|The Empire 4000/DIII MM phono cartridge was designed and manufactured by Empire Scientific Corp.|
Empire Scientific is a 50 years old enterprise whom along the years designed, builded and marketed speakers, turntables ( famous Troubador 598III. ) and phono cartridges.
The company still exist ( Deer Park, NY. ) but unfortunately does not makes phono cartridges any more and can't give us any information about.
From its site this is what Empire makes/made today: """"Empire Scientific is a leading supplier of batteries, chargers, and accessories to retailers, wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers in the cellular, video, and cordless telephone segments of the consumer electronics industry. """"""
In the past they designed not only MM type ( like the review one here. ) phono cartridges but MI ones and LOMC cartridges too.
So these people knows/knew " something " on phono cartridges!!!!
I understand that overtime some of the Empire ( phono cartridge designs. ) people goes to Benz Micro phono cartridge today Swiss enterprise.
Below the Empire 4000D cartridge line comes three models: I, II and III ( easy ).
All these cartridges were designed for " 4 channel-stereo " where the " ordinary " stereo performance was enhanced too.
Cartridge Main specifications ( 4000/DIII ):
Frequency response: 5hz-50khz
Output voltage: 3.0mv at 3.54 cm/sg
Channel separation: more than 35db.
Tracking force: 0.25grs to 1.25grs!!!!
Stylus tip: miniature nude diamond with
0.1 mil tracing radius.
The cartridge was designed in specific to be loaded with 100,000 ohms along 100pf. NO this is not what I say but what you can read in the Empire cartridge manual.
I mounted in my Grace G-945 tonearm using an Audio Technica MS-8 ( 8grs. ) magnesium headshell.
All my tests were made with next parameters: Vtf 1.0grs ( I try 0.25grs and 0.5grs too. ), 100 kohms load impedance along 150pf on capacitance, no antiskating and positive VTA/SRA.
Mounting this cartridge needs some explanation: you can mount in a universal 1/2" headshell mount holes but the cartridges does not comes with the 1/2" tonearm standard mount integrated, the cartridge comes alone and comes with a separate gold metal 1/2" " clip " cartridge mount. YES, a clip that serves as a cartridge fastener.
When I see for the first time I was surprised that this cartridge comes with that so non-rigid CLIP that does not catch the cartridge in tight way. This worry me for say the least.
Latter on the test bench that " unique " an almost ridiculous mounting cartridge hardware shows that works just fine really fine.
I can't detect any performance trouble because of that, well that's what I think maybe it has some not good influence on the cartridge quality performance level but I can't say it for sure.
My cartridge sample is one of the early ones, the latest 4000/DIII comes with a normal integrated 1/2" mount: no more CLIP here. No I don't have any opportunity to hear this latest 4000/DIII.
My sample is a NOS cartridge and I have to say that I own too a NOS stylus replacement.
I like Empire cartridges, I own 10 different MM models.
The first Empire I had was the 4000/DI almost 40 years ago that I bought for around 70.00 when the DIII was 150.00.
If you read on the MM/MI long thread I give the Empire 1000ZE/X a solid 9 ranking on the cartridge ladder performance level ( this means no LOMC cartridge can touch it. ) and till today the best Empire I heard.
Btw, you can read here what Halcro experienced with the 100ZE/X: http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?eanlg&1200430667&openflup&1991&4#1991
I have to say too that other Empire owners ( EDR.9, 750Ltd, 600LAC, etc, etc. ) report very good experiences with their cartridges. I can't remember any Empire owner that was unhappy with.
Like with the Acutex someone ( I can't remember who. ) ask that I try the 4000 DIII and I decide to give " a try ".
This was a very good " move " because I discovery the greatness of another vintage MM Empire cartridge.
Has the 4000 DIII an Empire " signature " performance?. With some other cartridge brands almost always exist a " signature sound " on that brand but IMHO in the Enpire lines there is no such " Empire signature sound ". Different models sounds different.
How the 4000 DIII performs?:
first the cartridge has and share wit other MM/MI top cartridges the " easy flow of the music " with very low or almost " no distortions " characteristics that I repeat only the very top cartridges have.
There is almost nothing between you and the music, there is nothing that catch your attention but the music and this kind of cartridge quality performance makes that we enjoy record after record in " peace " and relaxed and not because the 4000 DIII has a relaxed sound but because this cartridge ( like the Acutex or the Technics ) give you the impresion to be " there " where the music is " happening " with all the natural agresiveness that has the live music.
The cartridge is " easy " on the record grooves not only because performs almost at 100% of its performance after 2-3 minutes of playing after years on the " closet/stock " but because is very good tracker all over any recording and over all the LP surface.
I choose 1gr ( this is what I preffer with my samples. ) in VTF but tracks fine at 0.75 or 0.5gr. I try at its lower limit 0.25grs and sounds good but not with the same quality performance and in the other side is not easy to handle ( lift out ) the cartridge/headshell/tonearm with that so low VTF.
