[ Home | Staff & Contacts | HiFi Playground | Listening tests | DIY & Tweakings | Music & Books ]

Goldring Elite Moving Coil Phono Cartridge

Product: Goldring Elite Low Output Moving Coil Cartridge

Listprice: UK Pound 235.00; USD ~550.00

Manufactured by: Goldring

[Elite MC Cartridge]

This is going to be a difficult review. I have been procrastinating about writing this review for at least a month. Well, I've gotta write it, ain't I?

I have been looking around recently for some moderately priced Cartridges to possibly replace or supplement the Goldring G1042 Moving Magnet Cartridge I am using now.

ThanX to Andrew East from Goldring the first review Sample to turn up was the Goldring Elite. I have spend almost two months with Cartridge and this is what I found....

What's in an Elite?

The Elite was until recently Goldring's Top of the Line MC Cartridge. The claims Goldring makes for the Cartridge are impressive. A new and improved magnet structure is used allowing the Cartridge to be made lighter. The Aluminum Tube Cantilever sports a Fritz Gyger I Line Contact Stylus. On the end of the (rather short) cantilever sits a Voice-coil, wound with silver wire. The whole cartridge is assembled by hand in the UK. Not bad for measly 235 Quid is it?

The presentation of the cartridge is also not at all bad. It comes in a nice little case and both the nuts 'n bolts and the tools to mount the cartridge are included. In the package you also find a frequency-response printout from your Cartridge and the Manual. The manual is in four languages, I speak only English and German, so I cannot vouch for the rest, but the German translation is spot on...

Quite some value for money then and a lot of thought and work obviously went into this cartridge. But how does it sound?

Enjoying the music?

Well, after mounting the Elite onto my Oracle Delphi, it suffered from a bad case of Gringo-Hip's. It also sounded rather rough up top. Gritting my teeth I sat trough a reasonable break-in period (only about twenty LP sides and things looked up considerably). You do not have to pity me too much; I spend most of the time in different rooms....

After that it was time to dial in the perfect VTA, tracking weight and such. With that done I managed to get decent (for a MC) tracking and a reasonable overall balance. As usual I track a bit on the heavy side (nearly 2 gm instead of the recommended 1.65 gm) and the Arm was slightly down in the back (VTA adjustment) for the overall tonal balance.

Experimenting with cartridge loading had me soon ending up at the manufacturers recommended 100 Ohm. With less loading (say 680 Ohm) the Cartridge had a bit more bass, but it was also really loose. A better Arm than my OEM Job from Sumiko may improve there, but generally the Bass is rather lean. Not so much a problem on my rig as the lean Bass was very well extended, but with a system that is already a bit bass-shy the Elite may simply prove "not enough".

There is however something this Cartridge excels at. Soundstaging. Imaging. It is often unbelievable. One of my notes from the "formal listening" remarks on Dave Brubeck's "Unsquare Dance": "They are here and I am there....". Acoustic Jazz and instrumental Classics simply where a treat.

Where the Elite looses it unfortunately, are Rhythm and Timing (the typical British PRAT - Pace Rhythm Acceleration Timing) and female voices. I suspect part of the excellent soundstaging is the fact that this Cartridge is unashamedly bright. That is an absolute no-no in my system as it is balanced exactly on the knife-edge where too bright will not do...

With all this criticism noted, I must certify the Elite as a cartridge better than average. Auditioning it in my system is a mite unfair. While much of this System is DIY, if it where assembled at retail prices, one would expect to see at least a 1000 UK Pound (USD 1650) cartridge in there (not that I really have 1000 Quid to spare....).

So considering that despite its faults, I enjoyed the stay of the Elite in my system a lot; the Elite must be counted as (qualified) success. Indeed I did enjoy the music with the Elite a lot. However in the end, after I had remounted the G1042 for the final comparison I had to admit that the G1042 provided the more coherent performance.

The more evenhanded balance of the 1042 did easily offset the slight loss of Air and the slightly constricted Soundstage. The 1042 had a completely different Bass and somehow more detail throughout the Midrange (probably the better Stylus).

To illustrate, I was listening to the same musical selection on the 1042 as I had a few hours earlier on the Elite (re-mounting, realigning and fine-tuning a cartridge takes some time). While listening to the Elite, I found plenty of time to take notes and to both praise and nit-pick. My notes on seven tracks filled two pages. With the 1042 my notes came to half a page. Most of the time I simply forgot that I was supposed to listen critical.

This is most frustrating because the Elite does show a lot of promise. But something in its overall balance proved a critical mismatch with my system. And that was during auditioning with varying Cables (including Tonearm), Preamplifiers and every other tweak I could think of...

Remember how I said at the beginning that the Elite used to be Goldring's Top-of-the-Line? Goldring now make the Excel MC Cartridge as the Unit up on top. This looks (and on very cursory audition sounds) like it may very well solve all these problems, but at a price...

Should I join the Elite?

Well, I really do not want to sound as if I cop out. You know, keep the Manufacturer reasonably happy, give a review that is nice but not a rave so one remains on good speaking terms.... But I know it sounds as if I am just doing that.

The bottom-line is that the Elite is a rather good Cartridge. Full stop. But its overall performance is unevenly balanced.

If your system has plenty of weight in the bass and is a bit dull (like with most Speakers balanced for moderately priced digital gear) the Elite will truly shine. Such a (midpriced) system would also be more likely to provide a good match due to the fact that it will be less revealing of the Elite's faults.

So do not write the Elite off. It digs out a lot of Detail without being harsh. It really is sound in Cinemascope 3D. I like it a lot better than the Sumiko BPS for example. Put into some more down-to-earth system than mine, it may just be the ticket to ride.

But for heaven's sake, do not put the Elite into a system that is already bright. And be careful slotting it into a System, that is fairly neutral either.

If you mostly listen to acoustic Jazz and instrumental classical pieces the Elite will do the trick very well. Even if it does it in a slightly bright manner (but it does not make massed Violins screechy). However with a broader range of music it can be problematic.

If you have a Valve-based System or use a slightly dark sounding Phono-stage (like the affordable and rather nice EAR834P Valve Phonostage from Tim de Paravichini) the Elite may very well be the ticket. For me? Sorry folks, it did not do it in the end. I can recommend the Elite, but with a number of reservations.

What I want, what I really really want (can I have it, pretty please) is a Cartridge with all the Air and Soundstaging of the Elite, but with the even and slightly warm balance as well as the coherence of the 1042. Can you do it Goldring? You did make after both Cartridges referenced here....

The System

The Elite was auditioned in my System consisting of:

Other Cartridges at hand included the Goldring 1042 , the NAD 9100 and the Reson RECA. For a brief spell I used Heybrook 2-Way Speakers that I had around for repair.

© Copyright 1998 Thorsten Loesch/TNT-Audio

[ Home | Staff & Contacts | HiFi Playground | Listening tests | DIY & Tweakings | Music & Books ]