I want to thank our helpful VE member Fantasia. His information, advice, and continued effort in finding alternative answers to keeping our crucial cartridges running are priceless. Broken doesn’t mean dead and Fantasia’s work is my foundation. And I want to thank every member here for having the intelligence to keep our hobby fresh where others can see and appreciate an “outdated” format. We don’t have all the answers yet but the variety of thoughts is what keeps us fresh and going forward with a format the consumer left behind.
Why do I offer you this alternative? It is interesting, fun, cost-effective, and can bring dusty cartridges back to life at costs that won’t break the bank. And if you don’t want to do it then send me all your dead cartridges. Okay?
For a third of a century I never got to hear Sumo II because there was no tip. It was a worthless curio.
Broken cartridges don’t have to sit. How would you like your broken cartridge retipped for $12? I went for the $20 deluxe job. You would have been thrilled to be with me as Sumo II fired up. It had all the adventures of a good book.
1977- a ham-fisted customer destroys the LOMC cartridge. It cost $500, $1,700 in today’s prices, so without a tip it is canned. I fish it out as a memento. 2009- nothing to lose and everything to gain, a fool stunt gets it, and a couple more, by DIY retipping. Two weeks later they continue to work. Moving-coil, unlike MM or MI carts, do not have easily replaced tips. With retips prices escalating and my wallet shrinking gives me the incentive to get creative and DIY it. Sumo is new, bold, and improved. It can be done to moving-magnet carts too.
Let’s create something out of nothing. No expensive retip is necessary and fixed in under an hour. The top picture shows my test-cantilever with the internal splint barely showing. The final cantilever is thinner and the splint is shaved down to approximate the distance the original point would sit. I do not recommend taking the body off this cartridge: the wires are very thin. A homemade stylus protector, green in color, is in the background.
Internal splint holds the new cantilever rigidly in place yet can be removed in a couple of minutes.
Enlargement of the graft. The tight-fit splint is the support and easy to find liquid acrylic keeps it locked in place.
Between and inside the tubes is a section from a cactus thorn. The fibrous leaf makes an ideal strong, lightweight, long-grain splint. A fingernail sanding-block shaves the thorn and cantilever for a snug fit. To bind the project together, a fine sable brush dabs a combination of carpenter’s glue blended with Future Acrylic Floor Polish. For more strength and protection, a couple of coats of Future are used to encase the splint. The bond can be released in a couple of minutes with ammonia and water. Don’t forget a good set of tweezers and a magnifier. I use a 4x watchmaker’s loupe.
WHY DID I GO TO THE TROUBLE?
Broken cartridges are wasted. Getting them running, especially in the case of LOMC carts like the Sumo, can be a challenge. Iin many cases the replacement tips are not around or no one will do it. Plenty of times the money is needed elsewhere.
Another reason for the Sumo cartridge rebirth is something I remembered from the technical magazine called International Audio Review
(IAR), Issue No. 5, 1980. I give credit to IAR because they are non-profit, accept no advertising, and have great information.
Back then MC cartridges were a progressive trend instead of today’s niche acceptance. They tested many MC cartridges side by side and found interesting results. Many moving-coil pickups performed best with a load capacitance of around 3000pF (yes, three-thousand!) More interesting is the intermodulation distortion tests produced a surprising discovery that as the impedance of MC pickups was reduced toward zero ohms, the IM distortion dropped dramatically making far less phase cancellations resulting in much clearer music with distinct stereo imaging. But very low load impedance (such as 5 ohms) tended to short-circuit the cartridge's output voltage, giving very low output and poor S/N. I imagine it is like riding the brakes on a car- we move slowly, quietly, inefficiently, but we get a whole lot of control. If IAR is right then moving-coil cartridge with 15-ohm impedance and 1,000-ohm load should give much more performance then a moving magnet or moving-iron cartridge. Makes sense to me- mechanics AND the passive electrical circuit gives LOMC their low distortion, detail, stereo separation, and sweetness.
