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Why are some MC carts so bloody expensive??

Dynamic Turtle

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Can someone remind me why some MC phono cartridges cost as much as a good swiss-made watch? Seriously, I understand its a small market with afair bit of research, precision micro-engineering and testing involved, but what justifies a £2,000 RRP for a cartridge? You could get a hand-finished Blancpain invloving hundreds of hours of (breathtaking) workmanship for that kind of money.

Just appear to very poor value, compared to equivalent examples of precision micro-engineering like mechanical watches.....

DT

 

griffo104

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I think there is a fair amount of skill involved with a lot of the carts at that price.

Most of the Lyras are made by one person and they have some special machinery to help make them which adds to the costs as I'm sure they don't turn around a huge amount. Although the Lyras carts aren't too expensive, imo of course.

The Koetsu carts, whcih don't even come with instructions, VTF or even coloured pins, are again handmade with some of the bodies made from rare materials.

I'm sure that more Swiss watches are sold than top end MC carts.

Jonathan Carr, who designs the Lyra gear, hangs around on PFM and is very open and easy to chat to, happy to go into quite a few details about his carts. Either pop the question over there and try and get someone like him to answer - or we could try dragging him into the tent (or the culture shock may be too much for him).

 

briangub

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they are poor value in strict materials terms, but they are generally hand made in very small quantities by companies which are, in reality, made up of just one or two individuals. nobody, not even the well-known names, is selling in high quantity nowadays or employing lots of people or using automated production processes. all of this makes them expensive

 

meninblack

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Volumes also play a part. The Swiss Watch marketing industry has been very successful in persuading Flash Harry types everywhere of the desirability of using 3 lbs of jewel-encrusted alpine clockwork to tell the time rather than 30 grammes of Japanese plastic.

The hi-fi industry has not been so good at getting Jack the Lad to lust after turntables rather than Bose Cubes.
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Davewhityetagain

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Being hand made in small numbers costs............ that said there must be a cut off price where the amount spent gets silly

my limit on a MC would be about 1k if I had a deck worth putting such a cartridge on'

it was hard enough parting with £650 for one
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griffo104

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Davewhityetagain wrote:

Being hand made in small numbers costs............ that said there must be a cut off price where the amount spent gets silly my limit on a MC would be about 1k if I had a deck worth putting such a cartridge on'

it was hard enough parting with £650 for one
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Well I took my time deciding £500 for the Dorian - and purchasing the damn thing then made me go out and buy the Orbe, that turned in to one expensive cart.

However, I would now certainly look to buy an Argo, but would want to get a better phono stage than the Dino+ before hand.

I have a lot of respect for the guys making these things- check out the interview in hifi+ with Mr Van Den Hul last year, really was an eye-opener.

 

Dynamic Turtle

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I'm sure low turnover/demand is the over-riding cost factor. Still, there are quite a few low volume two-man watchmaking operations churning out very well finished mechanical watches for €2500 - thinking Dornblueth & Sohne in Saxony (http://www.dornblueth.com/english/diekaliber1.htmlfor those interested)

In terms of man-hours, complexity and research/design/QC, Carts still seem like poor value, particularly as they die after 1000 hours.I service my watches every 45,000 hours!!

Don't want to keep comparing apples with oranges here, but I just find that people pay so much for Carts without questioning why they cost so much....

DT

 

garyi

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Aug 13, 2005
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Its very very simple, they charge that much because they can because people will pay. same as cables etc.

to be fair high priced carts sound f***ing awsome where as high priced cables, are just wire that is high priced.

 
M

murray johnson

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With most pieces of high end hifi you can reckon on the cost of the item in its box (ie parts, labour, packaging etc is about 1/5 of its retail price. So a £1000 cartridge probably costs maybe £200 to make. The quantities involved are very small compared with watches/DVD players/washing machines.

There is inevitably some 'hand building' required and the people doing this aren't going to do it for the minimum wage. There are also some very odd parts in cartridges which aren't used for anything else (tapered beryllium cantilevers) unusual profile diamonds, the coil former material, custom made bodies. In relatively small quantities these parts are more expensive than you might expect. However a surprisingly large number of cartridge manufacturers source these parts from the same companies and internally the cartridges are very similar. If you look inside a Denon 103 or a basic Ortofon or Goldring MC you'll find that what is in there is not dramatically different to whats in a Koetsu or a Lyra. Goldring, Denon and Ortofon have probably all invested more in tooling reducing their labour element a little and increasing dramatically the value of their cartridges. With the Koetsu's it's very questionable whether the fancy body materials actually do anything useful other than add to the cost but the particular diamond/stylus/coil former assembly they use may be more expensive as its possibly (probably)made just for them in small numbers. Mr Sugano used to work for Supex and the design of Koetsu's hasn't really deviated that far from the old Supex 901.

