This "not recognising vocals" criticism...I'm not getting it.
Hey, just the messenger here as I recall what I read. I did have the same thought...what's the point of reference?...your onw system? Fremer usually is able to take such viewpoints into consideration when making statements like that so I felt it perhaps had some merit for discussion anyway.
I found a link to the article from 2011. Here are a couple of quotes that stuck in my memory:
This character had me pulling out records like the Byrds' chimey first album, Mr. Tambourine Man (LP, Columbia). Roger McGuinn's 12-string Rickenbacker and the constantly rattling tambourine were reproduced with greater clarity, authority, and purity than I've ever heard, yet neither sounded too bright or edgy. On the other hand, McGuinn's voice was less coherent; its timbre was slightly off, making his very well-known voice less recognizable. But if you try to predict how familiar recordings will sound with the Strain Gauge, you'll probably be wrong much of the time. As with the Decca cartridges, I found that how a particular record, or a particular instrument on that record, would sound through the Strain Gauge was not at all predictable.
There's a banjo part in Virgil Thomson's The Plow that Broke the Plains, performed by Leopold Stokowski and the Symphony of the Air (LP, Vanguard VSD 2095). Through the Strain Gauge, it had a startlingly distinctive metallic ring that some would think realistic but others might find hyped-up and "hi-fi"–ish. It was in that region of the spectrum—cymbals, banjo, plucked guitar strings, etc.—where the Strain Gauge's most distinctive personality trait manifested itself.
Here's a link to the article. https://www.stereophile.com/content/soundsmith-strain-gauge-sg-200-phono-cartridge-system