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vpi turntable with ortofon cartridge
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May 03, 2012, 02:14:36 PM
  • susan
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Hi my name is Susan and I'm new here, so here's my first question. I have a vpi scoutmaster turntable with the 9in tonearm. Right now I'm using a Shelter 501MKII on it and it works fairly well, but the Shelter is a bit flat for my taste. I'm thinking about getting some sort of ortofon cart for it. Does anyone have any experience using the ortofon on the scoutmaster's arm, also out of the ortofon carts which ones would you recommend? Right now i have my eye on either the  Kontrapunkt B for around $1050 new, the rondo bronze for around $850 or the cadenza bronze price ? any input will be greatly appreciated. Here's some info about my system . I have a audible illusions modules 3b preamp, Cary cad 120 Mk2 amp, Sony es 5400 CD player, interconnects are a mix of transparent and morrow, speaker cables are kabula sosna and speakers are martin Logan aerius's. I listen to almost any kind of music, but mostly to classical, jazz and classic rock. I'm looking forward to hearing from you'll   
« Last Edit: September 17, 2014, 03:28:25 AM by BSD2000 »


May 04, 2012, 06:22:31 PM
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Hi my name is Susan and I'm new here, so here's my first question. I have a vpi scoutmaster turntable with the 9in tonearm. Right now I'm using a Shelter 501MKII on it and it works fairly well, but the Shelter is a bit flat for my taste. I'm thinking about getting some sort of ortofon cart for it. Does anyone have any experience using the ortofon on the scoutmaster's arm, also out of the ortofon carts which ones would you recommend? Right now i have my eye on either the  Kontrapunkt B for around $1050 new, the rondo bronze for around $850 or the cadenza bronze price ? any input will be greatly appreciated. Here's some info about my system . I have a audible illusions modules 3b preamp, Cary cad 120 Mk2 amp, Sony es 5400 CD player, interconnects are a mix of transparent and morrow, speaker cables are kabula sosna and speakers are martin Logan aerius's. I listen to almost any kind of music, but mostly to classical, jazz and classic rock. I'm looking forward to hearing from you'll

Hi Susan, welcome to the forum!

I owned a Scoutmaster and a Kontrapunkt B cartidge, but at different times, so I never got to hear how the two sound together. I can say that the Kontrapunkt B is a fantastic cartridge with a nice, vibrant, 'analog' sound to it. I haven't had a chance to hear a Shelter cartridge yet, so I can't comment on how it would compare to your 501MKII. Your system components are beyond reproach - especially the preamp (I assume you are using it as your phono preamp, which was designed by John Curl), so I doubt the 'flatness' you're experiencing is from the preamp or amp.

I hate to say, but I experienced the same 'flat' sound from my Scoutmaster when I tried my Zyx R100H on it and it's one of the main reasons why I sold the Scoutmaster and kept the Rega. You can hear the effect in my Youtube video of the Scoutmaster/Zyx combo playing Thelma Houston's 'To Know You is to Love You':

VPI Scoutmaster plays 'To Know You is to Love You'

Here's a little better sample of the audio:
http://www.vinylaudio.net/forum/music/VPI_Thelma.mp3
My Zyx cartridge on the Rega P25 turntable sounds vibrant, rich and anything but dull. On the Scoutmaster, it sounded more like a SACD with less punch and drive, even some of the PRAT was toned down compared to the Rega. IMHO, it came down to the unipivot arm, which seems to 'dial back' my Zyx R100H's energy to the point where is sounded less like vinyl and more like a CD.

The VPI arms like heavy cartridges - but that alone doesn't explain the whole picture since I tried one of the cartridges they recommended - the Dynavector DV-20X and while it was a better match, it still did not give me what I was looking for. It was a nice combination; and if I never heard my Rega/Zyx combination, I probably would have been satisfied. But, it seemed to me like the Scoutmaster was very picky when it came to matching a cartridge to the unipivot arm and the Zyx just sounded fantastic with the Rega. (The DV-20X sounded TERRIBLE on the Rega, which is a mystery I didn't spend much time unraveling.)

Oddly enough, one cartridge that I did like with the Scoutmaster was my lowly Grado Gold. Here's a sample:

Count Basie - 'Her Royal Highness' from the Chairman of the Board LP
http://www.vinylaudio.net/forum/music/VPI_GRADO.mp3
Granted, it is a lower end cartridge than the moving coil cartridges I have, it did manage to have some synergy with the VPI arm, which would explain why Grado 'woodies' are a popular choice on VPI turntables. It also seemed to suggest that a high output cartridge could help overcome the laid back, 'flat' sound of the VPI arm. The downside of the Grado Gold was more surface noise due to the shape of the stylus and higher output, moving iron design. I believe the Grado woodies have a better stylus cut which would reduce the surface noise, but I'm not 100% positive.

