Lower end Soundsmith cartridges vs others in same price range?


Soundsmith seems to be a great option for the long term due to their retipping prices. I'm just curious if the performance of the Otello or Carmen is better than anything under $1000 from AT, Ortofon, Hana, etc. I'm running a Technics 1200GR-Elac PPA-2 MM/MC Phono pre. 

I'm not looking for other options as much as opinions on the Soundsmith VS other options.
aberyclark
SoundSmith is MI, go for it, at least you don't have to bother with re-tipping, you can get SoundSmith with user replaceable stylus or Peter will replace it for you for the lowest possible cost as the manufacturer.  

It will never happen with MC if you will not ship them to the manufacturer, the cost will be much higher. 
if you on MI look into Grado low output models or Hana  LOMC from MC.
I'm thinking of upgrading to a 1200G later this year. I'm now thinking the ZEPHYR may be the way to go, especially switching to a higher end TT. May be the last cartridge I would ever need
As you know Peter at SoundSmith likes Grace MM cartridges and you can read about it here, he’s servicing them for others and even produced his own replacement styli for them. It is safe to buy one of these, the best are F14 and LEVEL II models. If you prize his work he could always repair those vintage Grace beauties. I am a big fan of Grace (but i use only original styli with Grace pick-ups).
Some bad info here. Yes Soundsmith is MI, but the replacement is factory not user. Grado is also MI, but different.Also, for low cost, I would advise to use Soundsmith high output and spend less money on the phono preamp. Soundsmith HO is like getting a free SUT without the penalty of increased moving mass as for a HOMC.
Some bad info here. Yes Soundsmith is MI, but the replacement is factory not user.

You're right, B&O cartridges manufactured by SoundSmith and some SoundSmith cartridges looks like the stylus is user replaceable, but they are not. ANYWAY it's factory replaced for very low cost by the manufacturer, this is a clear benefit compared to MC cartridges from some other brands.

I just checked the SoundSmith site and quickly realized all old models are gone and replaced with new design (that looks a bit weird, sorry). 

An old design is better to my eyes (just my personal preferences), especially this one made for OMA.  

But there are many more great MM or MI cartridges in this world (or even LOMC) new or old.  

I have a SS Otello for  an emergency backup cart.

It's a great $400 cart. In my system, I hear it as described by SS. Fantastic mids/highs but light on the low end. System dependent I would imagine. 

The Otello in my system is excellent for Classical, but under-performs with bass heavy R&R. YMMV. 

I would go Carmen or better if SS were the primary cart. 





I have a re-tipped Denon 103r (from Soundsmith), what would be a true upgrade from Soundsmith compared to the 103r?
I cannot compare my Othello (old design) with any of the other similar-priced offerings, but I agree with tablejockey's assessment a few posts above. Slightly light on Deep Purple, really good on classical. It may be system dependent. I would buy it again despite that.
Well I think the cheap SoundSmiths look good. How do they sound? I've got HOMCs Ortofon, Grado, Talisman S and MM Grace.


I think the reasonably priced Soundsmiths look good. How do they sound?
Jeff Day is currently using a Soundsmith Carmen on a vintage Thorens with a Thomas Schlick arm. This is quite an endorsement. 
His review of the Carmen and Zepher high output are very good. You can find them on Positive Feedback. Good time to buy a Soundsmith. Most of them are on sale.
I am anxiously awaiting a new Paua. 
Who is Jeff Day and why it’s important to use what he’s using ?
Schick designed for low compliance cartridges like SPU and DL103, it can be used with other cartridges too (i owner schick "12) but it’s not the best tonearm, my EPA-100 was so much better than Schick and i sold the schick later. I must say it was very elegant tonearm on my turntable, the design is very nice.

The OP is using Technics 1200GR

It is clear for me that for MM/MI Technics EPA-100 "10.5 tonearm is better than Schick "12
@chakster 

This is Jeff Day. Many of us have followed his reviews over the years. He’s written for various magazines.
https://jeffsplace.positive-feedback.com
@chakster 

If you enjoyed reading Art Dudley you would probably enjoy Jeff too.
If you enjoyed reading Art Dudley you would probably enjoy Jeff too.

thanks 
I have had Soundsmith on my turntables, but prefer the sound of the Nagaoka line of carts.

Yes chakster, I know you disagree with me, but this is the results on my system for what it is worth.

Agree to disagree, no?
You have to be at least  at the 2,000 $ Soundsmith range  to best a Nagoka  going for 400 bucks . And not by much .
Been there .
Schubert,

Agree. I have the Nagaoka MP-200. Absolute killer for $400.
Me as well  mr mr , doubt if I will ever change .
I have a new Otello, a new (6 month) Zephyr MIMC☆. I also have recently purchased a VPI Zephyr and an older MIMC. I have been re-capping/refurbishing older DD tables. On an old Denon DP-51f, the Otello has potent bass. Maybe a bit too much. A solid value at $400, especially considering the re-tip services.  That being said,  the Zephyr is still a solid value at near $2k. These cartridges are made in the USA, by hand. No others can make this claim. Peter Lederman actually cares about his customers.  I had a question about some crackling noises coming from my system. Peter called me ON A SUNDAY to help me sort it out. Who else does that?
If you go with SoundSmith, you might consider one of their preamps.  A friend has a Ortofon Black on a modded Jelco 750 arm and wanted to try different preamps.  One I brought over was a Creek OBH-2.  It sounded "best" - as in balance, clarity, soundstage, and all the other subjective stuff - to both of us vs. some higher priced units, so he bought the latest version.

