Sonata1 & Platinum1

Sonata1 & Platinum1
More Reviews

Sonata1 & Platinum1 REVIEW

GRADO Reference Sonata
By Michael Jones

Part of my job as the editor of AudioEnz is to talk to hi-fi retailers about which products are particularly good and might be worth attention in the pages of this magazine. Being "on the caolfacc" gives a good hi-fi retailer a unique insight into the various pieces of hi-fi equipment that any reviewer simply cannot have.

I'm regularly told about speakers, amplifiers, CD players and even AV receives that are particularly good performers or have something of interest about them.

But I can't remember the last time any hi-fi retailer mentioned a phono cartridge to me, until recently. Peter Munt, manager of Eastern Hi-Fi in Newmarket Auckland, started raving to me about the wooden bodied Grado cartridges, particularly the Sonata. I had been impressed with the lower-end Grado Prestige Gold and made a note to see if a Sonata could be made available for review. It was, and a couple of months later it arrived.

While the Prestige Gold used Grado's standard plastic body – in use since Adam was a young audiophile – the upper ranges of Grado cartridges now use a wooden body. The Sonata is made out of mahogany. The cartridge body is threaded, which can make it easier to mount the cartridge on the tonearm.

Upper and Lower

There are two wooden body ranges in the Grado lineup; both have models with the same name. The Reference range is the high output, 4.5mV and the Statement range is the low output, 0.5 mV. So the Reference Sonata (the one under review) is the High output cartridge, while the Statement Sonata is the low output model.

I listened to the Reference Sonata mounted on a Rega RB300 tonearm. The Rega is mounted on my modified Thorens TD150 mk2 turntable. Amplication, including phono, is through my Plinus 8150 and speakers are the classic ES14.

While the Prestige Gold is a great cartridge for the money, the Sonata is a great cartridge full stop. And, particularly here in New Zealand, it is a great value for the money.

Bass through the Sonata was particularly good, I found – solid and powerful, with very good pace and timing. The broader midrange was simply wonderful. Vocals in particular came across very well, both tonally and very articulate. I must admit that my reaction surprised me. The ability of this piece of hi-fi equipment to involve the listener in the music and want to continue listening is priceless.

Above all, the Sonata brought out the best aspects of good analog reproduction. The sense of momentum in the music, the sense of involvement, the sense that there were real people playing and singing – all areas that CD can struggle with some two decades on.

The Sonata is a refined and dynamic cartridge. It offers performance ahead of what you might expect for the price. Above all, the Sonata encourages you to play more of your LPs – and what greater recommendation can there be?

Sonata1 & Platinum1


Buy Grado Direct from
Frequency Response
Channel Separation at 1KHz
Imput Load
Output at 1KHz 5CM/sec.
Recommended Tracking Force
Stylus Type
Compliance CUs
Stylus Replacement F=Factory

The newly redesigned Platinum1 and Sonata1 have had their coil design reconfigured, and the effective moving mass of their generating system has been reduced by 17%. All this is hand-assembled within a machined, new processed, Australian Jarrah wood housing. The Platinum1 and Sonata1 models use a modified four piece OTL cantilever technology achieving a 10% tip mass reduction over the Prestige series and ultra-high purity long crystal (UHPLC) oxygen free copper wire in the coils. The Platinum model uses Grado's specially designed elliptical diamond mounted on a brass bushing, and the Sonata model uses Grado's specially designed nude elliptical diamond.

What People are saying about the Sonata...

"After a week of warm-up, during which the Sonata was most notable for the solidity of its bass and power of its subsonic bass, the sound started to become very musical."
— Andrew Marshall / Audio Ideas Guide / Canada
"For the extra money, the Reference Sonata represents a leap of performance beyond the Platinum and hints at what an expensive moving coil can do."
— Stereophile / Robert Reina Vol.21, No.6
"No cartridge reproduces a female voice better than this."
— Stereophile / Robert Reina Vol.21, No.6
"I'd go so far as to say that the Sonata reminded me more of my Koetsu Urishi ($4000) then of my 8MZ."
— Stereophile / Robert Reina Vol.21, No.6
"The Sonata is a refined and dynamic cartridge. It offers performance ahead of what you might expect for the price. Above all, the Sonata encourages you to play more of your LPs and what greater recommendation can there be?"
— Michael Jones / AudioEnz
"...the Reference Sonata-1 is an excellent articulate performer, making a dramatic improvement in my analog system. There is little doubt that I will be playing a lot more vinyl records from here out."
— Notes and Updates to Ron's Audio-Files / Ron Zeman

and about the Platinum...

"Let me say straight out: like the Maggie 1.6QRs or the Goldman SRA, the Grado Platinum is one of those incredible bargains that doesn't just give you a "taste" of high fidelity but pretty much the whole enchilada for the price of, er, a whole enchilada."
— Fi magazine / Jonathan Valin Vol.3, No.11
"A prime advantage/disadvantage of phono reproduction is that every cartridge sounds different. Choosing one is like selecting wine, a process easy to get lost in. But if the cartridge is good enough, like Grado's Platinum, you'll get lost in the music."
— Audio / Ivan Berger Vol.82, No. 2
"On Antel Dorati's interpretation of Stravinsky's Firebird, the Platinum's reproduction of room sound and image dimensionality gave a vibrant sense of realism to the work."
— Stereophile / Robert Reina Vol.21, No.6
"If this is the bottom of the range, then what does the flagship model offer?"
— HiFi News / Ken Kessler
"At the level of investment that brings you a Reference Platinum, the performance is a amazing!"
— Primyl Vinyl Exchange / Bruce Kennett
"The Grado Reference Platinum phono cartridge is the most musical cartridge I've ever heard, period!"
— Audio Adventure / Dayna B Vol.4, No.1