Would you like to try some rare NOS Vintage MM/MI cartridges, you will be surprised how good they can be, Sumiko design with that unprotected cantilever is awful in my opinion and stylus profile is mediocre elliptical.
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I liked the cartridge, but I had an unfortunate experience with the blackbird. It developed a bit of fuzzy noise that I thought might be dust. I tried to gently clean it with a “controlled” puff of compressed air. Really bad idea. The exposed conductor wires are as thin or thinner than a human hair and one of the channels immediately stopped working. Sent it to SoundSmith but Peter could not/would not repair it. I found Andy and he did repair it, but no longer stock. It is now a backup.
I’m not a fan of the bare design.
I am not a fan of Sumiko cartridges but in fairness I never heard the LO Blackbird. Bare designs can sound excellent. static develops on the LP surface and can attract any type of cartridge. There’s no particular problem with static. Most if not all van den Hul cartridges are open or bare and they can deliver excellent SQ. You just have to be a bit more careful in handling and setup. Like don’t blast it with compressed air.
I have used the Blackbird. Nice cart for a warm system.
The Blackbird is a very detailed cartridge. Particularly the upper end. May
present itself as a little too hot.
A little extra care/awareness needs to be practiced when using it. Other than that, no big deal.
"What do I need to know about this design, and does this make the cart more or less susceptible to issues such as static etc?"
I don't think it would have been designed as is, if that were the case. Wouldn't make sense.
What do I need to know about this design
All you need to know about its "design" is that most likely you will destroy the cantilever accidentally before you stylus wears off. This mistake will cost a lot. Just look at this cartridge.
It looks like it was made to destroy it, really. Same with some VdH and Lyra cartridges.
Practically it is so inconvenient, you have to be extremely careful each time you unlock your tonearm.
On better cartridges a cantilever located under the cartridge body, not 100% safe too, but much better for safety reason.
Chakster, although they are a bit better protected than the naked LOMC types, several of our beloved MI and MM cartridges also place the cantilever in jeopardy. And yet I have never damaged one in handling. Also, I have owned two van den Hul LOMC cartridges without incident. Just because you don’t like the set up doesn’t mean other people might not be able to use it and enjoy it without breaking it. Whether to buy a blackbird is quite another issue. On that score I have nothing to say.
@lewm you're professional and your experience with different cartridge must be great. I have stupidly destroyed one cartridge and another one has been destroyed by a visitor, s**t happens. Personally i would never buy such cartridges, i am more comfortable with traditional design when a cantilever located under the cartridge body.
@tooblue yes, this is probably a benefit, but they can be destroyed during alignment process, we often read comments how difficult to setup a cartridge (for some people). It's about experience.
I have owned a couple of the Blackbirds, but they were the HO version. Very nice sounding cartridge, reminded me a lot of my ZYX, similar kind of voicing.
As I remember the wires are pretty well protected by a channel guard. There are not flying out there in open air like the Benz Micro Glider. Owned a couple of those too, never knocked the tip off them either.
Currently own an Ortofon A90 as one of my cartridges and it has that same type of design. No accidents here, and owned it for a few years.
You have to use common sense, be aware of what you are doing, and treat your turntable with respect. They are not for everyone, as the ham handed will damage them. But if you have some self awareness this does not have to be the outcome.
When I was young I damaged a couple of cartridges, but it hasn't happened in a lot of years. And I prefer to install my cartridges without stylus guards, as those can be difficult to manipulate. Or I have had more than one cartridge have those missing. The one for my ZYX is an absolute nightmare and difficult to install or take off when its bolted to its box, much less a tone arm.
Blackbirds are nice cartridges. I have always wondered who designs and builds them for Sumiko.
Best money I ever spent was on my Hana EL...it tracks everything incredibly well, excellent build quality, a superb stylus protector, and it has alnico magnets! For a measly $475...by the way that stylus protector is an ingenious design as it supports the nuts while you tighten the cartridge screws. Delicacy, subtly, precise, warm, engaging, engrossing, involving, these are just some of my ways to describe the Hana....it is the new denon 103 in my book...
Over 100 cartridges since the early 60's; many came with thrift store turntables which happened to have good cartridges on them, many purchased in the late 80's to mid 90's,by which time most everyone temporarily gave up on turntables. For example, I purchased a Thorens TD 125 for $8.50 in 1989. I gradually replaced the styli on most of these turntables for the most reasonable prices compared to todays: Shures, Stantons, ADC's,Pickerings,Micro Acoustics, and almost all MM brands. That's how the 100 cartridges came about even though most of the TTs were redonated to the thrift stores [without cartridges.]
Over 100 cartridges since the early 60's; many came with thrift store turntables which happened to have good cartridges on them, many purchased in the late 80's to mid 90's,by which time most everyone temporarily gave up on turntables.
Nice, 5-7 years ago i thought i could just buy "the best cartridge", later i realize there is no such thing as "best cartridge" and only trying many cartridges we can find what we really like, because they are all different. So i ended up with probably 60 different samples (99% are vintage, but many NOS or almost unused). It's fun, it was hard to imagine we will be locked at home, but with so many cartridges and tonearms, with nice record collection, it's time to audition them.
For example, I purchased a Thorens TD 125 for $8.50 in 1989.
Great! I wish i could buy all the top cartridges from that era for nothing, i was too young for that.
I gradually replaced the styli on most of these turntables for the most reasonable prices compared to todays: Shures, Stantons, ADC's,Pickerings,Micro Acoustics, and almost all MM brands.
There are all American brands, i would add Japanese high-end cartridges like JVC Victor (X1II series), Grace (F14 and LEVEL II), Pioneer (PC-1000 mkII), Audio-Technica (AT-ML170 and 180), ADC TRX series designed by Nakatsuka San in Japan (after Pritchard left the company), Technics (p205c mk4), Sony (XL-50) .... all are MM, except one IM.
Dear @lps4eloise : Sumiko marketed very good cartridges and the BB is no exception.
There is no issue to worry with that cartridge and a " naked " cartridge as the SBB or VdH ( I own. ) between other things has the advantage to lower distortions that are generated inside the normal cartridges body.
So, go a head because that gentleman that posted 3-4 times here telling you the risk with the Sumiko cartridge cantilever could be because he just does not learn yet how to make that cartridge set up with out risk.
As a fact if we don't take care with a cartridge set up we can damage the cantilever even if the design is not a naked one.
Accidents can happens in audio, there is nothing perfect dowen there.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
I have HO BB. No issues with it. No static. Just as with any other cart, you need to be VEWY VEWY careful mounting it. I have only had 4 or 5 TT's with 6 or 7 cartridges, so am not an expert by any means.
I have it on a VPI Prime with VPI arm. And I just purchased an ultrasonic RCM and now in the painful process of cleaning all my albums. But it will be worth it from a stylus, static and noise perspective. I noticed ZERO static over the winter with my cleaned records.