You Would Pay $99 For This Cartridge

The cartridge featured "blind" in the recent post titled "How Much Would You Pay for This Cartridge?" pictured above is "The Vessel" A3SE, which sells for $99.00.

The Vessel A3SE is a moving magnet design that features a removable stylus assembly. Here are the specs for this super-sweet sounding cartridge:

- Type: Moving Magnet
- Frequency range: 20-25,000 Hz
- Output voltage @ 1kHz: 3.0 mV
- Channel balance @ 1kHz: <1.5dB
- Channel separation @ 1kHz: 22dB
- Dynamic compliance (100Hz): 8 × 10-6 cm/dyne
- Tracking ability at 2.0g : 60 µm
- Cantilever: Special type aluminum pipe
- Stylus type: Super elliptical
- Stylus tip radius: 7.6µm × 15.5µm
- Tracking force: 2.0 g
- Internal impedance @ 1kHz: 670 ohms
- Internal inductance: 270 mH
- Recommended load resistance: 47 kOhm
- Recommended load capacitance: 100-300pF
- Cartridge color, body/stylus: Black/Gold/Sky Blue
- Weight: 6.0 g
- Mounting hardware included: 4 × Screws, 2 × Nuts
- Stylus replacement: A3SE stylus

LPGear sells it. I don't know who else does. There are other more costly variants including the top of the line $679 B3SS, which features a boron cantilever and a nude Shibata stylus.

This one for $99 sounds quite sweet and pleasant. Yes, not the full extension on top, but mighty pleasant for $100. I wonder how it compares to the Audio Technical's AT95E, which is even less costly. I don't have one here to compare.

Lazer's picture

Never again giving a guess by just listening to my iPad speakers. It’s embarrassing:).

WilliamC's picture

It's one of my favorite MM cartridges. Like the color scheme, reminds me of SoundSmith but at a cheaper price.

Torah Torah Torah's picture

Its pricing does not put a strain on the finances unlike the SoundSmith. This is also one of my favourite MM carts, it seems to synergise well with my Technics.

alucas's picture

like to know how it compares to the at95e, because i use them a lot.
good balanced sound for a budget cartridge.

alucas's picture

i use the 95e a lot and i hate any vocal sibilance. this has too much of it. with the 95e i hear it maybe 1 out of 200lps, max. i'm. sure mikey set this up fine but it drives me crazy. i also have the stanton 681eee and that really sucks with the vocal sibilance.
thanks mike for this test!

DietChapstick's picture

Not sure what stylus you are using on the Stanton but something is wrong. Either set up is wrong, it's worn out, or you got a cheap generic from eBay.

alucas's picture

I started in 1976 and thay sounded great! This new on was a stanton from ebay but I was reading that the tips used to be made in NY and now it's Florida or somewhere else and they suck. People try to look for the old stock. I should do another internet search to find where to buy a new "good" stylus.

DietChapstick's picture

Stanton doesn't make carts anymore. Anything they sell now is old stock or rebranded OEM from someone else. Before they stopped making carts and styli, they gradually cheapened the product. The nude stereohedron styli were replaced with cheaper bonded ellipticals.

For the 680/681, the best aftermarket options are from Jico in Japan. They have ellipticals and Shibatas which are quite good, but they are bonded, even the Shibata. I use the Shibata with the Pickering style plastic mount and run it at ~2g with no brush. To get a high performance nude stylus on the Stanton these days, your best bet is to contact a specialty retipper and see what they can do. This will be the next step for my Stanton, and I'll probably go with a nude line contact stylus of some type. It's not cheap, but will restore the cartridge to top-tier performance.

alucas's picture

thanks for the info and that is what i did read some time ago. you saved me a lot of re-reading! when i tossed my cds and brought out my TT, i tossed my stanton out to get a new one. boy, was that dumb! almost like when i sold all my nm lps for a dollar each???400 of them, first pressings on 90% of them. thanks for the info, i'll start planning ahead.

Bob Henneberger's picture

i have problems with the stanton 681eee too ever since the stopped making styli the generics all suck even the jico elliptical,,, i have not tried the sas or He ,but all the generic elipticals included the jico leave alot to be desired,,,,, the only way i got my stanton back was to have it retipped with a nude eliptical from some guy on ebay...

rwwear's picture

Sounds like the VTA needs lowering on your tonearm alucas.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I said it would cost around $300, I liked the overall sound, but as I said the voice just didn't do it for me. Was this because I have been listening to moving coil cartridges for too long.

It is an absolute steal at the price!

