Mono Vinyl

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Charlie1
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Mono Vinyl

Post by Charlie1 » 2019-10-25 11:54

I recently read that you've not heard the full potential of mono LPs until you've used a mono cartridge. Anyone here heard a mono cartridge?

I wonder if mono is better via a single speaker like they did many years ago. If so, then I also wonder if a vintage 1950s corner speaker is somehow better suited to mono playback than modern speakers designed for stereo.

One last thought, I assume pre stereo era turntables just had a single channel coming from the cart. But I guess modern mono carts supply two channels so that you can play through stereo speakers.

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Mono Vinyl

Post by Ron The Mon » 2019-10-25 22:30

Charlie1 wrote:
2019-10-25 11:54
I recently read that you've not heard the full potential of mono LPs until you've used a mono cartridge.
Where did you read this and what is the experience of the person posting? I have found that 100% of the folks who write this are NOT source-firsters and actually believe the cartridge and tonearm are more important than the turntable. This includes cartridge designers and manufacturers.

Also, does "not heard the full potential" mean it sounds better using tune-dem or it sounds better?

I have also noticed, from photos, that most installers have no idea how to properly set up a cartridge in general, let alone wire a mono cartridge properly.
Anyone here heard a mono cartridge?
Yes, quite a few. Mostly playing 78 rpm records on dedicated 78 rpm turntables. The best hi-fi I have ever heard did not have an LP12; it had a Rega 78 with a Goldring 1042 moving magnet cartridge. Another hi-fi myth I tire of reading is that "master tape" sounds the best, or DSD-999.9 is Nirvana. Those are the same folks who've never heard a Rega 78. I need to get another one!

There are many different permutations and designs of "mono" cartridges. There is no standard. There are stereo cartridges with a larger conical needle called "mono cartridges". There are mono generators with stereo diamonds called "mono". there are stereo generators wired for phase-cancelling called mono. Yet on all these hi-fi sites, I never see anyone mention this!!

Advertising blurbs for some really expensive moving coil cartridges state they take an existing moving coil design and rotate the coils 90° because the left and right channel difference isn't needed. How do they know it will sound better musically doing it this way? They don't, as it's all just theory. One manufacturer brags about having two separate, independant, coils in their "mono" cartridge stating that sounds better than flipping a mono switch. Well, it's not "mono" then is it?

My opinion is the reason most original mono jazz LPs sound better than stereo is they are most often first pressings, not because they're mono. Also, some jazz (and most pop records) are mixed differently generally using less processing resulting in a clearer sound. On top of that, the grooves are, in general, farther apart on older recodings, reducing pre and post-echo.

My advice is just play any mono LP or 7" as you would a stereo and just enjoy it. Another hi-fi myth is stereo needles will ruin a mono record and vice-versa; poppycock! It is impossible to know if your "mono" LP was cut with a 1 mil or .7 mil cutter unless you measure it under a microscope.

If one wants to have a dedicated mono 78 player, my advice is simple; buy a Rega 78 and an AT-VM95SP. Wire it to phase cancel. Done and done. Enjoy.

If one wants to have a dedicated mono LP and 7" 45 player, my advice is simple; buy an LP12/Radikal and an AT-VM95SP. Wire it to phase cancel. Done and done. Enjoy. [and if you buy an AT-VMN95E stylus for $40., and make a phase-cancelling RCA adapter, you'll have pretty good stereo playback as well].

What is phase-cancelling? Have you heard of humbucking pickups in a guitar? Same thing electrically. How it works in a cartridge is a stereo model has two coils. One is left, one is right. Opposite wound on the same magnet. In a mono cut record, left and right are the same. However, from the moment a record is pressed it is subject to dust, dirt, and scrapings from the playback needles. This produces a difference between the two channels. One coil "picks up" one groove side, the other coil, the other side. Generally most phono cartridges are wired with the left channel grounded (blue). You connect the right channel + (red) to the + of the RCA phono lead output. Connect - (blue) to the - of the RCA phono lead output. Then jump right - (green) and left + (white). This is easily accomplished via a single cartridge wire tag. If you're hard-core like me, solder two tags together formed to fit across the green and white. "Humbucking" also cancels electrical noise and radio frequency noise.

The next step depends if you are using a moving coil or moving magnet. I have always soldered together the cartridge tag wires going to the left and right tonearm wires. + to +(red to white), - to - (green to blue). In a moving magnet cartridge, this will matter little. In a moving coil, remember you are summing two coils and dividing by two, so your loading will change. My experience shows this to also matter little, but it matters a little more.

