Mono Reissues and the Conical Stylus

Hi Folks,

Recently I started buying mono reissues from Speakers Corner, Impex, and have recently ordered a few from Analogphonic. They're all of the 'long haired' variety. In the process, I've come to discovery threads where posters claim that the newer mono reissue grooves are cut in a V (stereo) shape rather than the vintage U (mono) shape.
My AT 33 mono cartridge comes with a conical stylus and from what I can tell, so do the better mono cartridges, i.e. the Miyajima Zero Mono. This of course would then create an issue where it pertains to using a conical stylus in a V shaped groove.

Around November, I plan to purchase a Jelco tonearm for my modified Thorens TD 160 and after that, will be looking to upgrade to a higher end mono cartridge. However, I don't see that they're would be a viable solution to the stylus dilemma given that I will only have one tonearm. I do by the way own a collection of early mono records but would like to find a cartridge that better crosses over between my vintage pressings and my reissues. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
My take on this is that re-issues and late sixties original mono records are cut with narrow groove, and as such a modern stylus profile is optimal for reproduction even if only in mono. To that end, I’ve gone with the Audio-Technica VM540ML and it’s mono sibling, doing a mix
and match, taking the microline stylus from the VM540ML stereo body and putting on the mono cartridge body to play mono records. This limits me to just narrow groove records though. On a related note, I have yet to see a perfectly definitive way to identify exactly when mono record production in wide groove format stopped and narrow groove production started. Any ideas on that would be most welcomed. 
Goofyfoot, There is a lot of information on this subject available on the internet, but no matter how much knowledge you acquire (and I do recommend that you acquire more than you have already), there will always be some gray areas and areas where knowledgeable persons disagree with each other.  If you go to the Miyajima website, English version of course, and read what they have to say about how their cartridges should be used, that would be a good place to start.  If memory serves, they recommend a 1.0mil conical stylus for older original mono recordings. 0.7mil conical for later recordings, mono LPs into the mid-to-late 1950s.  I don't recall what they recommend for modern mono re-issues, but I am confident 0.7mil would work.  I am also sure that Sleepwalker's choice works too.  With only one tonearm on one turntable, you're going to have to decide what compromises you want to make.  Also, search on this site and on Vinyl Asylum and Vinyl Engine for more info.
Lewm, I'm not ignorant, rather I'm keeping my post simple. I've found this Ortofon website to break things down more but still question whether or not a microcline stylus would be ideal for pressings from both the 1950's and the 2000's.

There has to be a valid reason why Miyajima chooses a conical stylus and why Lyra incorporates a microcline stylus.
@goofyfoot, have you searched the Analog Planet website for info on this subject? Michael Fremer is really up on these issues, so I would start there.
 One reason for the use of exotic shaped styluses in modern mono cartridges is practicality. Most modern mono cartridges are actually stereo cartridges that are bridged internally to create a mono output in two channels. So, it is very easy for any manufacturer to create a new mono cartridge by that method. Miyajima is one of only a very few that builds mono cartridges from scratch; their mono cartridges do not react to vertical deflection of the cantilever at all. Lyra achieves the same goal by re-orienting the coils such that the output is mono. After much digging I was able to ascertain that Ortofon mono cartridges are created by internal bridging of a stereo cartridge. Their website is misleading on that subject. However in my opinion there’s nothing wrong with that approach. If you have a mono mode switch on your preamp, that works too.
+1 on lewm's comment: if you want to play 'everything' you'll need a few different mono carts. (Archivists often have considerably more)

That said 'modern' monos will sound better with a modern stylii profile for many of the same reasons stereo records do.
Since you are adding an arm with removeable headshell plan on getting two carts.

(As an aside if you want to mess with SPU carts or other heavy-low compliance carts take a look at the Audiocreative Groovemaster II as well as the jelco you have in mind)
Or you could buy one mono cartridge specifically for vintage (up to very early 50s or late 40s, I am guessing) original mono LPs with a 1.0mil conical stylus (if you have a large number of such records), and use a mono mode switch with a stereo cartridge for the rest. I have none of those early mono LPs, and I bought a Shelter 501 mk2 mono cartridge to play the mono LPs that I do own, last year. However, I am so satisfied with just using the mono mode switch that I have yet to mount the Shelter.
Using a mono switch is nill. Neither my phono amp or amp offers a mono switch.

Lewm, I am somewhat surprised to hear you say that the Ortofon Cadenza mono cartridge is a strapped stereo cartridge as Ortofon claims otherwise. What is your source that states otherwise?

