Reference1 & Master1

Reference1 & Master1
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Reference1 & Master1 REVIEW

Hi-Fi News / auditions Grado Statement Reference
Should you be listening to a low-output moving magnet?
By: Ken Kessler

Periodic bursts of post-CD analogue creativity usually mean nothing more than coincidence. Typically, it's the launch at the same hi-fi show of two or more new turntable makers, or a brace of totally unrelated parallel trackers. Still, we grasp such occurrences with a fervour that translates into self-satisfied remarks, delivered with finger stabbing at chest, along the lines of"Y"see? Vinyl ain't dead." Only now it's a one-off freak-of-nature from Grado.

First, a touch of the coincidentals. Michael Fremer of Stereophile recently argued that you really do need a mono cartridge to get the most out of mono LP's. At the same time Grado announced the introduction of two low-end mono cartridges and offered all of their wooden bodied cartridges in mono version. The argument is that a cartridge wired for mono cuts out the vertical tracking issues, thus, eliminating noise. Whatever, this piqued my interest because I listen to as much mono as I do stereo, and I have enough turntables to dedicate to single-channel use. But then Grado announced low-output versions of it's moving-flux cartridges, and I had to ask, "Huh?'

Considering that Joe Grado is one of the most important names in the development of the moving-coil cartridges and yet he opted to put his name on non-m-cs, I wondered if this was merely some post-digital irony. But, no, it's for real. The low-outputs travel under the Statement series banner, duplicating the Reference series in model name and prices. So you get high-output model first, the Reference Platinum/Statement Platinum, Reference Sonata/Statement Sonata, Reference Master/Statement Master and Reference Reference/Statement Reference - I love that: "Reference Reference". For years, Grado has billed it's cartridges as the best of both the m-m and m-c worlds, noting that: the outstanding quality of the moving-coil cartridge is not the moving-coil principle but the very low DC resistance and inductance. When the electrical impedance of a cartridge rises within the frequency response of the hearing range, the pre-amplifier generates audible distortion, because the pre-amplifier is trying to match this varying impedance, which makes the cartridge sound good despite the limited quality of the mechanical system". So the Statements, in effect, now ape an m-c's electricals with an m-m's "mechanical system".

I slipped the top model, the Statement Reference, into a basis 2500 turntable with Basis/Rega arm, tracking at 1.5g and feeding an audio technica transformer, auditioned through both the musical Fidelity M3's and Marantz model1060's 47k ohm phono inputs. This wooden-bodies cartridge is a dead ringer for it's siblings, weighs a negligible 7g and barely exhibits a trace of the Grado 'wiggle'. Grado tells little about its designs, but this one features a hollow alloy cantilever and an elliptical tip.

As a long time Grado user, I was quite shocked at what I heard; all of the Grado virtues, but with a lot more warmth and silkiness and much better dynamic contrast---including a lower noise floor, despite the (desperate) need for a step-up. Using, among others, Sundazed' new 180g pressing of Albert King's Born Under A Bad Sign and Classic's Crosby, Stills, Nash, I detected a seriously wide soundstage reminiscent of classic Denon m-cs perceptibly wider and deeper than that of the high-output Grado. Detail retrieval was about the same, but the sound was more open and transparent, with a wonderful sense of air. Above all it was devoid of any artifice or edge, and it dealt with both King's gruff vocals and the light harmonies of CSN with equal facility.

But why not buy an m-c? After all, the only reason for not buying one was mm's higher output, and this Grado doesn't even offer that. But it tracks like a leech, it sounds faster than I expect of most mc's, and is quieter too. This is real cat-among-the-pigeons. I just wish it came out 20 years ago.

The Statement Reference retails for $1200, which places it amidst some astounding moving-coils. But, as the Grado blurb says if your system can be driven with a 0.5mV output phono cartridge, then you deserve to be listening to the new Grado Statement Series". I second that emotion: It is an absolute killer.

Technology

The Reference series output is 5.0mV while the Statements series yield an m-c like 0.5mV. Grado achieves this by changing the coil configuration. Each cartridge has four coils, but Reference cartridges have 6,000 turns on the coils, while the Statements have only 380 turns. According to John Grado: 'Since we have considerably fewer turns in the Statement Series we can use a much larger size wire, thus knocking resistance from 470 ohms to 2 ohms in the Statement Series. This new wire has over 16 times more area for carrying the signal: this also shortens the distance the signal must travel from 125ft to a little over 7ft. In the Statement series we have also shortened the magnetic gap, increasing the flux density.'

Reference1 & Master1

Features:

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Frequency Response
10-60
Principal
MI
Channel Separation at 1KHz
40
Imput Load
47K
Output at 1KHz 5CM/sec.
0.5mV
Recommended Tracking Force
1.5
Stylus Type
E
Inductance
2mH
Resistance
2
Compliance CUs
20
Stylus Replacement F=Factory
F
Mounting
S
Weight
6.5

The newly redesigned Master1 and Reference1 cartridges have had their coil design reconfigured, and the effective moving mass of their generating system has been reduced by 17%. All this is hand-assembled within a machined, new processed, Australian Jarrah wood housing. The Master1 and Reference1 models use a five piece OTL cantilever technology achieving an additional 5% tip mass reduction over the Platinum1 and Sonata1 models. The coils are wound with ultra-high purity long crystal (UHPLC) oxygen free copper wire. The Master1 model is mounted with Grado's specially designed nude elliptical diamond, and the Reference1 model uses Grado's true ellipsoid design diamond.

What people are saying about the Reference...

"The cartridges arrived today. Thank you very much!! Listening to the Statement Reference nowyowzers!! Sweet, this is what vinyl is all about. All the boys here are very impressed!"
— John Wood - Executive VP - Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
"The Statement Reference is used by Musical Fidelity Sound Lab in their cutting room and in their mastering suite."
— John Wood - Executive VP - Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
"As a long time Grado user, I was quite shocked at what I heard; all of the Grado virtues, but with a lot more warmth and silkiness and much better dynamic contrast -- including a lower noise floor."
— Hi Fi News / Ken Kessler
"But, as the Grado blurb says if your system can be driven with a 0.5mV output phono cartridge, then you deserve to be listening to the new Grado Statement Series. I second that emotion: It is an absolute killer."
— Hi Fi News / Ken Kessler