Soundsmith Straingauge SG-200 cartridge system

Hi everyone, haven't heard much discussion of this one in a while. I'm just starting to run a direct rim drive Trans Fi Salvation tt sporting a Trans Fi Terminator air bearing linear tracking arm. It's a total game changer imho, but I fear the Zu modded Denon 103 cart on it, excellent as it is, may have performance bettered by something more SOTA. I'm looking for something to match the tt/arm's neutrality, solidity and eveness, and am drawn to the Straingauge. Reviews praise it's speed and naturalness, but some comments are more guarded commenting on tonal thinness, edginess and overanalytic quality.
If it helps I hate over sharp carts like Lyra Skala, are more comfortable with neutral carts like the Transfiguration Orpheus, and feel the humble Zu 103 is a giant killer in the rhythmn/timing/involvment stakes.
So comments please from those who have experience of the Straingauge, thank you.
I have not tested one on my system, but I did spend a few hours listening to a SG-400 system at a friend's home. My initial reaction was thin and cool, but prior to the SG we were listening to a Grado Statement 1.

After my ears adjusted, my considered reaction was that the Strain Gauge system was very tonally neutral and natural sounding. I could see where is might be considered cool and thin if not paired to the right system, but all in all I would probably opt for more neutrality in the analog front end.

I will say that the SG was noticeably more quick and lively than the Grado (no surprise), and sounded great with all the musical genres we played it on. If I were looking to make a significant change in my analog front end I would certainly consider the SG system; assuming that it worked well with the overall tonality of my system (or that I was willing to change my amp/preamp to suit).
If you like your Zu 103, why not go the next step and get a Soundsmith OCL retip.
I've been using an SS retipped 103R in a Midas aluminium body for some time now and the jump in realism and transparency over the stock conical tip is amazing. The cartridge retains the involvement and superior pace and timing of the 103R.
While I'm sure the SG is excellent, every time i listen to my SS/103R it engages and thrills me and I wonder why I'd want to pay more. The musical bargain of our times IMO.
you must listen to the straign guage beofre purtchaseing. It sounds very different and you must be prepared for the differences.
Br3098, Tobes and Stringreen, thanks for your responses. Tobes, I see that you're running a Garrott P77 alongside your Soundsmith retipped 103. The Garrott is the very cart my tt designer is recommending I get to replace the Zu 103, run thru a Ray Samuels Nighthawk F117 phono stage. Any comments?
Spiritofmusic, Regarding the carts. I sold my Acutex 420 STR to Vic the producer of the 'Terminator'; the linear tonearm. After listening to this cart for only 10 min. he
wrote to me asking if I can provide more. He then bought my second 420, the 412 and the M 312. Frogman was also very impressed with the 420 (see 'Eminent Technology
ET-2' thread; 05-03-12). Many members bought those Acutex
carts in Italy some time ago. So it seems to me you will have no difficulyy to get one.

Spiritofmusic, to be honest I haven't played the Garrott for some time because the results I'm getting with the SS/103R have been so impressive.
If fact I haven't even heard the Garrott with the Cary phono - which is something I really should do.
I can say that with my previous Plinius M14 phono stage I preferred the 103R to the Garrott, in most ways, and over a wide selection of music. Both cartridges have a special quality of musical engagement and expression.
That said, I think the SS/103R is on a different level.
Dear Spiritofmusic: I respect every single advise you already received but I can see that you realy cares about music because you are asking for neutrality and this characteristic is a main target to achieve on music reproduction along natural tone balance and accuracy.

I already heard almost all the cartridges named here ( including de SG. ) and IMHO many of them are far away from what you are asking for.

One cartridge that meets your targets and that IMHO is a great performer is the vintage Astatic MF-200 that you could get asking to this person that has some samples on sale:

Well, the Astatic is an alternative for you.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I have the Soundsmith SG-200 and I like it. While I don't think I am qualified to review it, in general I would say that my experience agrees with Michael Fremers -- which I would paraphrase as follows.

