Audio-Technica AT150SA Review 66


“One of Hi-Fi’s best kept secrets.” That was how I myself described the Audio-Technica AT150MLX cartridge in its 2015 review, praising its ability to track even the toughest vinyl, and its sound that “can rival a very very good digital front end”. When I wrote that review, I was unaware that less than a year later it would be pulled from the market. Its replacement comes in the form of Audio-Technica’s new flagship moving magnet cartridge, the AT150SA. A cartridge that has split opinion, thanks to the replacement of the microline stylus that made the previous model so desirable with a theoretically inferior Shibata diamond.

Originally invented by Norio Shibata of JVC, the Shibata stylus was designed to track the high frequency (40kHz+) content of the CD-4 quadraphonic records without causing undue groove wear. Like all line contact styli, the Shibata stylus maximises contact with the groove walls which in turn means less surface pressure and thus less groove wear. The more technologically advanced MicroLine or MicroRidge styli are laser cut and comprise a pronounced ridge at their tip. This lessens inner groove distortion and increases the life of the stylus tip, as the curvature radius of the scanning surface of the tip is worn such that it remains consistent, extending the life of the tip and also reducing groove wear.

I myself was sceptical. Viewing the cartridge as an exercise in cost-cutting at the expense of the consumer, and wishing I’d done so before the inevitable price hike that occurs when stock levels of any desirable product are nearing depletion, I quickly purchased one of the last remaining AT150MLX models available in the UK. Typically however that cartridge had a manufacturing defect (it happens to the best of them), and by the time the cartridge had been through the check / refund process the MLX cartridge had all but disappeared from the UK market, leaving only used examples and Japanese imports, none of which I was particularly interested in chancing.

Needing a cartridge for a newly purchased Technics 1210, I decided to purchase a new AT150SA to see how the 2 models compare and whether my scepticism was warranted. On the surface at least, the 2 cartridges are fairly similar, sharing the same body style and dual magnet paratoroidal signal generator. Even the stylus assembly looks identical, complete with the flip-down stylus cover that received my approval on the previous model. However where the at150MLX featured a microline stylus mounted to a gold-plated boron cantilever, the AT150SA sports a Shibata profile diamond mounted to a tapered aluminium cantilever.

Even the packaging has been carried over from the previous model. The cartridge is housed in a plastic display case, mounted to a device that also serves as an overhang gauge. In a separate compartment, a bag of accessories includes a small flathead screwdriver, 4 screws of both 5mm and 8mm lengths, 2 nuts, 2 washers and a stylus brush. You also get a set of the same PCOCC headshell wires as supplied with the previous model, along with some documentation.

Specs wise, the frequency response is rated at 20-25000Hz. Channel separation is rated at 30 dB (1kHz) balanced to within 1dB, and the cartridge outputs 4MV at 1kHz, 5cm/sec. Recommended loading is 47K ohms at 100-200PF capacitance.

As with all products the pricing can vary. Introduced at £299.95, the AT150SA can at the time of this writing be had for as little as £264. The previous MLX could be had for as low as £215 before being discontinued,. I don’t see the 150SA dropping below £250 any time soon, but with retail competition being what it is who can say. It’s priced competitively, below rivals such as Ortofon’s 2M black which retails for almost twice the price.

The AT150SA was mounted to a standard 7 gram Technics headshell, and then to the stock tonearm of a Technics SL-1210 MK2. The included PCOCC wires were used, and the cartridge aligned to the Technics standard alignment. Unlike other alignments, the Technics is designed to optimise the tracking angle for minimal distortion at the inner grooves of the record, which are the most difficult to track and thus are where the distortion is most prevalent. Other alignments aim to equalise the distortion across the surface of the record. The Technics alignment was chosen simply because it is the alignment for which the arm was designed, and in reality the audible difference between alignments isn’t significant providing the null points (the 2 points on the record where there will be zero tracking error) are correctly chosen.

I opted to ignore the overhang gauge and used a custom alignment protractor, and would suggest you do too. With its Shibata stylus, the AT150SA requires careful setup and fine tuning of all parameters, including alignment, vertical tracking force (VTF) and, to some extent, vertical tracking angle (VTA). Though I don’t believe the latter to be as important as many would have you believe, achieving a rearward arm height that results in the arm being parallel to the record will optimise the vertical position of the stylus within the record groove.

