Mono Cartridge Question

You chaps have watched me struggle with the issue of my London Decca Reference being irreplaceable, and then joyfully learning that John Wright has a successor after all. You have seen me buy and test three other MI designs (Nagaoka MP-500, Grado Statement3, Soundsmith Sussurro MkII) along with my older MC cartridges (Ortofon Kontrapunkt C and Benz Micro Ruby 3). Since those struggles have led me to owning two SME turntables and four tonearms, I am now torturing myself with the question of whether one of those four should be home to a dedicated mono cartridge. Remember, I only have one ear and cannot hear stereo at the best of times. A mono cartridge for my few dozen mono recordings would be a matter of reduced surface noise and possibly some improvement in dynamics.

I can get hold of an Ortofon Cadenza Mono (two voice coils so not true mono) for about 1600CDN, and a Miyajima Zero for 3450CDN. So the question is this: am I mad to even think about it? Money is not what it once was before I retired. There is no opportunity to go and hear these before purchase, without spending much more than purchase price on travel.

Shall I "make do" with my rather good stereo carts for my mono LPs or is there something better waiting for me when I get out those Parlophone Beatles LPs?



@pryso +1 regarding your comment:

Nearly all mono reissues were made with stereo cutter heads with smaller size. I don't believe few if any mono cutter heads survive.  

I assume from this mono reissues may be OK with current stereo cartridges, although a mono switch (per Lew) may still help sonics.  But with original mono releases a mono cartridge with appropriate tip size should optimize the enjoyment.

I had the opportunity to acquire a collection of around 900 mono records, most of them in near mint condition (half of them are real mono, the rest are mono reissues)

I started with Ortofon 2M Mono and a MM phono preamp for the real mono recordings. To my ears it was ok but not more. For the reissues I am using the Orfoton Cadenza Red with a separate tt as stereo cutter heads have been used.

Then I decided to to a step further and purchased a Cadenza Mono and a Graham Slee Audio Revelation MC for the real mono recordings

Connecting only one cinch plug from the TT's phono cable and fit the other entry with a 'dummy' cinch plug (As per advice of Graham Slee).

I reckon that the possibility to choose from different EQ settings are making a big difference for early FFR recordings (pre 1953) and FFR recordings.

The different EQ settings will allow you to obtain a good tonal match to what the the original sound would have been on 78 rpm records, vinyl LPs and EPs

IMO, the 2.5k investment in the Cadenza Mono MC and the preamp was a very good one.

Coming closer to listening to real-real mono would probably be using one speaker only? However, I do get wonderful soundstages from the old recordings using both speakers.

I'm happy to get any comments from you mates on how to improve mono listening even further.

Cheers, eagledriver


Graham Slee Audio Revelation MC


@eagledriver_22 What tonearm are you using and how important is the tonearm when tracking strictly mono records? Does the Cadenza sound better with older mono versus newer remasters?


My input on this subject: my recommendation goes the same way as Lyra cartridges designers- the AT33Mono. It is a true mono, not neutered stereo! People get confused because it has two true mono coils. (They are not stereo coils connected to run as mono - this is a cart designed as mono, not the usual stereo cart internally connected in mono, which is the neutered stereo/mono.)

So, Lyra's designer was saying (reportedly) when they interviewed him, he said that in case one cannot afford a Lyra mono, then he'd recommend the AT33Mono as it's the next thing that comes close to his Lyra to his ears.

I can second that it's a fantastic mono cart, and for folks considering a very much budget option, the AT3MONO little brother is pretty good as well, and performs quit above its price.

I have the anniversary edition, which is essentially a premium AT33MONO. It is not far off a Benz MC3, and is a perfect match for the ET-SUT (1:25 step up, 100R load LOMC).

The huge advantage of the AT33MONO is that it can plug into a stereo system, so you don't have to reorganize your system and / or your room to switch between mono and stereo. (I have my stereo & mono on different arms, and just select the input to select between them.)  It plays every album you throw at it, with the vertical compliance. I often just use it to play stereo albums....

Now, if the cart has no vertical compliance then you might get into a pickle, because restricting to mono records might not work: as some (older) monos were made with mono lathes, and others (newer) with stereo lathes! The ones cut on stereo lathes may need the vertical compliance! Briefly, you will go nuts to find out which lathe was cut for which of your recording...

If you have 5 mono records, no problem researching all 5 out. But if you have about a thousand like me, then its beyond frustrating to go through a pile of records, as you have to research each and every one, and cannot play the ones you feel like playing for the next few hours....









1 What tonearm are you using and how important is the tonearm when tracking strictly mono records?

2 Does the Cadenza sound better with older mono versus newer remasters?

1 It is a 9 inch tone arm, Gold Note TA-9 Ball Bearing. I do not have THE answer regarding the importance of the tone arm as I did not experiment with multiple tone arms. However, mid to heavy weight tone arms appears to do better than light arms. I tend to believe that the phono preamp is more important with respect to good sound reproduction than the tone arm. I have a second preamp, Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2, which usually I am using for stereo records only (the tone arm of this tt is on the lighter side, Ortofon Cadenza Red which has the same internal construction as the Cadenza Mono). Huge difference in the dynamic range compared to the Graham Slee Revelation C when listening to mono records.Of course, this is apple compared to pears as the two preamps have a completely different. But to me, t is interesting and fun to compare.


2 I do not own 2 mono records of the same which fits your question So, I cannot compare but I believe it depends on various parameters which record could possibly sound better. For example, has the remaster made from the same older mono record or from original master tapes or from other reissued records or from which mediium else? Have stereo cutter heads been used for the reissue? Do the same equalisation characteristics have been applied on both records?

Summarized, if the processing and mastering has be done correctly, a record should sound nice if you have done the same with your set up. And it depends as well from your auditory perception.

Writing this, I have been listening to some mono records on both tt's. Prefer the Cadenza Mono/Graham Slee Revelation C combo under this hearding conditions.

Cheers, eagledriver