Shelter 901 with VPI JMW9 Signature

Taking the advice I got at Audio Revelation, I got the 901 after upgrading to the signature arm. The tracking problems I had with the Blackbird / Regular 9 arm are a thing of the past. Even my most difficult albums track perfectly. There is no resonant frequency problem. The effective mass for the Signature arm has been increased.

As for sound, I get great detail, great bass and treble extension, liquid sexy midrange. I love female vocalists, so thats important to me. I don't have enough experience with different carts to judge speed, but I don't feel there is a problem at all with the 901. It is a significant improvement over the Sumiko Blackbird. Less grain, more coherent presentation. I just got the Patricia Barber lps..Cafe Blue- 45 rpm, and A Fortnight in Paris. My God, I thought I was able to make love to her right in my listening room. Talk about soundstage! I have had the Shelter now for 3 months, at least 150 hrs logged.

I do jazz and classical, some rock. VPI Scoutmaster, JMW 9 Sig, Shelter 901 cart, Musical Fidelity A308, feeding AES 6 Pack Tube Monoblocks, JM Labs Signature 927 Be Speakers.
You have a very nice set up, and it sounds like it is working well for you. I also like the shelter. What are you using for a phono amp? I have found that this is a really critical component and can bring a lot to the table.

Oh, I think your obligated to send Ms. Barber flowers now.
Seems we have a lot in common - I too share your love of analog and jazz female vocalists, PB is awesome! I am seriously considering getting a Scoutmaster and JWM9. I was even thinking about a Shelter cartridge (probably 501) but for now, using my existing CA Virtuoso Wood. This would be an upgrade over an older SOTA table with SME 309. Glad you mentioned about the incompatibility and correction – this is good information. So, do you think my switching tables and arms will actually be an upgrade or step sideways?

I use the phono section in the MF A 308. Not too bad. But I do wonder how much I'd need to spend to get a real improvement in the phono stage...$2-3K? Is it overkill with my table and cartridge to go to, say, a Steelhead or Aesthetix Rhea?
Does Ms Barber like Roses?


Not having heard any SOTA tables I would not know about upgrade vs. sidegrade.
hi Dolifant. It is interesting that you had troubles with the Blackbird. From my research that is supposedly a very good match for that arm/table combo. Certainly the 901 is a step up from the Blackbird. But it is also double the cost or close to it.
I do think that you may be short changing your vinyl by using the onboard phono preamp inn the MF A-308. I believe the importance of the phono preamp is quite often underestimated. In my experience it is vitally important. My Wright phono preamp put a bigger smile on my face than any other piece of equipment that I have bought. At the time I bought it, it equaled the value of my TT. The Wright is a very good phono pre for the $$$ and has garnered some good reviews over at audio asylum. However there are probably others in the $2-3K range that will better it. And if you have the $$$, don't hesitate to spend it on a phono preamp. I think you will find it to be a great investmant that may put even more of a smile on your face than you may have previously thought.

Thanks for the advice. I'm hanging around A-Gon, and when the time is right I'll pull the triugger on a fine phono pre, just not yet. I'm still checking them out.

The Blackbird is a great match, but mine had tracking problems on highly modulated tracks. I checked and rechecked the setup, yet on a few lps, only a few, it mistracked. I wanted to upgrade anyway, and I got a good deal on the 901 ($1150 new). I'm going with this until I get a new phono stage, then after living with that, maybe the 90X or a ZYX Airy 3. But thats way in the future. Right now, I'm loving my vinyl!
Dolifant, It sounds like you are on the right track. I have a Dyna 20 xl on my Scoutmaster at the time. I put it on right after getting the SM and chose it because it was a good match at the cost. I got it at a great price also, but am looking forward to going with the Shelter 501 which I have read good reports about. I'm sure the 901 is great. However the Zyx are supposed to be in a class all to themselves. Some say they have no peer.
I'm sure if you continue to do your homework, you will find a very nice phono stage. But you might even consider the Wright PP 200 with a step up tranny for a little over $1k. I think you will be surprised at how much more you will be hearing. Then if you want to upgrade later, the Wright will be easy to sell and it holds its value, so you won't lose much . Just a thought.
Like I said, I am a firm believer in a good phono stage. Your system will take great steps forward with one. It will be a much bigger improvement than any cartridge upgrade
At their respective price points, the Zyx cartridges are better than their Shelter counterparts. The Fuji betters the 501, the Airy 2 bests the 901, and the Airy 3 bests the 90X. They sound and track better. All of course IMO.

I sell neither line.