Soundsmith Aida Reviews

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Greenmonster2420, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. Greenmonster2420

    Greenmonster2420 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    Hey all,

    Contemplating purchasing this on the sweet close out deals going on now. How toes this compare to the Hana Sh or MH? Or ortofon Black? Looking for detailed, yet smooth and musical sound. Profile is so p to date with other equipment.

    Thanks!
     
  2. gov

    gov Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC
    I'm a huge Soundsmith fan and I have not owned the Aida so take this with a grain of salt....but you've described what I believe is the Soundsmith "house sound". I've owned three carts from Peter and team and currently have two of them. All have exceeded my expectations.

    To me they've all been what I find to be the perfect balance between detail retrieval, soundstage/imaging and smoothness I want as part of the sound.

    I wouldn't discount the Carmen either though...I found it warmer sounding than the Aida and all things considered preferred it over the Aida.
     
  3. Jeremy Bunting

    Jeremy Bunting Forum Resident

    Can't speak to the Aida but I have the Zephyr, which is a step below, and the Paua, which is a step above, and they are both excellent once dialed in, but are really sensitive to proper antiskate, alignment and azimuth. I had to get a Feickert protractor to really get my Paua sibilance-free because the VPI gauge just wasn't cutting it.

    I had the Hana SH for a while too. The Zephyr was much, much better. Richer sounding, with a far deeper low end, and creamier mids.
     
  4. Try1256

    Try1256 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Winter Springs, Fl
    I have an Aida. It is a wonderful cartridge. All the things you described you are looking for. Channel separation is incredible and it creates a huge soundstage. The close out price is a deal. I even considered buying a second one so when it came time for a rebuild, I would not be without. Should work nicely with the VPI tonearm.
     
  5. Guitarded

    Guitarded Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montana
    Don't have an Aida, but I just got (last 2 weeks or so) a Carmen II to use while I send my MIMC Star in for a re-tip. It's great so far.

    I think I am finally getting it settled in as the soundstage has really opened up in the last day or so.
     
  6. Greenmonster2420

    Greenmonster2420 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    Now my head is spinning lol. The Carmen was the original cart I was looking at but the Aida seems like a better deal overall and I don’t want to get the upgrade bug on my cart any time soon.

    Gov, can you elaborate on why you preferred the Carmen to the Aida?

    And Guitarded, how do you feel about the Carmen compared to the MIMC Star?

    I worry about the tracking of the elliptical stylus of the Carmen, but it is much more in the sweet spot of my budget, so any details are very helpful!

    Thanks!
     
  7. Guitarded

    Guitarded Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montana
    Well, the Carmen II has been a great tracker so far. I only have about 40 hours or so on it. But it set up easy (Soundsmith EZ Mounts!) and it has a really nice soundtage.

    Now, the MIMC Star has a MUCH bigger and more detailed Soundstage. But, it is a little less forgiving in setup and playback. It'll track through just about anything, but it picks up all the details. Good or bad. You are getting the info through your speakers.

    The Carmen II is not as detailed but the sound is really pleasing and it still does an excellent job with imaging Just not as defined as the MIMC Star.

    Of course, they are being played through different chains due to output.
     
    Greenmonster2420 likes this.
  8. padreken

    padreken Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Diego
    I am right at around 50 hours now with the Aida and it’s getting better with every track. Still a touch bright, but now that I’ve got the azimuth dialed in it’s really starting to sing, no pun intended. My first fine line stylus cart and it’s really true what everyone says, set up is much more crucial with these more severe stylus profiles. Bass is stunning-I put on side 1 of the MFSL Datk Side of the Moon the other day and was knocked out, rapidly becoming a big Soundsmith fan.
     
    JMAC, Try1256, waterclocker and 2 others like this.
  9. Try1256

    Try1256 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Winter Springs, Fl
    VTA is also very critical on the Aida. I find that very minor adjustments are noticable. Tail up will definitely be bright. I have an SME M2-9 tone arm and with the arm level it is quite smooth and balanced.
     
  10. jcmusic

    jcmusic Forum Resident

    Location:
    Terrytown, La.
    I am a big Soundsmith fan too, I am using the Sotto Voce cartridge and to this point it is the best cartridge I have ever heard!!!
     
  11. padreken

    padreken Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Diego
    Thanks, I will definitely be playing around a bit more with VTA, although my TT isn’t the easiest as far as VTA adjustment (Pro-ject Xtension 10 w/10cc Evolution arm). Right now it is level with the arm tube, confirmed with this nifty little plexiglass Hudson VTA gauge I bought on Amazon.
     
  12. Guitarded

    Guitarded Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montana
    I usually do this (on difficult VTA tables) by shimming under the mat with layers of card stock and paper discs and then transfering that measurement over to an Arm adjustment. That way you only have to adjust once.
     
    padreken likes this.
  13. gov

    gov Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC
    @Greenmonster2420 the Carmen is a bit more lush sounding which I prefer. I would say the Aida was a bit more revealing/bright but that's only relative to the Soundsmith family of carts. I think the Aida had a bit more "air" as a result. I find none of them lack dynamics or are what I'd call slow. My comments are comparing only the SS line if that makes sense. I also don't think you'll have any issues with tracking on any of them--can't say I've heard that as a complaint with Peter's work.

