Any other Joe Rosen fans?

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
Many audio old timers, at least internet audio old timers, will remember the brilliantly entertaining posts over at AA by Joe Rosen. Joe, a good Canadian, certainly knew how to share his opinion. Agree or not with his thoughts, but he could be a blast to read.

Here's an example of one of his posts over there:

Wow indeed!
Thanks for the praise, and that is a big set of questions, so here are my answers, from the top now:
-Preamps. I have LOTS of experience with the Dynaco PAS, and it took me quite some number of years to come to the conclusion that the thing is a mutt. It's clean, quiet and very neutral. It's reliable, well made and easy to service. It won't drive a low impedance amp like any typical solid-state jobs, and sonically it just sits there like a big yawn. It's several light years better than the pig-misery Dynaco replaced it with (PAT-4 & PAT-5, both utterly atrocious beyond mere words), but other than that, it sucks! I can rhyme off an easy half-dozen valve preamps that make better music than it can, from the obvious Marantz & McIntosh choices (and I'll expand on them here: ANY and ALL preamps I've heard from both companies absolutely SMOKE the PAS, including ancient McIntosh C-4's & C-8's!), to both Harman-Kardon Citation models (I & IV), any QUAD preamps (QC-1 & 2, 22), etc. etc. blah blah blah...
I'd like to add the Eico to that list, and I have a couple of them in either working or near working condition. But for various reasons, no doubt the size of my collection plays a part in this, I've never bothered to hook them up or get them working and listen to them. I've studied the schematic in the past, and remember seeing a competent all-12AX7 preamp, more sophisticated and I would have presumed noticeably superior sounding to the PAS. But, most people would consider it quite a stretch to make a sonic assessment of something merely by looking at the schematic for it, and while I would argue that, I can only argue the point the OPPOSITE way. Which is to say, if you see obvious engineering mistakes and dumb bean-counter gratifying cost-cutting horse-latitudes, you'll hear them. But, failing that, it can be a bit of a toss-up to determine just how GOOD, as opposed to just how BAD, something sounds. And with vintage gear, and I've said it before (so what the heck, I'll say it again!), CONDITION IS EVERYTHING. I can restore an old piece of valve audio gear, I have a nice arsenal of test gear, premium audiophile-grade spare parts, NOS valves and a lovely transconductance tester to sift them out and match things up with. And of course, I realize that most folks don't! So what you found is what you got, and you can throw another set of bottles into it, and that's all most folks get up to with their gear. Maybe your HF-85 needs repair, maybe it's just a lousy sounding preamp. Either way, I'd trust your ears!
Again, my own experience is that what you've described where an integrated amp of minimal pedigree beats out more expensive separates, is totally in line with my own experiences. In fact, when I run vintage gear in my "second" systems, I usually find myself using Integrated amps and NOT the separates. I have no aversion to fiddling with bias controls, running extra interconnect and power cords, and space is not an issue. Yet, I seem to favour the integrateds!
In any event, I certainly agree that the PAS3/ST70 combo won't stack up against a nice Fisher X-100! The 70 is clearly superior to the amp section in the Fisher, nonetheless, the one in the Fisher is nothing to sneeze at, either...
-Cartridges. Hi-Fi magazines, particularly the English ones, don't know a good cartridge from a dull hypodermic needle glued to an old rusting soup can. The latter is an accurate description of the kind of build and engineering that goes into Linn, Goldring, Decca, Supex, Denon DL-103 & Ortofon SPU "cartridges", which are actually modified wood-carver's detailing tools, rejigged for damaging precious vinyl and sounding like garbage along the way. But that goes without saying, really. What IS sad is the people that defend these things and have the nerve to suggest that they sound at all good. Every time I hear this crap, I hear that the vinyl being played had been long TRASHED, and good. Most likely on the first play, since that's all it takes, really...
First and foremost, you need a good cartridge that can trace difficult discs without either:
a) Requiring a tracing force in excess of 2 grammes, never mind 16 tonnes.
b) An ability to trace at those forces anything that gets thrown at it.
c) And, from a company that understands and follows Quality Control procedures, something senile old men working in Quonset huts in Japan don't know a thing about, never mind senile British watchmakers also working in filthy old Quonset huts, with worn out machinery that was old & tired and well beyond its sell-by date even when your Granddad was born...
While the High-End Magazine-Morons have recommended Grado & Sumiko in the US, and Decca, Goldring, Linn (which are just Supexes & Audio-Technica crap, anyways) & Supex in England, they've completely missed the boat.
Your vinyl is precious, 99% of it is not readily replaceable anymore, and by that I mean with NEW copies!
So, you are supposed to use badly made, badly overpriced cartridges that can't trace properly even at 2.5 or even 3 grammes, just because some Wanker got a kickback from the distributor or manufacturer? Or because their ears are up their arses, which is also a major problem with the press, ESPECIALLY when reviewing phono gear. Or both (of course)?
I recommend the Shure Me95ED, or its replacement, since I haven't kept up with what Shure is doing these days. Here is a cartridge that can trace anything in sight at a very modest 1.4g, is beautifully made to much higher standards than any Koetsu (and I've seen my share of defective Koetsu's, believe me) in Mexico. Yes, Mexico!
The cartridge is sweet, clean, clear as a bell and non-fatiguing. It isn't quite the last word in detail retrieval, tonal or timbral neutrality, bass control, slam or image focus, but it doesn't do any of those things horribly either. And it makes MUSIC, it is a very accessible sound that never gets obnoxious, and like it or not, it at least will preserve your records for when you can afford something better. Which is far more than I can say for any Grado, which oftentime left the factory with dented & curving cantilevers, unpolished blobs of industrial diamond for a tip, and dunder-headed instructions telling you to use insufficient tracing forces (1.5g when even 2.25g was slightly optimistic. I'm talking the FTE+1 here, which Absolute Smut magazine once recommended all too highly) and NO anti-skate! Oh, the cartridge I had which didn't have a proper stylus and had a dented and curving cantilever was the Signature 8, also rave-reviewed by TAS. All I can say is, I hope the clowns responsible for these rave reviews had better made samples than the one I paid $250 for...
For $200, you are close to being able to afford a Bang & Olufsen MMC2, which used to be sold by Lyle Cartridges in New York State. I doubt that they do anymore, since the fools at B&O decided that the way they now want their products sold is a mirror of the way Sony sells many of theirs. That is to say, they turned their distribution on its head, ditched 95% of their dealers, and forced the remaining ones to open new stores devoted entirely and singularly to their mostly substandard and totally unmusical and tinny-sounding range of crap lifestyle junk products...Too bad, because some of the designs of senior engineer Dr. S.K. Pramanik are brilliant, and that included the range of cartridges, the brilliant little turntables (some of which handily eat your Thorens for breakfast, never mind Regas, Duals and anything and everything the Japanese ever made), and some fantastic cassette decks (particularly the stellar 9000, which puts any Crapamichi to shame, both spec-wise and soundwise, too).
On the other hand, you have some promising but otherwise excessively gimmick-ridden and compromised electronics, which sound at least OK, but then it's all thrown in the garbage with B&O's UTTERLY MISERABLE speakers. And B&O has one of the best anechoic chambers for doing acoustic work in all of Europe, and had a dedicated listening panel of some dozen or so people to judge the results. Shame on the lot of them!

