Cartridge comparison: Why i still love the Nagaoka MP-110 so much.

As i wrote in another post, I use the Nagaoka MP-110 cartridges for quite a while to dj without any issues. Here’s a comparison of tracking distortion sounds: Nagaoka MP-110 being compared to other well repected hifi cartridges.

Sorry Grado.

Attention: the sounds you are about to hear are not really enjoyable at all.

Election Posters to 45 Boxes!

As mentioned before, a clever way for DIY 45 storage boxes are: Using obsolete election posters! Those made of twin-wall plastic.

Here’s a little cryptic step-by-step movie how i did that, but you sure can use other techniques or constructions  like maybe fixing the construction with rivet bolts or just wrap it in gaffer tape if you like…

The 45 storage box that also can be used as the stiffening inlay for the perfect 45 bag. See measurements in cm below

Perfect & Cheap 45 Dj Bag !!!

We’ve seen the Magma, Zomo, Rich Medina’s Tucker & Bloom or Stones Throw / Tanner Goods 45 record bags and their brand-series variations and I like most of them a lot! Only Zomo’s Ragga Bag was notorious for always getting stuck with all those outer pockets. The foam inlay was quite protective but made this bag very  chubby for the amount of records you actually could hold in it. Same with Magma’s old Riot Bag model, plus this zipper that never really worked. Newer Magma (look out for the Dusty Donuts & 45Live editions!) are great! Inspired by the also great luxury Tucker & Bloom bag. No problems at all besides the fact that with all those 45 bags -as often with phono equipment- the price tags are (in my opinion at least) a bit high for what they really are in the end…

Looking for alternatives I checked some beauty cases and liked this one particularly… but, well: it was not helping a lot price-wise.

Louis Vuitton Vanity vanity case in black epi leather

Then I found something else: Durable! Waterproof! Thermos insulated! Cheap! Fishing cooler bags that is. Those bags are made for outdoor use, made of heavy duty nylon and are more often than not water resistant. The aluminum thermos inner lining is to protect your carp (or 45’s) from heat. Most of those bags are not stabilized and a bit sloppy. So what you need to stiffen the bag is  a bottom plate or -even better- plates on every wall to put inside and you have a perfectly working budget 45 bag.

My favorite material for that: Twin-wall medium soft plastic material as you can easily cut and fold it. You can build a 4-wall & bottom inlay just like that paper cube you probably had to do in grammar school! To find that material grab an expired election poster or buy one in a a crafts store, artists supply or architectural modeling store, … or  certainly on ebay (German here) too.

There’s so many fishing bag models out there, so many different sizes and variations that you might wanna hunt for your own perfect bag. Watch out for getting one with zippers on the top edge (and not somewhere in the middle of the top) and take care that the measurements are minimum & best 20cm (8 inch) in height and with.

The one I championed in terms of size, stability and price was that one:

The Chub Vantage Coolstyle Bait Bag

I am 100% happy with it! it’s approx 10cm longer than the average dj bag and so more records fit in (40% more compared to a Magma Riot Bag for example).

  • Size 45cm x 21cm x 22cm / 17.7in x 8.2in x 8.6in
  • Weight empty: 1,0 kg / 2.2 pound
  • Weight full: approx. 9,3 kg / 20.5 pound
  • Holds max. 130 records fully armed in heavy duty cardboard sleeves along with poly-lined paper inner sleeves &  crystal outer sleeves / ca. 150-200 in blank paper sleeves
  • accepted as cabin luggage dimensions for most air-flight companies 
  • overall material, zippers, stitching, straps & hooks etc: at least as solid or better than the  average brand-name DJ-bag.

