Comparison of some Cartridges in the 4k+ region: Soundsmith "The Voice", Ikeda 9 TT, Ortofon "Windfeld Ti", Air Tight PC1

shakti

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2015
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255
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Cologne, Germany
#1
During the last months I have tried a lot of cartridges.

As the "uber" High End" section of cartridges has passed the 10k price point now regular for the most manufacturers, I am not willing (and not able) to support this direction of "new" High End pricing, as the Cartridge is a product with a limited lifetime , and depending on my nervous fingers, a product which can be destroyed easily while using.

So my goal was, to find cartridges with a high sonic value, a specific character , which makes it easy to connect and to enjoy music.

One of my most favorite carts is the 1k Audio Technica ART9, as this cart has a perfect balance of all the things I like. It can rock, it can drive me to tears, it can make me happy, it can play also some strong female voice sections without distortion.

So every cartridge costing significantly more, must play in a much more better level in the most areas of music reproduction.

Otherwise I would stick to the AT ART 9 as the day to day cartridge.

My "reference" Cartridge Is the vdh Stradivarius Master Signature, so this will be the benchmark in the other direction.

The comparison was done mainly with the following set up:

- TechDAS Airforce 3 Premium turntable
- Ikeda 407 chrom, Ikeda 407 silver, Ikeda 345 silver, SME 3012R tonearms
- Boulder 2008, Audio Specials, Audio flight, Grandinote Celio phono stages
- Koda Takumi K10, Grandinote Genesi PreAmps
- VTL-S 400, Grandinote Demone Amps
- Wilson Audio Maxx 3 speakers

The following 4 cartridges do make their job now for a longer time, others were sold after a while. If a better cart will join the group, one of the 4 has to leave as well :)

- Soundsmith "The Voice" (this year a newer version was launched, my version is from 2017)
- Air Tight PC1 (the original one, now they are updated and called like : Supreme, Coda and so on)
- Ortofon Windfeld Ti (current version)
- Ikeda 9 TT (current version)

As the prices for Cartridges differ a lot by market, I do not write them down in detail, but in Germany they are in a similar region, the PC1 the most expensive, the Voice the most affordable.

I will continue this thread with my notes about every individual cartridge in the next days.
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
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E. England
#2
Shakti, Soundsmith are always a little buried in the rush to Lyra, Clearaudio, Koetsu, and now Mayayima and Top Wing etc.

I've been running the Soundsmith Straingauge, a bargain at $9k, but in effect cheaper because no need for phono, and comes w spare stylus, so doubling the time gap needed btwn retips (stylii replacements).

Looking fwds to yr review of The Voice. Btw Peter Lederman is a slam dunk great engineer, and a delight to deal with.
 

Vienna

Active Member
Oct 14, 2018
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Athens Greece
#3
Hi Shakti,

I had been recently where you are now. I felt disappointed with myself having paid 16,000 euro for a cartridge that gave me less thrill than a 6,000 euro one. This is an interesting thread and I agree on ART9.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
11,709
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London
#4
Hi Shakti,

I had been recently where you are now. I felt disappointed with myself having paid 16,000 euro for a cartridge that gave me less thrill than a 6,000 euro one. This is an interesting thread and I agree on ART9.
Which was the 16k one and which was the 6k one, and what arm?
 
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shakti

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2015
500
255
63
Cologne, Germany
#5
During Munich's High End I was able to attend some of the workshops offered, so I spent an interesting 30min with Peter from Soundsmith.


After that session I decided to buy one of his cartridges. Many shops are currently changing their stocks to the new body generation, so I was able to get "The Voice" in the original ebony body for a fair price.

"The Voice" Cart likes light to medium heavy tonearms, so my SME 3012R is with 14g on the upper range of the tolerance. I started with the original headshell.

After some hours of burning in (Clearaudio Burn In Record) listening started.

