Fidelity Research FR-7 Repair


I have a FR-7 cartridge that got wacked in a move and looks bent. I was looking to send it in for repair. I see Soundsmith and cartridge_retipping-5 on ebay. I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations on this. 

I thought about buying a replacement (FR-7 or FR-7f) on ebay but considering the age of these cartridges thought I might be opening myself up to being in the same position I am now. Figured repair would be cheaper. 

I'm using on an FR-64 tonearm and a Brooks Berdan modded Oracle turntable with a Cotter SUT. In the time this has been down I've tried other cartridges but nothing has the magic of the FR cartridge.  Thanks in advance for any insights.
letch
I am watching this with interest as i am looking at an fr7 cartridge

Soundsmith would be my only choice in North America. Excellent work. I have much experience with  Soundsmith. Van den hul for Europe. But more expensive. Could possibly be the best in the world though from what I’ve heard.
letch, What do you mean with 'wacked in a move?'' Bent aluminum
cantilevers can be straitened. But if the stylus is wear off you can
retip your cart with boron cantilever + whatever stylus  you chose
for about $ 500. 
Look for perfectly working FR-7fz (instead of FR-7 or FR-7f)
@nandric 
Well, it's definitely bent. I would prefer a professional look at it. Sounds like Soundsmith is the way to go. I suppose they can tell me what's best for repair and possible replacement. Considering I got it used and then played it for many years before the damage, it might be a "let's fix it up to last a long time" situation. I'll contact Soundsmith and get ready to ship. 
letch, The problem with Russian people is their ''soul''. So sensitive
that they always complain. Our chakster is complaining about the
prices of new cartridges but owns an collection which must be
in contradiction with his ''income''. Curious expression if one has
no job. As paradoxical is his advise to buy ''an perfect FR-7fz'' 
instead of fixing your ''common'' FR-7 . He wisely deed not mention
possible price for ''FZ'' but also ''forget'' to mention where such
''perfect animal '' can be find. You should listen to his older brother
who knows better. FR-7 is excellent cart and certainly deserves
retip.


Well, I did think solicit possible advice on moving on up. However, looking at ebay, the cheapest FR-7fz is $1500. The problem for me is that I don't know how to find a "perfectly working" Fr-7fz. I'm a photographer and believe me, every piece of photo equipment on ebay is "mint" or "near mint" even when you can see scratches, dings and paint worn off. So, I take it with a grain of salt when people say whatever they say to make the sale. My concern is that for me, that's a lot of money and that I end up with a cartridge that needs repair.

In the current state of the world today, it makes more sense for me to send it in to Soundsmith. So, I pay out $500 to fix it up. The cartridge is a known quantity to me and I'm back in business. Then, looking down the road, I can start thinking about upgrading. In this case case I've gotten a tip from chakster that the "fz" is better than the "f" so I don't waste my time with an incremental upgrade.

Thanks everyone! I'll report back after I get the cartridge back. I'm hoping to get it out tomorrow.
I took some nice images of Ikeda aluminum cantilever, this is my ex FR PMC-3 on macro lens. And even closer here. I'm pretty sure you can stay with aluminum cantilever to save money, just make sure to ask for the best stylus shape. 

I asked local dealer to come over with "fz" to compare with my "f", on the first record it was obvious that "fz" is better, but "f" is also pretty good. Later i sold my "f" locally and still happy with "fz". Then i bought Miyabi MCA for funny price and this is one of my favorite. 

The price you have mentioned for "fz" is a fair price. 
Mine was repaired by Holistic Audio in Holland
https://www.holisticaudio.nl/ 
Can wholeheartedly recommend
Another obvious reason to choose Soundsmith and Van Den Hul over others is that they are both designers and manufacturers of world class cartridges. I probably missed someone here though. The others are just repair shops. 
The cartridge is on it's way to Soundsmith so that's good to know. We'll see what they say about my cantilever.


