My new Soundsmith Straingauge cartridge

Well, after a bit of dillying and dallying, I finally got 'round to trying a home trial of this cart. After a couple of hours dialling in vtf, and esp. azimuth, it basically sold itself, and I bought it an hour later!
It's without doubt the fastest cart I've ever experienced, surpassing the Decca London Reference, but with none of that cart's tipped up 'whiteness'. But this blazing speed is combined with the natural sweetness of the Lyra Parnassus. It has the neutrality of the Transfiguration Orpheus with the dynamics and involvement of the ESCCo-modded Zu Denon 103. So, fast AND sweet, and neutral AND involving, combinations often too challenging for other so-called SOTA carts. All the carts I've mentioned I've had in my system over the years. But I admit, I haven't heard current contenders to the crown (Lyra Titan/Atlas, Ortofon Anna, Clearaudio Goldfinger etc) to make comparisons.
It's tracking really is superlative, 3d soundstaging/dimensionality is beyond the room constraints, and I really believe it has the least artifact-laden sound of any cart I've heard, with NO aural evidence of a diamond carving thru wax. It's really complimenting what's already a neutral, fast and dynamic analog rig in my system (Trans Fi Salvation direct rim drive tt/Trans Fi Terminator air bearing linear tracking arm)
Hi Marc,

Glad to hear you're enjoying the Strain Gauge, congratulations!

Spirit, That's good news. I've heard the SS Straingauge in SS rooms at several audio shows. Unfortunately it was never possible to unpack its performance potential from the limiting context of SS micro-monitor speakers and VPI TT & tonearm. Sounds like you found out!
Dear Spiritofmusic: Great for you and good that you are absolutely satisfied listening your recordings with a very different RIAA curve on the one used to recorded it. At the end the most important issue is that you like it and that's your unique privilege.


Regards and enjoy the music,
Raul- are you saying the Paul Landerman is incorrect when he says that no RIAA compensation is required due to the different operating principle behind the strain gauge? If that is true, that is a very significant issue.
Oh no, here we go again!
Dear Swampwalker: Correct. In the past Panasonic/Sao Win and other strain gauge cartridges were designed almost in the same way that the ones by SS with one main difference that they worked according to the RIAA eq. curve

SS choosed to left the " cartridge " with its natural curve that is not similar/same than the RIAA curve: has high deviations comparing it to the RIAA curve.

One advantage of that aproach is that the signal does not pass for that " tortuose " RIAA inverse eq. proccess as any other cartridge but in the other side has the disadvantage that what you are hearing is different of what is in the recording due that does not conforms to the RIAA eq. curve.

So you hear differences because the signal is equalized in different way. If you use an external equalizer in your system you can change the signal performance, the equalized signal will have a different tonal balance that all other cartridges with out that equalization.

As with many audio subjects some of us don't give to much importance to many subjects, sometimes because we ignore it we have not the knowledge about and sometimes because we just don't care.

RIAA eq. curve is the standard and I mean it. For years is what was used in the LP recordings and existed a " war " down there for all the LP manufacturers accepted only one eq. curve. This not happen two years ago but 40+ years ago. As I said the RIAA eq. is the standard and till the recording manufacturers alond the RIAA do not change that standard all the records will came and comes with the RIAA eq. curve and not the SS one.

The SS is an alternative, any one of us decide what to do and what we want.

I remember very clear that when I visited a friend in USA he was sticky with the SS over all his other cartridges ( including the Lyra Olympos. ). When I heard his SS my first reaction was: impressive. After more time of playback I start to note that on recordings that I know very well things were happened in different way so different that I don't like it because music does not sounds that way.
I asked to switch to the Lyra ones and everything goes fine. The last day that he mounted again the SS and heard it for a minutes I just can't " support " what I was hearing an prefer to go to the airport.

But, that's me.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I'm not going to join in this technical argument, since I'm unqualified to contribute.
What I can say is that this is one hell of a transducer. Bearing in mind it's on what I consider the most neutral and transparent analog rig I've ever owned (Trans Fi Salvation rim drive tt and Terminator linear tracking arm), it's just complementing these so well.
The sound was initially 'light' but when true bass notes arrived and left in lightning fashion, I realised it was a cart with the fat cut out of the presentation.
It really IMHO takes what's great in digital, and combines these with all the hallmarks of what's unique about analog.
There just appears to be no sound of diamond thru wax as notes arise and decay naturally in a soundfield with a vanishingly low noise floor, unique in analog in my experience.
Dear Spiritofmusic: The subject is not really technical/academic and I'm not saying that your SG cartridge is a bad one because it is not: it is only different and because those differences IMHO we can't compare against any LOMC/MM/MI cartridge.