As for the vertical tracking force, Audio-Technica recommend a range between 1-1.8 grams, with 1.4 being the standard value. The AT150MLX, for which no standard tracking force was specified, tracked best at 1.6 grams. Here the recommended 1.4 grams was found to provide optimal results. Anti-skate compensation was set to around 1.3 grams, though of course both the tracking force and anti-skate compensation settings will differ slightly depending on the turntable and arm used.

While the AT150MLX was without doubt an incredible cartridge, it wasn’t particularly adept at portraying a large stereo image, nor did it flatter poor recordings or poor pressings. The AT150SA is a cut above its predecessor in both areas. That Shibata diamond gives it a mid range presence that the 150MLX was lacking, resulting in a far more coherent and musical sound with excellent imaging. Sound stages are truly magnificent extending into a seemingly infinite space around the speakers.

It’s less revealing of the deficiencies in poor pressings too, though its ability to track louder pressings capable of sending many cartridges into fits of distortion are equal to that of the 150MLX, if not a little better. It does an admirable job of tracking well worn albums, a truly ruined (though cleaned) copy of Bat Out of Hell was perfectly listenable, the soft crackle of a well loved vinyl only serving to add to the recording where on many cartridges it would render the sound unpleasant. And that little bump in the mid range doesn’t come at the expense of detail. The 150SA unearths a lot of information from the grooves of the record, and presents them in a coherent yet musical fashion that is non fatiguing and a joy to listen too for hours on end.

As it turns out, my scepticism was thoroughly unfounded as the AT150SA is a worthy successor to the long running and highly revered AT150MLX. While it certainly may be true that cutting a Shibata diamond is less costly than cutting the microline tip of the previous model, I don’t personally feel that the AT150SA was a cost-cutting exercise on the part of Audio-Technica. Rather it is a cartridge that builds upon the strengths of the AT150MLX, taming its sound that is, in comparison, somewhat cold and clinical.

If you’ve been holding out, waiting to see whether the 150SA attains the awards and commendations of its predecessor, look no further. If you’re desperately searching the market in an attempt to uncover an AT150MLX, I’d suggest you simply opt for the AT150SA instead. The AT150SA may just be one of, if not the best moving magnet cartridges on the market. Highly recommended.


About Ashley

I founded Audio Appraisal a few years ago and continue to regularly update it with fresh content. An avid vinyl collector and coffee addict, I can often be found at a workbench tinkering with a faulty electronic device, tweaking a turntable to extract the last bit of detail from those tiny grooves in the plastic stuff, or relaxing in front of the hi-fi with a good album. A musician, occasional producer and sound engineer, other hobbies include software programming, web development, long walks and occasional DIY. Follow @ashleycox2

Share Your Thoughts

66 thoughts on “Audio-Technica AT150SA Review

  • WILSON BROUSSARD

    So i’ve been using my AT150 SAwith good results on my dual 510 table for a couple of years. I am considering changing tables and the tables I have been looking at probably are not good matches and I’m asking a question that I may know the answer to. But here goes. Are the tonearms on the 70s table such as the pioneers like the PL 518 and Marantz 6300 way too heavy for the compliance of the 150 SA ? Also considering a dual 5000 and a Denon 59L?
    Regards,
    Tony Broussard

    • Ashley Post author

      The 518 and 6300 are not at all a good match. The 59L and Dual 5000 should work well however, providing they’re in good condition. Be mindful that the arms of vintage ‘tables can develop loose or worn bearings or drifting bias calibration with age, and sometimes degradation of the internal wiring. The AT150SA is good enough to reveal those flaws. If it were me I’d have the 59L if you can find one.

      • WILSON BROUSSARD

        Thanks Ashley,

        So what I did find was a great condition Denon DP 1200. It sounds better than my Dual 510 noticeably with the 150 but when Checking things out with a cast record it seems the tonearm resonates at six or seven hurts which apparently is not ideal. I guess not the greatest match. Any thoughts on a cartridge that would be a much better match? I have a project phono box with all the changeable capacitance/output etc. settingsfor MM or MC. At the moment I’m trying to find a lighter headshell to reduce the mass of the tonearm but I don’t think it’s going to matter that much.