If you're hardcore (like me), you'll only use one tonearm cable channel (left because it's grounded) into one channel of the phono stage. You'll snip the power supply to the right channel power of that stage and use a mono'd cable to your pre-amp.

If you're like me and have a couple hundred mono LPs and dozens and dozens of 7" 45s, you can make your own humbucking mono phono cable adapter. You simply combine two female and two male RCAs, some solder, wire, and heat; then you have a temporary "mono" phono cartridge. The connections are as I advertised above. Always double check the grounding of your cartridge and tonearm cable. I have read recent online reviews of increased hum and noise with mono cartridges. This is the exact opposite of why you should go mono with a phonograph. You will get complete silence if done correctly.

I'm sure I know more than most on this forum regarding this topic. Feel free to correct me on any inaccuracies. It is the end of the week after a beer or three and I'm a bit vociferous, so call me out if you dare.

Ron the Mon
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P.S.
I am NOT a fan of humbucking pickups, per-se, in electric guitars. In a phono cartridge pickup, the one needle is moving the two coils almost exactly the same. In a guitar, the two humbucked pickup coils are magnifying different points of a guitar string. I have compared many different electric guitar pickups and much prefer a single coil, though stacked humbuckers come close.

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Re: Mono Vinyl

Post by Ron The Mon » 2019-10-26 05:47

Charlie1 wrote:
2019-10-25 11:54
One last thought, I assume pre stereo era turntables just had a single channel coming from the cart. But I guess modern mono carts supply two channels so that you can play through stereo speakers.
Charlieone,
You pulled a fast one on me and added a paragraph after I started responding!

LPs (and 7" 45s) were designed as stereo!!! Later era 78s are often stereo but not promoted as such. Remember when 5.1 surround systems came out? I still tick the box for "stereo" when playing video formats. The same thing happened in the late 1950s. It was part of the format but you "opted in". Part of the problem in the late '50s (and '60s, and '70s, and '80s, and '90s, and 2000s, and 2010s...) is AM radio was slow to adopt the stereo format. Most FM radio stations (and FM radios) didn't get accepted, or used, until the late 1960s.

Take into account in the late '50s/early 60s most hi-fi systems were consoles and salesman were not about to refund such a large purchase as obsolete.

Fast-forward to 2019: I find it OBSCENE there are hi-fi companies raping consumers with so-called "mono" cartridges. It is the same thing as giving some mumbo-jumbo story selling a Blu-ray player today as being stereo-only and offering better sound. SBS (the first S stands for Super).

I just looked at an old photo to be sure of the time stamp. Seven years ago I went to a demonstration of what was suposed to be the ultimate mono cartridge event. A year and a half later the same exact cartridge is reviewed online in a major publication. Six months later it was online by an amateur "reviewer". I know this by the serial number and scratches on the cartridge body.

No one is buying these cartridges. It is all PR (public relations).

The most stunning moment in my hi-fi life was circa 1989 when The Absolute Sound (or was it Stereophile?) released their end of year peridical (not a monthly). In it they had actual sales numbers from manufacturers. It blew my mind that the Linn Troika had more units sold than every other cartidge over $1000 combined!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My point is no one is buying hi-end mono cartridges; no one. I bet more AT-VMN95SPs are sold this year than all mono hi-end cartridges combined.

Charlie1, the bottom line is almost all "mono" cartridges are a rip-off. Avoid them, especially if they have more than two connectors on their rear end.

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Mono Hi-Fi?!

Post by Ron The Mon » 2019-10-26 06:19

Charlie1 wrote:
2019-10-25 11:54
I wonder if mono is better via a single speaker like they did many years ago.
Who is "they"?

What is meant by "many years"? Name me a single year. Show me evidence this happened. I don't believe any of it.

I was around in the '60s. I remember the day Bridge Over Troubled Water came out. I was at a get together with girls in mini-skirts, a fondue pot was simmering, the fireplace was aglow. My mind was blown that night. A fantastic record and a fantastic hi-fi. It was in brilliant stereo.

I had been to previous homes and heard Klipsch and Altec. McIntosh and Marantz. Etc. and etc. Mono and mono. Yet nothing sounded better than that Garrard turntable, Dynaco amp, and AR speakers in stereo playing So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright that cold January night. Nothing.

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Re: Mono Vinyl

Post by donuk » 2019-10-26 09:17

Perhaps one could use a stereo amplifier and bi-amp a mono signal.....

