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The flip side of this album is Ravel’s Bolero and La Valse.  The repetitive percussion as the backbone of Bolero was crisp in attack and more forceful than I've heard it, giving the piece the proper insistence that frankly did not come across when I have played it with lesser cartridges. Toward the end of La Valse, the complex milieu of instruments (oboe, violins and flutes followed by cymbals, brass and tympani) were all discernible separately yet remained unified.  The trumpets playing a flute-like riff towards the end cut through the orchestration with the dexterity of fine needlework.  All of this was laid out in a soundstage of impressive depth and scale.  This scale had dynamics and dimension where the height of the soundstage increased in tandem with orchestral increases in power.  Also striking was the heavy thwack on the tympani which I could feel in my chair.  Yet the delicacy of the other instruments playing simultaneously was unperturbed. 



This is not a thin-sounding moving coil cartridge nor does it exhibit the rising top-end curse of many moving coil cartridges of yore.  In my experience Benz was never in that camp.  In fact years ago I spent many hours listening to a friend’s Benz MC-3. It gave me the impression that the cartridge tended toward the rich and romantic yet at some expense of bass speed and overall clarity. 
 

Benz LP-S Specifications
Physical
Body:  Vented machined Ebony wood
Cantilever: Solid boron rod  0.28mm diameter
Stylus: Nude line-contact diamond, mirror polished
Stylus tip radius: 5 x 120mm
Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA):  20°
Coil: Square ruby jewel plate
Weight: 16.4 grams

Electrical

Output voltage: 0.34 mV at 3.54 cm/s
Internal Impedance: 38 ohms
Frequency response: 10 – 50,000 Hz ± 1dB
Channel balance: Better than 0.5dB
Channel separation: Better than 35dB at 1kHz

Dynamic

Tracking ability at 315Hz at a tracking force of 2 grams: 80mm
Dynamic compliance: 15 mm/mN

Setup instructions

Recommended loading: 500 – 47,000ohms
Recommended tracking force: 1.8 – 2.2 grams
Optimum tracking force: 1.8 – 2.0 grams
Recommended tonearm mass: Medium to high
Optimum working temperature: 23°C
Break-in period: 40 hours

Warranty
2 years manufacturing defects
Specifications subject to change without notice


   

Not so now.  For this occasion I cracked open a sealed copy of The Oscar Peterson Trio's We Get Requests [Verve VG-8606]. Ray Brown’s standup bass in the fourth cut was clean and tuneful yet not dry in any way. It had just the right amount of richness and air around it.  Oscar’s piano and piano on many other records stood out as a real strength of this cartridge.  I've never heard such perfect balance of harmonics combined with an almost palpable sense of the energetic changes behind fingers striking keys. I found myself playing more classical music than normally not because this cartridge didn’t excel with other music but because it did so much better on classical than any cartridge I have owned before.


To illustrate I played Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique [Mercury Living Presence SR90254].  In the first movement “Reveries and Passions”, the violins swell and I was immediately drawn into the music. The huge dynamic swings of the massed violins and percussion were rendered with explosive power. This cart can go from a musical dead stop to a thunderous climax better than any other I have heard. While doing this I don’t sense strain. Neither is there any blurring or masking of more delicate instruments playing at the same time. It's absolute absolute composure. The rolling tymps at the end of the 3rd movement were reproduced with all the necessary impact and speed yet off in the distance like the thunder they attempt to mimic. Now I had read about some mild criticisms of the treble performance of the Benz LP cartridge, the predecessor to the LP-S.


It was said to be subdued in the highs to perhaps rob the performance of some excitement at times. On The Jazz Crusader' Heat Wave [Pacific Jazz PJ-76], I found the cymbals at the beginning of the title cut to be present at just the right level without splashiness, being just crisp and realistically metallic and definitely exciting! I would not call the Benz LP-S dull in the highs. I find its treble performance totally satisfying.  Further into this cut, Joe Sample’s piano solo was very realistic. On this record’s flip side, Wilton Felder’s tenor sax in Stix March leaped out of the speaker with the perfect combination of bite and weight and again, no harshness at all.

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