The point is that taking the measures that SS designer posted in other thread the SG system has a deviation swing of 2db between 50hz and 12khz ( this is in its equalization curve. ), that's not my information but the SS directly.

That 2b deviations in the SS curve you can compare against the inverse RIAA where any decent phono stage has a 0.1 db +,- over: 20hz to 20khz ( btw I ask the SS designer which were the measured deviations below 50hz and over 12khz with no single answer and I wonder why: could be because is even higher?. ).

That's is not technical or academic. It is as if you in a LOMC cartridge equalize the signal by 2dbs is some frequencies!!!!

IMHO that's is critical and makes the SG a different alternative that IMHO we can't compare against any other cartridge.

I'm not questioning that you or other persons like it no what I'm posting are only facts on what you are hearing. I really can't understand why the designer never disclose this information, information tha's critical.

Now, maybe you can understand when I say that you are hearing another/different recording in any single of your LPs because you are altering in heavy fashion what comes in the recording, simple as that.

Again, I'm not questioning you or that different alternative what I'm questioning is that we compare against the other alternatives LOMC/MM/MI because we are not comparing apples with apples: both are way different.

Regards and enjoy the music,

PLEASE STOP IT. You know NOTHING technically about my current design. You are a manufacturer who INSISTS on hiding that fact - because you have a hidden agenda. In fact, several of them. I have asked you repeatedly, as have MANY OTHERS on this and other forums, to STOP. You never do. As a result, I have told you NEVER to send me anything for repair - ever. Please never comment again on my products as you always do damage, and you never mention your true motives - one of which is to present yourself as some kind of expert. You are simply not. Again, please do NOT respond to this message, (which I know will be impossible for you to do) and just recede quietly into the background - for everyone's sake, even yours. Please think for a moment how many people you might have have misled, and alienated, because you insist on being the "expert".

Peter Ledermann/President/Soundsmith
Hi Peter, you may remember my phone call a couple of weeks back to you re your opinion of the significance of azimuth setting on lps not clamped while playing.
Well, I had the trial, and I liked it so much I bought your cart! One of the best audio decisions I've ever made.
My most abiding opinion of the cart is that unlike any other I've had in my system, it demonstrates a digital-like quality of notes rising from an almost non-existent noise floor, with minimal overhang, and decaying naturally into nothingness.
Except, unlike digital, even the best of, there is real tonal discrimination, and an amazing control of micro- and macro-dynamics.
I really feel it's unique in providing a perspective on music that combines the best of digital and analog qualities.
Spiritofmusic, Congratulations on your new cartridge and I'm glad it has opened a new window to your enjoyment of analog. You compared it to all of those other cartridges you used to own. Did you own those with your new turntable/arm combination or is your impression based on those cartridges on your former turntable/arm? What did the new cartridge replace?

Is this new cartridge dependent on Peter's phono box or can it be used with any phono amp?

If this thread is to be truly about the cartridge, would not a discussion about the technology be worthwhile? It's wonderful when a manufacturer joins these discussions. I'm sure Peter Ledermann could contribute much to our understanding of his cartridge. Sorry for so many questions, but a friend suggested I look into a Strainguage also, so I am interested.
Dear Slowlearner: First than all I agree with you that I'm expert on no-nothing and as everyone always willing to learn.

Second I'm not a seller and don't sale nothing, so don't worry.

Third, I have no agenda and nothing against you or your products. I respect you and your products and these is not the subject.

The main subject is very simple: conforms strictly to the RIAA eq. as any other cartridge/phono stage or not.

These were your words to TAS review and what you stated in this forum:

++++ " However, since the Strain Gauge is a DISPLACEMENT sensitive device, it automatically produces a basically flat response from a RIAA encoded groove, " ++++

and then added:

+++++ "
We are typically +/-1dB from 50Hz–12kHz—not bad
for this type of system. Above and below that, the arm-effects
that plague all types of cartridges enter into play " ++++

BASICALLY FLAT RESPONSE FROM A RIAA ENCODED GROOVES, how is that?: if a swing of 2 db from 50 hz to 12 khz is for you: basically flat well 3-4 or 1 db could be basically flat when any decent phono stage IMHO in reality is BASICALLY FLAT with a swing of 0'.2 db over a wider frequency: 20hz to 20khz.
Tha IMHO is BASICALLY FLAT and not those 2db from 50hz to 12khz that you states always. Don't you think?

