Periodic bursts of post-CD analogue creativity usually mean nothing more than coincidence. Typically, it's the launch at the same hi-fi show of two or more new turntable makers, or a brace of totally unrelated parallel trackers. Still we grasp such occurrences with a fervour that translates into self-satisfied remarks - delivered with finger stabbing at chest - along the lines of, 'Y'see? Vinyl ain't dead.' Only this time, it's a one-off freak-of-nature from Grado.
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First, a touch of the coincidentals. Michael Fremer of Stereophile recently argued that you really do need a mono cartridge to get the most out of mono LPs. At the same time, Grado announced that it would wire any of its cartridges in mono for purists. The argument is that a cartridge wired for mono cuts out the vertical tracking issues, thus eliminating noise. Whatever, this piqued my interest because I listen to as much mono as I do stereo, and I have enough turntables to dedicate to single-channel use. But then Grado announced low-output versions of its moving-flux cartridges, and I had to ask, 'Huh?'
Considering that Joe Grado is one of the most important names in the development of moving-coil cartridges and yet he opted to put his name on non-mcs, I wondered if this was merely some post-digital irony. But, no, it's for real. The low-outputs travel under the Statement Series banner, duplicating the Reference Series in model names and prices. Grado ain't too good with names, so it's chaos ahead. (Worse: the only way you can tell what model you're looking at is by noting the letters burned into the top-plate...not too convenient if the cartridge is already mounted.) So you get, high output model first, the Reference Platinum/Statement Platinum, Reference Sonata/Statement Sonata, Reference Master/Statement Master and Reference Reference/Statement Reference. (I love that: 'Reference Reference'.) The Reference output is 5.0mV while the Statements yield an mc-like 0.5mV.
Grado achieves this by this by changing the coil configuration. Each cartridge has four coils, but Reference cartridges have 6000 turns on the coils while Statements have only 380 turns. According to John Grado, 'Since we have considerably fewer turns in the Statement series we can use a much larger size wire, thus knocking resistance from 470 ohms to 2 ohms in the Statement series. This new wire has over 16 times more area for carrying the signal; this also shortens the distance the signal must travel from 125ft to a little over 7ft. In the Statement series we have also shortened the magnetic gap increasing the flux density.'
For years, Grado has billed its cartridges as the best of both the m-m and mc worlds, noting that 'the outstanding quality of the moving coil cartridge is not the moving coil principle but the very low DC resistance and inductance. When the electrical impedance of a cartridge rises within the frequency response of the hearing range, the preamplifier generates audible distortion because the preamplifier is trying to match the varying impedance and not quite succeeding. The beauty of the moving coil is the constant electrical impedance, which makes the cartridge sound good despite the limited quality of the mechanical system.' The Statements, in effect, now ape an m-c's electricals with an mm's ' mechanical system.'
I slipped the top model, the Statement Reference, into a Basis 2500 turntable with Basis/Rega arm, tracking at 1.5g and feeding an Audio Technica transformer, auditioned through both the Musical Fidelity M3 and Marantz Model 1060's 47k ohm phono inputs. This wooden-bodies cartridge is a dead-ringer for its siblings, weighs a negligible 7g and barely exhibits a trace of the Grado 'wiggle'. Grado tells little about its designs, but the cartridge features a hollow alloy cantilever and an elliptical tip.
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