Need help finding a cartridge to match VPI Classic

default -- Tue, 09/08/2009 - 07:35

I finally broke down and after 20 years of digital music, I finally got my self a turntable. For initial experiment, I had Blue Note Piccolo turntable/arm, Shelter M201 cartridge for a little while then got a second hand Ortofon Jubilee cartridge from a friend of mine. The rest of the system is ASR Emitter II Exclusive, ASR Mini Basis phono, Ortofon SPU-T100. I tried a few phonos including EAR 324 but really prefer to use SPU with MM input so far and Usher BE-20
Anyhow, eventually I thought of upgrading my Piccolo to VPI Classic, currently with ring clamp but no SDS yet.
In comparison to Piccolo, VPI was much more quiet, more laid back, may be a tad too polite. With Ortofon Jubilee, Piccolo was punchier, more excited but the bass is a bit more bloated and it does not have the clean, smooth, easy to listen to mid range and treble. However, I also feel that VPI/Ortofon was too lean and a tad sterile for my taste. So I burrow my friend's Koetsu Rosewood Signature and tried it out. On small scale vocal music and solo piano, it was all I could ever asked for.   However, it was a bit dull on large symphonic or operatic work, may be due to its more laid back and mellow sound. Pop/rock was also a tad too polite. 
Two other cartrides I heard with VPI table (Superscout Master/rim drive) were MY Sonic Hyper Eminent which I love very much but way out of my budget right now. The other was  Dynavector XV-1s  which has incredible speed and slam but somewhat less refine mid-high than MY Sonic but a lot of fun on large symphonic work.
So I am looking a new cartridge that is more versatile than Koetsu Rosewood, something with rich tonal palette, warm wtih decent bass drive, a bit more upfront and intimate in the price range that I could afford. Unfortunatley now  it gets into the territory of cartridges that  I cannot demo or do a home trial easily due to no local dealers or special order item kind of thing. I quite like Shelter 201 which has excellent bass and slam, smooth midrange but a tad too thick and think that Shelter 7000 might be a good match. My VPI dealer suggests Lyra Helikon as a possible alternative but they don't have one in stock right now (they also carry MY Sonic and Dynavector). Other brands that are available locally are Clear Audio and Benz but I cannot audit them with familiar equipments unfortunately.
So what's your opinion on Lyra Helikon vs Shelter 7000 for VPI Classic. Anything else in that price range that I should look at?
As for the rest of the system, I eventually will think about getting SDS, and may upgrade my Mini Basis phono to ASR Basis Exclusive Phono.
Thanks for your advice.

SundayNiagara -- Mon, 09/14/2009 - 15:26

You have tried a lot of cartridges.  I'm amazed you didn't like the Koetsu, because your description of it's sound would seem to be VTA related.  Anyhow, good luck in your search.
PS:  What price range are you shopping in?

Suteetat -- Mon, 09/14/2009 - 20:18

I have been messing around a bit with VTA adjustment with Koetsu and so far I have not been able to achieve great balance of sound yet. I should have ordered VPI classic with VTA on the fly option as it was a pain to adjust VTA the other way.
The bass is deep and control but does not have the dame rthymic pace that Ortofon or for that matter, Shelter 201 MM.  I also still find large symphonic work or opera a bit bland, easy to listen to as background music but it is not as exciting or gripping. May be the sound is too relax ? However piano music remains incredibly gorgeous. I could listen to Brendel's beethoven sonata or Moravec's Chopin LP all day long. The vocal is also really good but
may be it is lacking a bit of air and extension at the top. This is a very old Koetsu Rosewood Signature, probably 7-8 years old at least. My friend kept it as a back up cartridge for now. I don't know how the more recent Koetsu sound or if it remains the same.
Currently I am negotiating with my local dealer on a demo Dynavector XV-1s. Japanese cartridge is  quite a bit cheaper here than in the US. A friend of mine is going to Japan soon and could pick me up stuffs that are not available locally here as well. So far, I could get Shelter 7000 for around $us 1600 in Japan, locally new Dynavector XV-1s is about $3000 similarly to Miyabi, give or take a bit, MY Sonic Hyper Eminent $4700. Personally I am looking to spend around $2000 but can go up a bit if neccessary.

SundayNiagara -- Wed, 09/16/2009 - 22:25

Have you thought about having the Koetsu rebuilt?

Suteetat -- Wed, 09/16/2009 - 23:42

Yes, that is a possibility. However, I have no idea how to send it back to Koetsu. There is no authorized Koetsu dealer in Thailand as far as I know and since there is no contact information for Koetsu beside Koetsu USA readily available, I am not even sure if the Koetsu dealer that I found in Hong Kong and Singapore are official Koetsu dealer or not so I have no idea who to talk to about that. If you know of an authorized Koetsu dealer who I can send the Koetsu to for rebuild, I would appreciate it. It might be interesting to get it rebuilt to Rosewood Platinum edition. A friend of mine also has Koetsu Onyx that is looking for similar option.

SundayNiagara -- Thu, 09/17/2009 - 09:04

I have read of Koetsu offering rebuilding services that compared to the price of a new cartridge, are quite reasonable.  As a starter, you might try contacting Koetsu USA and see if they can refer you to the appropriate party.
Thinking further about your cartridge, your problem could also be suspension-related, in which, a complete rebuilding would be in order.