        • WILSON BROUSSARD

          Sorry, I should’ve proofed the text before sending. A test record this is what I meant to type, not cast record. Also Htz instead of hurts.

        • Ashley Post author

          I have no direct experience with the DP-1200. Would you happen to know the effective mass of the arm and the weight of the headshell? A bit of searching doesn’t come up with a definitive answer, but perhaps you’ve had better luck finding the spec. I presume you are using Denon’s recommended alignment (14 mm overhang)

          • WILSON BROUSSARD

            Thanks Ashley, I have read it’s a medium mass ( between 14 and 16 g). A Shaped arm. I am following their overhang instructions from the owners manual which requires 50 mm from the seal at the base of the headshell to the stylus tip. PS. I have a Denon 110 cartridge on order Which I should be able to tweak with my Phono box DS.

            • Ashley Post author

              The Denon 110 should be a good match, you’ll probably find that moving coils will match better with that arm than the modern moving magnets. the Ortofon 2M series (recommend the bronze or black) should match up well too. I don’t know what the stock headshell weighs. A standard Technics headshell is 7.6 grams which may work better if the fitting is a standard SME type.

  • jdell

    Hello Ashley….any comments concerning the AT150SA,440MLB or VM540ML on a Pro-ject Debut Carbon DC TT? Good, bad, so-so?
    Listen to mostly classical……
    (thanks for your response on my Yamaha A-S501 question a week or so ago.)

  • Adrian

    Thanks for writing an enjoyable and helpful review. 🙂

    It turns out that the AT150SA was even shorter-lived than the AT150MLX; it has now been replaced by the VM750SH, which is essentially the same cartridge and stylus, but with a firmer suspension which results in a slightly higher VTF recommendation (2g).

    They also released the VM740ML, which is the same body as the VM750SH, but with a MicroLine diamond; and the VM760SLC, which again has the same body but uses a so-called Special Line Contact diamond.

    I would expect there to be very little difference between the AT150SA and the VM750SH in terms of sound quality and overall performance, but if you decide to review the 750 at some point I hope you’ll include a comparison between it, the 150SA, and the 150MLX.

    Likewise, if you are able to review the VM740ML, I’d be very interested to know how it compares to the AT440MLb and the AT150MLX.

    Thanks again! 🙂

    • Ashley Post author

      Thanks for your kind words on the review. Yes, you’re right that the 150SA was rather short-lived. I’m glad there’s a model in the new range equipped with the MicroLine stylus which is my preferred stylus profile. It’s also slightly cheaper than the Shibata-equipped model too, though lacks the Boron cantilever of the MLX so I suspect the MLX would be fractionally better if you put them side-by-side. Sadly despite multiple enquiries to PR agencies and Audio-Technica themselves my requests for samples have continually gone completely ignored. I review AT products simply because I purchase and use them myself, but sadly I’m not able to review the VM740 line at this time unless they decide to bother to contact me or I can find a dealer willing to loan me their demo models in exchange for promotion. I’ll do my best however, hopefully they’ll come round eventually.

  • Martin

    How does the 150sa compare sound wise and durability versus the ortofon 2m black? I am currently running a 440mlb with an AT headshell on an SME 2009 s2 improved. I may try the original sme shell at some point as well.

    • Ashley Post author

      I doubt there’s any difference in terms of durability. The AT has a better stylus cover – the cover on the black is horrible and typically breaks after a few uses, whereas the cover on the AT just flips down and will easily last the life of the stylus if you’re careful. They’re pretty similar in terms of sound too. For me the AT probably has the edge, not least because it’s cheaper. For the price of the 2M Black you could have an AT33PTG / II which is another big step above either cartridge.

  • Gregg Hermetech

    Thanks for the review. I have a 150MLX that will soon need a stylus replacement. I bought one of the last 150MLX stylii too, as soon as I heard it was discontinued. I intend to also buy the 150SA stylus, and the 440MLB stylus. Then I’ll break them all in for around 50 hours, and take it in turns mounting them to the MLX cartridge body, and do some hi res 24/96 captures on the same material with exactly the same chain. It should be a really good way to test any audible differences.