Less "romantic" than many moving magnet/moving coil cartridges but without their frequency response anomalies (e.g., rising top end). Very fast, clean sound; kind of like the differences between McIntosh tube amps (fast, clean) and other tube amps that are very good but which are "warmer" and not as neutral. The strain gauge has many of the advantages of the best digital sources but without the almost inevitable digital artifacts.

I really like the strain gauge and will keep it in my system for a long time to come.

Regards, James
Hi James, your input invaluable. I have to say I love the Zu modded Denon 103 because it is neutral but has great warmth as well. I'm just unsure it is giving me as good tonality and dimensionality as some thing a little more exotic.
My main concern with the Straingauge is that it's attributes are already demonstrated by the tt/arm combo I have, and this in total may be "too much of a good thing". I know a lot of audiophiles with very neutral tt/arm sounds often choose a slightly sweeter cart to even the sound out. But in the case of my Salvation tt/Terminator arm, the sound although neutral and incisive is very warm in the best sense (ie accurate as well) and a fast neutral cart may synergise v. well.
Can you specify the rest of your equipment?
The Astatic vs the Strain Gauge. One costs a few hundred bucks, and the other will cost several thousand bucks. So there's that to think about. If you are disappointed in the Astatic, you would lose maybe $100 on the re-sale; maybe less.
Vintage carts? I'm not sure. But I'll keep things in mind, thanks for the suggestion. Very tempted by neutral, dynamic sound that Straingauge promises which should augment my neutral, dynamic tt/arm combo I'm so impressed with at the monent.
Can one have 'too much' neutrality ie is it better to 'sugar the pill' with a more romantic cart?
Eg I know a fair few Grand Prix Monaco dd tt owners have offset the neutrality of the deck with the sweeter sounding Triplanar tonearm.
If you've enjoyed the harmonic depth, complexity and subtlety of cartridges like the Transfiguration Orpheus, you'll find the Strain Gauge a very different experience. I second Stringreen's advice, listen to one before committing.
I should not have been so specific in naming one single vintage MM or MI cartridge that would knock your socks off, if properly implemented. Others include but are not limited to: Grace Ruby, Stanton 980LZS (and other extinct Stanton models), Acutex 320 and M320, Technics EPC 100C MkIV (perhaps the king of them all). And there are many more that I have not personally heard. In any case, it seems to me that you want to buy the SG200 cartridge, and you are looking here for justification. Like Doug says, go for it, but have a listen first if at all possible. Trust but verify.

BTW, I never thought of my Triplanar as "sweet sounding". I do think of it as rather neutral sounding. But in contrast to a GP Monaco, perhaps it is sweet; I wouldn't know.
Gentleman, I'm considering many options, and assure everyone I will NOT buy without audition first. I'm just not psychologically tuned into buying vintage carts.
Re my Transfiguration Orpheus, I've always loved this cart but have subsequently switched to the Zu 103 at 25% of it's price and don't miss it.
I'm just intrigued with the concept of a very neutral cart on a very neutral tt/arm.
Doug, I get the impression you don't think the Straingauge will be as 'fleshed out' as the Orpheus, and yet Arran states it isn't tonally thin in any way.
Spiritofmusic, I have not heard a Zu 103, but have passed through Denon's top DL-S1 on my Terminator as a side-bar to a fairly wide range of NOS MM/MIs. FWIW the vintage MM/MIs will flip your wig. I've heard the Strain Gauge at several trade shows, and would not place it above the top vintage Stantons, Pickerings, Azdens, and Astatics. The Trans-Fi is a clean reproducer of whatever cartridge you give it. Don't worry the cartridge.
Dave, FWIW, Vic 'Mr. Trans Fi' has just moved from his long term reference, the Decca London Ref to a MM Garrott P77i which he runs thru a Ray Samuels Nighthawk F117 phono stage at a setting of 47kOhms. This is certainly getting me looking at the lower end of the price range. Vic believes the P77i beats the London Ref in all aspects esp. bass reproduction at 20% of the cost.
Similarly I've moved from the Transfiguration Orpheus to the Zu 103 at 25% the cost.
Where is the online information for these NOS carts? I'd love to discover more.
Tobes, I'm more and more going to give consideration to the Soundsmith OCL ruby cantilever upgrade to my existing Zu 103. The only thing that is concerning me is that there is a VERY large caveat on their website that a fair number of carts don't survive the transformation. This doesn't exactly fill me with confidence, and at present don't have a spare.
Spiritofmusic, my success rate is 100% - I've sent two 103R cartridges to Soundsmith for the ruby/OCL retip - the second is on its way back to me at the moment (so I have a spare).

