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i was over at the steve hoffman forum today. if you're not familiar with the name, steve is the fellow behind the mastering of the dcc label, and also does the analogue productions 45 series, among many many other projects he has been involved in over the last 20 years or so. his forum is a neat place if you haven't checked it out. anyway, there's been some ongoing threads about listening to mono vinyl with a stereo setup. steve is of the belief that mono carts are not worth the money, and that it's just as good to use a cheap double y cord from radio shack to sum the signal from the tt. anyway, i was having a little difficutly understanding how the connections should be made, thus my post. for those who didn't know about this, or haven't tried it, please consider. it's so easy, and the difference on the mono aretha, otis redding and coltrane vinyl i've played tonight is nothing short of amazing. hope somebody gets some enjoyment out of this.
I was really intrigued by this idea so I went to my local Radio Shack and picked up the necessary adapters for about $7. As SH mentioned, I got the cheap-y stuff and didnít worry about gold plating etc.
I plugged the Y-adapter right into the back of my TT. Then I connected my phono cable to the Y-adapter, leaving everything else connected as it had been. Just to make sure it was really working I played a stereo LP and, sure enough, it summed everything to the center.
The sound is interesting.
I played 2 jazz monos I have, Sonny Rollins on Blue Note (an early Ď80s DMM reissue) and Gone With the Wind by Brubeck and Co., a 6-eye original from í59. Both LPs sounded good with my regular stereo cart, I thought. But both sounded better to my ear with the mono adapter. While the top end was a bit rolled off, the music seemed to flow much more easily with the mono adapter. It felt like it was "home," if that makes any sense. There was a kind of reverence to the sound of both LPs; though less explosive it just sounded more "right."
Then I played a couple of rock monos I have; an original US pressing of Sgt. Pepper and a late Ď70s green label reissue of Pet Sounds .
On Pepper , I played ĎA Day in the Lifeí only so as to do a quick comparison, with and without the mono adapter. Again, with the mono adapter the sound was a bit rolled off on top and the bass sounded a bit bloated. Just a bit. But the rolling off of the top really affected the sound of the vocals. Lennon sounded a little far back in the mix and McCartney, on the bridge, sounded positively muffled. The drums, though, were spectacular, with the tom-tom fills throughout the song really exploding. Without the mono adapter, the sound was crisper if less well focused and the bass didnít have nearly the impact. So I canít say the mono adapter made as big or impressive an improvement here as it did with the jazz LPs.
Pet Sounds was weird. Even with the mono adapter the sound seemed bass heavy in the left channel. The vocals were particularly shrill and the bass was really flabby and boomy. Without the mono adapter, the sound appeared to come directly from both speakers, meaning no illusion of a center "fill" was created. It was very strange. But without the mono adapter it still sounded shrill and flabby, though maybe not as flabby. Maybe it's my pressing of the LP.
Anyway, it was a great suggestion and Iíll continue to experiment with the mono adapter. Iíve never owned or really even heard a mono cart so Iím not sure how different an actual mono cart would be. Maybe one day Iíll find out.
i don't plug the adaptor to my table. i run my vpi interconnects out of the table, into the adaptor, then into my phono pre. don't know if it might make a difference, but my results have been terrific.
That might make some difference.
But I hate pulling the interconnects in and out of my pre-amp because it's up on cones and all. Whenever I pull out the cables I always have to reset the cones and it's a pain in the butt.
But I played a copy of the Beach Boys Wild Honey tonightóoriginal Capitol rainbow label, reprocessed for stereoóand it was much more listenable in fake mono than in fake stereo.
Using the mono adapter, the amount of surface noise I heard (my mono copy of 'Sgt. Pepper' is a litle noisey) was greatly reduced.
Many of my mono lps are old and no matter how much cleaning I do, they still have a fair bit of noise. When played in stereo, I get a nice clean center image, with most of the noise out to the sides as it is mostly uncorrelated between L and R. I find I can really focus on this clean transparant mono center image since it is mostly detached from the record noise which is then easily ignored. When summing using cords, all that noise is tied right back up with music. Perhaps a mono cartridge would help, don't know myself, but summing doesn't do it for me.
