Moving magnet vs. moving coil

July 14, 2019
 by Paul McGowan

37 comments on “Moving magnet vs. moving coil”

  1. The Denon D103 which comes in many variations of cantilever and stylus is an excellent moving coil. It's been the radio station industry standard going back to the 60's. One of those giant killers that outperform cartridges many times their price. I own the 103R and the 103D. The D being the elliptical stylus. They made an S too which is a Shibata cut diamond. Many people like the elliptical stylus or the base round.

    1. The base 103 uses a conical stylus. The 103R uses the most advanced single crystal coil with the base conical stylus. Some audiophiles like the idea of modifying the R by retipping it with an elliptical stylus.

  2. This topic seems to fit your dead-end discussion started in your daily post, Paul. I guess that a modern optical cartridge with a much lower mass as offered by DS Audio or the laser turntable from ELP reading the grooves in a contact free manner are cutting-edge technologies for lovers of vinyl records. What about licensing the DS Audio phono circuit and integrating it into the new PS Audio phone preamp? This would really motivate me upgrading my PS Audio GCPH.

  3. Thanks, Paul, that was the clearest explanation of the differences in cartridges I've ever heard. I enjoyed it, even though I gave up on playing LP's over 20 years ago, in part because I found cd's superior, but also because our housekeeper wiped the stylus off my Koetsu in her cleaning exuberance.

    1. I'm the opposite, I love CD for convenience but I believe something is lost in the analog to digital and digital back to analog process. The best way to listen to an analog recording is on a good analog playback system in my opinion.

  4. I have yet another opinion. I used to think that LPs were superior to digital, but no more. Dollar for dollar, you get far better sound from digital than you can from vinyl nowadays without all the ticks and pops. Not only that but if you stream from services like Tidal and Qobuz, you're not limited to just what's in you library. A good analogy would be like being limited to a set of encyclopedias vs. the internet for a research project.

  5. A couple of things worth mentioning here that weren't adequately covered: First, stylus profile. Lyra cartridges, like many other high quality moving coil and moving magnet designs, have a very high profile shape with a very small sidewall radius that is able to trace the groove with high precision and with a low indentation factor. Spherical styli, usually 0.6 to 0.7 mil, are much larger and hence can't produce all the depth and high frequencies contained in the traceable groove. It's like the difference between skateboard wheels on rough pavement compared to large 4x4 tires on the same surface; the skateboard ride is going to be far more vibrational because it can more closely 'read" the texture of the road. Second, there are high end moving magnet cartridges that have the same high profile styli as found in moving coils, like the legendary Shure V15 VMR cartridges with their Microridge extremely high-profile styli cut and polished using maser (gas laser) technology, as well as Audio Technica, vintage Pickerings, and the currently produced Ortofon Black with its Shibata high profile stylus. These moving magnet cartridges are able to produce extremely high frequencies as some were produced in the 70s and 80s specifically for quadrophonic (SQ or QS) vinyl playback, in which a 20,000+ Hz carrier signal was encoded in the groove to generate the high frequency phasing required for two additional playback channels; a decoder "interpreted" this phased carrier signal and generated the two stereo rear channels. Again this would not have been possible but for very high profile, very high frequency-capable, moving magnet cartridges. Remember, the cutting stylus that carves the original laquer groove on the master, is able to produce physical features on the walls that are far smaller than the best playback stylus fit into, and hence, retrace.

  6. greetings folks - a little late to the party here - but I thought i'd throw my two cents in FYIW.

    as Mr. Paul mentioned - the MC cartridge does NOT have the same electrical output as the MM cartridge. there is another required step post cartridge that an MC needs and the MM does not, and that is additional amplification to get the signal line level. ALL circuits introduce SOME sort of 'character' to a source - with the goal when adding a circuit (especially in audiophile realms) to remain SONICALLY neutral - neither adding nor subtracting from the sound source.

    That being said - the post MC cartridge required amplification certainly DOES add something to the signal and could be the added character to a sound that to SOME folks ears - may sound 'better'. One thing is for sure - that step with MC's DOES AND WILL add something - good, bad or indifferent.

    In MY world - I am of the mindset - the LEAST amount of circuitry and steps from the stylus to the speakers will get the sonic signature as close to the original sound source as possible, IMHO.

  7. Bill: So sorry to see you go! We had made the slightest of connections talking about the people & places in audio here in Memphis back in the day. Thanks for all you've done to keep Copper fresh & enjoyable. Steve

  8. Ye Gods! I never thought I would ever encounter the word <b>Upp</b> again for so long as I lived. I saw that band in Harlow, just north of London, back in 1975 or early '76. They played at some tiny venue - could have been the town hall - just across the street from where I lived. I'd never heard of them before, and have never heard of them since. They sure as hell never had Jeff Beck, Ian Paice or Albert Lee playing for them! I remember thinking they were a truly terrible band. They had a bass player who called himself (to the best of my recollection) "Truly Amazing", which he evidently took greatly to heart. He played a custom bass with the longest neck I ever saw, and spent the entire night trying to out-bass John Entwistle and Jaco Pastorius. But his PA system must have cost five quid at Curry's, because it wasn't possible to make out a single thing he played.