Another option to look into would be the Soundsmith cartridges, specifically the Zephyr, Aida or Boheme. I read a lot of good reviews and they seem like a good match with VPI turntables.

In formulating my opinion of the Scoutmaster (from my limited experience with it - only had it for 6 months), I came to these conclusions:
  • The Scoutmaster's platter speed is dead-on accurate, the best I ever measured.
  • Platter bearing noise is non-existent, creating a pitch black background which helps bring out subtle, low level details.
  • The uni-pivot arm design has a taming/dulling effect on lighter, delicate, low output, moving coil cartridges.
  • The Scoutmaster seems to like heavy, higher output cartridges (>1.5mv.)
  • The VPI mini-feet really improved the bass and mid-bass of the table, giving the sound more weight and fullness.

As for Ortofon, The Ortofon Kontrapunkt B was one of my first 'real' cartridges; meaning it was one of the first cartridges that when I heard it for the first time, struck me as a 'whoa, now I'm getting somewhere!' kind of sound. It was the first cartridge I heard (I owned it before getting a Zyx R100H) that had more of what I was looking for from vinyl - more air, presence, PRAT, more separation between the instruments and a tight, focused sound stage. IMHO, the Kontrapunkt B is much better than the Dynavector DV-20X, but they both are similar in some respects - mostly in the deep bass department. The Kontrapunkt B is quite heavy (10g), which will most like be a good match with the Scoutmaster arm. The Cadenza Blue looks like the replacement for the Kontrapunkt B (same ruby cantilever), with the Bronze above it. The main difference between them is the cut of the stylus, with the Cadenza Black using the Shibata tip design. I always liked the higher end, moving coil cartridges from Ortofon and I imagine any of them would be a good match with your Scoutmaster.

Here's a sample of the Ortofon Kontrapunkt B on my Rega P25:

'Wishing Well' from a Windham Hill sampler LP:
http://www.vinylaudio.net/forum/music/KontraB.mp3
Here's a good article explaining the difference between the Cadenza cartridges.

With the way things are today, it's almost impossible to find a local brick and mortar shop where you can have a listen to different cartridges before deciding what to buy. The next best thing is hearing 'needle drops' (sample recordings) of each cartridge so you can get at least a rough idea how they sound.

One final note - choosing a cartridge is really a personal choice. What sounds good to me may not sound good to you. I happen to love Zyx cartridges. Out of everything I tried, I keep going back to them because they sound 'right' for me. If I had to recommend a Zyx cartridge for your Scoutmaster, I would go with a high output model (.48mv) with either silver or copper wire - preferably copper. The R1000 Airy 3-XH (copper or silver) with a headshell weight would make a perfect match. I've seen the R1000 Air 3 on Ebay for $1665, which is a bit higher, price wise, compared to the cartridges you mentioned, but to me - it's well worth it.

Another choice would be the Zyx R100 Fuji-X copper for $1242.52 on Ebay. The headshells are available from MusicDirect.com for $15. Either one would make a fantastic combination with your Scoutmaster.

As far as copper vs silver, the silver is said to be more laid back than the copper, so I would stick with the copper which tends to have a warmer, 'livelier' sound than the silver, which may be more of what you're looking for.

To my ears, the Zyx lineup (from the R50 on up) sounds fantastic and is exactly the sound I was looking for. Deep, clean, detailed bass - not over blown and not too heavy. Pure, textured, smooth and 'real' sounding mid range and crystal clean, fast, detailed and airy highs without brightness or etch. The imaging, sound stage, depth and instrument separation is the best I ever heard. Zyx cartridges have my highest recommendation, but it's up to each person to decide what sounds 'right' for them.

I hope this helps.  :)
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 02:56:10 AM by BSD2000 »
Rega P25 Zyx Omega G Zyx R100H Audio Research PH5 Denon DP-52F Denon DL-103D Burson HA-160 Sennheiser HD-650 and HD-800


June 22, 2013, 12:47:05 PM
  • slippers-on
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I dont know it it helped her....but it was very good info and it helped me.....thanks for your efforts.


June 24, 2013, 08:58:16 AM
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  • BSD2000
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I dont know it it helped her....but it was very good info and it helped me.....thanks for your efforts.

:ywelcome:

I'm not sure how things turned out for Susan - she never came back and I don't think she seen my reply. At least it was useful for someone.  8)



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