Compared to the ART 9 (in Ikeda 407 silver, Yamamoto Titan Headshell) the reproduction was much more fluid and less grainy. The level of possible dynamics was increased, Micro dynamics with more definition.

But the total balance was more lean and I missed the punch in the basslines, which I like with ART9.

On the Soundsmith homepage I found out, that they offer their own Headshell done from lightweight boxwood.

If you listen carefully to the video, Peter explains, that he likes to break and to vector mechanical energy with different materials in the energy flow direction, so his cart is made of Ebony and metal (assume gunmetal), so a non metal Headshell fits to his engineering approach.

Many of the Soundsmith carts are high compliance carts, so they like weight arms.
Boxwood is a very light and strong material, which would fit to the demand of "the Voice"

Looking to the pictures. of the Headshell, they look similar to the Yamamoto HS3 boxwood Headshell, which I use anyhow. So I exchanged the original brass fingertip to the Yamamoto TY-10 titanium fingertip , similar looking to the soundsmith Headshell version.

"The Voice" benefits definitely from this boxwood Headshell, as the tonal balance gets more neutral, the energy on the upper region gets more controlled, the music reproduction becomes less grainy as well.

The lower area, the bass as such gets a little more rich , playing with a fuller body, but still with less punch and power as the ART9 (playing on 130 ohm impedance)

I am very sensible regarding voices and sharp "s" distortion, in this regard "The Voice" is smooth and detailed without any stress at all. very nice.

This cartridge was definitely a surprise for me, as I never had a Soundsmith Cart before. I could start thinking about to try a Cartridge the way up, like the Sussuro MkII

IMG_1230.jpg IMG_1233.jpg IMG_1231.jpg
 

shakti

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2015
500
255
63
Cologne, Germany
#6
next cartridge on the list is the

Ortofon Windfeld Ti

https://www.ortofon.com/mc-windfeld-ti-p-737-n-1579

which is a more heavier type of cartridge in a composite / Titanium body.

Ortofon has developed the

Ortofon LH 9000

https://www.ortofon.com/lh-9000-p-561-n-3446

Headshell to go along with their heritage cartridge line up.

As recommended from my Ortofon loving friends, I changed the copper Headshell leads to the

Ortofon LW 800

https://www.ortofon.com/lw-800-s-p-439

even later to the

Ortofon LW 1000 (not longer on offer)


At first I tried the Ikeda 407 silver tonearm, which is the older version of the 407, having a steel arm wand.

But the Windfeld Ti was not working properly, maybe not enough hours on it or the tonearm was not the best match, anyhow, I changed to the Ikeda 407 chrome version, which seem to be the better fit.

The Character of the Windfeld Ti is just neutral. Full stop. You hear, what is on the record. All information are presented. But someone has switched the emotions off . Windfelds point of view might be, that no-one has recorded emotions, so the Windfeld will not read them out of a record.

if you combine the Windfeld Ti with the Audio Special Phonostage and an active Studio Monitor you really feel like a mastering engineer and you will be able to judge the quality of the recording.

Many of the WBF members might like to listen to the music as the reproduction of tones , which should be recorded and reproduced as perfect to the original as possible. Many of them will like digital for that reason.

For this listening / consumer group the heritage is the best cartridge. No coloration at all, nothing "special"

Others will look for a music reproduction, which will bring the feeling of the music alive in a privat listening room.

I am more connected to this group of listeners, so for me the Windfeld Ti is a fascinating but boring cartridge.

My Ortofon lover group than explained, that Ortofon has developed this cart to be mated with a Step Up and that I should try this as well.

So I did.

Using one of my different Step ups had indeed an effect on the performance, so the use of my

Ikeda IST 201

step up made the vocals more smooth and fluent. But at the end , they were just adding a coloration to the neutral Windfeld Ti. It is like adding spice to the food. If you like the food, you can make it even better with good spices. if you do not like the food, even good spices will not really help.

Currently I am using my Windfeld Ti as the "neutral point". If my set up is working fine and neutral with the Windfeld Ti, I did something right. From there than I can go in different sonic directions to meet my personal taste and flavour.





