Be Careful About Buying Expensive Cartridges

One test took a cheap £20 AT95E cartridge, verses an expensive £500 cartridge. The only difference being partnering the cheaper cartridge with a better tonearm. To their utter astonishment, the £20 cartridge sounded significantly better than the £500 one! This translates to the cartridge performing at over 25 times its value.

Another example of hierarchy is related by a German dealer hosting an evening for 40 clients. He compared a cheap £100 Denon 103 cartridge with a well-respected £2,500 cartridge. Again, the only difference being the cheaper cartridge in a better tonearm. Sure enough, the cheaper cartridge won by a jaw dropping extent.

It’s worth mentioning that this wasn’t a poor arm in the ring with a good arm. Rather it was the highly respected Origin Live Silver arm against the Conqueror tonearm, the latter being much higher in the range. For perspective, the lesser Silver arm, was reviewed as “probably the best arm in the world” when it first entered the market in 2002. We are looking here at an extraordinarily good arm, versus an absolutely top-flight arm. Furthermore, the “best arm” statement on the Silver (£600 at the time) was no wild statement made by an amateur reviewer, but a magazine editor with years of experience of SME Vs, Linn Ekos, Naim Aros, tri-planar, Grahams and a host of other high-end arms.

The good news is that the performance of Origin Live arms is such that even the more affordable in the range will replace much more expensive arms by other brands and still give the results mentioned above or your money back. These arms are exceptionally easy to fit and set up.

It’s natural to want an explanation for what lies behind the spectacular transformation of cartridge performance. Firstly, to use a poor tonearm is like expecting to view an object clearly through a powerful optical microscope whilst holding the lens tube with a trembling hand. Your cartridge amplifies vibration not just a hundred times, but a colossal eight thousand times.