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Ortofon Concorde +78 stylus vs. Shure M78S
verdemar
post Nov 12 2013, 00:15
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Hi folks, I'm gathering equipment to transfer a few 78s to digital, and could do with a little advice from someone more experienced than me.

I just purchased a second hand Tecnhics direct drive turntable that comes with an Ortofon Concorde cartridge. The price for an Ortofon 78 stylus is basically the same as for a Shure M78S cartridge. I will do the transfers at 45 rpm and change the speed digitally.

While the Ortofon is a bit more pricey, price does not always follow quality. Any suggestions for which would likely give the best quality transfers? Or other preferences in the same price range?

Thanks in advance!
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DVDdoug
post Nov 12 2013, 02:05
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For 78's, I wouldn't worry about the quality difference between two reasonably-good magnetic cartridges. The biggest limitation is the record, and your record-to-record difference will be far greater than the cartridge difference. (Even with LPs, I'm not as picky as I was in the "vinyl days", because no matter how good your cartridge is, you never going to get "digital quality".)

I'd do whatever seems more convenient. Assuming the turntable has a removable headshell, or the cartridge is a plug-in headshell, it's easier to get an extra headshell and mount the extra/optional cartridge in it, than to swap syili around. (Assuming you may want to play or digitize 45's & LPs at some point.) You may have to re-adjust stylus force, but you'll probably need to do that anyway when switching between LPs & 78's

QUOTE
I will do the transfers at 45 rpm and change the speed digitally.
There are some equalization issues with that... The pitch gets changed, so the EQ correction curve is applied to the wrong frequencies. And, there were different EQ curves used by different manufacturers at different times. There is some information on the Internet for that, but I've lost the links.

Presumaby, you are using a preamp with RIAA equalization (or it's built into your turntable if it has line-out or USB). So you can either try to compensate for the actual-original EQ plus the 45 RPM difference, or just adjust for the "best sound" by ear. There is a good chance that you'll need to do some final EQ by ear anyway, so it might not be a big deal. (The older recordings were designed to be played-back on acoustic record players with no electronics, and who knows what that does to the EQ!)

One more thought - I think the Shure cartridge is mono. There can be an advantage to recording mono records in stereo when digitizing... Sometimes there is damage to only one side of the groove, or the damage is in a different spot (by a few milliseconds) in the left & right channels. Some "vinyl repair" programs have a feature that allows you to copy the good channel into the bad channel. I use Wave Repair ($30 USD). That method often works very well with stereo records (basically converting to mono for a few milliseconds), but it can work perfectly with mono records recorded in stereo. When you're done, you can have one channel containing the best moment-to-moment sound from each "channel", and you can make a mono file from that.

Wave Repair includes some other repair techniques, and it does an amazing job removing most "clicks" & "pops". In the manual mode it only "touches" the audio where you identify a defect, but it often takes me a full weekend to fix-up an LP transfer. (I haven't done any 78's, thankfully. wink.gif )

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Nov 12 2013, 02:16
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verdemar
post Nov 12 2013, 19:39
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Thanks for the advice, I'm aware of the EQ issues.

I'm planning on getting a ART DJPRE II and digitize with my M-Audio Transit and then use the Equalizer from clickrepair.net to reverse the preamp EQ to achieve a "flat" transfer and then apply the correct EQ curve (at least my best guess) after speeding up.

I'm not going to apply any commercial denoise, because the reason I'm doing this is to get some raw transfers to use as datasets to work on noise reduction discussed in this thread: http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....howtopic=100114

I know it's not a perfect setup, but pretty good/decent will do for now.

Regarding the stylus/cartridge issue, I read that the Shure cartridge could be modified to do stereo. I definitely want stereo, so I guess that is one point in favor of the Ortofon in terms of convenience.

I've heard many transfers of old 78s with varying quality, so it can definitely make a difference with the quality of the discs and the equipment/capture process, but I never did play any myself.

