My good friend wanted to give his Yamaha GT-2000 vinyl rig a shot in the arm. I suggested a few changes 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.
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 lowish-mass design, common at the time.
It is perhaps more properly described as medium mass arm, but contrary to what you might read elsewhere, you cannot use low compliance cartridges and heavy headshells with this arm, it won’t work properly. This is 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 an 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. The output of the FR-2 is l-o-w, so high gain is required.
You’ll also need to be able to tailor the load to match the lowish 6 Ohm DCR of this cart. Again, get the loading wrong, and it will sound wrong. Get the compliance match wrong and the resonant frequency will be out. Not only will it not sound its best, but it can also damage the cartridge.
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 (maybe medium) 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 is 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 Setup & Vinyl Recommendations
Liquid Audio is a turntable specialist and we are very happy to pass some of that on and properly set-up and service your vinyl rig for you. We offer recommendations, based on understanding the science and art of vinyl set-up, and first-hand experience listening to hundreds of the finest carts, headshells and turntables from the golden era, through to current products.
With vinyl, it’s the little things added together that make the difference: bearing and motor oil, azimuth, VTA, overhang, the headshell, mat, fastener torque, etc. All of this stuff and the skill and expertise needed to implement it cannot be just ‘read’ somewhere. It can only come from someone who is a specialist in their field.
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.