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
(Continued. yes, this is one post!)

The MMC2 will work very nicely in your Thorens, and is a good sonic match. It needs a mere 1.25g to do its stuff (B&O says 1.0g, +/-0.1g. But like EVERY single cartridge manufacturer that ever graced the planet, their claims in this regard are a trifle over-optimistic), it sounds better than any cartridge that I've ever heard (including some of my other faves, like the Lyra Clavis, Koetsu Onyx Signature and Kiseki Agaat Ruby. The latter two are long discontinued, anyways. Not to mention over 10 times the price. And they only came close!), and it is priced like the consumable and disposable product that cartridges are!
I had a TD-320, which if I recall is VERY similar to the 318. Nice table, a tad slow and thick in the bass. It needs an acrylic mat, ditch the sound & detail-deadening rubber floppy thing that Thorens gives you. A thin piece of rayon or silk is best, but I'm not sure if there is any concievable way that you can alter the tonearm height to compensate. Not to worry, just put the rayon ON TOP of the acrylic mat! Once that's done, and a suitable clamp is used (the Michell Gyrodec clamp is the most cost-effective good one out there), the Thorens are clearly superior to any Rega or Dual.
Which leads us to this. For $1500, I'll assume that used 'tables enter the frame, since what can you find new, and at what price?
I recommend the OLD Gyrodec, as despite Ken Kessler's retarded comments in Hi-Fi News, the newer version with the acrylic platter replacing the heavy steel one was a significant DOWNGRADE. It may be hard to find with the old steel platter, since the acrylic one was offered in an upgrade kit, which often specified that the old platter be returned to the dealer (I think because the new springs for the suspension were floppier, because...). The acrylic platter is much lighter than the old one, which by itself means absolutely nothing.
No, the problem is that the acrylic platter is not as inert as the old metal one was, and the suspension on a Gyro is crap, so mass made it behave better. Take away the mass, add a mid-bass "bonk" colouration that wasn't there before, and you have a much crappier sounding turntable. So why didn't anyone else notice?
Well, the steel-plattered 'table came with this horrid floppy rubber mat, shades of Thorens! Anyone with half a brain promptly removed this little piece of offal and used it as a non-slip bath pad or lined the bottom of the cat box with it...I put a Goldmund acrylic mat on mine. The acrylic platter mod dispenses with ANY mat, so the dull and dead sound of the rubber mat with its woofy bass and dull highs was promptly dispensed with. But you still need a mat, otherwise the record isn't damped and NASTY vinyl resonances are reflected back into the stylus all the more strongly than usual (that's why I recommend only a gossamer thin mat, just enough to damp this without compromising the rigidity of the interface, which is enhanced and further damped with the use of the clamp). As a result, the later Gyros sound decidedly more NASTY, fatiguing, bright and "splashy". It sounds cheaper, more like a Rega, in other words...
For a tonearm, Michell once again drops the ball. In defence of his bad judgement, he seems to be in plenty of company, as opposed to good company, anyways. Michell uses Rega arms, and I think these things are foul, miserable and PURE SONIC CRAP. Of course, TAS & Stereophile love 'em...

Any damn fools out there ever both to compare? The Linn Basik+ cleans its clock, I would suspect even on a Rega turntable! I've heard the RB300 compared to Sumiko MMT's, Profile's & Basik+'s. AWFUL! Most of the owners returned to what they'd been using before, if it wasn't too late...I heard the RB250 vs. an MMT in a Sonographe, the 250 was so much worse sounding it wasn't funny. Ever heard a Sonograph sound NASTY? I hadn't! I heard an RB300 on an Oracle Alexandria. Vile.