I doubt I will ever play 33 or 45, but then I never thought I would play or purchase any 78s either :-)

I just found out LP Gear has their own brand/No name replacement stylus for the Ortofon. Am I right to be skeptical, or should they be mostly the same?
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AndyH-ha
post Nov 12 2013, 22:37
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The "correct" approach is to have half a dozen or more styli of different sizes. This allows you to find, and use, the depth of groove with the best quality. This may differ due to the original cutting process and generally differs due to the extent of damage inflicted by previous playing.

Since this is the widely followed practice, I would suspect that there is no reason to expect any one source's stylus to be the just the same as another's. Possibly the manufacturer has provided dimensional specifications, but unless you go to one of the sources that produces multiple sizes for the "professional", I suspect you will find little information.
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verdemar
post Nov 12 2013, 22:53
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Good point, going back to the LP Gear pages, it says the original Ortofon stylus is 2.5 mil while the unbranded is 3.0 mil so maybe I should get both.

I have heard this advice previously, and I was a bit surprised the stylus seems to be so tied to the cartridge manufacturer. Are the "professional" using completely different types of cartridges with wider selection in styli, and if so, which are they? Or are the styli easier to change between manufacturers than the specs indicate?

(I haven't received the turntable yet, trying to get the stylus ready while waiting for it, so I can't see for myself how it's attached)
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DVDdoug
post Nov 13 2013, 00:23
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QUOTE
I have heard this advice previously, and I was a bit surprised the stylus seems to be so tied to the cartridge manufacturer.
It's actually a stylus assembly. The only analogy that comes to mind is an engine & transmision in a car... A Chevrolet transmission won't fit into a Toyota. wink.gif And if you put a Chevy engine in your hot rod Toyota, you're probably going to use a Chevy transmission too.

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Nov 13 2013, 00:31
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verdemar
post Nov 13 2013, 11:03
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Nov 13 2013, 00:23) *
It's actually a stylus assembly.


That makes sense. I guess I always imagined the vintage player when people were discussing trying with different styli, the ones where the stylus is actually a steel pin that must be replaced frequently.

Anyway, am I right to conclude that for professional output quality, one would have to try with a set of different cartridges, where the dimensions of the stylus is different between the cartridges, and that is what people do when they say they try with different styli? I would imagine the cartridge itself would make a difference, too, though.

In that case, I think will get one or two for the Ortofon and possibly add more cartridges later if I want to try to get more out of the discs I have.
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AndyH-ha
post Nov 13 2013, 11:21
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The Stylus assembly is a stylus glued to a cantilever whose upper end contains the magnet and which plugs into the cartridge. Thus one cartridge can accommodate a large number of different styli. (A moving coil cartridge is a quite different affair. I don't know if anyone makes 78 rpm styli for moving coils)

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that the "professional" 78 styli are only a speciality aftermarket product, i.e. not supplied by any cartridge maker, or at least any major cartridge maker. If you want such things, you probably have to choose from a very limited line of cartridges because the stylus maker(s) don't produce for very many.
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2Bdecided
post Nov 13 2013, 13:17
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You go to the Expert Stylus Company and buy the size(s) you want. They'll fit them to anything (at a cost), but commonly supply them for Sure cartridges (at least).


The fact you can get lots of different styli for a given cartridge doesn't mean you buy one cartridge and ten styli. You buy ten cartridges too, and ten headshells for your (typically) SME arm. Forever swapping the stylus in one cartridge will wreck it pretty quickly - it was designed to accept a new stylus every ten months, not every ten minutes!

Real pros do this. Us amateurs start with one stylus and accept the compromise this brings. In almost all cases, it's still far better than transferring them with an LP stylus.

The favourite cartridges for 78s have been the Stanton 500 and the Sure M44. I'm not sure what availability is like these days of the former.

Google found these discussions...
http://www.lencoheaven.net/forum/index.php?topic=2927.0
http://www.lencoheaven.net/forum/index.php?topic=13942.0
...there are plenty of others.

