Anybody out there re-cantilever their cartridge with a Soundsmith Contact Line diamond ?

The cantilever on my Dynavector 20x2 is damaged. Dynavector wants X number of dollars to exchange it. Then I read about Soundsmith's rebuild option, which is intriguing. A feature aspect of their cantilever rebuild is their Contact Line Diamond stylus as opposed to Dynavector's Micro Ridge Nude diamond.


"The Soundsmith Contact Line diamond stylus has three times the contact area in the vertical direction of the groove wall compared to an elliptical shaped diamond".


I thought I was in the clear, but now I'm informed that a Contact Line Diamond stylus with three times the contact area, picks up a ton of surface noise off the record. So much so that the surface noise can become forward on all but the most pristine records. So much so that the surface noise becomes intrusive.


Anyone out there had a Soundsmith modification done to their cartridge, if so which option had you had done, and what's been your expience?
Have had it done 9 times by Soundsmith, everything from his level ll rebuild when it was still referred to as a ruby cantilever with the line  contact stylus, his level lll ruby line contact stylus rebuild to just recently his boron cantilever with line contact rebuild on my worn out ZYX Universe which I am just amazed at how good it sounds. The cartridges done prior consisted of Shelter 901, Shelter 90X, 2 Shelter 501s, 2 Lyra Helikons, Koetsu Black and a Dynavector DRT XV1s. All rebuilds mentioned made the cart in question sound better than stock with the exception of the Dynavector DRT XV1s which was a lateral move and the Universe which sounds to my ear as good as the stock ZYX. When my Dynavector needs rebuilt I will get the boron cantilever rebuild on it as well. As far as the tracking of the album and more surface noise I don't seem to hear an increase but perceive less noise, maybe due to where the stylus is tracking the grooves of my albums some of which are 65 years old but in well maintained shape. You are going to get your usual nay sayers about cartridge rebuilding by an outside repairman other than the original manufacturer and I say just ignore them.
I thought I was in the clear, but now I’m informed that a Contact Line Diamond stylus with three times the contact area, picks up a ton of surface noise off the record. So much so that the surface noise can become forward on all but the most pristine records. So much so that the surface noise becomes intrusive.

If this statement could be true then the best stylus would be Conical, but it’s the worst ever. So the advanced profiles will bring you the music, accuracy and less record wear. However, comparing to MicroRidge his Contact Line is not an improvement, but also very nice profile.

When people proceed with SoundSmith retipping i would ask why not just buy SoundSmith MI cartridge instead ? Only his own cartridges were designed for use his cantilevers/diamonds. Cartridges from other manufacturers designed for use with different cantilevers/diamonds and it’s a complex question why "x" cartridge is better than "y" cartridge.

Your Dynavector is a $850 cartridge and you can buy plenty of amazing cartridges for the same price or even lower.

Maybe it’s time to try something different? Or you are so in love with DV-20x2 ? SoundSmith can definitely bring your Dyna back to life, but if you like his vision i would look at his own cartridges instead (they are reasonably priced and he could service them at very low price too).
Thx Tooblue,
your input is appreciated.
As for your question Chakster
Maybe it’s time to try something different? Or you are so in love with DV-20x2 ?
The 20x2 has never turned a revolution. It was damaged when being set-up.

Audiogon has no shortage of naysayers who will defend “manufacturers’ original” against everything. 
Audiogon has no shortage of naysayers who will defend “manufacturers’ original” against everything.

As much as a bunch of people who will always claim that refurbished cartridge is better than the original. So why do we need the originals if refurbished always better ?

When i ask those guys they can’t compare side to side (at the same time) the original versus same model refurbished. This is a problem. Normally people biased by the fact that their broken cart is back to life for less than the original manufacturer charge for retip or exchange, and they are happy about it.

There are so many technical aspects in cartridge design that people don’t understand. Each cartridge is different. I believe that people at SoundSmith learned a lot to make their own cartridge. In terms of service this is definitely the best option. As for the sound quality i hope SoundSmith cartridge owners can chime in and make a comments.

I had the cantilever, contact line stylus work done by Peter on my Cardas Myrtle Heart.  Excellent work.  
I had my Dynavector 10x5 redone by Soundsmith with a ruby cantilever 6 years ago with line contact stylus. I was very satisfied. It has become long in the tooth, so I now have a lightly used 20xl2 .When more funds become available again, I will have the 10x5 retipped as a backup and the 20xl2 will be sent out after it comes back.  I had ruined a 20xs through poor handling last fall that I sent to  them, unfortunately it was beyond repair and they did not charge me. Peter and his crew do excellent work, highly recommended.

Thank you,

upstateaudio, - irish_tim, - johnsonwu, - and - tooblue, for sharing your personal dealings in having your cartridge work done by Soundsmith. Actually having the work done, and in the case of "tooblue" multiple cartridges, has provide my search question with empirical experience.