      • Wilson Broussard

        So I was reading through the comments in the LP Gear Cartridge review and noticed you may have found a better VTF for the 150 SA than the 1.4g you had previously used. Have you settled on a better sweet spot? 1.55 g?

        Thanks

        • Ashley Post author

          I settled on 1.55 grams. However the VTA on my arm is set for a best compromise between records of varying thickness. I suspect the difference in sound is purely due to the alteration in tracking force having slightly altered the SRA. Had I set the arm to be perfectly parallel with a given thickness of record, I would probably have left it at 1.4G. I’ve got better things to do than to adjust VTA for every record I play, so for me 1.55G with the VTA in the middle represents a best compromise, and having the tracking force a little higher never hurt anything.

          • Wilson Broussard

            Thank you. So far I’ve been really happy with 1.4. It tracked all but the 4th bias setting track side one of the Hi Fi News Test LP with flying colors. I have to listen closely to hear any buzzing with track 4 and it is even. I guess I could try a little more weight and see if that improves, but my cartridge is breaking in nicely at about 30 hours now. It sounds so good I hate to mess with it, but I’m sure the temptation to fiddle will get to me.

            • Ashley Post author

              I do think those test LPs are mostly a waste of time, though I too would be curious to see if raising the VTF slightly allowed you to pass all tests. Let me know if you try it.

  • Mike

    Ashley,

    Long story short…had a AT150SA that had an issue so I returned it and had a heck of a time getting it replaced. Found the AT440MLB inexpensive so I thought I’d try it out. Put it on my MMF-7 and it is a bit bright. With your knowledge of both, will the 440 mellow or am I better off to go back to the 150?

    Thanks

    • Ashley Post author

      Sorry to hear of your troubles with the 150. Can I ask out of curiosity what the issue was with the cart and what issues you encountered in getting a replacement?

      As regards the 440, the AT carts do tend to sound a little bright at first, and settle down usually after 20-30 hours depending on the cart. They’re also quite susceptible to loading. What phono stage are you using? If you can, reduce the capacitance which should help a lot. I personally never found the AT440 too bright, though tastes differ. However depending on the loading and amount of run in time, it could well be that the 440 will mellow. The 150 is probably the warmer of the 2, though it too has a break in time during which it can be a bit bright.

      • Mike

        My fault…had a bad ground hum. Hooked the old MC up and it was fine. Realizing now it is in the tonearm wiring. Anyway…Parks Audio Budgie with 1968 Amperex 7308’s. May cut back to 36.1 k cap. If the two sound closer as they break in I may stick with the 440 and get the 150 stylus next time around. Do the two bodies change the sound much? Specs look nearly identical.

        Thank you!

        • Mike

          Oh…and the place I initially bought it from screwed up the shipping twice so I finally cancelled it. Please let me know your thoughts on the two bodies.

          Thanks

          • Ashley Post author

            I haven’t tested the 150 stylus on the 440 body. The 440 stylus is a microline and the 150 a Shibata and given that I would ordinarily prefer the microline I was surprised at the greater detail the 150 was able to retrieve from the record. That would suggest there’s a difference between the 2 bodies. Given the price of the 150 stylus isn’t much cheaper than the cart itself (or at least it wasn’t last time I checked), I’d probably swap the entire cartridge when the time came or move to an MC like the AT33PTG / II.

  • mr goat

    Nonsense. the MLX is ‘revealing’ for a reason. To extract information from a record is the goal. Not to make it obscure or duller with midrange bumps (common with most mid-low range stylus) to make it sound more alive.
    Your clear statement that older , scratchier (damaged) records sounds better with this cart, is all you have to say
    – it’s a general use cart, not high end. This is why 150mlx reveals all the crud in crap records, it is an honest
    tracker.

    Dumb down the product with a dumbed down review. If I wanted an aluminium canteliever I would buy
    a 1976 at12s .

    AT is certainly cheaping out and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have sold out in some manner. going backwards
    in innovation is not to be commended, ESPECIALLY when the prices of this model is on par and in some cases
    higher than the superior MLX.

    The title should be for General consumer use only – if you want high end transcription and honesty in detail, this cart is not for you. So far the worst cart in the 150 line.

    As well – I don’t see an explanation why you are choosing your weights for tracking and recommending them to others. There are many variables when it comes to setting a weight as well as anti-skating . Not cut and dry.

