Audio-Technica AT-ART20 Cartridge

hfnoutstandingSixty years since Hideo Matsushita founded Audio-Technica in a Tokyo suburb the brand continues its love affair with vinyl with the launch of a new ART series moving-coil

Celebrations have come thick and fast over the last couple of years, and to SME's 60th [HFN Jul '22], Clearaudio's 40th [HFN Nov '22] and Nagra's 70th [HFN Aug '22] we can add Audio-Technica's 'Diamond'. Naturally, the company has not missed the opportunity to mark the occasion by releasing a celebratory cartridge or two. There's the new £8900 flagship AT-MC2022 and the slightly more affordable AT-ART20 at £2749 that we have here.

This cartridge takes some cues from the £1350 AT-ART9XI, albeit with improvements in materials, while leveraging other design features from the previous top-end AT-ART1000 moving-coil. Incidentally, the 'ART' designation in the model number stands for 'Audio Reference Transducer' and was a moniker first introduced back in the 1980s on the company's AT-ART1 moving-coil cartridge.

Modern Art
The appellation has been used ever since to designate Audio-Technica's premium designs and, if you happen to study a picture of that classic AT-ART1, you'll find that the AT-ART20, and fellow 'ARTs', share a great deal of its basic design ethos. Obviously, the materials have become more high-tech and the cartridge styling somewhat more Battlestar Galactica, but the heritage is clear to see.


A-T's latest ART cartridge combines an aluminium and titanium housing plus elastomer base, all by way of 'resonance control'. It is also undeniably attractive!

The pick-up utilises Audio-Technica's tried and trusted V-Coil configuration, for which the company promises 'exceptional channel separation and imaging along with wide dynamic contrasts'. Surrounding these coils, the neodymium magnet and Permendur magnetic alloy yoke are taken from the

AT-ART9XI. However, for the AT-ART20, Audio-Technica has thickened the yoke by 0.6mm, which may not sound a great deal, but is still sufficient to increase magnetic flux density in the area. The result is not only a claimed improvement in sound quality, but also an increase in output voltage from the 0.5mV of the AT-ART9XI to 0.55mV here. For a moving-coil cartridge, this is a decent jump.

The base of the cartridge is made from aluminium, but the damped underside is fashioned from an elastomer material and the body from titanium. For this design, A-T has called on the services of the eyeglass industry of Sabae City in the Fukui Prefecture of Honshu, utilising traditional skills in cutting and polishing to considerably reduce the thickness of the titanium material. The result is a very light but rigid structure, all polished to a mirror-like shine. Frankly, if it wasn't for the terror of snagging the stylus, I'd have been tempted to wear gloves during the installation process to avoid leaving unsightly fingerprints!

Trickle Tech
At the business end, Audio-Technica's new cartridge features a nude 'Special Line Contact' stylus mounted on the end of a 0.28mm-diameter solid boron cantilever using a titanium reinforcing plate – a technology trickled down from the AT-ART1000 model. This cantilever increases in diameter in gradual steps towards the pivot point, improving rigidity and helping to suppress unwanted resonances.


Eschewing a traditionally 'square' body design, the AT-ART20's thoroughly modern and very elegant aesthetic still makes for easy cartridge alignment and cueing

Finally, the gold-plating on the AT-ART20's output pins is claimed to be 30x thicker than that normally used by Audio-Technica, which should stand it in good stead if you are in the habit of 'refreshing' the tag connections on a regular basis. Resistance is not an issue here, but the AT-ART20's generator impedance is otherwise a moderate 12ohm, with a suggested minimum MC loading of 100ohm.

The cartridge is presented in a neat white box and supplied with gold-plated mounting hardware and an Audio-Technica-branded stylus brush and screwdriver. Fitting and alignment proved relatively painless, not least due to the threaded holes in the top of the cartridge body. A good range of screw lengths are supplied in the hardware bag and these ought to cover installation into even the thickest of headshells. The AT-ART20 is also supplied with a sturdy stylus guard that grips the cartridge well.

sqnote Nothing Missing
Audio-Technica specifies the optimal tracking weight as 1.8g with a span of 1.6-2.0g, but I found – with the AT-ART20 mounted to an SME V tonearm on a Michell Gyro SE – that either increasing or decreasing from the recommended value made little subjective difference. In fact, from the first bars of music, the AT-ART20 made its intentions clear. This is a cartridge that gets to the heart of your grooves and unearths incredible levels of detail. Aided by superb tracking, it seemingly misses absolutely nothing.

This sense of clarity and insight carries through to the midband; I've not often heard a cartridge in this price range be so precise in creating a wonderfully etched and ordered soundstage. If you're the sort of listener who likes to detect the gauge and make of the guitarist's strings and work out exactly how tall the second violinist is, then perhaps you'll be minded to place your AT-ART20 order right now.

Audio-Technica Corporation
Tokyo, Japan
Supplied by: Audio-Technica Ltd (UK), Leeds, UK
0113 277 1441