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Old 21st July 2011, 01:28 AM   #1
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Default SPU Cartridges and Transformers Thread

Finally bit the bullet and acquired a new SPU GM E MKII for my TD-124/II/Schick/cracked_slate_plinth.. Quite thrilled with it overall, do need transformers with more gain and a lower primary impedance although those 977 are doing a lot better than I expected..

It seems like they actually knew what they were doing back in the old days.. This is certainly by far the best sounding analog set up I have ever owned, and I think would stand up well against some very pricey modern competition - not that the comparison will ever get done..

I have a ZU and a DL-103D, neither of these cartridges come close to the SPU in detail, dynamics, imaging, speed, bass quality and quantity, etc... I also have an all original loaner SPU G/T E on hand which in its own right is pretty amazing - all the more so given its age, apparently these cartridges if treated with a little respect are very long lived..
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Old 21st July 2011, 01:53 AM   #2
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Quote:
Finally bit the bullet and acquired a new SPU GM E MKII for my TD-124/II/Schick/cracked_slate_plinth.. Quite thrilled with it overall, do need transformers with more gain and a lower primary impedance although those 977 are doing a lot better than I expected..

It seems like they actually knew what they were doing back in the old days.. This is certainly by far the best sounding analog set up I have ever owned, and I think would stand up well against some very pricey modern competition - not that the comparison will ever get done..

I have a ZU and a DL-103D, neither of these cartridges come close to the SPU in detail, dynamics, imaging, speed, bass quality and quantity, etc... I also have an all original loaner SPU G/T E on hand which in its own right is pretty amazing - all the more so given its age, apparently these cartridges if treated with a little respect are very long lived..
Good to hear the comparison between the Zu 103/SPU. That's got to be seriously good sounding vinyl over around your place...

-Steve
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Old 21st July 2011, 08:53 AM   #3
brianco is offline brianco  Ireland
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My first set up was a Garrard 301 + 12" SME + SPUG T/E!! Back in 1965/6. The transformers were OK then, but vastly increase mass.

But what a seductive experience!

You sound ripe to now get lost in Joachim Gerhard's MMP thread!!!
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Old 21st July 2011, 04:27 PM   #4
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Originally Posted by user510 View Post
Good to hear the comparison between the Zu 103/SPU. That's got to be seriously good sounding vinyl over around your place...

-Steve
I'm obviously biased, but I'm really enjoying it. Vinyl now reigns supreme in my listening room..

The ZU is very good for the money spent, but really IMLE requires high mass head shells and a heavy and usually expensive arm more or less just like the one required for the SPU in order to perform its best. The SPU however performs at another level still, and is much less restrained dynamically speaking, and at least the elliptical versions track difficult program material much more confidently.. Sometimes you don't even realize how hard the 103 is working at some points until you do the comparison and then you very quickly realize that the congestion and sibilants you were vaguely aware of were the cartridge itself - not the recording. There is more resolution across the board (the ZU is very good in this respect), but the SPU interestingly enough comes across as more neutral and evenhanded - an interesting realization. Another observation is that the tonal balance of the SPU just sounds more right to me, and to the half dozen or so people I demonstrated this to recently.

I was eventually going to retip the ZU, but realized thinking about it that the cost of the retip + what I originally paid for that cartridge was well into SPU territory so I applied the retip money to the purchase of an SPU instead, and am selling the ZU in order to recoup a little of the money I have invested in this stuff.
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Old 22nd July 2011, 08:19 AM   #5
dvh99 is offline dvh99  Netherlands
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevinkr View Post
Finally bit the bullet and acquired a new SPU GM E MKII for my TD-124/II/Schick/cracked_slate_plinth.. Quite thrilled with it overall, do need transformers with more gain and a lower primary impedance although those 977 are doing a lot better than I expected..

It seems like they actually knew what they were doing back in the old days.. This is certainly by far the best sounding analog set up I have ever owned, and I think would stand up well against some very pricey modern competition - not that the comparison will ever get done..

I have a ZU and a DL-103D, neither of these cartridges come close to the SPU in detail, dynamics, imaging, speed, bass quality and quantity, etc... I also have an all original loaner SPU G/T E on hand which in its own right is pretty amazing - all the more so given its age, apparently these cartridges if treated with a little respect are very long lived..
simply beautiful, timeless!

congratulations on finishing this wonderful project, i envy you.
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Old 22nd July 2011, 08:21 AM   #6
dvh99 is offline dvh99  Netherlands
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are you running this into a tetra phono stage?
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Old 22nd July 2011, 01:56 PM   #7
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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are you running this into a tetra phono stage?
No, I'm running it into one of my own.. This particular design uses a triode connected D3A with gyrator loading driving a Lipshitz based passive EQ network into a gyrator loaded 5842, then off to my 26 dht line stage and 300B SE power amps. I designed all of the electronics in the signal path as well as the Onken (Jensen Ultraflex) based speaker systems.

The next area of attention will be the SUTs which were ideal with cartridges in the DL-103 family but have insufficient gain, and too much primary dcr to be an ideal match to an SPU.
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Old 23rd July 2011, 06:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevinkr View Post
I'm obviously biased, but I'm really enjoying it. Vinyl now reigns supreme in my listening room..

