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Rega P3,6,8 & Nagaoka cartridges and the 'Trade-up' Trap

Posted on October 12, 2020 at 18:35:06

Posts: 35
Location: Laurentiens
Joined: October 24, 2009
Back into Vinyl: Rega P3/6/8 and Nagaoka Cartridges Or A lesson/re-minder on component hierarchy and the 'Trade-Up' Trap

As an aging baby-boomer (72 in 2021) who regretted selling his vinyl collection not long after doing so around 2010, I longed for the warmth, dynamism and even the ritual of vinyl replay, including the (almost) obligation of sitting down to listen to the selection. With the main buyer of my collection so gracefully willing to sell me back my 250 or so favourites, I got back in (Fall of 2016) with the new Rega P3. However, my memory did kick back in time when it reminded me how many LPs sounded bright/harsh (Dylan, Springsteen, to name a few) so, I need to pick a cartridge that would permit me to enjoy my old favourites. The search and listening sessions led me to the Nagaoka brand. I settled on the MP110 as a reasonable match for my tastes and level of table and arm. Two years later I upgraded to the new Rega P6 and, on the recommendation of the excellent sales-person and TT set-up guru, I stayed with the MP110 to see what the new TT and arm would contribute. With the MP110 on the P6 the sound kept its round, warm and gentle inclination but, with more openness and detail.

Fast forward to Sept. 2020, when I made another upgrade to the Rega P8 and again went with the recommendation to leave the MP110 on the new RB880 arm to see what the MP110 could deliver. The sound delivered by the total package provided me with the sound I was always looking for -impactful without harshness. Now came the self-imposed and inflicted 'upgrade trap'! Specifically, if my music could sound this wonderful with the lowly MP110, I could only guess and imagine what it would be like with the models above it!

Driving to town to have the MP200 installed, I calculated that, if I took my time by upgrading only when the styli needed replacement, I would be close to 80 years old before getting to the MP500. So, given COVID-19 and the list price difference of about 500$ Cdn., I had the MP500 installed. To not make an already long story longer, after eight days and 35 hrs. of usage I returned the MP500. Although I could readily hear that it was a better cartridge (detail, openness, etc), it just couldn't move me. I just couldn't get involved with the music.

Now, the upgrade trap was still set for 'On', so on the way to the dealer I was still debating with myself about making an upgrade but, just a smaller step (i.e.MP150 or MP200) to allow my ears time to adjust. I may yet go that route but, at the last minute, I recalled how pleased and satisfied I was the week previous to the MP500 and the MP110 was re-installed.

No regrets, completely satisfied. And, to top it off, the store charged me a more than reasonable amount for return the MP500 -basically paying for the tech's time to remove and install cartridges. Bottom-line: with the MP500 I did not enjoy the cymbals nine feet from me in my living room, which may explain why for almost half-a-century I always tried to get concert seats in the 'J' to 'L' row area; while, with the MP110, I could play the music loud with any sense of assault. Wonderful!

In fact, based on decades in this great hobby, this involvement as left me with the feeling that some high resolution components maybe be doing more harm than good by making some/many recordings unlistenable or, at best, uninviting to listen to on a regular basis.

The text below was taken from an on-line review at I am providing an excerpt since I feel it better details and reflects what I heard and felt. Other web-sites, forums and You-Tube videos are also available for research.

" .....So let us return to the sound. Nagaoka has made a great effort to make sure that this cartridge will appeal to lovers of vinyl. There is no harshness in the sound at all, and it is warm and gentle on the ear. There will be no problem with lengthy listening sessions with this cartridge.

We were able to listen to some rock classics from Dire Straits and Led Zeppelin. The sound was powerful and articulate and gave you the feeling that the cartridge was designed for rock music. But then a quick change of style to Sade and it became gentle and warm. Then on to Chaka Khan where the rhythms in the midsections excelled.

The 'Wow' moment...It was here that the balance across the frequencies was most noticeable. When you listen to some of these old classics on vinyl, it makes you realize why people love them so much. They sound great. And this cartridge gives a sound that is very complete. But it still is able to give you some of those highlights that some tracks give you. The' wow' moment if you like.

You don't have to try and imagine what the sound must have been like when it was first recorded. Just kick back and listen; it is there right in front of you. And this is including all the little nuances so sadly missing from today's 'perfect' digital recordings.

