How Does the Soundsmith

How does the Voice MI cartridge stack up to low output MC cartridges in the $3000 to $6000 range? I am using a ZYX Atmos MC (.24mv) cartridge now with a VPI Aries 2 TT and a JMW 12.5 arm. I am using a modified Ayre phono stage.

I would like to hear from anyone that has compared the "Voice" cartridge to more expensive LO MC's.

How does the "Voice" do with complex music where a lot is happening on the recording?

I heard this cartridge at RMAF last year, but it is hard to draw conclusions in such an enviroment.
Hey Tom,

Give Bob Johnson a call. He just bought one of the lower priced Soundsmith's and loves it. He's a classical guy so I would assume that it does complex music just fine.

I don't think Bob made to your place for the two meeting we had there but he was at the first one that Mike had at his house. You should have his email address.




I recently switched to the Voice as my reference cartridge. My previous reference cartridges were a ZYX Universe and a Koetsu Jade Platinum. To my surprise I found the Voice much more satisfying than the ZYX or Koetsu. It is an extremely fast, articulate cartridge and yet smooth and easy on the ears. I also find that it does remarkably well with less than ideal recordings, not at all what I had expected. I found myself digging a lot of not so great recordings that I previously had set aside.

The Voice is by far the most sensitive to proper setup of any cartridge I have played. VTA, Azimuth and tracking force all make a huge difference. To get the most out of the Voice you need an arm that allows for fine repeatable adjustment of all of these parameters. It sounds great even when the setup is imperfect, but it really sings when dialed in. It is also the easiest to dial in cartridge that I have listened to. You know immediately when you hit the sweet spot.
Dear Slowhand: That cartridge comes ( design ) from B&O MMC series cartridges and like the original B&O is really good.

THat MM/MI alternative compete not only in that range price of the LOMC ones but well beyond that, in some ways not only compete but IMHO surpass these MC cartridges.

I heard three different SS but The Voice that performs very well but I prefer the original B&O. Like always this opinion is system/ears and music priorities dependent.

I don't think you can go wrong with the MM/MI alternative, it's a great one. I concur with Teres on the quality performance of these cartridges and like him you will have a nice surprise.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I agree with Teres' comparison of the Voice with a Jade Platinum. Of course revealing that a cartridge is faster and more articulate than a Koetsu will win us neither friends nor golden ear awards. They’ll be crying "Death!" on one side and "Duh!" on the other!

OTOH, if a Voice sounds faster or more articulate than a UNIverse then IMO something was amiss. From what I heard in two rooms at RMAF, neither the Voice nor its bigger brother would even match the articulation of the Atmos, much less a UNIverse.

I definitely agree the Voice is "smooth and easy on the ears" though that's a listener preference and not a characteristic of any live music I listen to, especially if it’s complex. Understanding how it goes about sounding this way may help you make a decision.

The Voice goes smooth and easy because it collapses harmonic overtones toward or into the fundamental. Example: an 16kHz overtone is attenuated and some of its energy feeds the 8kHz overtone, which is also attenuated and some of its energy feeds the 4kHz fundamental, etc. (In the Voice this can leave a trace of mud on the fundamental; the Strain Gauge does the same thing but more cleanly.)

Components which do this - and there are many, not just cartridges - can make the sound simpler, smoother and easier for a system to reproduce and for the listener to hear.

Quite a few cartridges (including UNIverse, Colibri, Lyra Olympos, XV-1S and even the Atmos) deliver a more complete spectrum by reproducing rather than collapsing higher order harmonics. Of course that demands more from a system - which must reproduce all those harmonic complexities clearly. Distorted upper mids and highs sound anything but smooth and easy, as we all know.

The Voice can indeed produce a powerful, fast, smoothed and easy sound. It's not clear from your post if that's your goal. FWIW, no SS phono stage that I've heard reproduces harmonics completely either, so it's possible the Ayre might let you enjoy everything the Voice does without missing what it doesn’t.
Dear Doug: +++++ " The Voice goes smooth and easy because it collapses harmonic overtones " +++++

like I posted I don't heard/hear The Voice so I can't speak on specific but in that " collapses harmonics " that you comment I can't understand how do you know that this fact comes from the cartridge in specific where there are other audio links in that audio chain that could be the " culprit " about even that like Slowhand posted: ++ " I heard this cartridge at RMAF last year, but it is hard to draw conclusions in such an enviroment. " ++++, could you explain it?

On other subject I don't hear any " smooth " characteristic on MM/MI cartridges but the natural agresiveness that has the live music, maybe and I say only maybe Teres means with that smooth word the rightness of the performance in that cartridge, I really don't know and I don't want speak by Teres.

