Rich Warren | For decades, it was a Shure bet

Rich Warren | For decades, it was a Shure bet

As vinyl booms, Shure Incorporated exited the phonograph cartridge business on May 1. Illinois-based Shure was to phono cartridges what BMW is to automobiles.

Shure began manufacturing cartridges in 1933 and excelled during the audio boom starting in the 1960s. Its V-15 series set the standard for audiophile mass market cartridges. From Shure, audiophile mass market was not an oxymoron. I lusted for a V-15 as a teenager. The last revamped iteration was the V-15MR, which debuted in the early 1980s and discontinued in 2004. I continue using this cartridge and treasure my last replacement stylus. Perhaps the highest accolade comes from the Library of Congress that bought all of Shure's remaining V-15 cartridges and styli in 2009.

Shure faced scores of competitors, including Pickering/Stanton, Empire, Audio-Technica/Signet, B&O and a many more. Shure's president for 15 years, James Kogen, assured me Shure always would manufacture replacement styli for its cartridges. Kogen died in 2004, and it was no coincidence Shure discontinued the V-15 the same year, along with most of its replacement styli. It's also no coincidence Shure made the decision to leave the phono business just two years after the passing of Rose Shure, who succeed her husband, co-founder Sidney Shure, as chairman in 1996.

Although a number of audiophile cartridges, some handmade, remain available, most cartridges sold today fail to equal even the old Shure M44-E entry level model from the 1960s. Music lovers may savor playing vinyl, but their grooves won't last long with most of today's mass market cartridges. For all the vibe that vinyl sounds better than CDs, you won't hear superior sound from LPs with the majority of today's cartridges.

One company worked for decades to create a phono turntable to play vinyl with a laser rather than a mechanical stylus. It finally succeeded with a model that technically worked. A listener donated one to my radio station. It sounded inferior to the conventional turntables we used with their Shure cartridges.

Reader questions

A reader asked about the best time to buy a new TV. At the risk of being glib, buy the TV you desire when it's on sale. Generally, there are two TV sale periods: around Black Friday in November and after the new models start arriving in January through March.

Manufacturers and dealers eager to clear out old inventory slash prices when new models arrive. Unfortunately, like automobile companies, not all companies release their new models at the same time, so depending upon brand, discounts don't necessarily synchronize.

This month, LG began delivering its newest OLED models. They use the same display as last year's models but incorporate a new processor that eliminates a few minor picture anomalies that annoyed some viewers with previous models. Many people will never notice the difference. Thus, you can save money buying the older model.

A small-town reader in Vermilion County suffers because she can't cheer on her beloved Chicago Cubs on TV. She is not served by Comcast, and her local cable provider blacks out Chicago ballgames. She even wrote to the folks at Major League Baseball but received no reply. While I can't guarantee success, her best bet might be subscribing to satellite providers DirecTV or DISH Network. She might be able to subscribe to MLB via internet streaming, but I suspect that's not her preference.

Privacy issue

Finally, a philosophical contemplation concerning privacy. It seems everyone I know is switching to Google's gmail. Gmail surpasses all other free internet mail services in features, spam filtering and protection from malware. I have a secret gmail account.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. Google monitors everything you do with your gmail account, and if you read the terms of service, mail you send and receive is not private. Google uses data it gleans about you in many ways, mainly to target advertising. Don't ever assume the privacy of your gmail.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at

Topics (2):Music, Technology