Here’s some pics with twin-wall inlay & led light (very handy in dark clubs) the AA battery case to run the lights is a plastic box that easily fits in somewhere outside that twin-wall stabilizer inner. Alternatively: a flat power bank with a USB-connected led…


Whilst being totally happy with what I own I also  found this: The Jrc Defender Large Cooler Bag

(German Ebay link there, if somewhere else just copy the name and Google for wherever your region you are at)

The same thing with a front pocket for headphones, styli and 45 adapters. Different brand name, supposedly same manufacturer, same dimensions, same solid quality too. I ordered one and am 100% happy with it. The front bag is not the largest but big enough for some adapters, maybe a flat stylus case (such as those Ortofon or Shure White Label cases) and / or a headset, I guess most with foldable / rotating ear-cups or a Sennheiser 25 will do but  for  really big beasts (like a Pioneer Pro or the big Audiotechnica) the pocket is too small.


Florian Keller’s 45 record bag (an ex fishing cooler bag)

TEST: does MP3 sound bad – and can you hear a difference at all?

Always the discussion about the horrible sound of MP3, very interestingly quite often from sound engineers in clubs that have unfavorably room acoustics plus a shit p.a. installed.

I heard enough terrible MP3 files in my life but I learned that it mostly is from crappy converter software, wrong adjustment of the settings or terrible original material (as rotten vinyl recorded with bad equipment or even worse like rips from ultra-compressed Youtube clips or such). With good equipment, knowledge and a bit of passion, a high quality MP3 does sound: Good!

The sound of a vinyl record is a story on it’s own. Digital always means reduced mechanical scanning (digital “stairsteps” no matter how fine), on the other hand theres so much additional disturbance sources in the vinyl audio chain: stylus, preamp, interference, feedback, dust, wow & flutter (disability to hold the correct speed that is) wich we are so used to that we actually see some of the imperfections as “warm sound”, I indeed do so.

So do you believe you can hear the difference between uncompressed high-definition audio, a 320kbps MP3 and a super-compressed 128kbps file?
The american National Public Radio, NPR created a test. Turn up the volume and give it a try!

NPR test to MP3 sound quality

With a proper headphone plugged right in to my (totally average soundcard) laptop, I guessed 3 WAV’s out of 6, the other 3 were 320 files. And to be honest: with Neil Young it was random that i didn’t chose the 128kbps file…

My claim: MP3’s bad image seems to be much imaginantion, a lot of wannabe expert knowledge plus tons of poor converting – but not much substance.

Perfect Dj Cartridge!

good to your records + sounds great + sticks in the groove

There’s no ad-financed links or no other reason (as every other post on my site) but the one that I’m quite excited about the following I wanna share with you!


The  Nagaoka MP-110 is widely known as a budget top quality phono system for it’s neutral to warm sound and silky treble, plus the fact that it’s needle seems to be very generous to hide some slight scratches & worn vinylgrooves. This is why I bought one to digitize my records the best way my budget allowed me. As i found in another Shoot-out Video the tracking also is fantastic compared to other cartridges. It’s price is ca. €130.00 but check Ebay for €112,00 incl headshell at some Japanese sellers.

But on top of that, as I accidentally found out – and then purposely tested: This is a perfect choice for Dj-use, especially for those who play vintage and worthy records!

For decades now I was totally happy with the Stanton 890SA/FS model for it’s warm sound and most of all for being so protective to the records – and the extraordinary loud volume. I always appreciated the Shure Whitelabel for the warm and detailed sound and also to mention the Grado Dj-200 for the complexity. With Grado it is a question of taste (as every thing concerning the senses certainly are) as I never liked it’s treble too much, but – most important: the way it tortures records while back-cueing is brutal! Shure M44-7 >>> here are costy but proper replacement styli <<< are soundwise harder / “dryer” but top league (like Stanton) for low record-wear, still the most important point for me! So they are all great …. for a dj cartridge. Ortofon Concordes may have developed over the years but apart from easy installation i never liked the thin and dead sound and especially the heavy record-wear. Generally all mentioned cartridges just cannot keep up with the lovely ad detailed sound Nagaoka MP-110 produces. It is simply a different level!

Although it’s an elliptical stylus, the record-wear is absolute minimum, so to say on one level with the Shure M44-7 and Stanton 890SA/FS or better.

