Shelter 5000 MC Cartridge

P

Pac67

Guest
For those of you following the thread on 2-Channel debate on my journey to this cart, it finally arrived today, just 6 days after being posted from Hong Kong. The first thing I'd like to say is that Juki (2Juki on the Bay) is an excellent person to do business with, great communication and offers fabulous value. In the UK, this cart retails for £1595. You can have it for half that price (plus import taxes) by going through Juki, so well worth it. In my case, he upgraded my cart, free of charge, from the 501 Mk2 as he had none of those in stock..that's right...a 5000 for £503.

Probably best to start with where the signal goes from the cart. It was installed in a magnesium armed SME309, fitted to a Gyro SE feeding an EAR 834P Signature Phonostage. This in turn fed my lumley ST40 power amp, a 40 w/ch push-pull design using Mullard and Brimar valves in the phase inversion and gain stages and Harma STR 6L6's in the output stage. The amp was connected to my Horning Agathon Ultimates positioned near to the corners of my 20ft by 15ft listening room.

Unpackaging the Shelter, I was struck by just how weighty and solid it felt (it tips the scales at 11g) and the counterweight on my sme had to go half-way back to get it tracking at 1.6g. Its a bit fiddly to fit, but non magnetic fixing bolts are provided, along with a stylus brush and instructions.

I started with Shure's Obstacle Course MK2 test LP. My DV20 tracked 4 of the 5 levels in each test plus all five of the drum test pretty well, with the only noticeable breakup being on the violin section, where the DV20 only managed 3 of the 5 levels before the sound got a bit edgy. The LP states that top flight cartridges should track level 3 or higher and anything making a clean job of the first 3 levels is rated as a good tracker.

The Shelter tracked all 5 levels of all tracks flawlessly...not a single grumble, no edginess and zero break-up, just a clean sweep. I reckon there's no need to fiddle with the alignment any more that being the case.

Next up was Led Zep 2 LP (Atlantic SD 8236). I recall from playing this on the Michell Gyro/309/DV20xl that it was a fairly quietly recorded piece, needing a notch more on volume than most other recordings. There was surface noise evident using both the 309/DV20xl and the 3009/Sonus Blue Gold (mounted on my Garrard 401) and with both those carts, an overall dark balance with some roll off evident at higher frequencies and quite a muddy bass. The first thing that struck me when the needle of the shelter touched the vinyl was an absence of any sound...I had to check to see that the volume was turned up and the preamp switched on! Nothing but emptiness until the first track queued.

My preconceptions of this album, one of my all time favourites with more than a little tribute to Howling Wolf, particularly side 2, was a good selection of tracks spoiled only by a slightly muddled bass and rolled off top end. How wrong I was proved. The Shelter had me almost jumping out of the seat so loud did the bass come in, and so ultra-taught with it. No muddy fruitiness, just tight deep and LOUD bass. The highs were marvellously extended and I had to scratch my head...was this really the same album? It had sparkle that I'd not heard before.

I listened on to the famous drum solo which goes on for quite some minutes and was captivated by how accurately the drum kit appeared to be located. You could almost pick out every drum and follow the drummer as the piece played on, with some remarkable life-like timbral qualities to the bass drum which continued to decay after the pedal struck, just as you'd expect from a real life audition. That I'd never heard before.

Next up was Boito's Mefistofele (Decca Digital D270D3 - K270K32...Pavarotti, Caballe, Freni and Ghiarov with the National Philharmonic Orchestra). This particular recording, digital and all, is reputedly the best (and rarest) recording of this fabulous operatic masterpiece. It is (within my collection) the ultimate test of hi-fi weakenesses. Following an instrumental introduction which sets the melody and scene of what's to come, it builds with a crescendo of Seraphim and Cherubim in ranked masses which truly tests the best of needles and tonearms. Tremendous energy is put into the arm with this piece and whilst my DV20 coped well, the choral passages, rising into crescendo always degenerated into somewhat of a muddle. I wasn't expecting much better with the Shelter as I've never come across any vinyl system that could accurately delineate massed choral works.

Again, and very happily, I was proved wrong...this Shelter was growing on me by the second. The same inky blackness, to coin a tired but well meaning phrase, opened proceedings and it was here I picked up on some rustling of paper within the orchestra! That level of detail was absolutely remarkable and is a tribute to just how low the noise floor is with this cart. The choral works built up slowly and quite unexpectedly I could pick out front to back the massed ranks, in the most 3-d soundstage with distinctness to massed voices allowing one to "look" left to right and back to front against the Seraphim and Cherubim as their volume picked up. No muddling here, just plain remarkable dynamics, imaging and detail. The dynamics are worth making special note of. I have never encountered the sweep from gentle low notes to the immediate thunderous crash of crescendos quite like this. It gives for a truly massive soundstage with real tonal accuracy too to the instruments. I found myself picking out previously unheard distinct plucking of the Cello with the notes lingering quietly and dying back almost in a space of their own allowing their positioning relative to the chorus to be positioned.

Voices are very pleasing with again, a trueness to the timbre I've not experienced before, helped by that marvellous dynamic response which breathes real life into the recordings.

In short, the Shelter 500 makes even the venerable Dynavector DV20xl sound like a bag of soggy potatoes, a little rounded and mushy in comparison without either the dynamic response or frequency response of the Shelter. Don't get me wrong, the DV20 is not a bad cartridge, in fact its probably the best sub-£500 MC on the market. Its just that the Shelter is in another league completely and head and shoulders better than the 17D3 too.

Unlike it's 501 sibling, you could not call it's musical performance lush. Neither is it analytical in the same way that some Lyra's and Benzes can be. Instead it is more like the 901 but with enhanced and tauter bass and it shares the 901's wonderfully extended treble. The 901 is regarded as one of the very best MC cartridges ever made, irrespective of price and if this 5000 is anything to go by, I'd say it will develop a cult following of its own. It has the ability to match a tonal, dynamic and frequency range exactness without sacrificing any of the musicality that the older 501 was renowned for.

