Soundsmith Strain Gage Cartridge system

Has anyone compared the Soundsmith Strain Gage Cartridge system to a top-of-the-line cartridge / phono stage combo in the same system (including the same arm and linestage)?
There was a post on Audio Aslyum's Vinyl forum about the Strain Gauge system. They compared it to the Lyra Olympos and Koetsu Tiger Eye.
Exlibris :

Go to , go to vinyl asylum ,type in search ,strain gauge,hit enter, see comments #45 & 77.

I listened to the SoundSmith S/G w/ its PA (14K?) in a six figure+ set-up for a couple of hours.

Provided everything is set-up to the nth degree -- What an experience , just accept that fact the S/G lights up in blue when played.
A group of us got together in Florida in June. We first had a shootout with a bunch of cartridges including 1. Lyra Olympos, 2. Koetsu Tiger Eye with diamond cantilever, 3. Zyx Universe, 4. Dynavector XV1s, Soundsmith "The Voice," and a reworked Denon 103R. They finished in roughly that order except that, at a fraction of the cost, the Voice outperformed all but the top two. These were all compared on a top of the line Teres turntable with direct drive snd a Schroder Reference SQ arm.

The Soundsmith Strain Gauge system was auditioned on the same turntable, but mounted on a different SQ arm. Because the Strain Gauge eliminates the RIAA compensation as well as the need for step-up transformers it was run through it's own preamp which is included in the cost of the system. We directly compared the top performing Olympos with the Strain Gauge and the latter was as detailed but much more open sounding. We were all drawn into the music when listening with the Strain Gauge. This was a prototype system which we also enjoyed in two high resolution horn systems in Colorado for three weeks in July. There was also a direct comparison with an Olympos: same arm (Schroder Reference and Galibier turntable) and with a Miyabi/47 Labs (Schroder Reference/TW Acustic Raven AC) in my system. The results were the same as in Florida except the gap between the MC cartridges and Strain Gauge system was much wider. The Strain Gauge blew us away.

Peter Lederman had his Strain Gauge in 3 rooms at the Rocky Mountain AudioFest in October. The systems were not as high rez as the horn systems in Fort Collins but the Strain Gauge sounded very good in the Soundsmith room. After the show Peter brought my unit, the first production unit, up to Fort Collins and a bunch of us listened for the next few days. Peter made a few changes in the first unit on site. The cartridge body on my production unit is made of aluminum rather than the plastic of the prototype. The elastomer was changed prior to the show after Peter had a conversation with Dr. Win and the change produced better high end extension than the prototype model.

I have been listening to music on a daily basis for almost 6 weeks and have been mesmerized by the spaciousness of the soundstageandair around the instruments. Also, the detail and speed of a note and its decay are astounding. Music has never sounded this real in my system before. The cartridge has broken in nicely and I raised the VTA slightly a few days ago. No moving coil cartridge I have heard compares to the Strain Gauge. This has opened up a whole new level of enjoyment in listening to music.

Hope this helps.

I had read the posts on AA and I appreciate seeing the information here as well.

Glad to hear that you are enjoying the new addition. The other Dr. K gave me the lowdown on his trip up to NY a couple weeks ago. I can only concur with your comments after hearing it in the same system as Crem1, (how is that Mapleknoll coming along- still waiting for pix;-)

Also recommended for the less deep pocketed is the SS 103 denuded cartridge with the ruby cantilever and line contact tip. Excellent sound, better dynamics and detail. Again, these have been compared using the same highly revealing system as well as my more modest rig and the improvements are consistent. I think a Denon 304 with the same treatment will be my choice.

East Coast Audio Society ;-)
"Provided everything is set-up to the nth degree"
Does this mean that one will want to use a standard cartridge when the physical quality of the record is less than perfect?
The strain gauge actually tracks better than "standard" cartridges and I have had no problems with less than perfect lps.

So, there is no need to keep a second cartridge and traditional phonostage?
Interesting conversation. I have been following this for a few days since I am going to get a 410 and strain gauge cartridge. I have heard the system at RMAF twice now and honestly, based on what I heard in the Soundsmith room, I would not have bought the combination. The room was too long and narrow, and not set up to reveal it's capabilities. While the sound was above average for the show, it did not stand out as being particularly special.

After talking to people who heard the set up in Miami and then in Colorado, I have given a more serious thought to it. When a combination excels some of best cartridges ever made, and does it for less money, a person has to sit up and take notice. Especially when the people making these claims own or have access to the best existing equipment!

I hope to hear/see more comments from people about the Soundsmith gear as more of it makes its way to market. These are exciting times...



I just received my Strain Gauge and I love it. After adjusting the VTA and the damping on my arm, I found the “sweet spot” for the line contact ruby stylus. I have never heard a more life-like image from any stereo system after installing the Strain Gauge. The sound is enveloping. I have the urge to jump into the sound stage and swim around with the music. Each instrument in the sound field breathes and sounds so natural. There is an ease about the music that allows you to relax and go with the music.
I believe that because the Strain Gauge does not use the RIAA curve, less phase distortion is present in the music, resulting in an effortless sound. I also believe because a moving coil or a moving magnet is not used in the system, the sound is less distorted. The way the Strain Gauge operates reminds me of the way a single-ended triode amplifier works. Like a single-ended triode amplifier, the highly doped silicon beams modulate the flow of current resulting in a voltage that follows the movement of the grooves with very low harmonic distortion.
It is rare that a theoretical advantage in audio actually yields a practical advantage. I believe that Peter has done it and the proof is in the pudding!


