Ortofon The company started manufacturing cartridges in 1948 when they introduced the A and C Mono moving coil pickups, the technology for these was borrowed from a cutter head that the company had introduced in 1946 to a great critical acclaim. The difference between those models was in the tracking weight, the A type was intended for consumers and had a 7 gram tracking weight while the C type was intended for professionals and had only a 3 gram tracking weight, these carts had for the time an almost unbelievable frequency response of around 20kHz, the B variant is enclosed in a case of the same material as the later SPU units but smaller and square, it is I believe the first pickup to have the ortofon tonarm connector, note that all these are marked Fonofilm on the bottom rather than Ortofon (sometimes the Ortofon name is on the top of the cart). The company introduced a MC stereo cutterhead in 1957 and followed this with the introduction of the "Stereo Pick-Up" or SPU designed by Robert Gudmandsen in 1958. Mono MC's from the company that were sold in the 60's and 70's are housed in a case with an ortofon tonarm connector similar to the older B units but slightly smaller (the same cases as the modern Classic A models but fully closed and not open at the bottom like the modern designs), I am not sure of the name but I don't think they were called SPU as the modern variants are, it had the stylus type written on the side of the case in white letters, the (DIAM.25 for pickups used with mono LP's and DIAM.63 for pickups for 78 playback). Note that modern SPU's hava a case made out of aluminium. The SPU line has an erroneous cult following and while the almost all models from the range are still available to this day there have been improvements in the materials used, the SPU GME is for instance very popular in Japan, often the older models are more sought after there because of the top end is less pronounced and considered to have a a "more musical" character, also SPU's are more popular with classical fanatics than with those listening to rock etc. Amongst their older standard mount MC models are the ST15-T, the T stands for a built in matching transformer, this makes the design rather heavy and better suited to broadcast arms and suchlike than for home hi-fi usage (I think there was a transformerless version of this pickup, the ST 15 but I am not sure on this so don't quote me on that), another variant of the design from the early 70's was the SL 15E a transformerless design with an elliptical stylus, this design later morphed into the MC-15 series including the super models, those are all nice sounding low/mid priced carts BTW. and while worthwhile sonically the current Super MkII version can be had for such a nice price that it's doubtful that it's worth going for a second hand model unless the stylus has some life left in it, the MC 20 and the MkII variant however were nice sounding units in their day and are a fine buy if they can be had cheaply. The X3 is a high output predecessor to the MC3
The MC 20 Mk-II technical specification are : Frequency response: 20Hz~40KHz (probably at 3db not sure about this). Output @ 5cm/s: 0,2mV @ 45°. Channel separation: 25dB @1KHz or better. Tracking force: 1,6 to 2 grams. FIM Distortion: less than 1% at recommended tracking force.
You can get a stylus for any old MM pickup from the company so if you see any of their older designs at a neat price they are quite usable, note that the current OM series products are called OM XX Super in some markets but just plain OM in others, this can be a bit confusing when purchasing older products from the company as the OM line from the company was replaced with the OM Super line recently, as for buying a older models of that lineage I would not go after anything less that a OM 20 second hand, the current versions can be had so cheap that it's doubtful that it's worth hunting down any of the lesser models. The same goes to a certain extent for the 500 series of pickups although the older 540 can in particular be a cracking good buy, but the current lineup is only available in standard mount configuration but the 510P, 520P, 530P and the 540P were p-mount variants of the original 500 line and might be worth investigating for those of you out there with P-mount arms and are looking for something better. Other MM pickups from the company include the FF 15 XE MkII from around 80 or so and the VMS3 MkII from a similar time frame, the TM 7U was a budget MM from the 80's that is common on the second hand market but not interesting unless you manage to get it NOS.
Note that the Ortofon company retips and repairs all of their products regardless of age and I have been very happy with the service, both with the quality and price, this is often an excellent introduction to the SPU cult, get an old broken down unit and have it retipped/repaired by the company, this can be quite a bit cheaper than a new one. The company also offers an exchange service whereby you get a new pickup at a discount when you trade in one of a same type.
