Review: Shelter 201 Cartridge

Category: Analog

Finally, a good match for my Thorens TD190 turntable,
as I prefer the automatic feature even though my
MMF5 Music Hall has had a better sound. Classical music
of all types from Symphonies to String Quartets is my
vinyl of choice. The Shelter 201 is the newly
introduced MM version, a first for Shelter. It's
full robust sound with good detail, compares very
favorbly with the Clearaudio Aurum Beta S,also a MM
unit,a $500 cartridge compared to the $200 list price
of the Shelter 201.The Shelter is somewhat warmer,
more like the wood Grados. It does have somewhat
better detail than the Grado and more the brilliance
of the Aurum Beta S (even with a plain elliptical tip).
It stands out from its peer group as an outstanding value with an attention holding listenable sound that would put it at are near the top of the group of other cartridges I have used in the lower or middle price range. It took all of 10 minutes to set up on my Thorens. A line across the top though perhaps not intended as a cartridge overhang mark, seems to work well in alignment. The tracking force range is 1.5 to 2.0. We set it at l.75. Apparently the 50 ohm impedance caused a problem on the pre-amp for the previous owner or he did not like to robustness of the sound. I purchased the 201 with about 12 hours previous use and am relistening to all my records as this is written. Over the years, I have drifted back and
forth between MM and MC and have decided that the
sound itself is the best measure for judgement. I hear bass not heard before and an ambiance that should not be present in this priced unit, along with a blow away sound and virtually no surface noise on good vinyl.The value for the price is outstanding and Shelter should be proud of this cartridge!

Associated gear
Thorens TD190 Turntable, Harmon Kardon
HK3480 Receiver, Klipsch RB15 (small)

Similar products
Denon DL160 & 103, Shure V15 III & 5,
AT 440ML, Sumiko Blue Point & Special,
Clearaudio Aurum Beta S, Empire EDR9,
Goldring 1012 & 1042, Grado Platinum.
While the Shelter may be a fine cartridge, I can't help but see a bit of "audiophile irony" here: the Shelter, which is probably a gussied up Sumiko Pearl (a $95 cartridge) which may, in fact, even be a gussied up version of an even cheaper cartridge being compared favorably to the Clearaudio Aurum Beta (a $500 cartridge) which is probably just a gussied up AT 95 (a $50 cartridge).

Anyone spot a cartridge trend here?
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I had one and returned it to Elusive Disc, when the Distributor could not or would not tell me why this cartridge, basically a duplicate of the Pearl, cost twice as much as a Pearl. What was $100 better ? They never would answer, and Elusive Disc took it back.
The Pearl has a .2 x .8 bonded elliptical stylus. The
201 has a .3 x .7 elliptical stylus. Peering closely
with the naked eye and a magnifying glass, it does appear
the 201 stylus pierces the stylus shaft which would normally qualify it as a "nude" elliptical. However, the
color on the back side is different than the stylus side,
which may mean adhesive was used even though the shaft was
pierced. Shelter's sheet does not say bonded or nude.
Obviously, stylus quality can vary considerably depending
on the supplier, the polish etc., so whether this difference accounts for the price differential, you decide.
There are other reasons the Shelter *might* justify the higher price. They may have taken a page out of Grado's book. It's my understanding that the whole Grado Prestige series is made on one production line. Grado then runs them through QA for frequency response, linearity, and trackability, and badges and prices them according to how well they perform. And they get a price range of $40 to $180 out of this "same" cartridge.

Plus, the difference in stylus dimensions indicates that the Shelter and Sumiko are not *exactly* the same.