This year in Munich, I finally got the chance to meet in person two living legends of cartridge design, Jonathan Carr of Lyra (who went so technical that it knocked out both Scot and I, but stay tuned for this report) and Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith who kept things in an almost understandable level.
Peter took the time to walk me through the entire line of Soundsmith moving iron (MI) cartridges, along with explaining some of the design principles behind them. When compared to the classic moving coil cartridges, the MI ones offer even lower moving mass, and when combined with Peter’s newly engineered damping system, the end result is what he likes to call a “low jitter” one, meaning much better tracking.
The first really important novelty is that they are now producing low, medium and high output moving iron designs, or to be more precise they are offering the same cartridge in more than one output voltage. The beautiful Paua ($3800) we had the chance to listen to in Munich for example outputs a low-ish 0.4mV, while its twin, the identically-priced Nautilus, makes up an entire 1.1mV, which is good even with phono stages that can only provide up to 50dB of gain. Certain models go all the way up to 2.4mV so a standard MM phono stage can provide all the necessary gain. Going down the price chain, not only the output but the compliance can also be chosen, meaning that if you like what moving iron cartridges have to offer, there is no way of not finding a perfect match for your tonearm and system.
Another novelty which I found interesting is the Irox series ($1850 for the Ultimate and $900 for the entry-level Blue). Irox as “I-rocks”, but not because of the music genre, but due to the rock-solid construction which promises an indestructible cartridge. Name me one audiophile who has not snapped at least one cantilever in his analog years and you will win a cigar! From someone with lots of cigars! Okay, no, not really, but you get the idea.
Peter told me that he plans on doing a demo by throwing the cartridge against the wall several times, just to point out how sturdy these are going to be. You have small child in your house, or you are a bit clumsy, or happen to be a DJ? You might have found your next cart!
One last niche line of products that will be introduced soon is the low-Z designs (internal impedance <0.2Ohms), which will suit the trans-conductance phono stages like BMC’s Balanced MC Current Injection and the new CH Precision P1. Though these phono stages work well with MC designs, they will match perfectly with the lowest possible impedance cartridges, and Peter has some great models ready, like the Sussuro Lo-Z.
All this got me thinking, why I have not tried one of Peter’s designs in my place yet?