James, Dublin, Ireland

Torah Torah Torah's picture

I have this cart on my KAB modified SL1200 M5G and it sounds amazing for a $99. In fact, I no longer listen to my AT-OC9ML/II. I run this through a Schitt Mani with a Swagman PSU. I'm keen to try the model with the ruby cantilever and microcline stylus who some claim beats out a 2M Black.

Torah Torah Torah's picture

I have both carts, including a hyperelliptical Jico stylus for the AT95... The Vessel sounds better than the stock AT95E and with the AT95E Jico hyperelliptical in my opinion.

alucas's picture

thanks for the vessel info, i will keep it on my try out list!

OldschoolE's picture

In a New York minute! I do wonder how this compares to the Ortofon 2M Red? I don't have a 2M Red, so I can't compare it myself.

Steelhead's picture

Absolutely I would love to see a comparison between the two just for general knowledge.

Also the overwhelming majority of record buyers could actually afford one or maybe both, but would like to see how Mikey compares the two as he has heard how many cartridges?????????

Not in the market and more of a coil guy but would like to see how they compete.

alucas's picture

i would love to read the review on those two!

Jim Tavegia's picture

It may be the new replacement for the discontinued Shure M97, Shure should have kept making. If they could keep making the SM58 mic, why not the M97? It was always a great $100 cart.

A great value to my ears.

mrl1957's picture

...decent MMs on the cheap. I'm still using (Mikey will probably cringe when he reads this) Radio Shack's early 1980s version of the Shure M75ED type 2 (R1000EDT), with a NOS "Genuine" Shure RS8T stylus (5 x 18 um elliptical). It sold for about $40 back then. Even at a 1 gram tracking force it will play entirely through Telarc's DG 10041 without getting bounced. I'm hoping Shure will reconsider phono cartridge production if vinyl's resurgence keeps going.

Rudy's picture

I realize Shure is raking in money from their professional audio line and personal audio these days, but with vinyl going like gangbusters, a lot of us still don't understand why they bailed on the phono cartridge market. (Strangely, I had this same discussion with the Audio Technica rep at AXPONA.)

The time is ripe to introduce a new line of cartridges, getting rid of most of the less expensive clutter and paring it down to a handful of essential models at specific price points. And to lead the way, a new V15 Type VI that like its predecessor, would out-track anything else out there. There was briefly the Ultra 500 that was like an upscale V15 Type V, and I could see that happening as an Ultra 600 (hand-picked Type VI stylus assembly, premium coil windings, optimal body material, etc.). But given corporate bean counter mentalities, I doubt this will ever happen...

DietChapstick's picture

I had this cartridge, then sold it. At the price point, I liked it compared to other options on the market. For a bit more money, there are better options than moving up the Vessel line IMHO.

Torah Torah Torah's picture

I'm interested in your recommendations of better carts rather than moving up the Vessel line.

DietChapstick's picture

Impossible to recommend anything without knowing specifics about tonearm effective mass, cable capacitance, and phono preamp specs. Not to mention budget.

Slammintone's picture

But it was just a guess. . It’s a difficult task when a. theres nothing glaringly wrong with the sound and b. when the music played is unfamiliar to me.
The better audio products tend to draw me in and make the playback of just about any music interesting enough for me to not be so selective of what I’m listening to. This cartridge just didn’t sound very engaging to me on the recording Michael played but is wasn’t because it did anything wrong.

Tony C's picture

Alucas, try V_M Audio Enthusiasts, website: thevoiceofmusic. I bought a stylus for my Stanton 981 and it is a very good replacement. They didn't have the original Shibata(doesn't seem anybody does) but had an elliptical replacement. Sounds very good and reasonably priced. Excellent service.

Jeroen's picture

But AT just decommissioned the old At95e line. And introduced the new VM95xx line where you can choose from a cheap carbon/conical to mono, EB, NE, to ML all the way to Shibata. Maybe not the fancy cantilever but why would I do that on a bottom budget motor?
It's good to see that there are new developments and competition though. It's good to have a choice.
On a more critical note, I wonder how this specifies as 'super' elliptical with its 1:2 ratio. AT uses 0.3x0.7 this is 0.7x1.4. Is that like what Americans always brag about being 'bigger, better, supersized'? Twice the radii means 8 times the mass and would only indicate super sluggish instead of super elliptical.

Bob Henneberger's picture

i like the 2m red the mp110 the m91ed better. to me it sounds like a 100 $ cart

Audiolad's picture

For $99 it is competitive (I owned it). However, within months I upgraded to the Vivid Line stylus A3SV. It change from an acceptable cartridge to a desired cartridge. Detail, midrange, and bass are all much better.