Anyway, Doug when you hear with the right set-up in a good audio system almost any MM/MI cartridge you can/could be a little confuse of what " audio words " use to decribe its performance because in someways that quality performance is something " new " and you don't have " new " audio words but maybe to re-invent the meaning of our audio vocabulary.

In the other side what for me means bright ( example ) maybe for other person could be over-bright or shrill.

Regards and enjoy the music,

I suspect that what you heard at RMAF was not an accurate representation of the cartridges, but rather the systems they were being presented in. The Soundsmith cartridges you mention are clearly more articulate than the Universe. The Universe is a fine cartridge and it would not surprise me if others would prefer it to the Voice. But I don't think anyone who has heard them side by side would find the Universe more articulate regardless of their overall preferences.

I have no idea what you are referring to regarding collapsing harmonic overtones. What I hear from the Voice is very extended, detailed treble that is remarkably clean and therefore easy on the ears. Not easy on the ears because is has been smoothed, rolled off or lacking information.

I believe that the reason for the smoothness on the top end is due to the very light moving mass in the Voice, and more so in the Strain Gauge. Both of these cartridges have far less moving mass than a good MC. What I like about the Voice is similar to what I hear from Plasma tweeters. Again due, I believe, to low mass (essentially zero for the plasma tweeters).

I suppose I agree with Doug. He heard the Voice on my turntable, and I admit that it was a bit romantic sounding when compared to a cartridge like the Lyra Olympos. That said, it cost significantly less money than the near unobtanium Olympos. I find it to be an excellent cartridge for the money spent, and that is really what we should be considering. Can you buy a better cartridge for less? Maybe, but it wouldn't be easy.

Saskia Turntables
Dear Doug: +++++ " the Voice is very extended, detailed treble that is remarkably clean and therefore easy on the ears. " +++++

with the right set-up this Teres statement is a characteristic of top MM/MI performers. These type of cartridges ( like I posted several times. ) IMHO have very low overall distortion when you compare against its " brothers " LOMC ones, I repeat lower distortion not " collapsed harmonics " or smoothness ( soft ). Other MM/MI characteristic that Teres point out is: " more articulate ", I can add " better articulate " than almost any LOMC cartridge in any price range.

The term " romantic " that Mosin posted seems to me more an " artefact " of somewhere ( audio links ) the audio system than a cartridge characteristic and a result of the overall audio system performance.IMHO and through sevral years of attend to live music events I never experienced a " romantic " presentation ", any one of you can attest about: hear a single/alone instrument ( live ) like piano, guitar, horn, voice, etc at no more than a normal home audio system seat position ( 2.5m/3.0m ) and you will see what I'm talking about. Some kind of music could tend to sound " romantic " maybe at 30-40m.

Regards and enjoy the music,
The Universe is a very good cartridge but it is not among the finest available as inferred in an earlier post. To that extent I agree wholeheartedly with Teres.

Let's be very clear on this as folks having very limited experience with other products have furthered this erroneous agenda in these forums.

For the record, I own a Universe and enjoy the product despite its' limitations and shortcomings
I did not mean to denigrate the Universe. It is among the very best that I have heard and was my reference for a number of years. I happen to prefer the Voice in my system and with my tastes. The question was how the Voice compares with expensive MC's. I think it compares favorably.

I received that Ortofon MM you recommended but I've not posted on your MM/MI thread because I haven't actually heard it yet. I wouldn't think it useful or courteous to post about something I haven't heard, would you?


We heard the Voice in three rooms at RMAF, including Mosin's. (His table was our best-in-show BTW, though that was despite the arm and cartridge he was using, not because of them.) The Voice did the things I described in each system, as its bigger brother did once also (with the variations I mentioned). Take our impressions FWIW to you.

What we heard was a cartridge that's exceptional value for the money (as Mosin said) though not quite capable of the harmonic clarity we hear in the various (much costlier) LOMC's that I mentioned. (Aside to Mosin, the Olympos is a whisker on the romantic side of neutral, even Jonathon Carr will tell you that, but it's certainly clearer and more resolving than the Voice - as it should be for the price!) To our ears those LOMC's have played with less harmonic congestion than the Voice in any reasonably compatible system. I believe that addresses the question you asked as best as I can.


Point taken about the plasma tweeters and in theory I agree. Of course there's more to designing a cartridge than just reducing moving mass, else my ADC XLM would be amongst the world's elite (it's not, trust me).

