Saturday, May 26, 2018

So, I Went Crazy with Shure Carts (and Jico Styluses)

After Shure announced they would stop producing phono products (read cartridge and stylus), I quickly ordered another M97xe before prices took off.

But I was too late for the M44-7 (and M44G) as prices already doubled, so I decided to take stock of my inventory.

Found two M44-7 cart bodies and one near mint stylus. Also found a M55E with N55E that I've forgotten.

So maybe these carts will last me a lifetime.

But I needed to match them with stylus so ordered some from Jico Japan.

They came in nice jewel cases. These are diamonds after all.  😊

After some testing and mix and matching, found some viable combinations, but this is the one I'm currently enjoying. M55E body with Jico N55E stylus tracking at 1.70 g.

Sounding quite nice.  😊

Sunday, May 06, 2018

A Tribute to the Shure M97xe

Now that Shure has announced that it will discontinue it photo products (Shure announcement) some DJs and audiophiles are suddenly taking stock of their Shure cartridges and styli. "Turntablists" specially are talking about the M44-7, which has become the standard DJ cartridge. It is now out of stock at Amazon, except for some vendors selling at $150 (previously $79).

The M97xe, aimed at audiophiles, doesn't have the mid-bass hump that the M44-7 has, and has a lower output. There were some quality-related issues reported, particularly incidences of a channel going dead. Nevertheless, for those who got good copies, not a few preferred the M97xe for home audio listening.

Save for a couple of years when I put in a Rega Exact on my Technics SL1200 mk2 (the Exact is now happily singing on a RP3), I have been using a M97xe on this table. I got it for $61 when it went on sale at Amazon almost 9 years ago. I can say it's the best $61 I've spent on analog gear.

The M97xe I would describe as neutral sounding. It is more detailed than the M44-7, maybe due to its 0.2x0.7 mm elliptical stylus. It's neither brash and "in your face" nor bright, perhaps due to an early roll off at the top end. Definitely analog sounding, not CD-like. Still got that Shure sound, specially the midrange. Steve Miller Band puts a smile on your face when they sing

'Cause I'm a picker
I'm a grinner
I'm a lover
And I'm a sinner
Playin' my music in the sun
I'm a joker
I'm a smoker
I'm a mid-night toker
I get my lovin' on the run

It makes less than perfect records sound listenable, and very good recordings sound very good indeed. The horns in Michael Franks "Underneath the Apple Tree" are sensuous and you wanna join in when he sings

Underneath the apple tree
Mama's got her eye on me
Just wearing suntan lotion
This is how we spend each day
May, June, and July
Sunning in our birthday suits

Properly set-up in a good system it can reveal differences in recordings quite easily. It's a cart one can live with.

Some audiophiles report that using a Jico SAS stylus on it would make it match the iconic Shure V15. So maybe it's worth keeping, if not for collecting purposes, then for a possible future upgrade.

It's inevitable that Shure carts will become rarer. Like most things taken for granted, this cart may soon get more appreciation once gone.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I Have Moved on to PLDT Fibr but This Tip Still Holds

It's been a while since I posted about my Internet connection.

As it happens, this post about solving my PLDT myDSL problem has the highest views of all my posts.

It basically gives a tip about changing DNS settings, which seems to be the weakest point of the PLDT service.

I have since moved to PLDT's Fibr service. It is definitely faster (I got the unlimited data with 20MBPS plan). It has allowed watching Netflix or YouTube uninterrupted while someone else is streaming Spotify or browsing. I am quite happy with it.

Nevertheless, I found that using the DNS settings in my original post still applies. In short, set it manually, and use opendns ( or or google dns ( or I find my connection more stable this way.

Some things change and some things stay the same.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Shure M97xe and Technics SL1200 Make Beautiful Music Together

Though the Shure cartridge is the cheapest component (except for the cables), it doesn't let the rest of the system down.

The SL1200 also comes into fore as a capable player, worthy of any audiophile.

I wrote my first impressions briefly here, but have since tweaked and optimized it with my system.

Here's the rest of the system and settings.

Shure M97xe cartridge: 1.25 g tracking force brush up, 1.25 g anti-skate, arm level or slightly tail up
SL1200 turntable with 3mm mat underneath original rubber mat
Straightwire Chorus interconnects from built-in phono to line
Dynaudio Contour 1.3 mkII speakers on wooden stands with metal base
Van den Hul CS122 speaker cables

But it's how it's put together, not the individual components, that makes this rig very musical. Hours of set-up, tube rolling, and, yes, cables to get that perfect synergy. One can talk about soundstage, tonal balance, or any other attributes. It has all of that, but what this system excels at is making music come alive.

Now I'm listening to music, not hifi.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Effect of Excise Tax on Car Prices in the Philippines in 2018

The bicameral committee of the Senate and Congress has finally approved a reconciled proposal for the excise tax beginning 2018.

For cars, the committee approved a four-tier scheme as follows
4%   - for cars costing up to PhP 600,000
10% - for cars over PhP 600k up to PhP 1 Million
20% - for cars over PhP 1 Million to PhP 4 Million
50% - for cars over PhP 4 Million

It's a simpler scheme than the current one with fixed and marginal taxes.

The more important question is : how will it impact car prices?

Below is a graphical summary, showing increases (or decreases) based on current retail prices (as of Dec 18, 2017).

If  you're in the market for a car in the PhP 2.5 Million to PhP 7.0 Million range, it might be worth waiting for January. Otherwise, there's a few more days in 2017 if you're eyeing a car outside this range.