Rega RP6 Cartridge Upgrade - Soundsmith Aida

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by timztunz, Jul 20, 2016.

  1. timztunz

    timztunz "A Dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas and Brasil
    This past weekend I upgraded my Rega RP6 cartridge from a Rega Exact II to a Soundsmith Aida High Output Moving Magnet. It should be no surprise that the Aida is a better cartridge than the Exact II, and we all know that a new cartridge needs some break in time before it can show its real potential. But Holy Analog Bomb Batman, right out of the box this thing is an order of magnitude better in every respect. It's like I got a new stereo. The soundstage got deeper AND wider. I jerked my head once because something jumped on the WAY outside of the old width boundary. I had no idea how rolled off the top end was, yet now it's not overly bright, just right. Rock solid bottom end just slammin' those kick drums. Amazing separation of instruments. Exquisite detail and dynamics. This is gonna be FUN!

    The stock installation (without shims).

    [​IMG]

    I had to use shims to maintain VTA due to the Soundsmith being taller. I opted for the Acoustic Signature Stainless Steel versions for their elegance and ease of installation. I chose them because of their elegance and ease of installation. They come in two halves so all you have to do is loosen the screws hold the arm assembly in place and slide the spacers under, not having to remove to the entire arm assembly. Another advantage of the Acoustic Signature shims is that they come with a 2mm, 1mm and 0,5mm for fine adjustments. I had to use all of the supplied 3.5mm to maintain the correct VTA of the Aida. It was a much taller cartridge than the Exact II. I had every intention of taking a photo of them before installing them but in my excitement I got carried away and didn't get the photo. But to see them you can go here. Here is after the shims were installed.

    [​IMG]

    I used a Feickert Setup Protractor utilizing Baerwald Geometry for alignment.

    [​IMG]

    A really gorgeous sounding cartridge. I'm excited. I also have to give a shout out for the Soundsmith thumbscrews for ease in mounting a cartridge! The come in various materials depending on the weight needed for setting proper VTF.

    [​IMG]

    We talk a lot about "the law of diminishing returns" around here. I have two systems, a Reference system in Houston and a second system in Brasil (an all Rega system), and I live with them alternating two months at a time. In Houston I have a VPI Classic 3 with SDS, a Miyajima Shilabe cartridge and a Sutherland Eng. Hubble phono stage. I don't have to say what the $ value of all that is, it's easy enough to figure it out. In Brasil I have an RP6, with this new cartridge, all of the available Groovetracer mods, the Michael Lim double pulley and silicone belts, all sitting atop a Gingko Cloud suspension system. Obviously given the disparate 4 value of each system I would not expect them to perform the same. But I have to tell you, IMHO for my experience and my ears this little Rega rig gets 85% of the way there in terms of sound quality and satisfying listening experience.

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Long Live Analog

    Long Live Analog Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis/Nashville
    Congrats buddy on a fine cartridge, I bet it sounds amazing. Good pics too...
     
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  3. Erocka2000

    Erocka2000 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    Is there any way to get that counterweight a little closer to the pivot point? Maybe try some lighter headshell screws.
     
  4. timztunz

    timztunz "A Dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas and Brasil
    Not really, but for what purpose? But just for reference sake, there are 4 sets of thumbscrews in a set. Stainless Steel, Brass, Aluminum and Nylon, all obviously at different weights. These are Aluminum ones. I preferred the look of the Stainless Steel but they were indeed too heavy. The nylon ones could possibly be slightly lighter than the aluminum ones but not enough to move the counterweight more than a millimeter or so. But VTF is set perfectly with things just as they are. So I'm curious as to your concern with the counterweight being closer to the pivot point?
     
  5. Erocka2000

    Erocka2000 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    Because it will track better, the closer you get the counterweight to the pivot point of the arm. Others may chime in on the physics of it, but it's a somewhat rule of thumb that getting it closer is the way to go. Having it so far back leads me to believe that it may be on the verge of being too light for that cartridge.
     
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  6. Drewan77

    Drewan77 Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK/USA
    I agree with Erocka2000, keeping the counterweight close to the pivot results in less see-saw effect and it tracks better. I would experiment with blu-tak & a couple of small coins or washers firmly pressed on at the far end of the counterweight so it can move forward. Dissimilar materials can also have a beneficial effect on arm resonance.
     
