LP12 cartridge, phono and amp choices

I realised half-way that this would likely go beyond the intended purpose of the Show us your Sondek thread, so I’m creating a new topic here for my question.

I know the path forward for upgrades to my LP12 itself, the Linn upgrade path which I’ve demoed well over the years. But I’m not sure about how to improve the (cartridge - phono stage - amp) analogue chain of things. One can maximise individual components, but there are some known synergies in that chain. And nowadays only a few of them seem to make sense in my budget and system.

I’m very familiar with a host of MM and HOMC cartridges into first a Nait 2 and now a Nait XS3 (higher level) and know what to expect changing anything there. Also I know the Stageline N via aux2 is comparable to the XS3’s phono stage, so it’s safe to assume the S type of Stageline will be at similar level. What would then in your experience be a good way forward (if at all)?

Change cartridges and keep XS3 amp:

  • Audio Technica AT 33 PTG/II cartridge MC on the LP12 with a Stageline S to the aux2
  • Linn Adikt cartridge MM on the LP12 and the new Lejonklou Slipsik 8 phono stage

Keep my Ortofons and other preferred MM carts and change XS3 amp:

  • change to a Nait 50 assuming its MM phono stage is much better
  • change amp (and streamer) to a NSC222 assuming its MM phono stage is even better still

In a total system context (where I would change or keep amps and streamers) there is surprisingly little financial difference between many of the options. So I’m a bit lost as is, help from experience welcome, as this is multiple questions in one probably:

  • rank the Naim built-in MM phono stages XS3 / SN3 / Nait 50 / NSC222
  • rank the external Naim phono stages for MC
  • how good is the Lejonklou Slipsik 8 with Linn Adikt or others for MM
  • upgrade phono stage (only) or amp
  • well known MM cartridges vs. well known MC cartridges on the LP12 “budget” level
  • known synergetic combinations of the above
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I would go for the AT 33 PTG/ II MC and a Naim K Prefix.

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Thank you @Igel, good call, but Prefix would require a HiCap, right?

Also, why K instead of S? (and would same apply for Stageline?)

I have been through some upgrades on my LP12. So many said get the Radikal done. But I felt that not having a LOMC cart was holding things back. An MC cartridge is a big uplift from MM. I have gone from MM carts like Goldring 1042 to a Dynavector 10X5Mk2 high output MC to now full low output MC cart with Dynavector XX2 Mk2.

In order to make the best of the cart my dealer suggested an improved tonearm from my Akito which was upgraded and rewired by Audio Origami. So I did quite a bit of research and managed to get a good Ekos 2.

Then the issue was to get a replacement phonostage. So I did a fair bit of research and made a bit of an experimental choice with a used Tom Evans The Groove + SRX power supply.

I am not saying to get any of the kit that I have bought but the MC cart with a good tonearm and phonostage has to be just as important as the bearing and power supply.

The Dynavector XX2 Mk2 might be worth considering with a new phonostage.

Your XS3 amp should be excellent still. My dealer recommended a Rega Aria phonostage. I ended up spending more used but I think it’s good to try something different. I also got The Groove + for a very good price and am very pleased with it.

Graham Slee phono stages are very good if you’re on a smaller budget.

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The Prefix can be powered the same way as a Stageline.
It’s a much better Phonostage than Stageline and K is better than S and suits the AT33PTG II.
I use AT33PTG II with Prefix K right now.

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Thank you both @Dan_M and @Igel, very helpful!

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If you wanted an improved integrated amp then a Supernait 3 would work well. But again I would try to go down MC cart route if you can. There are quite a few on here with Supernait 3s with Klimax spec LP12s.

If you do go for Radikal then Urika is an option for MC only carts.

One step at a time.

Other option is just get a DV 10x5Mk2 and use your XS3 phonostage as it’a HOMC. A reasonably priced and very good option.

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Another vote for a DV10X here.

I have been using them since the early 1980’s, into Naim’s built in phono stages, into first a 42, then a 72, then a 102 and now an 82.

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I found it to be very very good at a reasonable price. Big uplift from Goldring 1042. My dealer rates them at that price level.

Dan_M:
I run an Ekos 2 with a VDH Frog that is becoming long in the tooth. While I do have the option of re-tipping, I am considering buying a new MC cartridge. What are your impressions of the Dynavector XX2?
Thanks

It’s a brilliant cart. Very rounded bass, warm balance and sweet top end. Ideal for dance and rock music. It seems pretty sturdy as well so far.

I shortlisted 3 or 4 with my dealer and he told me the style of each one and I picked the XX2 mk 2.

It’s really opened things up. Can hear more with wider soundstage. Gets foot tapping!

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I now use the splendid Ortofon MC3 Turbo which is a HOMC and works great in the high load capacitance Naim moving magnet phono stages of the Nait2 and Nait XS3 (and SN3). Have also used and liked MM cartridges like Ortofon 530/540 MKII and Nagaoka MP200/300 that way.

I’m now looking for a way to improve upon that level, if there is much to gain staying with MM or HOMC and upgrading the Naim (pre)amp hoping it has a better built-in MM phono stage. That was one question, upgrading from the XS3 for that to Nait 50 or NSC222 if there is a massive difference.

The second question was about selecting an external MM phono stage and the benefits thereof. Thirdly, I was wondering whether to go to low output MC cartridges in the relatively speaking lower price levels, with external phono stages known to match and which ones that would be.