    Also – if you are BLIND – how do you set up your VTA and other critical alignments? I don’t see that mentioned.

    This is an apologist (or intentionally ignorant) review. alot to be desired in any form of facts or logic.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Ashley Post author

      Thank you for your feedback. Your points addressed:

      Yes, in a perfect world the goal is to extract the information from the record with no alteration. However even if the cartridge were entirely neutral, no system is entirely flat in response, and that’s before you take room acoustics into account. The MLX was a revealing cartridge, and perhaps you’re right that it was more neutral than the SA. That doesn’t make the AT150SA a lesser cartridge. Of course the AT150SA is not a top-end cartridge, for £300 give or take you wouldn’t expect it to be.

      There is nothing wrong with an aluminium cantilever. Yes, other materials offer lower mass and lower resonance. Some cartridges much higher up the price ladder than the 150SA use aluminium cantilevers to great effect.

      I don’t doubt that the 150SA is cheaper to produce than the MLX, as stated in the review. However I disagree entirely with your statement that they have “sold out”.

      I have covered the topic of turntable setup extensively in a recent guide to vinyl posted here. As you rightly point out, critical alignments are near impossible for a blind person to carry out, though fortunately those with sight are often only too happy to help. Final optimisation should be done by ear regardless on a per-cartridge basis.

      I think you’ll find my review is factually correct so leaves nothing to be desired there. Perhaps I could’ve gone into more detail concerning the sound of the cartridge, and written the typical audiophile press BS running through its various qualities on a. track-by-track basis. However when it will likely sound different in a buyer’s system, would that not be a fruitless endeavour? I’d rather provide an outline of the cartridge’s features and a basic description of its sound which my readers can then use to decide whether they feel the cartridge is worth a demonstration. Too often consumers purchase products based on lengthy (and often biased)press reviews, only to be disappointed. Indeed I can’t help but wonder whether you have taken the time to hear one of these cartridges yourself, or whether your views above are purely based on its specifications and the fact that you perceive it to be a lesser cartridge than its predecessor.

  • Wilson Broussard

    Thanks for the great review. I have a perfectly working vintage Dual 510 that came with a Shure V 15 III that I am running with a new hyper elliptical stylus which I believe is a bonded type on an aluminum cantilever(LP Gear). I am finding the highs a little bit shrilling and not pleasant. I am considering a new cartridge for this turntable and tonearm which I believe is considered a medium weight tonearm. Would the AT 150SA be a good match?

    • Ashley Post author

      Yes, absolutely. What phono stage are you running? The AT150 can become a little bright if the capacitance is too high, but providing you keep keep the capacitance to around 200PF or so it’ll sound great providing you allow it sufficient time to run in.

      • Ashley Post author

        The capacitance is a little high at 220PF for the stage, plus your cable. I’m fairly confident that an AT150 running with the 651P would be less bright than the Sure, though the 651P will certainly contribute to the bright sound.

        • Wilson Broussard

          Would the fact that I have up to 10 feet of good quality RCA cable including a female to female inline connector be throwing my capacitance way off? My Pioneer Elite SC 25 has a phono stage I don’t use if you think that would be better than the Cambridge? Also, would you have a recommendation for a photo stage that would work well. I’m kind of limited by the set up as to the ridiculous amount of cabling. Another no no is that because of extremely low output and having to crank my receiver up to near full on the dial I put in a line level booster which I’m sure is not that great for quality. But the line level is much better now with full control. It is a TCC-780LC by “Phono Preamps”. No distortion that I can tell?

          • Ashley Post author

            Is that cable between the arm of the turntable and the phono stage, or between the phono stage and the amp? Long cable runs like that should always be avoided, as should excessive joins and line level boosters. I’m also not sure why you would need to use a line level booster, as the 651P should be outputting a line level signal which should be more than sufficient providing you’re running into a line level input on the amp. The fact that you would need to turn the receiver to almost full with no booster in place suggests that there is a problem with the setup somewhere.