  7. Brando4905

    Brando4905 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Marion, NC
    Congrats on the new cart! I just moved up to a Soundsmith Zephyr mk2 on a new table, and had a major wow moment as well. Just like your reaction, it sounds like a whole new system. Really, really impressed with Soundsmith.
     
    timztunz likes this.
  8. timztunz

    timztunz "A Dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas and Brasil
    Could be. I have an email in to Frank at Groovetracer to see what he says about a heavier counterweight. Thanks.
     
    Long Live Analog likes this.
  9. Thank you for your comments about the Aida - deeply appreciated. One important point - it is not moving magnet, but fixed Coil/ Moving Iron. The photos of comparison between MC and Soundsmith internal moving mass are found here:

    Fixed Coil vs. Moving Coil: Why make the jump to a different technology? | Soundsmith »

    Also - Our cartridges are an excellent long term investment, unlike other designs. Soundsmith designs can be rebuilt as new for 20% (or less) many, many times....The Aida can be rebuilt for $350.

    Peter Ledermann/President/Soundsmith
     
  10. timztunz

    timztunz "A Dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas and Brasil
    I'm an idiot. I know it's a Moving Iron, I meant to type Moving Iron and didn't. Thanks Peter, both for the clarification and your superb products.
     
  11. timztunz

    timztunz "A Dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas and Brasil
    Yep, you're right. It's too light. It's 110gm. Weights can be added up to 130gm. But the new model of counterweight is adjustable to all 3 weights. Gotta fix that. Thanks.
     
  12. Erocka2000

    Erocka2000 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    No problem. Glad you got it sorted.
     
    james likes this.
  13. DangerousKitchen

    DangerousKitchen Up in TO, keepin jive alive

    Nice upgrade Tim. I also started with the Exact II on my Rega and enjoyed it very much until I upgraded, albeit more modestly than you. The Aida looks lovely and I really like the concept of switchable weighted thumbscrews. I also use the Acoustic Signature shims. Those are the best! Enjoy!
     
    timztunz likes this.
  14. Andy Pandy

    Andy Pandy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brussels, Belgium
    Anybody that has compared the Aida to the Zephyr MK III? Both are roughly at the same price level and I would like to understand the difference in sound between the two models.
     
  15. Bringing back an old thread because I will be getting a new cart in the new year. Mine has 5000 plus hours and i think it is time. I might go for another Exact but I reached out to a great dealer in my area who really knows these tables and cart matches. Plus he would come by my house and swap out and set up.

    I wrote him asking about options and he replied to me below I now have a Musical FidelityX-LPS Phono Stage. Anyone have any experience with the Hana SL Cart????

    His reply: The Rega Exact runs $495 with exchange of your old cart and it's definitely still recommended. However there are some other great carts out there that will work nicely on your table, most notably the Hana SL at $750. It's a low output moving coil with a similar type of stylus (Shibata) to what the Exact has. We're big fans. It takes a little shim on the arm which brings the cost up to $790 total. Your MF phono preamp will accommodate it, although there are a few nice upgrades there as well. Rega has just released an all new Fono MC phono pre for $495 that's pretty devastating for the price.

    Let me know what sounds good to you and we'll arrange a time for me to come by.- M.
     
  16. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Break in time is mostly a myth as far as I know. Its more so your brain breaking in to the sound. Congrats on the new cart though, SoundSmith sure know what they are doing from what I have seen.
     
  17. timztunz

    timztunz "A Dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas and Brasil
    For some things perhaps, but not a cartridge. It's a fairly well established fact that cartridges have a break in period.
     