I think Peter would have the 103 rebuild down to a fine art, since this would likely be his most requested retip(?).
I guess there is always some risk with 'surgery' on such a delicate piece of equipment. I can't recall reading of any failures in the forums, but I suppose it happens.

Worth the small risk IMO, but only you can make that call.

Don't let me talk you out of the SG either - everything I've read indicates its an amazing product. But if you like the stock 103, I think you'll be astonished at what the SS retip achieves.
Tobes, just a few qs. Do you choose the ultra damped compliance option? I believe this reduces the VTF needed from 2.5g to 1.7g. How would this affect performance? Have you considered going for the Silver or Gold 103 ultimate upgrades (I believe these may be the ones prone to poss damage). My Zu 103 is potted in their aluminium case, does this still make a good candidate for the retipping/ocl operation?
This certainly is an interesting way to go, if only for the $ value point of view.
Thanks so much for your continued help, Marc.

Here are alternatives that will work well on the Trans-Fi and set a high bar for comparison to some of the top new-production cartridges. It is catch-as-catch-can with vintage.

See Stanton 981LZS at:

The low.3mV output of 981LZS requires a high-gain phono stage, preferably without step-up transformers. IME this is near the top of the heap.

Recommendation: buy the Astatic MF-300 off eBay and send it to Alex at pick-upaalden for a re-tip. This will take it to the performance level of the top MF-100 model.
Choosing a Denon 103 over an Orpheus. There really is no understanding what other people hear.
Hi Dan, while the Zu 103 doesn't have some of the transparency/delicacy of the Orpheus, it more than makes up for in dynamics/bass heft/timing.
I've also had a couple of Transfigs from a few years ago with limited life before stylus wear became apparent, whereas the Zu 103 is well over 1000 hrs and sounds pretty fresh. Not sure v. pricey MC is the way fwd for me any more.
The SG 200 is expensive, but with no phono stage to factor in, I can sell mine and part fund the start up cost. Replacement styli v. reasonable.
However the Soundsmith modified Zu 103 looks really interesting.
Will need a new phono allowing MM 100kOhm if I'm going down the NOS route.
Spiritofmusic, since the standard ruby/OCL retip allows superb tracking performance in my Phantom I can't see any reason for the extra compliance mod (for my setup). I track my 103R close to standard, at around 2.3-2.4g, because I think it sounds best there.

The Midas aluminium body makes the 103 fairly heavy (14.5g) and cartridge resonance in already at the low end in my Phantom. In an arm with a lower effective mass the (higher) compliance mod might be of benefit - but I couldn't say.

I don't think the potting of your Zu will effect its ability to be retipped as it has to be well clear of the cantilever assembly.

Value for money the SS retip would be very hard to beat - that is not to say its the best out there (obviously) - but I have zero inclination (for now) to seek out anything else.
Dear Spiritofmusic: You are talking of neutrality as a main target to achieve on your audio system.

IMHO neutrality is an " elusive " factor/characteristic in audio items and neutrality to different persons has different meaning. From one of your thread you posted:

++++ " The amazing thing is that all of this is not in anyway at the expense of the natural warmth and tonal dimensionality that still puts vinyl way ahead of any digital (imho). " ++++++

" Natural warmth ", well I don't know what you are refering in specific way because if you are refering to what is live music normaly there is no " natural warmth " there but more " natural agresiveness ". Seems to me that you like more than something neutral something colored. The 103 is a colored performer against a neutral and accurate Orpheous. IMHO your " dynamics/bass and the like " that you are enjoying over the Orpheus is only colorations/distortions that you likes more than the neutrality/accuracy on the Orpheus.

I don't know if you are using the Hovland tube elctronics on the line stage that I heard several times and that IMHO has colorations as the ones you like it.