Osawa Made a few MC pickups in the 80's including the OS-70L Mirage that featured a Boron cantilever and a Vital line contact stylus (tracking 1,5 to 2,1g), also had a MM line that included the MP-15 "moving permalloy" cart, it was also available with a integral headshell as the MP-15H, this cart may be an OEM Nagaoka MP15.
The MP-15 technical specification are : Frequency response: 20Hz~20KHz. Output @ 5cm/s: 4,5mV @ 1KHz. Channel separation: 24dB @1KHz or better. Channel balance: Less than +-1,5dB @ 1KHz. Tracking Force: 1,5 to 2 grams. Recommended Tracking Force: 1,8g. Dynamic Compliance: 8 x 10-6 cm/dyne. Static Compliance: 20 x 10-6 cm/dyne. Stylus Tip: Nude Elliptical 0,3 x 0,7 mil 0,15°. Load Capacitance: 100 pF. Impedance: 4300ohms. Cantilever: UT58 Taper. Load: 47Kohms. Magnetic Circuit: Laminated Super permalloy 0,1+0,2mmT. Cartridge Frame: Injection moulded PPS. Shield Case: Super permalloy shielding.Weight: 7,8 grams (MP15H : 18,7 grams).
Permax Made high quality mono pickups in the 50's, these were at the time considered the best of the Japanese models and were the accepted standard amongst many Asian broadcasters including NHK up until the introduction of the Audio Technica Moving Coil models in the early 60's (Although the model NHK used was either made especially for them or modified by them, it was not a 100% original/standard part).
Philips While some of their later models appear to have been OEM designs it appears that the company made at the least some of their pickups themselves including the 400 MM design from the early 70's.
Pierre Clement A high end MC pickup by the name of EB 25 has been seen, it's a model with an integrated headshell that is a cantilever less design actually manufactured for the company by Ikeda Sound Labs.
Pickering Has made a variety of pickups through the years, the most commonly seen unit is the NT/AC it's sometimes advertised as a DJ cartridge but in actuality it's just a budget cart with a spherical stylus and fairly high output which means it will work fine in such a situation, I belive there were members of the same family with elliptical stylii such as the NP/ATE and the NP/AME. The TL 3 was a more upmarket model from the 80's.
Radlett Audio Like so many of the UK's "Flat Earth" stores in the 1980's this company offered modified pickups, although in this case it was not the usual glued together Audio Technica MM carts but rather EMT-Franz pickups housed in a Nagaoka headshell so that they could be used with a normal Ortofon mount tonearm without an adaptor or modification. Apart from the use of the headshell and third party wiring (these came with a pickup wire that was not the usual EMT or Nagaoka Litz wire) there does not appear to have been any real modification done to the pickup generator itself, they were however fairly keenly priced, but they retailed for about the same or less than an EMT pickup and the headshell would have cost you separately. The examples we have seen were not branded Radlett and the most prominent marking was the Nagaoka name on the headshell.
Rega Sold the R100 cart from ca. 1980 to 85 when it was replaced by the RB100 that continued in production until 1988 when the company introduced the MM cartridges that they currently manufacture (those are actually made in-house), these were MM's that were designed by the company but manufactured in Japan. Stylii is only usually seen sold for the R100 but should also fit the RB100.
RFT Apart from the RFT line of pickups made by sundry VEB's in DDR they sold MM models that appear to have been made by Tesla including the MS25 SD.
Royal These were OEMShure Inc. pickups sold under this name to turntable manufacturers, the RM91DE was for instance the Shure M91DE.
SAE Sold a moving coil pickup known simply as the Moving Coil Cartridge or popularily as the SAE Cart, it was manufactured and designed for them by a Japanese OEM in the late 70's, erly 80's.
Sansui Sold a line of low/mid range MC pickups in the 70's (and 60's ?) such as the SR-4040KT, but I have not been able to find any info on them.
