A while back as I was fine tuning the voicing of the Sumile MC phono cartridge that’s in for review, I noticed the stock headshell wires on my Schick headshell were looking a little ragged from swapping cartridges in and out a lot, so I thought I’d replace them.
My first thought was to replace them with a set of the vintage Western Electric WE24GA headshell leads like the ones that Yazaki-san had sent me to try, and that had impressed me so much when I used them with the vintage Shure V15 III phono cartridge.
The WE24GA headshell leads use a single strand of vintage 24GA tinned-copper wire in a silk dielectric, and I was very impressed with the improvement in performance they offered over the stock headshell wires in my Yamamoto headshell.
Pro Cable in Japan sells WE24GA headshell leads, but when I contacted them about buying several sets of the WE24GA headshell leads, they told me they don’t sell them outside of Japan. Bummer.
What to do? I started thinking about other options. The first thing I thought about was making up a set of DIY headshell leads.
A reader had offered to send me some WE24GA wire to try, but never followed through, so that option was out.
Then I thought about using something like the tinned-copper pushback wire I used to build a USB interconnect out of, but what I had on hand was 22GA, which is too fat for headshell leads (actually the WE24GA is very close to being too fat for headshell leads).
I also thought about using some of the fine Duelund silver wire to make headshell leads, as the Duelund 1.0 silver & silk interconnects I tried with the Sumile cartridge were a great match to its performance, but I didn’t have any of that handy either.
While I was contemplating this, and looking for ideas out on the web for headshell leads, I ran across the Oyaide silver & silk headshell leads out on the Analogue Seduction website.
Oyaide uses 0.2mm 5N silver wire with silk insulation, terminated with rhodium-plated phosphor bronze cartridge clips.
I was intrigued, so I ordered a set to try on my Schick headshell. The price on the Analogue Seduction web site, for those outside Europe, is £41.66, and it cost me £3.33 for shipping, for a total of £44.99 ($58.01 USD).
Soon as I get them installed I’ll report back on my impressions!
Update: I am sorry to report that one of the headshell leads was dead on arrival, and the cartridge clip fell off as I was getting ready to install it.
More to come after I figure out to do about this little dilemma.
Should I just attempt a fix and solder the clip back on, or just declare that the construction of the Oyaide HSR-AG leads is below par, and call it quits?
It’s an unusual occurrence with the normally stellar quality of Oyaide products. Sigh.
Update 2: I decided my next step should be to do an autopsy on the headshell clip, so I trimmed away the shrink wrap tubing from it, and by doing so I realized that there’s more issues with the Oyaide headshell leads than I had first imagined.
The first issue that was apparent was that the Oyaide clip was way too small of diameter inside to slide over the standard sized SME pins in the Schick or Yamamoto headshells that I use.
Normally a clip just expands over the pin as it slides on for a nice snug fit. In the case of this clip, the clip was so tightly squished together that it took considerable effort to even open it up using the razor blade of a box knife.
Even spreading the clip with a razor blade took considerable force, so there was no chance that the clip could expand to slide onto an SME headshell pin.
Even after spreading the clip with the razor blade its diameter was too small to fit onto the SME headshell pin.
I got out another knife blade that was wider, and again I needed to use considerable force to spread the pin enough so that it would fit on SME pin.
In the photo below I put the clip that I spread out with the wider knife blade on the SME pin that inserts into the tonearm, so you could see what I was talking about, as the recessed pin on the other side makes it hard to see (they’re the same diameter on both sides).
The second issue with the Oyaide headshell leads is the shrink-fit tubing used around the clips, which extends to the very end of the leads, and is thicker and stiffer than the shrink-fit tubing used on other headshell leads I have.
Normally shrink-fit tubing used in headshell lead applications is quite pliable, so you can pull it back a bit to expose the clip when sliding it over the pins in case the clip needs to expand, but in the case of the Oyaide you can’t do that, it’s just too thick and stiff, and acts like a girdle keeping the clip from opening wide enough to get on a pin.
So the combination of the too small of clips that take too much force to expand, and the thick and stiff shrink-fit tubing, the Oyaide leads don’t even have a chance of fitting on the standard sized SME pins used in headshells.
A much better approach is the nude pins used on the WE24GA headshell leads (in one of the photos above), which makes for easy installation.
My guess is that just the force of trying to slide the Oyaide clip onto the SME headshell pin broke the fragile clip/wire interface on the Oyaide headshell lead.
Upon inspecting each lead I found that for all of the clips on the headshell side of the leads, that the clips were way too small to fit on the SME headshell pins (or on the cartridge pins for a Denon 103 or the Sumile cartridges, for that matter).
On the cartridge side of the Oyaide headshell leads, the clips were spread enough to fit on the cartridge pins (or the SME headshell pins). Upon inspection it looks like the clips on the headshell side were all squished together while making them, reducing their diameter too much to fit on a pin.
I suspect this is due to a lapse in the quality control of making the Oyaide headshell leads, as it’s obvious that Oyaide didn’t check to see if the clips actually fit on SME sized pins before shipping them out.
A possible solution to make the Oyaide headshell leads fit would be to trim off the shrink-fit tubing for each lead, then spread the clip with a knife blade so that it would fit on the pins.
But really, this is too much to expect from the end user, and there’s a chance you would damage or break the clips by doing this.
For a premium set of Oyaide HSR-AG silver & silk headshell leads at a premium price, this is an utter failure to deliver a quality product, and as such I cannot recommend them to you for consideration.
Update 3: By the way, this does not reflect badly on the nice folks at Analogue Seduction, it’s on Oyaide, and I alerted Analogue Seduction to the issue with the Oyaide HSR-AG silver & silk headshell leads.
Analogue Seduction did respond to my notification about the quality issue with the Oyaide HSR-AG leads, apologized for the issue, said it was their first Oyaide quality issue after many sales of the HSR-AG leads sets, and they offered to replace them and refund my shipping back, after they verified that what I said was true.
I did respond back to Analogue Seduction to thank them for an offer of a return, but explained that I had not actually asked for a return, rather I was just letting them know the situation with the Oyaide leads as a courtesy, just as I did for the Oyaide distributor.
When I buy something – or accept something for review – to write about for my blog, it’s in ‘Consumer Reports’ fashion, where it sinks or swims on its own merits.
I’m a busy guy, so I try to carefully vet things to write about so I don’t waste my time writing about subpar items, as I only have so much time to write, and I’d rather use my time to report on things that perform well and are fun to use, and that I think you’d want to hear about.
So when I write about the rare product failure (as in this case), or about something’s ultimate performance, it is to inform all of you reading about it, so that you can take my experiences into account when considering a product for your own purchase and subsequent use.
I did encourage Analogue Seduction to perform a quality check for their customers to make sure that the Oyaide HSR-AG leads sets do fit on standard pin sizes and are not defective, before they mail the OyaideHSR-AG lead sets out.
Well it bites having to report bad news about an audio product, and I’m disappointed in not having been able to give the Oyaide HSR-AG silver & silk headshell leads a listen, but this sort of thing happens occasionally.
I do my best to share the (mostly) good news about audio products I get here at Jeff’s Place that are real performers, whether it is a personal purchase like this one, or whether it’s something in for review, but I’m also obligated to share the bad experiences too, so hopefully you can avoid having the same bad experience.
That’s all for now, over and out!
As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!