Isn't the LPS and some others in that series still well regarded by many? And HOMC fans still mention the Glider in whatever iteration (though I owned two and did not much like either). Maybe Benz is not sliding.
That is pretty much the definition of speculation....guessing.
Yet this is observation.
Go back and look at threads of recommend me a cartridge. The answers rarely, if ever say Benz Micro, and never a specific cartridge. We hear Hana, Dynavector, Koetsu, Ortofon, and Audio Technica on a regular basis. I cannot remember a Benz Micro recommendation.
@lewm You have statistical support for the claim that "what cartridges" are at a price point of $1K or less? Even so that category used to be one where the ACE was a major player. Looks like the current model is about $900.
It just struck me as odd that such an iconic company has become so unnoticed. Perhaps this is not so on the European boards, I do not frequent them. But on the sites I have visited they are rarely discussed anymore, at least that is what I see.
PS The top models of any moving coil manufacturer ain’t cheap either.
I’ve owned several Benz over the past 15 years, still do. They’re consistently excellent (starting with Ace on up) and compete very well. I really like Benz - generally preferring them to their Euro counterparts Ortofon and VdH. I feel that the lower half of the Swiss-made line (Ace, Glider, Wood) is particularly strong on value. The ruby-plate models aren’t really my thing but they’re very nice too.
There was some sort of fallout with their NA distributor Musical Surroundings, circa early 2010s IIRC. Afterwards, gray market (e.g. far east) or used market was the way to get them here. Lots of rumors over why this happened - ranging from issues with the proprietor, to an inability to keep up with demand for this market (and no desire or ability to scale up). They say Mr. Lukaschek auditions every single Benz cartridge before it goes out the door.
More recently (since 2017-ish?) they were distributed in NA by Sierra Sound. I don’t know the current status of that, but Benz released a new Zebrawood model as recently as 2020 (it’s an updated replacement of the old Wood model). I believe Ace, Glider, and Wood models were discontinued during these years.
Of course Benz not being sold in NA for several years killed the review cycle. You certainly don’t see them being hyped by mags or online like (say) Hana. If they did get hyped like that, it’s quite possible they couldn’t keep up with demand anyways.
There may be rumors recently circling AGAIN about the status of Benz. I just heard something concerning on a Facebook group (0 verification so don't ask). And of course, Mr. Lukaschek is at that age, similar to Fumihiko Sugano of Koetsu (RIP).
@mulveling Thanks for the post. It is informative.
I find it intriguing that they build their cartridge frames out of brass versus many of the more exotic materials being used. The LP and LP-S looks to sell.for $5K which is not terribly high in the world of exotic upper tier moving coil cartridges.
Dear @mulveling : Maybe no distributor in USA or Europe but any one of us can buy a new LPS for less than 3k. As a fact when some one ask for cartridges in a higher level price range than what posted lewm I recomended. Problem is that for some time now no one ask in this forym about cartridge recomendation in that price range and that’s all. Btw, I think is the only today cartridge that comes with its FR/separation chart.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
@rauliruegas - Yes, that's all very true. I also think these "gray market" Benzes (so to speak) are an excellent deal. I do wonder about rumors circling Benz, and worry this "under the radar" recommendation might dry up at some point, which would be sad.
@neonknight IIRC it's only the LPS and Gullwing models which use brass frame elements, and this accounts for the LPS's massive 16g (Ebony shell adding its contribution too). Many tonearms are not be able to accommodate an LPS with stock counterweight, so check on that before ordering one.
In my experience so far, exotic cartridge materials don't necessarily correlate into better sound. Good old metals like aluminum and steel (and brass) can be fabulous body materials. I've also liked titanium (maybe that's slightly exotic?). Woods are OK; I've liked some better than others. Stones are really neat but it's only Koetsu doing that (vintage Kisekis aside). I've NOT been a fan of carbon fiber anywhere in the analog chain.
I owned and enjoyed a Benz Ruby 2 for many years, even today I miss some of what it could do. Part of the reason ( a big part?) that these cartridges are not so common today is due to their distributorship issues of the past in the US. Before I acquired my current Lyra, I wanted to buy a Benz LPS MR, BUT there was no way to get one locally, or even nationally, at the time. Today, i would still consider this cartridge if I was shopping in the $3-4K price range. OTOH, it is true that most any of the Lyra's will be more resolving than the Benz's.
