Grado Black Cartridge Review. The Black is a MM (Moving Magnet) cartridge that offers incredible value for money and a beautiful easy on the ear sound signature with airy smooth qualities. Setup is easy and has a frequency response of 10Hz to 55kHz.
Mostly known for their astounding range of earphones and headphones, Grado is the aesthetically vintage-
Presenting itself inside a miniscule white-
With the beauty seemingly locked away until we reach the sound quality sector, I personally find the visual aesthetics of this unit to significantly lack refinement. Admittedly the housing is crude, the awkward ‘one-
Sporting a fully consumer replaceable stylus, this unit seats itself within an odd putty filled receptacle chamber. Grado make it clear that this substance should not, under any circumstance, be removed so please remove all curiosity before checking or replacing any stylus. Having this internal substance possibly dampens unwanted resonant frequencies from transmitting during playback, so we are all for this design.
The specific stylus type that is used here is known as an elliptical (bi-
As previously mentioned this cartridge only requires a poultry 1.5g tracking force. This does mean that you should regularly maintain your records with an anti-
Before continuing with this section I would like it to be known that for this cartridge to really sing praises it needs to be properly set up. With missing this critical step you might experience a lack of treble frequency extension or bass-
Passing this initial tweaking, we have found the stereo width to be nicely presented with central vocals lines that just pop whilst more spatial rhythmic elements appear defined alongside slightly off stage lead and rhythm guitars that have a nice spatial dimension that is believable. Unlike some other cartridges the ‘Black’ does not have a habit of throwing instruments too far off into the stereo field for the fact that they are slightly more reigned in without that ‘stuck to your ears’ or ‘in your head quality’. Condensing all of the above is to basically suggest that you won’t get what Michael Jackson described as a ‘punch in the ear’, but more of a private concert in a smaller room without that lost feeling you would get if it was overly vast and through an inexpensive PA or mix.
For a deceptively low retail value, the Grado Black fights a great battle as it presents a very pleasant experience with a nice round bass response, and glistening highs that amalgamate into an involving performance. Although they don’t go quite a high as you might expect if you cast your mind back to the reported frequency response, there is still a nice realism about them that expels any harshness and leads to a luscious midrange. I do find that the ‘Black’ has a tendency to brush over some of the finer details, but during many listening sessions you won’t be too hung up because this is a budget cartridge that doesn’t even attempt to behave like something that it cannot compete with. Seemingly with this brief weighing up you might forget that the surface performance of the ‘Black’ is exceptional. To summarise the bass is more vintage sounding, the mids are quite smooth and fluid, whilst the top isn’t overly extended. The mention of the treble frequencies is dependent on many factors; such as if you are using an acrylic platter the top end might appear to be a touch less present.
Whilst the Grado ‘Black’ certainly won’t win any awards for visual aesthetics, but when it comes to sound quality and performance it ticks all the right boxes over and over again. We would like to say that the ‘Black’ is a sure fire hit in it’s price-