Then on a Heybrook TT1, directly compared to the Basik+. The Rega was so foul it was laughable...NO deep bass, poor image focus, VERY NOTICEABLE loss of low level detail and therefore "depth", a NASTY upper midrange resonance (audible if you tap the tonearm with a hard object, like a pencil or screwdriver. The arm makes a "Tzzzzing!" noise. NOT normal!) that buggers up all the harmonics and results in a distinctly fatiguing and ugly tone. Add crap wiring that isn't replaceable due to the lack of connector, a laughable anti-skating mechanism that is so inaccurate that it has to be set by eye, and an absence of any mechanism to adjust VTA, since the crap thing was clearly not originally intended to be used on anything other than some nasty piece of wood with four rubber feet, with some glass & plastic platter on it for additional nastiness. A Rega turntable, in other words...Why anyone thought this was a good arm is a complete mystery to me. It has excellent bearings, which the Basik+ does not. I have never seen bad, sticky bearing on a Rega. I'd rate 1 out of 3 Linn Basik+'s as defective for that reason. OK, a Rega won't ruin your records. A Basik+ will have to be selected, and the procedure is something for another post, I won't go into it here (although it applies to all tonearm purchases, not just a Linn). The Basik+, by comparison in sonic terms, is far more relaxed, harmonically right, far more detailed, far more focussed, with proper deep, kick-arse bass and SWEET upper mids by comparison. Compared to the very best tonearms, the Basik+ is a tad bass heavy (not sloppy, just subjectively a db or so stronger than neutral), a tad "dark". Its biggest sin is bearing friction, manifested by a patina of mildly hashy grundge compared to say, an Ittok or Ekos (or esecially, an Eminent!).
Other good turntables beside the Gyrodec include the Linn LP12, Heybrook TT1 (preferably without the TPS power supply!) and Well-Tempered. The Well-Tempered comes with its own fairly low-mass unipivot arm, so you save there.
Those are the obvious choices (too me,anyways). Oh, and steer clear of the SOTA's, they sound like crap too. Nasty, mechanical and hard.
Shame, since the suspension is far more clever than most of their competitors, and they seem well made. VPI's and Oracle's are good turntables, but I cannot and will not recommend them because their build quality is abysmal, and bad samples are hair-pulling pieces of utter pig misery, especially the Oracles. However, nothing beats the atrociously-build and mindlessly engineered Maplenoll's, which are butchered modifications to Eminent's Bruce Thigpen's brilliant "Coloney" AB-1 Turntable, which failed in the marketplace because Bruce and his employer, Coloney, didn't realize that even microscopic amounts of dust collected in the air line to the tonearm would cause it to misbehave, and by the time anyone knew why the arms were acting up and what the fix was (a little cotton inline filter used in hospital equipment that cost five or ten dollars, max. max.), the AB-1 had a bad reputation and the company was toast. So along comes Bob Dilger of Maplenoll, who buys the rights to the thing for $50K and turns it into a pile of...
What a shame! What a CRIME! And that agreement supposedly forbade Eminent/Thigpen from making their own table, although obviously Eminent made tonearms. Thigpen had to get permission even to do that, though...
I'll make this one short & sweet. No, I don't recommend them. Get better source components and electronics, and you'll see why. Money wasted on a subwoofer is better spent in that direction, anyways.
I like bass as much as the next guy, and I play HEAVY and DEEP bass trance electronic music and moderately high volumes. I get along fine with most of my speakers, although some of the techno-ambient is a bit much for the QUAD's, although they cope with Reggae and Dance music just fine! A subwoofer is not likely to sound as clean and as clear as the Spendor woofer, as flawed as that is. With QUAD's, subwoofers are laughable. I have a friend with Gradients. Pure trash, and the crossover is criminally bad. $4000. What a bargain! And what do you get? An extra 10Hz? MAYBE 5db or so more volume? That's nice, but I'd rather save up for a pair of 989's instead...


