For Shure – The end of an era
I like the sound of the Audio technical carts, one reason was because it was the first step up in cartridges that I purchased. It was the Audio Technica AT95E and was a HUGE leap from the cartridge that came with the turntable I had at the time.
Since then I have stayed with Audio Technica cartridges. Currently, I am using an AT440MLB and it is an amazing cartridge. It brings out detail that isn’t heard in some cartridges, but it doesn’t come that way out of the box.
The cartridge right out of the box can be very bright sounding. The highs can be very forward. These carts are known to be tilted up in the highs. There is a solution though. It’s called cartridge loading and it can take a cartridge like the AT440MLB and completely flatten the frequency curve out. Then all of a sudden you have an unbelievable cartridge that tracks like a beast and zero inner groove distortion.
On my second turntable, I use a Shure M97XE. I originally purchased it because I read it was a warmer cartridge that could hide flaws in vinyl and tracked pretty good. When I received the cartridge I wasn’t disappointed. Nice mid range, solid lows, and the highs were a bit more rolled off than I like normally.
Rolled highs are an okay trade-off for being able to play some of the vinyl in the discount bins at local shops. Currently, it is installed on my Technics SL-1700 MKII and they match perfectly!
I’ve had plans of replacing it with the Jico SAS stylus that everyone raves about, but I just can’t bring myself to spend the money on it. I like the cartridge enough the way it is but I do think there are better cartridges out there, but not for around the $100 price tag that the M97XE was when I purchased it.
The Jico SAS stylus is supposed to make it a real giant killer in terms of cost vs performance. That is a good thing since Shure is no longer making phono cartridges and replacement N97XE stylus will be harder and harder to come by. I really hate to see a company stop making anything that is related to Vinyl. Shure never really seemed to evolve with the market though. They did not have a high-end cartridge that could really dig deep into a record and bring out details like some of the other big names. Shure just seemed fine making DJ cartridges and the M97XE. The M97XE was a good cartridge, but it doesn’t really get into the Hi-Fi realm of cartridges. For me saying goodbye to Shure as a phono cartridge maker isn’t really that big of a deal.