Comparing Grace F9 to Empire EDR9 cartridge

My Grace F9 arrived yesterday, mounted on the Grace HS 4 Headshell ("with a very rare Grace stylus that only came out at the end of era" -- seller's description). I mounted it on my Jelco SA-750E 10 inch tonearm, but could not get the tonearm to increase VTF higher than 1.2 grams (which is the manufacturer's recommended VTF; however, I always want to go higher than recommended VTF). I guess Grace headshell is super light?

Grace F9 replaced my beloved Empire EDR9 (I love that cartridge dearly). First listening impressions:

Much higher output than Empire EDR9. Had to lower the volume by at least 20% or more.

From the descriptions I've read about Grace F9 (I was doing my homework before ordering it), I was expecting a much different sonic character. Instead of sweet, mellow, laid back, this newly mounted cart surprised me with its forceful, authoritative, precise performance. In comparison, Empire EDR9 sounds much, much sweeter and more relaxed.

Is the hardness in sound due to Grace F9 needing a bit of break-in? I tried to contact the seller with some post-sales questions, no reply.

On the positive side, I am hearing more details with Grace than I hear with Empire. Also, on some tracks I perceive fantastic flow of music. Everything is well balanced. In comparison with Empire, Grace delivers weaker, more balanced, less pronounced bass. Vocals and instruments seem to have more texture/colour. Music feels more articulate.

Overall, really good cartridge, the only thing not to my liking is the relative hardness, less sweetness when compared with Empire. Of all sonic characteristic one can tweak in one's audio system, my favourite is sweetness. Even at the expense of transparency, detail, slam, weight, etc.

I will continue with my listening tests and report back, and would also appreciate some comments/suggestions. Should I add spacers to the headshell? (I have few good spacers in my drawer) I'd like to increase the VTF, just to see if that may 'fatten' the sound a bit. Overall, Grace feels extremely neutral, but leaning towards 'lean' sound. I must say I'm not a big fan of lean, analytical sound.


FWIW I used an F9 with stock stylus in a Sumiko tone arm (Jelco I believe) with stock headshell and into an ARC SP10. I thought it was wonderful compared to what was then available. It was a MM cartridge which really didn’t mean that much to me back then - my ARC was not suitable for low output cartridges so I ignored them. In the late 90’s I got a medium output Benz Micro Glider. What a huge difference, for the better, - the F9 lost its ’glow’ if it ever really had it. The F9 sounded flat and uninvolving. No ’air’ so to speak. I know nothing about your Empire but based on my experience I can understand where you are coming from.

To easily make the cartridge heavier, add a dab of 

BluTac under the head shell

I’ve got two Benz Gliders, sitting in a drawer in their boxes. I also own two Grace Ruby cartridges. The Ruby is essentially an F9 with a Ruby cantilever. Both the F9 and the Ruby came with elliptical styli. I don’t know whether there is anything special about the elliptical shape, nor have I ever read that there is anything special about the shape. Yes, the F9 should not sound hard or harsh in any way, but I don’t know what’s up with your phono stage, amplifiers, and speakers. I think the Ruby is one of the best "budget" cartridges ever made by anyone, and because of their similarities, the F9 ought also to be superb.  So you’ll have to figure out the source of the distortion for yourself. I had one of my two Rubys re-tipped by SS with their OCL (line contact) stylus. That does make the cartridge deliver more detail and did sound a bit clinical at first, but after break-in, the re-tip outshines the OEM version of the Ruby. The EDR9 is also reportedly an excellent cartridge, so I would not be sure the EDR9 is better or worse than the OEM F9. However, I do think I would take the F9/Ruby over the Benz Glider based on my own listening in my own system. If you want to add mass to the F9, for increasing VTF, I would do as someone else suggested only put the blutac on top of the headshell, not under it. You can also use any other sort of weight. A US nickel weighs 5g, for example. Then move the Counterweight away from the pivot to re-balance.

My Empire EDR9 sounds sweet and gorgeous. I'm plugging it into Dynaco PAS-4 tube preamp, which has excellent phono stage. When I plug Grace F-9 into the same preamp, the sound is hard and forceful.

Maybe Grace needs some break-in?

Tonearm Jelco SA-750E 10 inches, Nakamichi cables to Dynaco PAS-4 preamp. Dynaco PAS-4 tube phono gain is 40 dB.

Regards, crazybookman:

My first F9E was mounted to a Grace HS-2, a perforated version. It then transitioned to an ADC magnesium headshell, then to one of ebony. Each was an improvement. In a drawer is a near NOS F9-L, a third F-9 with the SoundSmith optimized line contact / Ruby stylus. They are all listenable. This leaves me wondering what "rare Grace stylus that only came out at the end of era" your F-9 is equipped with. What color is the stylus holder (F9-E is neon green)? If microcline and you’re running it as received alignment may need attention.


If I may, I’d suggest you move your Grace from the stamped headshell to one with less potential for resonance. It’s possible that, as you mentioned, the cartridge has layed idle for a while. Resting the stylus on the lead out track overnight sometimes will facilitate breaking a neglected suspension back in. (Edit) TT turned off, of course.


For a little thread drift, you might enjoy the Shure V15 Era 4, HE stylus on beryllium tube cantilever, a very easy listening cart.