Sumiko's Blue Point No. 3 Moving-Coil Phono Cartridge Delivers Sonic Performance that is Precise, Authoritative, and Engaging
The performance of Sumiko's Blue Point No. 3 moving-coil phono cartridge is reminiscent of old-school Shure and Stanton moving-magnet cartridges that were hailed for their smoothness. Utilizing a tried and true, moving-coil generator system, Sumiko's engineers have designed the Blue Point No. 3 to deliver incredible sonic smoothness, combined with the subtlety and degree of nuance that music lovers have come to expect from a Sumiko MC phono cartridge.
Sumiko's Blue Point No. 3 performs with precision and authority throughout the entire audible range, beginning with its oh-so-buttery low-end response. Bass enthusiasts are in for a real treat here. Full and warm – yet defined and textured – the coziness of the bass invites listeners to lean in. Music lovers can expect similar lushness through the mids, which are accurate and engaging. The Blue Point No. 3 also offers precise yet powerful high-frequency attack and decay, which help create a cohesive, transformative listening experience.
Building on more than 40 years of cartridge development, Sumiko's team closely examined the resonance properties of the Blue Point No. 2 and recognized that although the cartridge was fantastic, there was room for refinement. Thus, the Blue Point No. 3 was developed. Sumiko engineers reimagined how the housing resonates around the generator, and the result is a stellar, innovative, moving-coil phono cartridge.
Having developed such a refinement on a classic design, the introduction of a low-output variant was a no-brainer for Sumiko. With the Blue Point No. 3 Low Output version, owners of MC phonostages can experience the same amazing performance described above, but with the depth and imaging typical of a low-output design. As was the case with its predecessors, the Blue Point No. 3 has an incredible price-to-performance profile.
Music Direct carries Sumiko's Blue Point No. 3 in both the High Output and Low Output versions. (Use the pull-down menu above to make your selection.) Like all Music Direct products, Sumiko's Blue Point No. 3 moving-coil phono cartridge comes with the 100% Music Direct Satisfaction Guarantee.
"With improved resonance control based on a new and definitely more attractive body compared to the Blue Point 2 (plus the addition of threaded inserts that make installation far easier), the Blue Point 3 sounds far more refined, smooth and sweet compared to its somewhat more 'rough around the edge' predecessor.... The Blue Point 3 Low's delivery of this record produced a wide, deep three-dimensional soundstage on which were laid out details galore, plus a rich, smooth overall presentation.... This trio from the extensive Sumiko cartridges line represents a significant performance upgrade from the three cartridges they replace, certainly in the case of the Blue Point 3, far greater than the small price increase."
—Michael Fremer, Analog Planet
"Micro details are delivered with beautiful realism.... Instruments and voices are clearly differentiated, and placement of each performer in relation to the listener easily discernable.... If you're looking for precision and detail without sacrificing engagement and atmosphere, the Sumiko Blue Point No. 3 High Output is a winner."
—Eric Pye, Ecoustics
Since the production of its first model in 1982, Sumiko has been focused on creating phono cartridges that combine state-of-the-art technical performance with the practical requirements of superb tracking, as well as a musical, non-fatiguing, sonic presentation. All Sumiko cartridges are hand-built in Japan by exceptionally skilled artisans.
Phono Cartridge 101
Those who are new to the world of turntables can think of a phono cartridge as a mechanical microphone. Just as a microphone converts air-pressure changes into a corresponding voltage, a phono cartridge converts the mechanical topography of a record groove into a corresponding voltage. Considering the general simplicity and relatively few parts that comprise a phono cartridge (and the precision with which it must execute its job), each component plays a significant role in the success of a design. No single component is fully isolated from the others, and any deficiency in one will adversely affect the task of the others. Below is an explanation of some common terms in the audiophile world.
Stylus: This is the material that contacts the vinyl record's surface. Its mass and shape are essential to its ability to accurately trace the specific type of groove cut into the record surface. The goal is for the stylus to hold the groove despite mechanical conflict between it and the record surface.
Cantilever: This is the component that connects the movement of the stylus to the generator at the end opposite the stylus. The ideal cantilever will be low in mass so as not to interfere with the groove tracing of the stylus; perfectly stiff so it transfers the movements perfectly; and will not resonate such to add its own energy to the stylus or the generator. Cantilevers can be made from aluminum, boron, sapphire, ruby, or numerous other materials.