I bought a BM Glider SL from KRON a few years back - got COVID and completely forgot about the cartridge. I paid roughly $600 at the time and thinking there might be a possibility of counterfeiting I contacted the factory via email and was informed that no, there are no counterfeit BM cartridges.
What a surprise when I was asking about low output MC cartridges about a year ago (considering Hana, Ortofon, a couple others I don’t recall) and someone mentioned the BM line… a little light went off and I dug in my box of stuff and VOILA!
Yeah, I had covid for over a month, some brain fog a lot longer.
I am VERY happy with this cartridge’s performance, have clocked easily 300+ hours on it this past 8 months alone - I’d been using an Ortofon 2M Black prior to this and it’s like night and day for sound reproduction. I borrow my son’s ears from time to time for equipment change evaluations (he’s a multi-instrument musician and no tinnitus like his old man).
Something that made a big change for me recently was changing from an electric phono stage (Musical Surroundings Nova III) to a Quadratic Audio MC-1 SUT, another night-day performance changer.
Still loving the BM Glider sound reproduction but… I have an Ortofon Cadenza Black sitting here I just paid off which I’ve “auditioned” and like VERY much but, I’m thinking I’ll just keep playing the BM for now until I wear out the stylus in another thousand hours or so then send it out for rebuild.
If I replace the cartridge NOW, I’ll have to start listening to all my records all over again… not an entirely BAD thought, and I AM retired so…
For the price point, I can’t recommend Benz Micro highly enough.
@normb omg, the Glider SL is so damn good for the money, isn’t it? Makes you wonder how you get all that for under $1K. And yes, it absolutely clobbers the 2M Black.
@wrm57 the Ebony TR is such an interesting model, and I’m sorry I never tried it yet. I have a regular Ebony L, which is quite excellent in its slot. Yep, 40x SUT is pretty much required for TR. I was also curious though, what about a 5x - 10x SUT (like a Sky 10) combined with a moderate voltage gain active MC stage (even Benz's own PP-1 @ 62dB). The math works out well. That might also be an excellent combination.
One of the big things to realize about Benz cartridges is the line of demarcation around coil former (armature) used. From Ebony and down you have the iron cross. These models are a super match with SUT’s, but also work very well with all active gain stages (voltage or current injection). For Ruby, Gullwing, and LP/S models you have a ruby plate. Magnetically, this is not nearly as efficient. These models do NOT work well with a SUT or current injection - use active voltage gain ONLY. I tried so many ways with the LPS and various SUT’s. Unfortunately, my affinity for a good SUT (in place of an active MC gain stage) is SO high, I actually end up preferring the lower Benz models.
@mulveling , yes, this is precisely why I stay with the LO Ebony models, because of their suitability for SUTs. I also have an Ebony L that I quite like. The L and TR are certainly cut from the same cloth, with the TR bringing another measure of refinement and clearer sense of unmediated communication. It is wonderful cartridge.
My name is Michael Fajen and I am the president of Sierra Sound. Sierra Sound has been the Benz Micro distributor for the USA since mid-2020. I can tell you that Benz Micro is alive and well, continuing to produce some of the highest quality moving coil cartridges in the world. Albert Lukaschek is still at the helm, auditioning each cartridge that leaves the factory personally as he always has done, and I am in regular contact with him. The SLR Gullwing just received a glowing review in Stereophile last month that I encourage everyone to read.
Benz Micro has never stopped or paused production. They have shifted production towards higher-end models, and there was a period of time between 2018 and 2020 where there was no Benz distribution in the USA. During this time there was a lot of speculation and rumor about the factory closing, the owner dying, retiring, going out of business, etc. None of these rumors were true. Ernst Benz, who was the namesake and founder of the company, died in 2014, but he had no direct involvement with the company at that time, having sold it to Mr. Lukaschek in the 1990s.