I gathered that from his comments..... :)

Good thing I'm not listening with his ears..... ;) ;)

I'll have to hook up my Shure M95.

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
All that being said, from those who have heard the gear he has either built or redesigned, he really seems to be as brilliant as he says he is.

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
TubeHiFiNut;n19667 said:
I have found that to be true of most brilliant engineers.....they almost have to have very strong opinions.

Sadly, the less brilliant ones can be just as opinionated.

Rosen apparently did a complete rebuild of the Moscode Minuet in A, and I've heard great things about them. Apparently many lurking up in this neck of the woods.


Señor Member
Yes. I have long been perversely fascinated by his old pages on the quasi-complementary,soiled state HH Scott amplifiers (and receivers) -- I am still not sure if they were meant to be taken seriously or if they were, instead, well-crafted satire.*

The important thing about any of the opinion mavens (IMO, of course) is that they've actually done the time listening to stuff. When they have, they've earned their opinions.

* I drank the Kool-Aid(e); I am quite taken by the performance of a $10 LK-60 amplifier that lives at my house.

004 by Mark Hardy, on Flickr

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
His comments on the Moscode. Again, from AA.

The sound is hardier & nastier than that from the "A" version, no doubt because the tubes have become hardened & nasty criminals from doing their time in that joint...
I consider c-j a step above NYAL, and that's a sad commentary on just how lousy I think NYAL was. Perhaps I should have more respect for the dead, but maybe I should just feel better that Harv isn't alive to read this...
I'm of the school of trying to get accurate sound, not trying to flatter & embellish it with euphonic colourations to make it sound "pretty" regardless of the source or other ancillaries. I think they should be chosen for accuracy as well, and then everything ought to be matched to work compositely well together.
Hey, not all of us do, though!
I can lay claim to owning no less than EIGHTEEN of these preamps (!!!!), so I have some experience with them!
I thought the thing sounded like such crap I immediately ripped them apart and completely redesigned them, and the whole experience is a kind of nightmare that I never seem to quite wake up from.
Look at 'em the wrong way, heck, put a voltmeter on the "wrong" point in the PS and...KABOOM! Really, really inept, crap piece of engineering work, that horrid power supply. A bunch of 30V components floating 350-400V above ground, just waiting for an accident to happen. Mix in static-sensitive J-Fet's in the signal path ("A" versions had more!) and teensy little MOSFET's in the power supply (all versions), and it's a wonder that warranty claims didn't sink them sooner. Although I believe that it was warranty claims that sunk NYAL, as the build quality was actually decent, in and of itself...
Parts quality, well...
As far as mods to the power supply, what I got into was this:
I ripped out the whole HT part, and left the filament regulator. In hindsight, that was a mistake. I should have redesigned the filament regulator, too...
I reconfigured the power supply as a full-wave bridge. It was originally configured as a voltage doubler, so the conversion halved the voltage output. Very convenient, since this was what I wanted!
I lowered the HT from 500V to 250V, and scrapped the regulation, installing photoflash capacitors and power wirewound resistors to feed them. I then radically altered the signal path, since I felt the circuit was sonically el-stinko anyways. The problem was that the unit has only four tubes, and that it does both phono & line duty. That meant that I ended up sharing tubes with doing both line & phono duty, and perhaps all too predictibly, the result was a unit plagued by some rather weird parasitic oscillations. It could be made to work, and it sounded fab. But a certain kind of owner had to be found for it, since its new behaviour made it unfriendly to the "turn it on and forget about it" audiophile crowd. It was reliable, and the dozen-plus units I modded still float around out there, and all that I've seen were still working fine. And it's been a dozen years since, too.
But eventually the original owners would either die, get into financial distress or just plain change, and the units would drift...
Since they said "NYAL Moscode" on the faceplates, this is what the new owners thought they were. Puzzled by those oscillations, they would take them in to service shops, who would be utterly & totally confused by what they saw when they popped the lid. Never mind that I signed most of the PC Boards in the modified units. Or that I personally knew many of the service people who got the units thrown at them. They would never tell me!
I think that for most of them, it was their buck to make, and they weren't going to tell the customer what the real story was, and spoil the party. One tech, who is actually a friend, told me one day that he'd like to work with me to solve the oscillation problem...I told him I was open to any and all suggestions that wouldn't utterly compromise sound quality, so let's talk...
Nothing ever came of it, and one fine day some friends stumbled into a consignment shop and found a unit that had been owned by a customer who'd died, and the shop owner had bought the unit cheap at an estate sale. He promptly had given it to my friend to "fix", and my friend had obliged, unbeknownst to me at the time.