Anyone out there had a Soundsmith modification done to their cartridge, if so which option had you had done, and what’s been your experience?

As for "chakster", although your contributions maybe well intended, they do not address the question, you do not  appear to have any personal experiences in dealing with Soundsmith’s work, therefore your input adds up to nothing but conjecture and a waste of everyone’s time including your own. Perhaps in the future you’ll consider directing your energies in less vacuous pursuits.

@thehorn - I had the soundsmith upgrade to the ruby cantilever with the optimized countour contact line stylus

The results were excellent compared to the conical stylus of the original cartridge.

However, as you get to the more advanced stylus contours you should take care to align the cartridge with greater precision.

To accomplish this I used one of the Mirror protractors and the results were a great improvement.

The free paper protractors on the web do not provide the degree of accuracy required for any stylus profile more advanced than the eliptical stylus. Don't get me wrong - it will play AND sound very good, but precision alignment sounds even better.

I found the mirror protractors are worth the investment and easier to use than the paper variant.

Regards - Steve
As for "chakster", although your contributions maybe well intended, they do not address the question, you do not appear to have any personal experiences in dealing with Soundsmith’s work, therefore your input adds up to nothing but conjecture and a waste of everyone’s time including your own. Perhaps in the future you’ll consider directing your energies in less vacuous pursuits.

I believe my statemend does not hurt your feelings?

SoundSmith retipped many thousand cartridges from all over the world (from very old to brand new). Peter is one of the well known retippers, there are many in every part of the world.

I decided NOT to proceed with SoundSmith cantilever/stylus for my ex ZYX Premium 4D SB, because this cartridge has unique cantilever that no one can provide, there is no equal replacement from any retipper in the world. That cantilever was made exclusively for ZYX. This is one of the reson this cartridge cost $5000 and factory exchange (instead of retip) will cost 60% of the retail price. Why i did not proceed with relatively cheap (compared to ZYX factory exchange) SoundSmith service? See J.Carr quote below.

I have personal experience with another qualified and highly regarded retipper from another country, and i have compared retipped/refurbished cartridge to original cartridge (same model), i must say that the difference was huge and not in favor of refurbished cartridge. In my case one Boron Pipe cantilever was replaced with another (different) Boron Rod cantilever with the same stylus profile, but slightly different mass. So i will never ever retip/refurbish any cartridge. My cartridge was Technics 205c mk4 and it was MM cartridge, not MC. I have a few more different cartridges retipped/refurbished, never again!

If you don’t want to study the subject and all you need is some other members to tell you "yes, go for it" then it’s up to you. Your cartridge is not special and i think you can theoretically upgrade to a better cantilever and stylus.

But this is not universal rule and does not apply for every cartridge if you want to know the full story.

No one can explain better than J.Carr who is a (Lyra) cartridge designer himself. And this is what he said:

To retip a cartridge that was originally equipped with a stylus made by one manufacturer with one made by a different manufacturer is like rebuilding a Porsche engine with Jaguar pistons and crankshaft - the components used for rebuilding may be of high quality, but the design philosophy is rather different from the original.

Still, as one poster wrote above, changing only the stylus will alter the sound less than if the cantilever material is changed. When a cartridge is designed, the designer will consider the moving mass (sum of the stylus, cantilever and coils), the resonant character of the cantilever, and the (sonic) propagation velocity of the cantilever (affected by the cantilever’s mass and rigidity), then choose the suspension and dampers accordingly. If you change the cantilever material, you are effectively throwing the original designer’s calculations away.

Try to understand what a cartridge designer explained on this forum once.

Some people just don’t want to understand it, they just trying to save money of third-party service instead of original designer service. They can refurbish many cartridges making a very strange hybrids out of the genius original design. It may be impressive for you, but not for me, because i know what i’m talking about.

I would rather buy another original cartridge (and i did that many times) instead and it’s far more reasonable when the cartridge is about $800 like your Dyna.

For under $500 you could buy a Dynavector KARAT 23RS with unique short Ruby cantilever and Micro Ridge stylus. Here is the interview with Dynavector cartridge designer. I paid $400 for NOS on ebay last year. This is a whole new cartridge (much better than yours), but you will pay more to SoundSmith just for refurbishing (for new cantilever and new tip). Makes no sense to me, maybe it’s ok for you.

I had the entry level rebuild done on a Sumiko BPE 3 it came back sounding amazing.
Dude. Your comments to Chakster really weren't called for. He offered sound advice and said nothing to disparage you, nor did he pursue vacuity in any way. I agree that you may be better served by spending a little more money and buying a different cartridge. In addition to the ones that Chakster listed, the Hana cartridges offer tremendous bang for the buck. And another thing to consider: soundsmith retips take a famously looooonnnnggg time. If you feel like playing records in the next four months or so, then you'll need another cartridge anyway. 

