Thanks for the great review. As a budget concious planar 3 owner it's looking more and more like a Denon dl160 is in my future.
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I would never warn a Rega owner away from the Denon DL-160. I've owned two and both were superb. (I've also used them on Denon and Luxman tables.) They're a very unique and wonderful cartridge and as a bonus, easy to setup and completely un-fussy. Brad at Sounds & Images in Linwood, NJ introduced me to them (on a Denon DP-47F turntable, which I also bought) and I've been hooked ever since. I just ordered a new turntable, with an arm that is probably better suited to an MM, so that's why I got the Shure. But I definetely see a third DL-160 in my future at some point. Cheers!
Based on your very thoughrow review of the M97xE cart, and my suffering with a very harsh and shrilly Goldring 1012GX cart on my MH mmf-5 TT, I decided to buy one of these little Shure carts.
I recieved it yesterday in the mail and set it up on my TT last night. I put around 5 hours on it last night, and so far, about 6 or 7 hours today.
All I can say is that I am very impressed and happy with the M97 cart so far. I am hoping it will open up just a tad bit more on the top end though. It sounds excellent and has all the qualities that you described in your review. Don't get me wrong, I can easily live with the treble the way it is, but it would be nice to be just a little more open.
What kind of changes did you hear once the cart broke in more? Anything?
Anyway, here's a quick run-down of my system, just so you know it is capable of reproducing the fine details.....
Integrated Amp: Consonance M100SE / 6550 output tubes
Phono Preamp: Audio Alchemy VIB / set at 47k & 270pF
Turntable: Music Hall mmf-5
Cartridge: Shure M97xE
Loudspeakers: Triangle Zephyr
IC: MagWire Naked
Spkr. Cables: Signal Cable / Stout
I bought a Shure M97xE for my SME Series III (the lightweight one) on a home made deck based around the old Goldring Lenco GL75, and I've found that two things have made huge improvements.
First cleaning the records made for a much smoother sound (I used the Gnosti Disco antistat - manual, but effective).
Second, cleaning the stylus with LAST stylus cleaning fluid all but eliminated surface noise on many of my records, even the old ones, and also improved tracking on some more troublesome tracks toward the centre of the record.
Both definitely recommended (for the record, I have no relation with either product - just a satisfied customer).
Several readers might shudder at this, but I have an old Pioneer PL-L800 linear tracking TT upon which I've mounted a V15. This setup has worked very well for archiving my favorite vinyl on cd. The stabilizer brush may not do much on a traditional J or S tonearm, but on my aging linear machine, it really has made a difference.
I bent the stylus cleaning the stabilizer brush last week and was trying to figure out what to do (it needed replacing anyway) and glad I found this review of the M97xE. Based on Shure's recommendation and now the good review, I will try the M97xE.
Thanks for the thorough and honest review!
I have to say it--congratulations! You have practically written the textbook on entry-level cartridges in this one review. Anyone considering buying a new or used analog source in the Rega P2-P3 quality range would be happy to read it. I used to own a V15 but would never have considered an M97 until now. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Ed, a perfect review and fair assessment of the bargain priced Shure M97xE cartridge.
I was shocked at how good the Shure V15 was on my Lenco, and now after reading your review, suspect the M97 is equally stunning for the dollar.
This review, much like your review of the Technics turntable, is wonderful. Providing a push for those interested in analog but with limited budget (or unwilling to spend big bucks to experiment) to join in.
Your nod of approval to another affordable analog product is a positive contribution. You have not forgotten the importance of having fun with great, reasonable priced gear and the joy of music it brings.
I had an earlier version of this cart about two years ago mounted in my PE 3048. Your rerview is very accurate although I disagree with the surface noise statement. I found this nice Shure to be extremely quiet but slightly lacking in the highs. Then again...I only gave it a two hour test before passing it on to a friend. Most impressive is the striking appearance of this little guy! Out of the box...it appears to be quite an expensive masterpiece and with the "blue" stylus assembly against a chrome-like body...is seductive before you actually even hear the doggone thing! Back then...I paid $72 but now with your review and the even lower price...I'm most tempted to try this baby in my restored Pio PL-518. Thanks for a clear concise review!...Peter
I have just bought this marvellous cartridge. I'm very satisfied about the musical performance because it's a very good match with my HIFI system. I use it on my Technics SL-1200 with a Rega RB600 arm. My amplifier is a Rega Mira and my speakers are JMLab Chorus 715. In my system, the musical personnality of this cartridge is warm and dynamic without agressivity. The stereo image is pretty good. I hear some details that I have never heard before! The tracking is very good with a medium mass arm as my Rega RB600. The bass frequencies arm round and firm at the same time but sometimes overloaded with warm recording. The medium frequencies are rich. Finally, the treble frequencies are clear and detailed with no harshness.
