An assured all-rounder
Works well with any music
Can sound a little stressed with very treble-rich material
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Back in the eighties, when analogue was still the default source for the majority of music-lovers, Audio-Technica was one of the most common names to be found at the business-end of a tonearm, and the AT-F3 was a frequent choice for budget-to-midrange systems.
Now, a couple of revisions later and with a rather higher price (though not by much more than inflation), here it is again.
It's a moving-coil design with an output typical of the breed at 0.35mV, just in the middle of the range and well within the comfort zone of practically any MC-compatible phono stage.
The stylus is a straightforward elliptical type, fitted to a hollow aluminium cantilever. Compliance is quite high, matched well to the low mass, assuming a low-mass arm is used.
Distant memories suggest this used to be a lively cartridge, but not always a very subtle one, so it is good to be able to report an improvement in the latter area. It still doesn't have quite the insight of a true high-ender (none of the four in this group does, unsurprisingly), but its detail and clean treble make it a good performer both with lively and with laid-back sounds.
It does a very good job of separating out the performers in a group, but without losing the sense of ensemble. It's also (still) lively, though not excessively so and we found its tastes best flattered by classical, jazz and other acoustically recorded styles.
Just occasionally it can seem a little over-full in the low bass, but that's a minor sin and an easy one to live with.
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