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Old 18th February 2020, 12:08 PM
bikerhifinut bikerhifinut is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Penrith, Cumbria
Posts: 1,093
Default Not such a budget performance

Hi guys.
I was intrigued by the good reviews of the new AT VM95 MM cartridges.
Most of you will know about them, 5 stereo snapin stylus options ranging from the basic 95C conical at 30 ish to the top of the range 95 SH shibata tip at 170 or thereabouts in UK outlets and I am sure if you have a good grub round it'll be cheaper somewhere in Amazon land.
I, for reasons known only to myself and a slip of the mouse click, ,Bought the VM95SH,I meant to get the EN nude elliptical but hey ho, it was meant to be for use in the second, TT a rega P7/RB700 with latest motor and PSU mod as bought.
I'm currently out of the MC loop, the last cantilever disaster was a expense too far at the moment, so I downgraded from a Quintet Bronze to a 2M Bronze on the Michell GyroSE.
So the ortofon is an absolute cracker and I'm rather happy with it now its nicely aligned etc. I have a feeling that the Quintet was already not giving of its best as the identical "Fine Line" stylus profile on the 2M digs out lots of lovely musical stuff.
So to the AT VM95, it looks very like an updated AT95 in as much as the main metal body has identical dimensions. It's possible the internal wiring etc has been modernised though. The big advance at first sight is the captive threaded inserts on the moulded plastics top of the body. The stylus assembly snaps in exactly like it did on the old AT95, I did a check on this on my old AT95E.
So in the arm, a doddle to setup and align. Tracking force set at the recommended 2g and on goes a record with a particularly tricky sibilance issue with lesser cartridges. Tasmin Archer''s Great Expectations album and the first track "sleeping satellite" can really upset most cartridges and is a good test of HF performance.
Well It was one of those moments. I couldn't believe something that's pitched at the lower end of the hi fi market could sound so refined. Ok theres a wee bit of bass heft missing but not to any amount that spoils the experience. I'm using very revealing Quad 989 speakers with the WD KT88 amp and Phono3S and they showed up no adverse flaws to my ears.
So it's like this right now, I find myself listening to the VM95SH in preference to the ortofon as it seems to flatter the sound on my battered old favourites from 50 years ago and pulls an astounding sound out of good modern pressings too. The sophisticated tip must be contributing to the low surface noise too.
I tried the stylus out on the Gyro SE in a spare rega based arm that has the AT95 mounted on it, as the VM95 styli snap in perfectly and again I got that experience but with the somewhat lusher and less snappy presentation that the Michell gives against the Rega deck. it was also possible to do an A-B against the standard Elliptical AT stylus and here the improvement was very noticeable. I do think the new body also gives a worthwhile improvement but its good to know that if you have an old AT95, you can drop the new styli in for an instant improvement. I also suspect the old AT based Linn K9 and K5 cartridges will be compatible and next time I am at the youngsters i'll try it on the K5 he has in his spares box.
So there we have it, a cheap MM cartridge that punches way above its weight and I now get the good reviews. I suspect the VM95ML microlinear stylus might be preferable to some for a few quid less as it's possibly down to whether you like Kenya or Brazilian coffee between those to use an analogy.
yes its a great bit of kit, No it's not going to usurp your upmarket MC but at the price what's not to like?
Apologies for the length of the post.

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