Would replacing the cantilever/stylus be an upgrade to the cartridge?
Well, it sound like it will be happening regardless. Nandric had suggested that the cantilever could be fixed without replacement so I started thinking that perhaps I would want that anyway. Sounds like if it's bent, it will need replacement. So boron here I come. I'll have no way of knowing if it's an upgrade because it got bent over 15 years ago and I've had two different cartridges, an amp replacement and a preamp replacement in the intervening years. Oh, and tinnitus. Let's not forget that. Hopefully it retains it's magic. 
It may look as if I have something against my younger brother or
to enjoy teasing him. But the ''truth'' is our religion which must be
obey. Now the case is that not all FR-7 kinds have the same
cantilever length. Ikeda obviously experimented with different
cantilever length . This btw may explain his (later) cantileverless
designs. So the worry about the''right geometry'' is , say,
questionable.
As we can see(?) the other advantage of aluminum (alloy) 
cantilevers next to ''pressure fitting'' instead of gluing the stylus
IN is that it can be straighten if dent for whatever reasons. Try
this with the so called ''exotic kinds'' and you will discover what
this advantage means. The curious thing is that while my brother
recommend ''exotic kinds'' and long for beryllium and hole 
boron pipes he admire the most his Takeda cart with aluminum
cantilever. 
The only risk our letch may be confronted with is refusal to
to straighten his cantilever because no profit can be made
by such ''repair''.    
@letch can you tell us what Soundsmitth said about the condition of the cartridge please? Many say that it's an exceptional cartriidge. My fear is repair fees arising from suspension or coil failure. I think i read that the actual design is very robust and not prone to failure. I get that impression with several MC's of that era the juys at Expert Stylus said that Supex's when kept care of can easily las 30 years.
They haven't done an assessment yet. I asked them about the possible need for replacement (instead of, as Nandric suggested, mere repair) and they said if the cantilever is bent, it will need replacement. I'll post back when they let me know what the deal is. I'm not against replacing it. Just hoping that it sounds the same.
It will not sound the same when you change tip or cantilever. 
If you want it closer to the original use aluminum cantilever with press-fit LineContact nude diamond. 
''ít will not sound the same when you change tip or cantilever''. 
But this may also mean that ''it'' can sound better. To grasp the
issue one need to see how any cantilever/stylus combo is glued
 into ''joint pipe''. Joint pipe is usually an aluminum pipe on
which coils and tension wire are fastened. In this pipe all
manufacturer and retipper must put the same cantilever/styli
combo as provided by big (Japanese) supplier. Why the
manufacturer are assumed to do this job better is an enigma.
By such circumstances one should check his premiss and
start again if the premiss is not true. 
The used glue needed to ,uh, glue the cantilever in the joint pipe
can be desolved in order to remove old and substitute the new
cantilever. The retipper need to use the same length and stylus
orientation. That is all.
Not all aluminum cantilevers are the same, not all diamonds are the same, especially after 40 years, combination used by Ikeda is not available today, but similar materials available. Those new aluminum cantilevers does not even looks like old from FR-7 series, diamond was called Refined Contact Diamond. I’ve seen many aluminum cantilevers in my life and they are all different size, mass, shape, length

Boron or Ruby is completely different, it can be better or not, you never know. I want to remind that FR-7f anf fz are amazing cartridges as it is, when you change something it’s not necessary must be better. It’s likely you’re ruining all calculation made by cartridge designer (for this reason i never retip or refurbish any vintage cartridge, it’s better to buy another sample).

Aluminum is not expensive, so if something went wrong you will not lose too much $$$


Dear chakster, You changed the question . The question was or
assumed to be about sound not styli variations. Whatever the stylus
shape or cantiever material they all need to be glued or fastened
into cantilevers and glued into yoint pipe. 
As you I also admire Takeda's Miyabi and Ikeda's FR-7fz. Both
with aluminum (alloy) cantilevers. 


Thanks for the information, both of you. I'll see what they say when they get back to me and ask about aluminum/nude contact line diamond combo. I thought the cartridge had a magical something that I never heard in subsequent cartridges I tried. At this point I'm hoping to get some of that back. If after repair it's not to my liking I'll look into FR-7fz. I just would prefer to not spend that sort of money now. 
Dear chakster, You changed the question . The question was or
assumed to be about sound not styli variations.


everything can affect the sound quality: mass, length, shape, mounting method whatever ... you name it


Whatever the stylus shape or cantilever material they all need to be glued or fastened into cantilevers and glued into joint pipe.

stylus gluing is the worst method

whatever retipper mount to the joint pipe will change mass, resonance etc ... if it’s not the original parts choosen by original cartridge designer, those aluminum cantilever used by Ikeda is not available today, it can be only different aluminum cantilever (or completely different material like boron and others)




As you I also admire Takeda’s Miyabi and Ikeda’s FR-7fz. Both
with aluminum (alloy) cantilevers.