You can try the advise that Lewm/Dgarretson and me already give you about something not only neutral but extraordinary performer by any standards. Yes is a vintage cartridge the Astatic one MF-200 that you could find through the link I gave you in my other post or trhough the Dgarretson links.

IMHO you can lose nothing trying that advise because is only an alternative a really unexpesive one, is so " cheap " that at the same time you can go for any other of the more expensive ( LOMC or SS. ) alternatives and let me tell you something : if you don't feel satisfied with that MF-200 you can sale to me, a compromise for my self.

All what is in this thread are alternatives and certainly you don't have to go with only one.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Spirit, converting any phono stage to 100K loading for vintage MM/MI cartridges is as simple as replacing the two or four 47K or 23.5K resistors located closest to input. Switching any remaining small-value load resistors in parallel with 100K will continue to load the input to the nominal value of the smaller resistors. While you're at it, you can further improve performance with a top quality resistor like Texas Components TX2575 or Caddock TF020.

Unlike all other MM/MI cartridges, the impedance characteristic of the low-output Stanton 980/981LZS is similar to a MC: it wants from 1K to 47K.
Raul, Sadly, no more MF200s are available from that source, not even styli.
Raul, you are correct, I may be ambiguous in my description of neutral/natural warmth. There are so many factors at play in setting the final sound of a system (power/vibration control/speed stability in a tt etc) that often component/accessory changes amount to the listener trying to alter tonal balance within a system.
So in my case, previously changing to BAT electronics led to excessive warmth, Krell to excessive sterility, the Hovland pre/pow led to an acceptable balance of what I call 'natural warmth'.
Similarly I struggle with SME/Clearaudio tts/Lyra Skala cart (too clinical), and Linn Sondek LP12/my previous Michell Orbe tt/SME V (too warm) and now my new tt/arm has an even tonal balance for me. The Salvation/Terminator are maybe the most uncoloured components I have in my system, and since it's getting harder to hear range of carts, I'm using people's comments to get to a shortlist of 3-5 carts that might work.
So far it is the Zu 103/Soundsmith OC/CL upgrades, revisiting my Transfig Orpheus, NOS MMs Astatic/Acutex etc (completely news to me as choices), Decca London Ref, Garrott P77i and Straingauge.
Btw, what are the phono stages of choice with all of you out there, esp. those promoting the 47k/100k options for NOS MM?
I have been recommended a NOS MM 'super' cart, the MF2500, any thoughts on this?
Regards to all.
Dear Spriritofmusic: Other than the seller I know no one with experiences on the Astatic MF-2500 and even I don't know if the seller already heard it and compare against the MF-200/300 that some of us support.

The Dgarretson link:

is for acartridge that have the same motor of the well regarded MF-200 where for a few dollars you can up date through Axel ( Germany ) re-tipping/refresh. This is very good option.

Now there are current MM/MI cartridges that are very good performers too, Garrot have a pair of models and the Virtuoso Wood by Clearaudio is very good too especialy after Axel's " touch. You can read something here about the Astatic and Clearaudio cartridges:

Regards and enjoy the music,
Doug, I get the impression you don't think the Straingauge will be as 'fleshed out' as the Orpheus, and yet Arran states it isn't tonally thin in any way.
Arran didn't state that he's heard the Orpheus. There's no basis for comparing his comment to mine.

FWIW, I've set up and heard the Orpheus, the Ortofon A90, Dynavector XV-1S, ZYX UNIverse and Atmos, Benz LP, Lyra Olympos and other top LOMCs in my own system and in others. Any of them is more harmonically complete than the SG.

So is a low cost MM that Raul recommended which I still have lying about. Remarkably good for < $200, though Raul engages in a spot of hyperbole when he claims it rivals the best LOMC's. It's good but it's not that good, but at ~5% of the cost there's no disputing its value. Horses for courses...

Still, if you hear better dynamics and timing from a modded Denon than from the Orpheus then (as Dan_Ed suggested) our sonic priorities and sensitivities must be very different. The SG may well float your boat. Give it a listen and decide for yourself. Each of us is deaf in our own, unique ways. ;-)
Doug, Do you have an Astatic MF200, or what other cartridge recommended by Raul are you referring to? I have never heard any Astatic, yet.

