Cartridge (and turntable) comparison, with FLACS


#1

So @badbeef convinced me to switch my Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC Star cart to my new Gold Note Mediterraneo TT. I wanted to get a good feel for the differences between the two carts so I ripped “New Frontier” from the recent MoFi Ultradisc with both carts. I did this using my Gold Note PH-10 phono preamp with output to the analog in of the NuWave Phono Converter and ultimately to my Mac Mini and used Vinyl Studio to make the rips. These were done in 24/96 with no de-clicking or de-hiss/rumble. They were normalized to 0 dB. What you hear is what I hear through my speakers, more or less. I find these reproductions get 99% of the original analog feel due to the excellent ADC of the NPC. So without any further ado, here are the links:

Mediterraneo with GN Donatello Gold:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/vvy3jqf4yzutg00/05%20-%20New%20Frontier%20Med%20Donatello.flac?dl=0

Mediterraneo with SS MIMC Star:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ldgffgmep4khnre/05%20-%20New%20Frontier%20med%20Star.flac?dl=0

I figured I’d throw in the original rip I made using my other TT, the Fern & Roby Montrose with the MIMC Star too to see the difference between the TT’s. Keep in mind, I think I declicked this and might have de-rumble/de-hissed. I can’t remember. The Ultradiscs are so damn quiet it’s hard to tell! Anyway, here it is:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/0a0ypoj7vwnoo25/05%20-%20New%20Frontier%20Montrose%20Star.flac?dl=0

Let me know what you guys think. I have my opinions regarding them, but I’ll reserve them until I get your opinions.


#2

A little suggestion: normalize so your peaks are limited to -0.3dBFS.

Intersample peaks can exceed 0dBFS when a file is normalized to 0dBFS. The theoretically worst case is +3.01 dBFS.

The clipping resulting from intersample overs can be heard. As you are recording an LP which already likely went through a brickwall limiter, etc. before being cut there should be few resulting intersample overs which exceed -0.3dBFS. (Many recording engineers use this peak number as a good rule of thumb. It is typically enough to avoid intersample overs unless you are really slamming the signal to make it as loud as possible.)

You may wish to experiment. Compare the sound of a loud pop recording normalized to 0dBFS to one normalized to -1dBFS, adjusting the volume to make up for the lost volume. You likely will hear the quieter file sounds better.

Edit: I should have noted the DS and DSjr have no issue with intersample overs as they have headroom where it matters to avoid clipping from these overs.


#3

Thanks for the feedback Elk. I used to rip at -1 dBFS but I didn’t notice any intersample overs clipping at all at 0 so I switched to 0 dBFS and no problems since. Like you said, it’s probably because of the excellent headroom of the Directstream, although I haven’t noticed any clipping issue when I listen in my car, come to think of it. Not that that’s a critical listening scenario, but still. Did you, by chance, listen to the samples to see if there are any issues to your ear?


#4

I have only had a chance to listen on my laptop, not meaningful at all, but they do sound good. Better than a lot of streamed music. :slight_smile:


#5

I haven’t listened to the files, just wanted to say that the new TT is a real looker. Very nice, and as I was looking around online I see they make a high value phono stage too.

Isn’t it great, analog in the 21st century.


#6

I prefer the sound of these in the order: Don, Star on Med, Star on Montrose. Assuming all other things being equal (normalization doesn’t necessarily help with that), the Donatello has more information, I wouldn’t kick the Star out of bed, and the biggest difference seems to be the Star on the different tables.

Spectral analysis: Interesting that there is a line at 16k on both Mediterraneo tracks, and it’s more pronounced on the Montrose - but at 32k!

Don.jpgMontrose.jpgStar.jpg


#7
jeffstarr said

I haven’t listened to the files, just wanted to say that the new TT is a real looker. Very nice, and as I was looking around online I see they make a high value phono stage too.

Isn’t it great, analog in the 21st century.

Thanks Jeff. I think she's purty too! And the PH-10 phono stage is no joke. It's an amazing piece with immaculate sound and at a great price. Incredibly versatile too.

#8
badbeef said

I prefer the sound of these in the order: Don, Star on Med, Star on Montrose. Assuming all other things being equal (normalization doesn’t necessarily help with that), the Donatello has more information, I wouldn’t kick the Star out of bed, and the biggest difference seems to be the Star on the different tables.

Spectral analysis: Interesting that there is a line at 16k on both Mediterraneo tracks, and it’s more pronounced on the Montrose - but at 32k!

It's interesting that you said you prefer the Star to the Donatello because I have it reversed. Granted, they are so very, very similar, it's crazy. I find the Star to have slightly treble detail in percussion without being glaring in the slightest. Bass and tonal midrange are very similar, IMO. I was struck primarily at how much more solid and distinct the bass is on the Mediterraneo than the Montrose. The Montrose may be a little more lean sounding as a result. I attribute that to the added weight of the platter and plinth (55 lbs vs. 37 lbs) as well as the dead silence of the Mediterraneo's plinth. And when I say dead silent, I mean it both as a vanishingly low noise floor on dead wax and when using a stethoscope to the plinth. They both have great PTaT, and all that.

