A year or so ago, my friend Adam said to me he was getting rid of his turntable setup – it had been sitting up in his cupboard for years and he was making some space. It was a great coincidence as I’d recently got my vinyl collection (see my discogs) from my parents loft after selling their house, and had bought a cheap little goodmans 40 quid record player which had sparked my vinyl interest again after many years of just listening to mp3s.
He very kindly gave a whole load of kit to me and while I’ve eventually ditched the speakers and amp to get new ones (see setup below), I kept the real gem, his original Rega Planar 2 (I believe it’s from around 1984 as according to what hifi the original S-shaped tonearm was replaced then with the RB250 installed on the model I have).
Recently though the sounds quality I’ve been getting has dropped, and through a process of elimination I’d narrowed it down to the stylus being Adam’s original and needing replaced. After spending too many hours researching and finding out too much information on cartridges and stylus combos, and having a coronary looking at the price of some of them, I ended up ordering an Audio-Technica AT-VM95E, a Dual Moving Magnet Cartridge with Elliptical Bonded Stylus for £50 that looked like the best “budget” (i.e. sub £100) option I could find along with an alignment protractor and a force scale guage. Based on what I’ve read it seemed the best/least worst option around the 50-70 mark (there are bound to be other budget ones that people will say are better, but this was a small enough outlay to give it a shot without breaking the bank).
My Current Setup
A little description of my current setup. Key thing for me was to keep the setup minimal, compact and small because it sits out on a little table in my conservatory.
Because of space constraints and also because of not wanting to piss off the neighbours, I was looking for some compact, small but clear and crisp speakers and bagged a great deal from Richer Sounds on some JBL Control 1 Pros – saw a pair in their sale at the bargin price of £29 (usually around £130!). Just right for what I needed.
Again, space was a premium, and I wanted something really simple, so was intrigued reading about these little Fosi Audio amps and opted for a Fosi Audio BT20A Stereo 2.0 CH Bluetooth amp plus a Behringer PP400 ultra compact preamp. A really simple, but surprisingly nice sounding setup that has a bluetooth connection too which means I can play from my laptop/phone through the JBLs.
Ok, I should have looked at choosing cables and checked them out, but basically Just bought some standard ones the guy in Richer Sounds recommended to me….
Fitting the new cartridge
If in doubt, watch a youtube video, and that’s just what I did to find out about fitting the new cartridge (fiddly, but pretty simple) and using the protractor and the force scale gauge.
I also found a good review here which recommended a tracking weight between (1.8-2.2g) so I went for the middle and 2g (https://phono-cartridge-reviews.co.uk/reviews/audio-technica-at-vm95e/)
The setup took about 30 minutes all-in (with most of that being re-connecting the wires to the cartridge).
So what does it sound like?
I’d say the sound is a lot more crisp and clear than the older stylus – maybe a bit less “warmth” and low-end, but for the speakers and setup I have it’s a great improvement. I’ve been listening to some old charity shop vinyl so it’s not the cleanest or best quality, but I can definitely hear a difference – a lot more clearer high-end range to the sound.
Maybe in time I’ll save my pennies and look for a higher-end replacement, but for the time being a great upgrade and a nice project to learn a bit more about my Rega Planar.