It’s praised in most hifi forums for being such a great sounding thing for such little money. It actually seems to share this position meanwhile with the legendary Denon DL-110 (a great sounding system witch is in no way suitable for dj’ing). It’s always ridiculous to describe sound, but the best way to do so: Music sounds simply more lovely than before, no matter how long you listen. A good comparison between a Grado blue stylus (also very decent, not recommended for dj purposes!) and the Nagaoka MP-110. Listen to the cymbal-like sounds on the trashy pink pop 12″ !

With good internet connection & quality headphones you might get an impression (the details in the treble!)

When it comes to turntablism the Shure wins by far for it’s skipping resistance, no question. The MP-110 does all cueing, back-spinning and a little wicky-wicky-scratching thingy with ease. Remember it is a hifi system, so the metal that holds the diamond (cantilever) is less stiff as a dj-one would be and the recommended / ideal weight adjustment is 1,5 – 2 grams. But when you’re not scratching until the needle starts smoking the system behaves just fine. To put on some extra weight for heavily warped records works but don’t forget to get back to your 2 grams for the next record since the cantilever starts to sag down at heavier weights – not good for the record-wear (especially while back-spinning)

Club dj’s know the problem concerning vinyl (or better the turntables & dj booths) can produce bass feedback at loud volumes, especially since most sound engineers in clubs have lost their knowledge about turntable setup and maintenance. So, one of the most important: Nagaoka’s feedback behavior is better than all the mentioned cartridges! I claim that after months of experience now. Remember it is always depending on the material and built of the dj booth, the shape of the venue, where the sub-woofers are placed, how worn the tonearm fixation is … and lots of other details, so this cannot be a general result, but I have used them Nagaoka’s in about 100 different situations by now and it is an über-positive impression. (Only open air caused trouble, see the note at the bottom).

Output volume is “average” (5mV) equal as the notorious in-house Ortofon OM Pro S (6mV) but not as loud as Shure M44 (9,5 mV), Ortofon Nightclub (9,5 mV), Ortofon Q-Bert (11mV)  or, the loudest, Stanton 890 (12mV). This can lead to quite different volume-levels when you combine Serato / CD or other media in your dj set but actually that does not matter at all as long as you know what a gain knob does, but actually sharing the booth along with other dj’s who set everything to the max: it might cause a problem.

Also not perfect is the fact that you don’t see the needle tip very good. This will take you maybe one or two extra revolutions of back-spinning while cueing each record.

Availability: you should get replacement forever since Nagaoka’s main business is replacement needles for all kinds of discontinued cartridges.

Replacement needles are €59,00 street price (Nov 2018) that means more expensive as Shure and one third of Grado (€180,00). I don’t want to put this fact down but usually you do need to replace your stylus every 500 to 1000 hours. Calculate 2 turntables = 2 cartridges = each playing out half the time, plus the necessary cueing per record. That equals ca. 300-600 club sets of 2 hours each or 100-200 6-hour marathons. Think of your records and record-wear before you have a thought on saving some 40 bucks on styli.

Note: Nagaoka DJ-03HD MM and cannot recommend it. Quite surprisingly I did experience quite heavy cueburn and silly needle skip at 3 grams. Strangely enough since this is supposed to be a dj needle but  Nagaoka MP-110 has drmatically better specifications for dj purposes. Out of production now anyway and I’m not surprised really.

I haven’t tried the Taruya models yet (and I know I should soon do so! (Anybody with experience for that? Please let me know if so!) but overall until now the Nagaoka is the best choice i found in my 30+ years of quite intensive searching for a perfect DJ-cartridge so far.

[edit: after this long time without club life, it was at most possible to dj outdoors, a note: The Nagaoka is more sensitive to wind gusts at open-air gigs due to the low weight of max. 2 grams. The tonearm lifts off faster in storms than with a stylus which can tolerate 4 grams and more.]