Solypsa, the Groovemaster is out of my reach. However, someday in the future it might be possible. The Groovemaster reminds me of the Thomas Schick and it appears that both tonearms have a type of cartridge and playback in mind where it concerns their design. Which brings up another point; being that a particular mono cartridge and tonearm combination could be a perfect match depending on whether the cartridge is meant for vintage or contemporary pressings.

I'm beginning to think that the only true way of determining what stylus/cartridge type would be best would be to compare between them. However that is just plain impossible for me to do. What might be best for this post would be to hear from someone who actually owns and plays a variety of mono cartridges.
What you can buy is an MM (true MONO) cartridge like Grace and a bunch of different styli for different records. Practically this is much better solution than many different mono MC cartridges. Grace made some great true mono MM cartridges and styli.

Another manufacturer who made so many different MONO styli for any situation is Stanton/Pickering
Thanks chakster but I’d rather own an MC, just a personal preference. I am familiar with Grace as I owned an F 8 but I wasn’t all that impressed with it, though it filled a need at the time. Maybe the F9 would have left me with a different opinion.
Honestly, I really have no objections concerning my AT 33 mono. I do however notice a different sonic signature between my 1950’s vinyl and my reissues.The reissues have a better mix/mastering but my vintage vinyl sounds fuller. Also, I have an ASR Mini Basis phono stage which sounds nice with the AT but my thought is to move up some to a more refined sounding cartridge. The Lyra Kleos mono would be a dream to audition! Anyway, the tonearm will be my first upgrade.
Goofy, I did not specifically mention the Cadenza mono cartridge.  I was for a time interested in the Quintet mono.  If you look at the language they use to describe the Quintet, you would think it is "true mono", i.e., like the Miyajima cartridges in that it is insensitive to vertical cantilever displacement.  However, if you then look at the specs, you will see they are identical to those of the Quintet stereo cartridge.  This to me is an indication that the mono version is derived from the stereo one by internal bridging of the two channels.  This was also true of the Black mono.  If the Cadenza blurb says otherwise, check the specs of the stereo compared to the mono version. Does the Cadenza mono have two channels of outputs (4 pins)?  If so, that is usually a sign of a mono cartridge that was created from stereo.  The manufacturers can be devious, and you have to read between the lines.
On the other hand, like I said earlier, there is nothing "wrong" with deriving mono by internal bridging, in my opinion.  Some purists might argue that cancellation of the signal produced by vertical displacement of the cantilever, in such a design, is imperfect unless the cartridge is perfectly constructed physically.  (The two channels have to be perfectly in balance with respect to gain, etc.) One would have to do a careful study and take measurements to sort that out.
Sorry lewm, I didn’t look at the Quintet. The Cadenza Mono webpage claims that the Cadenza is a true mono cartridge for playing mono microgroove vinyl records. However, it states that the Cadenza Mono internal build is based on the internal build of the Cadenza Red. It also mentions that the four pins are connected, in order to receive the same exact sound.
I don’t follow you regarding the number of cartridge pins. My AT has four pins and it’s a true mono build. The same with Lyra, Miyajima and others. I did once own a mid level Grado that was strapped for mono but found it to be inconsistent from record to record. And, I liked my AT 33 mono so much better that I go rid of the Grado.
I totally get it if the GMII (or a Schick) are out of budget.
I will say that the role of the tonearm should not be under estimated. Both in terms of its quality and how well it works with the cartridge.
solypsa, I agree about which tonearm with which cartridge. I like the Schick and it's affordable but it's still much more than a Jelco. Additionally what makes the Jelco nice is that it will drop right into my Thorens without modifications. The Jelco will also work well with modern cartridges and from what I've been able to find, the Schick is raved for its compatibility with the better vintage cartridges.

Thanks chakster but I’d rather own an MC, just a personal preference. I am familiar with Grace as I owned an F 8 but I wasn’t all that impressed with it, though it filled a need at the time. Maybe the F9 would have left me with a different opinion.

F8 is cheap entry level cartridge, F9 is somewere in the middle, nothing special.

The Grace i am talking about is F14 Mono with two pins, the high-end Grace cartridges are F14 and LEVEL II models, only those two models comes with the best cantilevers (Sapphire, Boron Pipe, Beryllium) and best styli (MicroRidge). Those are the last cartridges made by Grace before they went out of business in the late 80’s. These models are better than many MC cartridges, but they are not cheap, actually very expensive and superior compared to any F9 version.

