The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

General HiFi discussion, using the Tune Method to evaluate performance

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Ron The Mon
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The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Ron The Mon » 2019-09-13 00:16

This subject topic includes all variants of the current AT-VM95 line and its' predecessors including older non-compatible Audio Technica models. Also included here will be discussions of the Linn K5, K9, and K18. Source-first discussions and phono stages relating are also welcome and expected.
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To get more info direct from Audio Technica (and buy in the U.S.), click https://www.audio-technica.com/vm95seri ... GNEALw_wcB.

I am starting this thread as I piqued some interest on the "Playground" thread. Fredrik Lejonklou suggested this topic needs it's own thread. He's wrong, it deserves an entire forum.

I will start the second post with some of my experiences along the way. My time here is erratic, so I may not make additions right away. If impatient, you could just buy this cheap gem and post your thoughts, photos, and audio comparisons.

For starters, the new AT-VMN95 styli are all retrofittable to older AT95E bodies as well as the Linns. This is good as the old ATN95E styli look terrible in a K5 or K9. It's a hideous bright green monstrosity. I believe Audio technica knows how many K9s are out there and made an effort to combine new product with stylus sales for existing models.

Older ATN95E styli will not physically fit in the new AT-VM95 body. This is understandable as the new bodies (with recessed nuts and higher output) sound better than the older bodies for only $10. If you are on a tight budget, buy just a new stylus.

If you remember the Linn Basik III (which was a giant killer at $50 in the '80s), the current version is the AT-VM95C (at $30!!!). It is the biggest surprise of the bunch. I like it the most. It offers better tune-following abilities than the Basik III and equal to the new ”E” version. I may buy a Rega Carbon to compare as I believe that is based on the Basik III. I'm sure I'll be disappointed.

Then there is the "E" version. It offers nothing over the "conical" stylus except less splashy cymbals. In fact, the conical stylus has better stereo separation and depth.

How about the "EN" version? Hmmmm. Very good. But see the bottom paragraph concerning stylus life and value.

Micro Line* you ask? Mega Shit is more like it.

AT-VM95SH Shibata? I already used the poop word above and was thinking this one is just plain $H1T. How about IWMDMB; for I Want My Damn Money Back? This stylus profile has a little more detail than the Micro Line and the stereo separation is wider than the conical. The music just falls apart though.

tokenbrit asked a really good question about tracking force on the "Playground" thread. The new AT-VM95 carts all sound/track best at 1.5 grams and anti-skate at 1-1.1, so why does Audio Technica recommend 1.8-2.0 grams? The answer is that gives the best longevity, not sound quality. That can knock 20% off a needles' life.

The worst stylus I ever owned was the after-market AT95 Shibata. First of all, it sounded pretty mediocre at any tracking/anti-skate force. But worse than that, it lasted less than 125 hours because of running it at the best sounding tracking weight.

Current published Audio Technica specifications, price/max hours/per record cost:
$21 Conical 500 3.5¢
$29 Elliptical 300 8¢
$99 Nude Elliptical 300 27.5¢
$149 Micro Line 1000 12.4¢
$179 Shibata 800 18.6¢

I purchased all the above styli this past year for comparison and destroyed my first “E” after 200 hours because of a cocktail or three. I bought another for further comparison. This still puts me at less than $500 for about 3600 hours of listening.

My advice is buy the Conical version and enjoy it. It will take you several months to recuperate from your mind being blown. In that time, you will come up with a better game plan.

All my listening has been done on a 1984 rosewood plinth Linn LP12/Cirkus/LVX with Akurate Radikal through Naim MM stage/NAC42/mono NAP110 amps into 1988 Isobariks.

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Ron The Mon's AT-VM95 Testimonial

Post by Ron The Mon » 2019-09-13 03:04

I now have a reverence for the AT95E but it always wasn't this way. I have to thank Tom O'Keefe for his help along the way. For those not aware, Tom O'Keefe ("ThomasOK" here) is the United States Lejonklou distributor, salesman at Overture Audio in Ann Arbor Michigan, torque-master supreme, King Crimson überfan, and a super nice guy.

