Kaplan's Korner

October 26, 2016

Mono Rocks, with a Mono Cartridge



Mondo Mono

If you want to talk about The Rolling Stones in Mono you have to start by recognizing what an amazing air guitarist I am. To play air guitar at my level requires an understanding of the music that comes from hours of listening. And I just don’t play air guitar at home in my lonely teenage room. No sir. I also play air bass, keyboards, drums, horns, reeds, cymbal, triangles and sousaphone. I especially excel at imitating Keith Richards way of playing rhythm guitar like it’s a lead guitar. In my lonely teenage room.

In 1974 I simultaneously air played the Bass, Lead Guitar, Drums, Harmonica and Keyboards as well as Mary Clayton’s solo on the Rolling Stones Gimmie Shelter while piloting a 1968 VW van at 48 miles an hour which was as fast as it would go uphill, steering with my knees. While being totally illegal and dangerous it shows that I really know Gimmie Shelter. Or so I thought. You see, I was listening to Album-Oriented FM Rock Radio, which was in fabulous STEREO. Who knew that a lot of the stereo mixes were the second mix and that the mono mix was the one everyone including the artist cared the most about?

So yes, as someone just opening up the box and listening to the new The Rolling Stones in Mono box, my mind was slowly blown away. I expected to love the early stuff in mono but Beggars Banquet and Gimme Shelter are stunning in mono. As “Live With Me” opens with that bass line, I find myself jumping out of my shoes and slamming that
bass line.

My stereo air guitar playing is much more reserved and technical where my mono air guitar is much more punk. I get down on the floor on my back spinning around like a complete idiot.

Ortofon agreed to send two mono cartridges for review, which I played with The Rolling Stones Mono Box Set. The first was the Ortofon 2M Mono (retail $356 is the Moving Magnet Mono cousin to the 2M series of outstanding Ortofon moving magnet cartridges. And the second was Quintet Mono from the Quintet series of Moving Coil Cartridges. (Retail $524)

I’ve spent the last many weeks listening to mono records with mono cartridges through the PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter with the mono switch and through the Zesto Audio Andros 1.2 phono stage and phono stage on the Music Reference RM-5 Mark IV preamplifier, neither of which have a mono switch.

Here’s my verdict. You want to listen to a mono record with a mono cartridge. Having a mono switch is better still, but secondary in terms of getting the most out of mono records. You’re going to have to check with a higher power (Michael Fremer’s for the technical reasons but I have noticed that mono carts sound more natural. It’s easier to hear individual instruments. With the Quintet Mono from Ortofon, a drumstick on the side of a drum sounds deeper than a drumstick on the rim of the drum, which sounds nothing like a cowbell!


What I’m saying here is The Rolling Stones in Mono Box set is stunning. The packaging is awesome and the sound is emotional. There is more of a visceral connection. Mono magnifies my Sympathy for the Devil. So watch out! Many thanks to Bob Merlis and ABKCO for hipping us to this truly landmark box set.

Turns out I’ve got a ton of mono records on the shelves here at RCN World HQ so we are going to have more on the Ortofon Quintet 2M Mono Cartridges in our next installment.

Doctor I’m filthy

The Record Doctor is a $199 vacuum-type record-cleaning machine. Did you hear me? I said $199 for a vacuum record-cleaning machine. It is a Nitty Gritty killer as it uses a similar system of supporting the record by the label without a full platter. But for five or six hundred less then the Nitty Gritty. Yes it’s pretty darn loud and your records get pretty darn clean. Perfect for Xmas.

But getting cleaner


The GrooveWasher record cleaning brush and solution is the preferred brush right before playback. The difference between GrooveWasher and other brushes is the G2 Fluid on the brush picks up micro dust and kills static better. Records look clean and shiny. More Xmas perfection. Groovewasher.comgroovewasher




Associated Auditioning Equipment

• GEM Dandy PolyTable with Jelco 750D tone arm.
• Vintage AR THE Turntable
• Vintage Luxman 441 Turntable with SME M2-9 tone arm
• Zesto Audio Andros 1.2 Phono Stage
• PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter
• Music Reference RM-5 Mark1V Preamplifier
• BGW System model 250D solid-state power amplifier.
• Rogue Audio Chronos Magnum Integrated Amp
• PSB Imagine T2 speakers
• Theil 2.3 Speakers


One Comment

  1. R McNulty

    Just to be clear: “Live With Me” was not mixed for mono — it is a fold-down of the stereo master. The only song on Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed that was truly mixed to mono is “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *