Sussurro Paua on JMW 10.5 arm - mini review
I started my search for a new cartridge about a month ago. I have a VPI classic 1 with the JMW 10.5 arm. I researched cartridge options that matched well with my tonearm. One cartridge that was mentioned many times was the soundsmith zephyr. I had my mind made up to purchase one and began trying to find a used one. After looking for quite some time, I had no luck in finding a used one. I was just about to order a new zephyr direct from soundsmith.
Enter the Soundsmith Sussuro Paua. I located this cartridge used on the Agon classifieds. It had roughly 400hrs on it and, the price wasn't that much more than a new Zephyr. I took a look at the specs of the Paua and realized that the cartridge weight and compliance are identical to the Zephyr that was designed with JMW arms in mind. I then sent an e-mail to Peter Lederman to verify that this would be a good match for the JMW 10.5 arm. He said it would be a great match as long as you can set the loading on your phono to 1000ohm minimum. I went ahead with the purchase.
When I received the Paua, I set it up with a Mint LP protractor. I then used the ultimate analogue test LP and a multi-meter to set correct azimuth. I also set the SRA to 92 degrees with a USB microscope. I also adjusted my loading on my phono to 1100ohm setting. I was then ready to spin my first side.
I put the LP on and dropped the needle and was pretty disappointed in what I was hearing. While the cartridge did technically work fine with this loading, it sounded pretty dull and lifeless. I searched the internet for what information I could find on the Paua. I did read one specific review in tone magazine that claimed 2800ohm sounded best in his setup. Soundsmith states that this cartridge performs best between 2K and 4K ohm on thier website.
I re-adjusted my phono to a 2500ohm load, which is the highest setting I have on my rogue ares. This was really pleasing and lively. I tweaked my pre some to accomodate this loading and then began to seriously listen. I had been using a Soundsmith Boheme cart up untill this point. It was a good cartridge in its own right but, I realized from the first side that the Paua was in a different league.
My first impressions compared to the boheme were razor sharp accuracy and the high frequencies are beyond crystal clear. I am hearing in great detail high frequency sounds that I didn't know were present in recordings I am very familiar with. The Paua also has better definiton on extreme low frequencies as well. Low frequencies have become more powerful and tight where the boheme was somewhat less defined and boomy at these extreme lows.
I now have had this cartridge for a few days and have become aclimated to the sound. It is astonishing the amount of detail this cartridge retrieves from the groove. The soundstage I have become used to over the past two years with the boheme has become extremely wide. My speakers dissapear and it seems as if I have a stage of musicians that is wider than my listening room. Every instrument is in it's own space and well defined with correct tonality. Vocals are up front and strikingly realistic. When I close my eyes and listen, I don't feel like I am listening to a recording. It really does bring the performance into my listening room. This may be a bad analogy but, I would compare it to seeing high definition television for the very first time after watching standard def your whole life. It really does seem like that much of a diffference to my ears. A real pleasure.
I know alot of you have owned quite a few nice cartridges and I wish I could give comparisons to other high end cartridges but, this is the first really nice cartridge I have purchased. All my other cartridges have cost less than 1K each. This sussurro paua blows them all away. It's not even close. I guess that is to be expected considering the price.
I just wanted to share my first impressions and initial thoughts as there isn't much information or forum post out there about the paua. Take it for what it's worth. Those of you that might be considering the Zephyr for your VPI table might be as pleased as I am if you can locate a used Sussurro Paua. It is a great match on the JMW 10.5 arm. Sorry for being long winded. Happy listening.