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Manufacturer: Goldring
Price (in Poland): 3399 PLN



ot many cartridge reviews are conducted in our country. Why? Because it is one of the most fragile audio products – simply put it's easy to damage any pickup and it doesn't take much to do it. One doesn't have to physically damage it – if the setting isn't correct it might be enough to permanently degrade cartridge performance. Another reason – lifespan of cartridge, or should I say stylus, is limited – much shorter than any other element of audio system. So after 2-3 serious reviews cartridge is no longer seleable. These are two main reasons why cartridges for reviews are usually delivered by manufacturers not distributors, and since there are no cartridge manufacturers in Poland... One of very few exceptions from this rule is company Rafko, a distributor of (among many other brands) British Goldring. Thanks to this distributor I already had a chance to review two MM cartridges (one for „Hi-Fi Choice” and other for „Audio Video”) – the 2100 and 2300.

British company Goldring offers today headphones and cartridges, both Moving Coil and Moving Magnet type. Most people, and I don't mean only vinyl aficionados, associates this brand first of all with MM pickups which is reasonable because most of their products are actually Moving Magnets. This British company has its roots in Germany where it was founded in Berlin in 1906 (!) as the Scharf Brothers – that give this company over a 100 years of history and tradition. The “gold ring” marking appeared on a phonograph called Juwel Electro Soundbox released to the market 20 years later. This marking was supposed to accentuate the highest quality of this device. Later, in 1933, company moved its premises to Great Britain, because of political changes Germany was undergoing at the time. 21 years later (yes, that seem long but only until you consider the II World War and it's long term consequences) they released to he market their first cartridge - Goldring 500. Even if we consider 1954 as a real beginning of Goldring, the cartridge manufacturer, it still makes them one of the longest existing companies in this business.

If you take a look at company's history you'll realize that they never rushed new products to the market. That hasn't really changed even in the present times, when audio market went totally crazy and companies are releasing new products very frequently. Goldring seems to follow the same philosophy that's made it a successful business for so many years. There are no sudden, nervous moves, no dozen of new products released yearly which in many cases actually leads to releasing products that are not ready to be released. None of that happens in Goldring. Cartridges like Eroica or Elite have been on the market for almost 30 years, which is the best prove of company's philosophy – if you do something right just keep doing it. It doesn't mean stagnation, lack of development as that would sooner or later kill any company. The Moving Magnet pickups, as I mentioned before, are kind of a symbol of this brand, but they offer also MC one, and the Legacy Series, I received for this review is currently the top of the line. A few years ago many Goldring fans were taken by surprise when company released a new line of MM cartridges. The previous one – 1xxx, was already a sort of legendary, and all of the sudden company introduced the 2xxx series. The numeration might have indicated that this 2xxx line was either to replace 1xxx or to become a new top line, but in fact it wasn't. It seems rather than these two line function in parallel - there are models in this new line that are similarly priced as their counterparts in the older line. Anyway, this time I won't deal with these new MM pickups but with the top of the line Moving Coil called Legacy.

Recordings used during test (a selection)

  • Patricia Barber, Companion, Premonition/Mobile Fidelity MFSL 2-45003, 180 g LP.
  • Lou Donaldson, LD+3, Blue Note Stereo MMBST-84012, LP.
  • Muddy Waters, Folk Singer, Mobile Fidelity MFSL-1-201, 180 g LP.
  • The Ray Brown Trio, Soular energy, Concord/Pure Audiophile PA-002 (2), LP.
  • AC/DC, Live, EPIC, E2 90553, LP.
  • Vivaldi, Le Quatro Stagioni, Divox/Cisco CLP7057, LP.
  • Dead Can Dance, Spiritchaser, 4AD/Mobile Fidelity MOFI 2-002, 180 g LP.
  • Keith Jarrett, The Koeln Concert, ECM 1064/65 ST, LP.
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11, Rubyworks Records/Music On Winyl MOVLP924, LP.
  • Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones, Live At The Checkerboard Lounge - Chicago 1981, Eagle Rock Entertainment, B0085KGHI6, LP.
  • Inga Rumpf, White horses, AAA 0208574CTT, “Triple A series”, 180 g LP.
  • Miles Davis, Kind of blue, Columbia CS 8163, LP.
  • Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan, In session, STX-7501-1, LP.
  • Możdżer Danielsson Fresco, The Time, outside music OM LP002, LP.
  • Jacintha, The best of, Groove Note GRV 1041-1, LP.
  • Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, Midnight sugar, Three Blind Mice/CISCO TBM-23-45, LP.
  • Cannonball Adderly, Somethin' else, Blue Note/Classic Records BST 1595-45, LP.

