Type: Moving Iron (MI)
When I bought the Goldring 2400, I didn’t need another cartridge – this purchase was the result of idle eBay browsing during the post-Christmas lull a few years ago. The cartridge was offered used at about a third of the ‘new’ price with only an estimated 100 hours on the clock. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to secure a high-end MM/MI cartridge at this price, with up to 90% of its stylus life remaining. The stylus is described as having the ‘vital’ profile, which I assume is a nude diamond with exotic shape but know no more than that. Although branded Goldring, the 2400 (and the entire 2000 series) is actually made by Nagaoka in Japan. I have used this cartridge on the S-shaped R200 arm of my Rega Planar 3 and on my Technics SL1200 Mk5. The auditions for this review were conducted on the latter.
Turntable: Technics SL1200 Mk5 with ADC LMG-1 headshell
Phono Pre-amp: Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL (with 100pF capacitance)
Amplifier: Yamaha A-S501
Speakers: Q Acoustics 3050
With a price tag of nearly £400, one might expect great things of the Goldring 2400. However, I have found that the appeal of a cartridge is very much down to taste, so one should not assume too much, even at this end of the market.
Treble: The treble is sharp and detailed, but is relatively restrained and shouldn’t cause offense, except perhaps on the brightest recordings. It leaves an overall impression of refinement and provides the sound with a good sense of air.
Midrange: The detailed mid-band is the real strength of this cartridge, although it probably achieves this distinction by borrowing from the adjacent bands. In particular, it brings a sense of presence to vocals that makes them stand out, almost as if the singer is in the room. Having said that, this cartridge isn’t very tolerant of sibilant records, which can spoil the vocals on bad pressings.
Bass: This cartridge isn’t bass-light, but it isn’t bass-heavy either. Low-frequency content is presented in a controlled and measured manner in a case of quality over quantity. Bass delivery is firm, tight and textured, nicely revealing the tonal qualities of bass instruments. Deep bass is evident, which gives the bass its firmness.
As a whole, the sound of this cartridge is very well integrated, providing a pleasant and joyful listening experience. It strikes me as well-balanced and could be classed as neutral. While definitely not having a warm balance, there is a slightly mellow character to the sound and the cartridge is capable of delivering a performance of great finesse. Dynamics are good but not excessive, so not yielding the most exciting sound but allowing instruments to sing out of the mix and contributing to the refined delivery. High-quality pressings of good recordings, such as ‘half-speed masters’, can sound exquisite. There is certainly a feeling of listening to an up-market cartridge.
The tracking-force range for this cartridge is 1.5-2.0g and I normally track it around the mid-point, 1.75g. It is a competent tracker, maintaining good clarity into the inner grooves. The only ‘fly in the ointment’ is a less than ideal handling of sibilance on ‘hot’ pressings, but this is an infrequent issue – the cartridge sails through the vast majority of records without any fuss.
This cartridge has a dynamic compliance of 16 cu (at 10Hz), which puts it firmly in the medium-compliance domain. It is therefore suited to medium-mass tonearms – in fact, I would use it with medium-to-heavy arms, but would not choose it for a low-mass arm. The Technics SL1200 arm with ADC headshell on which I use the cartridge has an effective mass of around 12g, at the low end of medium-mass. While I found the bass output level of the cartridge to be perfectly adequate, I wouldn’t want the bass to be lighter, which would be the danger of using this cartridge on a light arm. However, the mass of the cartridge itself is 7.4g, which is on the heavy side for an MM/MI cartridge and will help its case on a borderline low-mass arm.
The recommended capacitive load for this cartridge is in the rather low range of 100-200pF, which is difficult to attain in practice. I set the capacitance on my phono pre-amp to 100pF, which is typical of some of the lower-capacitance phono pre-amps available on the market. This should bring the total capacitive load to ~225pF (after adding in 125pF cable capacitance), which is a little above the recommended range but allows me to extract a fine performance from the cartridge. Using the cartridge with a phono pre-amp of higher capacitance (200pF or more) may result in less high-frequency clarity as the treble response rolls off.
Note that the above assumes a phono-cable capacitance of 125pF for the Technics SL1200 Mk5. This value may be higher (likely) or lower for other turntables. Typically, a value in the range 150-200pF is assumed.
While I don’t have much to compare this cartridge with at the same price-level, I do have the Ortofon 540 MkII (aka Vinyl Master Silver), which has quite different qualities from those of the Goldring. The latter doesn’t offer the overt level of high-frequency detail and the joyride dynamics of the Ortofon, but the Goldring provides a more sober, refined and easier listening experience.
The Goldring also compares well with my only low-output Moving Coil (MC) cartridge, the Audio Technica AT-OC9ML/II, providing comparable treble and mid-range performance as the AT but with perhaps a slightly fuller sound-balance.
And does the investment in the Goldring provide a significant improvement over more modestly-priced cartridges? There are certainly cheaper cartridges that I find as or more entertaining but, again, the key is refinement – the main motivation for buying a cartridge like the Goldring 2400 would be the desire for an eloquent rather than an exciting musical delivery.
My adventure into up-market cartridges with the Goldring 2400 certainly didn’t disappoint. It is a cartridge with a very listenable and easy-going character, achieved through a well-integrated sound with a mellow overall feel. Its ‘tour de force’ is an exquisite mid-band, proving it to be my best cartridge for vocals (with the caveat of its rather wanting handling of excessively sibilant passages). The bass and treble also ooze quality, although this cartridge is one for the more discerning bass fans rather than bass-hungry listeners. Is it worth its price tag? My answer is a definite yes, but bear in mind that this is a costly cartridge in terms of future stylus replacements. The Goldring 2400 certainly gets a recommendation from me as one of my most prized cartridges.
If you need help with any of the turntable and phono-cartridge terminology used in this review, please visit the Terminology & Concepts page.