    I parked myself right at the foot of the stage, to the right hand side, in front of the keyboards player. His fashion statement of the moment was to wear what we called in those days "basketball shoes", with long laces, which he left undone. So I demonstrated to him the folly of his ways by tying them together. He soon got to his feet, whereupon he immediately fell over. This he repeated two or three times. He'd evidently had a fair bit to drink. You could clearly see that he hadn't cottoned on to what was actually happening, and was instead contemplating a dawning realization that he'd had one too many. He eventually dealt with the predicament by kicking his shoes off. I don't think "Truly Amazing" even noticed. I tried the same thing with Eric Clapton a couple of years later, but he wasn't having any of it. A true professional.

    Two weeks later, at the same venue, we saw The Sex Pistols and The 101'ers. If I'd tried tying Joe Strummer's shoes together I might not have made it out of there alive.

  9. The perfection vs emotion question is even more vexed in classical music performance, leading some recording artists to reject the studio for the unpredictability of recording in front of a full concert hall, or a half-way-house of a live performance before a small select audience.

    At the other end of the scale, Glenn Gould, legendary American pianist, eventually rejected the concert hall completely, doing almost all his later celebrated performances in the recording studio. Few would argue that Glenn Gould's performances have suffered for that decision.

    In the case of pianist/conductor Daniel Barenboim, perhaps the world's premier living Beethoven pianist, all his recent recordings have been of concert performances. As for precision (as distinct from interpretation), these seem as flawless as his earlier studio recordings. It should be pointed out though that many of those earlier recordings were completed in one or two sessions, and thus have much of the immediacy of live recordings. The 1969 Barenboim recording of the (extremely difficult) Beethoven sonata no. 30 Opus 109, was completed in two takes in a recording session which was not even intended to include it. At the end of a long recording session of other Beethoven sonatas, he simply played the Opus 109 from memory (not having played it for almost two years), while the recording engineer listened in awe and kept the tapes running.

  10. You hit the beautiful soft dome tweeter right in the middle of the dome. I had asked you before, on Ask Paul, about the very idea of whether having high fidelity equipment even makes sense when listing to "modern" music, and that is why I don't listen to it, only what I call "real" music; i.e. classical, jazz, and/or anything that is a recording of a real musical performance. I think that the music industry is indicative of our society, the values of the people in it, and where music and society is heading. On a side note, I think that hi-fi equipment is going the same way. Everyone says how beautiful my 80's and 90's equipment is (and in many cases, actually sounds better, especially receivers compared to modern AV receivers). I have ditched play lists and the need for my computer in lieu of DAT and hi-end cassette tapes. I know, this is off on a tangent, but I think the comparison between hardware and software (music) is indeed relevant.

    BTW Sir Paul, I purchased Mahler's 3rd conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004RUF02M/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s01?ie=UTF8&amp;psc=1), and once again, you hit the proverbial woofer right in the middle of the dust cap with that one. Thanks for the suggestions.

  11. Bill, as many have stated &amp; I’ll echo, you will be sorely missed by the hifi family.
    Thank you for all you’ve done at Copper, I’ve really enjoyed your stories and commentary.
    I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet you this past July while visiting PS Audio, I had a great time
    that won’t be forgotten. I wish you all the best wherever life’s journey takes you!

  12. Paul, et al,

    I certainly concur with the consensus here. The over corrected pop music of today is bland and colorless. One of my favorite pieces of soul music is "When a Man Loves a Woman," sung by the great Percy Sledge. When the song was to be released by Stax/Volt Records in Memphis, there were two copies, the original recording and a second version with the horn section in better tune. The first version, with the out of tune horn section, was inadvertently used as the master and, by the time the mistake had been discovered, a zillion copies of the record had been produced. Of course, the song is one of the great soul hits of the late '60s and, right up to today, still has those slightly out of tune horns. It remains wonderful. For other perfectly imperfect music, check out my band, "Little Tommy and the Blues Kings."

  13. The way in which you have conducted the leadership of Copper, shows a great skill consistent with the performance of a successful executive, if we add to all this your skills of chivalry, make you an exceptional person.

    I hope to continue reading your interesting writings here.

  14. greetings folks - a little late to the party here - but I thought i'd throw my two cents in FYIW.

    as Mr. Paul mentioned - the MC cartridge does NOT have the same electrical output as the MM cartridge. there is another required step post cartridge that an MC needs and the MM does not, and that is additional amplification to get the signal line level. ALL circuits introduce SOME sort of 'character' to a source - with the goal when adding a circuit (especially in audiophile realms) to remain SONICALLY neutral - neither adding nor subtracting from the sound source.

    That being said - the post MC cartridge required amplification certainly DOES add something to the signal and could be the added character to a sound that to SOME folks ears - may sound 'better'. One thing is for sure - that step with MC's DOES AND WILL add something - good, bad or indifferent.

    In MY world - I am of the mindset - the LEAST amount of circuitry and steps from the stylus to the speakers will get the sonic signature as close to the original sound source as possible, IMHO.