I know many audiophiles who, at some point of their lives, got interested in vinyl playback. Many of them quit before even started to build an analogue system as soon as they realized how complex such a system was. When it come to CD playback it's relatively simply – all one has to do it to chose a CD Player, plug it to one's system, put a disc into a drawer (or slot, or whatever), press start and that's it. Vinyl playback requires deck, tonearm, cartridge and phonostage (surely there are some more elements but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible). Not only one has to buy all these elements making sure they will work well together but also learn how to set it all properly up (you might have someone to do for you the first time but if you're serious about it you have to learn to do it yourself). After hearing all that some just quit, some fortunately become even more intrigued. Many manufacturers realizing such dilemmas of vinyl beginners offer complete solutions. One can purchase deck with tonearm and even cartridge already installed and set up – in other words just ready to use out of the box. Phonostage is a minor issue – one has to make sure that it would work with a cartridge of his choice, and offer satisfactory performance. Most of such ready-to-use setups are not too expensive – supposedly for newcomers to analogue world – these are offered by Pro-Ject, Rega, Thorens and some others. But there are also high-end setups like the one from Brinkmann (see HERE) I reviewed recently. No doubts buying such a complete system is the best choice for most people starting their adventure with vinyl playback, unless of course they have a friend, an advanced analogue aficionado who can advice and help them.

So that's how many people start but as we all know it's only a matter of time before they want more/better. One of the elements that first of all is quite easy to replace, and secondly that has to replaced after some time as it's just wearing off when used is cartridge (stylus). If it's a MM one usually it is possible to replace only a stylus, but in case of MC pickup that is not an option. Cartridge has to be sent to manufacturer and the cost is usually not so much lower than the cost of a new unit (why? Because they can't really replace only stylus – the only thing left from „old” unit is its body – all the rest is replaced). Audiophilia nervosa pushes us all to discover something new, so most MC users instead of „re-tipping” their old unit prefer to buy other one to find out how would it sound. Depending on the budget and the system we already have we can choose from many pickups available on the market – even Polish one offers a nice selection. Goldring, as I already mentioned, is a manufacturer with great traditions, knowledge and experience in cartridge building. They've had a firm offer for many, many years that gained a lot of trust and appreciation from customers. So if you're one of those guys who are looking for a new, exciting cartridge for your rig why not look into such a respectable company, if their offer is withing your expected price range. Legacy is one of the options. It's a low-level Moving Coil cartridge, top-of-the-line. Calling it “inexpensive” wouldn't be very truthful, but on the other hand comparing its price to the top-of-the-line of many competitors... well, now it seems reasonable to call it inexpensive. Still, little over 3 kPLN makes it, in terms of pricing, a mid-range pickup at most. There are many other brands who's offer doesn't even start at this level...

Legacy sports a relatively small, light and rigid magnesium body. It's equipped with a „Vital fine line” stylus, today used (I think) exclusively by Goldring, attached to hard alloy cantilever. Cartridge is mounted to headshell with two screws using two threaded holes in pickup's body. It's not the easiest cartridge to set it up because of its ovoid shape – the ones with rectangular body make users life easier. A recommended tracking force is 1,75 g (but it can be set within a range from 1,5 to 2 g), input impedance is 100 Ω, and the output signal is only as low as 0,25 mV. While offering quite a low level output Legacy work flawlessly with my ESELabs Nibiru (which was not a surprise as this is phonostage for low level pickups), but also with iFi's iPhono, that considering its price is a more likely partner for Legacy than Nibiru. Obviously Nibiru allowed Legacy to fully spread its wings, but iPhono didn't fall that far behind as the price difference might have suggested. With ESELabs Goldring offered even better dynamics and higher resolution, but the difference surely didn't fully justify the price difference between these two phonostages, at least as partners for this particular cartridge. That proved to me, not for the first time, that iPhono was a surprisingly tiny and surprisingly wonderful piece of audio gear.

