Week 21, 2018: Volume is lower after changing phono cartridge, using ZVOX TV Speaker with a surround system

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 21, 2018

Q. I have an Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB turntable. I bought the pre-mounted LP Gear The Vessel A3SE cartridge after reading your review and recommendation. The sound is great, but the volume dropped compared to the original cartridge (an Audio-Technica AT95E.) Is this normal, or is something wrong?

-S.R., South Bend, IN

A. LP Gear’s The Vessel A3SE creates less voltage than your original cartridge, so you will get less volume unless you turn up the amplifier volume to compensate. The exact specifications are 3.0 millivolts (mv) for the A3SE and 3.5mv for the AT95E, so no matter the turntable or amplifier you need to turn up the volume a bit more with The Vessel to get the same volume level. It is normal and nothing to be concerned about. If you had switched to a cartridge with higher output like 5.0mv or higher, then you would have been turning the volume up less than before and had the same volume level.

The slightly lower output may be part of the reason LP Gear’s The Vessel cartridges have such great sound and continue to win awards. Lower voltage usually means less moving mass inside the cartridge, and less moving mass means the cartridge can read the record more precisely. The most expensive, sought after audiophile cartridges are moving coil (MC) cartridges with extremely low voltage output, well below 1mv. They voltage is so low they require a preamplifier with a special MC setting to use them.

Q. My wife and I have trouble discerning dialogue when we watch television programs. We have an expensive 7.1-channel surround sound system with a Pioneer HDMI receiver and the sound effects are great, and we can understand movie dialogue. But, we cannot understand TV program dialogue very well with this system. The receiver has settings that are supposed to help you understand spoken voices, but they don’t really work. I saw where you wrote about the special sale for the ZVOX AccuVoice AV200 TV speaker, and how it makes dialogue easier to understand. Do you think this speaker has a chance of helping us, and how would we hook it up?

-P.F., Minneapolis, MN

A. I do think the ZVOX AccuVoice TV speaker would make the dialogue easier for you to understand. That is what it is designed and optimized to do. What it won’t do is create a home theater experience like your 7.1 system, and the two are not designed to be used simultaneously. It is one or the other.

Since your surround sound system uses HDMI and the ZVOX uses an optical cable, I can see a way to have them both connected and get the best of all worlds. Just get the ZVOX AccuVoice TV Speaker and connect it to the TV with an optical cable. When you are watching TV shows, turn the volume on your Pioneer receiver all the way down and use the ZVOX as your sound system. When watching movies, either streamed or on disc, turn off the ZVOX speaker and use the surround sound system.

Given the speaker is on sale for $179 reduced from $249 through Father’s Day June 19th, it is a cheap experiment and may work out for you. ZVOX has a 60-day home trial period so you can return it for a refund if not happy.