I suspect this would work for even moving magnet cartridges. From Popular Mechanics, Feb., 1982, pg. 144, “…the M75HE measured even better in the uppermost range then the more expensive M95HE…”
The M75 has around 700-ohm and the newer M95HE has roughly 1500-ohms static resistance. But the article is open to interpretations; what is meant by “better?” Could it be smoother, higher, more stereo separation, or kinder to tips? We will never know.
From the late ‘70s, the only concrete information about the Sumo II. It isn’t even listed at the Cartridge Database.
So I am torn about what to do about Sumo. I test and the coils are intact but in what condition? Options? Get the retip for a cartridge that might not work then baby it so I won’t use it up. That seems an expensive gamble. I could take a hammer to it so I can finally know where I stand. I equally know where I stand if I let it sit broken. One more option is do it myself. First, I need practice before the big project.
Is the Sumo repair a fluke? It isn’t the first. The Micro-Acoustics 2002-E has new life with a $12 after-market tip. The tip is a bit heavy so I’ll put a lighter one on later.
Practice test #2 is a Bang & Olufsen SP12 retip using an after-market Shure M95ED cantilever. This is done because I want to get the splint length right and to see if the splint changes the sound. Happily, they sound alike. Which one is the clone?
The real thing. The Sumo tip comes from an Audio Technica 6006 P-mount cartridge. I go big bucks on the Sumo by spending $20 for a new tip because it is the closest I can find to the original Sumo specs. With removable tips, in the future it could have a Hyper-Elliptical or Line-Contact tip. Beats no tip at all, eh?
Low-output needs big amplification. Here are my two active options. Sumo has only has 0.1mV output, 2% of the output of a 5mV moving-magnet cart!
THE EUREKA MOMENT
The Sumo operation is flawless. Turntable is set up and double-checked. I use the MC switch on the receiver for simplicity. Cartridge is set up haphazardly because I just want to know if it works. Triple-check then make the drop. No singing…hmm. I wait forever and it does nothing. Dumb…I forget to push the MC switch on the receiver. Quietly there is sound coming from the speakers. Cynicism starts creeping in. Keep listening, hope…and think. Hmmm…dumb…damn…stupid…the volume is at the bottom- turn it up gently. At the 9 o’clock position a concert hall surrounds me. It sings and I sit there frozen! It’s a ton of music with great resolution. Instruments have pinpoint imaging. Who doubled the size of my room? I forgot what a LOMC could do. It makes me want to dance so I dance. No dull here! Happy is not a good enough description for this moment.
Now mounted on a lightweight one-piece magnesium headshell.
Again, two weeks later we are still going strong. I’ve dodged the MC expense. Saved a ton of money and got tons of music. You know California thorns make the best splints? More musical too. Now I love broken cartridges and my cactus too. Anyone have any broken Sumo cartridges lying around?
SUMO & OTHERS- SAMPLERS
Where does Sumo stand next to the popular? Is a high-cost MC cart worth the extra cash?
The differences are subtle. If your equipment is good, not necessarily expensive, then you’ll hear it.
Here are three samplers of popular cartridges, Sumo, Shure V15 Type III, and Shure M97xE. I have the advantage: each file is a severe compromise. Each is adjusted for equal volume, in mono, and converted to a compressed format, MP3, so quality is lost. The alternative is the unwelcome downloading 78mb of music! So they are candy samplers, not the whole box. Hearing the Sumo cartridge with its grand separation and pinpoint imaging of instruments will not happen.
The files are best heard in your stereo system. Try Sumo first, the V15, then the M97xE. Finally go back to the Sumo. At the risk of biasing you- the Sumo has uplift in the midrange, and sweeter highs. Is the little extra worth the big price? You can decide.
SHURE V15 TYPE III:http://www.box.net/shared/kuvrn6gar4
The Sumo is the side story. The main one is the story of my friend the cactus and how it can make music. But then the Sumo demonstrates the sound doesn’t get ‘rubbery’ with a stiff splint.
Anyone want to join the Retipper’s Club?
Have you hugged your cactus lately?