My good friend wanted to give his Yamaha GT-2000 vinyl setup a shot in the arm. I suggested a few improvements, my aim: to improve cartridge/headshell/tonearm synergy. We achieved this by installing a gorgeous, vintage Fidelity Research FR-2 moving coil cartridge and RS-10 headshell.
As any knowledgeable vinyl lover will know, Fidelity Research was a Japanese ‘vinyl-things’ manufacturer, with a legacy of sublime cartridges, step-up transformers and beautifully made headshells. In fact, FR gear is more desirable now than ever, and for good reason. Almost nothing is made like this now, and sure as hell nothing sounds like FR stuff does.
Fidelity Research, or FR as they are better known, became famous for products like the FR-1 moving coil cartridge I currently use in my KD-600 rig, (though actually meant for my L-07D), the legendary FR-64 tonearm and the FR-7 moving coil cartridge, with integral headshell (yes, it’s been done before…).
From the wonderful Stereophile:
“Way back in 1967, Ikeda-san founded Fidelity Research, a celebrated Japanese firm that left its mark on the world of phonography with its FR-64 series of tonearms and FR-1 and MC-202 cartridges. (One could say that Isamu Ikeda has left another, more personal mark, inasmuch as many of Japan’s well-known cartridge builders have served him as apprentices.)
In 1985, as the first shadows of the passing Compact Disc were cast upon the marketplace, the plug was pulled on Fidelity Research—yet Ikeda-san wasn’t idle for long: By 1986 he had founded Ikeda Sound Labs, specializing in low-compliance moving-coil cartridges and high-mass, transcription-length tonearms. Which are wonderful things, indeed.”
You may have seen my friend’s GT-2000 turntable in a previous post. He hasn’t had the best luck with his rig and I wanted to help fix that. Specifically, I wanted to find him an excellent, medium compliance vintage MC cartridge and matching headshell, better suited to his GT-2000 tonearm. At this time, he had a Denon DL-103R moving coil cartridge installed on an Ortofon LH-9000 headshell. Nice combo, but suited to a long, heavy arm.
One of the issues with the Yamaha GT-2000 direct drive turntable is the tonearm that comes with it. The arm is a low-mass design, common at the time, and not one that I particularly like. Contrary to what you might read elsewhere, you cannot use low compliance cartridges and heavy headshells with a low mass arm like this, it simply won’t work properly. This is fact, based on physics, and there’s no escaping it. The DL-103R is a low compliance cart, and the LH-9000 is a h-e-a-v-y headshell.
With too heavy a cart and headshell, you’ll have to wind the counterweight all the way out, because the arm was not designed to cope with all this mass. The resonant frequency will also be too high, because heavy carts are usually lower compliance designs. Low compliance + light arm = high resonant frequency. All this is a recipe for mistracking, poor sound and vinyl damage.
Vintage Vinyl Goodness
After thinking about this, and knowing my buddy wanted some vintage vinyl goodness in his setup, I suggested two things: a Fidelity Research FR-2 low output moving coil cartridge and a Fidelity Research RS-10 headshell.
So, why make these changes? Two reasons – first, the previous cartridge/headshell combination was mechanically incorrect for the GT-2000 tonearm. Second, the FR-2 is a much nicer cartridge than the DL-103, as good as the Denon is. The DL-103 is fantastic for the money, but one can certainly buy better, and with such low compliance, it’s really not well-suited to many tonearms, despite being fitted to them. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand this.
Fidelity Research FR-2
The FR-2 is a gorgeous cartridge, quite rare now, but worth keeping an eye out for. It’s a low output design, like most FR stuff, and features a line-contact stylus. It’s also lighter than the DL-103R.
A good step-up transformer is the ideal partner for the FR-2. If you don’t have one of those, you’ll at least need a very low noise, high quality MC preamp to get decent sound out of the FR-2. You’ll also need to be able to tailor the load to match the low 6 Ohm DCR of this cart. Again, get the loading wrong, and it will sound wrong.
Type: moving coil
Output Voltage: 0.1 mV (that’s L-O-W!)
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 35kHz
Tracking Force: 1.5-2.0g
Channel Separation: > 27dB
Fidelity Research RS-10
Because the FR-2 is a medium compliance cartridge, and we have a lowish mass tonearm, we want a medium-mass headshell to match. The Fidelity Research RS-10 headshell weighs in at 11.3g. That’s over 5 grams lighter than the Ortofon LH-9000 my friend was using previously, not light-weight, but not heavy either. Add the extra gram saved by using the FR-2 and we are now 6.5 grams lighter than before.
Don’t get me wrong, the LH-9000 is a beautiful headshell and currently for sale, however, it is not a good match for this tonearm. The RS-10 is a much better match, though perhaps still a little heavy.
The RS-10 headshell isn’t the nicest headshell FR made. My FR RS-141 is a nicer design, but too heavy for this GT-2000 tonearm. Unfortunately the RS-10 doesn’t have the collet-style hardware of the RS-141, but it’s nevertheless a very nice headshell and lighter than the RS-141 or LH-9000, critical in this application.
Precision Turntable Setups & Vinyl Recommendations
If you didn’t already know, Liquid Audio is a turntable specialist. I have a long history with vinyl and all the knowledge and experience that goes with that. Most others are just getting into vinyl for the first time, and this means vast swathes of missing knowledge and experience. I think that’s why so many customers bring me poorly set up turntables to rectify…
Liquid Audio will properly set-up and service your vinyl rig and I can help by offering recommendations, based on first-hand experience listening to hundreds of carts, headshells and decks. With vinyl, all the little things added together make the difference – bearing oil, motor oil, azimuth, ride height, overhang, the mat, tightness of fasteners etc, etc.
My aim is to get your turntable sounding better than ever, just like this Yamaha GT-2000, FR-2 and RS-10 combination. Get in touch to discuss your turntable requirements and to book your deck in for some Liquid Audio TLC!