Of course, he couldn't "fix" it, but he did manage to weasel $100 out of the shop owner, so all the power to him...
As for my other friends who found the unit in the shop, one said to the other: "Buy that!". So he did, and very cheaply, since the disgruntled shop owner had made the mistake of dubbing the piece a "Joe Rosen Abortion" in the midst of his sales pitch! That knocked a handy 25% off the labeled purchase price right there, and once the shop owner saw he had a live one, he tried to talk the unit up, instead of down. Too late! The fellow turned to him & said, upon pressuring him to let it go at the much lower price, "But you just said it was a Joe Rosen abortion!". Blub, blub, blub!
I then took $100 off that fellow, and made it stable! Cut all the input muting grounds, and replaced the 6DJ8 line/phono half-tube with a lower gain, lower mu 6CG7 instead. And showed him the necessary care & feeding for the unit, which involves making sure that the unit is plugged into a live mains outlet at all times, since the filaments are all that I turn off & on, the HT stays live at all times...
As you can see, this has little or no use to you in your situation, unless you feel like having me modify a unit for you as per the above major surgery! While I do confess to being an utter madman, I do have enough sense to do the following when I sell my designs or mods to people:
1) I don't "hide" the blemishes or flaws in my work, since everything is always a compromise. You need to find a customer who agrees with your choice of compromise, and has it explained to him just why you would make some seemingly-strange choices...
2) I make sure that they get a proper audition, and then try the thing in their own system if they are still interested. I try to make sure that I am present for at least the first home audition, and bring some ancillaries that I know sound good in case there are compatibility problems with other inferior sounding units present in the aspiring purchaser's system.
Bottom line: If someone really doesn't want to buy something from me, I sure as heck ain't gonna pressure them to do so! It's just not worth it, as I learned from my early days when I would let my enthusiasm get the better of me. I then had a run-in with the customer from hell, who wasn't all that much different from the average selfish and ignorant human being that we can all be, some of us when we're in a bad mood, some of us just when we want to be, and other, well, all the bloody time!
This guy was always laying blame at my doorstep and insulting me, culminating in him calling me one night (when every other store would be closed, and if not, telling him to F.O.), DEMANDING that I go to his place IMMEDIATELY to repair MY preamp that had blown up! Quite the allegation, and one that I knew was entirely false, but I had a technically ignorant ingrate on the phone who'd paid me a whopping $250 to build him a custom preamp, and who now therefore felt that he owned me. He was furious, and I was intrigued at the allegation. I didn't want this fellow mad at me, so I got on the bus (I didn't own a car back then) loaded with my tools, and off I went. When I got there, found that the HT fuse in his precious McIntrash MC-240 amp had failed, and I had a hell of a time even getting the clown's permission to allow me to open the amplifier, since I could see that there was nothing measurably wrong with the preamp, and that applying a tuner signal into the power amp resulted in a big fat nothing, too. The amps' tubes all lit up, so bonehead assumed that it was working fine. Anyone else in the audio business would have charged the guy just for coming out anyways, warranty or no. And here I had proof that the amp had failed, which had nothing to do with me or my preamp, despite the delusions of the customer. I wrapped some tin-foil around the fuse, and the amp duly returned to life, having blown the fuse for no other reason than it was 20 years old or more, and its time was up...I left the banana, and no charge. Being too incompetent to buy a fuse, and too lazy to come to me to buy one, he decided on a pricey course of action instead. He took the amp (by bus, he didn't own a car, either) to our city's most prestigious Mac dealer, Bay-Bloor Radio. He asked them to give his unit a thourough checkout, something I could have just as easily done for him, and in his own home, and for less money...but noooooooo! So these guys have his amp, and they needed to move it from one part of the shop to another, who knows what happened, really. And they drop it! Put a nice, big, FAT dent in one corner of one of those lovely potted OPT's, ruining the appearance of a MINT MC-240. Does the same jerk yell & scream & rant and rave that he wants at least a new OPT installed, which he was entitled to? Or at least demand financial compensation for the loss of value to the unit? NOOOOOOO! They offer him the service "for free" by way of compensation, and he swallows and takes it.
But that's OK I guess, because they are big store, with guys in white frocks and oscilloscopes on their test bench, supervised by a service manager in a three-piece suit. So that makes everything OK then...
Experiences like that taught me the value of a good day job, and just why the industry needs retailers, and why manufacturers don't want to deal with customers directly. If you've ever wondered why equipment has to cost so much, why the products you find in stores are so anodyne & insipid, and why the retailers add so much to the purchase price, look to pinheads like that audiophile as to why the world has to go around exactly the way it does...

