SHELTER: The 501-II Cartridge – opinions

"I drove home today in eager anticipation of listening to the Shelter 501-II that I bought used from Tom (see Shelter 501 Mk II). These are just some initial impressions as I listen to and get used to its sound. Comparisons are with my Dynavector DV-20X2L, both running through the CineMag step-up in high (30x) mode.

Setup was a pain as it has slots and the second most pathetic stylus guard ever - just marginally better than the Dynavector's! I used a Sumiko headshell, leaving the DV in its own headshell. I like the fact that the Sumiko is double-pinned and can be screwed very tightly into the arm.

Output is very close to the DV's so I left all the gain settings alone. I set tracking weight to 1.8g after a few experimental listens and VTA to very slightly high at the tail.

Listening to it, I get a tremendous soundstage, wider than the DV and about the same depth. There is also a wealth of detail with tremendous leading edges and microdynamics. On the downside there is more sibilance on my torture test (Save Me from Joan Armatrading), which I slightly dialled out by increasing the tracking weight, and bass is not as weighty as the DV's admittedly outstanding performance in this area - although the Shelter is every bit as dynamic with wonderful attack. Surface noise is slightly more noticeable.

The presentation of music is highly dynamic, neutral and very musical indeed. In fact, it's infectious and makes me want to play everything at once! Lots of detail in a big, open stage with surprising slam. I would say the top end is perhaps not as clean as the DV and this probably accounts for the sibilance I noticed (but only on the one track), and also the surface noise.

If I categorise the overall sound of the DV as 'dark', the Shelter is more vibrant and full of midrange zest. I am not getting the warmth thing that other reviews have noted, but then I think the DV arm plays an important part in getting the best from cartridges and adding very little itself. There is no doubt that the Shelter is a tremendous cartridge and I need to fine tune the settings now to get the best from it.

Just wait until my Hashimoto HM-7 step-up transformer arrives from Choir Audio

Oh, and thank you Tom for a most satisfactory transaction."

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