Week 1, 2018: Universal remote and old Marantz Plasma TV, Sound Advice 2017 Product of the Year: LP Gear The Vessel A3SE cartridge

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 1, 2018

Q. We have a Marantz plasma TV that is at least 10 years old. The remote no longer works reliably and we can’t buy another one, as Marantz no longer makes TVs. What can we do if the TV is no longer supported by the manufacturer? We are very happy with the picture and want to keep the TV.

-L.L., Pittsburgh, PA

A. Though Marantz may no longer be selling replacement remotes, most universal remote controls will have codes to work with your television. A basic remote for off/on and volume can be purchased for under $10. If you want to work multiple components I suggest looking into the Logitech Harmony line of remotes. You can currently get a programmable Logitech Harmony 650 for around $40. It is compatible with over 225,000 devices from over 5,000 brands. logitech.com

2017 Sound Advice Product of the Year

I tested and reviewed a lot of great products in 2017, but the LP Gear The Vessel A3SE phono cartridge impressed me the most. It was a very easy choice as my Product of the Year, especially with the growing resurgence of vinyl.

The Vessel cartridges are manufactured by a high-end Japanese OEM exclusively for LP Gear. Reviewing The Vessel A3SE was one of the most shocking experiences I have had in over 15 years writing this column. At only $99 the price-to-performance equation is unmatched, and it allows those with modest budgets to get a taste of what high-end vinyl reproduction really sounds like. It’s the perfect choice to upgrade the starter cartridges included with entry-level turntables, or to bring new life to a vintage turntable being brought back into service again.

The natural, musical sound, excellent retrieval of fine detail, pleasing warmth and impressive dynamics all come together to give a lot of much more expensive cartridges a run for their money. I am not alone in my enthusiasm. Besides the great comments I have received from readers who purchased it on my recommendation, I have seen posts on audio message boards from happy owners praising its performance. A few I remember are, “We have been overpaying for cartridges,” and “It replaced a $260 cartridge, and the $260 cartridge won’t be going back on.”

An additional benefit is the ease with which you can upgrade this $99 cartridge to world-class levels. The stylus assembly has a great impact on the sound of a phono cartridge, and most moving magnet cartridges allow you to change the assembly yourself to replace a worn out stylus, or upgrade for better performance. Typically, when you buy an entry-level cartridge it can’t be upgraded to the very top model within the model line. For example, you cannot fully upgrade a $99 Ortofon 2M Red cartridge to the top-of-the-line $755 2M Black cartridge, though both are in the 2M series.

That is not the case with The Vessel cartridges. The $99 A3SE can be upgraded in seconds to the top $649 R3SM and $679 B3SS models just by switching the stylus. What this means to music lovers and people new to vinyl is you can start with The Vessel A3SE on your starter turntable, and if you ever upgrade the turntable you can take your cartridge with you. It is certainly worth upgrading as the more expensive The Vessel cartridges are standouts, too. The Vessel R3SM recently won in an 11-cartridge shootout on my vinyl website at soundadvicevinyl.com, coming out on top when compared to 10 other cartridges with prices under $1,000.

Congratulations to LP Gear for making a top performer that anyone can afford! lpgear.com