Any Soundsmith Straingauge cartridge owners out there other than me?

spiritofmusic

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Glad to have been of assistance Lol.
 

Avidlistener

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Feb 19, 2013
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Looking for some advice. I have to send my SG cart and electronics to soundsmith for new styli to be built. Any suggestions for marking my phantom II tone arm wand so I can return the cart to the same exact position? I spent so much time aligning, I would love to be able to keep the alignment. Not sure if it's possible. Also since soundsmith is backed up with repairs, I will Probably loose my SG cart/electronics for 6 months sitting there waiting for my turn on the bench. I only have an entry level phono cart to use in the interim, and can't spend $$$ on a better cart right now due to the expense of rebuilding/updating the SG system.
 

Solypsa

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Looking for some advice. I have to send my SG cart and electronics to soundsmith for new styli to be built. Any suggestions for marking my phantom II tone arm wand so I can return the cart to the same exact position? I spent so much time aligning, I would love to be able to keep the alignment. Not sure if it's possible. Also since soundsmith is backed up with repairs, I will Probably loose my SG cart/electronics for 6 months sitting there waiting for my turn on the bench. I only have an entry level phono cart to use in the interim, and can't spend $$$ on a better cart right now due to the expense of rebuilding/updating the SG system.
Can't say about marking the arm as you are having work done. Why are you sending in the electronics? I thought the SG system had replaceable stylii? What happened?
 

spiritofmusic

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Soundsmith periodically upgrade the electronics on the energizer. And they require the energizer and cart body when fashioning new drop-in stylii.
 

theophile

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Here is a review.

 

Avidlistener

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@theophile thanks for posting the review. I didn’t see it until now.

I’m a bit confused by the review in that Ken only listened to (or at least only wrote about) the SGS5 stylus, and not the SGS6.

However the pictures of the cart show the red Sgs6 stylus installed.

Owning both the 5 and 6 styli, I can say that there is a huge difference between the two . Don’t get me wrong, the 5 sounds very, very good but the 6, when well set up and on LP’s in good condition, the 6 reveals significantly more information. I have described it as (aside from sounding like a master tape,) you get the audible sense you are traveling through a canyon and almost visualizing the walls of the LP grooves, with added resolution throughout the entire spectrum- the bass in particular is just unbelievable.

My 6 isn’t sounding good these days (mistracking) so I’ve switched to the 5 until I can get a new stylus built.

I’m just assuming my 6 is worn after thousands and thousands of hours, but it could be a set up issue and I’d rather not take the chance playing my LP’s with a worn stylus.

If Ken’s review thought the 5 was on par with those Uber expensive carts/phono systems, I can only imagine that using the 6 would have shown the Strain Gauge to be superior, and not by a small margin.

The price on the review seems to indicate the SG is double the price in the UK that Soundsmith states on their site in the US, which seems odd.

PS - I did email Ken to ask about his choice of reviewing the 5 vs 6, and can report back if I get a response.
 
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theophile

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He was quite unprepared for the Soundsmith to occupy the strata that the best optical set up owned.

Given his final opinion of this strain gauge cartridge, he was almost contrite about neglecting to examine it sooner.
 

Avidlistener

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Feb 19, 2013
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I did get a response from Ken and he indicated his review was based on listening to several styli (I guess this means the 5 and 6) but to keep the review streamlined he only mentioned the 5.
 

spiritofmusic

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Well, the new year starts off with a bang. After nine months sans vinyl playback as my Straingauge system went back to Soundsmith for energizer appraisal, and my order for six replacement stylii...with head honcho Peter Lederman having to take time on my order...it all got back to me just before Christmas, and today I set things up.
Always a fearfully anxious process, because my low back and eyesight aren't what they once were, and I'm not the most natural at this process.
Additionally, things had changed a lot since my cartridge went back to NYC, from wholesale acoustics panels/bespoke corner bass traps, improved Brent Jessee preamp tubes, and vastly improved CDP performance with install of platinum Bocchino IEC to Sablon power cord.
Also, I've heard a couple of systems (Audiophile Bill and Montesquieu/Tom) with superb analog playback, and it's always moderately stressful to come back and compare your own tt.
Well, I needn't have worried too much. First of all, unlike a few years back when I set my tt up for the first time here after my move, and things were truly abysmal on the vinyl front, I've got way luckier this time. There's a *hint* of high frequencies constriction, but I'm confident this will open up after a few hours. Other than that, I've hit a home run. Plenty of air, vibrancy and bloom. Nice texture and timbral accuracy in the mids, and very little if any flabbiness in the bottom (unlike some of the people I saw today trying to exercise off their Christmas over eating and over drinking Lol).
There was a debate for me to go from SGS-5 stylus to the flagship -6 stylus, but the benefits in fidelity of SQ in my opinion countered by the need to be way more *just so* with setup, and apparent additional sensitivity of the stylus itself. I just don't need that stress in my life.
So, I've got a halfway house, the -5 stylus with boron cantilever, which gives me some of the benefits of -6 stylus fidelity, but a warmer, more robust sound...and more robust device.
A big call to Parker at Soundsmith who did a lot of the work. He's an absolute hero to me, a real trooper, to have negotiated such a tricky work period (Covid is a killer for anything needing a slow steady approach) and provide such a stellar product.
And listening to a couple of my favourite, brilliantly recorded LPs, Larry Coryell/Spaces, and T Lavitz/Storytime, right out of the box a great sound.
I've heard amazing analog w Bill's Red Sparrow and DaVa carts, and Tom's Murasakino Madake and Sumile carts, and despite them being quite different to the Straingauge, I'm very pleased I've made my long term choice to go with this, and in my humble opinion, Soundsmith remain a true icon in high end carts, Peter Lederman a true legend (with Parker by his side).
 
