Have used other Sumiko phono cartridges before such as the Blue Point and Blue Point Special. Basically I have found all the Sumiko products offer extraordinary value for the money.
This is my first experience with their MM line. This one is the Pearl which has elliptical stylus and is their top of the line in the Moving Magnet range from Sumiko.
There are just a host of manufacturers in this arena putting out some really fine MM phono cartridges at the $100.00 mark. Such, as Shure,Audio Technica,Ortofon and so on. But the Sumiko Pearl is the sleeper of this bunch. Does not get the recognition that the others get. Sumiko appears not to promote this end,and concentrate on their high output Moving Coils.
In the area of $100.00 MM phono cartridges the Sumiko Pearl has in my opinion no peers and clearly is more musical than the other offerings in this price point category.
The Pearl has outstanding separation and frequency response,coupled with way above average trackability. Plus the ability to work with a wide variety of tone arms.
Recently found myself in need of a good MM phono cartridge and was ready to get the Shure 97XE or the Audio Technica 440ML for a vintage JVC table that I was resurrecting. the dealer was out of the above two cartridges and suggested I try the Sumiko Pearl. After some thought,okay why not I like their MC range of cartridges,plus a 20% percent off list did persuade me to try the Sumiko Pearl. Plus if I didn't like it,he would apply money spent to another cartridge.
The Sumiko Pearl comes in a white and blue box. Inside the box is the owners manual,mounting screws,screwdriver, and stylus brush. The Sumiko Pearl comes housed in a white jewelers box, that is lined in royal blue. Very nice overall presentation for a $100.00 cartridge.
Mounting is very straight forward,as it is standard half inch mounting. Screws supplied were just a millimeter or two short. So to my parts bin for some slightly longer screws. With that taken care of installed the Pearl and used a MFSL Geo-Disc to set over hang, fore going the JVC over hang gauge. Balanced the tone arm and set tracking force at 2 Grams and verified with Shure SFG-2 stylus force gauge. Set anti skate to 2 grams as well.
Listed below are some of the albums used for the listening tests of the Sumiko Pearl.
Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064)
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)
The Sumiko Pearl is just liquid in its presentation, not calling attention to itself. Just has a way of extracting the information from the LP in a seamless, musical way that far belies its price point. The layering in of the instruments is most impressive with a wide sound stage and great depth front to back. After owning several Shures and Audio Techinca cartridges, the Sumiko Pearl was a very pleasant surprise. It is absent of grain and glare and for once in this price range cymbal splashes sound correct and not thin. Surface noise is vanshingly low. Sounds very good straight out of the box and will improve it sonics in about 25 hours.
For once here is a budget phono cartridge that can compete well above its price range, plus the fact you certainly do not have to make excuses for the Sumiko Pearl. It is a solid performer for the most jaded of us, and for those beginning their analog journey, one can get spoiled quite nicely to the sonic signature of the Sumiko Pearl. If I had not been tempted by the local audio shop, I might have passed this gem by and would have missed a very musical phono cartridge. By any standard one would care to judge the Sumiko Pearl, I firmly believe one will come away most impressed by this entry level MM phono cartridge from Sumiko.
Cartridge Type MM
Frequency Response (Hz) 12Hz-30kHz
Output Voltage/Channel (mV) 5mV
Channel Separation (dB) 30dB
Channel Balance (dB) 0,5dB
Stylus size/shape (mil) Elp. 0,2x0,8mm
Load Impedance 47kOhm
Tracking Force Range (grams) 1.5 - 2.0
Moving magnet, alloy cantilever, bonded elliptical stylus, 4.0mV output.
It is not the point of this review to disparage the phono cartridges from Shure,Audio Technica,Goldring,Ortofon, and Grado. These companies produce outstanding phono cartridges in the $100.00 range and are worthy of anyones consideration.
But should the need arise and you find yourself looking to replace a phono cartridge, I recommend the Sumiko Pearl as a solid alternative, and feel you will come to the same conclusion as I have.Associated gear Click to view my Virtual SystemSimilar products
Shure M97XE,Audio Technica 440ML,Ortofon OM 10,Goldring Elektra,Grado Red