AT ART 1000 vs London Reference vs Ana Mighty Sound 103.3

I have eagerly desired to hear the ART 1000 every since I first heard about (2016?) and finally I decided to have one sent out to me to satisfy my curiosity. I have read many things about this unique design, all good. People have compared its dynamism to the London, going as far as to state that it's capable of explosive dynamics. I listened to the unit on my Technics SL 1200 GAE with both my AMR PH 77 (MU 6900 tubes and AMR TriCore Capacitors installed) and my SPL Phonos. I used the LP Gear Zupreme headshell and the Audio Technica AT-LH 18/OCC headshell.

First off this cartridge in the AT headshell is a thing of beauty, a real functional piece of art (no pun intended :). I literally took photos of it on my TT as it just looked so gorgeous.

The ART did not take to the LP Zupreme very well with the sound becoming a bit cooler and taking on an almost strident nature. 
I found the ART to be a very fluid and refined cartridge, it reveals a massive amount of information from the groove. All in all I spent about a solid 20 or more hours intensely listening and fine tuning the cartridge to reveal the best it had to offer. It is a bit to the right of neutral, i.e. I find it to be a bit warm and it does instill a bit of lushness to the music. This may be welcome in some systems that may err to the left of neutral or are a bit sterile. 

I listened to music by Jacintha (Fire and Rain, James Taylor Tribute), Julie London, Dianna Krall, Chasing the Dragons Espana, Joss Stone, Stevie Ray Vaughn (45, Couldn't Stand the Weather from the 12 album boxed set), Stacey Kent and many others. 

It sounded lovely, and that's where I started having issues. I simply could not become engaged with the music that I know so well. My 103R is engaging, my 103.3 is engaging as is my London and Anna. The Art caused me to sit there and listen and wait and wait and wait for the magic. It never happened. I wanted to like this cartridge so so much but in the end I simply could not connect with its take on the musical spectrum.

I compared it to the London and let me go on record and state that if anyone tells you that this cartridge has London like dynamics, don't ever listen to anything they convey to you concerning hi end audio without listening for yourself. It is NO WHERE near the London as far as dynamics, immediacy or aliveness. It is more refined than the London but worlds away from that live feel that the London can so easily evoke. 

Comparing the ART to the 103.3 and 103R I found the 103R to be a bit rough sounding in direct comparison and yet, it makes my foot tap and makes me smile. The 103.3 does what the 103R does only so much better and far more refined. At the end of the day the 103.3 was preferred (for my ears), it simply plays with nearly the same level of refinement as the ART, but not quite, and yet the openness and aliveness it presents is far more engaging. I found myself leaving the 103.3 on for longer periods of time during my comparative cartridge swap outs.

I would sum it up as follows; I find that the ART has a sort of hi-fi-ish sound. It makes the music sound a little processed to my ears. Some people like this sound, I am not one of them. I would attribute this same quality to the Air Tight PC 1 Supreme, but not the PC 1. I find that the PC 1 Supreme has that same sort of hi-fi-ish sound where as the standard PC 1 does not and to my ears, sounds better than the Supreme. 

All in all this is a beautifully made device that will, I have no doubt, sound sublime in some systems and to some ears. Even though it is ultimately not for me I think it is a great value as I could easily see some of the other manufactures charging $10K or more for this unit. 

I think I am going to send Francois another 103 and try a 103.4 with the silver coils to quench my curiosity :)

Hope this was helpful to someone. 

Thanks for reading. 
I found it inexplicable that after Art Dudley finally heard a modern London (the cheapest model, I believe) not long ago, and wrote a rave review of it in Stereophile, he never endeavored to hear the $1500 Super Gold, $2800 Jubilee, or $5300 Reference. Yet he reviewed the $10,000 Tzar, which shares some design elements with the Decca/London's. Why not?! 
audiofun, Thank you for taking the trouble not only to perform the experiments but also to write the results up so thoroughly.  One of the first things that comes to my mind is break-in.  I am not so sure that other components really change much from brand new, but I am sure that cartridges do.  I would especially expect there to be some changes in sonic character associated with break-in, for a cartridge where the coil is mounted so close to the stylus, where it cannot help but add some moving mass to the equation. (But maybe not, because the signal leaves the transduction apparatus right there, at the stylus.  So, whatever mass is added by the coil, some mass is also lost because the whole length of the cantilever is out of the picture.) So, how many hours were on your sample of the ART1000, before you evaluated it?