The MM/MI sound is "different" for sure from the MC sound. It's a trade-off, as in all things human, but if one happens to prefer the good qualities of the MM/MI sound to the alternative, one can be quite content without spending the big bucks. In other words, my judgement is that the best MCs are not superior to the best of the other technologies in every way. And it's kind of fun messing with inexpensive cartridges and finding a gem here and there.
Doug, sorry to combine your comments with Arran's to draw a false conclusion. However you do say that the Straingauge will be a v.different listening experience to the Orpheus. Can you elaborate further?
Doug, re-reading your comments I get the impression that you feel the Straingauge is a thinner, 'whiter' sounding cart than the range of MCs you listed. Do you have any experience of the Decca London Reference which is an MC but loads like a MM at 47kOhms? This is the cart of choice of the tt/arm designer of my rig.
Additionally, I'm going to dig out my old Orpheus and reassess it.
I've never heard a Decca London Ref, sorry.

The original SG I heard (at RMAF a few years ago) had oodles of dynamics, a full frequency range, speed, weight, heft, etc. Everything it did it did well and nothing was distorted. However, it lost or severely attenuated the complex harmonics we're used to hearing on two familiar Vivaldi and Handel LP's. FWIW, we hear similar behavior from most SS phono stages and amps. Even the best ones we've heard (like Raul's original Essential phono/line stage) lose the lowest levels of musical harmonics. They simply fall below the sound floor of the component and are not retrieved.

People who listen to rock or other amplified/electronically manipulated music might not notice or care. We listen almost entirely to classical, with a heavy emphasis on original/early instrument recordings. Reproducing harmonic complexities with completeness and accuracy is essential to reproducing the actual sound of such music.

My resident physics/materials science genius predicted harmonic attenuation before we ever heard the SG. According to him it's virtually inevitable due to the the nature of strain gauges (don't ask me to explain the science, I'd make a fool of myself).


We haven't heard an Astatic. I'll have to dig around the pile to remind myself what that MM is. I do remember that Paul and I both said that no sub-$2K LOMC that we've heard outplayed it in any significant way. A steal at 1/10 the price (whatever it is, lol).

OTOH, the MI we auditioned a couple years ago was unlistenable (to us). Paul instantly stood up and left the room, a familiar sign that something was seriously flawed and paining his hyper-sensitivity. I struggled along for a couple of LPs, tweaking this and that. I gave up once I realized that what I was trying to fix (a phase-shifted echo or ghost of each waveform) was inherent and unfixable.

It took me 30 minutes to figure that out. It took Paul 30 seconds. That's a fair estimate of the proportion between our hearing and our IQ's. ;)

Paul knew nothing about this cartridge except what he heard, not even the name. At dinner he asked, "What kind of cartridge was that? It must employ a different technology than MM or MC to behave like that. Does it work by induction or something?"

He scares me sometimes.
What? I thought everyone knew that induction sounds funny.
But seriously, folks, I have no idea what Paul heard, because my auditory acuity, or lack thereof, is more like yours than his, but I do think I hear a certain character in MI cartridges vs the other two major types. For that matter, I think we could easily agree that MMs sound "different" from MC, as a class. Having said that, I am sure I could be fooled in a single-blind test, if I had to guess whether I was listening to an MM, MI, or MC. Which gets us back to Moving Flux (MF). Astatic is the only one I know about, unless MF is synonymous with Induced Magnet, a la some Grado and Acutex products.