Satin Had a range of MC pickups like the M117G and the M18E in the 80's, these were fairly keenly priced and are not difficult to find, you could also get a damper for the pickup (the SR-60 if I remember it correctly), useful this for difficult tonearms.
Shelter The company replaced the original 501 with the current MkII model recently (2001 or so), the specifications are very similar to the current model.
Shure Inc. The company introduced it's first crystal carts in the 30's and was one of the major manufacturer of such in the 50's with models such as the W26B although the most famous of those was the ML44 introduced in 1955 and variations of which where sold well into the 70's. Shure made their first MM cartridge in 1957 in the form of the mono M1 Studio Dynetic Cartridge but that model was only produced by special order and is very rare, a stereo version of that cartride was introduced in 1958 and was called the M3D and was the company's high end pickup unthil the V15 was introduced and was manufactured unthil the late 60's and is resonably common on the second hand market if a bit uninteresting soundwise. Shure introduced the classic V15 in 1964, that cart is named after it's VTA of 15° and a refinement of that design was manufactured unthil late 2004, it featured a biradial elliptical stylus (0,0002x0,0009) and was replaced with the V15 Type II in 1966, main improvements were in trackability according to the Shure website. The V15 Type II Improved was introduced in 1970 and had a slightly improved element and a better stylus, the V15 Type III was introduced in 1974 and it had a new pole piece and that amongst with other improvements meant that it had a 25% less effective mass than the Type II, you could also get it in a more expensive version called V15-IIIHE with an Hyper elliptical stylus. The V15 Type IV was introduced in 1978 and it has a better stylus than the previous model (an hyper elliptical as the IIIHE had), it's also the first in the line that has the "Dynamic Stabilizer" damper that we have come to associate with classic V15's, some arly versions of this model also came pre mounted on a headshell. The V15 Type V version had a Beryllium cantilever and a differently cut stylus, the year after that the company introduced a more upmarket version called V15 Type V-MR that was identical to the V but featured a Micro-Ridge line contact stylus. The only other model from the company that we can recall that had any high end pretensions was the Ultra 400, dead expensive at the time (80's ?) and came in a huge & lovely wooden box that you would rather associate with Koetsu than Shure. Alas the last version of the V15 was the V15VxMR that was introduced in 1997 and it had an improved magnetic generator that was introduced partly in responce to lackluster reviews that the V-MR got in regards to it's sound quality but it should be noted that the V15 has something of a cult following and many of those "cultists" maintain that the VxMR model is actually not as good as their previous models such as the Type V or Type V-MR, Consumer Review has reviewed that model, the V15 was taken off the market in 2004 and the basic technical specifications for most of the V15 models can be found below.
In 2003/4 the Shure company deleted a most of their consumer/hi-fi models of pickups including the M94E which was in between the Shure M97xE and Shure M92E models pricewise and was considered something of a budget audiophile classic in the USA, it was made in both T4P and standard mount variants, and at a slightly higher price as the M94LT but that was the P-mount variant with an bundled standard mount adaptor, a review of the M94E model from 2000 is avilable from TNT here. further down you'll find the shperical stylii equiped M 44 GX and M 44-7X along with their buget models the M 70 bX and M 92 E, their cheapest model is the M 75-6 and you can get that model as the M 75-3 with a stylus for the playback of 78'rpm records and the improved M 77-S also with a 78 stylus.
Other models from the company that can be interesting in a modern system include the M91E this model was for years the next model below the V15 price wise and was considered to be excellent bang for the buck, the later M91ED model was identical except that the stylus was a nude elliptical. Has through the years made a massive range of MM pickups that were typically shipped with turntables or offered as replacement units, including the 3X and one of the predecessors to the current M7x line was the M-73PE (PE=Perfect Elliptical) while it's audio specification lame (separation only 20db etc) the output was a whopping 10,5 volt so if you find one just get hold of a spherical stylus for it and you will have a great DJ pickup, there were variations for the M7x line made for use with specific turntable arms, the M75 D was for instance specifically made for DUAL to mate perfectly with their arms, it had a slightly different mass and compilance characteristics than the normal M75 model. Amongst the the P-mount models were the DT-15P and the earlier M-111HE that had a hyper elliptical stylus and was one of the more expensive T4P pickups of their day. Noticeably Shure are the only company apart from Ortofon that has made and sold standalone pickup analysers, some of them quite good (although not as good as the Digital Ortofon models) but note that you will need the test records that came with it for a proper operation they are more or less worthless without them.