If you have a turntable which sounds bright with a warm and vigorous amplifier with neutral and firm speakers, this cartridge is for you!
Hello, Vinylvalve! I can comment on your question, having lots of "vinyl-time" with both cartridges, used in identical systems.
The M97XE is "voiced" rather differently than the V15III with VN35E! The top end is both more accurate and neutral. Improperly matched with inappropriate phono preamps, the V15III can frequently offer superficial brightness which might get tiring on high resolution systems. The M97XE playing through the SAME cheap and overly bright preamp will sound less edgy and brittle, although both cartridges are decent performers in every way.
The MX97E actually can be used with some really dreadful tonearms, if you are willing to lower the stabilizer brush.
Just for the heck of it, I briefly played the MX97E mounted in a really low-performance Garrard RC 65 changer from the 60's, with astonishing results. That table could NO way successfully track with a V15III. (Yes, I tried once)
The "wallowing suspension" problem familiar to all users of the earlier Shure V15 models is simply GONE in the MX97E!
You can also use the V15VXMR stylus assembly if you want really superior tracing ability. This isn't a way to get a "cheap" V15VXMR, according to Shure, but we got results when using this swap which left me wondering. I didn't notice much of any difference from my "genuine" V15VXMR!
Either the MX97E or the V15VXMR are a pretty substantial upgrade from the V15II, which I've recently retired after
many many hours of enjoyable vinyl. The V15III was my "reference" cartridge for transferring vinyl to (eek!) red book CD format.
The fancy moving coils proved too problematic for this application, with a mixed bag of results. The Shures do find favor with those trying to get vinyl into the digital domain, and my "new" standard has become the V15VXMR. It can trace grooves about as nicely as anything I have ever auditioned, but its minor shortcomings are probably better documented by more experienced reviewers. It is an amazing performer in my system, and an amazing DUD when played in a friend's system!
It doesn't "do its thing" with just any phono stage, but would likely be a pretty happy surprise for those who plug it into some large Japanese receiver!
I found the M97XE to be a close second to the V15VXMR, demoted only by the inner groove performance, where the line-contact stylus of the V15VXMR makes its presence known.
Similar sonics, but slightly different presentation. (Every other reviewer says "warm", whatever that means). I say, "pretty accurate groove tracing, up with the very best. Sonics are limited mostly by the design and geometry of the generator assembly."
Both old and new Shures are among the FEW cartridges I'd ever track near their recommended stylus pressure. They really can track!
Maybe when I've had more experience of the V15VXMR I'll give a shot at writing a review. Both of the top Shures are at the top of my short list for "maximum bang for the buck" vinyl playing. My comments about the top two Shure models are almost interchangeable, except for the superior tracing ability of the V15VMXR stylus.
Both of Shure's newer top-line models definitely stomp the V15III, in pretty much all audible parameters, but few reviewers have paid much attention to how "different" they might sound depending on what kind of phono stage they are matched with. I find them very enjoyable with both tube and solid state preamps.
You would likely spend ten times the price of the Shures for significantly better sonics, but don't overlook some of the other good Audiogon reviews of alternative lower-end cartridges. We have some amazingly good ones now!~
(NO, I have no plans to stop using my V15III, it has simply migrated to another turntable and system!) Maybe you might like to have BOTH old and new Shures! Once in a while, I find a record which will actually sound nicer on the OLD cartridge.
After restoring a Micro Seiki BL-51 w/out tone arm, we went with the Rega RB 300 arm. Contacted EK to see if he had any phono cartridges laying around at the time. He did not. So the client was running a little low on funds after the arm purchase. He wanted the Denon DL 160 or 110 but could not afford either. So I remember this review by ED and we went with the Shure M97xE. Found that Ed and I share similiar ideas on phono cartridges. Found this one locally and the dealer was getting out of analog and got the Shure M97xE for $60.00 new in box. He had two left and I bought both, kept one for myself as a back up.
