Audio-Technica AT-OC9XSH Cartridge Lab Report

Lab Report

Most recently tested in HFN Jul '09 and Jan '11, comparisons between the last 'OC9s and this new 'OC9XSH are instructive. The headline change lies in the AT-OC9XSH's response or, more correctly, a difference in the left and right channel responses – the left flat to within tight ±0.5dB limits from 50Hz-15kHz while the right shows a lift through the treble of +1dB/9kHz to +2.2dB/13kHz [solid vs. dashed traces, Graph 1].

Similarly, while the latest PCOCC coils and neodymium magnets have boosted output from 400µV to 470µV (AT-OC9III vs. AT-OC9XSH, re. 1kHz/5cm/sec), and channel balance has improved from 0.5dB to 0.3dB, there's also been a shift in the symmetry of the generator: lateral cuts now have a 'brighter' sound than vertical [black vs. red traces, Graph 1]. Subjectively this brings central stereo images (solo voices) forward while peripheral images are pushed slightly backward. Distortion, however, is consistent between lateral/vertical cuts [Graph 2].

Mechanical compliance has been slightly relaxed to 23cu/30cu (vertical/lateral) – higher than A-T's rated 16cu – so the 'OC9XSH is better suited to low/medium effective mass arms. VTA has also been fettled back to an ideal 22o. Downforce is unchanged at 2g and the boron cantilever retained, but even with the one-down-from-top Shibata-equipped model we have here, its tracking performance has improved from 'excellent' to 'outstanding'. On test it sailed through the top 80µm band and suffered distortion of just 0.2% and 0.3% at 315Hz with the +15dB and +18dB test tracks, respectively (re. 5cm/sec). It's an MC boasting top class MM tracking performance! PM


Frequency response curves (–8dB re. 5cm/sec) lateral (L+R, black) versus vertical (L–R, red). Left channel (solid traces) and right channel (dashed)


Lateral (L+R, black infill) and vertical (L–R, red) tracing and generator distortion (2nd-4th harmonics) vs. frequency from 20Hz-20kHz (–8dB re. 5cm/sec)

Generator type/weight Moving-coil / 7.6g
Recommended tracking force 1.8-2.2mN (2.0mN)
Sensitivity/balance (re. 5cm/sec) 470µV / 0.3dB
Compliance (vertical/lateral) 23cu / 30cu
Vertical tracking angle 22 degrees
L/R Tracking ability >80μm / >80μm
L/R Distortion (–8dB, 20Hz-20kHz) 0.75–18% / 0.4–11%
L/R Frequency resp. (20Hz-20kHz) +0.3 to –4.3dB / –0.5 to +2.2dB
Stereo separation (1kHz / 20kHz) 40dB / 28dB
Price: £570
Audio-Technica Corp
Tokyo, Japan
Supplied by: Audio-Technica Limited (Export), Leeds, UK
0113 277 1441