I would say that it can be considered a good partner even for pickups from this price level. One more thing I'd like to emphasize before describing Legacy's sound. You have to remember that cartridge is only one of the puzzles in the analogue setup. An important one obviously, but its performance relies also on the quality of arm it is mounted on, and deck and phonostage too. Thus the final sonic effect depends on all of them, and it might differ depending on particular setup. But hopefully some general sonic characteristic should be at least similar to what I'm about to describe.

One of the first things that attracted my attention was a really low surface noise level that Legacy generated and quite few pops&cracks. That depends obviously a lot on the condition of the played records but comparing that to the same records played with different pickups I could tell that this was pretty quiet one, which is obviously its very likable advantage. First strictly sonic impression was the one of a slightly “darker” sound than offered for example by my AudioTechnica 33PTG, or even by Koetsu Black. On the other hand it was still brighter than what I'd heard from Shelter 301 mkII that I'd reviewed recently on Woodpecker with SME arm. In both cases it was not about really “dark” sound, meaning with treble strongly rolled off, but rather about high density, richness of midrange (and Shelter offered even more of it) that, I would say, overshadowed treble a bit. What's really important is that treble is still nicely detailed, open and extended even though it is a bit more difficult than usual to realize that. Goldring's treble isn't really “rounded” on the edges, it's rather bit “softer” than one could expect – in some cases one might lack a bit of roughness, a hint of edginess that some high tones simply should have. There are some advantages of that too. I've not even once heard any exaggerated harshness of the sound, sibilants sounded natural, without before mentioned edginess that can make you crazy if you listen to some voices rich with sibilants. And still treble is not dull, it is vibrant, lively – only by knowing how the same records sounded played with other cartridges I realized that there was even more information to be extracted from the groove. There is a reason why some cartridges cost 3-4 time more than Legacy. Don't get me wrong – what this Goldring offers is absolutely likable, and in terms of sound quality very good. Such a non-aggressive treble combined with a very smooth, dense midrange offers another advantage – sound in general is very pleasant for your ears, it lets you sit back, relax and simply enjoy any record you spin. You can be sure that there will be no unpleasant surprises that would disturb intimate moments with your favorite music. It's a feature that will make Legacy many friends among music lovers, maybe not that many among hard-core audiophiles.

As I've already mentioned midrange is what this cartridge does best. While Goldring's MM pickups often sound very neutral, some might even say cold, Legacy on the other hand due to more sophisticated, smoother midrange sounds rather warm. It's not very lush, very warm sound – but trying to define it in some way I would say that if neutral=0, Legacy would call for maybe +1/1,5. It's mostly sophistication of midrange that makes me prefer MC cartridges rather than MM ones – they deliver elements like timbre, texture, tone in a more believable, natural way. Plus 3D imaging is usually also better and with that comes palpability of the sound, the feeling of being present at particular music event I listen to. Legacy is a very fine example of MC pickup delivering very convincing performance. Let's take a really good recording of vocal performance – an album by Patricia Barber from Mobile Fidelity label. Goldring laid out in front of me this very dense, dark, strong and very clean voice, rendered it in a very palpable way, filled it with emotions, clearly showed it texture, and all that together created a beautiful, enjoyable performance. For the same recording an abundance of small percussion instruments were used – some wooden, some metal ones. The former, I would say, even benefited from a non-aggressive treble delivered by Goldring – there was enough wood in wood, proper tone, fast attack and a long nice decay. The latter sounded nice but I expected them to be more vibrant, more... well, aggressive sounding. Another piece from the same album and a great chance to listen to my favorite double bass. Nicely extended, playing not only with strings but with soundboard too, agile, lively – in a word, damn good! Best cartridges I know, like AirTight PC3 for example, were able to differentiate bass even better, laying out more dynamic shades, more complex texture, but on the other hand Legacy offered in this regard same level of performance as a 1000 PLN more expensive Shelter 301 mkII so in it's price is surely more than decent proposition. Listening to more and more different recordings I finally concluded that while Goldring's bass might not be as tight as Shelter's (or AirTight's) but its pace&rhythm performance and timing were excellent. Differentiation of low range is good enough to enjoy well recorded double bass or electric bass guitar and the excellent pace&rhythm comes handy when listening to blues or rock music. I couldn't really sit still while spinning Muddy Waters, Albert King, or AC/DC – there was so much fun to this presentation. Even when listening to AC/DC and realizing that Legacy couldn't deliver as much power and energy as this recording offered, I enjoyed it a lot thanks to this amazing pace&rhythm and also because it relayed the ambiance of the concert so well. It was too much to sit and listen – it demanded my active participation. Some of my poor neighbors participated too, most of them against their will...

