Been messing about with cartridges for the Hadcock and came across a minty Shure M95HE which judging by the stylus (viewed under a loup) had minimal use, so took a punt on it. The Denon DL110 was fine but the resonant frequency was around 13Hz in the Hadcock (a tiny bit high) and whilst it delivered bass in spades when used with the 3009, was less dynamic with the Hadcock. In fact I've had one or two carts in the Hadcock in the past week and don't know if it's my imagination but the bass seems a teeny weeny bit recessed....not sure if this is typical, but perhaps it's just more fussy on cartridge choice....enter the M95HE!
There's been a large number of Shure models and it's easy to get confused between all the various models. I was originally after a V15III, but when the M95HE came along for the right money, I figured it would be a very close match with the V15. In fact, the HE has the better hyper-elliptical stylus to the VN35E fitted to many V15's. Specs are fairly impressive:
Output is a healthy 4.7mV with channel separation 25dB at 1KHz and channel balance guaranteed within 2dB (nothing special but as good as many MM's I've owned);
Tracking force is a featherweight 0.75 to 1.25g as per many of the higher compliance Shure cartridges;
Trackability seems impressive on paper anyway (24cm/s @ 400Hz, 33cm/s @ 1kHz and 19cm/s @ 10KHz);
The one draw to the 95HE is the stylus. With enhanced contact area over the elliptical versions, intermodulation distorion is a claimed 1.7% cpmpared with 2.3% for the elliptical versions and 2nd order distorion measuring 3.5% compared with nearly double that for the ellipticals.
For £75, this seemed a good (if not great) buy compared with the V15/VN35HE.
OK...enough with the figures...how easy was it to set up and what did it sound like?
Out of the box, it was evident that the supplied screws wouldn't fit, as the body is surprisingly deep. Luckily they did sort of tap into the cart body and grip with light pressure but to be on the safe side (no room to add nuts) I squeezed a small amount of Blue Tac into the ends of the mounting holes so that they compacted over the ends of the screws (a bodge until I get longer screws).
Setting up on the Hadcock was a doddle, but there didn't seem to be much room for adjustment on the GH242 as the headshell was all the way to the end. the DL110 had been the same . Still, it was spot on for the 69/122 home made protractor and also about smack on using a GH242 protractor sent on by Phil (Kingspan) who I bought the cart from. Stewartwen also kindly sent me a complete set up guide for the tonearm, so thanks a million Stewart, that was very kind!
Cart on arm, I used the latest version of the Hifi News test LP to set everything up. The main tracks on this which seem tricky to get the best from cartridges are the bias check tracks. There's 4, each one rising in output (modulation). My Shelter/309 combo can track the first 3 clean as a whistle but goes to pieces on the final one, so some checking of bias and alignment to look at on that. The M95HE managed the first two well, with slight right channel distorion on track 2 and distortion from both channels on the rest. Fiddle as I tried with the Hadcocks pretty dodgy bias compensation (weight hanging over a pulley onto a bias arm) I could only get a slight improvement, but it managed better than the DL110 surprisingly (or unsurprisingly as the HE stylus should in theory be a better tracker).
1st test LP was some light classical just to get to grips with tracking/tone:
Seemed to be super smooth and with better separation and detail than the Denon which came as quite a surprise. I switched over to Bob Marley's 1st Exodus Pressing and was rewarded with some superb bass with great drive and texture (ie not too one notey and I could pick out the bass guitar very clearly).
Some Vocals next and for this I used Joan Armatrading (1976collection). The Shure seemed to be setting a pattern for better than average (superb in fact) separation and detail and what impressed was the lack of edginess which I remember clearly from the slightly rougher (and darker) sounding M75ED. The M95HE reminded me of the M75 in it's lovely midrange although not quite as dark sounding but it was light years ahead for refinement and has better bass definition if not response. In fact, I'd say that the M95HE comes as close to the V15 as its possible to get and I'm not sure....hang on, no I AM sure that I wouldn't be able to tell it apart from a V15. I'm not sure if it is the same stylus as the VN35HE or the same generator assembly used with the V15, as there seems to be argument about this on various forums. Whatever, it doesn't matter, as to get a mint V15 and VN35HE I'd have been looking possibly at twice the cost. The good news too is that Jico SAS do a replacement for the M95 so when this stylus goes, I'll have a replacement for less money than a Goldring 1022gx stylus.
Meantime, I'm pretty impressed with the match on the Hadcock. Natural resonance of the pairing is quite low at 8Hz, but it does seem to track remarkably well, and the use of the Ref orbiter stabiliser I use helps to flatten the warped LPs which are likely to be what upsets tracking at this frequency.
All in all, this seems to be a great find, a great listen and a very revealing and clean sounding cart with very few vices. It doesn't have the ultimate dynamics of my Shelter or is as detailed, but it gives the 5000 a really hard time and all for a fraction of the cost. Very Impressed with it.