I am not going to go into a long review. But everything Ed says about the M97xE is spot on. And at the $60.00 we paid is little more than an outright steal. For price/performance value I know of nothing but the Sumiko Pearl that offers this level of performance in a MM phono cartridge.
It has been some 20 years or more since I last experienced a Shure and it was the V15 Type IV, that was to my ears total dreck compared to the V15 Type III. Make no mistake Shure has come a long way indeed and the M97xE is a stellar performer, that in vinyls golden age would have cost an easy $200.00 or more.
I could see the grimace on the clients face, when we bought these, wasn't what he really wanted, but was what he could afford at the time. But once installed and spun some vinyl the grimace left in a hurry. And it is amazing to see how much micro dust is picked up by the brush. the V15 Tvpe IV had this as well, but had forgotton how well it picked up fine dust particles in the LP groove.
For the vast majority of us the Shure M97xE will be all the phono cartridge one will need. Considering the fact that most of the vinyl today is used from garage sales and the like, and the new vinyl pressings are nowhere near what they were in vinyls golden age, the Shure M97xE is welcome relief to todays analog audiophile.
I am totally with EK on this.
Have just installed M97xe to my Kenwood KD 500 ( Marble Chassis ) with van den Hul rewired Rega 300 arm. Bass is the first significant improvement with well defined articulate bass. Nice midrange and yes I did notice that the musicians lost a bit of ground but in a small room this is desirable. Recommend this cartridge. I like it.
I have owned well over 50 Shure cartridges in my lifetime and can tell you quite honestly that the M97xE is without a shadow of a doubt better than the following: Shure M91E, M91ED M75ED T2, M95G, M95ED, M95HE, M97HE, M97EJ, ML-111HE, ML-120HE, ML-140HE, V-15 T2 Improved, V-15 T3, V-15 T3HE, V15-HRP, V-15RS. My M97xE is currently mating wonderfully with the nicely designed S-shaped tonearm of a Pio PL-518 that this gal sold me for $4.25 at an internet garage sale. I cleaned up the dirty pitch control and fixed the suspension. The unit now sounds glorious with this awesome low cost high performing Shure. P.S....Sorry for my horribly late timing and delayed response. I should be put into the Audiogon hi-fi Hall Of Shame!
"I bet the Shure would melt hearts on an old Thorens TD125 with a nice low-mass SME arm, or even my good old TD115...
to my ears, the Shure M97 is accurate, easy to listen to and involving." Ekobesky
Well...I think you are 100% K-rect! Thanks for getting me to purchase this guy again and try it in my Pio PL-518. By the way...I figured out Shure's new two-point stylus gauge that is now included with the unit and will explain it in my upcoming review. It actually is quite easy to use and dead accurate! Also...I may have to eat my earlier words about the cart "lacking emotion" as it is very dynamic indeed after ten or fifteen hours of break-in. My full report will be made soon...Peter
Bravo! A sane man with passion - a rare find indeed! My old Shure V15III/PE turntable brought a lot of praise and open mouths back in my barracks while in the Air Force. Too often honest criticism becomes an arrogant tirade on the soapbox letting us all know how intelligent the writer/speaker is (or how much he has spent). More reviews like this are in dire need to appeal to the many novice buyers considering their first choices in hi-fi gear. Of all the music retrieval products available, turntables and cartridges probably have to take first place as the least understood (and appreciated). Tired of the lack of interest most audio companies have about raising the standards of audio gear? Get more people educated and involved WITHOUT becoming a snob or a fanatic that turns them off from experiencing the joy of being an audiophile. If you enlighten them, they will come.
Got an email from J&R Music World, that they were offering the Shure M97XE at $54.99 delivered. Although I still have one from 2006 nib can't pass up a bargain.
I remember back in 06 I installed one for a friend on a Micro Seiki with a Rega tonearm, that I help him refurbish.
So that prompted a call to Walt and see where we were some 5 years down the road. He really didn't want the Shure at the time, but that was all he could afford at the time.
