carts using a bonded conical tip over some generic or knock-off MM design and they may not sound as good. Your tonearm characteristics and it's match with the cart, got a lot to do with the personal perception of SQ and there's also the possibility about your hearing being not so great anymore. You called it 'garbage' which is extreme, but let's face it, older men don't hear as good as they used to. Maybe you're no longer capable of distinguishing the extra details provided by finer elliptical styli. Also, it's possible you are not as good at aligning a cart as you think you are and therefore a conical stylus may just scratch your itch and slip through the right crack. No one can tell you you're wrong in the way you perceive the SQ of a specific stylus shape you listen to, but I must admit your observation sounds a little unconventional to me. Not judging, just saying many will disagree.
     
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  5. TobascoKid

    TobascoKid Active Member

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    Thank you for this thread.

    I don’t have an answer to your question.

    To me, conical tips are not inept. My fancy tips seem add an artificial, subtle, layer. The reproduced music does not support each other: something always stands out. They integrate well but after a while they tire me to the point that I shut down my systems. We use to call it “listener’s fatigue.” I get the same effect with CDs and downloads. It is something in there that I do not like. No, not something I can pin down but it’s there and tiring.

    I’m happy my conical tip cartridges. My music seems more integrated and natural. Set up right, they all work together. Maybe that is it – it is easier to setup conical tip cartridges. They are unfussy and give me grand music. To me, their simple pleasures astonish me.

    So I too have regressed and probably further than you. Long ago, I quit going with the flow, found my conical musical eddies, and quietly slipped back to my comfortable conical tip MM cartridges. In the reversion, I went back to conical tip LOMC cartridges. Yes, experts quickly switched to the high tech cartridges yet I continue to use with my primitive but proven dinosaurs. Back then, LOMC cartridges were easy to find. I continue to use them because my old records and old conical cartridges grew up together. I am not asking them to give me more. Instead, I expect them to give me what they are designed to do. They match and get along well. They still have a life…even if I don’t. I’m not proud. I settle with conical tip cartridges and get along with them very well.

    I like being smothered by conical music. Sure, it goes against the grain of the best-fit experts. So, I do it quietly. I never told anyone that I like my conical tip cartridges more. It’s a bad thing to say. There are experts here that know better. I am not one of them. I have simply been enjoying what I have and appreciate what they give me. I don’t speak the doctrine and being different is bad.

    Let me be one of the first to join your ‘conehead club.’

    I do have one answer…kind of. I think you should try SPU cartridges. They sound very rich, healthy, delicately detailed, and natural.

    And now, I will quietly fade back.
     
  6. Pio1980

    Pio1980 AK Member Subscriber

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    I don't routinely use them, tho one TT has that stylus swap option. The limited tracing capability is a deal breaker on modern stereo LPs.
     

     

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  7. DavidTT

    DavidTT AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Thank you for your reply tnsilver. I appreciate your comments. The interesting thing to me is that I can hear differences in my multiple carts, including some with "exotic" cuts on the tip, and I can hear "shimmer" and detail and even the "air" that others describe in the higher-end cartridges. There is something about these basic cartridges that sounds more right to me, although you are right that most will not concur with my thoughts. Thanks again for your thoughts! I guess I can appreciate my hamburger tastes, since it will likely save much money in coming years!

     
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  8. 2020

    2020 Active Member

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    I love these kinds of discussions, and will have to check out a conical for grins.
    If you like it, that's what matters.

    I've got a Shure M3D. Do you think that would fit the bill?
     
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  9. DavidTT

    DavidTT AK Subscriber Subscriber

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  10. 2020

    2020 Active Member

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  11. beat_truck

    beat_truck Super Member

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    As I've mentioned in other threads, I also like a conical stylus. I have several among my cartridges. An AT CN5625AL, Pickering V15, Shure M44-7, etc. The AT is one of my favorites. It isn't the last word in detail, but it does nothing wrong, and is somehow very pleasing to listen to. Amazing for one of the cheapest MM cartridges that you can buy.
     
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  12. ConfuciusSay

    ConfuciusSay AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    With the more exotic styli I’m more likely to say “wow” - with conical (and elliptical) I’m more likely to listen to the music. All personal preference and hugely influenced by the rest of the system. I finally gave up trying to like what I thought I should and just listening to my ears.

    I do wish I could hear a stereohedron stylus though I always liked my 681 cart...
     
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  13. Metalownz

    Metalownz Audiophile? Getting there

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    Ive always been a fan of conical myself. Thats why i use two older school idler drive tables. To me the conical styli is warmer sounding. I love the PL-C6 rebranded AT-6 and Nagaoka NM-22 rebranded Tonar cartridges. Im awaiting an Empire 108 in the mail as we speak. Im also a fan of the Pickering V-15 Micro IV and 1200E.
     
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  14. doctor fuse

    doctor fuse AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Time for a triple blind listening test - $50 conical versus $500 fancy shaped diamond!
     
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  15. Djcoolray

    Djcoolray Addicted Member

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    It’s like there’s a fuller embodiment of tones....

    I’ve been running a ZU/DL-103 Mk II for a couple of years....

    I figure I’m hearing more frequencies and less noise......
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
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  16. savatage1973

    savatage1973 Addicted Member

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    IME, conical styli are far more "forgiving" when it comes to "less than perfect" records--so it is more a matter of what you are NOT hearing.
     

     

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  17. sfox52

    sfox52 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    This thread is motivating me to try a conical I have on hand- a Shure M35X that dyche01 kindly included with the old Dual 1009 I got from him a couple months back. Thankfully I have a second sled to mount it on. He gave me a 78 stylus for that cart too, but I don't have any 78's.
     
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  18. kermit z

    kermit z Loud Music saves Lives!! Subscriber

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    Interesting topic and well timed. I just picked up a Pioneer headshell to complete my PL-500 and it comes with a PC-135 which is a conical. The stylus needs to be replaced, and the Jico replacement is pretty cheap. I run a DL-103 in my main system and I do agree its pretty forgiving and warm sounding. So I think I'll go ahead and pick up the replacement and see what we have :)
     
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  19. petemcfc

    petemcfc Well-Known Member

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    This thread is very apt to my circumstances,I started off with an AT91 mounted on a early '80s Sansui PD10,(I think it was),slowly I went further down the rabbit hole,my cherished deck is an AR-XA with a V15 MKlll.
    My daily driver is a Sansui SR212,all the three were budget models in their day.
    I have been building up a collection of cartridges for the Sansui and using them for the various quality of the records and styles of music I own.
    Thursday I mounted a Thakker Jico N44G on a Shure M55,last night I played some records that I knew had surface noise and pops within them,blimey,what a difference it made,most of the discs issues have been cleared,I have a M44 kicking about and that will be getting a N44-7 fitted.
    I take on board the comments made above in regard of a possible loss of detail though I look opon it a good trade off if it can make a record with irritating pops playable.
    Two more spanners added to the toolbox in my eyes.
     
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  20. DavidTT

    DavidTT AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    It's hard too for me not to wonder whether some of the detail provided by sophisticated tips is genuinely "in the groove" to begin with, whether there is any potential for the "air" and sparkle somehow additive to the original sound.
     
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