I admire ORIGINAL design of the cartridges i like, if i don’t like the cartridge i will never retip or refurbish it (pretending for upgrade).

I’ve heard some great MC cartridges with aluminum cantilevers such as Ortofon SPU Royal G mk II with Replicant-100 stylus, Miyabi MCA and Standard, FR-7 and FR-7fz ... even MM cartridges like all Stanton Pickering (they are all with aluminum cantilevers). All those aluminum cantilevers are different when i look at them under my macro lens, all diamonds are different (the Replicant-100 is huge, the Miyabi’s PH Semi Line Contact is very small, Stanton/Pickering’s Stereohedron is somewhere in the middle ... they are all press-fit which is great). Anyway, this is original design and they are all spectacular cartridges, i wouldn’t change anything in this design.

My philosophy about vintage cartridges is something like this:
Stick to the original design and if you don’t like it - don’t use it and buy something else until you will find what you really like, don’t try to make a Frankenstein out of some dead cartridges, i do not trust to retippers.
They said my cartridge survived the damage but needed replacement. I was worried something was torqued deep inside. They're suggesting the boron option, I've asked about the change in sound since the original was aluminum. The story continues. 
letch, ''They said my cartridge survived the damage but needed
repalcement''. This make no sense. Not the cartridge but the
cantilever/stylus combo needs replacement. They suggested the
most expanisive alternative. Deed they mentioned the price?
My estimation was +/- $500 for boron + stylus. This can be done
by any retipper. Boron cantilevers with styli are produced by
two Japanese companies. Both manufcturers and retippers 
are provided by the same companies. In some sense you will
get a new FR-7. Anyway no worry about stylus condition. 



By survive, they meant that I didn't trash the entire cartridge beyond repair. A mover loaded my turntable, with cartridge attached, into a truck on it's side and piled boxes on top of it for a drive from NYC to LA. They didn't heed my instructions that it was fragile, etc. That move was a disaster from every standpoint.

It's $450 for the boron replacement. They said it's the strongest material and that's a heavy tracking cart. At this point I just want to get my turntable up and running. I've never mounted a cartridge before but these are times when it makes sense to start learning how to do that. I'm going to get a MintLP protractor for the FR-64 to set things up when it comes back.
Hi letch, By Yip from Mint tractor you need to provide him with
exact dimension of the spindle of your TT (those differ in thickness)
as well which geometry you want. He can than make an special
tractor for you. If you chose for Bearwald geometry you should
also ask Soundsmith to increse the length of the cantilever 
suitable for Bearwald. 
I thought it was Stevenson for this?
The original alignment is Stevenson, if you want a protractor with all 3 alignment method and precise ruler for PS distance for any tonearm/cartridge then buy Dr.Feickert.

Mint will be made for 1 tonearm and 1 cartridge only. 

With headshell integrated cartridge like FR7 series i would advice for you to stick to the manufacturers method, do not change the length of the cantilever. 

You could actually order aluminum cantilever with the best possible stylus profile like Gyger.

It's a massive cartridge and even of the Boron is the strongest it can be destroyed (bent) just like any other cantilever :))   


I will hopefully mount this thing and never mess with it again, well you know what I mean. So the Mint sounds good to me. I like the idea of: "If Stevenson was good enough for Mr. Ikeda then it's good enough for me." I don't see changing this ever again. The only thing I can see happening is someday buying the FR-7fz.

I gave Soundsmith the go ahead for boron/CL earlier today so that part is in process. Now, I need to figure out what skills I need to learn how to put the thing on. That other headshell thread had my head spinning....
Well, actually all you need is to measure Pivot to Spindle distance which you CAN’T DO with mint protractor. If you PS is correct according to Mr.Ikeda (read the manual) your stylus will be spot on (Stevenson). But if the length of the cantilever will be different after refurbishing then it will be off! Remember that you can’t twist this cartridge/cantilever to the left or to the right for use alternative alignment (with alternative alignment cartridge must be slightly twisted ion the shell), if your refurbished cantilever is longer or shorter you will have to mess around with position of the amr hole and PS distance (this is far more complicated).


 I like the idea of: "If Stevenson was good enough for Mr. Ikeda then it's good enough for me."