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spiritofmusic

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Just given the once over. Peter felt it was up to snuff. Had a little online chat with Parker recently, expressed my thanks at the time.
 

spiritofmusic

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Some interesting info has come my way, explaining fully the major uptick I'm getting with my updated Straingauge.
First of all, despite speccing the same stylus replacements (SDS-5, Boron stylus), mine have come back with a changed construction, effectively way more accurately put together (less the old fashioned "by eye" method, now using advanced techniques and engineering from outside audio, incl electron microscopy and I imagine the sort of tools used in intricate keyhole surgery), and critically a new Namiki-sourced boron stylus. So consistent and exemplary a performer is this new boron spec, it's up there with the TOTL Straingauge spec of ruby w Giger-S profile.
What is amazing is that all the previous strengths of my old Straingauge are there (pretty much what sold the system to me) ie fantastic speed and transient dynamics, that so remind me of live music.
But that's now combined with a few new facets that deffo weren't apparent before, namely this bloom, texture and tonal/timbral "rightness".
The Straingauge has always been a racy sound, but could easily lack tonal "nourishment", and my digital could beat it for a filled out saturated sound.
Now this criticism is defunct, I'm not saying the Straingauge is quite at the level of Bill's Red Sparrow or DaVa, or Tom's Murakasina Sumile and Madake for pure fleshed out tonal heaven, but it runs them close.
And for my tastes, this is much more balanced sound, the Ying of speed and attack with the Yang of saturated tone colors and room filling bloom.
A good example is Colloseum "For Those Who Are About To Die, We Salute You", this amazing late 60s progessive band need the speed of the rhythmn section including horns to be counterbalanced by really accurate rendition of the timbre of those horns, and bloom to develop, otherwise the music is exciting but harmonically a bit bare.
It was this situation that was my experience before this upping the ante, now this Namiki boron stylus Straingauge keeps the raciness of the album intact, but reveals layers more of colorful saturated tone, meaning a way more holistic listening experience, way closer to the ideal of live.
To say I'm bowled over by this wholesale extra experience in my vinyl listening is a vast understatement, no doubt I really envied Bill and Tom their holistic analog signatures...now I'm playing much more in their league...and my order includes six additional stylii, this Cloud Nine experience should be good for 15-20 years.
 

Atmasphere

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The Straingauge has always been a racy sound, but could easily lack tonal "nourishment", and my digital could beat it for a filled out saturated sound.
Now this criticism is defunct, I'm not saying the Straingauge is quite at the level of Bill's Red Sparrow or DaVa, or Tom's Murakasina Sumile and Madake for pure fleshed out tonal heaven, but it runs them close.
Do you know if the preamp section got any equalization when the update occurred?
 

spiritofmusic

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Ralph, I run the SG-200 which is cart and energizer unit only, I felt no need to go to the higher models utilising preamp.
I believe a little work was done on the energizer, but more maintenance than any update.
 

Atmasphere

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Ralph, I run the SG-200 which is cart and energizer unit only, I felt no need to go to the higher models utilising preamp.
I believe a little work was done on the energizer, but more maintenance than any update.
So the higher models have equalization?I had heard a romor that he had added the EQ, but didn't confirm it. You do need to equalize them, at 500Hz boosting at 6dB/octave to 2000Hz where it goes back to flat.
 

spiritofmusic

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Ralph, I really don't know, but can ask.
 

bazelio

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I heard the same as Ralph, although a more sinister rising response than just in the 500-2k band. And some EQ was employed. Although, this was quite some time ago. Not recently.
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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There was a fellow on Audiogon, Rauliruegas, who tbh did my head in constantly telling me vocals were artificial thru the Straingauge, as far as to say unrecognisable.
Now, beyond the simple point of noone knowing for sure what Peter Gabriel or Kate Bush ACTUALLY sounds like, my own experience is that voices have never sounded faulty or alien in any way thru the SG.
But that was never good enough for him. Vocals were faulty, full stop.
 
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spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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Yes, but this fellow was telling me all vocals were "off", everyone, all the time. I don't suppose he heard Vera Lynn in her prime. Or Billie Holiday. Or Fats Domino. Etc etc.
 

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