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I can’t deny it. There is something highly evocative about a cartridge that glows in the dark. That’s right: two blue LEDs at the front of the Soundsmith cartridge light up to confirm its operational status. Just a gimmick? No, not really. You see, the Soundsmith is quite unlike any phono pick-up you’re likely to have come across. It’s not a moving coil, nor is it a moving magnetic/moving iron type.

Sound-Smith's Hyperion Moving Iron cartridge features an unusual cactus needle cantilever. The sound was analogous to this photo: clear, well-focused and loaded with detail. The Hyperion was used in a few rooms and all who had one and all who listened were enthused.

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Hardly 90 seconds into the demo, the earthquake hit. No, not one caused by God and nature, or the vibrational residue from a huge subwoofer in the room above or below. Rather, this earthquake was courtesy of the huge industrial washing machine located directly below Soundsmith's fourth floor exhibit. And we are not talking minor stuff here, folks. Everything was shaking badly, including the sign on the wall, and it went on for several minutes.

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The Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC ($1499.95) is a new cartridge that uses much of the technology of the Soundsmith Sussurro ($4799.95), which Michael Fremer raved about in the March 2012 issue. Like all Soundsmith cartridges, the Zephyr MIMC uses what's usually called a moving-iron design, but which Soundsmith designer Peter Ledermann prefers to call fixed-coil. Ledermann makes a persuasive argument about the superiority of fixed-coil over moving-coil cartridges, lower moving mass being the major factor (footnote 1).

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The Aida is nearer the top of a line that extends well into exotic MC pricing, but, understandably, the most popular models are even lower in price, such as the Boheme, at $1199, or the shop-girl of the series, the Carmen at $699. And you can get right into old Shure top price territory at $379 for the Otello. Pretty operatic, eh?

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The endearing Otello is Soundsmith's invitation model and cheapest in their range. But don't let its affordable price tag lull you into thinking it's a sonic dullard. Within its design parameters, the Otello really swings, delivering a satisfying mid-fi performance that's truly alluring. So a natural rival for the Otello had to be none other than my long-term mid to upper mid-fi reference, the $599 Garrott P77i.

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Janine Elliot takes a listen to the Soundsmith Carmen Moving Iron Cartridge that is made in the US and costs £759.00.

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  For weeks, I've been moved by two things in my immediate environment: there are the 1400-plus masterpieces from great artists, some of extremely dubious provenance, which the collector Cornelius Gurlitt had managed to keep hidden from public view not far from me in Munich for decades. Their value is said to be at least a billion Euro, which led to even greater oohing and ahhing than the recent record figure of well over a hundred million Euro that a single Francis Bacon piece recently reached. Our copy-and paste present is obsessed with originals, with the non-copied.

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Using a VPI Traveler V1 with Sumiko EvoIII Cartridge playing a Blood Sweat & Tears album from the local thrift store cleaned with Spin Clean.

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"The Mezzo and the Nautilus can perform this sonic magic of sounding lifelike and with the exact intentions of the musician, whether it’s played in the concert hall, in the studio, or on electronic hardware and software. Both these cartridges made each record sound like the best sounding record I've ever heard. That is, until I played the next record.” - Tom Lyle, Enjoy The Music

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They Said What?

The Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC ($1499.95) is a new cartridge that uses much of the technology of the Soundsmith Sussurro ($4799.95),

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