Definitely, that's why i use manufacturer recommendation (Stevenson alignment) for my FR-7fz 

''Pure theoretic'' consideration means without any experiment or
experience. This is identical with ''assumptions only'' aproach. 
So the only possible check is logical: if the assumptions are not
true then neither are deduced statement. Our chakster believes
in manufacturer authority and intentions despite our long disputes
about tonearm geometry. In addition he distrust retippers and
never retipped any of his carts. So his advice is ''based'' on his
believes. Letch could also ask his mother for advice.
The difference between Stevenson and Beearwald is about 1mm.
Aka effective length Stevenson 245 mm, Bearwald 246mm. 
I can't remember how many retips I have had. With Axel  my
retipper for years I become friends. Alas he was/is not able to
do the work because he lost comand of his left hand. But he
was nearly 70 and with 50 years of experience. 

Wouldn’t Soundsmith maintain the same cantilever length?

There's a manual? I'll check...
Again assumptions. They probably will but this would
 imply Stevenson geometry. My FR-7 fz sample .is
retipped by Van den Hul who increased the cantilever
length  to fit Bearwald geometry. So I got boron cantilever
 with Van den Hul (aka Gyger) stylus. My Mint tractor is
 made for my SP-10,mk 2 and Bearwald for my FR-64 S.
 I  owned all other FR-7 kinds but kept the FR-7 fz. The
only technical difference is (slightly) higher output by FZ.
I am sure you will be satisfy with your FR-7 . Also the
 price at $450  is modest in comparison with European
 prices. 




Our chakster believes in manufacturer authority and intentions despite our long disputes about tonearm geometry. In addition he distrust retippers and never retipped any of his carts. So his advice is ’’based’’ on his believes.


Been using at least 4 re-tipped and re-cantilevered cartridges and all of them were worst than the originals, so never again (and this is one of the reason i am against the retip/refurbishing), for me it’s obvious that no one can make better than the original, especially if the original manufacturer is a BIG company and cartridge design is a clever design. Re-tip is a compromise only, people trying to pay less and they will get what they are paying for. Using a third party parts instead of the original is worst idea in my opinion and some cartridge designers already posted about it on this forum many times. I have no idea why people retip cartridges or refurbish them if better cartridges available even for the price of the retip (many great cartridges available at $500-700).


The difference between Stevenson and Beearwald is about 1mm.
Aka effective length Stevenson 245 mm, Bearwald 246mm.

You are talking about Pivot to Spindle distance, but how can you twist a cartridge designed for Stevenson to align it by cantilever position, there are 3 steps in any protractor and the problem is not that stylus can reach those points, the problem is that a cartridge body must be turned to the left or to the right in the headshell because the cantilever must be in line with lines printed on protractor, your headshell intergated cartridge will be off the alignment and changing PS will not help you, because FR7 does not move to the left or to the right in the headshell at all. Some people just don’t understand it! They want to create more problems for FR7 series.



With Axel my retipper for years I become friends. Alas he was/is not able to do the work because he lost comand of his left hand. But he
was nearly 70 and with 50 years of experience.


Axel refurbished cartridges are worst than the originals and i was able to make sure about it, compared them in my system. He’s been using Nagaoka cartrilevers transplanted from Nagaoka cartridges to Technics MM by gluing them using as you said joint pipe. Those cartridges are worst than the original, because the boron cantilever is rod, not pipe (like the OG) and stylus is glued. The last cartridge he touched stop working after 1 year (one channel malfunction). This is waste of time and money. It will never be better than the original (if the original design is a good one). Invest in original cartridges, perfectly working samples, NOS units and you will be fine. Don’t like them - buy another (better cartridges). Any good cartridge is a very delicate devise and it’s better not touch it. We see many retipped and refurbished cartridges for same, this is the best place for them. Only manufacturer can guarantee that a cartridge will be the same as new after their service, but even manufacturers prefer to give us a brand new cartridge instead of the broken one. 
Dear chakster, Our ''dispute'' become very difficult if one confuse
spindle to pivor distance with effective lenght and persist in
believe that manufacturer ''know better''. As Raul and Kessler&
Pisha have shown neither of all 22 tonearms are without errors.
Primary by ofsfset angle and overhang. Either they considered
tonearm geometry as not important or were not familar with them.
You also suggest that retippers use different cantilever/styli
combo's than manufacturer. But both get those from the same
supplier. If you assume some special art needed to glue an
new  cantilever in the  joint pipe  you probably have never looked
at those parts in an MC cart. Each retipper prefer to do  the
whole cantielver/stylus instead of stylus only retip. No wonder
by the price difference ;$  200 versus $500. Axel refused even
to me to do stylus only retip. He got so much work that he was
able to chose. I then moved to Expert stylus in UK who
still do stylus only retip for 200 euro. They also produce styli
which are identical qua dimensions with Van den Hul. They
provide Deccas with those styli. 
The argument that a re-tipper in 2020 can get what manufacturer was able to get in 1986 is false. They need a time machine to do so.

