The 501 II does not work that well in my 9 sig in my opinion. Has a sometimes noticable upper mids peak and somewhat weak bottom end. Also has somewhat of a sibilance issue that can be moderated with a headshell weight from VPI.
I think it is not a good match for the 9 Sig. BTW, when you say JMW, you need to be specific. There are many variations.
I had a 501 II in my VPI Classic with the standard JWM arm - it was ok, but unlike Robob above I actually found it to be too warm for my liking.
Haven't heard the Zephyr, but had another cart (Sumiko Blackbird) retipped by SoundSmith, and when it came back I was amazed by how good it sounded. I'm still using it (and have since sent the 501 II to them for retipping, though I've set it aside as a backup and haven't installed it since it came back).
Shelters are not good in VPI arms... Zephyr is much better for this application.
I just installed my Zephyr this evening on my Scout with std JMW9. I saw it here for sale last week, and thought I would give it spin out of curiosity.
Super easy to set up, no skating issues, and sounds BIG. Quite a bit more bass and detail than the 10 x 5 that has been installed for a few years. I have read on and on in these forums on how difficult it is to set up the Std JMW9. Either I am damn good, or just lucky. Half hour and enjoying.
my JMW is a 10.0 on an Aries 1 turntable. Just re-wired the tonearm with VPI's regular wire but my junction box got the nordhost valhally wire.
Now I am considering the SMMC1 which has a class A rating, and today just heard a Benz Glider S Low output which also sounded very good, but I have not yet heard any soundsmith cartridges although I started out way back with a Shure and have used Grado. I think moving iron sound must be somewhat different from low output moving coil sound, perhaps nuance versus image solidity and size??
It sounds so far from your responses like a soundsmith may be a better choice even though Shelter and Benz make great cartridges.
The effective mass of my JMW 10.0 according to Mike at VPI is 10.7 grams plus the weight of the screws so around 11 grams which is on the very low end of a medium mass tonearm.
Did you call SS? If so, what did He/they say?
I have owned and used both the Shelter 501-II and Soundsmith SMMC1 cartridges your rig - Aries 1 and JMW10 arm. I was not fond of the 501-II stereo cartridge.JMW arm combination. It's not so much that it was bad, as there were other combinations that were so much better IMHO.
It's hard to compare the Soundsmith to the Shelter (or other LOMC carts) because of the difference in design and the additional circuitry in the chain (SUT in my case). Needless to say, I think that the SMMC1 is one of (if not the) best bargain in a new cartridge. Is it the best cartridge I have ever owned or tried? No, but it gets you very close to the ultimate, and having a more expensive cartridge requires you (or at least, me) to improve everything else in the chain to the point of economic unfeasability.
Knowing what I know now, if I still owned the Aries 1 I would order a pair of Soundsmith Zephyr cartridges; one for stereo and one for mono, and be done with it. But that's if it were me.
I ordered an SMMC1 and it is due to arrive at my house in 2 days from today on May 6th so after I set it up and play it for a number of hours I will give you my initial impressions. I am looking forward to it. I will be curious how this design sounds different from an MC cartrdige like the 501. I grew up on a shure cartridge used on a Pioneer PL 12-D turntable when I was a teenager. There was plenty of bass in that set up. Basie :)
I did not talk with soundsmith but instead went thru a dealer.
I now have 10 hours on the Soundsmith SMMCI as of may 12 2011 and the cartridge does not sound good so far. I will give it time to break in. very erratic, weird sound anomolies and generally lousey sound.
It turns out that the sound anomolies I had caused to happen by not knowing how to properly load my adjustable phono stage. Just checked with the maker of the preamp/phono stage and they told me how to properly load it at 47K and now the cartridge sounds great, is really starting to open up, large images, a lot of presence, and musically engaging. Definitely worth trying out a sound smith cartridge if you have not already done so ! This is an SMMC1 Sound Smith cartridge, just to clarify. I have heard that the Zephr is an even better match with the VPI tonearms. No complaints here.
I agree, shelter compliance is too high, zephyr is hard to beat on vpi tonearms
Agree with Patsua. The Zephyr was my primary cartridge for quite some time until I got hooked this Spring on Lyra cartridges. I started with the Lyra Delos and moved up to the Kleos. I think the Lyra cartridges sound better on my set-up. My vinyl set up is a hot-rodded basic Classic TT with a Classic 3 tone arm. The rest of my rig is descried in my system link.
Having said that, I've read many Forum post where folks just rave about the S-S Paua cartridge. I definitely have to try the Paua, but when I spring for it, I'll ask Peter Ledermann if he can hot-rod the output to .5 or more mV because the stock job is rated at .3 mV which is too low for my phono pre.
The Zephyr gets an A+ grade from me as a top performer with VPI JMW tone arms at its price point ($1K). It's a shame the Paua costs $3800. That's a pretty big jump in cost to go to the next level. Ergo why I tried the Lyra cartridges. But, I still have my newly re-tipped Zephyr as a back-up.
The Shelter does not work with JMW arms. It sounds great most of the time, but there is undoubtedly a compliance mismatch. Which JMW arm do you have? The Zephyr might not be a good choice either if you have the standard 9 or 9t. Call VPI.
FYI: The Zephyr has been upgraded to a MK II version. I think the new model switched out the aluminum cantilever for boron. I surmise, as good as the Zephyr was, .... the MK II version may sound even better. If anyone has sprung for the new MK II, please post your comments.