One very polite reviewer stated:

++++ " Note that this is not a phono stage, the cartridge having a natural 6dB/octave roll-off. Pedants for accuracy will complain that the resultant output only approximates the RIAA curve " +++++

I can't understand why you are so angry when some one disclose these information/facts. If those information is wrong why not say it and disclose the correct/true information for all we audiophile/customers?

Which the problem that your customers be informed, at the end all are satisfied with?

I think that the newcomer have the right to know the true about the facts.

It is easy fro you to call me: " you are a liar, you are wrong. MY SG product conforms according the RIAA encoded grooves: 20hz to 20khz +,- 0.1db as any other decent phono stage ".

I have the right to questioning you or any other person when through your own site and through the net there is no single fact that confirm:


and all of us have the right to now because you make advertazing on a product for people can buy it with out knowing that critical issue.

How do you name that non-informed product marketing?

This is what I posted to the owners in this thread:

++++ "
I'm not saying that your SG cartridge is a bad one because it is not: it is only different " ++++

+++ " I'm not questioning that you or other persons like it no " +++++

+++ " Again, I'm not questioning you or that different alternative what I'm questioning is that we compare against the other alternatives LOMC/MM/MI " ++++

I'm not against you or your very good products but if all what is in the post is a lie then just say it and say it why is a lie. Tha's all.

Don't be angry and don't blame me because those facts. I did not invented, were your own words!

Regards and enjoy the music,
Peter, only the Zu 103 on my Salvation/Terminator. But I have a good recollection of esp. my previous Lyra Parnassus, and Transfiguration Temper and Orpheus, all of these on my Michell Orbe/SME V/Tom Evans Groove Plus SRX phono.
The Parnassus was unbelievably tone dense and rhythmic, really hypnotic, but definitely on the lush, romantic divide. The two Transfigurations were cooler and more neutral, and a lttle more ho-hum as a result.
I know it's a fruitless task to ascribe neutrality easily to an audio component, but I do believe the SG is close to combining the rhythmic drive of the Parnassus and the even handedness of the Transfigs, and with no aspect highlighted I'll call the SG very neutral, but involving.
It's really transparent, and it really allows notes to appear out of apparent nothingness, bloom naturally, and decay to nothing again. Other carts really sound like diamond in wax. You're not aware of this until you 'hear' it's absence.
And it's synergising nicely, speed artifacts minimised nicely with my rim drive tt, tangency artifacts minimised nicely with my linear tracking arm, and now tracking artifacts minimised nicely with the SG.
Am I overusing the word 'nicely'? LOL.
Peter, additionally the box is not a phono stage, but an 'energiser', so is an all-in-one system, although there are other units out there that can be substituted, valve based (Dave Slagle's comes to mind).
A BIG BIG plus point is future cost: replacement stylii are only a few hundred $s - Lyra Atlas replacment is $4000 I believe!?
Thanks Spiritofmusic. I was not sure if your new cartridge needed that "energiser" or not. The replacement stylus cost is wonderful. I wish they were all so inexpensive. Congratulations again.

I have heard these a couple of times at shows, but always in unfamiliar systems so could not separate the sound of the cartridge. Enjoy your completed analog front end.
You may want to read the recent review on the SG-220 Strain Gauge by Jack Roberts of Dagogo, and almost more importantly, the comments from both an owner, and an early developer. Fascinating.

With that in mind, please understand that there is a long history of SG cartridges, ALL of which have varying response curves. There is a great review on the web showing the numerous models of Panasonic units, all of which varied between each other, not to mention between themselves. SG designs are far more sensitive than MC to variations, therefore, are far more difficult to build.

Somce have asked why no total RIAA is needed - and I came up with a very different way of explaining this, and did so first to Micheal Fremer, the explanation of which he used in his review. Simply, when you CUT with RIAA, (boosting the highs and cutting the lows with a roughly 6dB curve) you are essentially cutting a CONSTANT DISPLACMENT groove, BECAUSE you are cutting it with a magnetic cutting head, whose diplacement is normally a function of frequency. You see, when you input a flat volume/amplitude signal to a magnetic head, it cuts wide displacement groove for low frequencies, and less wide as the frequency goes up. With RIAA, you affecting that, and cutting, as said above, a nearly constant DISPLACEMENT groove. If you play that back with a diplacement sensitive device, you get an essentially flat playback response. If desired, VERY little EQ is needed to flatten it completely so you are in complete agreement with RIAA.