You don't want a monophonic cartridge - it's pointless for listening (convert to mono elsewhere) and worse for restoration (you might want the "stereo" information during restoration for various tricks, and convert to mono during or at the end).

Cheers,
David.
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verdemar
post Nov 13 2013, 22:12
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Thanks for clearing things up guys!

Ten cartridges and the SME arm are clearly outside my budget, but I think I might go for the Shure M44. Probably the M44G rather than the M447. I'll go for one or two styli at first, and see how things turn out. Using the M44 gives me the option of getting more from Expert Stylus Company at some later point in time, even though it's a bit more complicated than simply changing the stylus of the Ortofon (which is already in place).

I only have a handful of 78s, so I can transfer them all with one stylus first, then the second in another go, methinks.
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DVDdoug
post Nov 14 2013, 00:39
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QUOTE
Ten cartridges and the SME arm are clearly outside my budget...

... Using the M44 gives me the option of getting more from Expert Stylus Company at some later point in time...
That all sounds silly to me... We're talking about 78's... 78's sound like crap, even with the best (or best-matched) cartridge/stylus. I'm not suggesting you should use a crystal or ceramic cartridge, or a steel stylus, but there's no point in trying in chasing after the "best possible sound." That's my attitude/opinion.

As long as we restrict ourselves to modern magnetic cartridges, the worst record with the best cartridge will always sound worse than the best record with the worst cartridge. The record is always the weakest link.

It's like getting a faster horse so you can get to work in 2 hours, instead of 2 hours and 5 minutes. Your fast horse isn't that much faster, and it's still slow by today's standards. I'm going to jump in my car, plug my iPod into the car stereo, get on the freeway, and I'll be taking my morning break when you show up on your horse. biggrin.gif

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2Bdecided
post Nov 14 2013, 11:10
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...but DVDdoug, but your own admission, you are commenting about something you know nothing about! The quality of the cartridge isn't vitally important, but it's essential that it copes with the much higher modulation found on 78s. If you have a range of 78s to transfer (i.e. a wide range of different years of issue and different record companies) it can be very important to get the right sized stylus, and the correct EQ (though this can be done in software). It can be the difference between having an (admittedly low) signal to noise ratio, or a noise to signal ratio!

EDIT: Google found this instantly...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLVyePWXmYk
...there are plenty of other comparisons out there. More interesting (to me) is which stylus gives the best raw result for a declicker to work on. It's not always the one which sounds best when just listening to the raw output.


However, with a handful of 78s, I'd probably pay someone else to transfer them (there are some real experts out there), or just look for the music on CD (there are hundreds of thousands of re-issue CDs out there). Unless your 78s are in excellent condition, or unique, they are unlikely to be the best source for whatever is on them.

Cheers,
David.

P.S. there is an interestingly similar issue when transferring VHS. No one is going to claim that VHS ever was, is or could be decent quality. Yet without the right VCR for a given problematic tape, you are never even going to retrieve most of the limited information that is present.

EDIT2: P.P.S. apparently there are moving coil 78-only cartridges...
http://www.soundhifi.com/78.html
...not a recommendation, just another google hit.

This post has been edited by 2Bdecided: Nov 14 2013, 11:20
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verdemar
post Nov 14 2013, 12:06
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Thanks for you concerns DVDdoug, but this project isn't about convenience for me. The most cost effective solution is to buy transfers on cd or digital downloads, and that's what I do and intend to keep doing for acquiring music for listening. In fact I have all the music on these 78s on cd transfers already.

This is more of a spare time research project, and I need raw transfers and control with the entire process.

My thinking is that the distortions introduced by the ADC, the preamp and the turntable are negligible compared with the low SNR on the 78s, while the stylus and the cartridge are the most important part of the acquisition process, and that's where I'm prepared to put in a little extra effort. The discs are what they are, and the only thing I can do about them is to clean them, I guess.
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