Second, it was a bit eery for me to read your comments in light of my own current experience with a brand new ART7.  The ART7 does many things very well, but I cannot quite yet fall in love with it, and I am hoping that time will ameliorate some of the issues I have.  I do already hear some improvement in relation to hours of use, but I've still got probably less than 20 hours on it and still don't adore it.  It was a bit too clinical at first while at the same time it conveyed a lot of detail; lately it's getting warmer, not on the warm side of "neutral", but warm-er. Too bad for me that I have no familiarity with the 103.3.  In fact, I had never heard of it until reading this post.

I agree, it does seem as though he would have wanted to go up the chain and eventually review the London Reference. I think I will be getting a Tsar next for audition.

Thanks for the kind words. I did neglect to mention that the cartridge had 80 hours on it prior to my beginning the listening sessions.

I will still continue working with it to see what more I may be able to coax out of it to the possible detriment of my bank account :)

The 103.3 is a 103 or 103r modification performed by Ana Mighty Sound in France.
@audiofun, a Tzar dealer will provide that $10,000 cartridge for audition?! I don’t have a spare ten grand, but would love to hear it. I'm a diehard Decca/London enthusiast, getting my first in 1972 (a Decca Blue), and current owner of two (about to be three, with the acquisition of a Mono).

I would recommend you have a chat with Robin Wyatt. I don't want to write out of turn concerning any of his policies :)

You have much more experience with Deccas than I do with the Reference being my first real exposure to them not counting You Tube videos. 

You have me interested in looking at their mono offerings as I need to add a mono cartridge to my small but growing collection. 
@audiofun, it only goes to show that making music is rather simple but at the same time is an art. Also goes to show how many and how often audiophile products miss the matter the price.

I agree with you but I have to confess something LOL. The ART started sounding better last night as I put another 5 hours on it. I don’t think the dealer really put 80 hours on this unit. I am not saying that he told me a fib but rather probably took a best guess. I bet this cartridge probably had about 40 real play time hours on it when I received it. As of now I have put about 25 to 30 hours on it and it definately took a turn for the better last eveing. It was eery as I could almost hear it getting better in real-time as I went from album to album.

I am not ready to pronounce anything definitive at this point but I will say that the "hi-fi-ishness" (my own special word:) is starting to depart quickly and definitively. This is one of the reasons I like to continue testing a product until I am absolutley sure it will not change any more. Had I not been told this unit had 80 hours on it I would NEVER have written a review with such a short auditioning time.

As it stands the music is beginning to sound more of a whole and not heterogenous as it was originally with different parts of the musical spectrum appearing to exist separately. It is now much more homogenous.

I knew I should have quit when I didn’t care for it :) If it continues to change for the better my bank account will be smaller. I will continue running this unit in for the next several days and report back.
@audiofun Enjoying your posts.
I'm a long time user of a Decca Super Gold with Paratrace tip and love it. 


Thank you. I was actually reading some of your posts a little earlier this evening ago regarding the Decca cartridges :)
I hope my own ART7 will also continue to improve with time and hours of use.  I had the distinct feeling it took a step backward 2 nights ago, but that can also happen during the break-in period.  Not all the changes that cartridge goes through during break-in are necessarily for the better, until finally it reaches a stable state.

I absolutely agree with you that components can sound better then worse (wash repeat) during break-in. I actually wondered if that is what was/is occurring with the ART 1000. Either way, at this point it sound fantastic and I am probably going to purchase one for myself. My AMR DP 777 se was notorius for sounding good and then not so good during its break-in period. 
So I spoke with the dealer again and in fact it appears that this cartridge may have only played about 20 records prior to it landing in my possession. The limited playtime would perfectly explain why my initial thoughts about the cartridge were not up to my expectations. Twenty records is a long way off from eighty play-time hours.