            • Wilson Broussard

              Well it is definitely in a line level input. I will check my manual and see if some of the line level inputs are any different from each other? The longest run is between the turntable and phono stage and it also has the join. That section alone is probably two six-foot cables one being an audio quest and the other a monster of decent quality. After the phono stage is a 1 foot connector to be line level booster and then a 3 foot monster cable from that to the receiver. I’m sure I making you cringe! I was considering a higher output moving magnet cartridge like the gold ring 1042 but my new 150SA arrives tomorrow.
              Thank you

              • Wilson Broussard

                I can actually get the volume as high as I need it but I may be wrong in my thinking that cranking the control on the amp is doing anything more to contribute to distortion and pushing the app anymore then it would be pushed at the exact same volume if the control was readi -35db( which is pretty typical for all my line level stuff) vs 0 or +10 which is the max?

                • Ashley Post author

                  When an amplifier has a true decibel readout, it is not uncommon for the volume reading to appear high. Case in point, a Cambridge Audio 851A for example usually begins reading -30dB before any serious volume begins to come out of it. It’s all to do with perceived loudness, which is beyond the scope of this comment but is something I may cover in the future.

                  That said, try connecting your phono stage directly to the amp using a single cable (you should never join cables let alone join 2 different cables). Compare its output with a single cable and no booster running into a line level source, to the output when the turntable is connected to the Pioneer’s internal phono stage. If both require a similar volume level, there’s no problem. Then try your AT150 with both and see which you prefer the sound of.

                  • Wilson Broussard

                    Sounds like a plan. More fun experimenting! So one more question: is my amp actually working harder with more distortion or clipping if the volume knob is maxed to get the exact same I guess perceived volume on a different input with the control half way up? Thank you for the help and Happy Holidays. I will have time to play with stuff in early January and I’ll let you know. If I have to ditch my line level booster it was only $49 which is embarrassingly cheap for something in line with this other stuff. I’ll give someone a bargain on eBay.

                    • Ashley Post author

                      Not necessarily. The amp will only reach the point of clipping if you run at extremely high volumes with low sensitivity speakers. With most well-matched systems, the clipping point is far beyond what you could tolerate being in the same room as the system. Most amps similar to yours will show a very gradual increase in the volume level between the minimum level and about -30 or so, but as you go beyond -30dB the volume will rise quite sharply and at close to max volume the amp will become quite loud indeed. If you’re hitting max volume frequently with low levels of sound being produced, then there is a problem somewhere. However high displayed levels on the amp aren’t usually anything to worry about, unless your speakers are particularly inefficient or you haven’t got something connected up properly or configured somewhere. I would thoroughly check all of your connections, as well as try to minimise the amount of cables you have and optimise the position of components to achieve short, neat cable runs. Then I’d check the settings of the receiver to ensure that all looks good there, perhaps performing a factory reset and re-configuring things as necessary.

            • Wilson Broussard

              Happy New Year!
              Well I’ve taken your advice and ditched excess cable runs and removed gain booster. I still figured I was at least in the 300’s for capacitance so I have ordered a Pro-Ject phono box DS so I can try to lower that level to mid 100’s. There are 3 gain settings (40, 50 and 60) and 40db is the default for MM. What would happen if I felt the need to increase to the 50db setting?

              Thanks

              • Ashley Post author

                Excellent, you’re probably right about the capacitance. Most of the tonearm cables I’ve measured were somewhere between 50 and 90PF, with a few exceptions. With regards the phono stage gain, set the gain to whatever sounds right to you. If you set it too high the sound may distort during loud passages, set it too low and the volume will be low. Looking at the specs however I don’t believe that phono stage has the capacity to overload your receiver, neither does the cartridge have enough output to significantly overload the phono stage so you’d probably be ok on any setting.

                • Wilson Broussard

                  Thanks, I also ordered low capacitance RCA cables from Blue Jeans Cable that are 12pF/ft as I found out my Audioquest Evergreen cables are 40/ft. That should help me hit the Mid 100’s for the cartridge.

    • Wilson Broussard

      I have been enjoying the AT 150SA for several months now. I came across something on discussion board where a poster stated and attached an email from Audio Technica that the stated suggested capacitance of 100 to 200 pf is intended for the phono stage alone and not the total of the stage, the tonearm wiring and interconnects. Most folks are disagree with this which would make the AT rep wrong (not impossible). I have a Project Phonobox DS and with my Bluejeans IC’s I figure I total about 150pf as of now. I will try to up the capacitance and listen. I also read suggestions that the Ohms lower than the suggested 47k have good results. Sounds like time to do a little experimenting as the DS gives me some options.