– better sound than all existing DJ-cartridges i ever tried (and those were a lot)
– very low record-wear
– very good feedback insensibility

– not the loudest
– stylus tip not well visible
– costly replacement needles
– more delicate for wind at open air sets

Record Overgrading

Today I’d like to make a point about record grading, an essential instrument for trading records when both seller and buyer can’t make it possible to be in the same place at the same time to make their deal.

Decades ago a record-collector magazine, Goldmine, installed their Goldmine record grading system wich has become the standard language in describing the condition of (particularly used) records. uses the same standards as nearly every experienced record person does – more or less. Only some little differences exist (as where you have an “EX” between  NM & VG+ or whether can put ++ or – behind the condition term or not) which dosen’t make it easier … but that is fine adjusting of a more advanced level i don’t feel the need to discuss here.

The term “mint” by the way is adapted from another gang of nerds, the coin collectors. For non-native english people: Mint is the place where coins are being pressed, not the herb (as i thought for a long time). The term means nothing but fresh out of the production.

A little listening lession concerning the grading system:

By the nature of capitalism the seller of a record always tends to describe his record very positive – while buyers on the other hand are often quite tight. A totally unplayed record almost for free is basically the secret buyers hope on every record-hunt, let’s be honest.

So by nature it’s often a difference of what arrived your mailbox and what you hoped to do so. The tradition of the seller up-polishing the describtion of the offered item is so old that the language of describing a record basically shifted out of space ever since. What is termed a “Good” record is hardly enjoyable if even playable, a “Very Good” piece of vinyl sounds most of the times quite bad and a “Very Good Plus” record is actually the lowest existing grade where you can expect a record that sounds: good. Record nerds are used to that language but most certainly it is nothing else but absurd.

Another factor of different grading is the listening equipment. It can be a huge difference to hear the same record on two different setups in general. According to the wear of a record it’s maybe even more drastical. With a real bad equipment you might not hear too much of the whole recording at all, now less than ever the treble (where the pops, scratches and crackles are mainy located in the frequency spectrum). We have here: worn stylusses, portable kiddie turntables and supermarket stuff of the Crosley or Silvercrest league, damaged loudspeakers or bad headphones to listen, or simply a lot of dirt on the needle-tip and in the record grooves and no $1.00 spent on a simple micro fibre cloth to clean the record at least a bit.

On top of that there is an issue with the stylus shape. A variety of different shapes exist. Every stylus type contacts more or less at another region in the record groove. So, for example: if you have some surface scratches it might sound better with a more spiky cartridge type that dips deeper into the groove wile some dust and pressing remains down there might be more evident with the same thing. (More about the styus topic in general and especially for dj concerns here)

Another piont i wanted to make: There’s an evident problem with the Goldmine / Discogs system. Sellers often do grade the visual state of the label and the record together as the condition of the record itself, especially when it comes to 45’s. Although I’m a big fan of nice labeldesign, I prefer to listen to music instead of getting exited about how “minty” a recordlabel is. Especially 45’s are claimed to be in a top contition because they look top. Maybe it might be much better to change the system of grading from: first record, than cover into: first sound, then sight! (cosmetic looks of the record all tgether with cover and any poster-gadgets or whatever else you lp freaks ever may expect in your record-foldout-envelopes)

We’re all attracted by disaster stories, so here’s one! To get a picture how this record grading can get way out sometimes (actually one of my top 3 of the worst  experiences in those nearly four decades of buying mail order records now)

This copy of “Jah Woosh – Love I Version” was sold on Discogs as a VG+ condition, wich claims: “Defects should be more of a cosmetic nature, not affecting the actual playback as a whole”

The pictured 45 was already cleaned with a vacuum record cleaning machine. Before It had a strange smeer in the grooves but the scratches certainly did remain. This is how it sounded freshly cleaned and played on decent equipment.

But enough sensation here. I think there’s no way at all to really 100% standartize the grade of recordwear, but I think we all should make our efforts for keeping the standards as good as we can. It is a communication tool and I am not looking forward to the point where  a “Double Mint with three stars” record is the only piece of not totally rotten crap record you can buy.