  15. Bill: So sorry to see you go! We had made the slightest of connections talking about the people &amp; places in audio here in Memphis back in the day. Thanks for all you've done to keep Copper fresh &amp; enjoyable. Steve

  16. Ye Gods! I never thought I would ever encounter the word <b>Upp</b> again for so long as I lived. I saw that band in Harlow, just north of London, back in 1975 or early '76. They played at some tiny venue - could have been the town hall - just across the street from where I lived. I'd never heard of them before, and have never heard of them since. They sure as hell never had Jeff Beck, Ian Paice or Albert Lee playing for them! I remember thinking they were a truly terrible band. They had a bass player who called himself (to the best of my recollection) "Truly Amazing", which he evidently took greatly to heart. He played a custom bass with the longest neck I ever saw, and spent the entire night trying to out-bass John Entwistle and Jaco Pastorius. But his PA system must have cost five quid at Curry's, because it wasn't possible to make out a single thing he played.

    I parked myself right at the foot of the stage, to the right hand side, in front of the keyboards player. His fashion statement of the moment was to wear what we called in those days "basketball shoes", with long laces, which he left undone. So I demonstrated to him the folly of his ways by tying them together. He soon got to his feet, whereupon he immediately fell over. This he repeated two or three times. He'd evidently had a fair bit to drink. You could clearly see that he hadn't cottoned on to what was actually happening, and was instead contemplating a dawning realization that he'd had one too many. He eventually dealt with the predicament by kicking his shoes off. I don't think "Truly Amazing" even noticed. I tried the same thing with Eric Clapton a couple of years later, but he wasn't having any of it. A true professional.

    Two weeks later, at the same venue, we saw The Sex Pistols and The 101'ers. If I'd tried tying Joe Strummer's shoes together I might not have made it out of there alive.

  17. The perfection vs emotion question is even more vexed in classical music performance, leading some recording artists to reject the studio for the unpredictability of recording in front of a full concert hall, or a half-way-house of a live performance before a small select audience.

    At the other end of the scale, Glenn Gould, legendary American pianist, eventually rejected the concert hall completely, doing almost all his later celebrated performances in the recording studio. Few would argue that Glenn Gould's performances have suffered for that decision.

    In the case of pianist/conductor Daniel Barenboim, perhaps the world's premier living Beethoven pianist, all his recent recordings have been of concert performances. As for precision (as distinct from interpretation), these seem as flawless as his earlier studio recordings. It should be pointed out though that many of those earlier recordings were completed in one or two sessions, and thus have much of the immediacy of live recordings. The 1969 Barenboim recording of the (extremely difficult) Beethoven sonata no. 30 Opus 109, was completed in two takes in a recording session which was not even intended to include it. At the end of a long recording session of other Beethoven sonatas, he simply played the Opus 109 from memory (not having played it for almost two years), while the recording engineer listened in awe and kept the tapes running.

  18. You hit the beautiful soft dome tweeter right in the middle of the dome. I had asked you before, on Ask Paul, about the very idea of whether having high fidelity equipment even makes sense when listing to "modern" music, and that is why I don't listen to it, only what I call "real" music; i.e. classical, jazz, and/or anything that is a recording of a real musical performance. I think that the music industry is indicative of our society, the values of the people in it, and where music and society is heading. On a side note, I think that hi-fi equipment is going the same way. Everyone says how beautiful my 80's and 90's equipment is (and in many cases, actually sounds better, especially receivers compared to modern AV receivers). I have ditched play lists and the need for my computer in lieu of DAT and hi-end cassette tapes. I know, this is off on a tangent, but I think the comparison between hardware and software (music) is indeed relevant.

    BTW Sir Paul, I purchased Mahler's 3rd conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004RUF02M/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s01?ie=UTF8&amp;psc=1), and once again, you hit the proverbial woofer right in the middle of the dust cap with that one. Thanks for the suggestions.

  19. Bill, as many have stated &amp; I’ll echo, you will be sorely missed by the hifi family.
    Thank you for all you’ve done at Copper, I’ve really enjoyed your stories and commentary.
    I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet you this past July while visiting PS Audio, I had a great time
    that won’t be forgotten. I wish you all the best wherever life’s journey takes you!

  20. Paul, et al,

    I certainly concur with the consensus here. The over corrected pop music of today is bland and colorless. One of my favorite pieces of soul music is "When a Man Loves a Woman," sung by the great Percy Sledge. When the song was to be released by Stax/Volt Records in Memphis, there were two copies, the original recording and a second version with the horn section in better tune. The first version, with the out of tune horn section, was inadvertently used as the master and, by the time the mistake had been discovered, a zillion copies of the record had been produced. Of course, the song is one of the great soul hits of the late '60s and, right up to today, still has those slightly out of tune horns. It remains wonderful. For other perfectly imperfect music, check out my band, "Little Tommy and the Blues Kings."

  21. The way in which you have conducted the leadership of Copper, shows a great skill consistent with the performance of a successful executive, if we add to all this your skills of chivalry, make you an exceptional person.

    I hope to continue reading your interesting writings here.

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