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EMT Jubilee Series JSD5 Cartridge Review

Jack Roberts and the $3,495 cartridge to live with

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Let’s Listen

EMT JSD5 Photo © Matthew Rotunda

First Impressions: As for how music sounded, let me start by giving some first impressions. The thing that jumped out at me is that the EMT JSD 5 reaches out and just “man handles” music in a way that I’m not sure I had heard before. I found this sound very intoxicating. There is nothing wimpy about this cartridge. Yet, as I listened to Eva Cassidy’s Songbird album I was amazed at the delicacies I could hear in her voice. This is especially amazing when combined with the power of the music itself. The organ on SIDE TWO had more substance and color through the EMT than I had heard on this album before.

Lasting Impressions: Nearly thirty years ago, Harry Pearson wrote in The Absolute Sound about the difference in equipment that could allow recorded music to sound like music, and the equipment that sounded musical. What I’ve learned is that most high-end equipment is neither, but most is very good at letting you hear all the different parts of the performance. You can hear the bass, the midrange, how extended the treble is, the soundstage width, depth, and, well, you get my point. Often, these systems also make it hard to listen to less-than-perfect software. Then, there are the system we call musical or sometimes a “music lover’s” system. These systems are more forgiving of different quality and different types of music software.

Then, there are the very few systems that can occasionally produce sound in your home that sounds like music. EMT tables, arms and cartridges are often in the few systems I have heard that can occasionally sound like music and are always enjoyable to listen to. The JSD 5 definitely falls into this category of equipment. I think part of what creates this sound is the way the JSD 5 allows the flow and movement of music to come through. It is as if the music actually builds a sense of momentum.

Another part of this sound is a lack of distortion. This lack of distortion, combined with the EMT’s flow and momentum, helps create an illusion that there is music being performed more than reproduced in your room. While it is my opinion that the audiophile soundstage isn’t important to this illusion of music being performed instead of reproduced, scale is. Even mono recordings have scale and all musical performances have scale, whether it is large or small. The fact is that scale is one of the EMT JSD 5’s real strengths.

Let’s Listen: I’m going to do something now I seldom do in a review, but I think it would be helpful for those looking into cartridges in this price range. I’ve chosen several of my favorite songs on vinyl and I’m going to talk about them and then give a quick comparison of the EMT JSD 5 at $3400, the Benz Ebony TR at $3500, and the London Decca Reference at $5300. These are three cartridges I love and I would love to own all three of them. Let’s get started.

“Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “Amazing Grace” from Joan Baez’s album From Every Stage are two songs I always listen to with new equipment. The EMT JSD 5 was very similar to the Decca London on both of these cuts, there seemed to be more people in the crowd, more nuances in Baez’s voice, the sound was incredibly immediate, and alive sounding. It did all this plus having a very coherent soundstage. The JSD 5 also had the ability to let you hear the organic layering of her voice, the music and the crowd. Add to all this is the fact that it’s a great tracker. These cuts are inner grove cuts that often give cartridges a hard time. The JSD 5 sailed through them without me even noticing it was an inner grove cut.

EMT JSD5 cartridge in wood box

4 Responses to EMT Jubilee Series JSD5 Cartridge Review

  1. Doron says:

    Thanks for your review!
    While I have not heard the JSD 5 I live with EMT HSD 6 and absolutely love it.
    It makes very many MC cartridges to sound like a toy (as in lacking harmonic completeness and, substance and impact).
    I think the explosive dynamics, the impactful bass and the organic nature of the sound is an EMT house sound. There is something very appealing about the the fact that these cartridges, although very revealing (especially spatial information and depth), tend to compliment most recordings rather than find faults. I agree that they “man handle” recordings in a way which doesn’t not mask details but does not scrutinize to the point that only 10 recordings sound great and the rest are unlistenable.
    You hit the nail on its head saying they do not really belong to the “musical”, “chocolaty” camp which creates “sameness” and “agreeability” either.
    It is an “all rounder” type cartridge that does many things right and is very easy to fall in love with for its “rightness” in sound reproduction.
    Cheers on a very good review.

  2. DOC HOYER says:


  3. DOC HOYER says:


    • Bromo says:

      The EMT sounds like a good cartridge. If you are satisfied with a $75 Ortofon, then count your lucky starts you don’t have to spend more than that.

      (ANd not quite sure why you would read and comment on a review whose price alienates you?)

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