Shure M75E phono cartridge

This is one of Shure's new generation of pickups with "trackability" that grew out of research on the Type II V-15 pickup.

At first glance, the V-15-II and the M75E are physically identical. They're the same size, the same shape, and almost the same weight (the M75E weighs 0.8 grams less); and both of them have the same neat little hinged cover that flips down to protect the stylus when the pickup's not in use.

Closer examination, though, shows that they aren't quite the same. The M75E is sided with plastic instead of aluminum, its stylus armature is much more rugged (and higher in mass) than that of the V-15-II, and the replaceable stylus assemblies are quite different. On the M75E, only the stylus mount is removable; the hinged guard is a part of the cartridg body. On the V-15-II, the guard is part of the stylus mount, and come off with it. So, if you're thinking how clever it would be to buy the $39 M75E and convert it to a V-15-II just by buying another stylus, forget it. The styli aren't interchangeable, and even if they were you wouldn't be saving money anyhow, because an M75E and a stylus for a V-15-II add up to more than the cost of a V-15-II alone.

The results of our measurements on an M75E are shown in fig.1. Although we don't normally show separate curves for both stereo channels, we are doing so this time simply because, in our sample M75E, there was a marked difference between them. It is most important, though, to note that these differences occur mainly in the extreme upper range, where they will either be barely audible or not audible at all, depending on the high-end performance of your system, including your ears. For all practical purposes, the two channels may be considered virtually identical in performance.

The same can be said for the separation curves in fig.1. Even though the stereo separation becomes quite poor at the high end, it is in fact excellent over the entire useful audio range, for there is practically nothing above 12kHz on most discs except distortion products.


Fig.1 Shure M75E, frequency response (top) and channel separation (bottom) (5dB/vertical div.)

As usual, though, the tests don't tell the whole story. The response curves suggest that the M75E would have a very slightly dull sound, due to the mild dip between 2 and 12kHz. In fact, the pickup is, if anything, a shade on the bright side when reproducing musical material. It is quite "alive"-sounding, with a slight crispness at the high end that adds some hardness to strings, high percussion, and other overtone-rich instruments. We are not at all sure what causes this disagreement between the objective and subjective performance of the pickup, but suspect that it may be a result of a somewhat under-damped stylus assembly. Other pickups we have tested (the Decca Mark II, for example) that had little or no stylus damping have shown a similar tendency to sound more forward and "alive" (not to be confused with shrill) than their measured response curves would indicate.

So, what about the M75E's trackability? According to its spec sheet, its trackability at 1 gram is just a shade under that of the V-15-II at ¾ of a gram, and Shure states that the trackability will be improved by upping the tracking force toward the stated limit of 1½ grams. Significantly, though, the recommended force ranges are identical for both pickups, although it is obvious that the M75E must have higher stylus mass.

We found, though, that the point of optimum force was indeed vir™tually identical for both pickups. In an SME 3009 arm, the M75E did its best job on "difficult" discs, including Shure's Trackability Test Record, at just a shade under 1½ grams. Further increase afforded no improvement, and is not recommended anyway. So, we used the just-under-1½ figure.

Despite the slightly hard sound, which added some edge to tracking distortion when this occurred, we found the M75E to have truly phenomenal tracking ability. High-level tracking was perceptibly better than that of the Decca Mark II, not quite as good as that of the Shure V-15-II or the Ortofon SL-15, and about equal to that of a good Decca C4E.

Overall naturalness was judged to be a bit less than that of the Decca Mark II and comparable to that of the Ortofon SL-15, but the Ortofon was felt to be somewhat sweeter at the top while the M75E was a bit more solid at the low end and perhaps a shade less transparent throughout the entire range. Please note, however, that the competing pickups cost around $30–$40 more than the M75E, and that the M75E has none of the magnetic pull and hum-sensitivity problems of most of the competition. It is, in fact, one of the least "problematical" pickups we've tested for a long time. And for the price, it's the best pickup we've ever tested.—J. Gordon Holt

Footnote 1: Back at the end of the 1960s, the Shure M75E was the first high-quality phono cartridge I bought, mounted first in a Thorens tonearm on a TD-150 turntable, then in an SME 3009 Series II arm.—John Atkinson

Vade Forrester's picture

I remember buying a Shure M75E cartridge based on this review. The cartridge was poorly built and its performance quite disappointing. Wasn't around long.

Vade Forrester
Reviewer, SoundStage! Network and The Absolute Sound
My words=my thoughts.

monetschemist's picture

Mr. Atkinson, my Shure cartridge experience started a few years after yours; my first "decent" cartridge was an M91ED, mounted on a Garrard Zero 100. A couple of years later that was replaced with a V-15III with (thanks to a smooth-talking salesman) a conical stylus, mounted at first on a Grace 707-II, then an Infinity Black Widow, then back to the Grace. Then I moved on from Shure to a Coral MC cartridge of some sort, then a Fidelity Research FR1-3F... neither the Coral nor especially the FR1-3F were suitable for the Grace arm, but I wasn't informed enough to know that at the time.

Thanks for this! I wish I had known about Stereophile back then. The Absolute Sound and The Audio Critic were the only two magazines easily available in Vancouver at the time ("easily" meant going to the Vancouver Public Library because certainly no newstand carried this esoteric kind of stuff).

jimtavegia's picture

I have owned all of the V-15s at some point in my life and liked them all, but when I sold those older tables the customers wanted the carts and so I sold them. the type V I should have kept.

I now have my old stanton 881S in one table, a Shure M97XE in another (still my favorite for under $100), and an Ortofon OM30, and they all sound good to me and my old ears. I think the Shure M97 is not given enough credit for being a true bargain these days.