      • Ashley Post author

        I definitely think that any capacitance value higher than about 250PF or so is too high. In my experience, the moving magnet AT cartridges work best with as low a capacitance value as possible. I believe the PhonoBox DS allows for a 40PF setting, and it is the one I’d be using which would give you about 200PF all in. As for impedance loading (ohms), I tend to find that AT’s values are reliable. Dropping the AT150SA and AT150MLX to 33K or even lower can sometimes smooth them out a bit, but I’ve always run mine at 47k without issue. The best judge is your ears; if you want to get technical, connect the phono stage to a computer and look at the waveforms. Then determine whether you like a flat frequency response or something else (many prefer a coloured response), and mess with the loading until you achieve that response.

  • Pawel

    Hi Ashley, nex week I’m buying one of two jvc turntbles ql-7 or ql-y55f. Please help me with chosing good cartridge. I thought about AT 150sa or AT 440mlb. Which one is better/sounds better. Most of the time I listen to the rock music. Thanx in advance.

    • Ashley Post author

      Both excellent turntables and both excellent cartridges. The AT150SA in my opinion is the better of the 2 cartridges, though I’m a huge fan of the AT440MLB especially with its microline stylus, which in many ways I prefer to the Shibata. That said the AT150SA has a very warm sounding mid range and sounds exceptional when playing rock music. I think an AT150SA tracking at 1.55 grams would sound exceptional on either of the turntables you mention.

      • Pawel

        Thanks a lot for your quick response. One more question if I can. Do you think the difference between these two turntables (below) are essential to make really good choice.
        QL-Y55F (Motor: coreless DC servo motor, Speed detection system: integrated frequency generator, Servo system: double servo quartz, Wow and flutter: 0.015% WRMS, Signal to noise ratio: 78dB, Speed deviation: 0.002%).
        QL-7 (Motor: 12-pole, 24-slot, DC type FG servomotor, Motor control: quartz locked, Speed detection: super servo frequency generator, Wow and flutter: 0.025% WRMS, Signal to noise ratio: 74dB,Tonearm: tracing hold system, static balance, new gimbal suport).
        Both turntables in the same price. I have to decide in a few days and can listen only one model with shure m44g cartridge which is rather low end budget (I hope one of AT cartridge is far far better). Greetings from Poland

        • Ashley Post author

          I’d probably go for the QL-Y55F if it’s in good condition. It’s better specs wise and is over all a nicer turntable in my opinion, though the QL-7 is no bad table either.

  • ScaleTheInferno

    Great cartridge and I concur it’s probably the best MM in the price range. Very low surface noise compared with the Ortofon 2M carts. Pairs very well with Technics 1210. A word of caution about the 150 series cartridges. The cantilever is as thin as strand of hair and VERY fragile. It’s made from aluminium, not like a stronger boron cantilever on the AT33PTG for instance. A minor bump can easily bend it, and when that happens it’s game over. Handle with extreme care. That’s the trade off..

  • Selvam

    Hi Ashley,
    Hope you are doing well. What’s your thoughts on Moving Magnet Vs Moving Coil Cartridge in terms of Sound clarity, especially from Audio Technica. When given a choice between AT440MLb or any other Audio Technica’s Moving Coil say ATOC9 III. Audio Technica ATOC9 III MC Phono Cartridge is available for £399 in http://www.audioaffair.co.uk. Will any of AT Moving Coil will fit into ATLP5 Turntable assuming we need to add Preamp for Moving coils.
    Thanks for your time. Apprecicate your thoughts and effort!

    • Ashley Post author

      I don’t think the gap is as huge as it’s made out to be, and of course it depends on the cartridge. There are good and bad examples of both designs. If you’re going down the MC route, it’s important to remember that as you rightly say you’ll need a preamp able to accept an MC cartridge, and in general opting for a cheap preamp is unwise as the output of an MC cartridge is so low that a poorly designed preamp can introduce a lot of noise into the system due to the amount of extra gain required. MC cartridges are also generally susceptible to the electrical loading characteristics of the preamplifier, and many cheap MC preamps don’t have the necessary adjustments to get the best from such a cartridge.