I say this as someone who has done three retips with soundsmith and wouldn't hesitate to use them again. They've done nice work for me on two dynavectors and a denon 103. I wouldn't have them work on my fancy Zyx's for the reasons Chakster mentioned. 
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Post removed 
Cartridge Nazi? Heh. I guess you're offended by my Zyx comment @tooblue . Actually I would just prefer to have Mr nakatsuka work on my cartridges if possible and he won't touch them if someone else has worked on them. I'm sure your SS-zyx sounds wonderful. They do know what they're doing 
@jollytinker, my comment wasn't meant for you, apparently you haven't met the intended target.
For me, the most significant information in the cited post by J Carr, who does know about this stuff, is that the cartridge is a closed system made up of parts that have been selected to work well together, or at least according to the designers idea and ingenuity.  If one wants to preserve the SQ one paid for in the original purchase, one is well advised at least to stick with the same cantilever material and stylus geometry as per the original, when re-tipping.  Thus, for example, one ought not to install a boron cantilever in a cartridge that was originally designed with an aluminum cantilever in mind.  This is according to J Carr's post; I have no dog in the fight.  So also, if one believes that the ZYX boron cantilever is unique to ZYX and cannot be obtained through the services of any after market re-tipper, then one is obliged to go back to ZYX for the re-tip.  I wonder if the same can be said for Koetsu.

In general, I agree with whoever said that there is a very finite choice of companies that make cantilever/styli.  So in general, but maybe not always, all the re-tippers must work with a very few suppliers.  Perhaps ZYX and some others are exceptions, because it certainly is possible that such boutique companies have exclusive deals with the few suppliers in existence; that's why they get the big bucks.
The question is : what are the sources of one's information?
My, say, theoretical source, is the information we got from
J. Carr, according to whom the least intrusive is stylus only
change. Nobody ever mentioned damper (''rubber ring'') change
while we have no idea about ditto suppliers . From my friend
Axel Schurholz I know first that changing the stylus only is much
more difficult than cantilever/stylus combo as provided by the
suppliers. But the price difference is about 200 versus 500 euro.
So, obviously, the retippers will prefer the combo. 
Then not all styli shapes are available to all retippers. This means
reduction of choice, I wrote to Japanese ''jewel'' companies 
for Axel who accepted too many orders but never got answers
from them. So the styli choices were reduced to boron/nude
Shibata or aluminum /elliptical. The problem by stylus only retip
was according to Axel the right dimensions for an particular sample.
BTW he refused to do ''stylus only'' repair so I moved to ''Expert
stylus. UK''. This company produce their own stylus called 
''Paratrace'' which looks like micro ridge. This work is done by their
their chef engineer with 40 years experience.
Depending from  one's perception of the involved costs and own
means one will chose accordingly. I seem to be more pragmatic in
 this sense than my Slavic brother chakster. Despite the fact that 
I can afford more expansive solution I will always choose for stylus only solution. 

Thank you Gentlemen,

 for your contributions. And @chakster, very good of you to take the time to draft such a comprehensive post. Seems like you have a good heart.

@tooblue ; your sense of humour appears to contain elements of provocation. Our jibs have a similar cut.


Guys for me, my listening room is 13x14x8, with a 7ft wide archway which leads into another 13x14x8 room. The room is treated with conventional materials, front wall has a heavy blind, crown-mouldings, corner book cases, rug, and picture frames. Had I an 18-20x28-35 room with 12ft ceilings, I might consider changing my preamp for one that could boost a LOMC 0.03-0.25. But sonically/financially I can't justify shelling out that kind of money to jump on the Law of Diminishing Returns game. Further more I am not interested in adding another phono preamp either. I like my preamp.


I run an Oracle Delphi II table, with a modified Rega RB300 tonearm. The arm is rewired and has the elliptical Kerry Titanium counterweight.

Cartridges are the Grado Sonata I, and the Dynavector 20x2.

My Pre-Amp is a two box AUDION Premier 2.0 Line Preamplifier / MM, with four Siemens E88CC 6922 tubes.

Tuner: Philips AH673

Amp is a Classe' Audio DR9

Speakers are 946 Focal Electra's, and I keep a pair of Meadowlark Heron Hot Rods laying around.

Cables are XLO UltraPlus and I use Kimber speaker wire.


It's not a bad system. Would I like to move up to a Class A amp and run a pair of Martin Logan Summits - - perhaps. But in my room I don't think they'd work.


So as you can see Gentlemen I'm limited to either a HOMC cartridge or a MM. Getting back to @chakster, I'm not sure where you've found a Dynavector 20x2 for $800 dollars? The Needle Doctors wants $1,150.00 US, plus being Canadian the exchange tacks on another 36 cents/dollar.