The ZU is very good for the money spent, but really IMLE requires high mass head shells and a heavy and usually expensive arm more or less just like the one required for the SPU in order to perform its best. The SPU however performs at another level still, and is much less restrained dynamically speaking, and at least the elliptical versions track difficult program material much more confidently.. Sometimes you don't even realize how hard the 103 is working at some points until you do the comparison and then you very quickly realize that the congestion and sibilants you were vaguely aware of were the cartridge itself - not the recording. There is more resolution across the board (the ZU is very good in this respect), but the SPU interestingly enough comes across as more neutral and evenhanded - an interesting realization. Another observation is that the tonal balance of the SPU just sounds more right to me, and to the half dozen or so people I demonstrated this to recently.

I was eventually going to retip the ZU, but realized thinking about it that the cost of the retip + what I originally paid for that cartridge was well into SPU territory so I applied the retip money to the purchase of an SPU instead, and am selling the ZU in order to recoup a little of the money I have invested in this stuff.
Thanks for that description. It should be very useful to anyone already familiar with a rebodied DL-103/R and looking for a logical step upward. Good point about associated costs in upgrading the DL-103/R.......re-body, plus re-tip puts it into a price category where there is competition. And competition in the form of an SPU! The Zu, on the other hand, is a DL-103/R that comes already re-bodied in a machined from solid aluminum body and potted into it solid with epoxy. That's gotta tame cartridge vibrations! Now, if for that price, it came with a FL stylus attached to a solid boron cantilever,...... But it doesn't.

Also interesting regarding dynamics and the SPU being even more dynamic than the Zu*. My impression of the wood bodied DL-103 and R that I've heard is that these are, in their own right, very good in allowing dynamics to flow through.


I have to admit that the DL 103's I've heard in my own system have limitations which I associate with price. Once you get past the cheap plastic body, and replace it, the cartridge is still limited in its ability to sort through the congestion in dense musical passages and display this with the same level of resolution as would be heard on the master tape. (Keeping in mind that other cartridges at its price level (DL-103) are even less able to do this.)

For me this limits the cartridge to rock and jazz....which it can be very, very good at. But for classical I tend to favor a different MC cartridge which is better at displaying timber and texture and allowing the listener to hear deeper into the recording.

But what you describe with the SPU suggests that it will be a cartridge you might favor for just about any musical genre?

Other choices in the SPU price range:
For those using tonearms (heavy tonearms) which don't allow the Ortofon headshell, but instead offer slots to mount a more conventional cartridge, one brand that comes to mind: EMT

I haven't heard these, but have read some reviews in recent AD collumns. As have we all. Makes me wonder if the some of the EMT carts now available won't also compliment vintage TT's like this Thorens.

-Steve

Last edited by user510; 23rd July 2011 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 23rd July 2011, 07:59 PM   #9
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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The ZU is definitely a pretty significant improvement IMLE over the stock DL-103, the congestion issue you mention in your post is the biggest shortcoming of this cartridge whether rebodied or not. Ultimately this is what did me in - I could hear this on all sorts of diverse material and the sibilance issue with certain recordings of female singers like Regina Spektor, and Sarah McLachlan left me wanting more. Noting also that it's performance on classical music and jazz was pretty good. Once you have something better to compare it to its shortcomings are readily apparent - however even a completely stock DL-103 is a big step up from any comparably priced MM on the right arm - problem is that the right arm is most likely to be a high mass antique unless you get a modern Ortofon or Schick as I did. SME Series II arms are too light to do the DL-103 justice except for the 3012, and the S2 lightweight head shell is a bad choice with this cartridge as well. Noting I have only a couple of DL-103s on hand so my experience is limited.

In terms of longevity it is probably better to grab a new DL-103 - just shop around for best price, some sporadic US distributors offer them for as little as $120 nib when they have inventory, which at that price is not often.. I have found by personal experience and have been told that these cartridges loose their bloom with age, best I think to avoid any over 10yrs old..

The SPU has a much lower source impedance than the DL-103 and likes to drive low impedance transformers. I have a pair of HA-100X on hand which I configured for 50 ohm input impedance and this is so far the best sound I have heard out of my new SPU, better than the Partridge 977 which while a great transformer is not an ideal, although competent match for this cartridge. It's not broken in, but I think matched with the right transformer (and these may be it) it will play just about anything with a level of competence I have come to appreciate, and haven't heard here before..

One other comment relating to vintage SPUs - I have a loaner G/T E here, completely original, and it is very similar in performance to this one, a complete winner. It comes complete with tiny integral transformers - they perform extraordinarily well.

I don't think I had heard the actual dynamics on many recordings until I borrowed that G/T E some weeks ago..

Apparently the materials used in these cartridges allows them to survive long periods of time with their original performance capability largely intact. Perhaps this ancient G/T E was treated better than average..

It just made sense to get an SPU rather than invest additional money in the ZU, particularly when I can sell it and recoup some of the money, theoretically selling it and saving the retip money covered most of the cost of my new SPU. (I got lucky)

The SPU is pretty unflappable and delivers a convincing performance on everything I've thrown at it so far. Can't recommend it enough to those with the right arm and transformers.
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Old 23rd July 2011, 11:11 PM   #10
brianco is offline brianco  Ireland
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One (major) problem with the old spu range is that the contact pins are not very securely fixed to the body.
If you try to push on lead clips which are a tight fit you can too easily push the pins back into the body which snaps off the fine leads from the coils to the inside ends of the pins! It is well worth taking the cover off and applying a small drop of warmed epoxy glue to the junction of pin:body structure.
If you do snap the wire it can be soldered with a low temp. solder and iron, but it is very easy to burn the wire.
Many years ago (early 1980s) Ortofon UK would give you a new cartridge for a broken one -(whatever the fault/s)- for UKŁ30.00!!!! (approx US$50.00)
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