As the original poster pointed out, Benz Micro is not aggressively advertised in the USA. Benz Micro is a small factory in which literally everything is hand assembled. There are no automated coil winding machines, no presses spitting out plastic cartridge bodies by the hundreds... It is possibly the last remaining truly handmade cartridge around. This means production can be slow and availability is subject to change. As distributor I try to find a balance between supply and demand, and there is no reason to advertise heavily if we can already easily sell all of what we can get.
The hand-made nature of Benz Micro cartridges is a bit of a mixed blessing- the high quality materials and robust engineering used also make the cartridges fairly easy to repair and refurbish compared to the competition. As such, grey market Benz Micro sellers do exist. Whether these sellers peddle in new, used, refurbished, B-stock, working, or defective items, is unknown. Grey market sellers will often obscure the serial# of the cartridges in order to hide the age and/or history of the cartridge. Proceed at your own risk with such sellers.
I hope this post helps clear things up a bit. I’m not very active on forums, so I will likely not be able to continue posting on this thread to address any follow-up questions you may have, but please feel free to contact me through the website www.sierrasound.net or by email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about Benz Micro or any of our other analog products.
President, Sierra Sound
I purchased a Zebra L through Osage Audio two years back. I can't recommend it enough. The sound quality is amazing with all the great hyperbole and analogies you could call out. Add to it their trade-in replacement deals, then a Benz becomes a no brainer. Thanks for popping in here to clarify, and keep up the good work.
Hello and welcome to the forum!
Thank you for participating in this thread.
I'm the proud owner of the Ruby ZH and absolutely love it. I'm curious, what is the current policy for trade-in and/or rebuilding this cartridge?
@mulveling You had mentioned above "...For Ruby, Gullwing, and LP/S models you have a ruby plate. Magnetically, this is not nearly as efficient. These models do NOT work well with a SUT..."
I was hoping that you could help me better understand why you feel that because the higher end Benz cartridges that use the ruby square plate do NOT work well with an SUT?
Thanks much and best wishes,
The ruby plate is non-magnetic so it requires more coil windings / turns to effect the same output voltage. With the iron cross armature, the iron core basically makes coils more efficient at generating AC signal. So for example, let’s look at specs. First the ruby plate models:
LPS, Gullwing L, Ruby L: 40 ohms (DC) coils for 0.38mV output
Pay attention to the ratio of ohms to output mV. Now look at the much higher ratio effected with the iron cross models:
(note some of the specs on the outdated Benz Micro North America site are clearly miscopied) So the ruby plate "Low" models are using larger coil windings, comparable to somewhere between a "Medium" and "High output" coil configuration in the iron cross line, but with an output strictly in the "Low" category!
This poor ratio is at root of why they don’t match well to a SUT. A SUT basically converts cartridge current into voltage gain. MC carts with a high ohms-to-output ratio have plenty of current to spare for this. But cartridges with a weak ratio run out of current, and then experience voltage divider losses (losing gain) before they achieve the necessary voltage gain. The more you push it, the more the losses start exceeding the intended gains. On paper, an LPS (or Gullwing L or Ruby L) should still be OK with a 10x SUT. This boosts its signal to around 3.8mV into a 47Kohm MM stage. However, that’s still a little on the low side (I shoot for at least 5mV) and there’s about 0.7dB of losses from the net ~470 ohm load (47,000 / 10 / 10) reflected to 40 ohm coils (voltage divider - Ohm’s law). And then we have practice - in practice, I did not like the LPS paired to any 8x or 10x SUT I tried. It was OK, but not great. Just anemic and bland. JFET MC stages were much better (Hagerman, Herron, ARC Reference). Conversely on "normal" MC cartridges, including iron cross Benz, I easily prefer a good SUT to any active MC gain stage.
Note that SUT limitation goes out the window if you have an MM stage which can load much higher than 47K, but so very few do. MM loading at say 100Kohm or higher solves the voltage divider issue. The Rogue Ares allows this! That blew my mind when I realized that.
My Sonic Lab is an interesting manufacturer with cartridges that have insanely high output ratios. Like 1 ohm coils for 0.5mV output. I think they do this by using larger gauge (thicker) coil wire than usual. Which probably makes the coils just as massive as typical High output coil configurations anyways, lol. Still, I want to hear them.