There are good MI cartridges as well as bad ones, I'm sure.
I wouldn't touch a Decca. I have set up and listened to probably 15-20 samples, mostly tweaked by Garrot Bros. They have no cantilver, no compliance, and require robust tonearms to manage them. Although they are blindingly quick, they are unforgiving of suboptimal set up and at worst damage records when not set up properly. They load best at around 22k. Best arms are Zeta's, Ekos.
With regard to the 103 option, I prefer the 103 to the 103R which can sound overly warm and rolled off. I ran a 103 modified with Boron cantilever and Weinz Parabolic tip in an ET2 air bearing arm and this was superbly musical. I could happily go back to this from my Ikeda/Koetsu Black/Dynavector Nova 13D all of which are much more expensive.
I also note on the ET high compliance Moving Magnets worked amazingly well and should not be discounted.
My suggestion would be to try your current cartridges first as is before you make any decisions.
Dear Dougdeacon: +++++ " The original SG I heard (at RMAF a few years ago) had oodles of dynamics, a full frequency range, speed, weight, heft, etc. Everything it did it did well and nothing was distorted. However, it lost or severely attenuated the complex harmonics we're used to hearing on two familiar Vivaldi and Handel LP's.... " ++++++

+++ " lose the lowest levels of musical harmonics. They simply fall below the sound floor of the component and are not retrieved.

People who listen to rock or other amplified/electronically manipulated music might not notice or care. We listen almost entirely to classical, with a heavy emphasis on original/early instrument recordings. Reproducing harmonic complexities with completeness and accuracy is essential to reproducing the actual sound of such music. " ++++

this is not the first time that you post about harmonics and I think that on each time " things " are not very clear because IMHO you was not precise, I mean what harmonics are you talking about?: in which frequency ranges? it is the 2th, the 3th, the 5th, the 6th, its combinations or what? how any one of us with the same LPs can even figure what are you talking on harmonics with out be more precise about?

I think I know both of you ( about listen music experiences/habilities. ) more or less as you know me too.
I know all the " implications " on the music experiences on harmonics and its main influences on any music experience.

My take on the SS is that its main " trouble " is about frequency response deviations against any other LOMC/MM/MI cartridges due that does not performs with the RIAA eq. ( as any other cartridge/phono stage and as the recording was recorded. ), the SS has its own eq. curve. IMHO there is no reason that the SS can't handle music harmonics but its frequency deviations makes a different tone/color. I heard it in a very good audio system and that's was what I heard.

As you I heard in my system all the cartridges you name it but the Olympos that I heard in the same system I heard the SS along all them I heard in my system the Goldfinger, Coralstone, AT Supreme and the like. All of them good performers with its own trade offs.

IMHO the SS is a cartridge that can fulfil some persons music priorities that likes those deviations/colorations/distortions. I know you don't like it, you are to polite about, as neither I. Our priorities are different but other people are different too and some of them love it.

You and Stringreen posted to hear it before decide to buy it and I'm with both of you the only " thing " I can say is that we have to hear it for some hours ( not brief way ) against other top cartridges and then decide about.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Thanks, Raul. Our ears/priorities certainly do differ in some ways, always have, but we seem to have reached similar conclusions about the Strain Gauge (I assume you meant SG, not SS?). You may be perfectly right that it displays other behaviors besides harmonic attenuation, behaviors which bother your ears more than mine.

All one can advise anyone is what you and I have both said, listen for yourself and decide.

P.S. With regard to whether it was the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or nth order harmonics which went missing, my recollection (several years old now) is that basically they ALL went missing. If some were attenuated more than others my ears aren't good enough say.

I do know it was much harder to distinguish between (say) an 18th C. oboe and a 20th C. one. The difference between those two instruments is vast when heard live, and quite clear with all those LOMC's too. The SG lost a lot of the distinctions.
Will be fascinated to hear this supposed harmonic deficit when I audition the Straingauge. Would love to hear from others with experience.
I certainly know what I like in a cart's sound - hate cheaper Lyras, eg Skala, but love the Parnassus. Much admire the Orpheus, but Zu 103 an interesting alternative.
While I appreciate deeply the pro's and cons of varied designs, which are far less varied than the listening preferences of audiophiles, those that indicate that one MUST listen to a particular product at length to create a long term opinion are correct in my experience.

