Critical oppositions made using inadequate equipment.

Is it really possible to critically estimate tt or cartridge characteristics using for example cheap monitor speakers or other weak component in the system ?
If all other variables remain the same, then the question becomes what is the minimum degree of resolution required by System X to evaluate TT or Cartridge A? The vague formulation of your question makes it impossible to answer.
Sorry, auto spelling error appeared in the thread title. It’s Opinions instead Oppositos :) 
Sure its possible, but your conclusion would leave you with more questions than answers.
Yes it's possible but only up to a point which is a good thing. If you have a good source your system will continue to improve and reveal more as you build around it.  The same holds true if it's a crappy source and great speakers or whatever component mix.
No you really can not but just remember sound is relative and not related to cost, some of the best sounding gear does not cost that much, especially speakers.
No. in fact substandard equipment may not only mask differences but reverse what ought to be the true outcome. The dumbest things ever are the folks who compare some $20k speaker to a $2k speaker on youtube. yea, after compression, jitter, conversion in the laptop, and playing through the 1" speaker i ought to be able to discern the deltas. Uh, huh.

OK, now on the the caveats. Don’t confuse cheap with poor quality, or expensive with good. There are many cheap components i really like, and many costly components that i find somewhere between uninspired and plain bad. Some of those quite famous too.

Its worth mentioning that there are some modestly inexpensive reference quality speakers out there. By and large they accomplish this magic through a) good engineering and b) an almost total lack of bass. So, if you *know* they lack bass, and account for it, then sometimes you can make valid comparisons....within boundaries.

But at the end of the day, revealing is revealing. I had one prototype that i was pretty satisfied with in my downstairs and lab systems, and which several audio folks with good ears pronounced darned good at the price. ...Then i took it "upstairs".... and the truth came out :-) It was good but had its limits. I bit the bullet and made the changes i wanted to all along and now it truly sings. Maybe some day it will even see the light of the market.
Is it really possible to critically estimate tt or cartridge characteristics using for example cheap monitor speakers or other weak component in the system ?

If what you call "cheap monitor speakers" are professional studio monitors (near field monitors, if they are small) then you will be able to hear everything, normally monitors designed for monitoring in the mixing/mastering studios. They lack bass, but the rest of the spectrum is there. Good near field monitors must be neutral. Some small vintage studio monitors are inexpensive.

You will hear the difference even with small bookshelf speakers, but hi-fi speakers are colored, far from being neutral.

Cartridge is the key factor in high fidelity reproduction of phonograph records. This is logical, since the cartridge, via the stylus, makes the first and only contact with the record. It is the unit which transforms groove undulations into electrical signals. The stylus has to move (to the left and right, up and down) at very high speeds, deal with extremely high forces, yet maintain surface contact at tracking forces consistent with low record wear, and ensure high channel separation for stereo reproduction.It is cartridge performance, therefore, that determines basic sound quality before the signals are amplified and played through your loudspeakers. Advanced stylus profile (natural diamond) distributes the stylus pressure over a much wider contact area within the groove than is possible with conventionally shaped diamonds. This provides greatly reduced wear on both record and stylus at the recommended tracking force. In addition, the advanced stylus profile (such as FineLine, Shibata, LineContact, Stereohedron, MicroLine or MicroRidge…) also provides better tracking ability and lower distortion at high frequencies in the critical inner turns of the groove. Compared with other stylus materials the advanced profiles do cost more, but the extra expense is fully justified by the resulting superior performance and extended life
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...mho, 'oppositions' is actually a good faux paus...*s*

On changing item X with Z, one ought to either notice a 'change' of some sort.  But it becomes a matter of taste and/or deliberation as to whether the change is good/bad/indifferent is all else is not modified in any fashion.

If there is a weakness already extant, it likely would perform more or less the
+1 @hilde45 - not enough info to draw conclusions

critically estimate tt or cartridge characteristics
What does “critically” mean? Hearing any changes? If you mean like a professional reviewer then the entire audio chain must be of high enough quality to hear differences. If the later then the answer is no.
cheap monitor speakers
Also vague. Price is not the same as performance.

In high-end audio, the entire audio chain matters. Often addressing/upgrading the weak link components yields the best sonic upticks.

In order to sonically evaluate an audio component, the rest of the audio chain must be of a high enough quality to hear the differences.  Not enough data to draw any conclusions 
As a matter of principle, it seems to me counter-productive to seek to evaluate a component using other components of a poorer sound quality than the one under evaluation.

But it is more counter-productive to seek to allocate reliable or universal relative sound quality ratings to diverse components.

So the answer is not 'no', but 'the question is not susceptible to a reliable answer'.

There are many cheap mass market products on the market, for example an entry level turntables or speakers, but when it comes to analog playback you can hear the difference upgrading just a cartridge (read above).