I have owned the same LP12 for 35 years. It had an Audio Technica Technicraft TC2000 cartridge its' first 3 months and an AT95E variant the last six years. In between, it always had the best of the best MC or close to it. After the Technicraft, I found a low usage Supex 900 to go with my Naim NAC32 phono stage. WOW! Then I aquiered a Grace F9E. Double WOW! Then I was given a Linn ASAK. At first I was a bit disappointed because all the hi-fi niceties went away. But then I found myself listening into the middle on the night never stopping throwing on records. Around that time Linn had a slogan, “I Use Mine Every Night”. That hooked me on the concept of “Tune-Dem”. The United States Linn distributor then was blowing out all their ASAK “T”s and TRAKs. The “T” was better than an ASAK, the TRAK, a second. I loved the TRAK. Then I bought a Linn Karma. Better, but not $600 better. The Karma’s wore out early and were disappointing. During this entire period, I was a hi-fi salesman for the number one Linn dealer in the United States. I was the go-to guy not only for LP12s, but turntables in general. I heard more cartridges in three months than any audiophile hears in their lifetime.


Then the earth shook…

…Linn released the Troika. At that time I also swore I would never use a moving magnet cartridge again. (If you are wondering why you clicked on an AT95 link and a guy is now rambling about moving-coils, stay tuned; it’s important.)


I used a Troika until it was discontinued. Then I bought the original Linn Arkiv and it was complete garbage and offed it right away. I spent over a year trying to find a moving coil cartridge better or equal to the Troika. I had many on my LP12. Most were much more expensive, all sounded worse. Unfortunately, I never thought to get a Lingo or Ekos/ARO.; I ended up with the Linn Klyde which sounds like a “TRAK” Troika.

Then in 2013 I had some money to upgrade my hi-fi. I had heard the Radikal power supply/motor. Prior to that I heard the EkosSE/Keel/Trampolin2. I already bought the Trampolin2 and planned on getting the Radikal, then the Keel. I traded my Valhalla, sold my tonearm, and a few other items to finance the Radikal. I bought a cheap Linn LVX (not Basik+), and needed a cheap cartridge for a year or so. I decided on an AT95E. Remember, this was all supposed to be temporary.

The impetus around all this was Tom O’Keefe and his LP12 torque settings. A friend of mine had his Valhalla/LP12/Basik+/Grado brought in to Tom just to be torqued. I had heard this turntable numerous times over 30 years and was amazed what just properly torquing the fasteners did. This LP12 was always set up by a Linn professional. What Tom did cemented in my mind he was the one to see, not do it myself. My story got a little more complicated, but the bottom line was I “downgraded” the tonearm and cartridge on my LP12 to finance a Radikal. To this day, the Radikal is the most expensive piece of hi-fi I’ve ever purchased and currently is one-third the cost of my system. And I run it with a thirty dollar phono cartridge!

The crazy thing is it sounds magical. The day I picked up my deck we did some comparisons. There was an LP12 running in a demo room into a very high-end system. The deck was Linn Lingo2/Cirkus/Kore/LP12/Ekos2/Adikt. This deck was $3k more than mine. The funny thing was I made Tom sit down and I did the demo. My less expensive LP12 blew it away; it was not subtle.

Over that next year I did several upgrades of phono stage, amps, and speakers. However, the AT95E remained constant. Originally, I expected to replace it right way. Then after a year or so I lost interest in a new cartridge. Now, I don’t ever see myself owning a more expensive cartridge. Then, last year I called Tom about going in on some HAKAI parts. During the conversation, he asked if I knew Audio Technica replaced the AT95E and he seemed skeptical it sounded worse. I eventually bought a new one but the problem was it seemed silly to pay $125 to have Tom install a $50 cartridge. I also didn’t want to install it myself as I’d always be wondering whether the cartridge sounded worse or it was my set-up.

