Monday, March 10, 2014

Escaping flutter and edginess with Shure M55e

I just summarized my weekend discoveries at VinylEngine

Right now, a rig with M55e beat everything other rig I have. I think it's at least partly how good the m55e itself is. This is a used cartridge and it could very have original stylus from the early 70's, it looks genuine anyway.

This blew my mind. I was expecting to toss the used M55e on this Miracord 50H table into the trash, not my level of kit.

Other contenders included Dynavector 17D2 from 1985, my previous reference cartridge. Apparently due to damping system deterioration, with maybe some tonearm incompatible with the arm it's on now, it adds serious flutter, I thought the Mitsubishi LT-30 turntable it was on was broken. I see now that old cartridges may have issues other than stylus wear, though this cartridge has also been used off and on over 18 years, it never sounded bad on a Sony PSX-800 with biotracing to handle the resonance, when the PSX-800 worked. The 17D2 always sounds perfectly transparent and never harsh, but the flutter is intolerable.

An M97xe on the Mitsubishi eliminated the flutter, but was edgier than the M55e, without being any more transparent. On the right arm for it, I expect it would be better. But it brought back sad memories of the V15 III I had in the 1970's.

The M55e has a wonderful relaxed quality, and it just sails through everything, not being too picky about anything. I don't have the V15 III I had in the 70's, but I wouldn't be surprised that if I had both now, I would like the M55e better. I think this may be THE cart to have for old worn records, when you're not trying to get the nth degree of transparency, though it is pretty transparent, I'm sure a new moving coil would surpass it in every way, but I haven't got a new moving coil mounted now. When I had the V15 III back in the 70's I thought it sounded slightly edgy and closed in at the same time. Even back then, I wondered if the earlier Shure models which I occasionally heard weren't better, and if Shure was on the wrong path to transparency and I switched cartridges many times after that, never going back to Shure, and ultimately ending up with the Dynavector 17D2, which was stellar on the Sony PSX-800.

I'm wondering if this would actually accept a V15 type 1 stylus, since it was basically a V15 type 1 with lower QC. That might be the way to get higher quality stylus for it, but it might also lose some of the relaxed quality that makes M55e worth keeping.

Here's a thread by lovers of the V15 series cartridge at AudioKarma.  The V15 type one gets little respect, people say it started getting good with the Type III, exactly the one I love to hate.

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