Like most products by New York-based company Soundsmith, the CARMEN is a Moving Iron cartridge. This type of cartridge operates differently to conventional moving magnet and other moving coil models. This technology brings out the precision, articulation and dynamic range in MC cartridges. And thanks to an output level higher than 2mV and a load impedance of 47 Kohms, it can also go without an MC preamp. Moving iron technology is also used in Grado cartridges
The Carmen is the follow-up to the Soundsmith SMMC4, which went down a storm across the pond.
In terms of production quality, it has been crafted with the same care and precision as the brand’s higher end models. It has been built entirely by hand in the company’s Peekskill workshops. They are tested throughout the production stage. If the results are not satisfactory, the cartridge is destroyed! This highly efficient method is usually reserved for products 3 or 4 times the price of the Carmen, but for Peter Lederman this is the only way to ensure that his audiophile customers are getting a perfect end product.
The nude elliptical stylus is examined from all sides, then attached to an aluminium cantilever. The weight is purposefully reduced to allow for the control of the moving parts inside the grooves. The coil connected to the magnetic circuit delivers an output level of over 2mV and a load of 47 Kohms. This means that it is compatible with the majority of MM Phono preamplifiers on the market. The 47 KOhm Load, combined with a low capacitance, enable compatibility with phono stages built into amplifiers. Its total weight of 6.8g and high compliance (22) mean that it is compatible with the majority of low to medium mass tonearms.
And it certainly doesn't disappoint! From the opening bars, the performances are spot on. Reproduction is highly realistic, and achieves the perfect balance of clarity and softness. It combines the smoothness of certain MM cartridges with the definition and speed of moving coil cartridges. The mids have remarkable presence, without a hint of harshness. The treble is equally good – detailed, precise and smooth. The bass is particularly expressive and well articulated (which is how we like it!). The Carmen is also one of the quietest cartridges we have ever heard. Surface noise is minimal, indeed often completely inaudible.
The Carmen cartridge is a revelation, and does full justice to the Soundsmith name. Very highly recommended!
Principle: MI (MM)
Resistance: 47 kohms
Capacitive load: 100-200 pF
Compliance: 22 mm/mN
Channel separation: >26 dB
Channel separation: <1.6 dB
Stylus: Nude Elliptical, 6x17mm
Frequency response: 20-20 000 Hz (+/- 2.5dB)
Tracking force: 1.4g