Glanz MFG-310LX

Type: Moving Flux (MF)
Stylus: Nude Line Contact
Compliance: Medium
Price: Mid-price (vintage)

Background

I was talked into buying a Glanz cartridge by a salesman in the Nottingham branch of Superfi, back in 1982 when I was seeking a replacement stylus for a Grado cartridge on a Trio KD1033 turntable. Previously, I had never heard of Glanz. The model that I bought was the MFG-31E, with nude elliptical stylus, which I used for a year or so. The cartridge was then ‘preserved’ in a pencil-case in which I kept small tools and has since emerged as my oldest surviving cartridge that I have owned from new. Indeed, the stylus didn’t survive the ordeal of the pencil-case, but I wondered about finding a new stylus to give the cartridge another try. Glanz styli are no longer made but I managed to buy a NOS NFG-51E stylus on eBay – not a direct replacement but another nude elliptical. Amazingly, the cartridge still worked, and it worked well. I then ‘won’ a NOS NFG-310LX stylus on eBay, which has a ‘line contact’ profile. This is the stylus that I now use with the cartridge, on my Pioneer PL12D MkII turntable, and is the subject of this review.

Equipment

Turntable: Pioneer PL12D MkII with Glanz headshell
Phono Pre-amp: Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL (with 200pF capacitance)
Amplifier: Yamaha A-S501
Speakers: Q Acoustics 3050

Sound Quality

While I remember living happily with my original Glanz MPG-31E cartridge, I don’t have much recall of how it sounded, except it was brighter and more detailed than the Grado that it replaced. The MPG-310LX, reviewed here, is a more exotic affair with a nude ‘line contact’ stylus and a tapered cantilever (presumably to reduce the cantilever mass). Therefore, this is far from a basic MM cartridge and one might expect it to be a bit special.

Treble: The treble manages to combine a degree of crispness with delicacy and refinement. There is a definite sense of high-frequency resolution and detail, but it is presented with subtlety and class. The treble seems well-extended with no obvious nasty peaks.

Midrange: The mid-band is in nice proportion to the other bands and has an open, natural quality. There is a good level of midrange texture, although the projection of vocals is not quite as good as with my best cartridges in this department. Vocals are pretty much sibilance-free, which is obviously down to an exceptional tracking ability.

Bass: Low frequencies are delivered with a quality to match the other bands and with the same degree of control. The bass has reasonable extension, firmness and weight but, above all, is textured and tight, allowing it to easily negotiate fast rhythms. It provides a good foundation for the overall sound, when called upon to do so.

The Glanz MFG-310LX has a relatively neutral overall balance – perhaps a foot on the warm side, if anything. Its sound is characterised by a well-controlled, clean and tidy presentation, providing a nice level of detail across the frequency spectrum. Dynamics are modest but sufficient to allow enjoyment of most material, and instruments can easily be picked out of the mix. This all amounts to an easy-going sound that is not going to tire the listener. This is the kind of sound that I think many audiophiles pay good money for.

Tracking

The tracking force range for this cartridge is 1.25-1.75g with a normal value of 1.5g, which I use. Tracking ability is superb, as evidenced by the clean sound but, above all, by an amazing ability to quash sibilance on vocals. The Glanz ‘line contact’ stylus rivals Audio Technica’s MicroLine stylus in this department, which is quite an accomplishment.

Compliance

The dynamic compliance of the stylus is almost 16 cu (at 10Hz), so medium-compliance. This makes it suitable for medium-mass tonearms and a very good match for the arm of the Pioneer PL12D. The latter has an effective-mass of about 17g, but the solid Glanz headshell that I use with this cartridge probably increases the mass by at least a couple of grams.

Capacitive Load

There was no recommended capacitive load published for this cartridge, perhaps with good reason. The Glanz MFG cartridges have very low internal inductance of 110mH, which generally puts the high-frequency resonance peak above 20kHz (beyond most people’s hearing), even for relatively high capacitive loads. For this cartridge, I set the capacitance of my phono pre-amp to a typical 200pF, giving a total capacitive load of 350-400pF (including cable capacitance). This yields a resonance-peak frequency of almost 25kHz. So, there is no treble peak with accompanying roll-off within the audible range, although the ramp-up to the ultra-sonic peak may still be detectable by some people. The capacitive load is therefore not a critical factor for this cartridge.

Note that the above assumes a phono-cable capacitance in the range 150-200pF, but for a specific turntable it may be lower or higher.

Comparison

Prior to installing the NFG-310LX ‘line contact’ stylus, I was using my Glanz cartridge as an MFG-51E with nude elliptical stylus. In this form, the cartridge delivered a similarly clean and tight sound, perhaps a little brighter with a less refined treble and less extended bass. For those readers familiar with the famous Audio Technica AT95E, the Glanz MFG cartridges could be considered as a sonic progression from the AT95E, offering a similarly sweet and tidy sound.   

Amongst my other cartridges, the MFG-310LX is also not dissimilar to the Audio Technica AT440MLa and Goldring 2400. It matches the superb tracking ability of the AT440MLa (now superseded by the AT-VM540ML) and is a better tracker than the Goldring, although the latter may have the edge in terms of overall clarity.

Availability

It’s a pity that Glanz cartridges were introduced just before CDs, otherwise they may have established a stronger following. Alas, they are no longer in production. Used Glanz MFG cartridge bodies are not exactly in plentiful supply on the secondhand market but come up fairly regularly on eBay – a bit of patience and vigilance should secure one. However, there are no aftermarket styli for the MFG range, so NOS styli are the only source – these are scarce but do surface from time to time. Since Glanz cartridges are rare and good, eBay sellers often charge a premium for them. If you find a Glanz MFG cartridge with an unused or little-used stylus at a reasonable price, it might be worth a gamble, irrespective of the model.

It is also worth noting that similar cartridges were marketed under the Astatic and Jamo brands in some territories, with model numbers pre-fixed with MF (rather than MFG).

Conclusion

The Glanz MFG-310LX is, indeed, something special. It produces a nicely balanced and integrated sound that is open and detailed across the frequency range. Its tight bass ensures that it is responsive to rhythms, while its delicate and refined treble ensures that high frequencies are delivered with composure and finesse. In-between, the all-important midrange provides further sonic satisfaction, with a superb tracking ability neutralising sibilant vocals. The result is an easy-listening but entertaining sound that I believe is much sought-after amongst audiophiles. If this cartridge were available today (at a realistic price, possibly £200+), I’m sure it would have lots of fans.

If you need help with any of the turntable and phono-cartridge terminology used in this review, please visit the Terminology & Concepts page.