When we first introduced ours many years ago, we did not use any EQ to achieve a maximally flat response. This was the same as was done with the RAM design I worked on almost 40 years ago, as well as Matsushita. There were different philosophies regarding any use of slight EQ; some did, some did not. John Iverson, Jeff Rowland, and others did. RAM did not. I did not in the very early Soundsmith designs, but changed my mind early on. I think our website may not reflect that.

I have also made very significant improvements and changes to the cart design over the many years, as well as having included very slight EQ to totally flatten the response - this was done WITHOUT adding any additional active circuitry, which I am totally against.

I have experimented with two TUBE based systems, each designed by my close friends, Jim Fosgate and Richard Majestic (of RAM), both of whom as some of the finest audio engineers in the world. The FOsgate design was +/- 1/8dB (1/4 db total variation) RIAA from 20-20KHZ. Although interesting, they did not compare well with the solid state highly linear design I make. There were NO transformers used in their designs, for which I am glad, as it is a totally unnecessary component, proposed by someone else as a method for the requirede reversing the phase of one channel of a displacement sensitive design. In magnetic designs, they reverse one channel fo the cartridge wiring internally. Why? The groove walls of a stereo record are cut out of phase.

Again, I am totally against adding such a component (transformer) where it is simply not needed at all. There are far more linear and elegant ways to achieve the channel reversal needed for displacement type cartridges, WITHOUT adding unnecessary, non-linear and frequency limiting circuit components.

Considering the real world considerable variation of the Panasonic cartridges, and the efforts I have made over these many years to achieve uniformity of manufacture and specification of my cartridges, I am glad that they have been well received by so many owners. They are a very different system of vinyl replay, and while certainly not for everyone, they have made their place in the homes of many "believers".

This gives me no small amount of satisfaction.

Peter Ledermann/President/Soundsmith
Peter, I know we've conversed on my Salvation tt/Terminator arm thread as to the merits of rim/direct drive v belt drive. I know we have somewhat divergent views, but importantly, both of us are really happy with our respective choices.
I actually auditioned the SG on my dealer's AMG Viella tt with AMG 12" arm. Was v.much impressed with this fantastically designed and carefully engineered belt drive/pivoted arm combination. But v.much convinced my choices right for me.
Anyhow, if you are in the hunt for a cart to replace your AirTight, I'd really urge you to audition this baby. It's apparent lack of typical analog artifacts is quite disconcerting to start, because their absence is so noticeable, and this engenders some unfamiliarity. Then, a couple of tracks in you realise you're not really hearing the medium anymore, just the message. And now all is relaxing and involving. It's highly transparent neutral qualities surely a good match for your SME 30/12.
My analogy is that it has the characterlessness of the best digital downloads, with the full flavour of the best lp playback.
A real achievment.
Dear Slowlearner: ++++ " I think our website may not reflect that.

I have also made very significant improvements and changes to the cart design over the many years, as well as having included very slight EQ . ..." +++++

as I posted I'm only posted the facts are/were around your SG cartridges ( that's the information I had. ) and this is the very first time I read those statements you posted here that you never disclosed over the net or in the SG magazyne reviews. Good!

Thank's for your newest/latest explanation/information because now I understand that with that Eq. you aplied now your SG conforms according the RIAA curve. Easy to understand it.

Regards and enjoy the music,
My take on analog v digital, and how the SG pertains to this. Analog has the better information floor, digital has the better noise floor. So, notes rise from a silent background in digital than analog where notes rise from, and fall into, a noisier background. But, conversely the density of information is so much higher with analog, that the higher noise floor pales into insignificance when compared to the bottleneck of information that digital provides us with.
What I believe the SG is doing (this is not a fact obviously, just conjecture), is providing all the positive information floor advantages that is inherent with analog, with a much reduced noise floor, so that the undisputed plus points of digital presentation are included in the sound.
This may be unique in my experience.
Dear Spiritofmusic: Other that the SG self technology what you are hearing is a lot lower cartridge signal manipulation/proccess and these facts means lower distortions than a normal LOMC/MM/MI cartridges.

That's what you are hearing, you are right on that.

regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Slowlearner: ++++ " - one of which is to present yourself as some kind of expert. You are simply not " +++++

over the time you always " insult " me in many ways when I never did or do it about your self or your products.

You posted I'm a manufacturer and several times I told you I'm not but it's obvious that because you questioning an answer is need it.

Things are that a few years ago I decided to explore the boundaries the " last frontier of traditional analog and was co-designer of a Phonolinepreamp designed expressly to use it by my self and no any one else.

When my self unit was finished a gentleman asked if he can have my unit if we can build one for him and we agree. I never promoted my unit with this gentleman, was he whom asked.

