Green1 & Black1
Joseph Grado, the founder of Grado Labs, sounds like a pretty interesting guy. He trained professionally as an opera singer. He reportedly invented the moving-coil phono cartridge, but made his mark producing cartridges of a much different basic design, at what can only be described as more-than-reasonable" prices. And only recently, in his late 70's, did he retire from active participation in the company, turning the reins over to his Nephew John.
The Prestige (and upscale Reference) cartridges from Grado are the first released since the elder Grado's retirement, but they mark an evolution, not dramatic change, of the classic Grado style. There are three basic levels in the Prestige lineup: Black/Green, Blue/Red, and Silver/Gold. In each of these pairings, the latter model is the same as the former, but is able to meet more astringent test specifications. The Green, for instance, is taken from the top 15% of the Black models production.
The Prestige Green is furnished with suitable mounting hardware and the unique tool required to separate stylus assembly from cartridge body. Separating the stylus assembly from the cartridge body with the tool can be tricky, so proceed with caution, lest you end up with the cartridge body in your hand and the stylus embedded in a nearby wall.
Mounting was not a major problem on the removable head to my Dual CS5000. I used the protractor that comes with the Dual and the Lyle Cartridges phono alignment tool (a good deal for $15.95). I tracked the Prestige Green at the suggested 1.5 grams.
The rest of the system has remained stable, the Dual CS5000 fed the Linn Majik-1 amplifier, which provided the moxie for the NEAR 50-me series II speakers through bi-wired 14-gauge zip cord. The Prestige Green was compared to my primary cartridge, a Joseph Grado Signature 8MZV($200), and A Shure V-15 Type V-MR($300).
Frankly, the Grado Prestige Green showed me a good time. And that's how I'd describe it: a good-time component. It's not ultimately refined, as is the Signature. Instead it has a bit of the "rorty" character I found in the Stanton 881S and WOS 100 cartridges I wrote about some issues back - but only a bit. For instance, on the Atlanta Symphony's recording of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man on Tellarc, there was a brash quality to the cymbals and the trumpets were a bit too strident for my taste with the Green: those instruments sounded much more natural with the Signature. But there was nothing wrong with the tympani on the Green; same with the Signature. On the other hand, the Shure's reproduction of the whole effort was much too polite; there was no fire; no emotion. The Green lacked some depth compared to the Signature and the Shure, but left-to-right instrument placement struck me as quite good.
One night, I was in an exuberant mood, and pulled out a whole bunch of my favorite LP's: the one's I like to play air guitar or sing along with. The first was The Best Of Earth, Wind And Fire (ARC/COLUMBIA FC- 35647). The Green really seemed to get into "September"; the bass demanded that I moved my feet. And with it, I could tell the difference between the bass and kick drum, something that was always lost with the Shure. The Signature, as one might expect, was similar to the Green, but smoother on the vocals.
Then, I loaded Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms. It's always been my belief that a good system will cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up in the initial drum/ guitar/ synthesizer segment of "Money For Nothing". And the Green produced suitably hair-raising sound. The Signature had more detail and better instrument placement, but the Green was right in there. Mark Knopfler's voice was edgy with the Green; less so with the Signature and very mellow on the Shure.
I've always loved Gordon Lightfoot's voice, and his whole presentation of "Me and Bobby McGee" on If You Can Read My Mind (Reprise RS 6392) is a favorite of mine. It starts off with great guitar, adds even greater guitar (excellent slide work) and Gord's delivery (despite the fact that he pronounces the town in California "Sa-line-us" rather than "Sa-lee-nus") is exceptional. The Green offered a bit more bite on his voice and the stereo kneeslaps than the Signature, but there's a definite family resemblance. The Signature offered up a softer, mellower bass that sounded more like a stand-up fiddle, while on the Green, the bass sounded more like an electric.
Then, I got to Mel Tormé and my favorite album of his, Mel TormÈ and Friends: Live at Marty's (Finesse W2X 37484). The Green gave Mel's voice a bit of bite and brought him out front slightly more, but it also produced Jay Leonhart's bass perfectly on the long solo. My notes continue "This is a Good $60.00 cartridge!!" I still think so.
There's alot more good I could say about the Grado Prestige Green; I've barely scratched the surface of four pages of notes written during several long listening sessions. And that's one of the joys of the Prestige Green: it was enjoyable enough that I didn't just select out a few tried-and-true discs and stack up it's performance versus the Signature and Shure. Rather, there were many times I just pulled out LP"s at random; one's I hadn't played in a while, just for the sheer enjoyment of the music.
Can there be anything much better? Well, there can: the Signature handily tops the Green in terms of the detail, depth and overload point. However, with a $60.00 list price, the Grado Prestige Green is a cartridge most people will find thoroughly enjoyable for nearly all kinds of music, especially if their system is very slightly laid back. At it's price, it simply can't be beaten! If you have a moderately-priced turntable lurking in your closet, pull it out, get a Grado prestige Green, install it and LISTEN TO THE MUSIC. You'll enjoy!
The newly redesigned Black1 and Green1 have had their coil design reconfigured, and the effective moving mass of their generating system has been reduced by 17%. The Black1 and Green1 models use a three piece OTL cantilever technology, standard oxygen free wire in the coils and Grado's specially designed elliptical diamond mounted in a brass bushing. The Green1 model is selected from the Black1 production run and meets higher test specifications. Approximately 15% of the production run will meet these standards and become Green1 models.
What People are saying about the Green...
and about the Black...