Perfect 45 inner sleeves!

Perfect 45 inner sleeves!

why some polylined sleeves can ruin your records, and paper sleeves too.

 a comparison and a solution that stood the test of time.

A quarter of a century ago – or even more now- I ordered my first big lot of 45 inner sleeves from a small ad in Goldmine magazine (one of the very few sources to find stuff like that back then before the internet days). I soon couldn’t remember anymore where i bought that sleeves from and with every new order of other poly-lined 45 sleeves from different providers in Germany, UK and USA I found out how perfect those sleeves actually are.

Sleeve City USA anti-static polylined 7" 45 paper sleeves
Sleeve City poly-lined paper sleeve after 25+ years

pure paper sleeves do mechanically harm the records (paper scuffs !!!) and while slowly decaying, sever wood fiber dust is piling up in the record-grooves.

Paper scuffs & wood fiber dust. Typical for paper record sleeves

“Rice paper” or “Nagaoka style*” sleeves are High-density polyethylene (HDPE) without additional paper …and they are are too flimsy! They are anti-static, free of softeners (and other vinyl destroyers) and produce no dust, but they do wrinkle if you put the record back into the outer sleeve. Plus: due to their much thinner material too delicate to handle in time while dj’ing.

*The term “rice paper” is confusing since it’s material is not paper but plastic. I never spotted a record-sleeve made out of actual rice paper. Nagaoka is a well known producer of this kind of LP sleeves, but since they don’t do 45 ones, some sellers call their 45 versions “Nagaoka style”

rice paper 45 inner sleeve
“Rice paper” 45 inner sleeve, too thin to handle

plastic sleeves can melt your records!

poly-lined paper sleeves: Most of them are just too thin, often not anti-static. Static charge causes audible crackles and pops while listening plus: it keeps the record “magnetic” to the slip-mat, so the 45 “ingests” the slipmat and every single dust particle around. The label might be hardly visible due to the often untransparent and milky plastic, typically the size is not precise and often too large to fit into standard cardboard outer sleeves, and -most important-  the poly-lining and the glue can destroy your records! Some of them do really chemically react with the vinyl if you wait long enough. I always thought they wouldn’t use that kind of acidic material anymore since they found out about that issue . Unfortunately some budget producers still do.

cheap 45 sleeve with glue that chemically reacted
Sleeve with glue that chemically reacted

cheap 45 poly lined sleeve not good for professional use
Thin paper & hard to see label, not good for professional use

chemmically reaction with vinyl record and pvc sleve. Image © Sheila B
Image © from Sheila B’s “Cha Cha Charming” blog

Most poly-lined inner sleeves are not suitable for professional use!

If you don’t have all the time in the world but rather try to put on another tune every two or three minutes, all regular sleeves i ever experienced hardly slip back into the cover without getting stuck, warping and wrinkling the paper they’re made off (causing clumpy paper/plastic areas witch do press into the vinyl), ripping the paper off the plastic or just fall apart soon after you bought them.

The Sleeve City heavy duty sleeves are still fully intact. I don’t remember exactly if i bought 500 or 1000 with the first order. About 10 sleeves all together broke by split seams, one got spilled with booze: it didn’t survive but the record perfectly did … witch is the initial reason to have such things! and all the rest of the sleeves still perfectly do their job.

The inner lining of the discussed sleeve is thick and sturdy, made of hi-density polyethylene (HDPE). It’s feel is like cellophane as from Japanese gift wrapping-foil. The paper is quite thick and dense. Neither the inner lining itself as well as the glue didn’t react in any notable way after all those years. Only some yellowing of the paper and that’s it. They do fit perfectly  inside the UK cardboard outers. Some records I played frequently over the yeas must have slipped in and out of the sleeves many dozen’s of times and there’s no evident sign of wear such as paper scuffs. No way to experience this with a paper-only-sleeve. 