When I finished rebuilding the suspension of an Oracle Alexandria and installed a rewired SME 3009 II Improved, an original (now older version) of a SoundSmith Othello was mounted.  I started with the Creek OBH-2 given how good it sounded with the Black, but it didn't prove to be a good match.

While not impressed they use a wall wart power supply, reviews from others had me try a SoundSmith MMP4.  The combination was a significant improvement.  As others have commented, clean and clear mid and high frequency, and with no fatigue, even through modded Klipsch Forte I speakers.  Bass is tight and strong, which I like; you'd have to decide if it's enough for some good old rock n' roll.  I'm pleased enough that I'm not as interested in trying the Carmen.

I'm not familiar with the Elac PPA-2 phono preamp, but it makes sense an in-house preamp "tuned" to their MI cartridges would maximize your listening experience.
Now if he could only take care of himself. I hope he has someone in line to take over the company.
I'm not so sure why everyone is so interested in retipping. That is never even on the radar when I buy a cartridge. I never have then retipped. I usually upgrade before any cartridge is worn out. I just throw the old ones in a drawer. Cartridges are like snow skis. You always have a favorite one. The others just sit in the closet.
I have never listened to a Soundsmith cartridge I guess because I've never been near one and I dislike the marketing. Jitter? Right.
There are so many fine sounding cartridges that track well. A cartridge has to do both. Then it has to match your tonearm. I would be inclined to buy a Grado long before a Soundsmith. It appears to me that as a group the reviewers prefer Grado products. Then there is Ortofon, Lyra, Air Tight and Clearaudio. They are significantly more sophisticated than some of these small Japanese manufacturers. As far as values go it is difficult to best Grado.
If that is Jeff Day's system, the one he is pictured with I would take his reviews with a grain of salt. However I read reviews looking for significant faults in design and workmanship. I never read the parts that describe the sound of a devise. We all have different systems, room and taste so you really can not compare. 
When choosing equipment you have to know what you like and why. I like high powered Class A amps. I don't bother looking at anything else. With cartridges I'll only look at cartridges with a boron or better cantilever. The stylus has to be very small and mounted correctly at the very end of the cantilever with no excess material. Everything has to be lined up correctly. Sometimes I'll look at user reviews to see if there is a consistent problem. With the above manufacturers you'll hardly ever have a problem. 
@mijostyn,

If you take the time to wade through this relatively recent article,  "Vibration analysis of stylus instrument for random surface measurement"   http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/5705/1/WRAP_Liu_vibration_analysis_2010final.pdf, you may conclude that Peter's discussion of tip jitter is correct; the paper calls it tip flight,.   While the article is not specific to a vinyl record, the correlation is unmistakable. The article does present what is the optimum damping ratio as 0.5 to 0.7, and this would then support Peter's claim to the benefit of the lower mass of the MI design; less mass means less work required to damp the mechanism.  
I have never seen, had or heard of problems with Soundsmith cartridges. I've had them for years. I prefer the ruby or cactus cantilevers with the OCL tip.
antinn, you have to be kidding me. This is an entirely different application and does not apply in any way to a stylus tracking the mechanical representation of sound. In reality "jitter" is most commonly called miss-tracking. Not only this but Soundsmith cartridges do not offer much if any improvement in effective mass over high quality low impedance moving coil cartridges. The effective mass is mostly determined by the mass that is farthest from the fulcrum. This would be the cantilever, it's length the size of the diamond and the way it is mounted. The mass that is close to the fulcrum, the generator end contributes minimally. The pictures Lederman uses to compare his cartridges to moving coils are a gross distortion of reality as he uses the oldest, largest MC assembly he can find against his smallest assembly. Try that again Peter but this time show us the assembly of a Anna Diamond or Lyra Atlas LO. 
Peter may be a nice guy but he is FOS when it comes to his marketing. Another thing. He is no Joseph Grado. He has not invented anything. He took an old design and optimized it with modern materials. Even his Strain Gauge cartridge is an updated copy of old designs. It will fail by the way. Most of us who can afford his system are wedded to our expensive pre amps and phono stages and are not about to pollute our equipment with electronics of the quality he uses in his system. I love being politically incorrect.
Actually Antinn, if you read the article you do not have to get too far to realize that it is gibberish, a joke. 
@mijostyn,

The effective mass of the cantilever can not be considered in the same way you would apply effective mass to a simple free-pivot tonearm, and the discussion in this article  http://pspatialaudio.com/analogy.htm#cantilever, highlights that.  The magnet mass and the cartridge suspension have significant impact.  The article models the mechanical components as a electrical model.

Otherwise, you can take what you wish from whatever you read.  
I have run The lowest price Soundsmith for a year and a Nagoka MP-200 on my other TT . Have even switched them.
The MP -200 is FAR better ! Both cost 400 $ .
TT''s were Pro-Ject Per.spect 6 and Rega  6 . Both of them cost the same .
Moving mass of Soundsmith is FAR less. So you have to change your mind. 
I do remind you it's moving cross from B&O stellar research times so it doesn't matter what you hear, it's proven by Youtube videos to be the best.
Nagaoka MP-200 has Boron cantilever.

SoundSmith Otello (if that was the lowest price SS) has aluminum cantilever.

Both cartridges comes with elliptical stylus.

SoundSmith is a mid compliance (22cu at 10Hz and can be ordered with high compliance 28cu too) while the Nagaoka compliance is much lower (7.2 @100Hz is about 12.3 cu @10Hz ! )

If they are about $400 then i have to say that a much better cartridges can be found for nearly the same price under $500 if you will look for a vintage MM or MI with better stylus profile like Stereohedron (Pickering XSV/4000) for example or maybe Grado XTZ MI with its Twin Tip for example (if you're lucky).