After that other people asked and we builded 8 units an that was all, today are 8 owners with a breackthrough nice active high gain Phonolinepreamp. The unit is not on sale, so please don't ask about.

As I posted and I agree with you: I'm not an expert on nothing. Like many other people that post in Agon: I'm first than all a music lover and an audiophile.

Here you can read how my unit measures ( it is not a simple spec: it's a real measure. ) on the RIAA eq. ( and beyond it. ) where the chart shows both channels and both channels with a RIAA deviation lower than 0.015 db:

IMHO not bad for a rockie like me .

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Raul,
now you are faced with something you are doing all the time when you are labelling other Agon membes as manufacturers, marketing or photography guys when it is not true. How does i feel if it happens to you? You see that this is not a fair approach.
you should stop this kind of unfair labellings and don't put people into a corner you don't like to be in, too.

Just keep on being a tolerant audiophile rather than going on crusades or virtual fights against Dertonearm, Slowlearner and others.

Hope you are learning!
Dear Thuchan: I think that or you did not read it the posts here or did not understand it.

I did not labelling Slowlearner: he was whom labelled me and this is not the first time.

In the other side, as I posted here I have not against P.L. or his good designs ( and certainly not a cruzade as you said. Please don't brought here your D. friend because you know exactly all the scenario down there. ). All about was to explain some statements that IMHO were not congruent with his measures.
He was kindy enough and for the first time ( anywhere ) he explained why today his SG conforms according the RIAA and " problem " fixed.

I think that my posts and his clear explanation post about was a very important and critical service to all audio community because nopw all of us have first hand information on that critical RIAA subject in the SG product.

If you consider non-appropiate what I did is up to you but today I'm less ignorant than yesterday ( as all the audiophiles that read this thread and owners of the SG cartridge. ) thank's to the Slowlearner explanation!

Thuchan, no one is perfect not even you.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Thuchan: +++++ " How does i feel if it happens to you? You see that this is not a fair approach.. " +++

why any one can give an advise to other person when that advisor does not followed/follows what he is advising? and this is in reference to you when supported/promoted and still do it to your Dertonarm friend ( Daniel Dietrich. ) that cheated/defrauded ( fortunatelly not me. The information came from other sources. ) so many people some of them with 50K+ dollars.

I brought here his name because you refered to him in your post.

You posted several times ( as Halcro, Syntax and Nandric. ) in favor of him after his frauds were knews in this and other net forums.
Of course he is your " friend " and you was not cheated ( yet? ) by him but what if you were one of those in good faith cheated persons that loosed big dollars in his hands?

" Hope you are learning! "

Dear Raul,
you tell the world that you are learning but in fact you don't learn anything. You want to demonstrate the world that you are an expert. in the end you are demonstrating in so many threads that you are not, also here. I wouldn't mind if it is only about facts and exchange of opinions about our hobby.
I told you so many times that what you are writing and blaming about Dertonearm and others is not good for you. It shows that you are not able to exchange arguments but you take it personally.
I just read in another thread that you are happy having defeated Dertonearm (which is in fact a misjudgement). What does this show to us? Is it about victory you are looking for? Do you need personal satisfaction? Is this the motivation of your ongoing accusations? You are demanding receiving all information from Slowlearner on behalf of the audio community. Which audio community do you believe you are representing? It looks to me you have some kind of misconception.
May I ask you to return to the Raul of earlier times when you did not have that kind of megalomania.
Personally, I consciously ignore all posts by Rauliruegas. When his passive aggressive bombast hijacks a thread, I ignore the thread. I'm on the verge of ignoring this one despite its otherwise valuable content.
Dear Wrm57: Glad to know it. As I said: no one is perfect.

Thuchan: I gave up with you. This as any other thread is not a contest for me. Have fun.