The cartridge has high resolution and is very precise ( alittle better than Acutex on accuracy subject. ) with out the " perfect " accuracy of the Technics P100CMK4 ( till today no cartridge I know even the Technics on that performance parameter. ) but on the Patricia Barber Cafe Blue first 3 minutes breath Patricia voice test bench through the Empire I can detect five of her breaths and this is a high accomplish that not every cartridge you own can do it.
Its performance is a little different from the Empire 1000ZE/X, if I could put on one word the main 4000 DIII characteristic I choose the word: ALIVE.
This cartridge is alive top to bottom, in the highs has not only the extension, air and transparency that live music has but more important has the definition that many times other cartridges just loose/don't have it and here the Nardis PB track can shows through the cymbals that the 4000 DIII not only " sounds " but give you the single metal sound when the player hit the cybals followed by the clear harmonics that gives that immediacy and natural agresiveness to that instrument and especially on that recording where the player/drumer put so high energy and fast stroke-play that even he lose the rythmum in some passages.
The cartridge put in the right perspective that only when a cartridge ( like this ) has a very fast response on transients you can " admire " not only the drumer/player hability but the difficulty to reproduce the Cymbals ( sound ) in the right way.
You can take too the Michael Ruff recording ( Sheffield Lab TLP-35HQ ) Side four track that is a " torturing " track for every system/source where the Empire performs really fine especially with the drumer score that is so demanding, IMHO only with the Empire ( and other alike cartridges, very few. ) so fast transients response we can have a real and undistorted performance where the fundamentals and harmonics in that " passage " are not only natural but precise and with fully distinction between all those " full " musical notes. Along this impressive performance on drumer score there is a great Empire performance too ( after the middle of the track ) with the horn/trumpet score. It is an " experience " to hear this track through the 4000 DIII.
At the other side of the frequency extremes the bass is tight, precise, deep and with no overhang. Here too the cartridge shows its very fast response to bass transients that give to the sound the rightness of live music in this frequency range. I like it even more than the Acutex here.
Even that great bass quality performance the 4000 DIII shows a little " rounded " bass response. Something wrong with that?, no you will be in love with when you hear/heard it.
I have to say that if you have not a " medium " of comparison you can't detect that " rounded " bass cartridge characteristic that I detected against the " perfect " bass response that shows the Technics P100CMK4.
The Acutex shows too that " rounded " bass response even a little pronounced over the Empire, both cartridges are exceptional in this frequency range.
We have to take in count that we are talking here of quality performance with cartridges that performs very very near to " perfection ".
I compare the Empire not only against the Acutex and Technics but against all the 10 ranking cartridges, LOMC and the Lewm beloved Ortofon M20FL Super. All them but the Acutex/Technics performs in a lower quality level especially the 20FL that against the Empire shows its real limitations.
The 4000 DIII with that so fine tonal balance has a tone characteristic that is very welcomed: little more energy ( that other cartridges )in the lower midrange/up midbass that gives the overall cartridge presentation the " feeling " of that live music that is so far away on our home audio systems performance level.
Two different recordings/players, two different performances and two different realities:
Midnight Sugar track on the Yamamoto Trio ( TBM-23 ) LP and all the Side One tracks on O. Peterson Trio West Side Story ( DCC LPZ-2021. ).
Both as different very good recordings ( 33 years recording date difference in between. ) and through the 4000 DIII both LPs really shine.
Which is " right ": both. While we heard not only the Peterson piano skills but the Peterson " soul " the Peterson " emotions " his " warmest " feellings in the other side we can heard the accuracy ( in the piano not on drums/cymbals playing. )the with what the Yamamoto recording was made, the precision of Yamamoto piano skills the " you are there " ( at one meter ) hearing that Midnight Sugar pscrore/performance but you can'T ( at least me ) feel the " cold " Yamamoto " emotions ".
The Midnight Sugar track is a test track especially at 93db-95db ( at seat position ) and not many cartridges and systems give you the opportunity to enjoy it at that SPL, well the 4000 DIII makes a lovely work here.
If you own this Empire cartridge then you have to own too the Caballé LSC-2862 recording because with this cartridge that superb voice give you the opportunity to " feel " at least three " orgasm " in a row!!!!
Two other recordings gives a testimony of the great cartridge the 4000 DIII is:
Cat people D. Bowie one where ( maybe due to that " little more " energy in the low mr/umb. ) the first two minutes on the drum/cymbal are just astounding, even I like it more this performance than with the Acutex or the Technics one. The Empire is addictive.
The other recording is, Kongas: Why Can't We Live Together ( Cerrone Production, Malligators Records: 8168 ), this is a Fernch 45rpm Mix Disco music that when you heard it at the begin you only can say: my GOD, what is this???!!!!!
You need to hear it to understand what I mean.
Is there any weak on the quality cartridge performance?, not that I detect yet, a true and real WINNER!!!!!!!!
A cartridge that for its own " rigths " belongs to that 10+ top level/rank in the cartridge quality performance ladder.
Regards and enjoy the music,
Click to view my Virtual System
Name it in the review.