I've been thinking of doing this for awhile. However, does it apply to newer mono pressings like Sundazed Dylan and Earmark Kinks? I thought I read that "Times a Changin'" was mono but with stereo reverb. Don't know if it's true. Just wondering.
steve's reply regarding my statement about trying this out with classic records blue note mono reissues was if it's not a "true mono signal" there might be some phase cancellation on the top end...
note that steve hoffman says in the same thread: "Correct. Or, you can do it from pre to amp, doesn't matter really. Easier to do it from turntable to pre I guess.
that's it's really handy to have a preamp that will do left/right/mono/stereo. On older records if there's groove wear it's often to one side from a misaligned cartridge. One side of a mono pressing may be virtually noise-free compared to the other and make a pleasureable listening experience out of a really worn record.
This is perhaps a naive observation from a non-scientific mind but would there not be some phase anomolies using the Y connector unless the cartridge is set up perfectly?
Dedicated mono cartridges have design features that result in less noise than if using a stereo cartridge.
Eg from the Lyra webpage:
"On mono records, the vertical axis of the groove contains no musical information, but it will frequently have noise, in the form of groove damage and dirt. The Helikon Mono has therefore been designed to be completely insensitive to the vertical axis, which works wonders for the signal/noise ratio without causing any problems. The Mono's coil former is a square permeable plate which is oriented parallel to the record surface (rather than the 45-degree angle used for most stereo cartridges), while the coils are wound so that they only generate a signal when there is horizontal movement of the stylus and cantilever when tracking a record."
This is the reason for using a mono cartridge. The result is much quieter. Imagine that certain scratches, which are vertical information, won't even sound.
I chatted with Steve about a related topic and he stated that it would best, if possible, to have 4 different cartridges (with correlating styli): One for 78s; One for early mono pressings; One for modern mono pressings; and one for stereo pressings.
that when you factor in cost, you can probably get much of the performance of a mono cart at a fraction of the cost. in a perfect world it would be great to have a couple of different arms to swap out different carts. but for those of us who perhaps don't have extensive mono collections, going the y cord route results in better sonics than just going with straight stereo.
You're right in that if you don't have the opportunity to swap out arms, there is the additional hassle of swapping cartridges on an arm. However, in terms of cost, there are a couple of low-cost true mono cartridges which are wonderful for the money. The Grado ME+ and the Denon DL-102 are both under $200 and will give you the benefits of true mono reproduction.
Yes, putting the two channels together will give you the solidity of imaging that you get from a true mono cartridge. You just won't get the degree of quiet that you get from a true mono cartridge which eliminates the playback of vertical information (scratches, for instance).
Short of a true mono cartridge, there is no way to "play" with stereo signals to get rid of vertical noise. Just sit down and play with the math. The only clever thing I know how to do is to connect the two channels with opposite phase and then listen to ONLY the vertical noise! I can't come up with a way to listen to ONLY the horizonal signal, however.
Using a Y-connecter sums the channels to give a nominally L + R signal. This is the horizontal information on the record. The vertical information is L - R.
The problem is that cartridges have crosstalk, both from left to right channels and from L + R to L - R (the same thing if you think about the math of it).
By using a Y- connecter, you get the L + R signal plus some of the L - R signal via crosstalk.
A true mono cartridge never picks up any L - R information in the first place , so there is no way it can contaminate the L + R signal.
This is a really useful tip. A visit to Radio Shack is in order.
One thing I don't understand. Why is it not better to get high quality connectors? We all know the value of good cables, especially higher up the chain. I can see a burgeoning market opportunity for multi-$1000 Y connectors here!!
I have tried using two y cables. I find the results to be best using the y cables right from turn table into the phono stage, pre-RIAA, rather than anywhere else on the pre-amp. It sounds better than just using the Mono switch on the pre-amp. I haven't tried a Mono cartridge, but have been interested.
If you use a tonearm with detachable headshell, you can always wire one of your carts up in mono by strapping the L + R hot and L + R gnd at the cartridge. Still not as good as a true mono cart, but it gets the cable out of audio the path, with at least less theoretical chance for crosstalk or phasing anomalies.
It sounds much better than using a mono switch on the amp. There was an explanation on AA of why this is so, but I can't find it.
as i'd rather sum the signal on the preamp with less cable connections and extra capacitance, though I'm sure that effect is minimal.
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