One experience I had with England in the home of a well known audiophile, engineer and reviewer who initially very much disliked the SG in his system, was monumental. After disliking it very much after 120 seconds, he suggested an experiment, likely to prove to me how bad the Strain Gauge is. We would play a CD and LP of the exact same classical performance, and compare. After 5 minutes of the CD, we played the Strain Gauge. As long as I live, I will never forget the confused expression on his face, as he then hurriedly transferred the LP to his new $8K magnetic "favorite" cartridge on his adjacent table, only to have the notes sound as if they were being ground out between some Metal gears. He turned to me and apologized, saying that if "anyone had told him that after 40 years of listening to magnetic cartridges, he had become biased to where he could not hear something so much better, he would have thought they didn't know what they were talking about".
This experience proved to me once again that we do have a long term acoustic memory of a sort - as well as a bias - sometimes so much so that it makes an unbiased hearing of something different very difficult, if not impossible.

While I would never dispute someone preferences, the comments about lack of harmonics implies technical inaccuracy in so far as tracing what is in the groove. With the levels of detail the SG is capable of, I would rather suggest that the non-linearity due to poor groove tracing of most magnetic cartridges CREATES harmonics, much like the non-linearity of tube gear. I have measured it - which is a simple task. If someone claimed that, I would agree - the SG reveals, but does not add. Being capable of reproducing a square wave from a record with little ringing or roll is clear evidence of that. The crescendos re-creation with no congestion is also evidence of that - and the physics support it real tracking capability. It is everyone's cup of tea?? Absolutely not. But those who have purchased it have largely indicated to me that "the musicians have finally arrived in their listening rooms." That makes my day every time I receive such an Email. Nothing is perfect. But the SG is unique.

Peter Ledermann/Soundsmith
Dear Slowlearner: Good England experience.

+++++ " This experience proved to me once again that we do have a long term acoustic memory of a sort - as well as a bias - sometimes so much so that it makes an unbiased hearing of something different very difficult, if not impossible. " +++++

this is something that happens almost all the time between LOMC biased listeners when hear the MM/MI alternative for the first time and normaly they don't give the " time " to this MM/MI alternative and frequently they don't even made the right MM/MI cartridge overall set up with the same care as they took with their LOMC favorite ones.

I try hard to be not biased to the magnetic cartridge alternative over the SG one, even I know and I prefer the quality performance of DVD-A against any magnetic cartridge.

I posted that I don't see any reason why the SG can't handle the " harmonics development " that as you posted came with the cartridge habilities to " stay in the groove " the tracking cartridge habilities that means lower or higher distortions ( depend on its tracking habilities. ) where these tracking distortions have and develop its own harmonics.

The first time I heard your SG I can't detect any tracking problem because that was not what I was testing ( was not in my place but SD ones. ) but LP tracks that I used at my place as part of my overall audio item testing process that I know in very precise and clear way.
That very first time with your SG cartridge was a learning session where what I detect was frequency deviations more than harmonics problems and I detected way before we compared against the Olympos that showed a lot lower frequency deviations/distotions. We tested both cartridges with almost the same LP tracks that I know as good as my hand fingers.

Nothing is perfect in audio always we find out trade offs and if it's true that SG signal pass through less phono stages ( no inverse RIAA eq. for example. ) that always degrade the cartridge signal it is true that our ears ( especialy mines. ) are very sensitive to frequency deviations that makes that some of the very top magnetic cartridges sounds more " natural ".

IMHO and thinking in " high voice " maybe the SG cartridge self deviations could be ( to me ) less " important " with a different/better SG self electronics. I don't know the SG electronics design so I'm only " thinking " about, I " know " that that SG electronics are not perfect and always could be up grade it. I can be wrong but I think that as designer you are not totaly satisfied in the SG today status and I hope that in the future its quality performance can lower or disappear its today performance " problems " in favor of the music listening home experiences.

Opinions are always that: opinions. Even with all the " problems " that surround the magnetic cartridges ( less and lower in the MM/MI field. ) I still prefered against the SG, at least for now.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Raul - what phono stage did you use when you listened to the SG.
...the comments about lack of harmonics implies technical inaccuracy in so far as tracing what is in the groove.
That cannot be inferred from my comments and it's demonstrably untrue: a cartridge is involved in more than just groove-tracing. Distortions and information loss occur everywhere in the signal path. For example, the strain gauge itself affects the signal (as do the armatures in magnetic cartridges of course). All non-linearities impact signal accuracy - even if the stylus has traced the groove perfectly.