Suteetat -- Thu, 09/17/2009 - 10:02

Thanks for the advice, I will contact Koetsu USA and see what they have to say.

SundayNiagara -- Thu, 09/17/2009 - 12:57

You might also want to check the cartridge section of , as there have been Koetsu's for sale where re-tipping/building has been mentioned.

SundayNiagara -- Thu, 09/17/2009 - 21:09

I got this email address off the Koetsu SE Asia website:   angmelvin [at] hotmail [dot] com .  I hope this helps.

Suteetat -- Thu, 09/17/2009 - 21:22

Hi Mark, Thanks for the email address. I am not sure about SE Asia website. I believe I saw on Audiogon in the past about someone who ordered Koetsu from SE Asia Koetsu and had problem with it. Couple that to letter that Koetsu USA sent out , made me hesitating a bit about them. However, I saw that someone had his Koetsu rebuilt  by sending it via a Hong Kong dealer so I sent enquiry to both Koetsu USA and Koetsu dealer in Hong Kong.
I'll wait and see what they have to say.

Louis (not verified) -- Fri, 09/25/2009 - 10:15

Proceed with a bit of caution with Lyra cartridges. I have an Argo, and it is spectacular when it locks in to the recording, but much less good when it doesn't. If either the recording or the rest of your system emphasizes the upper midrange-lower treble, the sound will be fatigueing sometimes/all the time. Also, there is plenty of bass punch and extension, but no added warmth.  But what the Argo does with woodwinds, like on the Dvorak Cello Concerto and the second movement of New World Symphony is truly breathtaking. OTOH, Side 1 and 4 of The Royal Ballet don't really work on my system (although Side 3, Swan Lake, is absolutely gorgeous. The Chicago and Boston Classic RCA reissues do much better than the London recordings in my system. From reviews that I have read, the Lyra house sound gets a bit smoother as they go up in price. If I ever have enough money to redo my system, I will look for speakers with a warmer balance than my B&W 804N's, and move up to a Lyra Skala. Hope this helps.

Suteetat -- Sat, 09/26/2009 - 15:34

Louis, thank you for your comment regaring Lyra.
I wrote to Koetsu USA and a Koetsu dealer in Hong Kong regarding rebuilding a Koetsu but so far no word yet. Currently, I am thinking of getting Dyanvecter XV-1s as my local dealer is offering a very good deal on his 6 months old demo cartridge so that is the most likely candidate. However, I am currently on vacation and still need to work out some detail and a bit more haggling with him when I get back.

curbfeeler -- Wed, 10/14/2009 - 22:46

The Dyanvecter XV-1s mates very well with the VPI JMW 12.6 arm, so I expect it will do nicely in the 10.5i stainless steel wand.

curbfeeler -- Wed, 10/14/2009 - 22:38

The Lyra Helikon works fabulously well in the 10.5i arm supplied with your Classic. A friend of mine uses it in a 10.5 and has the Helikon mono in a second arm wand. The Shelter has rather low compliance and is better suited to the stainless steel arm because of its additional mass, available as an option from VPI.

Suteetat -- Thu, 10/15/2009 - 06:13

Thanks for the comment. I am going to get the demo'ed XV-1s. However I have to wait until the local hi-fi show is over at the end of this month before getting it and my local dealer is giving me a pretty good deal so a little waiting is not too bad. 
I do have the optional stainless steel arm for my JMW 10.5i.
I wrote to Koetsu USA and a Koetsu dealer in Hong Kong about rebuilt but never heard anything back. However, SE Asia Koetsu in Singapore
replied back very quickly and the price is quite reasonable and I can even get upgrade from Rosewood Signature to platinum edition at a
pretty good price, considering the cost of a new Rosewood Signature Platinum. A friend is willing to sell me his old Rosewood Signature with broken
tip  cheap so this may be something that I mght do in the future.

SundayNiagara -- Thu, 10/15/2009 - 10:59

Once you experience the magic that Koetsu brings..................................................

nolitan -- Sat, 02/13/2010 - 20:59

the shelter carts works very well with the VPI Classic as well!!

SundayNiagara -- Wed, 03/03/2010 - 08:09

See HW's comments on the Shelter in the "Classic" thread!

Bob Bubeck -- Thu, 03/04/2010 - 20:11

Before spending a lot of $ on a new cartridge, you may wish to try using a Sumiko Fluxbuster demagnetizer (or equivalent) on the working Koetsu Rosewood.  The Fluxbuster, if you can get your hands on one, basically generates a very low AC voltage that asymptotically decays in aplitude . The treatment is very effective at removing the residual magnetism that accummulates in a cartridge over time. The Fluxbuster got a rave full review in TAS No. 41 and a capsule review in No. 50. I've owned one for years and I can attest that this little device is very effective at lifting veils, restoring dynamics, and decreasing apparent tracing distortion in cartridges, including Koetsus (including an Onyx Sapphire Gold that I have on hand).

The Fluxbuster became a piece of vintage gear a long time ago, but they are worth seeking out. 'Fluxbusting' a cartridge every several months is a must depending upon usage. A similar device was made by another manufacturer (who's name is eluding me).

Bob Bubeck

joe1515 -- Sat, 06/26/2010 - 22:47

I use the Benz Micro Glider S M with my classic table and I Iove the pairing.

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