IMG_1239.jpg IMG_1238.jpg IMG_1237.jpg
 

Bodhi

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2014
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Melbourne, Australia
#7
Art Dudley liked the Miyajima Labs Saboten L mc cart a lot in his Stereophile review. My friend Paul is also using that cart in his high end system. I personally loved the Miyajima Shilabe on a Transrotor Fat Bob Plus deck, and this cart is better again. It's also a nice looking cart in Ebony.
 

shakti

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2015
500
255
63
Cologne, Germany
#8
Art Dudley liked the Miyajima Labs Saboten L mc cart a lot in his Stereophile review. My friend Paul is also using that cart in his high end system. I personally loved the Miyajima Shilabe on a Transrotor Fat Bob Plus deck, and this cart is better again. It's also a nice looking cart in Ebony.
The Miyajima carts are indeed very interesting, but unfortunately not easy to get in Germany (for a fair price).
So I will continue to look around, if a Miyajima cart will pass my way to find out :)
 
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slowGEEZR

Member Sponsor
Sep 20, 2010
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#9
Shakti, your impressions of the "Voice" were very similar to my impressions of the "Voice Ebony". I had actually preferred the Ortofon Cadenza Bronze to it in my system, which includes Wilson WP8's, Pass Labs 100.5s, BAT phono stage, etc. A few months ago, I received it back from a rebuild and it was "brought up to current standards", whatever that means. I must say that it now has surpassed my expectations and is seriously good. No lacking of bass or emotion or dynamics and still as smooth as ever.

Edit:
I forgot to mention that I use the Isokinetik Graphite headshell with the cartridge.
 
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spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
8,859
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E. England
#10
Shakti, in some ways the most interesting thing here is that so many "top" carts are > €10k.

It wasn't so long ago that the hugely well regarded Transfiguration Orpheus that I owned 2008-2013 was under €4k. That was a top rank cart. Now that price gets one of the "lowly" ones Shakti is reviewing in this group.
 

gian60

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Apr 17, 2016
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#11
Shakti,i can have good price for Miyajima because distributor in Italy is my friend since 25 years
I can put in contact with them if you have interest
 
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shakti

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2015
500
255
63
Cologne, Germany
#12
Shakti,i can have good price for Miyajima because distributor in Italy is my friend since 25 years
I can put in contact with them if you have interest
thank you for your kind offer!, it seems, that I am sometimes too fast :)

I just ordered this afternoon a Miyajima Madake. Looking forward to receive it.
 

shakti

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2015
500
255
63
Cologne, Germany
#13
The Ikeda 9TT cartridge is a natural match for the Ikeda 345/407 tonearms, so I fitted this cart in the original chrome Ikeda Headshell using the Ikeda Headshell cables. The only add on is the Dereneville Headshell mat, which I am using in all cases, if a metal body in a metal Headshell needs to be fitted.

The Ikeda 9tt was mostly heard with the Ikeda IST 201 step up.
I bought from "my sonic labs" a special cable, which allows to go from the step up into my Boulder 2008 with a xlr connection in full balanced mode.

Within the Ikeda range of cartridges the 9TT is (for me) the most warm voiced one. The 9TT let you flow through the music, it likes female voices. It is a very colourful cartridge. Compared to the neutral Ortofon you have always a certain Ikeda blend laying over the music. As I like his understanding of music, this blend very often fits to my need to enjoy a relaxing red vino evening.

The lower region os more full body, the higher region seem to have a light roll of, without missing the resolution you would expect from a cart in this price segment. It is definitely not a Rock'n Roller :)

You can find this character in the Ikeda family with the 9TS.

Compared to the other cartridges I have always problems to adjust an Ikeda cart to become a good tracker. So critical records / sections can have distortions, when my ART9 still makes no problems.

