All three very nice cartridges.
My choice would be the Shelter 901 if you have an arm that is good with low compliance cartridges.
If not, then either of the Dynavectors would be very nice sounding, in maybe a unipivot or lighter gimbal arm.
I may add a recommendation to the list of a ZYX Fuji, which is as good as the Shelter, but a little higher compliance, which would mate better with a lightweight arm, or a unipivot. I would personally prefer this over the Dynavectors, but the Dynavectors are very good, and I would not disparage them in the least. A good analog system with any of these cartridges would be very satisfying.
I am just making the hair-splitting differences in the cartridges of very high quality, to make my recommendations.
Thanks Twl; The shelter gets much praise, which is why I am looking at it. Can you shed some light on the sonic diferences between these cartridges?
Well, I'll try to give you my impressions, which may vary a little from what others think, but I'll give it a shot.
First, I think that the Shelter is probably one of the best cartridges in the world right now, or very close to it, if it is in a very good medium(or slightly heavier arm). It has a compliance of 9cu and weighs about 8 grams. These lower compliance carts are far more critical about arm selection, than higher compliance ones, due to the energy they feed into the arm. It is a very detailed cartridge, with alot of "Koetsu magic" in the midrange and top end. It also has what I think is the best tonal and dynamic qualities in the bass region that you can get. It is not quite as "lush" as the 501, and slightly more analytical due to the increased detail. Overall, it is extremely tough to beat in the right arm. The SME V is just fine for it. Great bearings, plenty stiff, and good mass.
The Dynavector XX-2 is also a very good performer with alot of characteristics of the top line Dynavector. It is probably a better value, because it is much lower priced than the top of the line one. Tracking is very good, and it has alot of musicality as well. I think that the detail is a little better on the Shelter, and the large orchestrated musical pieces will be handled better by the Shelter. Also the XX-2 has a lower output than the Shelter and this may be an issue with your phono section, I don't know. Matching to a tonearm is a little easier due to compliance considerations. However, something like an SME V would work well with both.
The TK is more expensive, and has silver coils. This will give a little tonal difference, compared to either the XX-2 or Shelter. In my opinion, while this cartridge is very nice, it is not as good a value as the other two. It has little more to show for its extra cost. Unless you happen to prefer the tonal difference of the silver coils.
Now bear in mind that some may differ with me on this assessment, and it is only my opinion. All are very good.
The ZYX I mentioned has all the great qualities of the Shelter, but a little lighter in the bass, and better with small-scale music like chamber music, or small jazz bands, than the Shelter, but not much. The Shelter has the edge in the bass, and in the more dynamic large-scale complex passages. Both track excellent.
Considering the prices of all of these cartridges. I think that the Shelter has the best performance and the lowest price, so I give that the nod. It is only slightly less expensive than the Dynavector XX-2, so that would be my second choice. The TK and the ZYX are considerably higher in price(especially the TK) and don't really have anything better, other than that they are a little different, and some might like them a little better because of that, but it is hard to justify spending an extra $500-$1000 on them. For me, at least.
So there you have my opinions. It's between the Shelter 901 and the Dynavector XX-2. I like the Shelter 901.
Thanks Twl for your excellent reply. It is very much appreciated.
I currently have the Orbe SE/SME V/Benz M2 setup with ARC PH3 SE. I had purchased the Shelter 901 a month ago. (Just haven't had time to change the carts) I had heard it at a friend's place and felt that it was a definite improvement over the Benz.
The Shelter has an output of 0.5mV on paper, but many users have attested that the actual output is slightly higher, at about 0.8mV, similar to the M2. The Benz H2 is rated at 2.5mV output, much higher than the M2 or the Shelter. My concern is that if you are currently using the H2, will the 901 have enough gain for your phonostage? Or will you be using a step up transformer?
I'm also considering getting a shelter cartridge, I recently bought a used Oracle Delphi which has a Premier MMT tonearm. Do you know if the Premier MMT would work well with the Shelter cartridges? Any other suggestions for tone arms that would work well with the Oracle Delphi? (There is a used Delphi for sale on Audigon now which has the the Rega RB600 tone arm.) Thanks!
Thanks for the heads up. I knew I would need more gain than the PH-2 I now have, so I tracked down an Audio Research MCP-2 to put in front of it. Later I will get a Manley Steelhead. I have heard this and it is fantastic, but the MCP-2 will let me get there in affordable stages.
Tonneson, the MMT was designed with MM cartridges in mind. At the time, Sumiko was building "The Arm" for MC carts. I think it is a little light for the Shelter, but I would not totally rule it out. I do think that if you are getting a cartridge that is the quality of a Shelter, you need a better arm. I would suggest the Origin Live Silver for a great performer at a great price. Under $800 new, and performs on the level of the best. Plain looking, but great sounding.
How might the Dynavector sound on an Linn/IttockII?
CP, the Dynavector would sound quite nice on an Ittok, in my opinion. The Ittok is a very good arm, and has great bearings and rigidity. It will have a good match with the Dynavectors. The only knock on the Ittok is that it is a little more colored than some other top arms, but I enjoyed one for many years. The Shelter would do fine on it too.
Twl, thanks for your opinion!
Ditto, Twl, thanks for the info on the MMT and the suggestion on the OLS tonearm. I see that you have the OLS and Shelter 501 on your Teres table - do you think that is a good match all around, or would you upgrade either the cartrige or arm to better match the table? I've also been considering the Teres 245 sometime in the future and was thinking I should get a cartridge and arm now that would work well with the 245. Thanks for the advice.
Tonnesen, I actually think that the Teres 245 with the OL Silver, and the Shelter 501 is about the perfect combination of the very best performers for the money. If I was to make an upgrade, it would be first to the 255 platter. Then if I were to upgrade the arm, which I really don't think needs any upgrading, I'd go to the OL Illustrious. To be perfectly honest, I think that my Silver with the mods I've done to it, such as the HiFi lateral stabilizers, and the custom underhung de-coupled counterweight, is as good as the Illustrious. Even the standard OL Silver has been put in the same league as a SME V, or Graham 2.2, or Aro, or Ekos. And my mods have improved the Silver by about 50%. I don't see myself changing that arm. As for the Shelter 501, it could be upgraded to the 901, but the 501 has some beautiful "lush" qualities that may make me think more than twice before jumping into a 901. And the 501 is easily as good as a Helikon, but even better to my ear. So, no need to change that in a hurry. The 245/Silver/501 is very close to the top, for under $4k. It would give a $15k rig a very close competition. That's a pretty good deal in my book. I think I'll stick right where I am for awhile, and maybe for good.
Thanks guys. Can you recommend some dealers for Shelter cartridges?
Try Audio Revelation. They are a dealer that advertises on Audiogon. They have ads for Origin Live stuff, in the Analog for sale category. They are also a Shelter dealer.
I bought mine directly from Japan. You can contact Mr. Akio Hashimoto of Japan Audio Trading Company (email@example.com) and he will get you a very decent price, and it will arrive via airmail in 2 to 3 business days!
Thanks FrankC, Japan Audio Trading Co references also show up on vinylasylum.com with many posts refering to his great price and service. This might just be the year to decorate my christmas tree with cd's (keep my busy while I wait for the shelter to come in).