The bass is not as prominent as some might want. It is gentle and almost subtle. It was most noticeable on Led Zeppelin's 'Rock n Roll', where it all but disappeared. If you are used to hearing that song with John Paul Jones's bass thundering along, you might miss it. On other tracks, it was perfectly balanced, especially with the softer touch of Sade and Chaka Khan.
On the higher frequencies, there is a slight roll-off, and the sound has a warm feeling. The high frequencies are not shrill at all, even at volume and do not leap out at you. In some people's opinions, it could probably do with a little bit of refining at the top end. But they sit neatly in the mix.
Where this really does score points is in the mids...They offer a very sweet and rounded sound and push the vocals and orchestral instruments to the front of the stage. This allows great clarity. It also makes sense that if the bass were any more prominent, it might start to drown out this important area. That may be the logic behind the design of the sound. Something we would definitely agree with. In our view, the mids are often ignored, yet they contain some of the most important content of the song.
You might have guessed by now that we were impressed with the sound. It is full and rounded, and as we said nicely balanced ...." Again, an excerpt from Thanks.

Finally, and for what it's worth, I wrote this as a re-minder of component hierarchy and in case others may be going thru the same audiophile in-securities of liking something down the ladder. Bob


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IMHO. Radical cut stylii can be a challenge on tonearms without adjustable VTA. nt, posted on October 12, 2020 at 18:40:00

Posts: 6173
Location: Portland, Oregon
Joined: May 26, 2005
February 1, 2012


RE: Rega P3,6,8 & Nagaoka cartridges and the 'Trade-up' Trap, posted on October 12, 2020 at 18:58:29

Posts: 337
Location: Virginia
Joined: September 7, 2000
I have a MP-200 on a VPI Prime Scout. Even though the 'Table is infinitely adjustable, I've had no desire to upgrade the cart. And I can just replace the stylus when the time comes!

The MP-110, -150 and -200 will have you jumping off the upgrade train. But for reasons I can't figure, some Japanese cart prices have skyrocketed (Dynavector, Sumiko, Nagaoka, to name a few), especially in the lower priced part of their lines (where people shop). It's interesting that AT maintains their fairly low prices for good carts. I gotta try one some day...


RE: Rega P3,6,8 & Nagaoka cartridges and the 'Trade-up' Trap, posted on October 12, 2020 at 20:18:36
John-from Seattle

Posts: 1021
Location: Tacoma
Joined: November 13, 1999
As a current owner of the current P6, I bought it over the P3 for the fact that it's become the better value proposition and the P3, Vs the P6 sonically is different. The P3 still retains that forward edge in the upper mids/presence band (3K-5K range or so), the P6 polishes it, makes it more refined, and thus less edgy and both tables use the exact same arm, the RB330 arm that's good up to a grand for carts if you so choose.

Even Ghost of Olddude 55 got the same table as I got, a bit later as apparently I helped him to do so, unknowingly. Anyway, we both love our tables and I forget what cart he runs in his, but I just swapped over the Grado Prestige Green 1 I bought new in 2018, around the time the green 2 came out, and now we're onto the green 3 version, but I digress.

I find that some LP's, and 45's too for that matter will come off peaky in that they will sound shrill in the presence band, more so than others, and it's not the table/arm/phono stage, but the record itself as others sound just fine, rich, detailed and not shrill.

With my setup, and it's listed and updated, it's a dynamic and detailed rig, as is the gear downstream of it. It's an open, but not bright, but some LP's can bring on a bit of brightness and others, surprisingly aren't as bright as I thought in the past, but it was gear dependent. For instance, the Bachman Turner Overdrive LP's tend to come off bright and over processed (Boston too), now, not as much. In fact, BTO sound reasonably good now, more even but still an OK-ish recording overall, but listenable nonetheless.

I'm actually considering sticking with Moving Iron carts as that's what the Grados all are, variations of the MI design to another moving iron, but higher up the chain, and not Grado, but SoundSmith in the lower end of their product line.

I get an open top end that is not bright or shrill, the upper mids (presence band) is refined and full, but not overdone, nor edgy.

Some of my system is known for its forwardness, but even now, none of it is as bad as it was in the past with bottom feeding gear. In essence, I have ADS (speakers), NAD for amplification/preamp, a Muffsy PP4 phono stage being the heart of the system. It's lively, dynamic and punchy and a joy to listen to, be it pop, rock, or jazz.


