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Three headshells from the top shelf

Audio Silente grafit headshell - 250 Euro + shipping.
Ikeda krom headshel - ca. 4.600 kr -  on loan from Sallingboe Audio -
Korf HS-A02 ceramic headshell - 199,- Euro + shipping.  -

Latest update Oktober 4, 2021

Actually an arm with a fixed headshell would be preferred. But then again we are many who value the facility to change cartrdige easily and fast. To do this we need a good and reliable headshell and a suitable arm. I have tried out quite a few headshells through the last 40 years. Everything from alu to titanium, wood, carbonfiber and,graphite. All will sound differently and  will at the same time make different demands to the the arm and cartridgde. I hvade looked at three really good but rather heavy ones here. 

Headshells topHeadshells bottomHeadshells side

Naturally there will be some time between listening, because of the mounting and adjustmentx of the carrtridge in each of the three heedshells. I chose a track from a well known record and recorded it with each headshell. This way there should be a smoother way to "change" and hear the diffence? And then mayby net - i did not know but had to try. The recording was made using my fully serviced an adjusted Pioneeer CT-S910 cassette with a Sony Metal Master.tape. Not optimal, bu my reel to reel.dack is not up and running at the momvent. .

Audio Silente m blyantAudio Silente graphite headshell mk II

Audio Silente is an Italian company run by Simone Lucchetti. They make many things in graphite. From headshells, as the one i have here, to arms and solid platters "mats". Topping of with his impressive idler wheel driven "Blackstone"recordplayer. I have met Simone a few time at the Münich high-end show. A very enthusiastic and nice man, with great succes making his procucts and for sure dedicatet to recordplayers and analogue. As he express it himself "made in Italy with passion and love".
The last two years i have been using an Audio Silente graphite headshell with mye Ikeda 9Gss cartridge. Since then there has been some changes, and a new mk2 version is now the top of the range. This shell is a little bit longer than the two others so you may which to check, if it will fit your arm. The headshell is made out of HDG graphite, which according to Audio Silente has excellent isotropic properties, as it will absorb or diffuse internal vibrations. This new version is CNC machined and then hand polished. The mounting collar is aluminium with a tiny screw to adjust azimut. The mounting has a single guiding pin. Audio Silente use theor own developed EIA coupling with teflon isolated copper cables The small clips is as well their own production and made with gold plaegdcd phosphor bronze. A small bag with unbrako bolts and nuts are enclosed. But these bolts did no fit with my cartridge as they were much too long and will go better with other types of cartridges. 
The weight will vary but this sample was stated to weigh 15.8 gram without bolts. Everything comes in a litttle woodenbox with specifications and a warning not to tighten the bolts too musch, as Graphite is a brittle material. 

The sound of graphitet

As mentioned i have used a similar graphite headshelle for som years. This new on has a better EIA conneciotn an a bit lower mass/weight. The sound however is what i like. it is a headshell which will be like a handshake for lower compliance cartridges. This means control and a general calmness. There sis some kind of robustness which will never be too much together with a coherence and attack in the upper bass. The cables are of good quality, and i never felt tempted to change them for something else. They are easy to mount on the cartridge. In total we have a headshell well suited to my Ikeda or other low compliance cartrdiges. I allso tried my old (NOS) Audio Technica ART-1 with this headshell. Again a success, but compared to the same cartridge in the Korf headshell, there lacked the easyness in the midrange, but then again the Audio Silente shell had an resolution and natural flow in the back of the soundstage with more body and nerve. All details are there with the Audio Silente shell, but it has a very neutral way to show them wit both physics and weight. Absolutely a good headshell, with som thought and research behind it. A pleasure to work with..