I have F14 MONO, the stylus does have a vertical compliance and the diamond profile is Luminal Trace. Nice for original mono records from the 60s/70s. This Grace F14 Mono has only two pins to connect leadwires. I don't have any pre-60's mono records and i don't buy mono reissues. 

Anyway, a Conical stylus is anachronism and must be avoided in the modern world (except for 78rpm SP records).
An MC cartridge with such stylus must be retipped every 300 hrs. 

Goofyfoot: I get it :)

As an aside; the Schick arm actually isn't extremely high in effective mass and can be pretty great with many modern carts (lyra comes to mind). The GMII is higher in effective mass so more focused to the very low compliance direction.
Both come in 9" btw...
'An MC cartridge with such stylus must be retipped every 300 hrs.'

According to who and why? 

I don't own 1960's mono, just earlier (no shellac) and a few reissues.

solypsa, thanks for showing me the Groovemaster II tonearm. It gets great reiews and certainly looks the part. I suppose I could put off buying the Jelco and wait until I'm able to afford a 9"GM at roughly $1,700.00, twice the price of the Jelco. I notice that an Ortofon SPU is show mounted on the webpage.
I am a dealer for both Schick and the GMII so i have some bias but both are great values imho.
solypsa, the biggest problem would be installing either on a modified Thorens TD 145 MK1.
Goofyfoot, Ortofon’s description of the Cadenza mono as quoted by you suggests to me that it is a bridged stereo cartridge, based on the Red. Not that there is anything wrong with that. What I don’t like is their ambiguous language.
’An MC cartridge with such stylus must be retipped every 300 hrs.’

According to who and why?

I don’t own 1960’s mono, just earlier (no shellac) and a few reissues.

Regarding the typical life span of the Conical stylus profile you can read online. This is why it is the cheapest profile. It has the shortest life span, that’s it.  For this reason it must be retipped often if it’s your regular cartridge. 

The modern profiles like MicroRidge on any records (including mono) has the longest life span and much better contact area with the groove walls. This is the most expensive and the most accurate profile (well, one of them actually). 
’Regarding the typical life span of the Conical stylus profile you can read online.’
chakster, I’ve never seen this claim, do you have a URL? Some mono cartridges use a conical stylus because it fits the way earlier mono records were cut. The stylus is still a diamond.
Goofyfoot: I would agree with Chakster that conicals are going to wear faster than line contact or microridge styli.

I would not agree, however, that it is necessary to retip all conical styli at the 300 hour mark. There are conicals (cheap) and there are conicals (better quality).

A high quality nude conical like that found on the Denon 103/103R or the AT 33 Mono, for example, is very likely to go into the 850-1000 hour range before needing retipping if playing clean vinyl in good condition and treated properly. At least in my experience.
Also for conical stylus on early mono LP wear is not the same as for stereo LP.
A conical stylus theoretically can’t be used as long as Shibata and definitely can’t be used as long as LineContact or Micro Ridge.

If you expecting 850-1000 hrs from a well polished nude conical Denon tip then how many hrs do you expect from Shibata or MicroRidge ? The conical/spherical tip is the worst, cheapers and has the shortest life span, you can use Shibata for 600 hrs (or MicroRidge and Gyger for about 2000 hrs), but the nude Conical degrade pretty fast, the reason is the high tracking force (3-4 grams) and very small dots (groove contact area).

The contact area is small and with high tracking force associated with low compliance cartridges it wears out quickly. This is the basics. You can read here.


" You should expect at least 300h of good sound. After that it won’t sound as good as new. If it’s not sounding as good as new, it’s time for the replacement. For more technical info, search the Vinylengine forum; we have discussed this topic many many times. "

Ummm... Despite all your declarative sentences, the grooves in a vintage mono LP are shaped differently from those of a stereo LP. This changes how a stylus will wear out. Conical is well suited to mono.
The topic is MONO REISSUES btw, so we expect stereo cutter head. Anyway stereo and mono grooves are different, but it does not change the fact that Conical/Spherical stylus has the shortest life span even compared to Elliptical, no matter on which records, it's just an oldchool stylus shape. In terms of life span we have Conical/Spherical, Elliptical, Hyper elliptical, Shibata, Microline, MicroRidge, Gyger, Replicant 100, VdH ... etc. No matter how many profiles we can mention the Conical will be the first (simplest) to retip as it wears out quicker than any other profiles.  
Actually chakster, you're reiterating the dilemma. The post is about finding a stylus that works optimally with both 1940's /50's mono and mono reissues. The fact that a conical stylus is suited for early mono records is something that, I believe, we've gotten past. The discussion is about a stylus and cartridge that works for both old and new.
lewm, it would be unfortunate for you to be right concerning the Ortofon Cadenza mono, as this cartridge is at a good price point for what it claims to do. I've always been of the understanding that a true mono build is superior over a strapped stereo cartridge.
How exactly are mono records cut with a stereo cutterhead any different from those cut with a mono cutterhead?  The only difference I am aware of is the groove width / depth but the cutting stylus and groove profile is a "V" for both.