+1 n/t, posted on October 13, 2020 at 00:13:03

Posts: 1326
Location: South London, UK
Joined: June 4, 2019
June 4, 2019
"We need less, but better" - Dieter Rams


RE: Rega P3,6,8 & Nagaoka cartridges and the 'Trade-up' Trap, posted on October 13, 2020 at 01:49:28
Capt. Z

Posts: 1177
Location: el Campo
Joined: February 13, 2000
I had a similar experience with my Ortofon Vinyl Master. I really liked the 520 a lot on my Thorens 147. Then like you I got hit by the upgrade bug. So I bought the 540. The 540 was able to get more detail out of the grooves, but just like in your case, some of that musicality was missing. So I put the 520 back on again, when not using the Nagaoka MP110.


I'm off the upgrade bandwagon until the next time I jump on. nt, posted on October 13, 2020 at 04:05:10
ghost of olddude55

Posts: 13552
Joined: July 14, 2017

The problem is not that there is evil in the world, the problem is that there is good. Because otherwise, who would care?


Bought a Nag MP-150 two years ago., posted on October 13, 2020 at 06:35:00
Opus 33 1/3

Posts: 4068
Location: D.C. Area
Joined: February 19, 2014
February 19, 2015
I have no desire to go up from there in the Nagaoka line. Alo owned 5 Regas over the years. All Planar 2s and 3s. No burning upgrade desires there, either.

Opus 33 1/3


RE: Rega P3,6,8 & Nagaoka cartridges and the 'Trade-up' Trap, posted on October 13, 2020 at 11:11:13

Posts: 1116
Location: Oregon Coast
Joined: October 25, 2001
"The bass is not as prominent as some might want. It is gentle and almost subtle. It was most noticeable on Led Zeppelin's 'Rock n Roll', where it all but disappeared."

Some records were made to be played loud and many of us, myself included, just don't do that anymore. I pulled out some van Halen two days ago and it sounded dead at my normal 75 to 80db baseline. Bump it up 10 or 15db and it sounds like I remember it. I went to a van Halen show years ago. In the parking lot after the show you could hear people trying to start cars that were already running. By then I had decent in-ear attenuators after having had my ears pinned back at a J.Geils show a few months earlier.


Van Halen dead! Nt, posted on October 13, 2020 at 13:14:04

Posts: 6173
Location: Portland, Oregon
Joined: May 26, 2005
February 1, 2012


VTA?, posted on October 13, 2020 at 14:40:17

Posts: 13223
Location: No. California
Joined: December 26, 2003
Somebody mentioned that higher-end cartridges tend to require more exact VTA adjustment. In the case of a Rega, that would mean putting those spacers under the tonearm.

I'm using a Shelter 5000 cartridge and I see two spacers, it looks like 2mm each and that seems to put it in the nice range where, maybe, record thickness and mat thickness come into the picture.

Yes, if you just want to play and forget, I think you made the right choice :-)


Ted Templeman, posted on October 14, 2020 at 04:45:38

Posts: 3884
Location: NJ
Joined: December 11, 2000
February 21, 2019
he has a track record for anemic low frequency content on vinyl releases. Even some of the later CD's are deficient.

"Leo 2.0!!"


No 'Trade-up' trap here; except for a new stylus, my vinyl front-end has basically not changed since 2006 ..., posted on October 15, 2020 at 14:40:48
J. S. Bach

Posts: 9167
Location: Chester, SC
Joined: November 28, 2001
June 29, 2004
...except for a couple of short-term substitutions while my SL-1600mk2 was being serviced/repaired.

Later Gator,
Find more about Weather in Chester, SC


RE: Rega P3,6,8 & Nagaoka cartridges and the 'Trade-up' Trap, posted on October 16, 2020 at 13:38:34

Posts: 10
Location: Colo Springs CO
Joined: March 20, 2017

I'm using a mp150 on my lenco and i think it is quite nice. I do think it is worth noting that these carts are harder to align perfectly because of the body shape which makes the stylus not as easily visible. Its possible that the tech just did a ok job..??


RE: Rega P3,6,8 & Nagaoka cartridges and the 'Trade-up' Trap, posted on October 16, 2020 at 18:11:26

Posts: 35
Location: Laurentiens
Joined: October 24, 2009
Keith, I guess its always possible but, he is well considered in the Montreal market. Again, I could hear it was a superior cartridge (more neutral) but, it just didn't do it for me.

When I'm ready I'll most likely give the MP150 a try. Small steps are more expensive but, it gives our ears time to adjust and mature.


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