Golden Gate ER

Senior Member
Allthough entretaining I had to stop reading his rants about 1/2 through. I honestly belive that his doctor needs to adjust his medication.

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
So who do I stumble onto over a Quora. Same old Joe, if a little gentler in his response.

Joe Rosen, Thermionic Valve (Tube) Amplifier & Sound Systems Designer
Written Jul 24, 2016
I mostly entirely agree with the comments made by others here, just the odd comment or two that I wish to add. I wouldn't use a vacuum cleaner attachment (!?!) anywhere near my records! Get too close…WHAP! Now you're really "sucking it up"! A carbon fibre brush is best, you know it's used up when the bristles start to bunch up from the greasiness of the residue! About 200300 hours, a year or two for most vinylphiles. As for the little carbon fibre brushes on Shure & Stanton cartridges, they DO NOT prevent mistracking! In fact, they degrade the sound very slightly, actually interfering a bit with the tracking. However, if you have a severely warped record you can't otherwise play, employing the brush can sometimes get you out of that trouble. Sometimes!

The anti-skating adjustment is critical, and most tonearms have faulty calibration for the settings! Besides, it varies from stylus type to stylus type; spherical/conical/"round" tips require the least compensation, with line-contact types requiring the most & elliptical types in the middle…If you can't get a dealer to set this up for you, do it by ear. If your cartridge mistracks on the loud portion of a certain record, adjust the anti-skating until it is both at minimum and equal on both channels. Ideally, you need to find a test record with louder & louder tones to use to set it. Also, there is a product made by WallyTools (Wally Maleweicz?) called the "WallySkater" that may be helpful here.

