Sunday, August 12, 2018

Phono Cartridge Comparison: Grado Green1 vs Pickering XV-15 and Denon DL-110

I really wanted to include a budget priced Grado cartridge in my comparisons, and my local record store, In Your Ear Records in Warren, RI was nice enough to loan me a lightly used Grado Prestige Green1.

Grado cartridges tend to be a bit of a lightning rod, inspiring devotion and derision in seemingly equal measure. Grado is the last cartridge manufacturer in the United States with all their cartridges still made in Brooklyn, NY. Take a listen to the Grado Prestige Green1 (current production model is the Green2) compared to a Pickering XV-15, a cartridge from a now sadly defunct U.S. company. The song is 10cc's "The Things We Do For Love" from 'Deceptive Bends.'

Here's the Green1 compared to the Denon DL-110 on the Talking Heads' "The Great Curve." This is a song I tend to use a lot because I find it very revealing of a cartridge's strengths and weaknesses.

Grado carts have a sound that many people find seductive. A look a the frequency response chart compared to the Pickering UV-15 and the Denon DL-110 will help you understand that signature sound.

As you can see (and probably heard), the Grado has a significant suck out in the upper midrange and treble region of the audio band (the Denon and the Pickering have a much smaller dip in this region). Whether this results in a mellow, relaxing, "analog," sound or a sound that is dark and closed in is in the ear of the beholder.

I found the Green1 does some things very well. Its stereo channel separation is exceptional, and unlike many carts the Grado maintains excellent separation across the entire audio spectrum. The channel balance was also exceptionally good. Unbalanced stereo channels are often an Achilles heal of cartridges in the $100 price range, but the Green1's channels were closely matched. Unfortunately, its tracking ability on my Hi-Fi News Test Record was unexceptional. Even tracking a 1.8 grams (slightly above the 1.5 gram recommended tracking force) the Green1 couldn't make it through the third bias track without some distortion. How this effects tracking in real world conditions playing actual music is open to debate. 

The Grado Green1 definitely imparts its own character on the music. This could be said of any cartridge, but it's probably more true of the Grado than on average. Whether that's a good or a bad thing is a matter of opinion.

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