Goldring has to be the longest running British cartridge maker, in fact it’s about the only cartridge company of any scale on these shores. The only competition is Rega but they make the whole gamut of components so are a little different. Goldring is part of the Armour Group alongside QED and Q-Acoustics among others so it’s not alone in its quest, hence the relatively affordable nature of its products. All three models in the new E series of moving magnets come in at below £100 and as such they form the entry level for the brand. The E1, 2 and 3 share the same body and internal construction but vary in cantilever and stylus types, the E1 has a spherical tip bonded to an ABS plastic cantilever whereas the E2 gets an aluminium cantilever with the same tip. The E3 at the top of the trio has an elliptical stylus on an aluminium cantilever. All three have replaceable styli, which means you could upgrade an E1 to an E3 if you felt the urge.
Internally the E series differ from regular moving magnet cartridges by virtue of having two rather than one magnet. This division emulates the design of the cutting heads used to make mastering lacquers and is claimed to increase channel separation, which should result in better image definition. It’s an interesting idea yet not one that is not destined for greater refinement and employment in higher priced models.
The E series body is unusually large, the last time I had a cartridge this big it was a Decca MkIII from the sixties. But that didn’t have the threaded inserts provided here, which make installation so much easier. That is one reason given for the size, the other is that the body has parallel sides that aid alignment and that the styling has some continuity with other Goldring models. In practice the large plastic body makes it quite dark underneath where the stylus is, which makes it hard to see where the tip is on the gauge. I also had a mysterious problem getting the E3 aligned, for some reason it was not possible to get both sides parallel with the gauge, I presume that this is due to the unusually wide body revealing that a block following an arc will never be totally parallel on both sides.
The first turntable I installed the E3 on was a Rega P2 where it took over from Rega’s entry level Carbon, an inexpensive MM that sounds quite brash by comparison. The E3 is a smoother, more relaxed cartridge with a fulsome and clean sound by comparison albeit less power to engage the listener. It’s a better choice for long term listening however, and undoubtedly cleaner and richer. I soon noticed that the bias on the Rega arm was too high, the E3 being pulled out on a flat, uncut piece of vinyl, and as it’s not adjustable on this arm I decided to try a different deck.
The Rega P3 with its RB303 arm proved a better match, here the E3 followed a Rega Elys2 which is £19 more expensive. It has the double advantage of a three point fixing and installation on the turntable and arm it was developed for. As a result the Goldring struggled to compete in terms of timing, the slight extra richness in the bass holding it back and limiting transparency. Taken on its own terms however it put in a very entertaining performance with a range of music types, Chasing the Dragon’s España direct cut album of Spanish classical music allowing it to deliver excellent soundstage depth and nice juicy bass, it may be slightly exaggerated in this respect but with a lot of music that’s no bad thing. It’s also pretty articulate, bringing out the sinuous quality of Steve Swallow’s bass playing and plenty of detail across the audioband. I like the calm nature of its delivery, nothing seems to upset it whether it be brass sections or mezzo soprano voice, the steady presentation is always easy to enjoy. There’s also plenty of power when its called for, this being obvious with tympani in an orchestral setting and likewise with the synth bass of James Blake’s ‘Limit to Your Love’.
The E3 is pretty transparent to the character of recordings as well, Randy Weston’s African Cookbook reveals its vintage (1972) which is strong on tonal body if not accuracy, it sounds older than it is but that doesn’t undermine its appeal. There is no shortage of energy and great musicianship from a band that knows how to swing. This MM also found plenty of juice in Esperanza Spalding’s ‘Judas’, which sounds remarkably assured. I guess the flip side to this is that the E3 is not quite as compelling as it might be, it’s perhaps a little too relaxed.
Overall this latest addition to the Goldring range is a remarkably capable all round, it’s not going to set the world alight with its vivacity but neither is it going to illuminate the shortcomings of budget turntables. It produces a classic vinyl sound, warm, relaxed and effortless which will suit a lot of budget systems very nicely indeed. Combine that with the ease of set up incorporated into the design and you have a great value cartridge.
Stylus profile: elliptical
Stylus radius: 0.3 x 0.7mil
Replacement stylus: GL059
Load resistance: 47 kΩ
Load capacitance: 100 – 200 pF
Internal inductance: 400 mH Internal resistance: 410 Ω
Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz Channel balance: 1.5 dB at 1 kHz Channel separation: >20 dB at 1 kHz Sensitivity: 3.5 mV (1 kHz @ 5 cm/sec
Static compliance: 20 mm/N
Vertical tracking angle: 20°
Cartridge mass: 6.9 g
Fixing centres: 12.7 mm (0.5 in)
Playing weight: 1.5 g – 2.5 g (2.0 g recommended)