Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

the thin end of the wedge
aaa12345xxx
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Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by aaa12345xxx » 13 May 2019 22:16

Hello everybody,

new member here. Been reading through this great forum for years, but now I have a question, so I wrote my first post today.

Over the past few weeks, I managed to buy (almost) the complete "final" 2017/2018 lineup of now-discontinued Shure cartridges, plus some extra styli, at so-so acceptable prices. I had missed the boat on their discontinuation while being away from the vinyl hobby, and so had to throw some extra money on it. All of them are brand-new and seem to come from some of the last production runs, except for one NOS N97xE stylus. All (including the NOS stylus) are made in Mexico. I checked the styli with a magnifier, and had to reject one cartridge. The others seemed to be okay.

Until now, I only had time to test the following with some music and an old German DHFI test record (for trackability): M97xE, two extra N97xE styli (all of which at 1.75g with brush down), M35X (at 2-2.5g) and Whitelabel (2-2.5g).
Tests were run on a Technics SL-Q3 turntable and cartridges were aligned using the Technics 52mm alignment tool.

All cartridges/styli were used for the first time and had to play 4 music tracks from 2 LPs (everything okay except for some slight IGD with the two lesser cartridges) before going to the trackability test. Tracking force was set at or near the recommended optimum (see above). I did not give them any more break-in, mostly due to time constraints.

The tracking ability results (horizontal = lateral) were miserable:
40μm clean,
50μm slight to medium distortion in the right channel,
60μm horribly distorted (both channels).

The results were more or less exactly the same for each and every cartridge/stylus. None was able to do 60μm without horrible distortion. The test record also has a vertical tracking test, which I only ran on some of the carts/styli. All of those managed that test fully.

I noticed that the turntable seems to have an anti-skate issue (hence probably the right-channel-only distortion at 50μm), which I wasn't able to compensate fully by increasing anti-skating.

Suspecting a fundamental tonearm problem, I cross-checked with an AT95E (lightly used, but not played for about 3 years), which managed to reproduce up to 80μm horizontally.

I'm puzzled by these results, even more so as Shure touted their cartridges as trackability champions. I also don't understand why I get the same results for all the Shures regardless of stated compliance and tip shape.

So I have to ask:
1) Are such results typical for non broken-in cartridges, at least for Shure?
2) Can I expect better results (how much?) after some break-in time?
3) Or is there really something wrong with the carts/styli?

BTW: While the music samples sounded okay overall, everything was a little brighter than I expected from Shure carts, although I didn't notice much sibilance. But that might have been due to the cheap Chinese headphones I had to use for testing, which I also remember as sounding a little bright (hadn't used them in years).

TIA

katana1100
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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by katana1100 » 14 May 2019 02:09

I would say that you lost when you played the game of Shure qc, Shure alluded in their press release that they had qc problems.
However... I think it would better to test when they are broken in, give them at least 25 hours playing time. Also, besides “optimum”, try maximum tf ( I think it’s 1.75g), then evaluate.

aaa12345xxx
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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by aaa12345xxx » 14 May 2019 08:02

The net has been full of horror stories about Shure qc for over a decade, which had held me back from buying into Shure in the past. But now that I discovered (late) that they were discontinued, I was in a hurry to add a representation of the final lineup to my (little) collection. Plus, I always loved the idea of that brush.
However, them tracking absolutely consistently (bad) over 3 different carts plus 2 extra styli from 2 different sources and 2 different vintages doesn't look like a qc problem to me.
Any idea how much they might improve after breaking in?

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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by JDJX » 14 May 2019 14:54

The question that must be asked is.. are you sure that each cartridge is mounted peppery?

It's a more or less a given that that any cartridge needs to be broken in a bit to sound its best.

Keep in mind that other cartridges manufactures also have some QC issues but Sure seems to be a a "whipping boy" for some .
Personally, I gut a LP Gear (microline) stylus with a totally collapsed cantilever suspension and an original SAS with bad azimuth.
However, I never got a bad M97xE stylus.. including the four stili that got to have on hand when discontinued . :)

Is it all the luck of the draw? Perhaps it is but keep in mind that Shure marketed what are considered budget cartridges and al sound better than their price would reveal....
All the Shure fans that are sad about their demise can't be wrong :)

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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by BMRR » 14 May 2019 14:55

Try the M97xE and N97xE styli with the brush up (rather than down). The quality of the brushes was particularly bad near the end of production. I had an N97xE stylus that I ordered directly from Shure, and the brush was so stiff that I got constant sibilance and distortion. The stylus performs significantly better with the brush up... which defeats the purpose of using an M97xE in the first place, sadly.

Also, try the M35X and Whitelabel at 3g VTF. They should track better at that VTF. If they can't track the 60μm test at 3g, they are defective.

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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by patient_ot » 14 May 2019 15:12

I have an M35X from 2016. It's awaiting a remount on a different headshell. When I get that done I will try it on the Ortofon Test LP which has tracking ability tests.

Agree that it should be able to pass 60um at 3g. I've used the cart at 2.5g before and it tracked fine, but since it's my "beater record cart" I wasn't throwing tons of difficult to track records at it. Matter of fact I haven't used it in some time. I should probably buy some replacement styli for it.