If you add tracking force, it becomes a better tracker, but the performance is close to leave the area of a best performance. So it always takes a lot of time to adjust an Ikeda, the Ortofon Windfeld Ti or the ART9 are much more forgiving and do play on a high level even with a less careful fitting.



IMG_1245.jpg IMG_1246.jpg
 

marslo

VIP/Donor
May 2, 2014
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Poland
#14
Art Dudley liked the Miyajima Labs Saboten L mc cart a lot in his Stereophile review. My friend Paul is also using that cart in his high end system. I personally loved the Miyajima Shilabe on a Transrotor Fat Bob Plus deck, and this cart is better again. It's also a nice looking cart in Ebony.
Because you mention Fat Bob which I have as my analog source for many years I am very satisfied with Shelter Harmony cart , not "uber top" expensive .
It is around 5 k usd cart and I will not go further as analog is only my weekend source, I listen mostly to files and cds.
The choice I have made was based on the review of Marshall Nack , I trusted his opinion and I am not disapointed ( before Shelter I used Phase Tech P3G which I keep as a replacement )

https://positive-feedback.com/Issue50/transrotor.htm
 

Bodhi

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2014
892
268
63
Melbourne, Australia
#15
Because you mention Fat Bob which I have as my analog source for many years I am very satisfied with Shelter Harmony cart , not "uber top" expensive .
It is around 5 k usd cart and I will not go further as analog is only my weekend source, I listen mostly to files and cds.
The choice I have made was based on the review of Marshall Nack , I trusted his opinion and I am not disapointed ( before Shelter I used Phase Tech P3G which I keep as a replacement )

https://positive-feedback.com/Issue50/transrotor.htm
Yeah i've heard very positive things about that cart. It's great when you find a sound you like & can stop and just focus on the music. My first full size system remained unchanged for 18 years, other than the addition of a tuner and tape deck. Thanks for the link!
 
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gian60

Well-Known Member
Apr 17, 2016
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#16
I have also some cheaper cart to use sometimes,besides the SPU
One fantastic is Audio Tekne,output 0,1
No fast and dynamic and very open but one of the most natural cart i never listen.
With his AT transformer i didn't liked because little roll off,but with CH P1 was fantastic and one surprise for me.
This cart is all hand made with body in carbon block.
Price list 2.900 euro

I have also and will try in september Decca Jubilee and one Special Cardas made by Benz.
Has the body of Cardas and inside is same like LP but with better magnet and Namiki diamond.
My friend is very friend with Lukaschek since 30 years and sometimes go to the company and ask to do for him some special version
 

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#17
I’m also using the Audio Tekne MC6310 and find it superior to other more expensive cartridges I’ve used in the past. I am using it within an Audio Tekne system so that may be part of it. I agree with gian60 in that it is very natural sounding but I don’t find it rolled off at all. Actually, I find it to be the best treble I’ve ever heard since my ears don’t like the unnatural sizzle on top like many cartridges have. I’ve also found it plays anything with ease without the slightest mistracking or sibilance. Very easy cartridge to dial in. It is 8gr with hardware and compliance is around 20.
 

Marcus

Member Sponsor
Oct 5, 2012
256
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#18
I have also and will try in september Decca Jubilee and one Special Cardas made by Benz. Has the body of Cardas and inside is same like LP but with better magnet and Namiki diamond. My friend is very friend with Lukaschek since 30 years and sometimes go to the company and ask to do for him some special version
Excellent Gian! Very interested in your findings, especially in comparison with the regular Benz LP-S if you had experience with it.

Btw, do you know what’s the difference between the MR stylus Benz is using in the LP-S and Namiki MR?
 
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gian60

Well-Known Member
Apr 17, 2016
1,696
454
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#20
Hi Djsina,
if you use mc 6310 in AT pre sound is transparent and high very good.
Who use in not AT System buy AT step up MCT 4818 or MCT 9401B thinking to have a good match but are not very good and give a little roll off to the cart.
I had AT System for more than 10 years
 

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