Your sense of articulation, timing and harmonics has always differed from ours (Paul's and mine). That's been obvious since the day we received our first Teres table. Multiple conversations since then have only confimed those differences.

As you know, things we report hearing have not always been confirmed by you and your listening friends. We react to certain sounds differently, in any system or room and even in the same system and room during the same session. I suspect this underlies our differing perceptions of the Voice as it has with other components, including some of your own manufacture.

The physical pain in Paul's face from distortions other people don't even notice is quite real, as multiple Audiogoners who've heard demoes in our system will attest. But that doesn't make what he hears any more or less "real" for the OP than what you hear. All any of us can do is describe what we hear, honestly and as best we can, and let him draw his own conclusions. Trying to prove each other "right" or "wrong" won't take us anywhere worth going.
Dear Doug: I always say: system, ears and music priorities dependent.

regards and enjoy the music,
Mr Audiofeil...THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS! Not from me btw...I just see it coming. LOL.
You may very well have heard the Voice at RMAF last year in the OMA room. At the time, I was using the cartridge because I thought it was fantastic with the Schroeder Reference on the Saskia slate idler drive turntable, producing the kind of sound I wanted from the OMA system. Now OMA also sells the Voice, so that's my disclaimer.

I've heard the Voice in direct comparison with the Lyra Olympos, Koetsu Coralstone Platinum, and Soundsmith Strain Gauge, all on Schroeder arms, and can assure you that its up there with all of them, despite costing a factor of 3 to 5 times less, which is simply remarkable. And one does not have to deal with issues of MC carts such as properly matching step up transformers. Despite what some other posters in this thread have suggested, the Voice is not only extremely fast due to its very low moving mass, its also tonally correct, and a pleasure to listen to. I would not use words like "easy" or "romantic" to describe it, but natural and accurate. I was never a big fan of moving magnet cartridges before I heard the Voice, but it certainly changed my mind very, very quickly.

I won't even begin to discuss the Zyx...

Jonathan (Oswaldsmill Audio)
I mentioned in an earlier post that I own the Universe. It's a good product.

However, there are better phono cartridges available. I know this is contrary to some of the cheerleading you'll read here. Some of these folks are surrogates and/or friends of the previous Zyx distributor and have used the threads to champion this line for the past few years.

Over time they will gain the experience and realize how small their audio world was before hearing some of the real knock out cartridges.
After I bought the MMC-1 (the cheaper sibling of the Voice), I sold my Lyra Argo. Yes it is very articulate and fast.

But the SS Moving Irons have to matched to the tonearm for lower mass than the current favourites suited for moving coils, and this statement includes the so-called medium compliance version, which I have one. All my tonearms have 15 or 20 or even more effective mass (high mass Schroeder, Pluto, FR). Better use a 10 to 12g effective mass tonarm.

best regards, Hartmut
The Voice was demoed on a low mass Schroeder armwand. Also, the new Phantom w. the Titanium armwand is very low mass. Great cartridge for the money. The Oswald Mills System catered to its strengths in RMAF last year. I myself was ready to buy it after RMAF last year but held off due to no MM phono stage.

But... sound differences apply. The Colibri is probably the most detailed cartridge I know. It is truly a matter of personal taste. The Colibri for me is a finely tuned race car. Lets say a Porsche. You feel every bump on the road, the power and any mistake in user input you will lose control.

The Voice is more like a big muscle car. Tons of power but a bit smoother. It just goes. You feel the power, but the growl is sweet and the lines of the car are classic.

You should honestly have both types of sound if you can put it in your system. Especially if the LP is such that a ZYX or Colibri will show the failings of the LP.
Dear Dgad: +++++ " The Colibri is probably the most detailed cartridge I know. It is truly a matter of personal taste. " +++++

I concur with you on that Colibri characteristics that almost no LOMC can achieve.

In the other side IMHO I think that more than " a personal taste " the subject on LOMC and MM/MI performance is more of which one cartridge type are nearest/truer to the MUSIC/recording and this judge needs that any one of us that are making this kind of evaluation/opinion have in deep/continuous experience with live music. Many times the " taste " of many of us in our home system perfromance has nothing to do with MUSIC and what this word means.

Regards and enjoy the music,
audiofeil, what are the cartridges of which you speak, just for the sake of my own reference?
Universe is one of the best out there. Hidden agendas abound herein....
Excellent comparison by Dgad. As best one can tell from our pathetic attempts to describe music and sound in words, we heard similar things.

The Voice is more like a big muscle car. Tons of power but a bit smoother. It just goes.
Exactly right.

