Sumiko Starling Cartridge Lab Report

Lab Report

While certain design features – not least the X-shaped coils, the pre-tensioning of the suspension, superb tracking performance and extended but 'bright' treble response – all have a Lyra-esque quality [HFN May '13], the Starling is otherwise quite distinct. There is some slightly asymmetry in the generator here, so the right channel has the hotter response with a +1dB lift through midrange and presence leading to a kick above 10kHz that reaches +6dB/20kHz on lateral (L+R) cuts and +2.3dB/20kHz with vertical (L-R) traces [Graph 1, below]. The left channel has a milder +2.5dB/20kHz (lateral) and +1.5dB/20kHz (vertical) response, but distortion is uniformly high on both channels – up to 20%/15kHz (–8dB re. 5cm/sec) – not because the Startling is especially non-linear, but because it has an uncommonly extended HF response.

Output is a dB or so higher than Sumiko's 0.5mV spec. at 580µV (re. 1kHz/5cm/sec), the channel balance is tight at 0.2dB and separation modest at 25dB through the midrange. The 'micro-ridge' stylus is well polished and precisely mounted on its boron cantilever, and although VTA looks closer to 26o than the claimed 20o its 10-11cu suspension compliance, combined with the modest 7.8g bodyweight, renders it very compatible with most of today's 9-14g effective mass tonearms. Moreover, and despite the relatively low (stiff) compliance, the Starling is a very secure tracker at its recommended 2.0g downforce, achieving >80µm/80µm via the left/right channels, respectively, and keeping hold of a high +15dB groove modulation (re. 315Hz/

5cm/sec) at <0.5% THD. In common with previous Sumikos, this is the antithesis of the soft-sounding MCs of hi-fi yore! PM


Frequency response curves (–8dB re. 5cm/sec) lateral (L+R, black) versus vertical (L–R, red)


Lateral (L+R, black infill) and vertical (L–R, red) tracing and generator distortion (2nd-4th harmonics) vs. frequency from 20Hz-20kHz (–8dB re. 5cm/sec)

Generator type/weight Moving-coil / 7.8g
Recommended tracking force 18-22mN (20mN)
Sensitivity/balance (re. 5cm/sec) 578µV / 0.23dB
Compliance (vertical/lateral) 10cu / 11cu
Vertical tracking angle 26 degrees
L/R Tracking ability >80μm / 80μm
L/R Distortion (–8dB, 20Hz-20kHz) 0.37–21% / 0.35–18%
L/R Frequency resp. (20Hz-20kHz) +2.4 to –0.4dB / +5.9 to –0.5dB
Stereo separation (1kHz / 20kHz) 25dB / 15dB
Price £2099

Minnesota USA
Supplied by: Henley Audio Ltd, UK
01235 511166