Most audiophiles are very familiar with Peter Ledermann and his Soundsmith phono cartridges. Perhaps you’ve even heard his preamplifiers, or you’re technologically knowledgeable enough to truly appreciate his strain gauge cartridges. But unless you’ve heard the entire Soundsmith System, you’ll never understand what Peter is really about.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
That’s right, Peter Ledermann occasionally exhibits at high-end audio shows with a system that is largely his–with the exception of the STST turntables from Germany and the Schroder tonearms. Most people who have heard the Soundsmith strain gauge cartridges know that a special preamplifier is required, but Peter makes his own reference amps and preamps that have a bespoke quality to them that is breathtaking. The Soundsmith System also includes one of two of Peter’s bookshelf monitors. I’ve heard them many times, and they’re excellent–he learned a few design secrets from his days at Bozak.
This is the third or fourth time I’ve heard the Soundsmith System, and it’s always one of my favorite stops at any show–and that’s not just because Peter will send you off with a really funny joke. This time, Peter is focusing on some of the things that Soundsmith does that no one else manages. For instance, Peter is bringing up a subject that isn’t discussed very often in quality analog playback–cost per play.
It’s true–running an expensive cartridge that has a stylus with a very finite lifespan does cost a significant amount of money for every LP you play. That figure is always shockingly high because it forces you to think in terms that can be discouraging for many vinyl lovers, especially when you consider that most re-tipping fees approach the price of a entirely new cartridge, 50-80% or even more.
Peter Ledermann addresses this by keeping the cost of his re-tips surprisingly low. Depending upon the model, that number is 10-20% of the cost of a new cartridge. If you’re one of those vinyl lovers who have a bunch of old cartridges in a drawer because you don’t want to deal with the re-tipping process, you’ll know how compelling the Soundsmith System truly is. But that’s not the only thing Peter Ledermann has been doing over the last couple of years.
Since I’ve last talked to Peter, he’s been busy. He’s come up with an IROX line of unbreakable cartridges. As Peter says:
“Soundsmith’s new IROX BLUE-ES and IROX ULTIMATE-ES Unbreakable cartridges with enhanced performance. Now for the first time, no compromise needs to be made when you need an unbreakable cartridge for rugged use. No, the cleaning service can’t destroy it with a cleaning rag. No, the kids can’t break it either. The world’s first high performance no oops cartridge.”
That’s pretty amazing right there. Plus he’s also developed the Transimpedance (TI) phono preamplifiers that can select the optimal loading for any cartridge, and he’s come out with a TI version of his Hyperion and Sussurro cartridges to go with them. Another intriguing development from the Soundsmith System is the MOSTUBE ONE, a solid state replacement for the most popular output tubes that increases power while offering incredible long-term reliability.
That’s some good stuff right there. You know what’s better? Sitting down and listening to the Soundsmith System for any length of time. First, you have those diminutive two-way Monarch and Dragonfly monitors–which might be the original small speakers that sound outlandishly huge. Then you have the rare and understated STST turntables, which are Peter’s favorites. Finally you have analog playback that’s always superb up and down the line, but reaches a new level when you hear either the Hyperion or the strain gauge cartridges. In the Soundsmith System room, you can usually hear both.
That’s why you need to hit this room whenever you see it listed on a show program. The Soundsmith System is one of the best-kept secrets in audio, and the word needs to get out.
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