Back in the early nineteen nineties, vinyl was on the wane. There was an ‘end of the century’ feel to it, a sense that the sting of death would visit it before too long. For this reason, the supply of affordable, high quality cartridges began to dry up. The ageing Ortofon VMS series was quietly being removed from dealers’ inventory lists, Audio-Technica wasn’t refreshing its range and Shure seemed to have given up on the non-DJ market. Goldring’s 1000 series arrived just at the right time then, and – for those of us still interested in the venerable format – provided much needed relief.
The Goldring 1042 appeared in 1995 for the princely sum of £90. And this was no rehash of an ageing design – it was a clean-sheet product using audiophile best practice. Mounted in a good mid priced arm like Rega’s ubiquitous RB300, it was superb. Despite being the flagship of the British company’s moving magnet range, it shared the glass-reinforced polyester body (which the company called POCAN) with all other variants. This material was less resonant than the metal bodies that the previous generations of cartridges had used, but just as strong.
It also shared a new neodymium magnet assembly and wiring with the cheaper variants, with the stylus being the sole differentiating point. It used an extended groove contact design, a Swiss-sourced Fritz Gyger-S. An expensive tip, it isn’t normally found on mid-price cartridge designs, especially moving magnets. It transformed the sound compared to the base model 1006 for example, bringing substantially improved fine detail resolution, smoothness and polish.
The result was a sound that had the benefits of the 1000-series chassis – a big, bold, musical nature with a very punchy 0.65mV output that flattered poor MM phono stages – with the refinement you’d normally expect from a moving coil. In other words, the 1042 attempted to offer much of the best of both worlds, at a very affordable price. In this respect, it was a direct rival for the high output moving coil Dynavector DV10X4, and ended up sounding quite similar in some senses; if anything the Dynavector was the less sophisticated but more feisty performer.
The 1042 turned in decently flat frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz (±3dB), although if anything it was a little plumper in the bass than the treble. This was a blessed relief to many, because nineties loudspeakers were often bright, and the Goldring was an effective palliative measure. It imaged very strongly left to right, with large brushstrokes that made for a positive and confident recorded acoustic. It wasn’t as good as more expensive moving coils in its depth perspective though (it tended to hang instruments around the plane of the speakers), and lacked fine detail.
The downside of the 1042 is that it gives you just enough of a taste of the high life to leave you wanting more. Yes, it’s decently detailed and rolls along in an enjoyable way rhythmically, but then you can’t help wishing it had a sharper, more atmospheric treble and tauter, tighter bass. In a way, it sounds like a cartridge version of a good KT88 valve amp – punchy and fun but a little opaque.
With a compliance of 24mm/N (lateral) and16mm/N (vertical), it’s an easy partner for most middle mass modern arms, and electrically it’s nothing special either with a load of 47K ohm and 150-200pF. That’s the beauty of the 1042, it’s easy to use and will work well with a wide range of ancillaries. Its 6.3g weight isn’t hard to balance and it tracks very securely at 1.75g. The stylus assembly is of course replaceable, but these days at £185 is getting expensive. After two decades, the 1042 itself costs £285 new now. Still, it remains good value – think of it as your last ever moving magnet cartridge; beyond this you should be looking at a £500-£1,000 moving coil.