Goldring has been in the record playing business for a very, very long time, starting with making phonographs in 1906. These days it’s still in the phono cartridge business. Here I’m looking at one of the three models from the company’s entry-level E-series of moving magnet cartridges, the Goldring E3.
- Moving magnet phono cartridge
- Dual magnet generator
- Elliptical stylus on aluminium cantilever1.5 to 2.5 grams tracking force, 2.0 grams recommended
- 20mm/N static compliance
- 20 to 20,000 hertz frequency response
- Greater than 20 dB at 1 kHz channel separation
- 5mV at 5cm/sec output
- Internal inductance: 400mH, 100pf to 200pf load capacitance recommended
- Internal resistance: 410 ohms, 47,000 ohms load resistance recommended
- Body dimensions: 20.3mm wide, 15.75mm tall, 26.3mm deep; 31.5mm deep including pins; 17.6mm top to stylus tip
- 8 grams weight (without hardware), 7.8 grams (with hardware)
- Price: $199.95
- User-replaceable stylus: $170 (follow link for Goldring E3 Replacement Stylus)
- Available at fine high fidelity retail outlets, and direct from distributor's retail division (follow link for Goldring E3 Moving Magnet Cartridge)
More about the Goldring E3 cartridge
Although I can’t find anything that comes right out and says it, it seems pretty certain that the three models in the Goldring E-series are in fact identical, apart from different styluses. All use a dual moving magnet system. Traditional moving magnet cartridges use one magnet on the end of the cantilever and two pickup coils. These Goldring cartridges use two magnets, one for each channel. Goldring says that this reduces crosstalk. It would certain seem to allow a closer mating between the magnets and each channel’s coil. All three cartridges have identical mechanical and electrical specification, which stand in the usual range expected of high-end cartridges.
As to the different styluses, the lowest cost model is the E1. It has a red-coloured stylus assembly. The stylus is conical and the cantilever carbon. The more expensive E2 still uses a conical stylus, but the cantilever is aluminium. This one is colour-coded green. Finally, the Goldring E3, the subject of this review has a purple assembly, and on the end of its aluminium cantilever it employs a 0.3mm by 0.7mm elliptical stylus.
Installing the Goldring E3 cartridge
Installing the Goldring E3 is as easy as installing a cartridge can get, simply because it comes with threaded brass-like inserts in its mounting holes. Instead of having to juggle tonearm, cartridge nuts and bolts, you can just press the cartridge against the head shell with one of the screw holes lined up, insert the supplied bolt and turn it with the supplied Allen key. Repeat with the other. Then adjust before tightening. The cartridge is middling in weight and compliance, so it’s hard to see how it couldn’t be fitted to any tonearm, and resonances should be fine, except perhaps tonearms with the very lowest effective mass.
Listening with the Goldring E3 cartridge
- Thorens TD 1600 turntable
- Simaudio Moon 310LP phono preamplifier
- Schiit Audio Freya S preamplifier
- Schiit Audio Vidar power amplifier
- Lenehan Audio pure copper ribbon speaker cables with gold-plated spade lugs (with)
- Dynaudio Contour 20i loudspeakers
Just a couple of notes on practicality first, before getting deeply into things. As the first album I span up came to an end and the cartridge dragged the arms to the end of the runout spiral, the stylus started skipping. What was going on? Ah, it turns out that this cartridge is wider than usual and it could not reach the final groove without fouling my G.B Record Clamp, something I’ve been using since the ’80s. No real problem, I just left off the clamp for that record. It turned out that Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds has an unusually small diameter for its final groove. None of the other records I played ran into similar problems.
The body of the cartridge would seem to be of largely plastic/ABS or some such construction, which offers little resistance to electrical fields. When I used my Milty Zerostat 3 antistatic gun at bit too close to the cartridge, quite a bit noise emerged from my speakers. Not really a problem, I just made sure I squirted ions at the left-hand side of the rotating record, far from the cartridge. But it would be best to mount the turntable such that its right-hand side is furthest from electric fields created by your other equipment. Which is good practice anyway.
I used this cartridge to break in a new pressing of Electric Light Orchestra’s Face the Music. I was surprised to find that the pressing was on a transparent vinyl, resulting in weird optical illusions as the disk span, and considerable difficulty in making out the track boundaries. I will confess that I’ve never really been much of a fan of ELO’s recording quality. But that said, from the creepy, opening moments of “Fire on High”, the first track of the record, it was clear that the Goldring E3 was delivering everything on the groove, including the weird phasing effects at the start. Stereo separation was simply excellent. This track has several sections of fast-paced acoustic guitar strumming doubled, one from the left channel and one from the right. Since each is so similar, it was impressive that each guitar was placed right in the extreme left or right position as appropriate. Each sounded like it was just coming from one speaker.
(Yes, yes, I know. Golding only claims a channel separation of “>20 dB at 1 kHz”, which seems like weak sauce indeed in a world where even the worst digital gear easily pulls off better than 80dB. But remember, 20dB of crosstalk means a leakage of only 10% of the signal from one channel to the other. Which is why stereo can still sound so wonderful on vinyl.)