"If you're expecting 850-1000 hrs from a well polished nude conical Denon tip then how many hrs do you expect from Shibata or MicroRidge?"

My expectations, based on my experience, would be as follows:

1) 850-1000 out of a high quality nude conical.

2) 2,000-2,500 hours out of a high quality line contact or microridge.

Note the words "high quality". Not all conicals are created equal any more than all line contacts or microline styli are created equal.

But I have put those kinds of hours on a Denon 103R before retipping it, with no ill effects (and the cartridge still sounded good when retired) as well as the higher number on a couple of decent cartridges with good quality line contact and microline styli.

This assumes both:

1) playing vinyl that is both in very good condition and very clean


2) careful cueing practices
1) 850-1000 out of a high quality nude conical.

2) 2,000-2,500 hours out of a high quality line contact or microridge.

This is overestimated so much in my opinion, especially for nude high quality conical.

in my vision it is more or less like that:

300 conical

400-500 elliptical

600-800 shibata and line contact

1500-2000 for some micro ridge and microline

up to 2500 only for some exotic profiles like Replicant-100 or Gyger, VdH


Actually chakster, you're reiterating the dilemma. The post is about finding a stylus that works optimally with both 1940's /50's mono and mono reissues. The fact that a conical stylus is suited for early mono records is something that, I believe, we've gotten past. The discussion is about a stylus and cartridge that works for both old and new.

Sorry i have no experience in mono records from the 40's era. 

But i think you can get much better sound and overall better usability (long life span) with modern profiles playing new mono reissues or vintage mono from the 60's/70's. This is exactly what modern manufacturers recommend. I think you need at least two different mono cartridges or just two different mono styli (in case with mono mm cart) for records from the different era. You also need a phono stage with different RIAA curve for very old mono records as far as i know. The Gold Note phono stage has various RIAA curves. 

Hi gf,

I suspect your goal of "a stylus and cartridge that works for both old and new" may not be possible.  At least not if your goal is to "optimize" overall playback.

So far as I know, only stereo cutter heads are available now for all reissues, whether stereo or mono.  As already described here that means a groove which may not be compatible with earlier conical styli.

J. Carr has commented on the subject saying their choice of modern elliptical styli shapes for Lyra mono cartridges sound best.  I suspect that is due to utilizing reissued mono LPs for their evaluation.

It was also suggested here that archivists may have multiple conical styli sizes to accommodate mono LPs from different eras or companies.  That tells us something about how complicated this question can become.

My answer will be to utilize a mono conical stylus for '50s and '60s mono pressings and a stereo cartridge with mono switch engaged for current mono reissues.  But you would need to add a mono switch for that.
chakster, When I mention vinyl from the 1940's, I'm actually referring to that period of time where shellac changes to vinyl but exactly when, I don't know for certain. I do have some very early vinyl. As for my phono stage, I have an ASR mini basis exclusive phono amp which is  perfect for all playback.

 The Ortofon Cadenza mono makes claim for being ideal for any type of mono vinyl despite the era, however it is still questionable as to whether or not the Ortofon is simply just a strapped mono cartridge.

I'm afraid I can't see myself affording a Lyra anytime soon though yes, that would be ideal. I don't understand Lyra's stylus description or why it's different;


Stylus: Lyra-designed long-footprint variable-radius line-contact nude diamond (3um x 70um), slot-mounted

I bought a mono cartridge about a year ago and still haven't mounted it, because I am so pleased with the results using just the mono mode switch on either of my two preamplifiers.  This also tells me that an internally bridged stereo cartridge might be just fine.  For hairsplitters and purists, I suppose one must have a bona fide true mono cartridge.  One guy even claimed you need BOTH a true mono cartridge AND a mono mode switch for best results.
I bought a Shelter 501 mk2 mono. Does anyone know how it produces a mono signal?  I presume it might well be an internally bridged version of their stereo equivalent.  I'm not losing sleep.

