08 July, 2012

Talk Vinyl: Fidelity Research MC-202 MC Cartridge Technics SL-1200 Mk 2

Click pic to enlarge
Talk Vinyl: Fidelity Research MC-202 MC Cartridge, Part I
Talk Vinyl: Technics SL-1200 Mk 2, Part II
Talk Vinyl: Ortofon MCA-76
Talk Vinyl: Audionix ADN-III

Revised March 9, 2015: Fidelity Research MC-202 MC Cartridge, Part II has been published.

Many moons ago, when it was hip to abandon vinyl, a colleague gave me his playback setup, which consisted of an Ariston TT, SME arm, the Fidelity Research MC-202 MC Cartridge and the FRT-3G Step-Up Transformer. I later gave the Ariston to someone else, but kept everything else. Over the years I had used the FRT-3G to excellent effect with my Denon DL-103: it proved to be more richly hued than my humble AU-300LC.

Fidelity Research MC-202 MC
I had promptly forgotten about the cartridge, until recently, when I found it loosely wrapped in a plastic bag. The cartridge does not have a stylus guard but had miraculously survived. Thanks to the Vinyl Engine Database, I found the relevant spec's for the cartridge.

As often with this DJ table, I had to add height to the cartridge by adding a 1 gm spacer. Given the SL-1200 Mk 2's effective tonearm mass of 12 gm, according to VE the resonant frequency tuned out to be okay at 7 Hz.

This is only my initial impression. I had lent out almost all my SUTs and ended up having to use an active pre-preamplifier. So far I tried two, and the results were quite different. Here are the Associated Gears:

Preamplifier: Leben RS28-CX with built in MM phonostage (review here)
Amp: Wavac MD-300B
Loudspeakers: Tannoy Canterbury HE

Alignment Position was very much like the AT-CN5625AL, accomplished in no time.

Tracking Weight I started with the minimum 1.5 gm and got somewhat prominent upper midrange. Using the maximum 2.0 gm the sound was a little slow. Finally I dialed in 1.75 gm, which seemed optimal.

Active Phono Pre-Preamplifiers
+ Ortofon MCA-76 (my previous write-up here) Since I have several Ortofon cartridges (MC3000/5000; Kontrapunkt C/H; all 5 ohm impedance), the Ortofon MCA-76 is the active step-up device I go to in a pinch. Its high gain and design for low impedance are particularly suited to the same companies' offerings. The FR MC-202 has a somewhat higher impedance of 9 ohm. The sound was quite sweet in the lower midrange, a bit too full in the bass and, no matter how I adjusted the VTA and tracking weight, audibly a little lean in the presence region. While quite a bit more detailed than the lowly AT-CN5625AL, the music did not flow as well or the whole fabric did not hang together as well either. I decided to try a different headamp.

+ Audionix ADN-III (spec's here) The Audionix is little known outside Japan. The company used to manufacture vinyl accessories but had long gone defunct. My unit is a 100V one. I had previously used it to good effect with my Denon DL-103. The match brought a more balanced sound to the MC-202: smoother presence region, less sweet lower midrange and a leaner bass. The sound took quite a while to open up, reaching optimum only when the unit is warm to touch. It was not quite as detailed as the MCA-76, but more musical. Hey, except for the loudspeakers and cables, this is afterall almost a total Japanese system!

Cabling is a headache with these active devices, influencing the sound unduly. The Kimber PBJ was just too exaggerated. Finally I settled for a longer than ideal run of Gotham. Much more balanced (as usual).

Initial Impression of the MC-202 is that it is a rather sweet cartridge, not quite as detailed as my Ortofon's nor as soulful as the Denon DL-103. Watch for Part II.


  1. I never realized how much good Audionix ADN-III?

    1. Take this with a grain of salt. Vinyl setups are so fragile and system dependent that it is hard to make a firm conclusion. But all these old gears at current prices are worthwhile, IMHO.