Replacing the Sony PS-HX500 stock cartridge with the Nagaoka MP-110
Time duration: 30 minutes to an hour
After my favourable reviews of the Sony PS-HX500 more than a year ago, and with idle time during self-isolation, I decided it was time to replace the factory needle on the Sony PS-HX500. My first decision was which cartridge?
Which Cart for the Sony PS-HX500?
There are many things to consider when replacing your needle on the Sony PS-HX500. Firstly, it needs to be a moving magnet cartridge. Also, on the Sony PS-HX500 there is no height calibration for the arm, that means the needle needs to be the same height as the stock needle. If it isn’t you will need to get a shorter or taller mat to compensate. Also, most importantly for the Sony PS-HX500, it does not have a removable headshell, instead the wire leads are straight from the tone arm. Only the cartridge is removable. So, there is even more to consider for your needle purchase. Depending on the height of the needle you may have to get a new mat for the difference in height.
So, scouring the internet high and low I narrowed it down to:
- Ortofon 2M Bronze: pricey but I hear performs well. Maybe the next one. [UPDATE: reader KDV commented below that the Ortofon is too big for the headshell. May want to reconsider]
- Goldring 1006: I heard it also performs well on the Sony PS-HX500, but a little pricey in Canada compared to its cost in Britain and Europe.
- Sumiko Pearl: my first choice initially. I worried about replacement needles for the future, as it was not widely available in Canada.
However, everywhere I turned the Nagaoka MP-110 was continually mentioned. Some enjoy the sound, while others think that for its deep bass and crisp highs, it sacrifices the mids. I considered it and thought if my primary use for the Sony is to mostly rip DJ records for digital copies, then good emphasis on the bass is probably a plus. I am not a fan of too much bass reproduction but sometimes you get better results dialing back the bass later, then adding bass to the recording.
I found the cheapest Nagaoka MP-110 in Canada (at the time) at Hifipro.ca and decided to make the purchase. Best case scenario: I like the results. Worst case scenario: I know it is probably going to be better than the stock cartridge that the Sony comes with.
Replacing The Cartridge On The Sony PS-HX500
Disclaimer: replacing the cartridge on the Sony PS-HX500 is notoriously difficult. Again, it doesn’t have a detachable headshell like many turntables you may or may not be familiar with. I thought I was prepared, having replaced cartridges with headshells in the past with ease. The wires however are very thin and very delicate, so proceed with caution. If you have any hesitation you may want to enquire with a stereo repair place to see how much they would charge to do it. Either way I am not responsible, you have been warned.
Things You Will Need
- replacement cartridge (here a Nagaoka MP-110)
- a clean surface
- angled needle nose pliers (1 mm)
- small phillips screwdriver (1 mm)
- cartridge stylus alignment protractor
- digital turntable stylus force scale gauge
- Place turntable on a clean, flat surface.
- Remove the lid from its hinges if attached.
- Clamp down the turntable arm, so it doesn’t move.
- Keep the cartridge attached, do not remove the screws from the cartridge yet.
- Remove the wires from old cartridge first, grabbing only the metal part with your angled needle nose pliers, apply pressure. Do not grip or touch the black rubber insulation nor the coloured wire itself.
- With light force pull the wire back off of the needle by the metal clasp. You must be careful not to grip too hard or the metal brackets will be squeezed and grip the pins. But also make sure not to lose grip or pull to hard. Doing so may separate the wire from the metal attachment. I almost broke one wire myself.
- Once all the wires are removed then you can detach the old cartridge by unscrewing the tiny screws on top of the headshell.
- Take off the cartridge, save all the screws and washers and replace the plastic cover for the needle (hopefully you kept it, always keep the cover).
- Remove new Nagaoka cartridge from its package.
- To install the The Nagaoka cartridge (in this scenario) it requires you to use the old washers that came with the turntable.
- Simply repeat the steps backwards: attach the needle to the headshell with the screws, then attach the wires to their perspective colours. Taking care to be gentle with the wires.
- Once the cartridge is attached, use your cartridge stylus alignment protractor to make sure needle is properly aligned outside and inside of the center of the platter.
- Finally use your digital turntable stylus force scale gauge to figure how much weight your needle weighs and how much counter weight and tracking you should use.
- Adjust cartridge, weight and tracking where needed.
Results / Reviews
So, far the Nagaoka MP-110 has been a great replacement needle for the Sony PS-HX500. Not only is of the relative same height, so I didn’t need to replace my mat, it also sonically sounds great. Delivering nice bass and good highs and much better staging than the previous needle. It should be noted that once your needle is installed you should give it 50 hours or so of listening to get optimal sound out of your new needle.