Help with OL-Tonearm and Cartridge.

I am in the process of shopping for a tonearm/cartridge and have heard good things about the REGA arms. These get very favorable comments from the user community once origin live performs modifications to the arm.

I have been researching tonearms and found that Origin Live has introduced their own arm. Its called the OL 250 Silver Tonearm and comes it two flavors. I was hoping someone could give me any insight as to what they have heard or experienced about this arm. How do you think this arm compares with the stock REGA arms? How would it compare with the Graham or SME arms?

My goal is to pair an arm up with a MC cartridge. Assuming that my phono stage has a high gain (68dB)output, what output cartridge voltage would be better and why? Would it be better to pair up a higher output MC cartridge, for example 0.8mv, with this gain stage as opposed to going with the really low output cartridges?

Is there really a noticeable difference between MC or MM cartridges in sound?


I had a non-silver OL RB-250 and found it worked extremely well with my Grado Sonata. It is extremely good value for the price. I never tried it with a MC cartridge.

I then upgraded to a Graham 2.2 with the .25mv output Graham Nightingale. That combination was a wonderful improvement to the RB-250/Grado, but certainly the law of diminishing returns clearly applied to that upgrade. I certainly couldn't swear that the improvements in my enjoyment of my records was worth the cost of the upgrade.

One thing I really do like about the Graham is how user friendly it is and how easy it is to adjust VTA. I would really have a problem going back to an arm like the OL250 where adjusting VTA is very difficult (or even worse, going back to a stock 250 that has no VTA adjustment).

It's not clear from your post if the 68db gain is exclusive to your phono preamp or also includes the gain of your preamp. If 68 db is your total gain, I think I would stay with .8mv output, but if you have another 10 or 20 db gain from your preamp, you can go as low as you want.

A good MC is generally an improvement over a MM, but I love the Grado cartridges and think they are better than a lot of the high priced MCs. In my experience, MCs just don't do well unless they are feeding into a step-up transformer. The first stage of my Rowland Cadence has a step-up transformer from Jensen, as does the ARC Reference phono pre-amp. However, this is a very controversial subject and others I'm sure will strongly disagree with me.
It doesn't make a sence to use hither output cartridge. If you get a hith gain phono it means you need to benefit from lower output cartridges that have better transperency and stage without loosing dynamics and presentation.
On the other hand if your phono has gain adjustment you should probably set it for 53...57dB. The gain adjustment or choosing the right gain for your cartridge is necessary to acheive the linear operation of amplification devices(not only the phono preamp).
OL arm has better phono wires and heavy counterweight that can accommodate heavier cartridges than Rega. Still there is a need for VTA which might be made by turntable manufacturers(other than Rega on wonder). Rega makes only spacers since they have their own philosophy about their arms. If you get Michell or Basis turntable you'll be able to get VTA for Rega arm. There isn't azimuth adjustment which also has to deal with the linearity of tracking.
I own Incognito RB300 modified arm and it different in better 3d stage and details due to a high quality wires, separate ground plug and heavy counterweight. But always remember that it's still REGA and not OL. It looks like REGA and it can never be adjusted to your cartridge like Graham or SME arms.
68 dB gain is very high, even for a MC phono stage. You will have no trouble driving evan a .2mv cartridge. As a matter of fact, you may experience trouble with .8mv since you will have to use the lower part of your volume control, which is usually not as linear as the middle of volume control.

Also, in general, all other things being equal, lower is better because it has a lighter coil and therefore has a lighter tip mass. If you already have a phono stage with 68dB then go with the lower output (say, <= .4mv).
The phono stage is an EAR834P Tube phono stage that I am considering using. It comes with the option of a volume control which I am leaning towards. I like the volume control because it gives me the flexibility of using it without the preamp.

Pctower, The 68dB gain is just from the MC section of this phono stage. You have to option of running this through a preamp, but I am not sure what effect that will have with a volume control on the Phono stage itself.

The Origin Live Silver 250 has a sliding infinitely adjustable VTA, unlike the Rega arms. I agree that the Rega arms sound like a nightmare to setup.

With regard to azimuth, I am not sure how you would adjust a parameter like this. If the cartridge is installed properly to a level tonearm on a level armboard, and the turntable is also level; I would think that by default the cartridge should be perpendicular to the record. If it's not then there is a possibility that your armboard may not be level. Perhaps I do not really have a grasp on azimuth.

So with a 68dB gain on just the phono preamplification can I run this directly to an amplifier with a low output MC cartridge? Whats a good range to consider?

Yes you can put it straight into the amp, which is a great idea if your tt is your only source, or if you don't mind swapping interconnects from time to time.

If you are going to put it into the preamp first, you will want to set the volume control on the EAR all the way up. Of course, set your preamp volume very low and increase it until you find your preferred listening volume. You will want to adjust the phono stage volume downward a bit only if the the 68dB is putting the preamp volume control at preferred listening volume too low, so as to be on a non-linear portion of the volume control. (in such a position, it is more difficult to fine tune your desired listening volume.) The reason you want to put the phono stage as high as possible is that the volume control is really just an attenuator, meaning that the phono stage amplifies the signal by 68dB and then the volume control chops it back down. Since every event of amplification adds noise, and attenuation occurs more at the higher end of the dynamic range, the process of amplify/attenuate/amplify will unnecessarily decrease your signal to noise ratio.

Enjoy the music!