Review: Empire EDR.9 Moving Magnet Cartridge

Category: Analog

Vintage Empire EDR.9 Moving Magnet Pickup

This Vintage Moving Magnet Cartridge came highly recommended for good reason. Out of the box the EDR.9 delivers music that is in another class of sound reproduction when compared to the respected Ortofon OM-30 Super. Until now I enjoyed the Ortofon. However as Cole Porter wrote "Night and Day" - that is exactly the difference between these two cartridges- Night and Day!

The Empire EDR.9 gives greater definition and clarity, opening up a wider and higher soundstage that included more precise detail and lusher sound. The EDR.9 has an extended dynamic range that is aparent during the quietest of passages extending into the higher volumes that my amplifier can provide without beginning to clip. I noticed details on my reference recordings now that went unheard before.

Anticipating the EDR's arrival in the mail I began listening to my favorite recordings with a ear bent towards critical evaluation. I played at least a dozen of my favorites throughout the 3 week wait. The cartridge arrived complete with a glass stand holding a stylus brush, stylus cleaner, two sets of hardware(black and silver}, a screwdriver and a warranty-user manual and spec sheet plus one pair of new ears....After the package arrived I did a quick set up cleaning the contacts on this brand new 25 year old vintage cartridge. After attaching the new cartridge to the detachable JVC QL Y66F tone arm wand and conecting the arm wires to the the cartridge body I was almost ready to begin the begin.

After reinstalling the tone arm wand I brought all values on my computer servo controled JVC QL Y66F turntable back to zero - rebalanced the arm, checked overhang as well as verticle and azimuth alignment. I dialed in the values for tracking force, anti-skating and Q-damping and chose a record.

Believing that there are more then 2 kinds of music(country&western) I started with Arthur Rubinstein's live Chopin performances. Recorded at The Manhattan Center in 1959 & 61 Rubenstein is at his best.These performances were concieved of as recording sessions and employed RCA studios state of the art Reference Recording equiment and techniques.

During the Funeral March-Sonata #2 in B Flat Minor, Op. 35 - I went into a trance.The sound was equisite. It was all there, all I could do was listen, I was transmuted, it was an epiphany.

As the piece ended I heared the virbrato pedal release! that snapped me out of it and brought me back to earth - SOMETHING I HAD NEVER HEARD BEFORE ! Right out of the box with zero hours, no break in, it was a new day. Music that was always there set free for me to hear for the first time.

There was more. All across the board the sound was lower, higher, softer woody, crystal, smoother, sharper, rounder and full. During a psychobilly rave up The Cramps spring reverb snapped like it was a Fender Twin in the corner of my living room. Horris Silver's percussion piano on "Quicksilver" , recorded live at Birdland, exposed the counterpoint figures against Art Blakey's brushwork suspended in clean clear silence. Just like ringing a bell.

Layer after layer of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound remained translucent as instument after instrument joined into the emotional mix of sound piled on again and again behind Darlene Love's cries of teenage lament while singing "Christmas Baby Please Come Home" by Bobby Soxx and the Bluejeans. Masterful !

I have been told this Empire EDR.9 outperforms many MC Cartridges costing many times the price paid. I believe it. This cartridge design, more than 25 year old, may be the best MM cartridge in its class. It is an understatment to say it is an outstanding value.

If you don't have an MC phono input, rather then adding a MC phono stage or step up transformer that could degrade your signal, think about using a high quality MM pick up.The MM Empire EDR.9 is a great choice, and a better value then using a high priced high output Moving Coil Cartridge.

The Empire EDR.9 Moving Magnet is a fine musical instument. It recreates the sound of music Live. Never have I heard music like this in my home only in the clubs and concert halls have my ears been so blessed.

BTW Although this cartridge was manufactured 3 miles from where I grew up in NYC, I had to send to France to find one! Still a bargain, thanks Raul !

