There were a few pieces of equipment I had long wanted to hear in my own home. First, on the list was to hear some good Lowther-based speakers in my own system. Second, was to spend some time with the new version of the phono cartridge that had been this young man’s first audiophile love: the Decca cartridge. Well, thank you dear editor, for both have happened. After listening to several different Lowther-based speakers, I found that I loved just a couple and couldn’t tolerate the others, but the Teresonic Ingenium Silvers have become my speakers of choice.
The Decca didn’t turn out quite the same. Yes, I got to review the new London Reference and it may still be the best phono cartridge ever made, depending on how you define “best”, of course. For unless you have just the right tonearm, it struggles with tracking; and even in the right arm, it will never be considered a great tracker. Still, there is that clarity, the immediacy, the dynamics, and that incredible bass impact.
Why do I mention all this at the start of the review of an EMT phonograph cartridge? The answer is simple, the EMT JSD 5 gives me almost everything I had hoped for in a modern Decca. In my review of the London Reference I said, “The Decca cartridges of my youth were amazing. They were immediate sounding, and had the deepest, tightest, and most powerful bass I have ever heard.” This is the kind of sound you get with the EMT JSD 5, plus a more organic sound and all the good things we have come to expect from modern cartridges without the bad things. Well, more about all this in a little bit.
EMT Phonograph Cartridges
As I mentioned in my review of the EMT TMD25N mono cartridge, EMT may not be as well known in America as Garrard, SME, or Thorens, but there are few companies in professional and broadcast vinyl replay as highly regarded as EMT. Wilhelm Franz founded the company in the year 1940 in Berlin; the JSD 5 and JSD 6 cartridges were made to celebrate the company’s 66th anniversary. After WW II EMT became a leader in this field.
In 1989, EMT was sold to the Belgium BARCO group and became BARCO-EMT. Under this arrangement all that seemed to be left of EMT was that they still serviced customers’ cartridges and tonearms as well as manufacturing a few cartridges. Late in 2003, EMT was sold by BARCO and thankfully begin to create new products again under the name EMT-Studiotechnik. EMT says the JSD 5 and 6 are the best cartridges they have ever made and there is no doubt that they have the EMT house sound: Big, substantial, full of color, and with a midrange that just won’t quit. They also are more extended in the frequency extremes and have a flatter frequency response than previous EMT cartridges.
The EMT JSD 5 and 6 cartridges look very different from any other EMT cartridges I have ever seen. Most EMT cartridges are built into dedicated headshells that mount directly on EMT or SME type tonearms. The cartridges they make for other tonearms are of the naked variety with their big blank billboard in front and totally open sides, with all the coils and wire open for us to see. The mounting pins just hang on very delicate wires.
This EMT JSD 5 cartridge is kind of a half-naked design. The half-open case is milled out of what EMT describes as a “massive block of purest special aluminum.” They use gold-plated system components and unlike other EMT cartridges it uses normal ½- inch standard mounting and standard hard mounted pins for connecting to your phono cartridge. The JSD 5 reviewed here uses a Gyger S stylus, where the JSD 6 uses a super fine line stylus.
Since the JSD 5 was built from the start to be mounted in other tonearms, its mounting and hook-up went quite easily. After getting it mounted in theClearaudio Carbon Fiber Satisfy tonearm, I used it with an Auditorium 23 standard step-up transformer. The tonearm wire was Clearaudio’s and the interconnect from the step-up to Shindo Masseto was Shindo Silver. The amp was my Wavac EC300B and the speakers were the Teresonic Ingenium Silvers with Lowther DX4 Silver drivers. I used this setup for the entirety of the review.
While mounting the cartridge was quite easy, I did find the setup itself to take a lot attention to detail to get the JSD 5 to sound up to its potential. Maybe it wasn’t all that fussy and just took a little more time to break in, but let me talk about the setup just a minute anyway. Matt at Pitch Perfect Audio in San Francisco said to set the VTF at 2.5g and check it every couple of days as it breaks in. I too found a VTF of 2.5g to be where the cartridge sounded its best. It tracked just fine and sounded good at anywhere from 2.0 to 2.75, and was just a tad sweeter, and the music flowed just a little better with a VTF of 2.5 than any other weight I tried. Another thing that is very important with any cartridge, but I found especially so for the JSD 5 is to recheck overhang every time you change the VTF or VTA. You will hear a nice difference when it is spot on.
Use and Tracking
Most modern cartridges are very good trackers, especially when their suspension is new. The EMT JSD is actually a step above most as a tracker and the stylus does not seem to pick up too much dirt from the record and it plays quiet in the groove. All in all, a very easy cartridge to use.
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