The V15 Type II technical specification are : Frequency response: 20Hz~25KHz. Output @ 5cm/s: 3,5mV @ 1KHz. Channel separation: 25dB @1KHz or better. 17dB or better @ 500~10KHz. Channel balance: Less than +-2dB @ 1KHz. Tracking Force: 0,75 to 1,5 grams. Stylus Tip: Biradial Elliptical 0,002 x 0,007. Load Capacitance: 100 pF. DC Resistance: 630ohms. Load: 47Kohms. Inductance: 720mH. Weight: 6,8 grams.
The M94E and M94LT technical specification are : Generator Type : Moving Magnet. Mount : Standard or T4P (M94E) or Both (M94LT) Magnet :Frequency response : 10Hz~80KHz. Output @ 5cm/s : 0,24mV @ 1KHz. Channel separation : 30dB @ 1KHz or better. Channel balance : Less than +-0,5dB @ 1KHz. Load capacitance : 100 pF. DC Resistance : 630ohms. Internal impedance : . Recommended load : . Inductance: 720mH. Compliance : . Tracking force : 1,7 to 2,5 grams. Recommended tracking force : 2 grams. Trackability :VTA : 22°. Recommended effective tonearm mass : Distance from top to record :Stylus tip : Polished Biradial Elliptical natural gemstone @ 0,4 x 0,7 mil (side x front). Equivalent stylus tip mass : . Cantilever : Type I, Heat treated aluminium alloy, 30 mil diameter, 1 mil wall thickness . Weight : grams. Replacement stylus part #Original RRP : .
Signet Effectively a division of Audio Technica, contact them or a local rep of thiers for replacement stylii, or any retipper for replacing they styli or cantilever on their MC designs.
Sonotone This company developed the ceramic pickup from a cheap alternative to a reasonable more or less by itself, this page here is done by an ex staffer and has info on many of the carts plus a short history. The company was bought by Astatic in the late 60's and Canadian Astatic still supply some of their models to this day compleatly unchanged.
SPJ This company is indeed still selling the SPJ Ebony but is should be noted that in 2005/6 the specifications changed a bit when Benz Micro introduced a new generation of generator called Mk3, older Ebony moving coil design, it's actually manufactured for them by and is based upon the Benz Micro Ruby 2 but is housed in African ebony wood which has better resonance characteristics than metals or plastics, has a slightly higher output and is heavier at 10.7 grams.
Stax The company holds out a nice history page that has technical info on some of their older products including the mono pickups.
Supex The SD-900 line is the most famous line of Japanese MC pickups ever manufactured, this is due to their fairly reasonable price when originally released along with a performance more in line with more expencive models. SD-909SD-909 MkII and the SD-909 Gold
The SD-900 Super technical specification are : Frequency response: 15Hz~50KHz +-3dB. Output @ 3,54cm/s: 0,20mV @ 1KHz. Compliance: 12x10-6 cm/dyne. Channel separation: 27dB @ 1KHz or better. Channel balance: Less than -0,5dB @ 1KHz. Tracking force : 1,5 to 2 grams. Tracking angle : 20°.Impedance : 3,5 ohms. Weight : 9 grams.
The SD-909 technical specification are : Frequency response: 10Hz~50KHz. Output @ 3,54cm/s: 0,20mV @ 1KHz. Compliance: 9x10-6 cm/dyne. Channel separation: 27dB @ 1KHz or better. Channel balance: Less than -0,5dB @ 1KHz. Recommended tracking force : 1,8 grams. Impedance : 2 ohms. Weight : 10,5 grams.