Of course if you will start from interconnect cables using such entry level system the difference will be hardly noticeable (if any). 
OP: isn't this:

do I need to wait until I get better speakers to hear the differences of cartridges?

Loudspeakers in an infinite variety of rooms are so varied that evaluating other equipment only has merit in a particular system. There are exceptions, a cartridge that does not track well will break up prematurely and that will apply to all systems. Otherwise clearthinker is right, you can not generalize to other systems. Now if there was a calibration standard that could be applied to audio systems like there is for projectors this could change. This is actually now possible given digital control but would not apply to "analog only" individuals. 
In short, we are very much all alone by ourselves when it comes to evaluating equipment. What sounds great in your system may not be great in others regardless of quality. This is one reason you have to take reviews with a grain of salt. You may also notice that certain brands are always being reviewed by people who are fond of that brand to begin with. Bias has many forms. 
How do you keep from buying equipment that will not work well in your system? In the end you can't. I would bet that many if not most of us have bought equipment we became unhappy with. Our systems evolve slowly over time and we learn what works well with our own situation. Set amps will be worse than terrible with my speakers. I know not to go there. With horn speakers my amps are extreme overkill. There are so many ways to skin this cat. We all have our own ideas of what is best. I do find it interesting that if you have an excellent system evaluated by a number of audiophiles all will agree that it is a fine system. The same will happen with a terrible system. All will agree it is terrible. So there is a standard in our heads even if you can't define it.  
@surfmuz if you asked regarding your own system, don’t hesitate to tell us what you have and what you are willing to upgrade
No, it was about somebody else’s system.  I don’t use monitor speakers in any of my home three systems. Next coming upgrade I’m planning is NORDOST HEIMDALL power cable for my Modwright LS100 pream for my basement system. 
Yes, you can. I do it all the time.

I have 107 cartridges, at least that many styli that I evaluate, compare, review, and enjoy. I have 17 TTs that I mount them in with varying arm masses and configurations.

My equipment is not expensive, and hardly high end by most standards in here. 
But I can clearly hear all the subtle, nuanced, drastic differences in cartridges and styli. For set up of cartridges and styli, I listen through a $6 pair of MonoPrice headphones. They readily reveal VTF issues, alignment errors, tracking issues, distortions, and any other problems. I also make styli for several rare cartridges. 
So, yes you absolutely CAN hear differences using inexpensive (consumer grade) TTs, receivers, amps, headphones, phono preamps, cables, interconnects.  I do it and enjoy it every day.


Time to time I visiting my old friend who has professional record studio in his house. So when I visited him last time he gave me a lot of his opinions, evaluations and reviews about several carts and tt…based on his listening sessions using pro equipment and $400 pro monitor speakers….the guy has about fifty different carts and two carts which I used to have at some point.. we tried to listen to those two carts and I realized that I shouldn’t take his advices and evaluations seriously. Of course I could get some characteristics but whole picture no way.

You have to listen in your system and only your opinion is valid when you choose a component. I bought far more turntables than I actually need, too many tonearms, and many more cartridges of all types (some very rare units). Different phono stages, SUTs, headamps ... Some people have more, some are totally insane in this hobby.

I also adjust and test every new cartridge not in the main system, I use headphones and two identical turntables to test carts, styli etc, I can immediately switch between two identical turntables. I can hear the difference using professional Sennheiser HD-25 headphones. For the first teste it’s enough.

I got 3 pairs of speakers and they are vary from bookshelf professional Tannoy monitors to the huge main Tannoy monitors and floorstanding high-end speakers. I have couple of friends with nice systems and we can meet for a listening session. Everywhere we can hear the difference, but I enjoy the most my MAIN system, this is where I use only the best and every change in that system is audible (cable, phono stage, tonearm, cartridge... whatever).
We all have our own ideas of what is best.
I’m totally agree on this one. No dogma exists in our hobby. At some point you just start to understand that you ready for your own concepts and whoever suggesting to you or gives you some strong opinions are  basing on their own, probably weak experience and maybe even wrong understanding. 
"Maybe even wrong understanding."   The biggest  issue I see with the out spoken people is there lack of experience  with live real music.  They always fall back on detail and pump up highs.  They use the terms  air around instrument , black background,  neutral,   sound stage,  etc etc ...  In all the posts did anyone ask you what your goal is.  What are you looking for.  What is your  musical  background.?  What music do you listen to?  Etc Etc ...  

Is the tone, body, timbre, pitch of acoustical  instruments important  to you?  Is the attack and decay of interest.  How loud and what size room do want to fill with music.  Do you want to feel like  you are at a rock concert,  classical  auditorium,   Or a  small jazz club with out big ass studio monitors  to mess things up.    

In regards to real music the mid range is where at least 80% of the action is.  Studio monitors  can be the best here.  Rodgers and Spendor 3/5  monitors  are superb.   Of course Quads and some planar are great mid range speakers also.  