They can’t get 90% of those cantilevers from the 70s/80’s, as i said earlier some of them are simply no longer available at all and no longer in production anywhere in this world (beryllium, boron pipe, ceramic).

Looking at FR-7fz aluminum cantilever or at Miyabi aluminum cantilever i can say for sure that it is not an aluminum cantilever that SoundSmith can get today, they are all different in shape, mass length, special treatment.

This is the reason why anyone can detect a fake cantilever on any cartridge if a person remember the original one. Those new cantilevers are different and no one need a microscope to recognize that they are different.

SoundSmith Ruby cantilever/stylus combo does not even looks like an old Ruby cantilevers i own on many original cartridges like Grace F14 and LEVEL II.

How can anyone say that re-tippers can get the same? They can’t get the same without time traveling back to the 80’s.

So when a person who own some vintage MC from the 70’s pretending to get the same Boron cantilever it’s an illusion, he can’t get the same cantilever, because nearly all Boron cantilevers from the 70s/80s were Boron PIPE and now 100% Boron cantilevers are Boron ROD. Huge difference in mass rigidity etc. 

Ruby and Sapphire also way different today, i have compared many new and old cantilevers. Too much glue on new ones and very little on the old ones. People reported that new diamonds fell off in a few years (especially if someone will try a liquid stylus cleaner). Even the cheapest Aluminum is different too.

Re-tippers can offer what they can (it’s their business), but it is way different from the original design. Some of the re-tippers job looks awful under microscope, some are accurate. You never know. Some of the retippers will never tell you their own opinion, you asked for retip you will get it, that’s it. If you don’t like the sound it’s your problem, the job is done.

Of course it is my personal opinion and someone may not agree with me, but please don’t tell everyone that re-tippers getting cantilevers from the same bin as the manufacturers, we're talking about vintage and new cartridges here, don’t forget the 40 years gap in time between the production of FR cartridges and new production of Namiki and Ogura cantilevers for modern retippers and manufacturers.

It’s funny, buy your favorite Mr Andreoli (interview is here) does not use any of the cantilevers from those Japanese manufacturers like Namiki and Ogura for some reason. He design and make his own LIKE THIS (even for his reference MM cartridges). Another interview with him.

As you know those Ikeda (FR) and Takeda (Miyabi) hardened aluminum cantilevers are not mass market product, i’ve seen a dozen of aluminum cantilevers on many cartridges and they have nothing to do with those special aluminum cantilevers coming from state-of-the-art designers, completely different, what is the same is the word "aluminum", nothing else.

This is all like a Ford parts on Porsche car, or vise versa (this is re-tip and re-cantilever of the best vintage cartridges with third party parts available today).





Dear chaksrer, you are again back to parts. Lets talk about them.
The coils are the most difficult to repair. Nobody wants to mess
with those. Then there are dampers. No retipper has the ''original''
but, say, 3 unknown kinds meant for different compliance. The
most easy job is to supstitute cantilever/stylus combo. Stylus 
only retip is much more difficult to do then cantilevr/stylus combo.
But the most  people are arguing about this part. So the ''most
people'' have no idea what they are talking about. Think about
LP 12. What are original and what improved parts? Who can
''compose'' one LP 12 from ''orignal parts''  or, to put this otherwise,
what are originl parts by an  LP 12? 

Soundsmith said that the aluminum they use is not the same as the aluminum that the original cantilever was made from so a choice based on that was irrelevant (my words). The strongest option is boron so I went with their recommendation on that. Should I be asking about cantilever length?
boron usually goes from Namiki in precut length. IMO ask as original length and if needed they will trim it.

I sent them an email. They're very responsive. Thanks for the assistance everyone! I really appreciate it.
Update, they trim by hand to match length. So, no worries there.