I have neither a mono switch on my ASR amp nor my entry ASR phono stage, so that's out of the question. It was suggested in my earlier post on this sight (Which mono cartridge under $1,200.00) that I look for a true mono cartridge. I went from a strapped mid level Grado to the AT 33 mono and I prefer the AT.
gf, my point in mentioning Carr and Lyra was to suggest even designers/manufacturers don't agree on this subject.

Since I'm not an engineer I must rely on simple logic.  And to me it is logical that stereo cutter heads being a different size and shape than the earlier mono cutter heads will require a different playback profile.  That's why I don't see a single answer for your question.

Anyway, good luck.  I've certainly seen positive reports on the AT 33 mono cartridge.
90%o of mono cartridges currently sold as NEW, are in fact stereo cartridges adjusted or modified to produce a mono signal.  One of 2 methods is used: 1) standard internal construction, with coils in an "X" pattern, with L/R internally combined to create a mono signal. 2) modified internal construction with coils in a "+" pattern to minimize impact of vertical modulation, and then internally wired to produce a mono signal.   Note that in both cases, the cartridge responds to vertical signal.   The fact that vertical signal is present and then suppressed, canceled etc does not remove the content.  Presence of vertical signal introduces phase anomalies that are audible to some people (not all).   OTOH, a true mono cartridge has a single coil / one coil to respond to horizontal movement ONLY.  It may or may not have vertical compliance (many don't, some do), but signal only comes from horizontal movement.   There are very few true mono cartridges available.  Denon 102, Ortofon CG25DI MKIII, and a few other high end Japanese designs (Miyajima, Koetsu ?).

Stylus size and profile are functions of what you will play.  

Mono microgroove LPs, pressed from 1947 until about 1958-60 have a " U " shaped groove, best traced by a conical stylus, and are best played with a 1mil stylus profile.  Mono LPs pressed from about 1960- the end of vinyl production in about 1969 have a " V " shaped groove, and are best played with a 0.7 mil stylus profile.  MODERN MONO REISSUES (to the question of the original post) are pressed with a modern " V " STEREO groove, but a mono signal (IE equal in both vertical and horizontal movement), and are best played with a MODERN stylus profile.

There is some merit to playing a pre 1960 pressing with a smaller, more modern stylus profile.  A typical TT of the pre 1960 era was a blunt instrument, tracking at 10g or more...even the popular GE VR series needed at least 5-6g to track effectively.  High stylus pressure, crude arm geometry, indifferent handing led to excessive wear at the point where a 1mil conical groove made contact.  A modern 0.7 mil or smaller stylus may contact a portion of the groove exhibiting less wear and sound better overall.   

Since the original question concerned playback of modern reissues of "Long Hair" music, I would probably lean towards a modern "mono" cartridge with a modern stylus profile.   Should the author acquire some/more original mono pressings, then purchasing a true mono cartridge may be justified.

Disclaimer:   I went down this rabbit hole and now use a separate TT (Technics SP-15 and AT 1503 MKIII arm) with an Ortofon CG25DI MKIII mono cartridge, tracking at 3g and using a 1mil conical stylus.   Sounds GREAT; both better and different than a stereo cartridge playing a mono LP.   Not for everyone, but works for me.
..just on the practicality on this issue...I have a number of mono records that sound absolutely fine with my Ortofon stereo cartridge.   A few of them sound better than stereos
stringeen, I agree that many mono records sound better than stereo despite the style of pickup used.

Hana makes a low output mono cartridge which they say is a true mono cartridge and it has shibata diamond. Would this stylus stand up to a cartridge with a conical stylus when playing 1950’s mono pressings? Please keep in mind that I’m looking for a cartridge/stylus type that performs equally on earlier as well as reissued vinyl.

How about different RIAA curve for the old records from the 40's, early 50's ? Different record lables at that time used different RIAA curve. 
chakster, in this case the actual pressing would be different, am I not correct?
chaster raises a good point which shows how deep the issue of "mono playback" truly becomes if you're half way serious about it.  The RIAA equalization became effective in 1954, but many labels did not immediately adopt it.  Some, particularly in Europe didn't comply until the early '60s.

So depending on how anal one wants to be with mono playback it becomes a question of:
* mono VS stereo cartridge 
* "true" mono VS strapped mono
* stylus shape and size
* appropriate equalization

Now anyone looking to go back further to 78s then actual recording speed must be added to the list.

Anyone wanting to learn more about all this could start here -