Regards and enjoy the music,
In defense of Rauliruegas (not that he needs MY help)......The s/g cartridge just sounds "different" to me. Yes there are lots of things it does well, but the total sound is not something I personally would want to live with. I thank Raul for bringing the possibility that it somehow changes the RIAA curve. Every component sounds a bit different in the system that it is in.... I would suspect that the s/g sounds quite wonderful in Spirit's system.
Wrm, please don't leave me, or my thread, LOL! It's mine, not Raul's. I'm happy to contribute further info on my experience with it. Stringreen, I agree it sounds a little 'different', but in my book this is a big increase in esp. transparency and tracking. I really feel it has the least 'character' of any top end MC I've had in my system, but is a little frustrating in it's sensitivity to correct setup. At the moment I am slightly having to readjust my sub crossover levels on my spkrs wrt previous carts in my system.
Spirit, the Dagogo review of SG-220 is remarkable. Which version of the SG preamp did you purchase? Have you tried running its fixed outputs through your prior preamp? How does the sound of your digital front end compare through these respective preamps?
Spirit, no worries, I'm hanging in! :)
Dave, I've settled on the basic unit, SG-200, which means I'm obliged to use my current preamp (Hovland HP-200 tube). So, not able to compare Soundsmith's more expensive dedicated line input energiser/preamps.
One thing I can categorically say is that even though the SG doesn't sound like digital, it has allowed my analog and digital front ends to converge.
What I mean is that it uniquely brings to analog replay aspects that I've only experienced thru the best digital ie notes rising from silence, minimal tracking errors, and natural decay into nothingness, BUT combining these with the best attributes familiar to lp replay ie exquisite tonality, transparency, and superior micro- and macro-dynamics.
The combination of digital precision and analog bloom is really enlightening.
Let's use logic: Decades of cutting with like-type cutters and like-type cartridges has built a large knowledge and experience base. The balance of recordings is based on original theory as well as experience of playing back on conventional cartridges in the studio.

The strain gauge is a different device and will act differently. I follows that it would be a great stroke of luck and coincidence if it produced the same balance that the engineers were working toward with conventional cartridges.

This is not bias, the above is just solid logic.

If any given person loves the balance of the strain gauge in his system, fantastic. It would be a long stretch to proclaim it the best based on this small sample.

I would love top see plots of frequency sweeps from test records, played by the strain gauge and then a conventional cartridge in the same arm and table, except running through a well known, technically excellent phono stage in the latter case.

Given his time and money invested I am surprised Soundsmith was not pre-armed with this information.

You spend your money and take your chance. I hope anyone trying it loves it, and I likewise hope Soundsmith will refund anyone not liking it within a reasonable time period of obtaining it.
As I've said I'm not an expert to comment on the technical aspects of this discussion.
My q to those who are skeptical of it's approach is what aspects of sound should I be listening for to demonstrate the sound is 'wrong'.
Does this mean that the sound can be 'wrong' but still sound excellent?
My conclusion so far is that the presentation is faster than anything I've heard before, but not at the expense of harmonic development.
However, warm and euphonic it ain't. Maybe this is where it's 'wrong'.
My understanding is that the SG has a very slight deviation from the RIAA curve. IF that is the case, then I would think you would hear a different tonal balance, ie less flat or certain frequencies being slightly more emphasized than others. But Peter L. writes that that has been changed now, so I don't know what you would listen for.

If you like the sound and you compared it directly to other more conventional cartridge designs, then it is clear you made your choice with deliberation and you should continue to enjoy your analog front end.

Perhaps others with this cartridge could also describe how it sounds different from other cartridges.
Spiritofmusic, I have only heard the Straingauge once at a show for a short period. Compared to the Hyperion in the same room the Straingauge's tonality was a little off to my ears. The female vocal did not sound quite right to me. I was listening to a record I brought with me and am very familiar with.

Maybe with more exposure to the Straingauge I would come to a different conclusion.
Sarcher, interestingly, vocals are one area where I feel the SG excels. But ACCURATE tonality on voices, or instruments that's another subject. I guess if it sounds different to a consensus amongst other carts, that could/would be an issue.
Peter, if there is any criticism, it's that the bass is a little different in nature than I'm used too. Initially, I thought it was a little light, lacking in heft, but on deeper analysis, it's just so darn fast. Notes really start and stop, but harmonic weight IS there. It's possible that this is being highlighted by the speed of the tt/arm it's attached too. So the presentation is a little airy as a description, but slam is there, ONLY when it's present in the recording. So many other carts sound over-grounded with bass that leaks into the midrange, dulling the presentation.
But, to be sure, some re education is going on. I'm about to demo NAT 70W/ch SET monos, and this may emphasise a stronger bottom end that could well synergise with the cart nicely (my Hovland Radia power amp has always been a little ethereal at lower freqs).
Spiritofmusic, you should be commended for being open minded about potential flaws of a new thing you are excited about. That's rare.

I would hate to see you get too caught up in watching for what is not right though. It's a delicate balance.....look for what might bug you long term while you have a chance to return, but don't look so hard that it turns you into a maniac looking for flaws! I've struggled with that over the decades in the industry, luckily finding a happy balance where I can focus on deducing flaws but sit back and fall asleep to the music when I want, turning off the analytical side.

