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More about Ceramic (and similar) Cartridges

 
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Richard
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MessagePosté le: Jeu 2 Juin - 22:50 (2011)    Sujet du message: More about Ceramic (and similar) Cartridges Répondre en citant

Ceramic phono cartridges are in a class known as piezoelectric devices. A piezoelectric element is usually a solid strip that generates electricity when it is twisted. The earliest piezoelectric phono cartridges had natural crystal elements. These were subject to failures caused by temperature and humidity, as well as contact problems. Synthetic crystals were called ceramic. These were more reliable.

Piezo cartridges were cheap to manufacture and also could be designed to generate various voltage levels. High-output piezo cartridges could save a record player manufacturer large amounts of money by allowing him to eliminate circuitry, including amplifying devices such as tubes, transistors, or ICs. The piezo cartridges were also self-equalizing for the RIAA recording curve, which reduced the parts even more. Traditional piezoelectric cartridges have usually produced mediocre-to-awful sound because of the desire of the industrial buyers for them to generate high signals. Ordinary home-type record players, including large consoles, used these cartridges.

Piezo cartridges could be made in low-output form for serious reproduction, even audiophile-grade applications. But the principle had acquired such an awful reputation among audiophiles that audiophiles never would bother to listen to the good ones.

A very small number of manufacturers dared to produce outstanding ceramic cartridges, but they almost always concealed the principle, giving them confusing, even wrong names, such as "strain gauge," "variable condenser," and "computer" "electret" or "solid state." Outstanding piezo cartridges were made by Weathers and MIcro-Acoustics, and possibly Stax. Decent ones were made by Grado and Goldring. There may have been more.

For various reliability reasons, I do not recommend that anybody take the risk of buying any high-quality piezoelectric cartridge. And it's virtually impossible to get a stylus. If you get one that works nicely today, it may fail permanently next month. However, if you have one that's working well and want to try your luck for the future, you can probably have your stylus renewed with a new diamond for reasonable cost.

But, yet, there's another reason why it might be enjoyable to use an ordinary-type ceramic cartridge. Some of the regular crystal and ceramic cartridges were well-supplied with styli of decent quality, especially by aftermarket needle companies. These styli are easy to manufacture, so the same companies who make awful magnetic needles can actually turn out perfectly good ones for these low-quality cartridges. And these ordinary ceramic cartridges tended to be more reliable than the high-quality ones because the better ones were made with far greater precision and delicacy: they could be "fussier."

Lenco offered some turntables with pre-fitted piezoelectric cartridges, especially made by Ronette in The Netherlands. Ronette cartridges (and their imitators) can be easily recognized by a knob in front of the arm that rotates to change between the 78 and LP styli: a flip-over, rather than a flip-under design. These cartridges are stiff heavy-trackers, so I don't like to play treasured recordings with them.

They can be useful.

If you want to listen to some records and hear them exactly the way that they sounded to most people on this planet, the cartridge to use would be one of these!

It is best to terminate them correctly with the proper resistance, and in some cases, capacitance. Regardless, the termination is simple, and then, you can usually plug them into line-level inputs.

A few years ago, I actually bought about twelve of these cartridges, in different brands, both mono and stereo, to save in case I ever wanted to re-live actual consumer-grade sound of the past at some time in the future. If you have an extra headshell or an extra tone arm, you can do the same thing. Note that piezo cartridges came in a few thousand different types, with different voltage outputs and mounting arrangements. If you find one, it may not be electrically or physically suitable. But so many of them were more-or-less standard that chances are better than 50% that whatever you find will be compatible. And your nostalglc trip to the past may be enoyable!

(c) 2011 Richard Steinfeld
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Richard Steinfeld
Author of The Handbook for Stanton and Pickering Cartridges and Styli
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MessagePosté le: Dim 5 Juin - 21:15 (2011)    Sujet du message: More about Ceramic (and similar) Cartridges Répondre en citant

Richard,

Merci pour cet très utile et intéressant article ! bow
Tu es vraiment une mine de connaissances sur le sujet  Smile

Cordialement,
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MessagePosté le: Aujourd’hui à 20:55 (2016)    Sujet du message: More about Ceramic (and similar) Cartridges

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