Turns out there was no need to worry. Over six years I had tried six different after-market styli for the original AT95; all sounded worse. When I first snapped-in the AT-VMN95E stylus, I couldn’t believe how much better it was over the original. Then after a few months, I decided to change the cartridge body myself. The overall weight of the new model (with hardware) is half a gram less. It is the exact same height so I didn’t have to adjust VTA. It sounded substantially better. All that was going through my mind as Tom’s torque settings. So I did some settings by ear and got a cheap torque wrench. The settings on this cartridge body are quite sensitive. Then I bought a cheap torque screwdriver and later a Richmont Sturtevant CAL36/4. I picked up a Linn K5 and K9 body to compare. Currently I'm listening to a stock AT-VM95C and loving it!

There is no doubt in my mind the new AT-VM95 carts teamed with any torque screwdriver beat any other cartridge under $500. I’ve been looking for a really cheap torque driver just for this instance to recommend. I have listened to many under $200 cartridges out there and they all sound lifeless and boring. I’ve heard a lot of the models $200+ and most sound even more lifeless and boring and out of tune.

I will provide some audio clips when I get a chance. In the meantime, if you need a new cartridge, try the AT-VM95E (or C) for a month or so, even if with a low rent MM phono stage. You will be surprised.

Ron The Mon

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Matteo » 2019-09-13 08:10

Interesting, thanks.

Considering the price, I guess I'll give it a try with the Slipsik 7.

May you send me via pm the torque setting etc.?

Thanks

M.
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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Charlie1 » 2019-09-13 09:08

I'm certainly able to more easily follow music with the VM95E stylus (on K9 body) compared to a low hours K9 and many thanks again to Ron for suggesting this great product. It's amazing what this cartridge can do regardless of the fact it's so cheap. It's quite a bit cleaner and clearer sounding than the K9 as well.

However, I am missing quite a lot of body and weight to the music which does hamper my enjoyment of many songs. Stepping up from 1.5 (1.1 a/s) to 1.7g (1.3 a/s) does help a little. Moving my Keilidhs from 24cm to 10cm to the rear wall doesn't seem to make any difference which I find really odd. The rear wall is solid + wooden framework / batterns + plasterboard as far as I can make out. Any suggestions welcome...

Don't get me wrong, I'm still really pleased to have found this stylus and may just need to re-calibrate myself with the new presentation. As it's worn in further the enjoyment has grown well beyond that of the K9.

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by beck » 2019-09-13 11:58

Charlie1 wrote:
2019-09-13 09:08
However, I am missing quite a lot of body and weight to the music which does hamper my enjoyment of many songs. Stepping up from 1.5 (1.1 a/s) to 1.7g (1.3 a/s) does help a little. Moving my Keilidhs from 24cm to 10cm to the rear wall doesn't seem to make any difference which I find really odd. The rear wall is solid + wooden framework / batterns + plasterboard as far as I can make out. Any suggestions welcome...
You could try to do what Audio Technica recommend: tracking force between 1.8 to 2.2g. See if that changes anything?

I am using my AT33 with tracking force just below 2.0g. It works for me......
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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Charlie1 » 2019-09-13 12:45

beck wrote:
2019-09-13 11:58
You could try to do what Audio Technica recommend: tracking force between 1.8 to 2.2g. See if that changes anything?

I am using my AT33 with tracking force just below 2.0g. It works for me......
It helps a little bit but doesn't really make a lot of difference. Thanks for the suggestion though.

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Spannko » 2019-09-13 13:48

Very interesting Ron. Thank you

I totally agree with you Re: post Troika cartridges. I totally loved my Troika, but felt the “upgrade” to Arkiv was embarrassingly bad. Like you, I had one for less than a week before deciding that it had to go.

Do you think that the lower cost AT95’s represent the state of the art (musically speaking) or are they just great value for money? If someone was more concerned with maxing out musicality, how much do you think someone would need to spend in order to improve on the 95?

PS I’m really looking forward to seeing your vid’s. :-)

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AT-VM95 Torque Settings

Post by Ron The Mon » 2019-09-13 17:27

Matteo wrote:
2019-09-13 08:10
May you send me via pm the torque setting etc.?
Matteo,
Do you have a Richmont Sturtevant CAL36/4? I have one, plus a borrowed Wera, and a model I got for ten dollars at Aldi. I do not have the values handy as I'd been scribbling on the backs of envelopes and this was three months back. I did not expect this to turn into such a big project.

