Can Sound-Smith tip sound as good as original?

I need to repair a damaged cantilever on a Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood cartridge. Will the aluminum alloy/nude elliptical option from Sound-Smith match the quality of the original cantilever and stylus?

No. In addition, the actual sound you had will not be the same.
I've had experience only with Soundsmith's ruby cantilever OC line contact version, but after three cartridge retips (Koetsu Rosewood, Grado The Reference, Denon DL-103), I would say yes. In each case, the retipped cartridges very much reflected the sounds of the original, although an actual A/B comparison is, of course, impossible. In the case of the Denon, the line contact retip was far superior to the original conical version IME.
Buconero117: Do you have personal experience with Sound-Smith retips? Could you please elaborate?

I would agree that the retip will not affect the sound of the original cartridge, so pick which ever stylus/cantilever you want. However, I can highly recommend the ruby cantilever with line contact stylus. I had Soundsmith do this retip combination on my Dynavector XV-1s. The cartridge retained all of its characteristics and sounds while gaining in tracking ability and detail retrieval.

If you want a great performing cartridge after the repair then don't hesitate to go with the Soundsmith retip.
Dear Jwglista: One of the cartridges that I re-tipped through SS was my Virtuoso ( no Ruby cantilever but aluminum. ) and I can say is like the original.

IMHO if any one of us in any cartridge change the cantilever build material ( Ruby instead boron or aluminum, et. ) change the original cartridge design/performance, no single doubt about.

Regards and enjoy the music.
On the Lyra I had done was a re-tip. Replace the diamond stylus on the original cantilever. I experienced no change in signature. However when the cantilever is replaced, no doubt a change in signature is quite likely. My process was new diamond on the originial cantilever, the suspension was not touched as it was still in spec. Sounds fantastic and I completley recommend Soundsmith for this type of work.
Thanks everyone. Well I have no choice but to get the cantilever replaced because I purchased it bent. Raul has said that he had his Virtuoso cantilever replaced with the standard aluminum one from Sound Smith and it sounds almost the same. I'm considering upgrading to the ruby cantilever, just to be sure I get the same level of performance as the original cantilever.
A few words from a cartridge designer's perspective.

One of the most sonically critical factors in any MC cartridge is the matching of the cantilever to the suspension and damper system. The rubber dampers and cantilever have a particularly strong effect on the sound, and normally the cartridge manufacturer will select the rubber compound and shape of the damper(s) to best match the cantilever material and shape (including dimensions).

If you change the cantilever material without also changing the dampers, you will alter the sonic balance away from what the cartridge manufacturer originally intended. Aluminum, ruby, boron, beryllium et al have difference resonance patterns, and the job of the rubber dampers is to critically dampen unwanted resonances without choking off desireable aspects of the sound (overdamping). Hence, if the cantilever material is changed, its resonance characteristics will also change, requiring an accompanying change in dampers to achieve the best overall effect.

You may prefer the sound that results from changing an aluminum cantilever to one of boron or ruby, but that is a personal choice that may or may not be shared by the original cartridge manufacturer.

If, for cost reasons, you decide to go with a non-original retipping firm rather than an original factory rebuild, to insure that changes in sonic personality and tonal balance are minimized, I would recommend keeping the same cantilever material.

FWIW, changing the stylus profile may alter the resolution and noise level, but won't alter the sonic personality to nearly the extent that the cantilever material will.

regards and hth, jonathan carr (lyra designer)
Jcarr, thanks for the great information. That's all news to me, and is definitely good to know. I'm not sure as to whether or not Sound-Smith changes the damper materials when preforming a cantilever upgrade, but I venture to guess that they do not.

I've read several testimonials from Sound-Smith's website about people who have upgraded their cartridges (most of them expensive MC carts) to a ruby cantilever and liked the results. As to whether or not I would enjoy those results personally with my Virtuoso cart, I do not know. It would be horrible to spend that money, having to wait 10 weeks for the rebuild (I'm told that's how long the wait is right now), only to remount the thing and find out I don't enjoy the new sound.

However, I do believe that both the original stock cantilever and the Sound-Smith aluminum cantilever both have an elliptical diamond stylus. So when looking at both the cantilever material and the stylus profile, that option from Sound-Smith appears to be the closest to the manufacturer's specs.

>I'm not sure as to whether or not Sound-Smith changes the damper materials when preforming a cantilever upgrade, but I venture to guess that they do not.<

In most cases, cartridge dampers are proprietary and unique to the individual cartridge manufacturer. The rubber may be a compound of multiple types of rubber which is custom-specified by the cartridge manufacturer, and the damper will likely be shaped in a dedicated mold that is not used for anything else. So if a non-original retipping firm changes dampers, they would need to make their own.

