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At this point I was really at a loss to criticize the cartridge in any way. I decided to get out some of my early rock records and see how the cartridge fared with them. My rock LP collection is heavily weighted toward the 1970s which from a sound quality perspective often leaves a lot to be desired. To get around the recording quality aspect I was careful to select what I knew to be good recordings. The Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissue of the 1978 Rolling Stones Some Girls [MFLS 1-087] qualified. After all I was trying to determine whether the cartridge could convey the punch and raw energy of this genre rather than see how it would reproduce an awful recording.

From the first bass guitar notes and drum shots on the cut "Miss You" there was little doubt about the Benz's rock credentials. As an aside I have found that a number of MFSL reissues are really excellent in terms of restoring proper tonal balance and greatly improving vinyl quality to surface noise. However the compression of a lot of 70s rock is not always remedied. Still the Benz in my system provided a clean detailed and very faithful reproduction of Mick Jagger’s voice and all the raw power of the requisite electric guitars and drum kit backing. On "Lies" I was surprised by the wealth of detail that I had never heard sorted out like this. In a recent conversation with my friend Roger Swiatek who helped direct me toward this cartridge, he told me of a friend in his area who uses this cartridge to play almost exclusively Rock 'n' Roll. Roger said the system sounded great too. Keep in mind that my system is not exactly what you would envision for a rock system given that I am using a 10wpc SET amp—albeit with mighty 211 tubes—and two-way ported speakers (which have excellent bass though). Still the system does rock!

Another pretty good Rock acid test LP is Billy Squire’s 1982 Emotions In Motion [Capitol ST-12217]. While hardly an audiophile recording, this album really packs a wallop. I can remember listening to it on my past systems and sometimes cringing at the hash that came out. Not so now. On the title cut the Benz handled the sonic onslaught with aplomb. The soundstage was huge and I felt like back in some giant concert hall with a bunch of drug-crazed hardcore rockers bobbing their heads back and forth.  Wow, that was a long time ago! There is one more 1970s rock record I must include - Dave Mason’s 1975 release Split Coconut [Columbia PC 33698].  This is one of the better-sounding rock records I own from that period. 

Another pleasant surprise on the album is vocal support by The Manhattan Transfer, David Crosby and Graham Nash. The title cut just blew me away with nostalgia. My subconscious took over and I reached for the gatefold album cover and shook it to see if any old bits of green leafy matter would fall out from the crease.  Snapping back to 2010 I just marveled at the crisp funky bass line, the dreamy keyboard weaving through the mix, the punchy kick drum and then one of Dave Mason’s renowned guitar solos - just fantastic! Suffice to say that this is the first moving coil cartridge I had in my system that can do full justice to rock music including hard rock. It's the Benz’s combination of superb tonal balance, stellar dynamics and strong bass that make this possible. For perspective, below is a chronological list of the moving coil cartridges I have owned over the past 23 years:

• Monster Alpha Genesis 1000
• Monster Sigma Genesis 2000
• Dynavector XX-1L
• Sumiko SHO
• Koetsu Rosewood Signature
• Van den Hul MC2
• Van den Hul Frog
• Roksan Shiraz
• Cardas Heart – Soundsmith rebuilt
• Goldbug Ms. Brier – Soundsmith rebuilt
• Cello (Miyabe OEM)

In the past couple of years I’ve actually been thinking of selling off the rock portion of my record collection. The Benz LP-S has disabused me of that notion. To be fair the Roksan Shiraz did a pretty good job on rock but was a very distant second. The careful reader might rightfully point out that I do not own nor have I auditioned in my system (but have heard elsewhere) some of the super cartridges like the Zyx Universe, Dynavector XV-1t, Air Tight PC-1, Clearaudio Goldfinger etc. That is true. But I have a hard time believing that any of these would outperform the Benz LP-S let alone by any significant margin. In general terms, if the Benz LP-S is any indication of a new performance standard then I think we may have entered a new golden age in moving coil cartridge performance. In my tenure at 6moons, I have developed a bit of a reputation as being harder to please than some of my colleagues. That may be true but when I come across a really great product and proclaim it so, I would suggest you can take it to the bank. In short, this cartridge paints a vivid and complex tapestry of sound that is so beguiling and exciting to be truly addictive. Every morning I came downstairs wondering what I was going to play first. The Benz LP-S cartridge was such a revelation that I cannot resist buying one. While this will be the most expensive cartridge I ever purchased, readers should note that Benz is one of the most affordable lines for retipping. Retipping the LP-S lists at $800. A Blue Moon Award is definitely in order.
Quality of packing:Excellent
Reusability of packing: A lifetime
Ease of unpacking/repacking: No problem
Condition of component received: Demo unit in excellent condition
Completeness of delivery: Complete
Quality of owner's manual: Adequate
Website comments: Generally informative, easily navigable
Human interactions: Garth Leerer was very pleasant to deal with and he got back to me on every question.
Pricing: Yes it’s a high dollar cartridge but world class.
Final comments & suggestions: None.

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