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How to make your turntable sound better than ever: Upgrade your cartridge

The Audiophiliac takes the new Grado Reference Series Platinum 2 cartridge out for a spin.

You invested in a nice turntable, but if you're still using the cartridge that came with it, you're not hearing how amazing vinyl can sound. Maybe it's about time to check out something better, like the new Grado Reference Series Platinum 2 phono cartridge. Like all of the company's cartridges, it's designed and hand-assembled in Brooklyn, New York. The Platinum 2 has an almost magical ability to make every LP sound bigger, bolder and more alive than what you've heard before.


The Grado Reference Platinum 2 cartridge, grooving on a U-Turn Orbit Plus turntable.

The Platinum 2 is just now being released, and it differs from its predecessor in a number of ways, the most obvious is the shape of its Jarrah wood body. The new model is bigger, longer in length, so it's heavier; the Platinum 2 weighs 10 grams, the Platinum 1 was 6 grams. The new model also has redesigned coils and magnets, puts out more voltage and uses Grado's specially designed elliptical diamond mounted on a brass bushing, The Platinum 2 is classified as a "moving-iron" cartridge, and can be used with any preamp or receiver's "moving-magnet" phono input.

When I listened to the Cowboy Junkies 2007 "Trinity Revisited" LP, the music's body and soul shined through; there's a substantial quality to the sound that I love. Compared with the Grado Black 1 cartridge that came standard on the U-Turn Orbit Plus turntable I reviewed not that long ago, the Platinum 2 sounds richer, more fully developed; there's more there there. The sound is clearer and more alive.

Before we go any further, upgrading speakers (or headphones) will, dollar for dollar, make a bigger difference than getting a better cartridge. So unless you already have a really nice pair of speakers, hold off on cartridge upgrading. I'd also strongly recommend investing in a decent phono preamp, like the Schitt Mani or U-Turn Pluto before upgrading to a new cartridge.

Does the Platinum 2 dredge up every last bit of detail and resolution of the sort you get from a high-end moving-coil cartridge? No, that's not what's going on here; the Platinum 2 just makes records sound good. Accuracy isn't what this one is all about, and if that's what you crave, go after an Ortofon Quintet Red. That said, the Platinum 2's superior sonic gravitas has its own rewards.


The Grado Reference Platinum 2 cartridge

The Grado Reference Series Platinum 2 sells for $350 with free shipping in the US; the UK price has not yet been set.