So to your original question,  it would be hard to answer not knowing what you like and want from music.  If detail is your thing  there is plenty  of solid state amps and speakers to let you hear changes in carts and table arm combos.  If going for the Holy Gail  of real Live music , where vinyl  is King ,  things get more complicated.   Here I would go down the tube stuff ave which would cost more but really sounds like the real deal.  The hardest  part is knowing the weak component is with out knowing your goals.  If you are truthly looking for a answer  for your journey  then I would define your goals  then get the speakers  to get you close , then amps that can make them sing.  Then fine tune them with table/arm/ cartridge. 

Enjoy the ride

One audio guru, Nelson Pass of Threshold and Pass Labs fame, uses what most of us would deem to be really substandard speakers to test his changes.that his best sounding speakers do not. Even my current telvision speakers, B&W DM 14's I bought new in 1981 show differences between some excellent tuners I have tried (Kenwood KT-917, Sansui TU-707/717, and B&K TS-108), as well as differences between very good phono cartridges.  The limiationts of these speakers is shown when trying to tell the substantial difference between an Audire Diffet 2 or 3 pre-amp, but I doubt Nelson has that problem.  Also, many mobile van mixers used little Rogers LS series speakers for setting controls when recording.  These use the same Celestion mid-tweets and Coles Super tweeter as the KEF that B&W co-opted to improve the KEF crossovers, which they replaced  to make B&W's first speakers  teh early DM models.  These used not only the aforementioned drivers, but even the KEF, wide cabinet British tax evading, ovalish woofer.  So! I say YES! 
@tomwh, your first two paragraphs are very true. A great system has to be able to mimic all these genres and venues with authority. But I respectfully disagree on the overriding importance of the midrange. If you want the live experience the entire audio band from 18 Hz to 16 kHz is important. Certainly, if you have to settle for a limited system the last thing you can compromise is the midrange. But, for the live experience it all has to be there especially the bass. 

Quads were special because they were the first speaker that gave us a hint of what was possible. But, they then developed the speaker in the wrong direction trying to improve it's performance as a point source speaker instead of evolving towards a full range line source. The Europeans are more concerned about size than Americans as many more of them live in places with limited space. 
So we are back to  what do you want from your  music.  There is no one size fits all speaker.  If I wanted  to light up a big room with  rock and roll,  quads and book shelf  speakers are not where  I would start.  

You sound like bass is a big  deal for you.  Here is a test for you.  Go to what ever venue  you hear the big bass you like.  Then close your eyes listen to just the bass.  It just might change  mind about how tight it really is.  If  classical is your thing  what instrument  can  create loud tight bass?

Of course if real is not your thing then create the system  that  makes you happy.  

Enjoy the ride
"..whatdya want from Life?"

"A baby's' arm, holding an apple..."

Knew a woman who had a keychain fob of that description, so it is available.....;)

Carts 'n equipment?  Not so much...
The Tubes priceless!!!  White punks on dope!!!  Thinking Quads might not be the best choice for this album.

Enjoy the ride


Monty Phahon may think a nice shrubbery is the meaning of life.  
I’m not sure what was the purpose of this thread? Just to say that a friend who adviced some cartridges to OP has completely different opinion about those cartridges than the OP? I read the same on audiogon everyday, people are disagree on many things. But I have no idea who they are and when I see the images of their systems I often shocked (in a bad way), the OP could ask his friend in person (or to check these carts at his system), but he asked an opinion of some strangers on audiogon to read two opposite points of view (again, as always).
:) No, the purpose of this thread is to be careful and skeptical to strong opinions and suggestions from “gurus” who made their conclusions based on using non relevant equipment. 
chakster, the bush around your system is pretty dense. The system is kind a lost in it… i like it a lot and I’m shocked (in a pretty good way) :))). What kind of plants is that? Do you watering them yourself? What kind of water do you use? Tap water? Rain water?…. Do you fertilize that bushes? 
...speaking on dope punks white....shrubbery...chaksters' 'bush'....

Yet another quantum sync...?  

Why is chaks' bush 'doing' around that 'plant' ?

...and just what sort of 'fertilizing' going on?

...curious minds just being curious...*L* ;)

Maybe  the OP  can tell us about plants.  I am still confused on what is non relevant equipment.   And his goals and the moral of the story etc...  The only thing I can conclude from the facts presented  in evidence is he and his friend like a different  sound.  What those sounds are are still un known even in verbiage.  

So grasshopper what is the moral of story???  Maybe the OP thinks he has better ears than his friend.   Of course we do not know what he likes or his abilities.  Even in simple business strategy  you need a objective so you can come up with strategies to reach it.  

Yes I A realize the Zen master would be disappointed,  I  tried to inject a little logic in this discussion , but  I was in the mood.  