I hear you on the worry factor of committing to a rebuild without knowing what kind of sound you will be getting. I've sent some of my own cartridges to non-original retipping firms for a workover (as a test), and in some cases I thought that the sonic outcome was tolerable, while in other cases I thought that the results were pretty disgusting.

In your case, Jwglista, I think that to have Soundsmith change the stylus profile to something more advanced is an allowable deviation from the original specifications. With a line-contact as opposed to an elliptical, the cartridge may become a little more critical to align and set up, but the essence of the sound will likely remain intact, and otherwise I don't think that you will notice much drawback.

regards, jonathan carr
Dear Jwglista: +++++ " you will alter the sonic balance away from what the cartridge manufacturer originally intended " +++++

IMHO every cartridge design reflects the designer preferences/priorities and normally the cartridge voicing is made taking in count those preferences and a quality performance level, of course that in some models the designer has to make some trade-offs on his preferences for commercial factors.

In any case and specially on the expensive cartridges if any one like the original cartridge sound we have to pay for it making the re-tip through the cartridge manufacturer, this is what I do always.

I can't think to send a Xv-1 or KRSP or MC7500, Titan i or Orpheus to any re-tipper people like SS, no way.
Of course that I can d it but IMHO the cartridge that I will receive with the whole re-tip job will be a different cartridge where the designer hard work ( research, voicing, selecton of parts, the design it self, et, et ) disappear in favor of what?.

If you speak with the re-tipper people ( I already do with at least three of them ) they say that we don't have to worry about that their work is first rate and that the cartridge will " sound " at least like the original and better yet. Well all them are promoting their commercial job.

Do you think that is true? do you want that your cartridges ( example ) on the 5K-10K price range " receive " for 500 dollars a re-tip other than through the original manufacturer only because is a low price and the promise that maybe it will sound better?, well I don't take that risk, do you? it makes sense to you? anyone?

IMHO I don't think that that re-tip cartridge alternative is like the tube rolling exercise. Well this is only an opinion.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul, just so I understand you clearly, you are saying that on a cartridge such as the Clearaudio Virtuoso, a retip job from a company like Sound-Smith is acceptable, but when you get to cartridges in the $2000+ range, it would be better to get a retip from the manufacturer? I mean I love the way this Virtuoso sounds right now, but the cantilever is slightly bent and I need to get it replaced so as not to cause damage to my records. It's also nearly impossible to properly setup a cart with a bent cantilever. However, I would be very disappointed if my rebuild from Sound-Smith sounded worse than how it sounds right now.

I'd like to hear from someone who has upgraded their Virtuoso to the ruby cantilever from Sound-Smith, because that is the option I am considering. But Raul, I understand that you have had your Virtuoso rebuilt by Sound-Smith, and from what you said, it sounds almost identical to the original stylus. Am I correct?
In my experience trying to get the original manufacturer to service one of their own cartridges is an excercise in futility. This past year I tried to get Lyra to service the cartridge and I was totally ignored. Basically from thier dealers I was told that a trade in was the only answer to a newer Lyra. A few years earlier went through the same grief with Dynavector. The only high end cartridge manufacturer that attended to my concerns and accomplished the work I requested as Benz Micro. No trying to upgrade me to a newer unit, or other smoke and mirror tactics.

While the Lyra now sounds wonderfull, in the future I will once again return to Benz Micro. Apparently they appreciate their customer base far more than their competitors and it shows in their customer service.

Thus far the work on the Lyra I have done by Soundsmith is first rate, no complaints. If it had not been first rate work I would have reported it on Audiogon.
Dear Jwglista: Yes you are correct.

Ferrari sad to know about maybe I'm lucky, four times I bent the cantilever on my Colibri ( it is very difficult " to move/work " around ten tonearms/cartridges at the same time. ) and Van denHul give me first rate service, one time the XV-1 and Dynavector give me first rate service even one of my Koetsus has to be re-build and I got very good service.
This week my friend Guillermo bent the cantilever on his XV-1s and Dynavector ( again ) give him the right support.

Of course that every one speaks on its own experiences that in your case are really bad but in my case really fine ????!!!!!!

Regards and enjoy the music.
Ferrari: I don't know what you have been told by your dealer, but what you posted is factually incorrect. We regularly service our cartridges, normally through our authorized dealers and national distributor. If anyone has a problem with a Lyra cartridge, they are recommended to return the cartridge to the dealer that they purchased it from, and the dealer will return it to the distributor who will send it on to us. If anyone feels that their dealer isn't giving them satisfaction, feel free to contact us and we will try to sort out the situation.

At times we may recommend a trade-in if repairing an old cartridge is not cost-effective (in other words, if it would be cheaper or equivalent in cost to trade-in to a current cartridge model with superior performance), but if the customer stipulates that they want their old cartridge repaired or rebuilt, we will do so.

