Shelter Harmony Cartridge Page 2

Ozawa talks of Shelter's signature sound, which he says is 'balmy' and should not become wearing over a period of years. He seems to have encapsulated this character into the Harmony with success, as it's an easy and alluring cartridge to listen to with any genre of music.

Back to the aforementioned Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This is the quietest airplane I have ever travelled on, and it came to mind when listening to Shelter's cartridge. The Harmony is not only uncannily quiet in blank grooves but is also able to bring soft background subtleties to the fore. That CFRP material clearly works on the ground just as well as it does at cruising altitude.

The delicate 'blowing wind' effects at the beginning of the title track from The Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden LP [Universal 0602517546950] were louder and more distinct than I remember. I briefly assumed I'd leaned on the remote control and cranked the volume up but, no, it was just this aspect of the track that was much more vivid. As the song progressed, the soundstage and depth of image was first-class, making the whole experience brilliantly engaging.


Alloy cantilever and gold-plated magnet yoke are visible here, the ingress of dust prevented as far as possible by a rubber cloak (also affords extra damping)

The Harmony's attraction to minor detail doesn't preclude it from also turning heads when it comes to bass. Its low-end performance is prodigious, with magnificent weight, depth and impact when required. Bass detail was also highly impressive, the cartridge keeping basslines firmly in the picture at all times.

Equal Weight
Grischka Zepf's bass playing is a standout feature on Chris Jones' 'No Sanctuary Here' from the Stockfisch Records Vinyl Collection [Stockfisch SFR 357.8006.1], but as Chris starts singing and the acoustic guitar and percussion enter the fray, it's all too easy for these aspects to dominate. Yet the Harmony gave equal weight to everything and held the track together immaculately.

Given that this cartridge does indeed err towards the smooth side, there's a concern over whether it can let its hair down and boogie when asked. Rest assured – it can rock out with the best of 'em, even though it doesn't have the bright, forward nature that you might assume is necessary for a sound with palpable attack. Once again, the incredible detail that it unearths maintains this pick-up's advantage.

'I Want A Dog', the second song on Pet Shop Boys' Introspective LP [Parlophone PCS 7325], is a long way from being a subtle audiophile test track. With house DJ Frankie Knuckles in the producer's chair, you might think it will sound its best on a Technics SL-1200/Stanton 500 combo. But just a few seconds listening to the Harmony strutting its stuff will disabuse anyone of that notion.

The cartridge's inherent sophistication did slightly gloss over the last ounce of sheer snappy punch from the drum machine, but the rhythm of the track was taut, crisp and lithe. As to those rain effects at the beginning, you'll be tempted to reach for an umbrella…

Track And Trace
At some point I thought I should try out Shelter's 'freebie' carbon fibre disc. Fitted under my Gyro SE's clamp there was, perhaps, the subtlest change in character and an extra slight sense of midband impact, particularly on material like the aforementioned Pet Shop Boys' track. The effects were definitely not 'night and day' but will undoubtedly intrigue inveterate vinyl tweakers.


The Harmony's gold-plated cartridge pins are sensibly spaced, correctly sized and very clearly colour-coded. Hooking up this cartridge is as trouble-free as possible

PM's Lab Report confirms the Harmony's tracking prowess while the tracing accuracy of that line contact stylus worked like a charm in capturing every nuance of treble detail buried within the grooves. Soft cymbals stayed vivid within the space of each recording, and instruments sounded lifelike. Henry Solomon's saxophone on Haim's 'Summer Girl', from their Women In Music Part III LP [Polydor 0813817], had a delicious metallic rasp to it while Este Haim's upright bass performance stayed strong.

And the Harmony comes into its own when reproducing stringed instruments, so those basses and acoustic guitars possessed a precision and stark clarity that ensured the colour of every note was distinct. More remarkable was the harp on 'Credo Of Ballymacoda' [Windham Hill Sampler '89; Windham Hill 371082-1]. Not only did it appear to be positioned in the middle of my room, but the sound of hand movements and 'squeaks' from the strings was effortlessly natural.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
With an uncanny ability to bring the best from almost any genre of music that passes under its stylus, the Harmony MC is a fitting flagship for Shelter's family of cartridges. It's both gloriously and introspectively detailed, yet pulls performances together with an all-encompassing harmony that's seldom experienced at any price. Those seeking analogue 'shelter' in an increasingly digital world will surely love it.

Shelter Inc.
Ibaraki, Japan
Supplied by: Padood Ltd, Cambridge, UK
01223 653199