I never thought paying big money for an MC cart was worth it and considered any returns to be diminishing ones. I've rapidly changed my opinion. A good cart will make a system and its quite remarkable by just what margin it will achieve that. Forget pricey amp upgrades or the search for the ultimate turn table. Partnered with the GyroSE (and probably any other TT of a similar performance) this cart brings alive a music collection which might otherwise lay dormant, and it certainly restores faith in just how incredible some of these MC offerings are these days.

In summary, the things that make this cartridge very special indeed are its notably low noise floor, incredible dynamics and bass response and extended but smooth treble which combine to give probably the most lifelike musical rendition in my living room no-matter what is spun up. The sense of being there, the sense of scale and imaging are all exemplary and matched by nothing else I've heard to date (the 501 coming close but no cigar) and the lightning fast transient response without hint of distortion shows just how well engineered the generator and damping are in this cart. I don't often lavish such praise on any piece of HiFi gear nor have I ever come across a single component that has made such a difference to a system, but in this case I'd happily recommend the Shelter 5000 as one of the truly landmark cartridges at or anywhere near its price, and I've listened to quite a few. I'd be interested to see how it compares with the Zyx Airy but thats for another day...

Anyone halfway interested should contact Juki whilst he has these remaining in stock. You won't get a better price anywhere.

 

flapland

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Indeed nice review and a happy story in the end. I am considering ordering a ZYX R20 off him and now feel much more confident based on your happy outcome. Thats of course unless someone on the Wam has a ZYX hidden away looking for cheap transfer.

 
P

Pac67

Guest
Indeed nice review and a happy story in the end. I am considering ordering a ZYX R20 off him and now feel much more confident based on your happy outcome. Thats of course unless someone on the Wam has a ZYX hidden away looking for cheap transfer.
Deal with Juki in complete confidence. I had similar reservations, not least when I paid for the 501 which turned out was out of stock, but he did what no dealer this side of the pond would dream of and upgraded the cart to a much more expensive one for free, him being the only person to lose out. He fully insures all items too, so if it goes missing, you're covered. Good luck with the Zyx and I'd be interested in reading a review of that one as it was also on my shortlist!

 
P

Pac67

Guest
where does the 5000 fit in the shelter range, is it the new 901?edit to add, nice review certainly been happy with my 501. I'd have another shelter at the drop of a hat.
The 5000 is probably aimed at the 901 replacement with the top flight 7000 coming in above that and the 3000 probably more aimed at the 501, now discontinued but stil with stocks remaining. Many prefer the 501 to the 3000, its a different beast, but no-one I've come across who had the 501 and listened to the 5000 would go back to a 501.

 
P

Pac67

Guest
thanks, I've just read your post above about the free upgrade, wow what a result.Sounds like i'd better get saving, the hours are ticking away on my 501.....
It was a great result! especially since I told the guy I'd be happy to wait for a 501, but he was worried about reputation I guess, and sent me a note wishing me a merry Christmas and hoped I'd enjoy my "5000"!!!

If you like the 501 gthang, you'll lovethe 5000...sell the 501 and import a 5000!

 

Tel

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Aug 13, 2006
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Excellent result!

I like the Shelter range a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the 901 when I had one, I haven't heard the 'thousand' series but have read nothing but good things about them.

Enjoy! :)

 

Ian Sampson

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Rep added Pac67. Excellent review.

I have had an eye on 2jukis eBay listings for a year or more and spoke about him with a couple of wammers at BB's bake-off last year.

 
P

Pac67

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Hi Alfie, without wishing to diss the great 103, the 5000 will blow it into the weeds in every respect...good choice for your shortlist!

 

JVS

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A good cart will make a system and its quite remarkable by just what margin it will achieve that. Forget pricey amp upgrades or the search for the ultimate turn table.
Nonsense, you new cart would sound even better with sensibly upgraded partnering equipment.

 

i_should_coco

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I think it's true that any transducer are where the biggest gains and losses are to be had. Basically speakers and cartridges.

 

JVS

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I get where he's coming from Graham, and I agree with you - the starting block is the cart. Much of what the op says mirror my experiences when I recently upgraded to the Titan i. But I also think there's always room for improvement in any system. :^

 

alfie2902

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Hi Alfie, without wishing to diss the great 103, the 5000 will blow it into the weeds in every respect...good choice for your shortlist!
:^ at about 10x the RRP I would hope it does show the old nail a clean pair of heels! Would certainly be nice to find out!

I do agree that transducers seem to be where it's at in Hifi, but as with houses I do like a firm foundation!

 
P

Pac67

Guest
Originally Posted by Pac67 A good cart will make a system and its quite remarkable by just what margin it will achieve that. Forget pricey amp upgrades or the search for the ultimate turn table.

Nonsense, you new cart would sound even better with sensibly upgraded partnering equipment.
I very much doubt Jim whether within the bounds of reasonable expenditure that I could possibly better my own set up, so I stand by my comment. The system has real synergy. Loudspeakers work well in the room and there's little better to match my current amp which I hung onto because it makes such great music. I'd be interested though what you would change? Interconnects, tonearm or hearing aid? At what I'd have to spend to better what I have, there's no such thing as "sensibly upgraded" partnering equipment as the prices to better it are anything but sensible. I'm quite happy thanks with what I have. It's taken 25 years to get there and I have no itch to change anything now...the previous cart was IMHO the weak link and that's now sorted. I agree with the "garbage in = garbage out" philosophy and that besides a good source, good room/amp matching loudspeakers matter most.

 

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