That would man the cartridge had less than 40 hours on it and I have put about 32 hours on it at this point. It makes sense that it would now start to show/hint at its true capabilities.
Sounds like the AT needs a bit more break in. I'm listening to a Charisma Denon 103, which retails for around $750 US. I've been impressed with this cartridge from day 1, as new. Always engaging on my WT Amadeus. The London cartridges have been on my radar for some time. Especially for the two following reasons. The WT arm uses the silicon (or whatever fluid) damped tonearm, and the London are said to perform well on that type of setup. Secondly, I have a Croft phono integrated, and Glenn apparently voices with London, and is a big fan. Id' likely try the Super Gold, as bdp24 mentioned. I have a strong feeling the Lyra's, which I've heard, and the AT's, which I have not, would not be my cup O' tea. Great stuff here audiofun!!!


You are are correct sir, the AT does need more break-in.  The London’s are great. 
Woe to the audiophile who uses a Decca cartridge in a totally undamped tonearm.

As magnesium is a naturally damped (well more so than aluminum) metal I’m guessing that’s why my London sounds so fantastic on the GAE arm or at least one of the contributing factors along with the Schick oil impregnated graphite headshell used on the London.

I think I have a mechanical resonance plot from Technics around here somewhere comparing the magnesium arm to the aluminum arm. The mg arm is quite a bit more adept at controlling resonance than the aluminum arm.
@lewm, while that was very true of the old Decca's (greatly benefitting from a damped arm), it is less (though not completely un-) true of current London's. When Art Dudley recently reviewed a budget London in Stereophile, he did so in a Rega 300. A damped arm is completely unnecessary if the cartridge is used on a Townshend Audio Rock turntable, which itself employs damping, at the best location---the arm's headshell.
On a side note... I was trying to see who imports London carts in to the US. The recent Audio Beatnik online review lists May Audio marketing. Both phone numbers for May Audio are bad, and they don’t seem to have a website. I wonder if they are between importers. Needledoctor is the only US dealer that I’m aware of. Cheers -Don
@fjn04 I run a modified Super Gold with a Croft. Super satisfied. Beats anything I've heard at shows.
Woe to the audiophile who uses a Decca cartridge in a totally undamped tonearm.
Maybe the plastic mounting provides enough damping but I let my 12"Jelco 750 oil well run dry and my SG/Paratrace sounds wonderful. Tracks beautifully.
@fjn04, May Audio hasn’t been London’s U.S. distributor for years. Brian Tucker at Pro Audio, Ltd. now is, but Warren Gregoire in the SF Bay Area has been selling them for years, and is a Decca/London expert. Be forewarned: he "interviews" all prospective buyers, selling you one only if you past his test! "The Needle Doctor" is also a London retailer.

Oops, "pass" his test ;-). Warren demands to know what arm (and table) the pickup is going on, who will be doing the mounting and aligning, etc. If he disapproves of your answer, no sale. Weird!

Though I have done the chore numerous times, I told him I might have Brian Berdan (at Audio Elements in Pasadena, CA) do it this time. Brian was trained by his late father, the cartridge/arm/table master Brooks Berdan (ARC's Bill Johnson had Brooks come out to his Winter home in Palm Desert---an hour-and-a-half drive from Brooks' shop in Monrovia, CA---to set up his table), and is one of the handful of best in the country. Warren had heard of neither! Kinda clueless, but he does know the cartridge.

Interview before purchase? That is ridiculous and quite frankly no ones business what my system is composed of. If I want to buy a cartridge and frame it as art that is my prerogative. These are the types of individuals that show the ugly side of this wonderful indulgence that is hi-end Audio. Sounds nutty to me.

Climbing down from soapbox now.
Just a quick follow-up in case it wasn't clear. The ART 1000 once fully broken in has become one of my favorite cartridges and I will be adding it to my system very soon. Only a mixup with another product I purchased from the dealer delayed my purchase. 

Please do allow about 60 - 70 hours of break-in as it will transform itseld into a thing of beauty. I love the London for classical and Jazz ensembles, although it sounds great on everything. Interestingly the London sounds better on the GAE with the large weight preferred to the small wieght (of course the VTF is set to the same regardless of the weight  used). The ART is ultimately more refined than the London and simply beautifule to listen to :)

Love my Anna for the way it paints the overall sonic canvas.