Enjoy the ride

Haha, I use holy water @surfmuz and it change the whole sound (in a good way). 
Amazon has a wide range of artificial plants, shrubs and small trees.  What is the best shape of leaf for effective diffusion when situated behind loudspeakers?
Haha, I use holy water @surfmuz and it change the whole sound (in a good way).
Does it exorcise demonic audio noise?
What is the best shape of leaf for effective diffusion when situated behind loudspeakers?

Darko Audio explained in this video :) 

" The biggest issue I see with the out spoken people is there lack of experience with live real music. They always fall back on detail and pump up highs. They use the terms air around instrument , black background, neutral, sound stage, etc etc ... In all the posts did anyone ask you what your goal is. What are you looking for. What is your musical background.? What music do you listen to? Etc."

Tom, I really have to agree with you on this. I spent a lot of time during the decades of improving my system in getting more and better details, slam, nuances of transient, etc, while the overall gestalt of the music suffered. It is easy to let the analytical side take over and look at one variable at a time and loose the big picture. It was season tickets to the symphony ten years ago that brought me back down to earth and while my system has all the details and nuances of former systems they are not lite up as if in a spotlight, they are part of a more musical whole. But I think often you just have to chase the obvious before you can figure out how to find what you really want.
 No, sorry I can’t tell you anything about the plants, this is not my strong side. Let’s live this topic to Darko and chakster :)… however I could tell you about other interesting stuff like beautiful women, swing jazz and surf rock, the game of tennis, rifles, handguns, boats, deep sea spearfishing, rare whiskey and old propaganda posters from around the world. I’m surprised why you still confused about what is non relevant equipment…. Isn’t it obvious that low quality cheap speakers for example is non relevant to evaluate components and make serious conclusions and suggestions to others about this components!?
@ghdprentice , Really? Last night I saw The Tower Of Power in Hampten, NH at the Casino Ballroom. The band was phenomenal but the sound system SUCKED!! There was distortion behind the singer's voice but not the horns, maybe a bad mic. There was a lot of sibilance which made me squint once in a while. It was a mono system. The bass player was buried behind the bass drum which BOOMED. In short, the three live records of theirs are superior in every way. The individual instruments are beautifully outlines. I can match the level without any stress or sibilance and I can clearly here each bass note. The bass drum thuds with assurance. 
Certainly, people who have been to indoor stadium concerts will tell you the same thing. If you can get a good live recording the sound can be much better at home. If you want to compare your system to the real thing than any acoustic setting will do, classical, folk or Jazz. Electrified bands that are playing through their own amps Like the David Holland Quartet are also great especially if they keep the same set up on their live recordings. Very Cool. Now, what were you saying ghd?

tomwh, What Do You Want From Life?  Yes, I like bass very much and I like midrange and treble. As I explained above there are many instances were a recording is subjectively better sound than the live event. But there is only one live just like there is only one right color calibration for projectors. Having measured several systems besides my own I can guarantee that the majority of systems/rooms are not properly calibrated. Some of them are way out with 10 dB and over deviations from flat even up high. Not only that but the frequency response of the left and right main speakers can differ by 10 dB.  The colors are way off. Most of this can be easily fixed with the right equipment all of which operates in digital. This is a leap analog folks are scared of making. If you like vintage sound go for it but, that is not where accurate reproduction lies. There are certain things that have to be done like getting the sound balance/tonality that you like, adjust the response of the individual loud speakers so that they are within 1 dB of each other from 100 Hz to 12 even 16 kHz, Create a two way cross over for subwoofers with a 48 dB/oct roll off and match them with the main speakers in time and phase, create a brick wall rumble filter that drops at 80 dB/oct from 18 Hz and finally Boost the very low bass +6 dB at 20 Hz. This gives you that live feeling at slightly less than ear shattering volumes. 
People laugh a this approach but some of you know better. How do you know that a system is too bright if you don't know what flat sounds like?
It gets back to that calibration thing. You have to calibrate your brain. Experience is the best teacher.
+1 mijostyn
live music is not always a gold standard for sound quality. I could remember the shame sound at concert of Pink Martini at Wolf Trap several years ago it was total disaster. However Depeche Mode concert was just glorious in sound. 
"...Good concerts, bad concerts, y'know I've had my share...
When my earplugs went in 20 minutes in, y'all know I couldn't care...."

Holy water don't fix ground loops....or much else.

I'll stand with @mijostyn....once you know 'flat', one can build from that to one's' taste....

And digital and analog is blurring a lot of late...where does one end and the other begin to effect the whole?

Well, I am talking about acoustic live music. Electrified concerts are frequently terrible sounding… you are listening to an audio system in a location of terrible acoustics. I stopped going to concerts like that twenty years ago. Live music needs to be classical or acoustical jazz or your more likely to do better at home.