Monday, August 13, 2018

Further Listening: Grado Green1 and Audio-Technica 1001

I wanted to do some further listening to the Grado Green1 and the Audio-Technica 1001 (which, as I mentioned previously is virtually identical to various other Audio-Techinca p-mount cartridges) to see if my initial impressions held up, and also to try them with a variety of music. First let's take a look at their respective frequency response charts.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, the Grado Green1 has a suck out in the upper midrange and treble, where the 1001 stays relatively flat. The maximum difference is only about 2dB at 6 kHz, but this is an area where the human ear is particularly sensitive, so the difference between the tonal balance of the carts should be readily apparent.

Here's David Bowie's "Panic In Detroit" from a near mint US RCA promo pressing of 'Aladdin Sane' (yes, I own a promo copy of 'Aladdin Sane', it's good to be me).

Here's The Go-Betweens' "Cattle And Cain" from their US compilation on PVC Records called 'Metal And Shells'. Once upon a time, 'Before Hollywood' and 'Spring Hill Fair' were not available in the United States, and so we Yankees had to make do with a compilation that selected tracks from both albums.

Here's the dB's "Amplifier" a Peter Holsapple composition so good the band put it on two different albums. This version is from their second LP, 'Repercussion' although I believe it is the same recording they would later release on 'Like This' following Chris Stamey's departure from the band. Note that there is a loud click reproduced by the Grado that is entirely absent from the recording made with the Audio-Technica 1001 (listen at 0:27 and 3:35 for the Grado click, and again at 6:43 to hear it missing from the 1001 recording).

The dB's record plays very quietly in general, but I did want to try a noisier LP to get a sense of how each cart handled surface noise. Here's June Christy's "Something Cool" from the 1955 Capitol LP of the same name. On this cut it seems to me again like the Green1 is picking up more surface noise than the AT1001.

So should we generalize and say the Audio-Technica is great at suppressing surface noise while the Grado Green1 accentuates it? Not so fast. Take a listen to "Light My Fire" as performed by José Feliciano from his 1968 RCA LP, 'Feliciano!'

The Audio-Technica cart is clearly picking up a lot more surface noise than the Grado Green1 on this cut.

So what's going on here? It's always difficult to say for certain, but I believe it's a combination of two things: The 1001 sports a .6 mil conical stylus, while the Grado Green1 has a .3X.7 elliptical stylus. It's very likely the .6 mil conical is hitting a part of the groove that is relatively more worn than where the .3X.7 elliptical sits (the reverse being the case in the two previous examples). But this is also an area where the difference in tonal balance can have an effect. Vinyl surface noise largely lives in that 7 kHz and above region where the Green1 has a dip in amplitude, and so the surface noise is generally less noticeable (but so are the high frequencies). That's the price you pay for getting unattenuated treble. It's also a good argument for owning a cart that can accommodate styli with different sized and cut diamonds, as the 1001 can.

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