Soundsmith cartridges

the thin end of the wedge
Mr Pig
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Soundsmith cartridges

Post by Mr Pig » 13 Aug 2019 22:40

Anyone heard them? Intrigued. Would like to try one but a big risk when you've no clue as you what they sound like.

nat
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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by nat » 14 Aug 2019 01:06

Their explanation of their design philosophy seems somewhat more plausible than the competition, and the series of B&O cartridges that they stem from were excellent. But cheap they are not. (And, to my eye, ugly they are.)

jdjohn
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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by jdjohn » 14 Aug 2019 04:30

nat wrote:
14 Aug 2019 01:06
But cheap they are not. (And, to my eye, ugly they are.)
Are you, by chance, a Star Wars fan? :D

Mr Pig
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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by Mr Pig » 14 Aug 2019 09:58

I agree they are ugly. The question is, are they good and if so, what do they sound like? It's the Otello I'm interested in, as it's the cheapest one.

patient_ot
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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by patient_ot » 14 Aug 2019 13:46

I have to commend the company for taking care of a customer recently. I had a member of another forum ask for some help with stereo separation measurements of his new SS cart. Turns out both the stereo separation and channel balance were significantly out of spec via results from a good test record. He sent the cart back to SS, they fixed it in a timely fashion, and now all is well. Seems like stand up company.

As for the carts themselves, I have heard some of them but would caution against buying the cheapest model and expecting it to be a giant killer. SS is small company and everything is made by hand. They have to charge more than the bigger companies because the don't have the production economies of scale. If you want to see what their carts are capable of, you probably need to move up the line, especially if you have high expectations about how a cartridge should perform. On the upside, any of their carts are up-gradable via a retip when the time comes. Just expect to wait in a bit of a line for that as I've heard the lead time can be months like any other in-demand retipping operation.

If you did buy one, what kind of set up is it going on? Also, have you looked at dealer return policies for cartridges? They can vary widely.

Mr Pig
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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by Mr Pig » 14 Aug 2019 15:30

patient_ot wrote:
14 Aug 2019 13:46
I had a member of another forum ask for some help with stereo separation measurements of his new SS cart. Turns out both the stereo separation and channel balance were significantly out of spec..
No offence but it's not encouraging that the cart was faulty straight out of the box and of course they fixed it! I'm not saying they don't offer good customer service, everything I've read suggests they do, but I'd expect any company to sort out a brand new faulty unit. Personally, I wouldn't want it fixed. I'd have wanted a replacement.

If I bought a cart it would be the entry one, the Otello. I can't imagine risking more on a cartridge I might not like. Expensive game that.

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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by patient_ot » 14 Aug 2019 16:09

Mr Pig wrote:
14 Aug 2019 15:30
patient_ot wrote:
14 Aug 2019 13:46
I had a member of another forum ask for some help with stereo separation measurements of his new SS cart. Turns out both the stereo separation and channel balance were significantly out of spec..
No offence but it's not encouraging that the cart was faulty straight out of the box and of course they fixed it! I'm not saying they don't offer good customer service, everything I've read suggests they do, but I'd expect any company to sort out a brand new faulty unit. Personally, I wouldn't want it fixed. I'd have wanted a replacement.

If I bought a cart it would be the entry one, the Otello. I can't imagine risking more on a cartridge I might not like. Expensive game that.
It was a minor problem and the fixed it. The carts are handmade and it slipped through. Happens with any product like that. How a company handles problems are usually how I judge them. Anyone can mail a product out. They could've told the user to buzz off, which is what some companies do. Instead they handled it professionally.

What cart are you using now? What TT and phono preamp? Ask Music Direct and Elusive Disc about their return policies. Both are big SS dealers.

Mr Pig
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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by Mr Pig » 14 Aug 2019 16:20

patient_ot wrote:
14 Aug 2019 16:09
How a company handles problems are usually how I judge them. Anyone can mail a product out. They could've told the user to buzz off..
Not really. If you sell a faulty product you kinda have to sort it. At least on my part of planet Earth you do.

Right now I'm using an Ortofon 540 mkII which is something of a stop-gap while I decide what's next. The phono stage is a Graham Slee Jazz Club, which is a very nice MM stage. That's also open to change. I might buy a Rega Aria if I can find a used one at a good price or there is maybe a Teddy Pardo stage for sale, I don't know. The deck is a Rega RP10 which is a rather different animal to the LP12 so it's all up in the air.

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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by patient_ot » 14 Aug 2019 16:33

Mr Pig wrote:
14 Aug 2019 16:20
patient_ot wrote:
14 Aug 2019 16:09
How a company handles problems are usually how I judge them. Anyone can mail a product out. They could've told the user to buzz off..
Not really. If you sell a faulty product you kinda have to sort it. At least on my part of planet Earth you do.

Right now I'm using an Ortofon 540 mkII which is something of a stop-gap while I decide what's next. The phono stage is a Graham Slee Jazz Club, which is a very nice MM stage. That's also open to change. I might buy a Rega Aria if I can find a used one at a good price or there is maybe a Teddy Pardo stage for sale, I don't know. The deck is a Rega RP10 which is a rather different animal to the LP12 so it's all up in the air.