I have no ides what’s up with that line at 16k and 32k. If you look, both lines are on all the files, just more pronounced at 16k on the Mediterraneo and at 32k on the Montrose. Anyone have any ideas? Other than that, the spectral analyses look similar to me without glaring differences.


#9

I put the Donatello first. And if you look at the spectra in detail (which I realize is hard with just a jpeg grab) they are all different.

And since the more dramatic difference was the different TTs, it would be interesting to hear the SS Star on a VPI of similar price as the Mediterraneo, up against the Med/Don. Synergy?


#10

Beef - what program are you using for spectral analysis? I’d like to try that.


#11

Adobe Audition


#12

Thanks for that Beef. I started a trial of the Adobe Audition and it’s a pretty powerful program. More than I need, honestly, but it’s fun to look at the spectral differences. One thing I did notice is that the Montrose Star file has a slightly lower noise floor which I’m pretty sure is the result of having run the rip through a de-hum/hiss filter in Vinyl Studio. That muddies the comparison a little bit, so I’ll just concentrate on the Mediterraneo files.

Looking at the different Mediterraneo files shows, indeed, that there’s slightly more high energy spectral data on the Donatello than the Star. I’m guessing that’s a good thing, i.e. the Donatello is picking up more info from the grooves rather than accentuating false detail/noise. I went back and listened closely to the files and I honestly find them so similar, I can’t really much difference on “New Frontier”. So I then listened closely to other tracks on the album “I.G.Y” and “Green Flower Street” and do think I get a slight hint of more treble detail on the Donatello files compared to the Star. They are similar otherwise in terms of soundstage, bass, and midrange. It is a very impressive showing for the Donatello, honestly, considering it is half of the price of the Star. And, yes, there might be a synergy between the Donatello and the table and arm of the Mediterraneo. Since the Star is a significantly heavier cart by like 4.5 gms I had to add the extra small weight on the tonearm to balance it out, which has to change the effective mass of the tonearm. Does that make any difference, though? Hard to say. I did notice I needed slightly more antiskate with the Star than the Donatello, which I found interesting.

Does anyone else have an opinion between the two? I’d love to hear some other thoughts!


#13

If Adobe Audition is too much (in either learning curve or cost) you might be able to find Cool Edit (or Cool Edit Pro) which Audition is based off of. Also Audacity is a similar free program (https://sourceforge.net/projects/audacity/) I use Audition a heck of a lot, but they deleted some of my often used features when they went to the subscription version so I keep my version 3.0 of it.


#14

Thanks Ted! I do have Audacity and it is a powerful freeware tool. I’ll look into Cool Edit as well. I must say I’m not a fan of the new Adobe subscription based process. I don’t want to pay $10 a month for Lightroom forever, thanks.

So if I could get your opinion re: the apparent busier spectral plot of the different carts, I’d appreciate it. Does the Donatello, which has a busier spectral plot compared to the MIMC Star, likely relay more information from the grooves than the Star, or could this just be noise/atrifact?


#15
amgradmd said I have no ides what's up with that line at 16k and 32k. If you look, both lines are on all the files, just more pronounced at 16k on the Mediterraneo and at 32k on the Montrose.
I suspect a mechanical resonance in the 'table or arm, especially as 32kHz is a multiple of 16kHz.

One could check by looking at a recording of a lead-in groove, between tracks, or lead-out.


#16
amgradmd said

Thanks Ted! I do have Audacity and it is a powerful freeware tool. I’ll look into Cool Edit as well. I must say I’m not a fan of the new Adobe subscription based process. I don’t want to pay $10 a month for Lightroom forever, thanks.

So if I could get your opinion re: the apparent busier spectral plot of the different carts, I’d appreciate it. Does the Donatello, which has a busier spectral plot compared to the MIMC Star, likely relay more information from the grooves than the Star, or could this just be noise/atrifact?


If you look deep enough on the Adobe web site you can almost always find the older model where you pay a fixed price for a particular version in perpetuity and usually get discounts to upgrade to a newer version. It took me a couple of hours of searching the last time I upgraded Adobe Acrobat. I suspect they keep them for those companies which refuse to buy the subscriptions, but they sure don’t make them easy to find.

I’ll have to beg off on reading plots that I didn’t generate - I have enough trouble being accurate when I do everything myself - I almost never just take one measurement. It takes a cycle of measure, refine the experiment, measure, refine the experiment, … to know if you are seeing what you think you see.


#17
Elk said
amgradmd said I have no ides what's up with that line at 16k and 32k. If you look, both lines are on all the files, just more pronounced at 16k on the Mediterraneo and at 32k on the Montrose.

I suspect a mechanical resonance in the 'table or arm, especially as 32kHz is a multiple of 16kHz.

One could check by looking at a recording of a lead-in groove, between tracks, or lead-out.


That’d be one hell of a mechanical resonance at such a high frequency! I’d imagine it’s more likely due to some other noise anomaly in the USB chain/CPU?