You’re welcome! I think about this stuff way too much lol. One correction: when I was saying "ohms to output" ratio I really meant the reverse "output to ohms". For an "ideal" transducer (and SUT match) you want as much output voltage as possible from as little coils (lower ohms) as possible. So looking at output voltages in microVolts (uV) might help get a nicer ratio number for comparisons:
So why do they use a rube plate in the upper Benz models? The theory is that a piece of moving iron (iron cross) dynamically disrupts the magnetic field (it should remain static in an "ideal" transducer), which causes distortion. They can also use a much larger & stronger neodymium magnet in these models - it’s so powerful it would be impossible to accurately position the iron cross in there. The ruby plate has no problem there. "Air coils" achieves the same thing, but without the structure (and mass) provided by the plate - but these are rare.
An alternative technique: Dynavector has that big copper coil wound around its front pole piece to "damp" magnetic flux disturbances from the moving iron armature. It's not in the signal path, it's just there to bleed off magnetic flux disturbances.
IMHO Benz Gullwing beats Lyra Atlas Lamda SL, Clear Audio Goldfinger, Koetsu Blue Lace Diamond, Ortofon Verismo and its big brother Benz LP.
In an ET 2 arm in the Oracle 6 the Gullwing exceeds those other great cartridges by a country mile. Deeper bass and lifelike presentation of a symphony orchestra in, ahem, full flight.
* There's no body like no body.
@mulveling Thank you for your description. After my Benz Ruby 3 wore out, It was a little anemic dynamically but beautiful sounding and tracked perfectly. I replaced it with a Dynavector 20X2 L. The Zesto Allesso (and others) SUT works great with the Dynavector but the Ruby always was very touchy in my system on the end of a highly moded SME IV arm as to impedance (220 ohms only). So, those five Dynavectors I owned prior to the Benz also avoided magnetic flux build-up in a way. Great to know and I will pass this info on to four friends who use Dynavectors.
Also, Gullwing comparison to 2MBlack. My best friend Robert (also known as Mr. Record whose column appears in Pos Feedback) tried a 2M Black for a few months and gave up on it. It was great on 15% of his LPs and just bad on everything else.
@mulveling So if I follow your comments are you saying that for use with my VAC Ren 5 internal phono stage using SUT, that I'd be better off with a Zebra L or Ebony L than an LPS if I want to try a Benz?
Where do Delos and other Lyras fit in relative to this conversation?
Perhaps it's fortunate that I'm using a Dynavector XX2 Mk2 given what you're addressing. Cheers,
PS: Thank you for "thinking about this stuff too often"!
Yes, I tried the LPS with Renaissance SE phono stage which has the same MC SUT inside as Ren V (also had a Ren V but did not use its onboard phono). Those Lundahl LL1931 worked OK on the 8x (lower) setting, but it was not my favorite. The VAC's MM stage is really wonderful, and the suboptimal MC match on LPS holds it back IMO. Just to be clear the LPS sound this way isn't bad, it's just not where I wanted it to be; I preferred Ebony L on this setup.
For my preferences I got better LPS results from the Hagerman Trumpet MC, or even the Hagerman Piccolo (a JFET based step-up with flexible gain & loading) set at 26dB gain and 1K Ohm load into the VAC's MM mode (under $300 just to pick up a new Piccolo to try). Note the weakness of these Hagerman units a higher noise floor versus higher end MC JFET stages like a Herron or ARC Reference (and definitely versus a SUT).
From everything I've read, and all my experience with other Benz's (the Glider SL with similar body is wonderful, one of my favorites), I'm almost certain I'd prefer the Gullwing model over LPS. Maybe by a lot. However its electrical matching issues will be the same as LPS. That is high praise indeed given your list of comparisons!!
I was a Benz guy for years, but naturally you're Lyra curious. And those other guys like Van Den Hull and Koetsu. Then there was a sale ...
Those other guys make great cartridges but the Gullwing is Der Kaiser. That it's also the cheapest is icing on the cake.
Herr Lukaschek kept urging me to try the Gullwing. So just to humor him and wow. Oceans of bass compared to its big brother the LP. And this huge sound. You get the full symphony orchestra.