Best Regards
Groovey Records

Listening to The Rolling Stones-Metamorphosis-Decca 6.30118 Vinyl Box Set
The Rolling Stones Story

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Click to view my Virtual System

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Interesting observations. I am amazed that any cartridge would function well after 25 years in the box.
I once had an Empire 598 turntable which was a very good design and worked very well. However, at the time, no self respecting audiophile would look at the Empire cartridge...we all bought Shure cartridges. Maybe we missed something.
Great close up picture ! You must have one helluva camera?
Dear groovey: +++++ " I have been told this Empire EDR.9 outperforms many MC Cartridges costing many times the price paid. " +++++

And is totally true. The EDR.9 ( that I own ) like other high end MM cartridges compete ( bis a bis ) with any MC cartridge, the problem is that the people does not know it: there is a " cult " for the MC cartridges and like Eldartford posted: " no self respecting audiophile would look at the Empire cartridge " or to any other top MM cartridge.

My self design Essential 3150 has two independent and dedicated Phono stages, one MC and one MM. I think that today is a good time to start the " cult " to MM cartridges, they are really great ones.

Groovey, very nice style that you have writing the review, congratulations for that!!!.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Rauliruegas...We did "look at" MM cartridges, Shure and Pickering among others, but for some reason Empire had a bad reputation. I used MC cartridges for a while, Ortofon and Signet, and I liked them better than the Shure V15 models. However, I got totally fed up with the non-replaceable stylus situation, and lack of support for non-current models, so I went back to Shure. With the advent of CDs, my LP playback became less important to me.

A Tandberg preamp that I still own also has two separate phono preamp sections, MM and MC. However, the circuit configurations and transistor types are identical, with only resistor value changes to adjust gain. What approach did you take in your design?
well, after reading jean's ongoing proclamations of high quality MM reproduction, raul's specific endorsement and this review were enough to convince me to give one a try. i found one at AVCR in oregon for $100 shipped (one left kids!) i love finding diamonds in the rough (pun intended!)
After reading your review, I reinstalled my EDR9 and apparently did it right this time and find it does sound
very good indeed. Would compare it favorably to the Clearaudio Aurum Beta S on my other Turntable, also a MM.
Since the Beta S is about five times the price, the EDR9
is very good value. Raul sells these on E Bay from time
to time, however,my delivery from France was Slo-o-o-w!
Dear Eldartford: The phono stages in the Essential 3150 ( MC/MM ) are similar about the inverse RIAA eq. but different in some other subjects, for example: the MC stage works with bipolar transistors and the MM one with Fets. We found that the Fets are not very good for MC stages and that the Fets works very well on MM stages and have ( in this application ) less distorion/noise than the bipolars.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Thanks for all the good comments I really think installing the EDR.9 was one of the smartest moves I could have made while preparing to put together a new system. I plan to put in dedicated AC lines from the main to the Power Amp and the line components. Right now I am putting together how best to proceed.

Eldarfort one of the moderators at the Vinyl engine treasures his Empire 598 which he has painstakingly restored and modded, look up Euclid at the gallery there

Thorman Thanks I had fun playing with the camera it was a timed macro shot using auto focus and reflective light with a Nikon digital 5700. It shows how dirty even the cleanest looking record can be.

Raul- Thanks for the help! The EDR.9 is all you said, It's more of a rave then a scientificly approached Review

Musicdoc & Glrikaby- it wasn't too much of a leap of faith with all the good word out there all I did was pass it on

Now I have too get another stylus before they are all gone !

Best Regards

Groovey Records

Listening to

RUN DMC Raising Hell Profile Records Pro 1217 Original Pressing
opened today played for the first time 20 years old
I hear tell that Empire morphed into our contemporary Benz Micro... same company ... a wonerful cartridge too.
is anyone else using this cartridge experiencing any upper frequency "hardness" or distortion with dynamic transients? i compulsively re-checked my setup, and it ameliorated the harshness/distortion somewhat. in addition, the sound seems to be more "natural" with time in an overall sense. perhaps this relates to break-in?
follow-up to my previous post: i suspect my observations are due to a cartridge/tonearm mis-match. i failed to research the compatibility of this cartridge with my arm prior to impulsively purchasing.
follow-up to my follow-up (getting a bit lonely here :-) anyway, re-installed the EDR.9 on a more appropriate arm on a different table, and the difference is significant--essentially reinforcing what groovey and raul have reported all along. a few caveats: surface noise is greater than i have been accustomed to, but even on my back-up table the degree of detail, musicality, and frequency extension are impressive, essentially making this a non-issue for me. also, i would advise after putting a few miles on the cartridge to back off on tracking force somewhat. i've gone down to 1.2 grams to good effect.