Headphones, most would say if we mention Grado. But watchmaker Joseph Grado of Brooklyn, NY, actually started with handmade cartridges. Which he made at home and resold. In 1959, Grado had been making pickups for six years, when the first Moving Coil version in stereo was patented.
The rest is history as they say, and Grado Gold 1 is one in a long line of fine cartridges from the south side of Brooklyn. It is among the most affordable from Grado, and of the Moving Iron type, which, like the Moving Coil, has low moving mass, but the starting voltage of the Moving Magnet principle.
Here it means 5 mV that can be used on all MM inputs without a separate phono stage. The 5.5 gram light cartridge also has a detachable pin, which can be easily replaced when worn out.
The Grado cartridge is one of the few that can also be delivered with a P-socket, which is used on older Technics players, among other things. Then you do not have to mount, just push the pickup gently into place.
This has no threads, and the screws must be mounted with screws and nuts. This can be done without having to remove the pin guard.
The pin pressure should be 1.5 grams low and the Grado cartridge thrives well in most tone arms that do not have too high a mass. In practice, this means that everything from Rega, Thorens, Dual, Pro-Ject or Technics, will not present any problems.
What the Grado cartridge lacks in richness of detail and finesse, it makes up for in tone, warmth and fullness. For this is a cartridge that definitely does not sound either slim or shrill.
It fits perfectly with rock and jazz, for example, but can play classical if you prefer. But then you do not get the same resolution as e.g. Audio-Technica or Denon delivers, but you get a beautiful sound image with rich sound from top to bottom.
On Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy, you feel the bass rhythms on your body. Especially on the opening track Political World, where the bass really takes hold. But the guitar chords sneak back a bit in the soundscape. The vocal reproduction at Radka Toneff’s Fairytales is beautiful. Warm, flattering and full of depth, but the piano does not sound quite as free and open as you might want.
The Grado cartridge is especially suitable for correcting the sound from a player who sounds shallow in the bass, and thrives like the plum in the egg on rhythmic music.
Grado Gold 1 does not bring out all the nuances of classical music, but it sounds very rich and sounds great on most of the music. It is not as fast to the bone and does not let through as much detail as other cartridges, but convincing bass dynamics, warm and beautiful sound, as well as a large sound image are its main strengths. A clear upgrade of the sound, especially for those with the most pop, rock and maybe a little jazz in the collection.