I will post my findings here when I find them. I also have several types, lengths, and materials of screws I plan to experiment with and will see if the torque values differ. One comparison not done on the "Playground" thread that I remember are torque values, let alone cartridge hardware settings. I plan to post comparisons here.

I'm also on the lookout for a model to recommend like my Aldi special that is cheap, repeatable and a better value for those just wanting a torque screwdriver to tighten cartridges.

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by ThomasOK » 2019-09-13 17:31

I hadn't heard all the parts of Ron's upgrade story and cartridge tests over timeand find it quite interesting. I loved the Troika too. I can confirm that his table with ARadikal, Cirkus, LV-X and AT95e was easily superior to the Lingo2, Cirkus, Kore, Ekos 2 and Adikt LP12. It so happens that that turntable wasn't normally on demo in the store as it is my second LP12 I built to demonstrate the Lejonklou phono stages. I just had it there do do a demonstration for another customer and hadn't brought it home. When we did the comparison I also did the torques on the Radikal, which he found rather surprising. Also he was temporarily using a Linn cherry plinth while his Linn rosewood plinth was being reworked and refinished by Chris Harban. My LP12 had and has a Linn rosewood plinth that I had refinished using the same wiping varnish that Chris uses. As many on here know I have done a number of plinth comparisons and found that they do make a musical difference. In my experience the cross-braced rosewood is the most musical sounding plinth Linn made and close to the upper Woodsong plinths. So my LP12 had a better plinth, subchassis, arm and cartridge but Ron's had the better power supply. The hierarchy has rarely been so clearly demonstrated. Despite that I still haven't gotten a Radikal on that table - it now has a Lingo 4.

Fredrik had asked about stylus shapes and I found this page describing the different WM95 models which has photos or drawings of the stylus tips as well as drawings of how the tip fits in the groove and the cross section. This should help visualize the difference. I notice that what AT calls Microlinear is what is referred to as MicroRidge by Dynavector and others.

https://www.audio-technica.com/vm95seri ... GNEALw_wcB

Another little tidbit is that somebody on another forum claims that the three nude mounted series of cartridges are made in Japan while the bonded ones, including the 78RPM version, are made in China. I wonder if there is any difference in the bodies too?
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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by lejonklou » 2019-09-13 22:17

Thanks for that link!

What an excellent page by Audio Technica, with exactly the information I was asking for. Given that info and my experience (I'm certain a bunch of members in here have more, so please DO contradict me), I'll bet every penny on the Nude Elliptical option. Not having heard any of them, apart from the clips presented here,

In theory, elliptic is not a defined shape, however. It can be close to a circle or close to a two dimensional line. Vital appears to be a rather thin elliptical shape. I am still looking for the exact definition and who named it in the first place.

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Spannko » 2019-09-13 22:31

I’d put my money on a nude elliptical too, but I’d also put a two way on us both being wrong!

Experience has thought me that reliance on “knowledge” can lead us down the garden path!

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Overture Audio Apologies and Such

Post by Ron The Mon » 2019-09-13 23:51

Tom,
I owe you and Overture Audio an apology. I wrote my initial post here like you were just another guy on this Forum. I had forgotten how kind you, Keith, TJ, and Craig have been to me over the years. Even though I have spent a fair amount of cash at Overture Audio and sent quite a few buying customers there, it is no excuse for my writings above.

I want to make it clear I did not buy any Audio Technica cartridges at Overture Audio, as they are not a dealer. I also was so lame I didn't even consider buying a used tonearm there.

To top it off, Overture Audio has sold many items of mine on consignment for top dollar, earning more than if I sold them on eBay.

I'm also sorry I insulted your Adikt LP12, even though it deserved it.

Finally, my last apology is to Overture Audio customers. Any stains you see on the carpet in the store are from me walking around with a beer in hand spilling. Thanks for putting up with me.