Suspension: A phono cartridge suspension is like the gatekeeper to success in a phono cartridge. The suspension is typically made with a compliant elastomer material that allows the cantilever to move freely in the dimensions the stylus requires, but also acts to damp resonance coming from the cantilever. It also staves off micro jitters of the stylus in the record groove, and it holds the cantilever in its proper place relative to the generator.
Suspension Wire (MC cartridges only): On the generator end, a wire is attached to the cantilever and can be pulled to create a tension of the coil assembly against the suspension elastomer. This tension defines the behavior of the suspension in relation to the mass and tracking force of the cartridge. It is a critical adjustment when building the cartridge.
Generator: This is the part of the cartridge that converts stylus movement into voltage. Sumiko offers moving-magnet (MM) and moving-coil (MC) designs. The amount of movement in either the coils or the magnets is miniscule. To achieve uniform voltage output from all angles of movement as directed by the stylus, the tolerance and positioning of the various components that make up the generator must be very precise.
Cartridge Mounting Structure: The cartridge body (aka housing) must hold the generator assembly firmly in place. Any movement of the generator assembly compromises the precision of the whole system. Much energy is transferred to the body from the generator because they are so firmly connected; thus, the body should be as free from resonance as possible. Any energy that is generated as resonance in the body may also transfer back to the generator, compromising its function.
Moving-Magnet (MM) Generators
At the top end of the cantilever is affixed a magnet that has a positive and negative aspect to it, just as any magnet does. The magnet emanates energy called a flux field, which is measured in units of density called gauss. Being part of the same assembly, the motion of the stylus moves the magnet correspondingly. Positioned near the magnet are a fixed pair of wire coils (two wires, four ends, positive and negative for each channel) that are wrapped in a very specific configuration around a core material.
Based on the Law of Induction, when the field of the magnet changes position relative to the fixed coils, the result is electromotive force (voltage). As a direct response to the stylus in the record groove, voltage is actively produced. When humans speak or when a musical instrument is played, air-pressure changes are physically set into motion as a direct result of that activity. Hence, our common use of the word "analog": The basic action of LP playback mimics what happens in the real world. A microphone is very similar in concept. The diaphragm in a microphone reacts to pressure changes caused by a source – such as a voice – which causes magnets and coils to interact and produce electromotive force that can be amplified for listening and/or recording.
In a phono cartridge, the direction that the stylus moves (left, right, up, down) determines what combination of coil windings are energized by the changing position of the magnet. This is how the signal becomes left- or right-channel information (or both). The strength of the magnet and the number of windings on the coils determine how much output voltage the system will generate.
Moving-Coil (MC) Generators
An MC generator uses the same basic principle as an MM one, but at the top end of the cantilever are a pair of coils, and the heavier magnetic system remains fixed in place. The advantage of this design is that much less mass is attached to the cantilever; the stylus has less mass to put into motion and is thus far less influenced by that corresponding movement. There are many strategies to reducing the mass of the structure around which the coils are wrapped, as well as to the wires themselves. As in a MM cartridge, the strength of the magnetic field and the amount of wrapped wire determine the output voltage.
One problem to solve with this design is attaining a uniform flux field around the coils; many different solutions have been used over the years. In some MC designs, the magnet is positioned above and to the back of the coils. Attached to the magnet are two magnetized components called pole pieces, and as their name suggests, they extend the positive or negative fields down to the front or back of the coil assembly. As the pair of coils changes position relative to the pole pieces, voltage is generated that corresponds to what the stylus dictates. Because the goal is to generate voltage that evenly represents the modulations in the grooves, creating a uniform flux field is hugely important.
Other MC designs use ring magnets on either side of the coils to achieve a more balanced flux field. Bear in mind that the movement of the stylus is miniscule, and since it is at the opposite end of the cantilever, it is far away from the pivot point near the coils. Therefore, the stylus is moving with far greater displacement than the coils do in the flux field. Consider that the smallest deviation in the groove is 0.01 microns. To create a precise electrical model that represents the minute movement of the stylus, uniformity of magnet strength, resistance of the wire, precision of coil windings, and other factors will determine how well the system generates voltage that resembles the movement of the stylus.
Output voltage from an MC design can range from as low as 0.15mV to 3mV at the top of the range. When the output voltage is much below 0.2mV, phono gain needs to be at least 62dB, if not more, and noise can begin to present a problem. Most high-output MCs (2.0mV and higher) can run through an MM phono stage with no noise issues.