Are the last production Shures really that bad? I'm wondering if I should just buy an aftermarket for it.

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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by BMRR » 14 May 2019 15:16

In the past two years I had to buy three SS35C styli before I finally got one that wasn't grossly defective. One of the most badly defective ones came direct from Shure (just like the N97xE with the brush from hell). I'm not so sure they actually had anyone inspecting them during the last couple of years. The defective ones I got were so bad that the defects were visible with the naked eye, even in poor lighting!

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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by lenjack » 14 May 2019 15:41

I bought my m97Xe for $99, about 6 months before they were discontinued. I do not believe in break in. From the start, in a Denon DP-52F, and a Technics - well serviced - SL-D3, it tracked everything perfectly, at 1.75g, brush down (actual 1.25g). It does this without IGD, or a trace of mistracking on the toughest records, including the infamous, first pressing of the Telarc 1812. It sounds completely clean, clear, and amazingly good. If Shure was having QC problems, perhaps I just got lucky

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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by katana1100 » 14 May 2019 15:58

Prices are outrageous for styli on the auction site. Plus, everyone of them is from an unsealed box- gee, I wonder how many are truly brand new but, after a first listening , owner realized that they were defective and so they dumped them on the auction site ?
For what some cost, you can get a new Sas boron .
Now I know there will be some who will say that 97 sounds better, but c’mon, sas has boron cantalever, micro diamond ( and it’s aligned correctly too).
I suppose to some, a popsicle stick with a thumb tack would sound better .
I think the vividline is around $120, cheaper and better, actually darn close to my 97 new era.

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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by patient_ot » 14 May 2019 18:31

BMRR wrote:
14 May 2019 15:16
In the past two years I had to buy three SS35C styli before I finally got one that wasn't grossly defective. One of the most badly defective ones came direct from Shure (just like the N97xE with the brush from hell). I'm not so sure they actually had anyone inspecting them during the last couple of years. The defective ones I got were so bad that the defects were visible with the naked eye, even in poor lighting!
YIKES! I will try to find aftermarket 35x stylus then. The 35C tracks too heavy for the arm I use unfortunately.

aaa12345xxx
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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by aaa12345xxx » 14 May 2019 18:44

JDJX wrote:
14 May 2019 14:54
The question that must be asked is.. are you sure that each cartridge is mounted peppery?
As properly (if that's what you meant) as the Technics gauge, a German geodreieck and my limited eyesight would allow. ;)
katana1100 wrote:
14 May 2019 15:58
Prices are outrageous for styli on the auction site. Plus, everyone of them is from an unsealed box- gee, I wonder how many are truly brand new but, after a first listening , owner realized that they were defective and so they dumped them on the auction site ?
I bought the vast majority of this stuff (and everything in question here except the NOS stylus) from one seemingly reputable commercial vendor, not from the auction site.
Prices were quite a bit higher than pre-discontinuation RRP, but nowhere near the worst *bay ripoffs.

Did Shure styli ever come in sealed boxes? All the Stylus boxes I have aren't sealed (and don't look like they ever were, nor do they look like they had ever been opened). The cartridges came in shrink wrap, or in those "DJ" tube boxes that also don't look like they ever had seals. Don't remember what the M92E came in, and can't look after it atm, as I'm away from home until the weekend.

Edit: As I wrote above, I checked all styli with a magnifier, and all but one cartridge (the first M97xE I bought, from a different vendor) and one extra stylus (a N44-7, again from a different vendor, which I still have to send back) looked alright.

Edit 2:
patient_ot wrote:
14 May 2019 18:31
I will try to find aftermarket 35x stylus then. The 35C tracks too heavy for the arm I use unfortunately.
I wasn't able to find a single 35X stylus, and I looked really hard. You'll probably have to go for aftermarket anyway (not to mention price, if you happen to find a genuine 35X stylus). I'm already planning to purchase the Jico N44GX (said to fit the 35 series) for testing on the M35X at some point.
I also don't have a tt that can track at 4-5g, so the SC35C was off limits for my search from the start. Was pondering the 35S stylus, but they went away too quickly.
Last edited by aaa12345xxx on 14 May 2019 18:59, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by lenjack » 14 May 2019 18:53

Can't comment on the packaging of Shure styli, but can say that my new, complete m97Xe from a reliable online vendor, did come in a a sealed factory box.

aaa12345xxx
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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by aaa12345xxx » 14 May 2019 19:01

Sealed (i.e. with adhesive stickers), or shrink-wrapped? Mine came shrink-wrapped (both times), but no seals.

lenjack
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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by lenjack » 14 May 2019 19:15

It was definitely a factory seal, shrinked and stickered, and from a highly reliable vendor...also, at least 6 months before Shure announced discontinuation, so there was no price gouging. Now $330 new on Amazon, $185 Ebay. #-o

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Re: Brand-new Shure cartridges/styli (M97xE et al.) tracking ability

Post by aaa12345xxx » 14 May 2019 19:40

Maybe U.S. and European packaging was different? I bought everything in Europe, and some (if not all) of my boxes had references to Shure Europe printed on them.

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