I doubt the Otello would be much of an upgrade from your Ort 540. It would actually be a downgrade. You'd be going from a solid high performance high output model with an advanced stylus to an entry level model with a bonded elliptical. I do not see that as an upgrade. For something comparable, you'd need to move substantially up the SS line, probably to the Zephyr or beyond. Of course it would be much more expensive than just getting a new stylus for the 540 or buying another comparable Ortofon cartridge.

I'm also a fan of GS phono stages and use a Reflex M.

Perhaps someone on the GS forum that knows Rega tables well could suggest an appropriate cartridge for you.

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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by Mr Pig » 14 Aug 2019 16:48

patient_ot wrote:
14 Aug 2019 16:33
I doubt the Otello would be much of an upgrade from your Ort 540. It would actually be a downgrade.
I don't get too hung up on stylus profiles. Over the years I've happily used carts with all sorts of styluses and I find it just one variable but not the feature that defines the performance. For example I liked the Denon DL 103 which has a conical stylus, didn't really get on with the 2M black which is nude Shibata finding it too clinical and intolerant of imperfect records and set up.

The Soundsmiths are interesting because they use a different generation principal from other carts. The idea of very low moving mass obviously makes sense but then you consider than most of the arms on sale today are medium compliance, and you have a mismatch.

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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by patient_ot » 14 Aug 2019 19:40

Mr Pig wrote:
14 Aug 2019 16:48
patient_ot wrote:
14 Aug 2019 16:33
I doubt the Otello would be much of an upgrade from your Ort 540. It would actually be a downgrade.
I don't get too hung up on stylus profiles. Over the years I've happily used carts with all sorts of styluses and I find it just one variable but not the feature that defines the performance. For example I liked the Denon DL 103 which has a conical stylus, didn't really get on with the 2M black which is nude Shibata finding it too clinical and intolerant of imperfect records and set up.

The Soundsmiths are interesting because they use a different generation principal from other carts. The idea of very low moving mass obviously makes sense but then you consider than most of the arms on sale today are medium compliance, and you have a mismatch.

If you are not too picky, have at it. Check the return policies like I said.

RE: the generator design, you are conflating low moving mass with compliance. All of their carts have low moving mass (so do some other makers BTW) and they make carts of varying compliance. Somewhere on their website they have a chart explaining what models are low/med/high compliance. IIRC the Otello is a high compliance model going by their standards and the standards of today. If you are worried about compatibility with your Rega tonearm - call them - they will have an answer for you.

Mr Pig
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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by Mr Pig » 14 Aug 2019 21:25

patient_ot wrote:
14 Aug 2019 19:40
RE: the generator design, you are conflating low moving mass with compliance.
Well, yes. Of course you can stiffen up the suspension to reduce the compliance of a low moving mass cartridge but if you do that, doesn't it kinda undo the benefit of the low moving mass???

nat
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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by nat » 15 Aug 2019 00:07

My intuition is that the effect of higher mass is different than the effect of less compliance in the damper. I could be wrong, but higher mass has higher inertia, so not only is there resistance to starting motion, but there is resistance to stopping it. A less compliant damper would always want to resist motion, so it ought to want to stop motion as well wanting not to start it.
On the other hand, I'm not sure that that would necessarily be an improvement. I've been surprised at how dynamic really old stereo cartridges can sound, and they have high moving mass and stiff suspensions, but sound rather more like Deccas than most modern cartridges (I should give credit to Needlestein/Joel over at Audio Karma for bringing up this possibility (and also getting me to listen to older ceramics, which are also more fun than you might expect)).
The Decca suspension, of course, is unlike any other, being bent metal(!) so I'm not sure that its behavior illuminates that of other cartridges, but, to my ears, nothing compares for dynamics and realism. Alas, my wallet is deaf in that ear...

Roberto C2H3
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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by Roberto C2H3 » 15 Aug 2019 15:16

I too was highly intrigued at the implications of the low mass moving iron / fixed coil design, and was looking forward to investing in an Otello to test it out and compare with my AT-150 MLX.

I contacted Soundsmith three times over the last month to two separate e-mail addresses quoted on their website. I asked if the standard compliance Otello was compatible with my Technics 1400 MK2 or if I should special order the high compliance Otello. I supplied all the data of the Technics tonearm as per the manual. This should have been enough for an instant response, specially given a USD 400 investment.

I have only received silence from Soundsmith. From a sales perspective, this company leaves a lot to be desired IMO. I will send another e-mail or two and if silence continues I will take my business elsewhere.

Best from the Pampas,
roberto

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Re: Soundsmith cartridges

Post by iLikeItBlue » 15 Aug 2019 21:59

Hi folks. First post from a long-time lurker. I bought a Soundsmith Otello ES not too long ago. I'm very happy with it, very glad I took the plunge and bought it. I'd be happy to go into more detail about my system, my preferences, and how it fits in, if you'd like. Actually, I already wrote up a long post about just that, but thought it might be to presumptuous of me to post a long screed as my first post. I'm happy to share it if you are interested.

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