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REVIEW: Sumiko Blackbird Phono Cartridge

Model: Blackbird
Category: Phono Cartridge
Suggested Retail Price: $750
Description: Sumiko Blackbird MC
Manufacturer URL: Sumiko
Model Picture: View

Review by dbear on December 06, 2004 at 17:55:35
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for the Blackbird

I have been using the Blackbird for about 3 months and find its performance to be outstanding in several areas. It Tracks extremely well digging out all kinds of details locked away in those grooves. A lot of other cartridges, even expensive mc's can sound fuzzy and hashy on high level peaks-- that groove tracking distortion that we have all come to take for granted with vinyl. This baby sounds as clear and precise as a Mark Levinson amp.

That being said, I have also found it to be a difficult cartridge to find happiness with. I have used it with the Wright Sound Wpp100c as well as the Rouge Audio Stealth phono preamps. With both of these I found the voices to sound rather thin and pushed forward-robbed of some of the fundimental solidity. The Wright with its fuller tube sound was a better match in that regard. But I was really spoiled by the clairity and precision of the Rouge\Blackbird. I had dificulty going back to the Wright. Suddenly you could hear how it was adding distortion and a opacity to the sound (tubes over the hill?).

The problem was the Rouge combo would sound lean and a little flat. On less than great recordings the sound could get really brittle and grating. I was using the sweetist IC's I have, the Acoustic Zen Matrix Ref. MkI. I continued fine tuning adjustments and finally decided to play around with loading. With a 1100ohm load on the Rouge the sound smoothed out considerably- more relaxed, less relentless. I encourage anyone using this cartridge especially with a solid state preamp to try playing around with the loading. You may be pleasantly suprised!

One final thing I tried was the TDS enhanser. I have had mixed results with this in the past but with the Rouge the results were near heavenly. Much of the same kind of richness and dimensionality as with a tube front end but preserved nearly all of the dynamics and detail.

I also just got a Shelter 501MkII. Here is that luscious midrange, easy relaxed dimensional vocals and horns to die for. But again the Blackbird has spoiled me with its superior clairity and tracking ability it really can lock itself into the groove!

In the right setup the Blackbird can give dazzling results. Especially impressive resolving power for a hight output mc.It really deserves top notch equiptment to get the best out of it. I would lean toward a great tube preamp where its high output is a distinct advantage. Overall though, I think that the Shelter deserves the praise it has been getting. For musical enjoyment it's pretty hard to beat.

Product Weakness: can sound a bit thin on voices. can sound brittle if not careful with setup and matching.
Product Strengths: great tracking ability, really digs detail out of the grooves; high output and low surface noise,terrific dynamics

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: PS HCA-2 (Modified)
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Sonic Frontiers Line 1
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Michelle Gyrodec/SME 309
Speakers: Newform RS 645 (Modified)
Cables/Interconnects: AZ Matrix Reference, PS Statement
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz, Folk, Rock, Classical
Room Comments/Treatments: 14x24x8
Time Period/Length of Audition: 3 months
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): PS Audio P300
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Sumiko Blackbird Phono Cartridge - dbear 17:55:35 12/6/04 (11)

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