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  18. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Well not if you ask Ledermann the owner and designer of SoundSmith carts himself. I wrote to him about this personally in fact and what he said is this:
    "This is a complex subject. I have long said that humans can get used to almost anything, as amply demonstrated by the partners we choose to marry. All kidding aside, some of it is the brain breaking in. As far as cartridges go, Moving Coil designs often ROTATE on their dampers to accommodate alignment of the stylus to the groove walls. This can take varying amounts of time dependent on the design of the MC. Often, MC's rotate OUT of position due to improper skating forces or an accident! Our designs CANNOT ROTATE azimuth, as the generator is bonded to the suspension, so once aligned and set properly they maintain their azimuth, even though improper skating forces are present or even after an accident. Elastomers DO change in cartridges as they break in and age, as can certain styli designs polish and conform on a micro scale, better to the groove. Speaker suspensions DO loosen by degree with break in as well. In electronics, dielectric absorption changes the way capacitors sound, every time they warm up. Other components change over time as well - the list is very long. Switching power supplies and digital amplifiers start degrading the moment they are used and continue degrading. My power amplifier designs are pure analog for that and many other reasons. I DO need to say that hearing changes hour to hour for us all, depending on stress, blood sugar, blood pressure, .............you get the picture. There are times when my system at work sounds very different from other times, and I know it is not the system."
    There is a break in factor, but as I understand it its very minimal and whats more likely is your hearing changes, not the product itself. As Ledermann says though, styli shapes change and suspensions loosen, but change doesnt mean its better, which is what most people think of when they imagine break in.
     
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  19. timztunz

    timztunz "A Dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas and Brasil
    Seems like you've got it all figured out then. At such a ripe young age as well. Congratulations.
     
    Leonthepro likes this.
  20. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Syracuse NY
    Seems like he's saying break-in is a real factor. Anyways electromechanical break in/wear is a real factor. Typically it doesn't take the hundreds of hours some people claim. More like an hour to a day or two. I'm only commenting on electromechanical components, nothing else.
     
  21. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Sure, like he said, it is a "real factor". But it depends on the type of equipment and in most cases it seems that its a very minimal change and it shouldnt take long. If we for example take SoundSmiths moving iron cartridges, there is virtually 0 break in time needed because of their design.
     
  22. My original RP6 had a cart issue. There was a batch that were defective exacts about three years ago

    A guy came out to my house from my dealer and brought three Exacts with him. Two brand new and one that had been a demo for a month. The two new ones sounded ok and exactly the same. The demo sounded so much better. I kept the demo. It had been broken in.
     
    timztunz likes this.
  23. moomaloo

    moomaloo Forum Resident

    According to my quick search, the Soundsmith Aida cart is the best part of £1,700. It ought to be better than an Exact at that price...!
     
  24. timztunz

    timztunz "A Dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Thread Starter

    Location:
    Texas and Brasil
    There was never any question of that IMO. The Exact was not a “bad” cartridge. I just wanted more out of the groove than it was capable of.
     
  25. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    I don't know if I will ever have the opportunity to own one of your Adia cartridges. But, I like what I see and the feedback that I hear bout your most excellent cartridges.

    My nicest TT, which is the nicest TT that I have ever had the pleasure to own, is a Vinyl Nirvana, restored vintage Thoren's TD 160 Super. I am totally happy with the sound signature of this TT, which came with the 2M Bronze. Which would retail about the same price as your cartridge (but I bought mine as a pre-loved TT from another forum member, I did end up paying less than retail :)).

    I later purchased a Black Shibata stylus. Between the two of them, I have a lot of latitude in the sound of the cartridge itself, and it seems to cover many bases.

    I remain, however, very impressed to your approach!, mass and resonance is everything, while our perceptions and technology may have changed, physics, and the laws of the universe, appear to remain constant.

    Since you cartridge exists within a physical world, physical principals do apply. Less mass is certainly the ticket to a excellent sounding stylus.

    I have never owned a MC cartridge, and the ones that I have heard, sounded somewhat thin, as compared to the Ortofon's and the Shure V15 Type IV, that I use on vintage restored TT's. Even then, I have learned, never to judge anything that is heard in a store audition, because, the supporting components might not be matched and might not be up to snuff.

    What has also impressed me about your product is the inexpensive cost for factory re-tipping.

    I just have not been able to see the point of paying a huge amount of money to get a MC stylus re-tipped?

    Plus, I would figure on having either a new TT, like a P6 or better, or an older rim drive like a 301 or 401, properly restored.

    Currently, I am completely satisfied with my vintage TT's. Plus, I've already have invested my quota of "Green Stamps", in audio toys!

    I do have a question about about understanding the design of your product's.

    I understand that also Grado makes cartridges of Moving Iron design. Years back, I was impressed with how well their Sonata handled vocals.

    This is just me guessing, but doesn't iron have the same mass as a magnet structure? But since a magnet produces an magnetic field, wouldn't that be better to create electric currents, than just a piece of iron?
     
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