From everything that I've heard, most other cartridge manufacturers (including Dynavector) also have a cartridge servicing and rebuild program, and again I'd suggest talking to the dealer that you purchase the cartridge from, or an authorized dealer. Note that if you ask a dealer to help you with service work on a product that you didn't buy from him, you are in effect asking him to work for free, so he may refer you back to the distributor or manufacturer, or act like they are unaware that the cartridge manufacturer has a product service program.

hth, jonathan carr

Different cartridge manufacturers may have different policies, but here's what we (Lyra) do we receive a cartridge for rework. We don't just retip the stylus or cantilever, but replace all wearable parts with brand-new ones. This includes the stylus, cantilever, coils, suspension, dampers, cantilever mount, recharging the magnets, replacing the cartridge body if it has been marred, and so on. Also, we sometimes develop improvements for a given cartridge model which we will retrofit to a cartridge that is returned for repair, so the customer gets back an improved cartridge that is rebuilt to the latest specifications.

This beyond the capabilities of a non-original cartridge retipper, and is likely the reason why Raul prefers to have (at least) expensive cartridges rebuilt by the original cartridge manufacturer.

Our cartridge rebuild policy is implemented by either supplying a completely new cartridge to the customer, or taking the old cartridge completely to pieces, replacing every part that needs to be replaced, deep-cleaning every other part, and building the cartridge back together again in the same manner and same quality-control as a brand-new cartridge. Normally a new cartridge will be sent out because this takes less time and the customer can get their cartridge back sooner, but if the customer wants their particular cartridge to be rebuilt and is willing to wait, we will oblige.

hth, jonathan carr
Dear Jcarr: Really thank you for the wide information on your last post.

It was/is time that some one like you ( a cartridge designer ) put things in the right perspective puting a precise line between a cartridge manufacturer re-tip/re-build and a non cartridge manufacturer re-tip job: Huge difference for say the least!!!!!!Good. ( even for no expensive cartridges ).

Regards and enjoy the music.
Jonathan Carr, while you state factually incorrect, in my issue what I posted is factually correct as I experienced. Perhaps a heart to heart with your dealers and/or distributors is warranted. I could not take the Lyra back to original dealer as the shop closed years ago. You have a splendid product and have recommended the Lyra line to many folks. My most recent recommendation was the Dorian to a dear friend of mine and he is most happy with it.

Dynavector is a whole other story, which doesn't warrant space here. But suffice to say I will never own another Dynavector product of any kind and haven't in some 10 plus years.

I am deep into vinyl playback average about 30 hours per week. So come late next year the Lyra may need service again.

For the 50 years I have been in this hobby business,each and everyone of my customers are treated like gold, because that is just what they are - GOLD. Over the course of the years I have taken gear in that I never sold and took care of that customer. Reason is simple, he/she came to me with a problem. I solved that problem, because I wanted that new customer. I certainly did not want them shopping around, when the situation was in my domain to solve. While I have taken loses over the years, I have gained far more new customers that have stayed with me and continue to do so.

At 65 now I am no doubt considered a dinosaur by todays current business models. However today we are seeing a vast amount of business that are closing there doors and the root problem is customer service.

I do wish Lyra continued success, but on my end it is time for me to re-evalaute. Thus far Benz Micro has my vote when it comes to customer service.
I got so annoyed with the problem of stylus replacement on MC cartridges that I went back to the good old reliable Shure V15. It was always..."we can't fix your cartridge but we will give you a discount on the new model, which happens to cost a lot more". BS I say!
I had a cart retipped by Soundsmith, and it was fantastic. I imagined it was better than the original, since I had the Optimized Contour stylus put on, which was a different profile than the original stylus.

But, I never got to hear my cart factory fresh on my Raven One. By the time I got the table, the cart was well into it's life. So it;s not a truly fair comparison.

The choice of stylus profile when retipping it important. The Standard vs.Optimized contour really makes a difference, as it a dance between information retrieval vs. groove (damage) noise. I know this first hand since I have the Strain Gauge with both types of styli and can change styli within a few seconds.

Records in good shape are great with the Optimized contour, while a number of used LP's I own (that were not played on good carts) fair better with the Standard Contour.

The other issue is one of time frame. I believe Soundsmith does retips as a labor of love, (all personally done by Peter) and hence there is a fairly long wait time. And the more people that find out about this amazing service, I suspect the longer the times will be. So clearly a person would have to have a spare cart while they wait for the retip.

I didn't have a spare and picked up one of their inexpensive SMMC-3's while waiting for my cart to return. I was pretty shocked how good a $300 cart sounded, but then again it was in a Raven One/Phantom, so I imagine anything would sound good on that.