Those of you of a nervous disposition might want to look away now…
I confess, I’m a cartridge abuser 😀
So this is the current iteration of my dear Shure V15iii (I’ve included some beforehand photos for your viewing horror).
When I acquired it, it was unmolested, and it sounded good, but I always had an inkling that it was capable of better.
In stock form (with headshell) it was weighing in at 18g (easily handled by my arms 14.5g-24g range) but to be honest I hated the tacky silver plastic body that resembled a toy agricultural building.
So I explored the possibility of a custom made ebony body (Stanley Engineering, ebay, recommended!) and set about the horror show of exorcising the cartridge from its original body. Turned out to be a lot less of a challenge than I’d anticipated.
Fitted to the ebony body it sounded better, slightly warmer if a little more laidback. Complete that weighed in at 19g.
But as hell is fleeting contentment, and I’m a serial tinkerer, it was but a matter of time until I swapped back to my Stanton 881s love affair.
The difference between the two can be succinctly described “the Stanton has bigger balls, but the Shure has better spectacles”.
I’d got a Jico Basie stylus for the Shure, and it was superb when I used it coupled with the ebony body. But the Stanton was just more fun.
So then I got to wondering why, what were the differences?
Well the Stanton has no body as such (ie: no outer container), then I noticed that the Shure V15v does away with the body in favour of a pair of ears.
It was whilst looking at some MC exotica that I noticed appeared to use surgical tape, then I figured, perhaps I could attach the naked body of the v15iii to the headshell?
What the hell I thought, I’ll give it a try.
The whole process of removing the cartridge from the ebony body, applying a couple of rubber strips & whitetac to afford a little damping, to set the angle and tape it to the headshell (which also negated the arm lift & part of the headshell assembly) all took little more than five minutes.
I weighed the surplus parts and that dropped the weight down by 4g.
We’re now looking at a complete weight of around 14.5g which is the lowest that my arm is specified to carry.
Would it work? It no longer looked as pretty as it did with the ebony body, instead it now resembles something that might have fallen out the back of an ambulance as it pulled away from an explosion within a stylus factory!
How does it sound? Alive, it sounds bloody alive, gone is the laidback enveloping groove and now there’s magnification, attack and space. The low end, which I’d heard the Basie stylus is renowned for, is there with more impetus. Even if it still doesn’t carry that testicular heft of the Stanton, it’s close, very close. Close enough to be an acceptable loss given the wealth of mids, highs & lows.
Yes it now resembles an extra from a cheap zombie apocalypse flick, but is it good?
Hell yes. Would I encourage another to stray down this path, sure. It’s cheap to do and it’s pretty easy if you’re careful.
Just be aware that this is a path towards uglification of what was once a conventionally pretty thing. But it does sound better, quite a lot better than in its stock form.
And the Jico Basie EBN sounds better than my NOS HE, if you were wondering if they’re any good, yes they are.
May the outpourings of grief commence! 😀