Sleeve City USA anti-atatic polylined 7" 45 paper sleeves. 25 years old & new
Slightly yellowed but no other issues

I finally found them super sleeves again at Sleeve City who made them back in the days – and they still do in the same top quality!

Direct link to the seller

They are costly (roughly $0.25 a piece plus shipping etc) but i promise it is a much better investment than cheap ones that bother by short life span, laborious handling and, worst: will ruin your records in the end.


I ordered a pack of the even more expensive “7 Inch Diskeeper 45 Inner Sleeve” to check them out. The sleeve seems to perfectly be anti-static, stiff enough & well fitting into a UK cardboard outer, and the making surely avoids the last little chance to scuff your record with that sleeve, because the plastic material is completely constructed around the paper in a way that there’s none such thing as sharp edges towards the opening side of the sleeve. Paper seems to be laminated inside just as a stiffener of the whole sleeve.

But: the inner lining is frosted and so the label text is really bad to identify under bad light condition.

Bad visibility: Diskeeper sleeve v/s  Sleeve City 7 Inch Anti-Static Polylined one
Bad visibility: Diskeeper sleeve v/s Sleeve City 7 Inch Anti-Static Polylined one

Ergo: Not recommended for dj’ing and definitely not worth the excess cost.

45s Record Storage by Button Up Furniture

Post stolen & quoted  from . Author: Pete Isaac, 14th August 2018

45s Record Storage
The ‘Allnighter’
by Button Up Furniture

When it comes to storage for your records, you are well served if you collect 12″ vinyl, but for 45s the choices are not as vast unless you count all the various ‘hacks’ that people employ to store their 7″ collection, like shoe boxes, various drinks crates, wooden boxes that are almost the right size and so on. But this fact has been changing over the last year or 2 with some incredibly stylish and beautifully handcrafted pieces of furniture making it to market. Of course, these high-end pieces come with high-end price tags. You can make your own too, we recently saw what 45 Live crew DJ Woody made out of MDF, and that was a simple cabinet for card drawers, very effective and very cheap!

But if you aren’t comfortable with crafting your own, and you have a fairly decent budget then the ‘Allnighter’ by Button Up Furniture could well be a prime contender. Made in Bosse Cedar wood with a natural matt lacquer, these mid-century styled drawers look the business. Featuring soft close drawers on hidden runners and with a very cool cut out so the front facing 7″ label shows through perfectly, and all set on beautiful angled legs. Measuring 102cm wide x 80cm high x 40cm deep with 8 drawers, there is plenty of storage for a small to medium collection. Each of the 8 drawers holds approximately 160 x 45s making a solution for up to 1300 x 45s, which should be enough for many collectors/DJs.

The cabinets are made to order in roughly 3 weeks and are shipped fully assembled, no messing about with allen keys and diagrams. Costing €985 these also aren’t cheap, but they are a lot more affordable than the Plattenkreisel drawers, albeit smaller.

We think it’s pretty gorgeous, beautifully made by Maribel and Pedro in Spain and would also serve as a perfect base for a (vintage) turntable and amp. Stick a pair of vintage Tannoy speakers either side of the cabinet and it’s instantly the most important piece of furniture in your house!

Now, I wonder if my wife might buy one for me for my next birthday?

Turntable Weight & 45 Adapter Combined

Varia Instruments, a swiss manufacturer known for their rotary mixers, just released a platter-weight that includes a slide-out 45 adapter. Interesting detail seems to be the sticky rubber texture that is claimed to let you control the records by handling the weight. Cost CHF 89.00 (aprox € 75.00 or $ 89.00) plus shipping

High Class Vinyl Storage

After years of research and endless fine adjusting efforts in his mad scientist castle, Atomic Cafe‘s Roland Schunk is about to start his line of hi-class vinyl record storage furniture soon on his website.

Expect nothing else than great looking and hyperfunctional phono furniture and accessoires, handcrafted of the finest materials.

Pricerange: costy