I will soon review the Luxman EQ500 which  I have added to my phonotages. The SPL Phonos is for now dedicated to the London. That combination is simply magical. 
We took a long vacation in June, to visit our son in Tokyo.  During that time, the ART7 sat without use in our chilly basement, where I keep my second system.  I fired it up again only last week, to see what was happening with the ART7.  I still don't love, love it.  It's very vivid and seems to get all the notes, top to bottom, but the word "clinical" keeps going through my mind.  The ART7 is riding in a Dynavector DV505 on a very modified Lenco, into a Manley Steelhead driving the built-in direct-drive amplifiers of a pair of Beveridge speakers that are full range down to 80Hz where they cross over to a pair of KEF B139 woofers installed in a transmission line cabinet of my own making.  IOW, this is a very low distortion speaker system; it doesn't need exaggerated details from the cartridge. But given the circumstances, I am not prepared to declare a final opinion.
General thought: I remember some guru saying that MC cartridges get the attack of notes correct, but they fall down on the trailing edges.  Comparing the ART7 to an Acutex LPM320 in this same system, that's exactly the way I hear it, so far. The ART7 does better than the Acutex on the attack, but the Acutex captures the decay better than the ART7 and presents a more "musical" facsimile of reality.
Hi lewm;

Obviously I don’t know your system or the ART 7 but if I recall isn’t the ART 7 a very low output cartridge (.12mv) ? What gain is your stage set for while running the ART.  I would suggest nothing lower than 66dB and perhaps as hi as 72dB (roughly a gain of 4000 times).

I'm sure you know all this but I’m humbly suggesting that if your cartridge is fully run in, it sounds like it could be loading or perhaps the VTA is too high. 

The possibility of course exists that you have it perfectly setup and the sonic traits of the cartridge are simply not to your liking.
Great speaker/sub combo, Lew! I paired old Quads with transmission line loaded KEF B139’s (using just the woofers in the ESS Transtatic speakers, actually) for years. Still have them all, but put aside for now. The direct-drive design used in the Beveridge is SUCH a great idea. Roger Modjeski (of Music Reference, of course), who was involved in the development of the amp in that speaker, is now offering his own, new, direct-drive ESL speaker/tube amp/sub system. No amp output transformer, no ESL input transformer!---Eric.
Interestingly, my Beveridge amplifiers are signed inside by the initials "RM", using magic marker, and dated 1979.  Or maybe only one of them is.  RM worked with Harold Beveridge back then. I knew that RM had an all-tube mod for my amps (which have a solid state input stage), but I did not know that he is making a complete direct-drive speaker system.

I built my TL cabinets more than 45 years ago, using the famous article by Bailey, published in Wireless World, as a guide.  I was also copying the IMF Monitor speaker, which I had heard many times at Lyric Hi-Fi on Lexington Ave in NYC.  To me, the Monitor had the lowest distortion and most extended bass of any speaker available at that time. And of course, I could not possibly afford them, because they cost something like a THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! (Can you imagine?)  So I bought the IMF Studios from Lyric and soon realized I wanted more.  In construction, I used 1.25-inch MDF with a formica covering. Thus each cabinet weighs near to 100 lbs. I was a medical intern at that time.  So my schedule was stay up all night one night in the hospital, sleep the next night, work on the speakers the night after that, then stay up all night in the hospital, etc.
Audiofun, I don't know that I have the ART7 set up "perfectly", but for now I will give it more time.  Not a bad idea about playing with VTA, but keep in mind, I am not talking about tonal balance, which in my experiece is most affected by VTA.  I am talking about an over all quality.

I understand what you are saying concerning tonality and VTA. I do believe that VTA can extend beyond just tonality and literallly affect a make-or-break situation in the overall sound of the transducer.

I keep records for each of my cartridges as to where the VTA should be for less than 180g, 180g and greater than 180g. I can hear the differences.

Just today I was listening to my London on 180g vinyl and I didn’t like it, turns out I had it set for 120g vinyl.

In a truly resolving system I find it vastly important. It is one reason I don’t easily consider arms that don’t have easily repeatable VTA adjustments.

Would love to know the outcome of your endeavor :)