I just received this Supex 900 Super cartridge. It is an early Supex model designed and produced by Sugano San. The Supex box looks more like a box for a ring or a piece of jewelry. I must admit that I prefer the wooden box of Koetsu's but still this little blackish box is part of the Supex "attitude" : discret and a bit cheap looking but effective and musical.
It is well known that Supex 900 are supposed to be affordable Koetsu. In fact this is not the first Supex 900 I have ever experienced in my own set up. First one was a stock Supex 900 Super and I was quite disappointed as it was a very soft cartridge, with no dynamic and rather muddy. It could not compete at all against my Koetsu Black Musashino Lab from the early eighties. The second one was also a Supex 900 super but... retipped by Van den Hul with a boron cantilever and an unknown tip. I will talk about it later on as I still have this cartridge and I want to compare it with the Soundsmith Supex.
As with most cartridges of this period it is super rare to receive a sample with a perfect diamond tip. This one had to be retipped and the job was done by Soundsmith in the US. No doubt this company does great job in retipping cartridges. I have for instance fond memories of a Koetsu Onyx long body on which they had made a really great job, in fact it is one of my best Koetsu experience. The seller of the Supex advertised his cartridge with two years of use with less than one hour per day of listening (something between 600 to 1000 hours). Diamond tip under microscope showed very limited wear and the cantilever is still straight ! Hurrah : this modified cartridge seems to be a good sample for tests.
I set the Supex on the new Uwe bubinga headshell. Tuned it finely with a protractor and set the vertical tracking foce a tad under 2g on the 12" Schick tonearm with no anti-skating (yes there is now an anti-skating option available for the 12" Schick tonearms!). At 1.7g it sounded too bright. Listening set up was built quickly with the head amp and the phonostage of a Sanyo C-55 serie Plus preamp without the preamp that I fed into a 12B4A linestage, a PP of 6550 Luxman (MQ-3600) and heavily modified Altec 19 speakers. First listening impressions are positive. It is involving and warm sounding.
I first started playing the LP Chron from Arve Henriksen. It is a great record for testing resolution, dynamic and soundstage. Coming from the Denon 103 in a Uwe malachite stone body with a Thomas Schick retip with boron cantilever and Line Contact III retip the first noticeable thing is that the Supex as a much lower output. Impedance loading with the Sanyo head amp is of 100 ohms and seems to fit the Supex well (I did measured the coils of my sample at an identical 2.2 ohms, boy this low in comparison to the 40 ohms of the Denon 103). Background noises on playback are also more noticeable, but the Schick retip have always been praised for there dead background noises on playback. Treble seems to be a bit less extended than the modded 103 and soundstage is very flat as well as the dynamic which is very soft. But well you have to keep in mind that these are the first spin of this cartridge which just arrived this morning in my letter box. It surely needs a bit of warming up.
Next record is the Daphnis et Chloé suite n°2 of Ravel with Riccardo Muti. The orchestra has nice body and it is quite a "romantic" listening experience... as if I was having some kind of raw SPU cartridge sound experience in the lower mids with an unexpected delicacy and sweetness in the upper mids and trebble. Even though I cannot stand anymore the Boléro the never finishing crescendo with the percussions is a really good test and as I was in a good mood I decided that I would inflict myself this torture. The beginning of this piece is indeed cruel for the Supex as the background noisies are really much more noticeable than on the moded 103. As the piece evolves to louder volume of course this becomes irrelevant but it is still something that annoys me. By the end of the track/side the sound pressure is huge and still the coherence of the music is great and I do have the feeling of being looking at a realistic orchestra, I can even feel the ambiance of the room on top of it. Not bad at all !
Third record play is a Japanese pressing of Another Git Together from Art Farmer and Benny Golson Jazztet. This is just a good jazz record. Funny, witty, groovy, energetic and with quite a few players playing (this is not a trio experience ;) ). It has also something about the timbre of instruments that I do really like, something that you only find in good old recording. For instance the double bass of Herb Lewis is as textured as Heavy Isley Pit whisky roaming through the back of your throat, and Benny Golson, Graham Moncur III and Art Farmer have quite a sound to... Still it is a difficult record to play as this Japanese version sounds a bit dry next to the original US pressing. The Supex plays here a really good job as it gives just a tad of the missing meat on the bone lacking on this particular record.
In short this Supex is not the most neutral cartridge I have ever tasted but it is also not so much colored that every record sound the same. In fact it has a sonic signature that do really reminds me of the original/early Koetsu sound. Details are there even though the far end of the treble is not as extended as on modern cartridges (Lyra, Zyx, etc.). Soundstage is average and quite fine in width. It is more the depth of the soundstage which is limited. Dynamic is very natural and not as spectacular to what I am used to still it sounds very natural and easy (I do really like the rendering of Art Farmer's trumpet on the track Funny Valentine of his LP On the road). I would definitely listen to jazz music from before the eighties all day long with this cartridge if I just had the time to do it... ;)
A nice cartridge indeed.