Stereo Amplifier

Review: Shure M95HE Phono cartridge

The Shure family of moving-magnet cart ridges seems always to have spanned the whole price gamut, except that rarest of upper atmospheres inhabited by only a few ultraexpensive moving-coil types and other exotica. The special virtues of Shure cartridges are therefore known to many thousands of record users and certainly include reliability, consistency and unfussiness-meaning they track well when used in almost any pickup arm. For many years the Shure V15 cartridge has stood at the head of their range and the latest version, the V15/IV demonstrated the amount of development work that went into it by sporting a number of new features. These included a dynamic stabilizer (much more than a brush) which picked up loose dust, had an electrical short-circuit to earth to reduce static and introduced a degree of damping of vertical movement to help the pickup over record warps.

Another feature introduced with the Shure V15/IV was their own interpretation of the 'line contact' stylus, the "hyperelliptical", which carries one stage further the philosophy of the elliptical stylus. The idea is to get as close as reasonably possible to the ploughshare shape of the cutting stylus, without of course having its sharp edges. The Shure hyperelliptical geometry gives a longer and narrower region of contact with the groove walls and is claimed thereby to reduce distortion and give improved tracing of high frequency waveforms.

Now this stylus shape has been introduced into the Shure M95 cartridge, which for some years has existed between the V15 and the ubiquitous M75 series. The M95HE, at its price of £42.09, may therefore be expected to appeal to users having slightly more modest pickup arms or hi-fi aspirations, or both. The low mass imparted by the lightweight nude diamond is another plus feature helping to account for the excellent trackability rating at playing weights in the range 0.75-1.5 grams. Owners of M95ED or M95G cartridges can automatically 'move up' to the M95HE specification by fitting the new N95HE replacement stylus (£25.86) either now or when they would normally be thinking of a replacement. The more rugged (lower compliance) M95EJ cartridge will normally be found in rather modest decks but here too, if the pickup arm is capable of good tracking below 1.5g, an upgrade to the M95HE should be possible.

How it performed

I fee justified in omitting a further description of the construction and packaging of the M95HE cartridge. Suffice to say that they are up to Shure's traditionally high standards and the fitting instructions and hard ware make light of the fiddling job of headshell mounting. For initial testing, I chose the SME Series III pickup arm but periods of listening on other arms revealed no oddities or suggestions that this Shure cartridge was any more temperamental than the others.

Shure have always designed for the standard 47 kilohms load resistance and a rather high load capacitance of 400 to 500 picofarads. I therefore left in the SME 200pF capacitors but owners of arms with low capacitance leads might like to investigate the effect of adding some capacitance, even though Shure state that a total value as low as 200pF, including the arm wiring, cables and amplifier input will make almost "no audible change".

Tracking ability at 1 gram was excellent and this would appear to be a sensible minimum playing weight for this cartridge as it just coped with the severe tracking tests on Shure's own lest records. An increase to 1.2g or more might be advisable on some arms. Output voltage measured a little more than the specified 4.7mV at 5cm/sec and this makes the M95HE a little above the average in sensitivity by today's standards - a distinct advantage if the amplifier is of modest specification in terms of input sensitivity or noise.

At its medium price, this Shure M95HE cartridge comes in nicely on the cost scale. It brings a high standard of trackability and sound quality within the reach of users whose pockets or pickup arms do not aspire to the V15/IV heights.