    To my ears, between the Aida and the Carmen, my preferences would make me choose the Carmen. But if my amp could support it, I'd take the MiMC star for the best of all worlds. I don't think your phono does MC gain though does it? I've also never heard your phono pre so that's a big consideration too---if it's old school syrupy tube sounding, the Aida could be jus the ticket.

    System synergy reigns supreme over everything I said above and I haven't heard your speakers, your amp or your phono pre.
     
    Greenmonster2420 likes this.
  14. Greenmonster2420

    Greenmonster2420 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    Thanks for the input. My current phono pre cannot do low output carts and I am quite happy with it for now. I'm hoping to keep until I'm ready to move into the $1500+ range for that component. The Chinook in the forum classifieds is extremely tempting, but out of my current upgrade budget and my phono pre (after the mod, it was not great before) is quite satisfying. Best phono pre I've heard when comparing sub $1k phono pres. It has some smooth, tubey sound, but very transparent and detailed as well.

    In fact, I think that is where my whole system lies. Smooth, yet detailed. Nothing is over hyped or emphasized - it very much plays what it is given. It can sound "laid back" when directly comparing with some more flashy sounding systems, but with some listening time you can hear you are not missing any of the musical information and it is never fatiguing. It makes for very pleasant long listening sessions. Now, mind this is with the AT cart, so I worry going too much towards warm could throw off the balance. Still leaning towards the Aida as increased soundstage and detail is something I'm looking for in the upgrade, but I would love to have good reason to save $500 and go with the Carmen.

    Have you had a chance to compare the Carmen with any AT carts or Ortofon Black?
     
  15. gov

    gov Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC
    @Greenmonster2420 If you are thinking of staying in the Soundsmith family for your carts, I'd suggest you look elsewhere for a phono pre beyond a Chinook--or at least make sure you can listen in your system. Nothing against the fine unit but like several other MC phono stages, it is limited (from a Soundsmith perspective) on loading options. You need to load all of the Soundsmith carts at at least 470 ohms. The chinook only allows for one setting in the >470 ohm loading range (787) which might be right on or might be off. On my mimc, I settled at bang on 470 whereas my Paua I like 800 minimum. Personally, the Chinook loading options where you have like 25 settings between 25-100 ohms seems overkill but others might disagree. I'd rather have the flexibility to load carts in a range of say 50-1000 ohms. Just a thought since you're not grabbing a stage right now.

    As to your other questions, I've never had a Black in my system (have heard a few times though) and only heard one AT cart in my life (a cheapo that came with the AT 1200 clone). I don't know your AT cart obviously but it always seemed to me that AT carts were on the brighter side of neutral. I can confirm the same for 2m Black from what I've heard. If you like this, maybe you should go with Aida. I don't think you'll notice a difference in the soundstage between the two but the nod is definitely with the Aida for detail IMO if that's what you're after.
     
    Greenmonster2420 likes this.
  16. Try1256

    Try1256 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Winter Springs, Fl
    The Aida is a hi output cart. Recommended load is 47k ohms. The lower output models are more like the MC carts as far as loading.
     
  17. gov

    gov Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC
    Yessir. I was referring to the low output carts in my reply. I own two soundsmith low output carts and they are quite different from MC carts in that they need a MINIMUM load of 470 ohms.
     
    Try1256 likes this.
  18. Greenmonster2420

    Greenmonster2420 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    So, I wanted to buy yesterday or Wednesday but still haven’t been able to pull the trigger. To make it more complicated I have gotten an offer on some really good deals for the Soundsmith new ES line of carts. Has anyone gotten a chance to compare and ES model of a SS cart to a previous model? I’m wondering if it’s worth the extra cost
     
  19. Pythonman

    Pythonman Forum Resident

    Will the low ouput Soundsmiths get by with 550 ohms? That's the max on my JC3+ for low output MCs and I'd love to get my hands on the MIMC Star if it would jive with that setting.
     
  20. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    The Aida seems to have an oddball output at 2.1 mv . I understand it could be a good compromise between reducing the need for LOMC type gain on the phono preamp while still having a low mass moving iron for dynamics- but it seems to require a minimum of 43 db gain when most preamps are 46 db. Could be OK but I would want more flexibility for preamp gain than the typical 46db- e.g. 43 to 53 db adjustable, which limits preamp choices.
     
  21. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    From the SS site:

    Suggested Preamp Gain: • 38 - 44 dB

    Aida | Soundsmith

     
    avanti1960 likes this.
  22. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    so if your MM preamp is 36 and 46 your're non optimum.
     
    patient_ot likes this.
  23. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    It would seem so. I don't know anything about OP's phono preamp. It says it's been modded, perhaps it could be modded again if the gain setting is an issue.
     
  24. gov

    gov Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC
    Technically yes and since you won’t have any comparison to other settings you’ll not have to worry. I have the earlier non star version and I preferred 470 vs 1000 which was the other choice. The top end is what will be lacking if there is a problem. However that mimc star has a sapphire cantilever so it should be “brighter” than the boron on my non star version.
     
    Pythonman likes this.
  25. Greenmonster2420

    Greenmonster2420 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Colorado
    Well the Aida is on the way. Went a bit out of my comfort zone on this one budget wise. But I am very confident I will not regret the purchase.

    Should be able to swap the cart over the weekend. Can’t wait.
     
    alarickc, Tullman and patient_ot like this.

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