Review: Soundsmith Sussurro Cartridge
Soundsmith Sussurro Phono Cartridge
The Soundsmith Sussurro is a low output (.3mv) Moving Iron cartridge with a Optimized Contact Line Sylus and a ruby cantilever. Recommeded tracking force is 1.8 grams (2.2 grams max). The body is Ebony wood and the cartridge weight is 6.8 grams. The cartridge is magnetically shielded, so there is no problem with hum.
My system consists of the following:
T. W. Acustic Raven One Turntable
Graham Phantom 2 arm
Ayre P-5XE Phonostage (Modified) more on this later.
Supratek Cortese tube preamp
David Berning ZH-270 tube amp
Gallo Nucleus Reference 2 speakers
Northstar Extremo DAC and Northstar Transport
Acoustic Research Master Series interconnects
Harmonic Technology Pro 11 speaker cables
Everything sets on a rock maple rack. The Supratek preamp and power supply also sets on SRA VR3 iso bases as does the Berning ZH-270 amp.
Previous cartridges include a Benz Glider, Dynavector DV-20X low output, ZYX Yatra, and my last cartridge was a ZYX Atmos low output (.24mv) moving coil cartridge.
Sussurro means “whisper” in Italian. I am not sure why Peter Ledermann (the designer) named it this because this is one monster of a cartridge! It completely fills my 14x22 ft. listening room with breathtaking sound. The Sussurro has a very wide and deep soundstage. Both micro and macro dynamics are outstanding. The bass is by far the deepest and most realistic I have ever heard from a phono cartridge. However, it does not sound overpowering because the top end extends just as far in the other direction. Based on how realistic vocals sound, the midrange is also excellent.
Peter Ledermann says that it is very important to get the azimuth correct or you cannot get the best out of this cartridge. I will be the first to admit that I no nothing about setting up a cartridge, but lucky for me my friend Andre is an analog genius. Andre uses the latest Feickert cartridge alignment software ( I know some people prefer the Mint Protractor), Peter said the Feickert software would get the azimuth lined up correctly. The stylus on this cartridge seems to be so precise that you will benefit greatly from taking the time to work on VTA and VTF. Small changes in these two things make big differences in the sound. Although the owners manual states 1.8 grams as the recommended tracking force, I found 1.72 grams to be ideal for me.
I can actually hear the sound of the Sussurro improving as my preamp and amp warm up. It continually gets more dynamic. When I played “Tin Pan Alley” from Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Couldn”t Stand The Weather LP, I could not believe the difference in sound from my ZYX Atmos cartridge. Don’t get me wrong, it was very good with the Atmos. With the Sussurro the bass was so deep with so much more body to it. The drums had a slam factor that was off the charts! Stevie’s guitar was alive with a bell like clarity and bite. The texture of Stevie’s voice made me think he was in the room with me. What I really love about this cartridge is how I am sucked into the musical performance. Another LP that floored me was Ray Brown’s “Solar Energy” on Pure Audiophile label. I could clearly feel the bass in my listening chair. Gene Harris’s piano had a beautiful top end clarity with plenty of energy. As for female vocals, Shelby Lynne’s Just a Little Lovin’ LP sounded beautiful. I wish this LP was on an audiophile reissue label. There is some surface noise that detracts from Shelby’s great performance. This LP is mainly vocal, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums. Very simple musical presentation, but the Sussurro draws you close to the emotion of the music.
I am sold on this low output Moving Iron cartridge. I have owned low output Moving Coils for years and none of them are as good as the Soundsmith Sussurro. The Sussurro is a great match to my Ayre (modified) phono stage. I never thought I would find a phono stage that I would like better than the one in my Supratek Cortese. The stock Ayre was (in my opinion) no match for the phono stage in my Cortese, but after the mods that Andre did, it surpassed the phono stage in the Cortese. I don’t know what magic Andre performs on the Ayre, but when he finishes it weighs twice as much, is packed with goodies inside and it took my system to new dynamic heights. Match this phono stage with the Sussurro and you have a lethal combination.
So, is there any down side to the Sussurro? Not that I can find. However,if you don’t want to take the time necessary to really dial this cartridge in, then you may want to look elsewhere.
I think Peter did a great job with the Sussurro. Each one is hand made,shipped in a wood box and autographed by Peter.The serial number is also on each box.
Please keep in mind that this is a low output cartridge and will require a moving coil phono stage for proper gain.