Whether one "should" have this type of sound, or any other type of sound, is entirely a matter of taste or, to put in terms Raul might agree with, entirely a matter of which sounds most like real music to your ears.
Dear Doug: Yes I agree with.

I would like to add to this cartridges evaluation ( I'm not defending The Voice that I don't hear it yet. ) that could be a little unfair for The Voice ( or any other MM/MI sample. ):

First because almost all of you are comapring that RMAF set up against your fully dedicated and precise/fine tunning LOMC set up at your home audio system and second because probably The Voice was running at 47K where maybe the people in that show room don't try to change the load impedance a " little " higher.

Anyway, is good to read that there are more people that today are interested in the MM/MI alternative and this fact only can help to improve and make that the high-end audio industry grow-up in good terms.

regards and enjoy the music,
Couple of things.

The Schroeder Reference that was used by OMA at RMAF last year (2008) was a medium weight armwand, not a lightweight one. And in fact I have used the Voice with the Schick arm as well, which is better known for compatibility with heavy, low compliance cartridges.

The Voice at RMAF was set up by Frank Schroeder himself, so I don't think that the tweaking thing, spending months getting an arm and cart properly set up, actually applies to the sound in the OMA room last year. The deck was pretty optimal in its set up, and the loading was correct as well. This was not something left to chance, a tt setup done for a show only. Everything was set up long before, back at Oswaldsmill, and I think one could hear that at the show.

Soundsmith is about to release a completely new iteration on the Voice- it will be called the Sussuro. I think its already up on their site. It is a lower compliance, low output version of the technology in the Voice, and really has to be optimized vis loading, but it will be a revelation for many regarding the debate about LOMC vs Moving Iron. I don't think there has ever been a LOMM (low output moving iron) cartridge before this.

Maybe, but I don't know of one.
Dear Weisselk: Nice to hear that the cartridge voicing was " extremely " precise and at least at the same level of any one of us at our home audio systems.

So, then the down-sides that the persons heard it at your show room are realy precise on The Voice performance.

Btw, the design of a LOMM/MI cartridge is not a new one but an older one, I own one of that cartridge design sample the: Stanton 981LZ that show high quality performance even that the cartridge signal must pass for additonal gain stages.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Hi everybody!
It is not many days ago I did a direct comparison between the Voice and ZYX R-1000 Airy3 (gold) in my own system. I completely disagree with the opinion that Voice is an easy listening cartridge. Instead of this has the most revealing three dimentional and plausible sound I've ever heard from my system. If I would try to describe with one word the voice I'd say ENERGY. Do you know that violin bow is made of horse hair? Have you ever heard that? Have you ever notice the horn loading sound of trombone? Well, I never had. Airy 3 is easy listening cartridge for sure and not my cup of tea anymore. Don't you believe that is the right time to remove any cryogenicaly treated device/part from our system?
Thanks a lot,
Dear Pentatonia: I can't agree more with you on those sentences and about MM/MI cartridges:

+++++ " has the most revealing three dimentional and plausible sound I've ever heard from my system. " +++++

+++++ " try to describe with one word the voice I'd say ENERGY. " +++++

" plausible " is a " new " characteristic that IMHO the LOMC cartridges have not and that the MM/MI is one of its sound signature.

ENERGY, that's a " signature " of live music that again the LOMC can't even " imagine ".

+++++ " Have you ever notice the horn loading sound of trombone? " +++++

only through MM/MI cartridges.

+++++ " Don't you believe that is the right time to remove any cryogenicaly treated device/part from our system? " +++++

I can add: " from our brains ".

Live and real music must comes an be again our reference!

Regards and enjoy the music,

Good report. You are one of only a handful of people I've "met" who's actually heard any model ZYX with the gold coils, and I entirely agree with you. I actually think you were a bit too polite (just like that cartridge!).

The gold coil UNIverse and Airy 3 (I've had both in my system) were so laid back they did a passable imitation of being asleep. I couldn't stand either one of them for more than 5 minutes.

The silver coil versions are better, though they're still much too "relaxed" or "smooth" for me.

So is any ZYX of the high output (.48mv) variety: slow, sluggish and unlively (though still tonally accurate, like any ZYX).

Only the copper coil, low output models provide good dynamics and detail. Read Arthur Salvatore's head-to-head review of the silver coil UNIverse (which he found quite ho-hum) vs. the the copper one (which blew him away). The gold coil version is much MORE ho-hum than the silver. They don't even sound like they came from the same workbench. If I were comparing a Voice to a gold Airy 3 I'd expect to hear exactly what you did.
Now, almost everyone is happy: good.