 

griffo104

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Also some of these companies make carts for other hifi companies as well. As far as I know Linn's Adikt is made by Goldring and the Akiva is made by Lyra.

This means Linn can design them and get the 'experts' who already have the skills and machinery in place to build them. I'm sure if Linn decided to build these carts themselves the cost would go up dramatically and therefore the cost to the customer would also go up.

 

Borats Baby

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I think 2K on anything that small is absurd. I'm sure it is very nice and obviously better than say a £100 cart, but 2K ??

Just look what else you could buy

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270016460971&indexURL=0&photoDisplayType=2#ebayphotohosting

I've never heard a two thousand pound cartridge so I dont suppose i'm in a position to comment really but I know what I would buy.

I reckon more work has gone in to the item above !!

I realise everyone has there own opinions and thats what counts really. The above is only my opinion.

 
M

murray johnson

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I'd be very interested to know how much 'design' input Linn actually contribute in the case of their MC carts.

On a slightly related note I remember being told by a certain Australian TT/supertweeter/stand manufacturer that the red pip on the front of the old Asak cartridge was actually an LED that lit up when the cartridge was tracking properly. I thought that was quite amusing.

 

griffo104

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murray johnson wrote:

I'd be very interested to know how much 'design' input Linn actually contribute in the case of their MC carts.On a slightly related note I remember being told by a certain Australian TT/supertweeter/stand manufacturer that the red pip on the front of the old Asak cartridge was actually an LED that lit up when the cartridge was tracking properly. I thought that was quite amusing.
Murray - I'm not sure myself.

It's not surprising to me though that the Akiva is priced so that it doesn't compete head on with any of the Lyra range. I know Linn like the trailing cables and 3 point connection to the arm - these may be down to Linn more than the actual internals. When you have designer who does such a good job with his carts, would you argue or dictatewith/to him about cartridge design ?

To be fair, I would hope the only people forking out £2k_ on a cart have the arm/deck/phono stage to do the cart justice, whcih normally means they have already spent out a fair bit. To them £2k probably is justified.

Having heard a Lyra Titan on an SME V on an Avid Acutus - if I had the money, I'd have happily spent it on that setup.

 
M

murray johnson

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I suspect that Lyra may suggest combinations of cantilever material/diamond profile/maybe magnet type which people at Linn can listen to and come to a decision on. I imagine Linn will have some input into how the body looks, the colour and any screen printing. The flying leads and multiple bolt mounting are old ideas although I don't think anyone else uses 3 bolts.

I've never been that taken with the Lyra's. They've sounded ok but not outstanding. If I was in the market for a new sub £1000 cartridge now I'd get a Shelter 901 or a Zyx. I think the Shelter can be obtained from someone in Holland for about £650.

 

griffo104

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murray johnson wrote:

I suspect that Lyra may suggest combinations of cantilever material/diamond profile/maybe magnet type which people at Linn can listen to and come to a decision on. I imagine Linn will have some input into how the body looks, the colour and any screen printing. The flying leads and multiple bolt mounting are old ideas although I don't think anyone else uses 3 bolts.I've never been that taken with the Lyra's. They've sounded ok but not outstanding. If I was in the market for a new sub £1000 cartridge now I'd get a Shelter 901 or a Zyx. I think the Shelter can be obtained from someone in Holland for about £650.
Murray - I got to listen to the 901 and was very impressed, very musical cart, but the Dorian came in cheaper and was easier to get hold off. I have to say I really enjoy the Dorian, excellent tracker and picks up details from the vinyl that certainly weren't heard before.

The Lyra range has steadily been getting better and better and the current range is much better than the previous range which included the Clavis, etc. The older range was more mechanical sounding and more matter-of-fact.

The newer range is much more musical than the previous one - it know knows how to boogie a bit better.

I've never heard a ZYX cart - again aren't they quite difficult to get in the country at the moment ?

As for the 3 bolt - the Rega Super Elys cart uses 3 bolts to connect to an RB300 - not sure about the other RB tonearms though.

 

Dynamic Turtle

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Sep 23, 2005
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Very interesting Murray, thanks for the explanation.

Not surprised to hear that "high-end" carts are mostly exercises in presentation and don't add much more to the mix over their lower-priced cousins!

Would desperately love to more about the subject of cart manufacturing, but the lack of obvious info (particularly from the companies themselves) is telling. No-one seems to be highlighting the differences in their approach, be it in the technical/design/maufacturing stages.

DT

 

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