ThomasOK wrote:
2019-09-13 17:31
Another little tidbit is that somebody on another forum claims that the three nude mounted series of cartridges are made in Japan while the bonded ones, including the 78RPM version, are made in China. I wonder if there is any difference in the bodies too?
This is quite interesting! Basically, there is a good chance the Micro Line stylus Charlie1 (and I)has is even worse than he played here!

I first bought an AT-VM95E and played just the stylus on my old AT95 body; nice. Then it combined with the AT-VM95 body; nicer. Then I bought the top three models just as styli. First I played the Shibata; garbage. Micro Line; semi-garbage. Then the nude elliptical; NICE!

A few months later I bought an AT-VM95C; WOW!!! This is the sleeper in the line.

After that I started playing around with torque values hoping to improve the more expensive versions. The big champion (for the money) became the Conical.

I bought my original "E" and "C" with bodies. Both bodies have a sticker on the top marked with the cartridge name and below it "CHINA". I am now quite curious if the more expensive (and 78) models' bodies are worse.

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by beck » 2019-09-14 00:04

Deleted.
Last edited by beck on 2019-09-14 08:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Spannko » 2019-09-14 00:22

Ron,

Do you think that the lower cost AT95’s represent the state of the art (musically speaking) or are they just great value for money? If someone was more concerned with maxing out musicality, how much do you think someone would need to spend in order to improve on the 95?

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by lejonklou » 2019-09-14 00:33

Spannko wrote:
2019-09-13 22:31
I’d put my money on a nude elliptical too, but I’d also put a two way on us both being wrong!

Experience has thought me that reliance on “knowledge” can lead us down the garden path!
Hm. So you put all your money on the nude elliptical and the same amount on it being the wrong choice? That means you'll end up at zero no matter what. Minus the forum betting fee. Coward!

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and The Winner Is...

Post by Ron The Mon » 2019-09-14 01:21

lejonklou wrote:
2019-09-13 22:17
I'll bet every penny on the Nude Elliptical option. Not having heard any of them, apart from the clips presented here
DING DING DING

WINNER WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER


I'll post some clips in the next few weeks. Keep in mind the "EN" (Nude Elliptical) is the most expensive to run of this bunch. The stylus itself is $99. and only rated at 300 hours under optimal conditions.

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by beck » 2019-09-14 09:33

Came across a post on another forum claiming that the AT95 needs a loading of 27k to perform at it’s best. Not the usual 47k?
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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Spannko » 2019-09-14 10:48

lejonklou wrote:
2019-09-14 00:33
Spannko wrote:
2019-09-13 22:31
I’d put my money on a nude elliptical too, but I’d also put a two way on us both being wrong!

Experience has thought me that reliance on “knowledge” can lead us down the garden path!
Hm. So you put all your money on the nude elliptical and the same amount on it being the wrong choice? That means you'll end up at zero no matter what. Minus the forum betting fee. Coward!
True! I’m not brave enough to gamble, which is why I refrain from such a reprehensible activity!

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AT-VM95 and JICO Photos

Post by Ron The Mon » 2019-09-14 16:30

I added a photo of the new line in the opening post, which I should have put there in the first place.
Image

Below is the LP GEAR line of styli which fit in the older AT95E body, as well as Linn K5 and K9. I've read that JICO makes the LP GEAR styli.
Image
I believe JICO sold a lot of replacement styli as it seems common sense that upgrading to a better needle would be an improvement? Right? I bought every one of those over the past six years and every one was worse than a stock "green" ATN95 stylus. In fact I bought the first one because it was sold as an "official" AT95 replacement stylus. When I received it, I thought it odd there was no Audio Technica logo. I then realized I was scammed when I went back and looked at the ad and read it more carefully. There was a photo of an AT95E and "AT" logo but not on the replacement stylus.

I also purchased two other aftermarket styli marketed as turning the AT95 into a super cartridge.