He has a lot of vinyl and I mean a lot of vinyl from mint to dubious quality. And he listens some 25 to 30 hours per week. So the Shure certainly gets a work out. After talking a while we got around to discussing the turntable and ask him if he had changed the Shure. Nope, still in the rig and sounding fine. In fact his whole syatem hasn't changed in that time. Just kicking back and doing serious listening to his vinyl as he has always done. Conservatively I would say he has about 8,000 hours on the Shure and might be a good time to change the stylus or at least get a new M97XE and told him about the sale at J&R. So he ordered one. I find it hard to believe with that many hours the Shure is still working and sounding good, but stranger things have happen. At this point there can't be more than a nub of the stylus left on the cantilever, but I will see for myself in a few days when his new one gets delivered. He is reporting no issues with this orginial one I installed some five years ago. This will be quite interesting.
I never put on more than 2000 hours on a cartridge before it is changed. I have had a few that have shown no discernible wear even after 2000 hours, but that is rare indeed. But with at least 8000 hours, that I have to see. Either his hearing has gone to hell or the M97XE is the marathon champ of all time in phono cartridges.
More to follow in a few days.
Long time since this thread was active so let me chime in and say that, after about a year of off and on playing my Shure M97XE (along with a number of ready to go carts that I swap in and out of a Technics SL1200MkII) it has just started to open up on top. I noticed it the other day when suddenly I was hearing some very high percussives on a very familiar recording. So it will open up with patience and playing time, perhaps at about 100 hours, which may seem like a long time for cartridge break in, but I am now convinced that it well compares to my vintage V15 IV with Ed Saunders stylus. I would not hesitate to replace this with same and in fact now that it has opened up may get a spare to keep on hand when the time comes.
One of the best cartridge deals out there is the M97XE. Go Shure!
Your review is dead on (sez Johnny-cum-lately). As far as surface noise goes, I would suggest that is more a function of the turntable-particularly the weight and material of the platter. I have a Teres turntable with a 5 in thick acrylic platter-the platter alone weighs 16 lbs. Surface noise of the 97xE with this table, mounted on a Moerch UP4, is DEAD quiet.
I installed a Shure M97eX into my restored Garrard Zero 100 and it plays as reviewed in my 1970s era restored system of Marantz 2216B and KLH 17 speakers. The Shure tracks and plays fine at 1.25-1.5 grams. Plan for "break in" time of at least 25+ hours. I'm around 50 hours now and very satisfied. This cartridge and a vintage turntable for at total $300 max is superior to any current "entry" $300-500 turntable of assorted colors offered to vinyl newbies.
Great review. I'm not happy about this particular disappearance from the market. I just saw this because Amazon is selling the N97xe needle for double-price at $123, and I realized something was fishy. Fortunately music suppliers are still selling at original price. I have a Denon DL 110 MC and they are comparable, but if anything the Denon is more polite, measured, and not as interesting. It might have some advantages for certain types of music, but generally I'm happier with the Shure M97xe package. Much depends on the rest of the system. Mine goes through a Yamaha CR 2040 which transfers a lot of detailed clarity through to Sony APM 690 speakers, which have a really clear (30k) high end that reproduces the 22k high end of the needle, and a sufficiently deep bass. It's a good neutral/natural sound system for hearing the full dynamic output of a cartridge, and the M97xe is always pleasing and several steps above the other Shure carts. I have some JBL bookshelf speakers that advertise 24k high end, and are very good but sound muddy next to the Sonys. I haven't listened to Sumiko or Jico or any of the others. I did listen to the $99 Ortofon, and found it a little harsh, putting too much effort into trying to make its dynamic range sound like more than it is, which probably works well on a lower end system (e.g. they probably sound good through the JBL's). The reality is that you need a $10,000 system to hear the difference between the m97xe and anything that could outperform it. The m97xe was built on 50 years of research at Shure. The leading brush is not just for tracking and cleaning, but mainly for static, since Shure realized in the 1960s that a lot of pops were from static not dirt. Despite its low price, it was the best needle out there as far as I'm concerned. Maybe you could spend 3-5 times the amount and you might get something marginally better on a very high end system... if you're a dog! But for human ears, the mx97xe was all anyone would ever really need.