By Don Lindich
Week 33, 2021
Q. After reading your review of the London “Decca” cartridges I plan on buying the London Maroon for my Technics SL-1200M5G turntable. This would be the most expensive cartridge I have ever purchased, by a significant margin. Is it hard to set up, how long does the stylus last and can it be replaced when it wears out? I also want to get a new phono preamp for it. What do you recommend for under $500, is that enough to buy a good phono preamp for it?
-J.K., Milwaukee, WI
A. I found setup to be somewhat more exacting than other fine cartridges and if you can have a dealer mount and align it for you, I would let them do so. Your SL-1200 turntable has removable headshells so it can be mounted and aligned on a headshell before shipping, making setup simple and easy. Just plug the headshell in the arm and adjust the height, set the tracking force to 1.8g and enjoy. Online vendor lpgear.com, manufacturer of the highly regarded Vessel cartridges, sells London cartridges and can pre-mount and align the cartridge on a headshell if you tell them you have an SL-1200M5G. Something else to consider is the London’s stylus (needle) is attached directly to the cartridge’s generator element rather than using a wand-like cantilever, so dust can build up between the stylus and cartridge body. This dust can affect the sound so London owners should keep a can of compressed air by their turntable to remove the dust as needed.
London styluses are made by experienced craftsmen from extremely high quality diamonds. With proper care they should last 2,000 hours. This is about twice that of a typical cartridge, making the most of your investment. The stylus is not user-replaceable but the manufacturer can re-tip the cartridge with a new stylus, which costs much less than replacing the whole thing.
A $500 budget is adequate for the phono preamp and I have an excellent recommendation. I have been testing the $349 Vincent Audio PHO-300 phono preamp and can enthusiastically recommend it for use with a London, or any other cartridge for that matter. Vincent Audio is a high-end audio company based in Germany and the PHO-300 is a rarity at the price because it utilizes two separate boxes, one for the power supply and one for the phono preamp circuitry. Phono preamps are very sensitive to outside electrical noise and interference, and separating the higher voltage power circuits in a different box is the most effective way to isolate this noise and preserve sound quality.
The PHO-300 sounds very clear and precise, with a natural, engaging character that will complement most any cartridge. I tested it with my London Super Gold and it proved to be an excellent match, allowing the cartridge’s best qualities to shine without it feeling limited in any way. See the PHO-300 and other Vincent Audio products at pangeaaudio.com.
Q. The AODAYS IPL Hair Remover you wrote about has been out of stock. Is there another you can recommend?
-S.L., Santa Clara, CA
A. I checked Amazon and it is back in stock, and there is a $20 coupon that makes the price $149. I have not reviewed any others, but the Remington and Braun IPL products are highly rated but much more expensive, selling for $329 and up. As always, when considering this kind of personal care product read and follow the directions carefully, consider all safety warnings and if necessary check with your physician to ensure it is appropriate for you.