Vertere Acoustics has just added two new cartridges to its range. The Dark Sabre moving magnet and range-topping XtraX moving coil join the current trio consisting of the Magneto MM (£275), Sabre MM (£950) and Mystic Moving coil (£2650).
The 11.5g Dark Sabre is a careful development of the standard five-star Sabre we like so much, and sits firmly in the price territory traditionally occupied by moving-coil designs. The main changes over the original are the use of a single crystal, nude micro elliptical diamond tip and aluminium telescopic cantilever.
A new square-shank diamond assembly optimises alignment precision, build consistency and rigidity, while the shape of the stylus tip is claimed to improve tracking ability without increasing surface noise or sacrificing high-frequency response. The revised cantilever, meanwhile, uses two different grades of aluminium to help with stiffness and resonance control.
The Dark Sabre’s aluminium alloy body is black rather than the distinctive burnt orange of the standard version and features threaded fixing holes with three raised sections on the top plate to ensure stable contact with the tonearm headshell.
The body is optimised in terms of shape and mass to support the cartridge’s low-mass generator properly. This generator is held in the housing by four stainless-steel ‘spike’ screws (rather than being glued as is conventional) on performance and alignment grounds.
An output of 4.3mV means that the new cartridge will have no trouble working into any standard moving-magnet phono stage, with the Dark Sabre sporting a recommended tracking weight of 2.0g.
The range-topping XtraX moving-coil cartridge, meanwhile, mirrors many of the Dark Sabre’s design ideas. The threaded aluminium body, stylus tip and telescopic cantilever principles are carried over but optimised for this context. Equally, the generator is mounted into the distinctive light-purple body with the same four-point mounting system rather than glued. As with its junior sibling, great care is taken over the generator assembly, and the way it aligns when a record is being played.
Given that the XtraX is a moving-coil design, it comes as no surprise to find that its output of 0.45mV is much lower than its MM sibling, but this is still pretty healthy as far as such designs go and should pose little problem for any competently designed phono stage. The XtraX’s recommended tracking weight is 2.05g and it weighs a fairly chunky 11.2g.
We were lucky enough to hear both cartridges at Vertere's recent launch event. Comparisons were made to the company’s existing designs and our early impressions from this brief exposure are really positive. We heard each model in a variety of the company’s turntables from the starter DG-1S to the range-topping RG-1 and it's clear that there is a definite hierarchy in the company’s cartridge range, with the Dark Sabre bettering its standard sibling and the XtraX improving on the already excellent Mystic.
The question of whether they are worth the relative price premiums and how they compare with the wider market will have to wait for a full review.
Both new models will be available from the end of October. The Dark Sabre moving-magnet cartridge will set you back £1450, while the range-topping XtraX moving-coil model will cost a more substantial £5800 (further prices pending).
See our list of this year's Award winners right here
These are the best cartridges, budget and premium for your turntable