Make sure that the bearings in your tonearm are friction free. This is easy to check. But you must be VERY CAREFUL when doing this! Dial out all anti-skate force, and zero your counterweight until the tonearm floats horizontally and is perfectly perpendicular with the platter. Best to remove the mat, flip down the stylus guard if your cartridge has one; remove the stylus if you use a magnetic cartridge with a removeable grip (Shure, Ortofon, Grado…). You don't want the stylus to accidentally snag on the mat or anything else, so BE CAREFUL. Place the tonearm approximately in the middle of the platter/record area. It should remain stationary unless your turntable is not level, or there is residual anti-skating force due to a defective mechanism (rare, but some designs are lousy…).Blow GENTLY on the tonearm, EVER so gently so as to JUST get it to budge. Left or right, doesn't matter. The tonearm should glide smoothly once it starts to move. You can also use a very thin piece of tissue paper to push the headshell. Check the entire radius of lateral motion, from the tonearm rest to where the record label would be. Movement should be smooth, effortless and consistent, WITH NO STICKY SPOTS. Ditto for the up/down movement of the tonearm; here, the tissue paper idea is probably the gentlest. If there are noticeable sticky spots, the tonearm is defective. Don't feel bad, many of them are, ESPECIALLY the "audiophile" ones like Linn Basik, Syrinx, Zeta, Jelco, Ito. Best are Dual, SME, Mayware, and "vintage" Japanese mass-market turntables! If the tonearm sticks a bit, tracking ability is degraded, and record wear is accelerated, no matter how good the tracking ability of the cartridge! If the tonearm sticks ALOT, then you MUST replace it, even if that means replacing the entire record deck (if it's not detachable like the audiophile decks). If you don't, records gets ruined in the louder passages, and your stylus will wear out much quicker or get damaged outright!

The tracing (tracking) ability of your phono cartridge is its' ability to play louder sounds without "breaking up" and making that horrible distortion that is a trademark of faulty/cheap turntables. The best cartridges have high limits whilst simultaneously using lowest downforces. I recommend ONLY Shure & SOME Ortofon moving-magnet cartridges. Moving Coil cartridges should be avoided at all costs! They are a compleat waste of money!! They sound lousy, use high downforce, have limited tracking ability, costs thousands, have no output & are plagued by noise & hum, and the stylii can't be replaced (you "retip" the cartridge. Throw it away, really. And the Ripoff Artist…I mean, "manufacturer" of the cartridge just sells you a new one for a 20% discount off MSRP!).

The best are Shure, which is what I use. An M97xe is a state-of-the-art cartridge for $100 with peerless tracking ability at 1.4 grams (Shure sez 3/41.5g. Liars!). The stylus isn't quite state-of-the-art, so I recommend the JICO S.A.S. ("Super Analog Stylus") for it for about $200USD extra. It has an ultra line-contact profile and EVEN BETTER tracking at 1.5 grams. In fact, I have heard no phono cartridge/stylus that traces better. And I've been active with turntables for 40 years & have auditioned HUNDREDS of phono cartridges! If you are REALLY cheap, at least get a Shure M92 for $40USD….

I'm sure we all hate ABUSE OF CAPITAL LETTERS, but here's the "Coles Notes" version of my ultimate advice. And I think it is so important that I am compelled (COMPELLED, I tell you!) to put it obnoxious capitals for all of you:


Digital microscopes, USB microscopes and "regular" stereoscopic microscopes are available online for as little as $200USD. Go to Home & see what Michael Fremer is recommending these days. Just don't buy any phono cartridges or turntables he recommends if you have any respect for your money!

An alignment protractor assures best sound, but does not affect record wear. Leveling the turntable is "best practice", but if the anti-skating force is set with the turntable a bit out of level, no harm will come of it either!


Active Member
If all my opinions on specific pieces of equipment, and audio in general, were stacked up one on another, I couldn't come anywhere near to needing 2,855 words to express them.
Reading those excerpts (ok, skimming through them) brought back lots of memories. Joe was a force to be reckoned with. Lots of opinions and expressed with such certainty and vehemence, but usually about gear I hadn’t experienced so for the most part they didn’t offend me.

Whether you agree with him or not, Joe was clearly a character.


Staff member
I missed this the first time. Can’t say I totally agree with him but I thoroughly enjoyed reading his opinion. That’s a trick. More writers like him - the magazines really need writers like this guy. They’re all such a snooze now.


Junior Member
What was the tip?
I just bought a Musical Paradise tube amp for $200, called an MP-301.
It's a single-ended 6V6/6L6 amp, well made, reliable (one friend has been running his for about a year now, no hiccups or worries), and conservatively designed.
It eats up your entire $200 budget, and its only 6W/ch. on a good day.
But its a heck of a 6 Watts, plenty for a dorm or apartment, and it SMOKED an ARC CA-50 in perfect operating condition by direct comparison!
It isn't speaker fussy, it has tight bass, its dead quiet!
It uses $10 tubes, and sounds ACE with them!