None of the aftermarket models lasted as long as a stock ATN95E either. Most wore out significantly faster. Interestingly, all but one sounded best at 1.5g tracking weight (1.0 g bias), so premature wear may be related to that. There was a thread on the extinct Linn Forum extolling the vitues of these aftermarket models. It seemed every month there a new favorite and "best". Interestingly, right before Linn deleted the Forum, the two top posters in that thread reevaluated all models and admitting the stock ATN95E stylus was actually the best. After hundreds of readers over several years, I doubt many saw those last few posts.

It's clever that Audio Technica made the new VM95 body incompatible with the JICO styli. The new styli also look much better in a K5 or K9 (and older AT95 body) than the JICO models.

I also tried some of the modifications recommended on various other "hi-fi" forums. Using putty, trimming away most of the plastic on the stylus frame, etc.

I hope that the hundreds of dollars I spent on aftermarket styli (and some of the new ones) and dozens of hours of my time aren't wasted by saving other readers here from my mistakes. Please post your experiences here as well.

Ron The Mon

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Re: Ron The Mon's AT-VM95 Testimonial

Post by Øyvind I » 2019-09-14 21:54

Ron The Mon wrote:
2019-09-13 03:04

The crazy thing is it sounds magical. The day I picked up my deck we did some comparisons. There was an LP12 running in a demo room into a very high-end system. The deck was Linn Lingo2/Cirkus/Kore/LP12/Ekos2/Adikt. This deck was $3k more than mine. The funny thing was I made Tom sit down and I did the demo. My less expensive LP12 blew it away; it was not subtle.
Thanks for informative post. Your observation above is however nothing to do with the new AT range. It is purely down to source first. Radikal vs Lingo 2.

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by TMV » 2019-09-15 12:41

Ron The Mon, thank you for the great info!

Has anybody tested VM95E vs Adikt?
What is the max hours of the Adikt?

TMV

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Charlie1 » 2019-09-16 17:05

Charlie1 wrote:
2019-09-13 12:45
beck wrote:
2019-09-13 11:58
You could try to do what Audio Technica recommend: tracking force between 1.8 to 2.2g. See if that changes anything?

I am using my AT33 with tracking force just below 2.0g. It works for me......
It helps a little bit but doesn't really make a lot of difference. Thanks for the suggestion though.
It's made my Keilidhs sound like a ported speaker with no kick. I don't normally worry much about the HiFi stuff but I did miss that punch.

However, my ears seems to have re-calibrated to the lighter weight sound to a large extent. It's certainly been a lot of fun listening today - to all sorts of music :)
Last edited by Charlie1 on 2019-09-16 18:31, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Charlie1 » 2019-09-16 17:07

TMV wrote:
2019-09-15 12:41
Ron The Mon, thank you for the great info!

Has anybody tested VM95E vs Adikt?
What is the max hours of the Adikt?
Yes, I'm curious about that too - would love to hear a clip.

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by Matteo » 2019-09-16 20:33

TMV wrote:
2019-09-15 12:41
What is the max hours of the Adikt?
1500/1800 hours

M
LP12/Kore/Akito 2b/ARadikal/Adikt/Slipsik 7-ND5 XS 2-AK/1-A2200-M109 [Silver-K200]

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Re: The Mighty AT95E Becomes The AT-VM95E

Post by lejonklou » 2019-09-17 10:19

Charlie1 wrote:
2019-09-16 17:07
TMV wrote:
2019-09-15 12:41
Ron The Mon, thank you for the great info!

Has anybody tested VM95E vs Adikt?
What is the max hours of the Adikt?
Yes, I'm curious about that too - would love to hear a clip.
I would too. I suspect the Adikt wins easily, but it would be more fun if it was the other way around.

Adikts that are fastened to the headshell with too high a torque (a common problem) and that aren't correctly positioned in the headshell (those tabs have to go) can sound hard and distorted. But correctly installed, it's a really good cartridge. If the VM95E or EN is anywhere close, it's, well, I don't know how to label such a sensation.

By the way, the tip shape of the Adikt is Fritz Gyger II.
GygerII.jpg
GygerII.jpg (52.9 KiB) Viewed 870 times

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