Your emphasizing the leanness, pointing out the bass seems lean but then saying it does not when there is impact suggests to me that you are likely onto something, a light presentation in the upper bass through lower midrange, and a slight prominence through the brightness range (1 to 5khz). That's what I've heard from this type cart (while cautioning myself and others that they can't all be called identical!).

If you recognize some deviations (the above described will make it seem there is more detail, which you also have said), so now try to note if that personality is making you avoid some records you really like. Try playing records you like but know are a bit lean. Then decide if the additional leanness causes you to not want to play these records. If so, you may get sick of this cartridge. If no, maybe you can enjoy it for a long time with it enhancing your musical enjoyment. Remember, that is what it is about, reveling in the music. If it, or any component makes you focus more on the component then something is wrong, and over time you'll tire of that. Remember, it's not about impressing yourself and others, unless you've chosen that as your course.
Omsed, you've made some v. salient points. IMO, carts and loudspkrs are the hardest components to get right in the analog chain, being the effective transducers, and hence in effect the portal to what's being listened to. Additionally, they end up determining the character of the system. Is it any coincidence that spkrs esp. are always being upgraded by audio nuts such as ourselves and others?
Your description of upper bass/lower mid bass leanness could well be accurate. However I do believe this is preferable to the opposite ie euphonically overwarm (oh, how I remember those mid bass coloured demos of the Linn Sondek LP12 in the 80s, when that tt ruled the analog world, at last in the UK! And Koetsus).
What's interesting is that I used to get a superficially similar tonal balance when using the Lyra Skala, but this resulted in a hard sound with strident treble. The SG, otoh, is a touch lean, but still rich, with no screechiness thru the mid/treble registers.
I'm really getting a sound that breathes, esp. guitar and vocals that take off and have no constraints.
This fast sound is highlighted by the rest of my rig (rim drive tt/linear tracking arm), and I fancy with my 101dB efficient Zu Definitions 4 spkrs an interesting synergy may come with SET amps.
So in conclusion, I'm aware of tendency to leanness, but the richness is still there, and this cart still remains the least characterful I've used, and is opening doors to greater appreciation of analog sound.
I deeply appreciate the depth of the comments being made here (with an obviousl exception of one participant). In the past 40 years that I have lived with/created/compared the Strain Gauges I have made and those that have been made by others, I have become all too aware that nothing is perfect. It is always a balance. At the recent Axpona show where I was asked to do a seminar on cartridge design (available on - under "Reproductive Private Parts - of a phono cartridge) I attemtped in a limited time to explain some of the challenges. One interesting moment in our show room was playing a new test pressing that was said to be wonderful. With the Strain gauge, the peaks were distorted. I immediately thought I had not set the Schoeder arm up well, but decided to play some other reference disks I brought. No problem. Hmmm.

Then played the disk with the Hyperion. No distortion.

It seems that the SG continues to share the space between that of a research device for analog, and that of a delightfully revealing and differrent animal. For 5 days out of the month, I prefer listening to the Hyperion. All of the other time I am dragged over to the revelations of the Strain Gauge system.

Being a designer, it is hard to not be tuned in to listening for flaws - anywhere and everywhere they exist. For me, it is to the Strain Gauge's credit that it drags me back to the music most of the time, which is what drew me in way back when.

Peter Ledermann/President/Soundsmith
Spiritofmusic, really glad you are so open-minded compared to most, who have to say "it is technically, engineering-wise, and sonically perfect and beyond reproach (because I bought it said under the breath).

That you love it is great....that it brings you closer to the music is great. Enjoy, have fun, I hope you continue to love it.

How much did it cost?
Omsed, the installer is coming over to fine tune the cart. I'll talk about apparent bass leanness with him.
My opinion is that the cart is so quick, bass notes have substantially less overhang than any other I've had in my system, and this could be construed as lightness. Anyhow, it's an area that I'm keeping an eye/ear on. Personally, I'm loving the lightning speed of my analog rig now, feeling it matches the neutrality of my excellent cd player.
Price is $4300 in the UK, c$6500 US.
This is the first time I have read this thread, and I did so from top to bottom, as I recall reading about Peter's SG designs in a UK HiFi magazine about ten years ago while attending an audio show in San Francisco and taking a lunch break at a nearby restaurant with friends. Passed by Michael Fremer (not too tall) and Richard Vandersteen (taller) in the halls a couple of times.