Great thread, I'm learning all about my Benz Gliders! I've got one of the originals, .9mv output with no letter/number on it, and an H2 which is, I think 2.5mv output. I'm currently using the .9mv OG Glider with a Graham Slee Gram Amp 2SE and a Lounge Copla headamp. It sounds really nice but I feel like I'm not hearing all this cartridge can do. Would the right SUT do, or is the Graham Amp too much of a limitation? And if a SUT would do, which one for this cart? The SUT math just... well it hurts my brain to be honest. Rest of my system is a rewired Rega RB300, Linn LP12, Schiit Aegir, Zu DW6.
It’s impossible to help with your question about using a SUT with a Benz Glider, because there are so many versions of the Glider. Can you be more specific? What is the voltage output and what is the internal resistance or impedance? The original Glider was a high output MC. I found it underwhelming.
So if you used a 1:10 SUT, that would work because you would still be OK as far as the ratio of output R to input R. (If the MM phono stage provides a 47K ohm resistance at its input, a 1:10 SUT would result in the cartridge seeing a 470 ohm load, where the load is equal to the MM load resistance (47K) divided by the turns ratio squared, which is in this case, 100. 47,000/100 = 470 ohms, which is a bit more than 10X the 41 ohm internal resistance of the cartridge. However, the phono stage would then have to handle the nominal 9mV output of the cartridge plus SUT. Actually, most MM stages can do that, but beware of overloading the phono stage, because 9mV is correct for a specific stylus velocity. On complex music or during crescendos, the output of the cartridge might far exceed 9mV, and the stage might overload on peaks.
47,000/16 = ~3000 ohms. Difference between 3000 and 1000 ohms should not be audible BUT I don't know where you are going to find a SUT with a 1:4 turns ratio, unless you have it custom built, the cost of which is in my opinion exorbitant if you are specifically trying to make a Glider work properly. But that reflects my medium opinion of the Glider. Actually, why do you need any SUT at all?
Good to know I got the math right lol.
Just looking into ways to get the best out of the cartridge based on what I've been reading and what the specs are. Could be that I'm hearing the best (per your opinion of it) and it's just not meeting expectations!
Thanks for your help, and apologies for hijacking the thread.
Electrically, your OG Glider 0.9mV is similar to output of a modern Glider SM (or M2) at 0.8mV, but with almost twice the coil impedance: 41 ohms versus 24. It's still an OK match to a SUT, but not as good as a newer SM or SL, and kind of in the awkward zone where your ideal ratio would be 6x - 7x.
Bob's Devices makes a switchable 5x/10x Sky SUT. I've owned a Sky 40 and Sky 20/10 - they are excellent. However, given their price tag, a newer cartridge might be warranted too (Benz has improved over time). Lundahl LL1931 is switchable 8x/16x. They're not my favorite flavor, but are quite good, and less expensive than Bob's.
@lewm 's concern with MM stage overload at 10x * 0.9mV = 9mV is warranted (especially since max level will exceed this), but I've never had a problem with a good tube MM stage at these levels, or even a bit higher. Some solid state stages may be more sensitive to overload.
All that said, a 0.9mV output is pretty friendly to active-gain MC phono stages in the 54dB - 62dB range. Benz's own PP-1 is pretty good, for not too much money used. I've also used and liked Sonic Frontiers Phono 1.
I was and still am an avid fan of the BM cartridges. Going back a few years, myself, along with a few others shared our stories and experiences on this very forum. I believe many are still enjoying them, have moved on, or experienced life matters. I have four of them; Benz LP, 2 Benz LP-S, and a Benz Ruby Z. All were mounted on SME V tonearms. I somehow ended up in the Soundsmith world and have a Hyperion MK2 and a Sussaro MK2. Now, I am playing around with an Air Tight Opus 1 that I acquired last year prior to moving. I also have the Transrotor TRA-9 gold tonearm. I am out of tonearm real estate, LOL. The BM was my standard for great sound and general
I think the BM cartridges hit outside their league compared to other higher priced cartridges. It would be interesting to see a side by side comparison of the LPS Vs Hana Red. BTW, when I was living in Europe, I sent my Benz LP to the Benz Micro factory in Switzerland for a retip. The retip was done by Mr. Lukaschek.