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AUDIO TECHNICA AT440ML Phono Cartridge

AUDIO TECHNICA AT440ML Phono Cartridge

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Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Audio Technica AT440ML
Review: I have used a Shure M91 cartridge for years. Excellent cartridge. After having a rough time finding a decent replacement stylus I decided to move on to something new. Online reviews led me to try the Shure M97xe. Very disappointed. I moved on again. Quickly. This time to the comparably priced Audio Technica AT440ML. I was literally BLOWN AWAY by the sound of this cartridge! The AT440ML reproduces high frequencies with amazing detail and low distortion, while simultaneously packing a respectable low frequency punch. You'll be surprised at what this cartridge pulls out of your grooves. At this price, the AT440ML is an incredible value. Spoil yourself.

Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Fantastic
Review: In my opinion, the best under-$100 phono cartridge remaining on the market... bar none.

Rating: 4 stars
Summary: One of the Best Budget Minded Audiophile Cartridges Around
Review: Who says you have to spend an x amount of hundreds even thousands of dollars on a phono cartridge to listen to crisp and detailed vinyl/analog playback ? However, words like crisp and detailed are very meager adjectives to describe the musical sonic characteristics of this cartridge (true, the rest of your component system's own sound characteristics come into play, i.e; receiver,amp,pre-amp,turntable,speakers).If any part of your audio system does not have that "synergy", then you may notice either slight, miniscule shortcomings from the cartridge or system or both.For those with already a warm or neutral sounding system will be dramatically surprised and awestruck. For those who have just the opposite type of system and also may have an eq inline, you may want to adjust your treble settings. The AT 440ML is NOT a neutral or "warm" sounding cartridge---far from it. The upper mids and highs will possibly have your dog running out of the room. It's not bass shy either. Bass is firm but never muddy or boomy. It reproduces the lows and highs very well.There are no punchy mids (though the mids are reproduced admirably but not accurately). Some critics have said this cartridge out of the box and installed properly is reminiscent of having an inline equalizer and it's frequency knob controls in the "v" formation. Stereo channel separation is probably the best these ears have heard over any other stereo cartridge I have had in the past (from the Grado Prestige Series to a couple of high-end Shure cartridges).There is definitely a 3-dimensional sonic imaging characteristic in the AT 440ML (especially noted with acoustic and jazz music). The Audio Technica beats most other hi end named brands to the punch with such wide stereo stage channel separation. I have closed my eyes with headphones on or with speakers and I always hear and experience the "you are there" feeling that makes me appreciate records much more than the cold 2-dimensional flat sound of audio cd's. Female vocals have a soft but clear presence.Male vocals are well reproduced. The micro-linear stylus reaches deep into the grooves without carving the vinyl (YES ! a wonderful light tracker that requires anywhere from .8 to 1.6 g of tracking force).This will cut down on the wear and tear of your vinyl collection as well as your cartridge/stylus...

Does this mean that the AT 440ML is PERFECT and that you have finally reached analog playback nirvana??? Well, that depends on different viewpoints. If you have bought cheap cartridges all your life in the $20 to $40 range, then this AT 440ML will be an audio revelation that will have you realize what you have been missing all this time. BUT, it's only a taste of the high end, audiophile analog world. If you have had other hi-end name brand cartridges (an experienced audiophile) and have paid more than what this cartridge is going for, then from a monetary stance you may have paid too much---that is IF the AT's sound rivals or is reminiscent of those pricier carts. On the other hand, if you prefer the warm, neutral sound to your liking, and possibly don't want to experience ear and mind fatigue from a bright cartridge then do not buy this cartridge.The AT 440 ML is a colored (soundwise) cartridge.You will only become ear fatigued if you are used to more neutral or warm cartridges (this is where you will need to adjust your treble settings). As with most cartridges, the AT 440 ML does require a little bit of "breaking-in" period (some say 30 hours to maybe 50---depending on your playback time habits).

The last glaring question (probably one of the most important) is whether or not this is an excellent tracker (and this is a two-fold question or concern). Are words beginning with s, t, p, and f accurately reproduced (sibilance)? Yes and no.That honorary distinction would be for the Shure V15VxMR cartridge (which is now out of production and was the last of a dying audiophile cartridge breed to be had for a reasonable price range). With the AT 440ML it's more hit than miss with sibilants. About 85% to 90% of the time "spitty" consonants are pronounced accurately with a slight edge or exaggeration. However, there have been a few of my clean records where the letter "s" cuts through with that static-like harshness more than once on any given side.One such record I have that proves this theory and shortcoming of this cartridge is Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive swing jazz album (the letter s is tracked harshly with that annoying edgy sound). As for overall tracking quality of the music signal in general from beginning of groove to end, it has that inner groove distortion problem licked (this is where the AT 440ML shows off it's greatest audiophile strength). This is due to the linear contact stylus. Nothing MORE aggravating to a record listener than when a low budget or poorly produced cartridge, while it may sound clear and great in the first few tracks on a record side, but then as the needle goes towards the center, the last tracks suffer horribly (no matter how much anti-skate force you apply)! You will no longer have this problem with the AT 440ML; you will finally find out what you have been missing.

The bottom line, with both thumbs highly up, I highly recommend this fine cartridge. Period. Especially for a novice to the vinyl world or someone on a budget.I have found it difficult to listen to cd's or any digital musical format since owning this cartridge. In fact, I get bored with cd playback nowadays. There's just no musical "involvement".Don't be fooled by the simple black and lavender/purple? colored simple looking cartridge. It's what's on the inside of the body that really counts ! The AT 440ML possesses that bang for the buck quality that is hard to beat and will revitalize your long yearning for super (not perfect) audiophile listening and extract nuances and other fine qualities from your record collection !

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