(note: In my market here something like the AT 33 PTG/II is the maximum price I would pay for a MC cart and the 10X5 HOMC and LOMC is 1.5 times that, let alone the DV20X2 and beyond)

There are plenty of fairly new Stagelines K available which is an easy swap. Online I can only find a limited number of very old Prefix Ks so I will enquire at the national distributor about the ins and outs of a service for them.
It would save on a new external tonearm cable so good budget. I believe our forum host recommends keeping the grey SNAIC of the Prefix over the black one. When I see the pics of the various available Prefixes the other leads and tonearm connectors look like they really could use replacements so I’m hesitant.

All in all good recommendations to dive into, thank you.

You’re going to find a different presentation with an NSC222. I have listened to it with a 250NC but not phonostage.

I think maybe go with @Igel at the pricepoint you want to pay. The AT carts are well made and good value.

Ortofon MM 2M black might be worth considering also.

I would discuss the different merits of each cart and amp with some dealers if possible.

The Nait 50 is very highly rated on here. See if you can demo.

But what you have is highly regarded. What’s your phonostage budget?

The NSC222 is a different budget entirely and needs a poweramp.

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Thank you Dan, all valid points.

But here you have the reason for my question. Usually I’m reasonably capable of figuring out what I’d like for myself, aided by many opportunities to hear stuff in real life.

This time however the market is like I have never seen it before and the possibilities are staggering. I feel privileged that I have been able to acquire and experience the system I have now at the end of 2023. It has helped to establish new reference points and preferences. The outcome is as follows: We find most joy in vinyl over streaming, so more budget will go to the LP12. Streaming is less important emotionally but it is used daily and the level now, or somewhat below, is comfortable. However, my household members really miss a more tangible streamer with a screen.

So all in all that gives me several options:

  • I can leave the LP12 as is for a while except for the tonearm I have planned/pre-ordered.
  • I have some 1500-2000 euro extra budget available after that.
  • I could upgrade streamer/dac to NDX2 (with screen) for 1500-2000 euro keeping XS3
  • I could upgrade XS3 to Nait50 for about 1000 euro keeping streamer/dac
  • I could upgrade from current XS3 and streamer/dac to a new NSC222 for about 1500 euro.
  • In which case I could find and live with a NAP100/150/200 on the cheap for a while.
  • I assume perhaps wrongly that Nait50 and NSC222 have better MM phono stages built-in than XS3 which will then already elevate the LP12, so I’m asking.
  • I often use my headphones and XS3 is great there but others may be much better again.
  • Less boxes is preferred over more boxes, including PSUs, headphone and phono amps.
  • Perhaps there will be new products in 2024 that exactly fit my needs, a known unknown.
  • Or I can keep my existing setup and improve upon vinyl replay with an external MC phono stage and cart, or all of the above at some point.

This is my predicament, thanks for thinking along. If I don’t solve this puzzle I will just leave it for a while, but I’m hoping to get some clues to start with. The Prefix and AT advice from @Igel and your experiences with the benefits of going to low output MC really help with that.

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Thanks for explaining your predicament. What tonearm have you ordered?

A used Supernait 3 with NDX2 makes most sense then. It has built in phonostage and should be the best integrated Naim amp of all.

Or keep your XS3.

At the level you’re talking the MM phonostages will be very good. Stay with MM or HOMC.

Have you considered a used Supernait 3?

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A donor Ittok LVIII mk1 or mk2 to be sourced, possibly serviced/rewired to beyond new condition.

As much as I love Naim the Supernaits are exactly the ones that don’t rock my boat :wink:

Will pursue this investigation further. Lovely to read on the forum about your journeys btw.

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Can only offer limited help. I’m not a fan of the AT 33 PTG/II. I find it very impressive sounding but not really engaging me in the music. I really like the Linn Krystal / Lejonklou Entity 1.1 though. I own Adikt and Slipsik 8 so obviously like that too and no plans to change.

However, Linn carts and Lejonklou phono stages are very much Linn tunedem driven. They sound good with CB Naim but somehow I always prefer the built in phono cards in the long run - less tuneful but better timing and synergy. If you had Linn or Lejonklou amps then it would be different. I’ve not properly heard Dynavector but they seem to have good synergy with Naim.

Also own a N50 but not compared to the XS3 so can’t really help much there.

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Forgot to add, The Krystal and Koil didn’t 100% gel with CB Naim either - they both sounded a bit sluggish at times whether using Lejonklou or Naim phono. I have no issues with Naim and the Adikt on the Ekos/Lingo deck, but it didn’t sound quite right on the Valhalla/Ittok deck. Lots of trial and error. Often matching gear to a specific time period helped. Now I just feel that I’m muddying the waters :frowning:

Another cart worth a mention is the VM95ML which works well with both LP12s and Naim, including the N50.

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That is in fact of great help, @Murmur .

Would you possibly prefer the Audio Technica AT- OC9-XML (which is the basis for the new Linn Koil I believe) or its bigger siblings XMH and XSL? Or no AT at all?

Interesting, also what you wrote about the Linn/Lejonklou tunedem aspect, happy you mention that I suspected that much. Dynavector has become very expensive over here but will check.

I have developed a love for the built-in Naim phono cards and phono stages exactly for a holistic organic result that I believe is exactly what you are mentioning. I hope Stageline out of aux2 is more or less the same.

Generally I wonder about how to divide funds between deck, cart, phono stage and amp for the best end result. I see many members with expensive external phono stages which is new for me.

I believe to have read that the headphone amp of the Nait50 is better than that of the Nait XS3, but I’m not sure about the phono stage. Also I’m quite impressed with the sound of the XS3 and would gamble I would like the Nait50 just as much, when listening for longer than the demo that I had.

Food for thought, thanks.

Despite what folks say on some forums and their similar appearance, Linn did try various changes and tune the cart to their liking so I’m not sure how similar they actually sound. So I just don’t know.

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