Read on for my Audio Technica AT440MLb Cartridge Review.
Audio Technica – a bit of history
Audio Technica is a Japanese company who are best known for their extensive range of turntable cartridges, but they also make headphones and microphones. The cartridges they produce range from the low-cost AT-91 (£20) up to the lavish AT-ART-1000 (£4,450!). More recently they have diversified into turntables such as the AT-LP5.
The AT440MLb cartridge & stylus
So what we have here is the AT440MLb cartridge which, priced at around £120. This cartridge’s styli uses a MicroLine shaped diamond tip which provides a better response and causes less wear on vinyl than traditional elliptical styles. It is a dual magnet cartridge design which is compatible with MM phono stages.
In the box you get a tiny screwdriver, a stylus cleaning brush, some screws and the little cables used to connect the cartridge to the tonearm. Attaching the AT440MLb to my Technics headshell is straight forward and works in the same way as the AT-95e that went before it. I set the tracking weight to 1.5, the bias to 1.5 and align the cartridge using the Technics plastic alignment guide.
Listening to the Audio Technica AT440Mlb
My turntable is a Technics SL1210 Mark 2 which I held onto from my DJing days. The SL1210 is hooked up to a Rega Phono MM phono stage which is in turn hooked up to a Naim SuperUniti. This cartridge is as expensive as I would go with the SL1210; as much as I love my Technics I know it has its limitations. It wouldn’t be worth spending more on the cartridge as the turntable and phono stage would be holding it back.
The AT440MLb was for me an upgrade from the AT-95e, also from Audio Technica. The difference in sound is significant because there is far more precision and intricacy to the sound from the AT440MLb. The AT-95e seems to smooth over the edges somewhat. Detail levels in the music are good and the improvement from my vinyl puts a smile on my face.
If I had to characterise the sound, I would say the AT440MLb is slightly on the lighter side of neutral. It tends to favour detail and accuracy over the “warmth” that most people associate with vinyl. It does not go as far as being analytical, rather it tries to dig up as much information from the groove as it can without imparting much of its own character. I think this will pleasantly surprise you when you hear more nuances in your vinyl collection that you had not heard before.
This is a great option to consider if you are looking to upgrade from an entry-level budget cartridge. My next move would be to swap out the turntable, then the phono stage before going back to the cartridge. The AT440MLb should be considered for all those who want to eek as much out of their current vinyl system. This gets the thumbs up from me.