I've no idea what listening biases some equipment reviewer may have but they're of no relevance to me. It's true that audio memories are long and ours are indeed biased - but our biases do not arise from listening to stereo equipment. That's a game for audio hobbyists, not music lovers. Our biases arise from four decades of intent, active listening to live, unamplified instruments and vocals at thousands of performances, in venues large and intimate, here and abroad.

Every stereo we've heard, including our own, falls miserably short of reproducing such music accurately. The SG (the one time we heard it) happened to fall short in the ways I described. Other components fall short in other ways. Each component must be auditioned by a potential buyer to determine whether he/she can tolerate, accept or perhaps even enjoy its particular shortcomings.

Perfect reproduction does not exist, never will. But criticisms from those with good ears and good intentions may be opportunities to improve if taken in the spirit offered. We have found it so, for our system...
Dear Dover: The SG comes with its dedicated PS you can't use it in other one.

Regards and enjoy the music,
The strain gauge is a system, cartridge and phono stage. There is no using anything else, which is why it is so very important to try before you buy.
Well, the Straingauge DEFINITELY deserves an audition if it can create this level of argument amongst audiophiles. Very much hoping it provides a 'cat amongst the pigeons' moment.
My new tt/arm is proving to be such a neutral, detailed, dynamic performer that I very much hope this cart is a match for it. Just about to send my Zu 103 and Transfiguration Orpheus carts for retipping/upgraded cantilevers, and am itching to do a 3 way audition with the Straingauge in the Autumn. I'll keep you all posted.
There is an interesting and recurring theme here - the question of accuracy to the recording vs verisimilitude to live music.
In theory the first should get you closer to the second - but given the vagaries of the recording process that may not necessarily be the case.

One things for sure, Peter Ledermann is one of the standout players in the industry. He appears to me to be passionate about music and its reproduction and disinterested in the profiteering that is riot in the high end. Keep up the good work Peter!
Tobes, I'm going to follow your advice and retip stylus to Paratrace profile and upgrade cantilever to White Sapphire for my two Zu103s and an old Transfiguration Orpheus (my ref prior to the Zu). However I'm going to get it done at the much respected Expert Stylus Company in the UK. They carry out a lot of retipping for styli thruout the industry, and I have great confidence in them.
I'll then bed these in my system and carry out a comparison versus the Straingauge.
My final choice to complete my superbly performing front end will then be between these three carts, and if I choose the Zu or Transfiguration, to feed the output thru a new Tom Evans Audio Design Mastergroove phono stage.
Spirit, since you're located in the UK, retipping with ESC might be easier - no international shipping etc.
I don't have any personal experience with ESC, but audio friends here in Aust have used that option and are happy.

It will be interesting to read your thoughts on the SG when you get a chance to hear it - looks like a cheaper option than the Mastergroove (with whatever) too.

BTW, did you read the user review of the SG here on Audiogon?: [url][/url]
Hi Tobes, getting cart/phono choice right is rife with stress! Actually with cost effective upgrades to current carts via ESC this is one v. straightforward option.
I just feel with my v. neutral, fast, detailed and dynamic tt/arm, the Straingauge may be just the ticket since proponents certainly seem to say it demonstrates these attributes itself.
If it doesn't work out, the Zu/Transfig/Mastergroove provide options I'm sure I'll be pretty happy with.
Will be having my Zu Denon 103 and Transfiguration Orpheus carts upgraded with Paratrace stylii and White Sapphire cantilevers by Expert Stylus Company in UK.
I will then a-b these with my current phono stage and possible upgrade against the Straingauge.
On basis of this will decide whether to plump for the more radical choice of going down the Straingauge route.
Would still like to hear those familiar with Peter's cart comment further.
Btw Peter TOTALLY refutes there is any 'harmonic curtailment' in the presentation of the Straingauge. Demo will prove this one way or the other I suppose. I have to say stripping analogue of euphonic warmth by going from belt drive to rim drive has heightened my appreciation of analogue, and I have a suspicion the Straingauge may extend this further.