Cartridge exchange: $700 CDN/$520 US. Rebuild $350 US/$475 CDN.
Classe DR9 is already Class A.
@thehorn Let me ask you a few questions:

If you, or anybody else, is so happy about refurbished cartridges then why not just buy all the cartridges broken for peanuts and send them to SoundSmith ? A broken ZYX cost $250 instead of $5000. Sounds like a good plan ? Just add $350-700 for SS rebuild. Genius ? Are you sure ?

Maybe some people just don’t understand or they don’t know yet that SoundSmith refurbished is "always better than the original" ? Right ? Or not ?

For those people J.Carr’s opinion is not the authority at all, they always think they know better than one of the most advanced cartridge designer (the owner of Lyra brand).

It’s funny to look at reaction of some members when they can read different opinion, but it’s important to hear both sides to make your own conclusion. This is why i am posting here. A few member doesn’t like it, but i don’t care.

Your cartridge available cheaper from other dealers and i hope you can make your own search, also a component retail price stated in this review as $850.

Anyone can buy a better cartridge even for $350-450, for example the Audio-Technica AT-ML150 OCC with Beryllium Cantilever (much better than Aluminum) and MicroLine stylus (one of the best ever). This is MM cartridge. In my previous post i have mentioned a LOMC cartridge for nearly the same price with exotic cantilever. Now you can compare SS prices for cantilevers like Boron or Ruby with the most advanced diamonds. They are more expensive than entirely new cartridges. Taking in count what J.Carr said i would never spend on refurbishing when the original (better) cartridges available for the same price.

This is my personal opinion as a cartridge collector. I’ve had 4 Dynavector cartridges, the last one on the shelf is KARAT DV-17D2. I have never seen a refurbished cartridge that can be better than the original cartridge (if we’re talking about good ones). Even if you can upgrade an inferior cartridge with better cantilever/stylus there will be another original cartridge that will much be better.

And yes, in this aspect i trust J.Carr more than to anyone else on here, becase they are not cartridge designers (unfortunately).

Cartridge refurbishing service is a compromise and a good business too, some vendors can do the quality job, some can’t. I’ve seen under macro lens many cartridges, including refurbished carts. SS can do the excellent job, but not better than the origina cartridge designer (when it comes to a good cartridges).  

For this reason i have recommended SoundSmith cartridges originally designed by Peter L. as a good alternative to any refurbished carts. You have to watch his lecture and you will see why he prefer an MI over MC.

For anyone who continually posting that all cantilevers are the same and comes from the same manufacturers, please show me a Boron cantilever like this one designed and patended by ZYX for their Airy, Premium 4D and related expensive models. I’m tired to post this example, but this is in fact a unique cantilever construction and none of the vendors can do the same, they does not have access to this cantilever type.

As for the vintage types of the cantilever i must say they are all different, there are many of them, they are not the same and made individually for specific cartridge designer. Even aluminum cantilevers are all different. Even when you change one Boron to another Boron they are not the same. Ruby, Diamond, Beryllium are also different, there are many different Ruby, different Beryllium, different Diamond cantilevers. And the diamonds are also completely different. So you have no idea what a retipper will use as an alternative even if the type of cantilever (or stylus profile) is the same as the original. Especially if the original cantilever was made 35 years ago and replaced to something made today. I’ve checked maybe more than 50 top cartridges from the 70s/80s (and some new carts too) under macro lens and took a pictures of each of them. Different manufacturer have been using different cantilevers and different diamonds.

Retippers normally limited to one of each type, no more (made today).
Some cheaper retippers can use donors (parts replaced from used cartridges).

Always buy an originals, don't bother with the crap

Good luck
Dear chakster, I know that you are very fond of those '''hollow''
boron tubes or cantilevers. But how many do you like? As you can
see on your own picture there is one extra tube on your ZYX in
which the stylus is glued. What one does not see is the extra
aluminum ''tube'' on which the coils are fastened and in which
the cantilever/stylus combo is glued. The so called ''join pipe''.
When I posted my sample to Axel he installed an new boron
cantilever and his ''nude Shibata'' instead of this ''remarkable''
ZYX cantilever. Why do you think that this way of installing the
stylus is better than usual? Or, to put this otherwise, why is one
extra tube necessary? When this stylus is wear off the new
stylus can't be glued instead. So the whole new cantilever/stylus
combo will be needed which is much more expensive than stylus
only exchange. Or so I think because of my own experience. 
BTW what I admire in Axel's work is his persistence to do his
job. As I wrote in my ''irreparable carts'' thread those glued 
together plastic bodies have no ''entrance'' possibility to their 
inside parts. How then should an ''retipper'' fix, say, the damping
 or the coils of such cart? Axel cut and drilled the body to get
inside. I don't believe other retipper will even try to do this.
BTW he was not able to fix this way my Sony XL 88 D. 
This Sony was of the same ''plastic glued together body''.