A couple of final notes on Face the Music, while not a particularly bass-strong record, there were moments where there is indeed some deep stuff, and the cartridge brought it out cleanly and in balance. Likewise, the drum kit was etched cleanly regardless of the musical complexity around it.
Returning briefly to drums, I ran the Goldring E3 over the various trackability tests on my old Shure An Audio Obstacle Course LP, and it handled them all with complete equanimity. And that included the bass drum track, which it not only tracked, but from which it extracted all meaningful signal into the lowest frequencies. Bass performance is excellent with this cartridge.
From adequate recording quality on new (transparent) vinyl we go to sublime recording quality on almost forty-year-old (black) vinyl. Specifically, the first track on Side 2 of Weather Report’s 1982 self-titled album. Happily, the vinyl might be old, but I bought it new and have taken decent care of it. And the record version is a CBS Half-Speed Mastered, “Extended Range Recording”. These actually where excellent quality releases back in the day. “Dara Factor 1” features superbly captured drums, also featuring wide separation on the percussion, and a deep bass line to die for. The tambourines – I think that’s what they were – hovered in space. Or, I should say, lots of spaces with each of the little discs contained in them occupying its own space on the sound stage, with them spread across the full width of the stage. There was a nice touch of depth as well. I was impressed.
How about old, but not in my possession all these years. A couple of years ago I picked up second-hand what looks to be an original The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Rick Wakeman (the cover is gatefold and is has the fancy insert). It is in what is laughingly-called VG+ condition in the second-hand record world. Which means there are clicks and pops, but it’s visually clean. Fortunately, it remains largely listenable. It is Wakeman, so there’s a lot of synth, but also a full orchestra, rock band and chamber choir. The opening of Side 2 features the latter, delivered with remarkable smoothness and clarity. Male vocals can make for quite the mess, but not with the Goldring E3.
Indeed, I was surprised by this record – it has been a couple of years since I last played it. Again, the drums were picked up and produced with marked precision. And when the synth went deep, so did the cartridge and thus the rest of the system. This was despite a noticeable warp in the disc which even my record clamp couldn’t quite iron out, and a slightly off-centre hole. Back in those days LP quality control tended to be rather slapdash.
While looking for another album, I stumbled across a record I forgot I had: Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, on Deutsche Grammophon, played by the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Karl Böhm. I must have bought that back around the time that Deodato’s jazz fusion version was a pop hit, so around 1974 (and, yes, of course I still have the Deodato single from back then!)
So I tossed it on the turntable, expecting little. Instead, I was delighted to hear a wonderful opening, somewhat marred by clicks and ticks. Thus is vinyl. The sustained opening bass C note had way more body than I remember – pretty sure I haven’t played this since buying a CD rendition in the 1980s – and even better, there was a truly three-dimensional sound stage, with excellent instrument depth. The only disappointment were some quite harsh strings not long into the piece. Oddly, they improved as the side progressed. I seem to remember playing the opening a lot but not bothering to complete the side, so I think the string harshness was wear and tear.
The version of Stravinsky’s The Firebird I have is on Decca (which I far prefer over DG for classical recordings), played by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra led by Antal Dorati. This is a 1982 digital recording, although of course transferred to vinyl.
As it plays, I’m hearing a deep, deep bass drum, played in a laid-back way, and delivered with perfect control. I’m hearing again a deep sound stage, with instruments properly located. The strings are gradually building to crescendo, sounding sweet and not the slightest bit harsh. The chimes are beautiful, speaking to a perfectly in-phase wave front, while in the early playful section, the plucked strings delight in their placement and precision.
To finish off: Ry Cooder’s 1978 Jazz, on a new Speakers Corner pressing. This album could be described as a series of covers or a homage to the music of the early part of the 20th Century. And it was a recording made with great care. I’ve had the CD for twenty years so I was looking forward to hearing how it might sound on pristine vinyl. And it really was pristine.
My go-to track is “Nobody”, sung by a men’s quartet plus Cooder, and lightly accompanied by Cooder oh guitar. The recording, delivered by the Goldring E3 on the Thorens TD 1600 was absolutely, entirely and – dare I say it? – perfectly revealing. Whether that was every musical element or the residual noise in the vinyl itself. The voices were in perfect balance. The guitar sat slightly above the vocalists, slightly behind them, each picked note in a slightly different position to the others, while all five voices could be visualised, so clear was their aural integrity.
This kind of stuff demonstrates how wonderful vinyl reproduction can be.
The Goldring E3 worked very nicely in the Thorens TD 1600, although I doubt that is the place where it will typically end up being placed. (I’ve read one review of the Thorens where the turntable maker pre-installed a Goldring Ethos moving coil cartridge, which is roughly nine times the price of the E3). That said, the Thorens has a tonearm with a medium effective mass, not dissimilar to what you can expect on plenty of thousand-dollar-ish turntables. If they come without a cartridge, it would make a very solid, high-quality cartridge for fitting. And if it comes with an entry level cartridge, it would certainly make a solid upgrade.