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Re: Mono Vinyl

Post by Charlie1 » 2019-10-26 11:50

Thanks Ron and Don!

Until recently, my understanding of mono has been that there was nothing really to know about it - i’d never given it much thought and certainly didn’t appreciate there could be so much to it. Once I started thinking about it then one question led onto another. Ron, your detailed explanations add yet more depth to this topic which I thought was wafer thin.

Not sure where I got the idea that pre-60s systems comprised a single speaker. It’s well before my time. I think it’s looking at photos / illustrations of 1950s systems. To be honest, I know very little about music replay prior to the 1970s.

This was mostly curiosity on my part since 95% of my vinyl collection is stereo. I am intrigued by 78s as well though, based on your comments Ron, and my have access to a pile of them.

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Re: Mono Hi-Fi?!

Post by ThomasOK » 2019-10-26 20:53

Ron The Mon wrote:
2019-10-26 06:19
Charlie1 wrote:
2019-10-25 11:54
I wonder if mono is better via a single speaker like they did many years ago.
Who is "they"?

What is meant by "many years"? Name me a single year. Show me evidence this happened. I don't believe any of it.

I was around in the '60s. I remember the day Bridge Over Troubled Water came out. I was at a get together with girls in mini-skirts, a fondue pot was simmering, the fireplace was aglow. My mind was blown that night. A fantastic record and a fantastic hi-fi. It was in brilliant stereo.

I had been to previous homes and heard Klipsch and Altec. McIntosh and Marantz. Etc. and etc. Mono and mono. Yet nothing sounded better than that Garrard turntable, Dynaco amp, and AR speakers in stereo playing So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright that cold January night. Nothing.

Ron The Mon
How about 1953? I think most of the systems were still mono then and mostly used a single speaker. I think that qualifies as many years (don't overdo it with the comments - that was the year I was born).

But I agree that I see no use for a mono cartridge and current mono cartridges and mono records are a total mishmash with hardly anybody sticking to how it was originally done. Even though mono recordings (whether they were cut with mono or stereo cutting heads) were predominant through at least the early 60s, I don't see any need for a mono cartridge to play them. Theoretically they could reduce noise but that hasn't been my experience. One of my customers had me put together a mono LP12 because he believed what the reviewers said. It was Afromosia/Valhalla/Ekos1/Ortofon MC Quintet Mono. He just gave it to me to sell as he never used it after the first month or so. Why? Because his main LP12 is Harban Movingui plinth/KRadikal/Keel/Ekos SE/Koetsu Urushi Vermillion and for some strange reason the mono records sound better on it. Hmmm!

I have found mono records to sound excellent on my similar LP12 with Ekos SE/1 and Kandid. I hear none of the "unstable and partially fuzzy image" that this is supposed to cause. Since the problems are supposed to be caused by crosstalk and phase errors (among other tracking related woes supposedly there) it should be obvious that the better your turntable/arm/cartridge are the less they will have of these problems. Maybe if you were to set up another fully loaded Klimax LP12 with a mono Kandid it might be worth doing, maybe not. But certainly not for me.

If you want more indication of this listen again to the last clip I posted on the Playground thread - it was made from a new pressing of the Frank Sinatra Mono record "In The Wee Small Hours". I have a hard time imagining it sounding better in my room, Tony Tune Age seems to feel the same. (Although it will get even better shortly-more about that soon.)
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Re: Mono Hi-Fi?!

Post by Tony Tune-age » 2019-10-26 23:31

ThomasOK wrote:
2019-10-26 20:53
If you want more indication of this listen again to the last clip I posted on the Playground thread - it was made from a new pressing of the Frank Sinatra Mono record "In The Wee Small Hours". I have a hard time imagining it sounding better in my room, Tony Tune Age seems to feel the same.
That is correct Thomas, I do feel the same.

Cheers
Tony Tune-age

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Re: Mono Vinyl

Post by Charlie1 » 2019-10-27 17:36

Thanks Tom for also sharing your experiences.

There was rumour of a mono Akiva several years ago. If true then Linn might do it for the Kandid and then a top spec LP12 would be possible. Not that I'm suggesting anyone here does that. I did very much enjoy your most recent clip so I understand where you're coming from.

In addition to satisfying my curiosity, I also thought it might also be an interesting Lejonklou topic cos its possible to buy a single channel phono, pre and power amp - assuming the single speaker approach is worthwhile.

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