John Pessetto
What cartridge and phonostage were you using before you got the SG?
Do you run the SG system directly to your amps or into a linestage?
If you do go straight to the amps, what linestage had you been using?
Thank you.
Hi Exlibris,

I was using a Lyra Olympos moving coil cartridge (single coil), a custom-made Dave Slage (Intact Audio) step-up transformer, custom-wound wire-wound resistors (Intact Audio), an Artemis phono preamp PH1 and a custom-made Dave Slage (Intact Audio) autoformer volume control. Because I had enough voltage gain, I didn't need a line stage. With the SG system I don't need any of the previous equipment. The SG system drives my amps directly. I hope this helps.

That helps; thanks.
John, any more thoughts now that you've spent some more time with the SoundSmith and the Strain Gauge???



Hi Nrchy,

I don't have any more thoughts. It still sounds wonderful.


I hope to have one in my system in January.
Exlibris : Saturday evening I spent time listening to Peter's Strain Gauge Cartridge. Set-up correctly using clean vinyl , what an experience. The most for the buck (euro).
I talked to two people that heard the system at CES. They were not overly impressed. Then again, they were unfamiliar with some of the other components in the system.
IMHO this product should be relabeled the "Speed Demon Cartridge System". After spending considerable time listening to the Strain Gage in two rooms at RMAF, it was quite apparent (to me and some others) that the Strain Gage may just establish a new benchmark for capturing the leading edge transients of music. In all actuality, this may be a flaw that I never knew existed with the other top flight "typical" cartridges. I asked some buddies (who have ears I trust) if they thought the cartridge did anything special for their ears . Both had no problem detecting the Strain Gage's "special" ability to convey transients. (Mind you, I never let them know in advance what I thought it did special!) From my experience, I now suspect that other typical cartridges have had a flaw all along. Perhaps their contained cantilever mass have always had issues starting and stopping. This will then affects the true transient response - as compared to the actual source music material contained within the hills and valleys of a record's grooves. If the Strain Gage cartridge can prove itself to be a reliable product, I think we are all in for a new level of realism...... at least in regard to a cartridge breaking the "speed" barrier!
I love it...........................
I want it...........................
Music at its best. Just amazing.
One of the most interesting rooms at the CES.
For many reasons....................
It sounded "promising", at The SHOW, but I don't think the speakers did it justice. I would like to hear it on a different system, it may be special.
It is special. Peter does himself a disservice showing it the way he does. His strength is the pre-amp/phono and cartridge... he should get out of the amp/speaker department. Not that his other products aren't good, but IMO they are not up to the level of the Strain Gauge combo!

If he were to show with a speaker and amp company like ___________ (fill in the blank with your favorite manufacturer) he would literally blow people away. His strengths are that good!!!



Hi Citizens, just got back from three days of listening to the Strain Gauge on several different table/arm/plinth/stylus combinations. In case anyone is unaware, there are five different styli available and you can change them in seconds.
I have heard Peter's sound at three shows, David and Nate are quite right, the SG sounds promising at best in his demos. The first time I heard it at RMAF in 2006, I was sure there was something special in the mix but the rest of the rig and room were doing their best to mask it.
I can assure you there is something special happening when the Strain Gauge is played in a smartly assembled system. The SG is much like a top level race car. if not properly set up, it will only be able to run in the middle of the field. However, when you hit the sweet spot, there MAY be only a VERY few cartridges that can keep the SG within sight. The rest will be lapped several times before the race is over. Don't let me scare anyone away because they think they may not be able to do a proper setup. The standard line contact stylus will be within most people's setup ability and sounds wonderful. The conical stylus will be relatively forgiving and should be on anyone's want list if you listen to mid 60s and older LPs. The top option optimized line contact stylus will take, no demand, a more dedicated and involved listener. It will require VTA be adjusted with every change in record thickness. It is that demanding but WILL reward you with the most accurate measurements of what is chiseled into the vinyl, no question. Another way to tell that you have the setup nailed, the groove noise is, by far, the quietest I have ever heard. As someone sitting next to me said, "erie".

I am NOT easily impressed.....but that combo did just THAT !
Hi Steve Johnny and I installed the optimized line contact stylus in my system and it offered the same improvement as we heard in Maryland. We tried 200g to the thinnest vinyl out there. We tried old and new, clean and dirty. The VTA did not have to be readjusted for every thickness. In every case the groove noise was much quieter than the regular line contact stylus.

Overall, the optimized stylys is no more finicky then the standard one.
I posted this on the other strain gauge thread. I had strain gauge cartridges long ago, including the Win and the Panasonic. I saw them as quite good, but not reaching the realism of my Decca Londons. There are many benefits in the various grades of the Soundsmith phono/linestages, but it does take a commitment to this idea that I am not willing to make.

I heard nothing in the SoundSmith room that pushed me further toward a strain gauge. I might be more tempted were I to not have better electronics already.