p-mount cartridges

A resource for p-mount phono cartridge users


Cartridge mounts

  1. What is a p-mount cartridge?

    P-mount cartridges "plug" into the end of tone arms designed to take them. Technics devised this way of mounting cartridges to eliminate the task of properly setting up a conventional cartridge. All p-mounts weigh 6 grams (+ or - a fraction) and are designed with the same geometry between the mount and the stylus. They also all play at a nominal 1.25gm playing weight. Therefore no adjustment is needed for cartridge balance, azimiuth, vertical tracking angle, overhang and alignment, or playing weight. The exact standard for these cartridges is called T4P - which defines not only the p-mount connector, but also the physical characterstics.

    (Diagram: Audio-Technica)

    Though a Technics invention many cartridge manufacturers produced their own p-mount variants of their existing designs in the early 1980s. It was unfortunate that this development, and the corresponding production of first class direct-drive turntables from the major Japanese manufacturers was stopped by the arrival of the compact disc. In the 1980s some of the very best cartridges were available with the p-mount, but today, the choice of new p-mount cartridges is very limited. Those seeking very high sound quality can buy third party styli made to extremely high standards that fit current or old stock cartridge bodies.

  2. Can I use a p-mount in a standard tone arm?

    Yes. Half-inch mounting adaptors are available, and manufacturers such as Audio-Technica, Ortofon, Shure and Stanton sometimes include them with the p-mount cartridge. The adaptor is fixed to the tone arm head shell, and the p-mount plugged into the adaptor. Once an adaptor with a cartridge has been properly aligned within the headshell, other p-mount cartridges can be plugged into the adaptor without needing alignment, as all p-mounts follow the same geometry. P-mounts sold with an adaptor are often referred to as having a "universal" fitting.

    (Diagram: Audio-Technica)

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Demo file information

  1. What kind of files are available?

    The file format used is FLAC - which is a lossless codec, allowing the original PCM WAV file to be reconstituted on playback. For downloading, a FLAC file offers a useful size saving over uncompressed WAV. Unlike mp3, FLAC files do not discard any data; they can be considered Zip files for music. The files here are recorded at 48Khz/24bit.

  2. I've downloaded a file - what can I do with it?

    These files are provided for the sole purpose of evaluating the phono cartridge that was used for the recording. They should not be kept after your evaluation, nor distributed. Copyright remains the property of the original content owner - and they retain the right to request a files removal from this site.

  3. What equipment was used to record these files?

    The cartridges were plugged into the tone arm of a Technics SL-QL1 linear tracking quartz-controlled direct drive turntable with a number of modifications to improve its performance. These included an upgraded bearing, external power supply, copper-bonded platter, better feet for improved isoloation and additional damping in the lid.

    The phono amps used are a Graham Slee Era Gold V  and a Graham Slee Reflex M. These fed directly into an M-Audio Transit USB ADC/DAC, plugged into a Mac Mini running the Twisted Wave wave editor.

  4. Why use a linear tracking direct drive turntable?

    The majority of p-mount turntables produced had linear tracking arms. These move tangenitally across the record in a straight line in the same manner as the cutting lathe that produced the LP in the first instance.

    The linear mechanism most often used is a motor and pulley arrangement. When the arm deviates by small amount from being parallel to the record grove the motor corrects the tonearm position. After every minute correction the tone arm is correctly aligned. This compares with a pivoted tone arm which transcibes an arc across the record, and is only perfectly aligned (given a correct setup) in two places across that arc. Also, linear arms can produce better results on programme material near the end of an LP side where the curvature of the groove is greatest, and also where the velocity of the groove under the stylus is slowest - the worst place for a big orchestral finale!

    A direct drive turntable was used to get as much speed stability possible with a p-mount deck. The Japanese manufacturers had developed these drives in the 1980s to very high levels of performance. It's telling that the only Technics turntable to remain production until 2010 was the direct drive SL-1200, much loved by DJs for its performance and build quality, and now sought after by audiophiles as a cost effective way of getting the benefits of direct drive in a highly upgradeable package.

    You will find p-mount pivoted tone arms in some vintage models of Japanese direct drive and belt drive turntables.

    There is no turntable currently made that accepts p-mount cartridges plugging directly into the tonearm.

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