      Also worth noting is that due to the design of an MC cartridge, the styli are not replaceable as they usually are with a moving magnet. Of course their are exceptions to that rule, at least where Moving magnet cartridges are concerned but as far as I know there isn’t a moving coil cartridge in existence with a user-replaceable stylus. This means that when the stylus wears out after a few thousand hours of playback, you’ll have to send the entire cartridge off to be re-tipped or replace it altogether, using the trade-in program offered by most if not all manufacturers.

      If the rest of the system were up to the required standard, my preference would be for the moving coil cartridge. The AT33PTG is a stunning cartridge, as is the OC9 though personally I prefer the older OC9 with the microline stylus but that’s just a matter of personal preference. That said such a cartridge would require a better turntable than the AT-LP5 to perform at its best. The AT-LP5 is a budget turntable, albeit a very good one, and spending more than the price of the deck on a cartridge is really cost prohibitive though you could certainly install an OC9 on their if you wanted to. My cutoff point for that turntable would be the AT150SA, with the AT440MLB being the recommendation. The 440MLB really is a fantastic cartridge and you’d have to spend a lot more on both the turntable and the cartridge to better it.

      • Selvam

        Thanks a lot Ashley for your response with a good explanation. Your effort in answering our queries is priceless. Thanks for your time and effort! 🙂 Cheers

      • Adrian

        “…but as far as I know there isn’t a moving coil cartridge in existence with a user-replaceable stylus.”

        That is true of moving coil cartridges that are currently in production, but there were a few moving coil cartridges in the past that had user-replaceable styli. Among these were the Pioneer PC-3MC, PC-4MC, PC-5MC, PC-6MC, PC-7MC, PC-31MC, PC-41MC, and PC-401MC; the Audio-Technica AT312, AT312EP, and AT312HEP (which were also rebadged as the Kenwood V-57 and the Toshiba C-88MC); the Audio-Technica AT3230 (which was also rebadged as the JVC DT-201 and the Yamaha MC-801); and possibly others that I haven’t heard or read about.

        I know this is nit-picking but I just wanted your readers to know that these rare creatures did exist, even if they are now almost extinct. 🙂

  • Selvam

    Hi Ashley, I’m Planning to buy Audio Technica LP5 Turntable. Do you think this Cartridge AT150SA is really upgrade compared to Cartridge AT95E which comes with LP5 Turntable?. Please answer. Thanks for your time. Cheers, Selvam

    • Ashley Post author

      Absolutely, no comparison. The AT95 is a low end budget moving magnet cartridge with a large elliptical stylus. The AT150SA is far more advanced and has the Shibata stylus which will track far, far better than any elliptical stylus could possibly hope to. That said the AT440MLB is very similar, and has a microline stylus which is arguably better than the Shibata. That is the cartridge I’d put on the LP5.

      • Selvam

        Sorry forgot to ask. It is easy to fix Cartridge AT440MLB into LP5 Tonearm. Do I need to adjust counter weight as well?. I’m bit naive to this, this is going to be my first Turntable. Thanks for your time.

        • Ashley Post author

          Installing and aligning a cartridge is fairly easy if you take your time. Install the cartridge in the head shel following the instructions provided with the cartridge. Then see if the LP5 has any instructions in the manual for aligning the cartridge. If not, download a universal cartridge alignment protractor from the internet, print it to scale, and align your cartridge following the instructions provided with whichever protractor you chose. Then to set the counterweight, follow the instructions that came with the LP5 but instead of setting the weight to 2 grams as you would with an AT95, set it to 1.4 which is the recommended range for both the 440MLB and 150SA.

          • Selvam

            Thanks Ashley for your inputs. Your effort is really appreciable!. Thanks for showing us some light into this HIFi. Thanks for your time.

  • Harold

    I bought the mlx version a couple of years ago and found it unbearably screechy with my EAR 834P phono stage, presumably a capacitance issue. Do you think the new version would behave any differently with the same phono stage?

    • Ashley Post author

      The MLX was known to be quite bright in some systems. The 150SA is less so. How long did you allow the MLX to break in? These cartridges really need a good 50 hours to sound their best.