A few comments about the above "discourse" come to mind:
- Raul, you can't write English to save your life; I can't understand what the hell you're talking about and even why you get so bent out of shape about another designer's approach to cartridges. So what? Give it a rest; there is no RIGHT or WRONG in this industry. It's technical design and execution for ART'S SAKE!
- If there was as much passion among the general public as there is expressed in this forum about the technical aspects of components designed to reproduce the artistic and emotional content of music, there would be audiophiles on every street corner. But, sadly, such is not the case.
- Spiritofmusic: I don't understand why you have to have anyone come over to "fine tune" your cart. That seems to be utter nonsense to me; you should be able to master this tuning yourself if you are going to own and operate such componentry. I would never own audio gear that I would not be comfortable learning, commanding and controlling all adjustments for.
- When the above examples of equipment focus take center stage over the real-time enjoyment of music, "Houston: We have a problem..."
- I am a hypocrit for even venturing to respond to this thread in the first place, therefore, carry on...
Steve, The dealer is actually coming over to install a new cart, the one in my system being the shop demo version, so a little beyond 'finetuning' (my incorrect choice of words).
I'll freely admit, my knowledge of cart setup is poor (and engine tuning too, hence my handsomely paid car mechanic!), and since this cart needs v.careful adjustment of azimuth in particular, I'm happy leaving it to the person I'm handing £4300 over to.
Steve, English is not Raul's native language.

Spiritofmusic, Is your dealer planing to set up the cartridge before it has broken-in or is he simply going to install it with proper alignment? I would think that he would wait some time for the suspension to loosen before he does the final adjustments, especially if azimuth is so critical. My dealer installed my cartridge and then came back after 40 hours to readjust and fine tune.

To Steve's point, my dealer (and others) have taught me a lot about analog set up and adjustments. It is worth the effort to learn how to do a reasonable job yourself as I think this will provide its owns rewards and for many vinyl lovers, it is an integral part of the hobby.
Dear Stevecham: Yes, unfortunatelly the English language is not my native one. Anyway, how is that almost every one understand my posts but you?. Take a look:

Now please let me know what of these statements that I posted you don't understand because you are " blaming " me because my english: ok, let me know:

+++++ " SS choosed to left the " cartridge " with its natural curve that is not similar/same than the RIAA curve: has high deviations comparing it to the RIAA curve.

One advantage of that aproach is that the signal does not pass for that " tortuose " RIAA inverse eq. proccess as any other cartridge but in the other side has the disadvantage that what you are hearing is different of what is in the recording due that does not conforms to the RIAA eq. curve.

So you hear differences because the signal is equalized in different way. If you use an external equalizer in your system you can change the signal performance, the equalized signal will have a different tonal balance that all other cartridges with out that equalization.

As with many audio subjects some of us don't give to much importance to many subjects, sometimes because we ignore it we have not the knowledge about and sometimes because we just don't care.

RIAA eq. curve is the standard and I mean it. " +++++

Regards and enjoy the music,
I don't own a SS SG , but I do know the difference eliminating a couple soldering joints makes between my turntable and preamp makes. I can only imagine what eliminating a circuit in my phono stage would do. If both normal phono stages and the SS SG offer a flat response, but the SG handles the signal in a more careful manner than the standard RIAA circuitry; it would only makes sense that those hearing the SG would be hearing a more accurate playback. It doesn't seem like their is room for debate on the subject more than personal opinions on the sound. The less a signal contends with the better. Am I missing an important part of the equation? Besides humans?
Tanathen, the sound sure seems accurate and lifelike, a quantum leap beyond other SOTA carts I've run. I have to say I've heard no colourations in vocals on any disc I'm pretty familiar with - Kate Bush still doesn't sound like Frank Sinatra!
Fine tuning of the cart has really paid dividends, the bass has really locked in, and the final piece of this particular audio jigsaw has been completed. Now, I'm getting a naturally extended and warm bass, but still faster than any other analog I know, complementing superlative mids and highs.
Just heard the maxxed install with NAT SET amps running thru my v. efficient Zu spkrs. Wow, I'm totally sold on this sound, and the SG cart really sounds limitless in this chain. Now, where's that chequebook?!
I would love to hear it on my et2 and sota.....someday, for now it's just me and my grado. It sounds great when I finally get a chance to listen, which isn't nearly as often as the doctor ordered. I'm willing to bet the farm the SG is in a different galaxy nevermind league. I'm glad you are loving it, soundsmith is a class act and Pete certainly knows what he's doing.
Tanathen, the cart my SG replaced is no slouch and if it wasn't for hearing Peter's baby, I wouldn't have swapped.
This is the Zu Audio Denon 103 ($900), modded by the Expert Stylus And Cartridge Company ESCCo, in England ($500). Total giant killer. See my thread "ESCCo modded Zu 103".