Audio fanatics like to take sides. You have digital vs analogue, valves vs transistors, or more pertinent to this review, moving magnet vs moving coil cartridges. You see, Vertere Acoustics’ new Sabre sits very much in the premium end of the moving magnet market, and a price point where MC cartridges traditionally dominate.
While conventional wisdom suggests that moving coil designs are the way to go at higher price levels, the Sabre is talented enough to cast a pretty large shadow of a doubt over this view.
This is a carefully considered design, as we’ve come to expect from Vertere. That bold orange body isn’t just for show. It’s machined out of a solid block of aluminium for rigidity and clamps onto the generator structure with four bolts rather than being glued on performance and alignment grounds. The cartridge body’s top is raised at three points to ensure a solid and even contact with the headshell, and the front of the top even has a ridge to aid easy alignment.
The attention to detail doesn’t stop there. There are beautifully knurled thumbscrews to secure the Sabre to a headshell, and these prevent the user from over-tightening the mounting and causing damage.
Even the choice of stylus tip is done with care. Rather than going for one of the more exotic shapes, Vertere, after listening to various options, has settled on a relatively conventional micro-elliptical tip because it was felt to give a more cohesive and balanced performance in this particular context. That tip is mounted on an aluminium alloy cantilever.
Type Moving Magnet
Stylus type Elliptical
Recommended tracking weight 1.9-2.1g
Frequency range 15Hz-25kHz
Output 4mV (1kHz/5cm/sec)
Cartridge weight 10.3g
The result is a cartridge with a claimed output of 4mV (1kHz/5cm/sec), something that’s fairly normal for a moving magnet design but way more than a typical moving coil would deliver. This relatively high output means that the Sabre is less demanding of partnering phono stages than MC alternatives would be, simply because the signal doesn’t need as much amplification, so any shortcomings in the phono stage are less magnified.
While the natural home for the Sabre is intended to be something of the level of Vertere’s own award-winning DG-1 Dynamic Groove, there’s no reason it can’t be used on a wide variety of products. Our testing was done with the Vertere mounted on our reference Technics SL1000-R, and it works a treat.
The rest of our system is our reference set up of Cyrus's Phono Signature/PSX-R2 phono stage, the Burmester 088/911MkIII amplifier and ATC SCM50 speakers. We also use the Sabre with its natural partner, the award-winning Phono-1 phono stage, to see what the pairing does.
This is an easy cartridge to fit thanks to the squared-off body shape and those easy-to-use thumbscrew mounting bolts. We have no tracking issues with the downforce set in the middle of the recommended range at 2.0g.
Once up and running, this cartridge is very easy to like. It sounds bold and confident without being in any way overbearing. Listening to Orff’s rambunctious Carmina Burana, we can’t help but be thrilled by the energy and drive of the music. The Sabre delivers this dramatic piece with all the gusto it demands. We get explosive dynamic peaks coupled with an impressive sense of control.
This cartridge digs up a good amount of detail, but it’s the musically cohesive way it organises that information that really impresses. This is the kind of product that allows the listener to be swept away with the drama of it all, but equally there’s enough in the way of insight to be able to sit back and analyse the recording if desired.
Tonally, this Vertere delivers a full-bodied and solid sound. Its presentation certainly has more in the way of substance and physicality than any similarly priced moving coil we’ve heard. These qualities certainly give it an advantage when it comes to communicating the power and authority of a large orchestra in full flow.
The levels of refinement are pleasing too, with the Sabre refusing to make a meal out of less than perfect recordings. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that it hides shortcomings in the recording, but rather that any flaws in the production aren’t unduly emphasised.
Fans of stereo imaging will also be happy as the cartridge’s soundstaging is expansive, stable and nicely layered. There’s a fine impression of scale and enough in the way of low-level detail to recreate the recording venue with conviction.
We switch to Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel and the Vertere responds with an impressively surefooted way with rhythms. It sounds right at home, with a taut, punchy and articulate bass that underpins the rest of the frequencies brilliantly. The story is equally positive elsewhere as Jackson’s voice comes through with clarity and substance, and those distinctive horns burst out of the mix with real bite. We’re pleased to note that there’s no shortage of composure and insight alongside all that excitement.
It’s clear that the Vertere Sabre is a terrific performer for the money. It tracks securely and is nicely made, but most importantly of all makes us want to listen to our records even more. That makes it an excellent buy in our books. Highly recommended.
- Sound 5
- Build 5
- Compatibility 5
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