Not long after it introduced its award-winning A60 integrated amplifier, the Amplification and Recording company of Cambridge (A&R Cambridge, latterly ARCAM) began work on a series of high quality affordable moving magnet cartridges. The first to reach dealers was the P77, which sported a (then) highly fashionable Parabolic (extended line contact) stylus that cost £45 in 1977. The £20 C77 followed, which used the same cartridge body but a cheaper conical (spherical) diamond, and the E77 then surfaced with a good quality elliptical stylus assembly for £35. The colours were red (C), blue (E) and black (P). Tracking weight was different for each cartridge, ranging from 2.5g for the C77 to 1.8g for the P77.
The cartridge used a Japanese plastic body, cantilever and generator assembly. The former was easily cracked if you were the sort who tended to overtighten their cartridges in the headshell. Nearly a decade later in 1986, Arcam produced a Magnesium bodied variant for £10 on top of the standard prices, or you could buy a replacement 77Mg body for £23 to upgrade your existing stylus. The styli were supplied by Dr. Ernst Weinz in Germany, but when he unexpectedly died Arcam was able to source UK-made diamond styli for the E77 and P77 styli via Expert Pickups – the company that invented the elliptical stylus for Decca. “Expert’s diamonds are of top quality and comparable with any in the world”, said Arcam’s John Dawson.
The Arcam 77 series is a fine sounding line of cartridges. The basic C77 has a big, warm, fat, powerful sound with little in the way of subtlety but tracks reasonably well and has a very musical nature. The E adds lots of polish and detail, whilst retaining the basic big-hearted sound. It seems a little tauter in the bass, but still lacks really high resolution. The P doesn’t; it’s a very detailed, delicate and fluent performer, and certainly one of the nicest moving magnets of its time. The Mg body adds grip and image solidity to the basic package; there’s more detail and better dynamics too. In some respects a C77Mg sounds better than a P77, but by the time you get to an E77Mg you have a really good MM, and the P77Mg is superb. Generally, the 77 range was a little more smooth and sophisticated than the rival Shures of the day, and a bit more musical and animated than the Ortofons. None compare well to a really good, high end modern magnet but are nevertheless very pleasant to listen to all the same. These days, prices are low but styli are still available if you look hard enough. Well worth thinking about, especially in the Mg variant.