Let me get back to acoustic music one more time, as in my opinion, despite Legacy's general versatility (in terms of playing any music in very satisfactory way), simply sounded best. It's not only about very nice presentation of timbre and texture, about some natural warmth in the sound that makes acoustic instruments sound more natural, but also about very good spacing, large soundstage that is precisely layered, and 3D rendering of each instrument. Live recordings sounded really live also because Legacy could convey the ambiance of concert, reverberations showing size of the concert hall, audience response and so on. Vocalist were usually nicely rendered at least a step ahead of the band, distances between musicians seems realistic, each instrument was shown as a 3D object. Sound might have been bit darker than what I am used to but it was still open and detailed so I couldn't really complain about it – it was different, not worse. I think that the sound of Legacy is exactly as its creators meant it to be – first of all musical and involving which should satisfy most music lovers.


The price of the top-of-the-line Goldring Moving Coil cartridge might suggest that it is just a medium level product but in fact it offers a mature, involving sound that makes it a great value product. Surely there are pickups delivering better, even much better performance but you have to look for them among units that cost at least 2-3 time more. Some will sound different but not necessarily better so search won't be that easy as just buying any other twice as expensive model. Legacy creates a firm image of a music spectacle taking place in front of a listener, it is capable of presenting the essence of any music, and to involve listener emotionally. It is also quite versatile – will play any music you want in an enjoyable fashion, although it might be favorite of acoustic music aficionados. Don't worry – if you love acoustic music most of all but sometimes you feel like rock, or great symphonic music – Legacy will deliver and you will like it even when realizing that some other pickups might be able to deliver this type of music in even better, more dynamic, energetic way. Goldring knows who to dig out a lot of information from a groove and how to transform it to involving, convincing, and most of all musical spectacle, with a hint of “vinyl magic”.
Is it end of the line? That depends obviously on how much you can/want to spend. There are better cartridges for sure but I don't think you could buy them for a reasonable 3,4 kPLN. At this price level you can but something that will sound different – maybe more analytical, “colder”, with more punch. But it won't be a better overall performance, at least I don't know any other pickup that at this price level is a better, overall performer.

Legacy is the top of the Moving Coil line cartridge of British company Goldring (line includes also Eroica and Elite models). The Legacy sports a slim, rigid, light-weight magnesium body with curved edges that are not particularly helpful during setup. Fixing threaded wholes set ½ inch apart are placed in the body of pickup, not on additional extensions like in some other Goldring models. Manufacturer decided to use a very light Vital fine line stylus, used (I believe) exclusively by Goldring. A diamond is attached to a hard alloy cantilever, and the suspension is made a special rubber mixture. Legacy comes in an elegant, leather (leather-like) case, with the cartridge housed in a cut out in the hard-wood block that sits inside.

Technical specification (according to manufacturer)

Fixing centers: 1/2 inch
Stylus radius: Vital Fine Line
Playing weight: 1,5-2 g (15-20 mN)
Frequency response: 20-22 000 Hz
Channel separation: 25 dB min at 1 kHz
Channel balance: 1 dB max at 1 kHz
Load capacitance MC: 100-1000 pF
Sensitivity MC: 0,25 mV 1dB @ 1 kHz
Load resistance: 100 Ω
Internal resistance: 7 Ω
Internal inductance: 3 uH
Weight: 8 g