Iked m IkedaIkeda polished headshell with silver wire

This is a luxury version of Ikeda's IS-2T headshell, made to order by Zikra Audio in Denmark, which imports Ikeda. It looks like an IS-2T, but where this is almost chrome-plated, the standard version is silver / white (W) or black (B). This standard version also has a somewhat different price - guide 2680,- DKR (approx. 320 Euro). The standard Ikeda headshell has copper wires, where this special version has silver cables.
The very solid headshell has a rounding in the front that fits with the Ikeda pickups. The two mounting flanges have a cut-out that fits the supplied screws. A bit disappointing they include normal straight notch screws. I have otherwise gone over to unbrako or to cross notch screws. The housing has azimuth adjustment if you fix the fastening in the EIA socket. This has only one locking pin, most better housings have 2. The thimble is fixed - screwed into a small cut-out in the housing. The housing weighs 18 grams without screws and fitted with my Ikeda 9Gss pickup we reach 35 grams. Not all arms are enthusiastic about this weight, but it fits nicely in my Glanz MH124.

The sound of Ikeda

Now this headshell should be made exactly for my pickup. Probably a little unfair, but then they all get the same conditions. The first thing I noticed were voices. Here's a male voice, namely Cat Stevens on the new edition of "Tea for the Tillerman". It appears more physical and up front in the soundscape. Lots of energy and robustness, as well as control in the bottom octaves. In this area it shows clearly more energy and violence than especially the otherwise excellent Korf headshell, but also to a lesser extent the Audio Silente graphite that is more sober ..
The Ikeda combination provides a robust and somewhat effervescent reproduction than the pickup mounted in the Audio Silente graphite housing, but otherwise the two are very similar. Both are physical and full-bodied with good control downwards. A very special headshell made to fit the Ikeda cartrdiges. 

Korf m MC2000Korf HS-A02 Ceramic Headshell

On The Korf blog you can read very scientific tests of various headshells. It's probably easier to stop by than me explaining it all: "Is This the Best Headshell in the World?" (

The man behind the Austrian company is Alex Korf, and on the website there is lots of detailed information about turntables, arms and other of his products. Technical info, because he builds it himself, but also tests. The very scientific tests of various headshells, have lead to the manufacturing of the new full ceramic headshell, which he claims is the best in the world. 

HS-A02 is made of white ceramic. More specifically, alumina. A material that Ortofon has previously used in their pickups - e.g. in MC2000 and MC70. SAEC and JVC have for years made ceramic houses, but much simpler constructions. Korf's headshell is fully molded - which means that the attachment itself is part of the ceramic. Azimuth can thus not be changed, it must happen on the arm itself. The weight is kept reasonably low, only 13 grams incl. the finger bar. The EIA socket itself has gilded contacts and 2 locking pins - super! The mounted silver cables are very long, in fact too long, so they just need to be bent into place. The small clips go very tight, but Korf states on the website that alternatives can be provided. Brass screws and nuts included. Again here with the outdated straight notch. The thimble must be used as it protects the screws from the delicate ceramic. It is stated about the fragility and that you should not drop it on the floor or tighten the screws too much. Here you will also find a warning against using steel screws? I do not know why- I have for some years used steel unbrako without any problems.
The sound of ceramics

Very smooth and with lots of details upwards  a "clean" sound. There is a calmness in the upper octaves, but at the same time a very fast bottom that starts and stops. This is very different from e.g. wooden headshells of ebony and rosewood, which I also have. The very stable white house does not have as much weight in the sound as the other two. It also shows up as a sober and neutral rendition all the way through the upper bass and up into the midrange. Details stand out and there is a "quiet" background. It all happens very immediately and easily. Definitely not bad, but very different from the other two headshells that appear more physical and up front. Overall, the Korf house is one of the most neutral and revealing I have heard. It can make even cheaper pickups perform their best. Has e.g. also used it with Nagaoka MP-500 (see Danish review here) and my Audio Technica AT-ART1 with great success. Definitely an excellent headshell.

Yes, there is a sound difference in headshells, not just these three, but many others as well. I have long since stopped using headshells of prssed plate. The three headshells tested here all belong to the top. Taking the price into consideration the Korf HS-A02 us close to a best buy. Absolutely recommended. There are probably a few more headshells that need to be tested. But the three tested represents in their own way a rendering that gets far more information out of your pickup and arm than typical budget headshells of pressed sheet metal. The prices may seem high, but even with pickups in the good middle price range around the 800 to 1,000 Euro they can make a big differences.
If we talk about real high-end groove trackers, then there is no way around. Investing in a good headshell. You will for sure achieve far better sound!

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