I'd buy NOS ice cream if they sold it on Ebay. (Benz LP cartridge review.)

S

sq225917

Guest
We all love the idea of a bargain don't we? Something we've spotted that we think might be better than the seller knows, or something that's just the right side of too good to be true. My own particular poison in NOS classic cartridges. I'm a sucker for them, a decent picture the promise of being box fresh and I'm in there like Flynn.

My last Nos purchase was less than stellar, a Karma, it was exactly as described, unused, but it was also 20 years old. it just never gelled right with SME10 and V arm, so much so that I was considering selling the deck and replacing it with another Kuzma Stabi/S combo that served me so well before it.

In a last ditch effort to save the day, after all the SME should be better, the power supply is much better as is the motor and main bearing, i decide to chance my arm at another cart. I was heading off towards a new Dynavector XX2 Mkii, a snip at £1000 from all and sundry dealers who couldn't demo one for me, but would be happy for me to give them several hundred pounds profit for phoning the importer and having one the next day. Fuck that.

So unperturbed by my recent eBay failure I set out on the hunt for another decent cart. Well lo and behold what should I find but a Benz LP, unused, in its box, for five years. The seller had fallen on hard times and ......you get the drift..... I was hooked. The price you ask? oh yeh £999, half price.

So was it too good to be true, it did feel just this side of too good to be true, which is always a good purchase sign. The sellers eBay detail placed him in Newcastle- awesome i'll drive and pick that up- sod the post, I'm taking no chances. I buy the cart, pay via Paypal, and then.......nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero. Well maybe he didn't expect to sell it within 5 minutes of listing it, let's be fair. After a few hours he must have checked in, and he responded. Excellent news, he'd be happy for me to collect, bad news, he's moved- to Dumfries- and he can't meet me at Carlisle, cos he doesn't drive. SO I'm looking at Sheffield to Dumfries and back round trip of 500 miles- ball sack.

We exchange a few calls, and a day later I hit the road...

At 9:30pm I arrive at the house, I think it's his 'house' of course, when he turns the front light on I realise he lives in a 'castle'. Frankly no other word for it, a full on castle. I'm expecting gun dogs and servants. But no as his advert said he has fallen on hard time a few property deals gone sour and land under development is busting him with bridging loans. In effect I am offering £1000 of bridging loan relief. We enter his 'Library' and he opens a small drawer and takes out a package from Micro Benz, still wrapped up, sellotape never touched, not so much as peled back for a peak- brand spanking exactly as described NOS Benz LP cart. I crack it open, take a look, we discuss hifi, exchange some pleasantries and I'm off. It's 11pm though and I'm knackered and it's dark, this is going to be a long drive.

This morning I woke up and ran downstairs to check my new cart was real, oh yes, all present and correct- time to fit it. In fitting the cart I learn something about the SME V that isn't in the manual, when you dial in VTA the little screw thingy you use actually upsets the Azimuth, and it is possible to effect several degrees of offset either way depending on how you level the arm before tightening the base-plate bolts. I set everything up, bias, VTA, HTA, mess about with some headshell weight to see if it prefers a little more on top. after two hours of fiddling cleaning setting and preening I'm ready...

Out comes Rickie Lee Jones eponymous first album, Easy Money is lined up and down goes the needle. Mmmm, very nice, very cd- deep wide bass, nice texture, well fleshed out, even top to bottom. Very nice. I'm guessing it needs to run in some, so I keep playing it for the rest of the day, running downstairs every 25 minutes to flip a record over. Then at 3pm, It's time for a brew, and nice chocolate digestive, and a real sit down listen.

Well it's only got half a dozen hours under it's belt but it has changed, it's more coherent top to bottom and it appears to have gained quite a set of balls, dynamics are considerably more contrasted than on my cd player, spinning some of the discs which I know are very similar sounding on both cd and vinyl I'm met with having to reappraise my previous thoughts, they sound less alike than I remember them sounding and my cd player now sounds a little anaemic in comparison, whereas previously it has always slightly had the beating of my vinyl set-up. It wipes the floor with the Karma, and feels less tilted than Troika I had before that. It's close to the Dv20x I had before that, but much more extended and textured in the bass, while still giving the impression of speed and wide dynamics which help the music to flow along.

It's always a risk buying NOS/2nd hand stuff, as my last cart showed. But this is an unqualified success, what a cartridge. Now I guess I'll have to finish that phonostage board I have lying round, 372 pieces of surface mount hell awaiting my attention, my first SMD build. Bugger.

 

Cable Monkey

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Henry
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Nice write up Simon. I have two cartridges on my decks that were not new when I got them, one of which I would never have been able to afford new. The other an internet legend that actually comes close to living up to the hype. I have been stung in the past, a cartridge that was DOA but I have a 2 from 3 success rate and the dead cart was cheap. I think your Benz still has some way to go before it is at its best though. 6 hours means it is just about warmed up!

 
S

sq225917

Guest
I'd agree with you there, I put 12 hours on it both yesterday and the day before and it sounds sweeter and more agile than it did when new. It seems to take about ten minutes to loosen up when I put it on, even though the kit stays on 24/7.

It certainly has a most beguiling way with the bass, not as full, as the Troika was, which wasn't exactly neutral, yet presenting much more texture. It seems very honest and even handed, just the right amount of bite. I use the first track on the Seldom Seen Kid as a reference, on cd the trumpets sound awful stilted and unnatural, almost sampled, on vinyl with the Benz playing they retain their natural rasp and timbre.

I ended up spinning vinyl until 2am last night, no doubt it'll be the same again tonight. ;-)

 
M

murray johnson

Guest
Nice write up. Yes, the vta adjustment method on the SMEV is far from ideal and it's not as though they haven't had time to come up with something better by now. I don't bother with the little threaded piece to do it and haven't done for some while.

 

TIU

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A 500 mile round trip? :shock: Couldn't he have posted it to you? That's what I call dedication to the hobby. :) I sold two Pioneer reference components to a guy in Dumfries and he drove down to me to collect them so it's not the same guy. I don't think he lived in a castle but he has hacked up his living room furniture to insert gold-coloured strips in it, to match the Pioneer Reference series gear (I kid you not :doh: ).

 

Purite Audio

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I'd agree with you there, I put 12 hours on it both yesterday and the day before and it sounds sweeter and more agile than it did when new. It seems to take about ten minutes to loosen up when I put it on, even though the kit stays on 24/7.It certainly has a most beguiling way with the bass, not as full, as the Troika was, which wasn't exactly neutral, yet presenting much more texture. It seems very honest and even handed, just the right amount of bite. I use the first track on the Seldom Seen Kid as a reference, on cd the trumpets sound awful stilted and unnatural, almost sampled, on vinyl with the Benz playing they retain their natural rasp and timbre.

I ended up spinning vinyl until 2am last night, no doubt it'll be the same again tonight. ;-)
Simon Hi has the Benz 'saved' the SME then?

VB Keith.

 
S

sq225917

Guest
It certainly has keith. I'm going to save it a little more by building it a lightweight air-bladder platform when i get the chance. Theres a little bit of feedback through my bouncy floor that needs addressing.

 
V

virkon

Guest
I ended up spinning vinyl until 2am last night, no doubt it'll be the same again tonight. ;-)
Simon I'm suffering sleep deprivation, something to do with your ex kuzma!

 
S

sq225917

Guest
Keith, I said lightweight.... ;-)

John, great deck that, I was regretting selling it until the latest cart purchase.

 

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