Review: ACUTEX LPM 315 III STR Cartridge

Category: Analog

Dear friends: Well here it is my second cartridge review that I make because this ACUTEX LPM 315 III-STR IMHO deserve it.

Acutex was a cartridge manufacturer not very well know for many of us.

We can read in the cartridge manual: " Acutex USA was a " newly " created ( 1977 ) trade name of a fifteen years old engineering company that has specialized on computer designs, aereospace engeneering and high fidelity. Acutex USA International represents a new direction on high fidelity productos under name Acutex. So the name Acutex is new but the Acutex traditions are old. "

ACUTEX means: Accurate Technological Excellence.

This Acutex cartridge was manufactured by NIPPON AZDEN ( whom build cartridges for other companies like Empire and build cartridges with his own name like the great top performance YM-P50VL. ) where the stylus comes/build by Ogura Jewel Industry Co. of Tokyo.

The LPM cartridge designation means: Lowest Possible Mass, under tip stylus and cartridge weight.

Under the LPM line Acutex has/had seven models from the top was the 320III STR and at the down " lesser " model the 206II.
The 315III STR under review is the first step down from the top and according to Acutex:

" The frequency response, separation, distortion, transient response, trackability and PERFECT sound of the 315 are, for all intents, the same as the 320. "
When I write the specs I will point out on this subject.

As you can see in the pictures the 315 comes in blue where the 320 ( not in pictures. ) is totally in black.

The Acutex LPM line born in 1981 and was " alive " till/around 1984. I have to say that before the LPM line Acutex build ( 1978-1981 ) the M line where exist too the 320 III STR and 315 III STR cartridge designation with the same motor design and same STR stylus shape but in a square cartridge body, I own the M320 III-STR that I don't test yet.

In those times the price of the LPM 315III STR was 145.00 where the LPM 320 was 195.00.

I bought my LPM and the M cartridges years ago through the net for no more than 200.00 each ( I can't remember in precise way ) and both are second hand/used.

As you can read through my virtual system I own more than 80 cartridges and this LPM Acutex was on the " closet " waiting to be heard/hear some day but Timetel accelerate the whole process because in the MM/MI long thread he tested other Acutex models and he ask if I can try mines so I did and that's why I'm here: than's for that Timeltel!

The LPM 315III STR is a moving iron design with these specifications:

Frequency Response 20 to 20khz: within 0.75db
Broad Band Frequency:.......... 20-40Khz ( 320: 45khz. )
Output voltage:................ 3.5mv
Separation 1khz/10khz:......... 32/28 (320: 33/29. )
Compliance cu:................. 38cu ( 320: 42cu.)
Trackability at 10khz: ........ 36 cm/sg ( 320: 40 cm/sg )
Traking force:................. 0.9-1,9grs.
Channel balance:............... 0.75db (320: 0.5db)
IM distortion:................. 1.2%
Load impedance:................ 30k to 100kohms
Effective tip mass:............ 0.6mg (320: 0.5mg.)
Weight:........................ 5.45grs.

Cartridge Set Up:

first I give a clean service to the cartridge: pin connectors, inside cartridge/stylus body assemble and stylus.

I mounted in the Grace G-940 tonearm and in the Audio technica LS-12 magnesium headshell (12grs. ) where I set the VTF at 1.2grs, VTA/SRA a little on positive angle, no antiskating, perfect azymuth as you can see in the picture, load impedance: 100Kohms and no adding capacitance, only the cable one ( 100-150pf. ).

The cartridge is very " easy " to performs right/good, only take it five minutes to settle down at 95% of its whole top performance.

I try every single recording that I used on the Technics EPC-P100CMK4 with same or better performance than with the Technics.

I don't want to repeat what already were writed there, please re-read that Technics review.

In the Acutex review I add some other recordings like the ones in the picture that I tested too with the Technics, the Audio Technica ATML180-OCC and the Grado The Tribute as with the Empire 1000 ZE/X, all of these top MM/MI analog source quality performers that in the quality performance ladder are at 10+ level for the Technics, 10 level for the AT/Grado and 9.5 level for the Empire and where top LOMC cartridges like the Ortofon A90, Lyra Olympos or Allaerts Formula One are on 8 near 9 level on that same quality performance ladder.

The Acutex cartridge is really really god and I take it a little more time that regular I take to be sure of its true performance against all other top performers.

Is the LPM 315III STR a better quality performer than " The Best " cartridge Technics?, this is a hard hard call for any one but IMHO due to some unique Acutex characteristics I have to accept and say a big: YES it is better and the new King of the Hill and obviously the new " The Best " !!!!!!


Do you know the power that has the music when you hear/heard it in a live event? the power, fierce and endless dynamic impact that only live music has? that powerfull presence physical presence that live music has? the power, delicacy, ( when the music ask for ), natural music agresiveness, natural music flow notes, low low of distortions, see trhough transparency and emotions that only the live music has? the " pay attention " that a live music ask for? the " you know when you are hearing live music " characteristic?

Well, with this Acutex cartridge for the very first time I heard all that in a very different way that with other analog or even digital sources ( including open reel ones. ).

This cartridge is the truest performer I ever heard, it is the nearest to the recording source you can ever dream, the nearest to the live music event you ever dream and the truest source you can ever dream. Hearing it is believing and a whole new different and better way to hear music at home.
Nothing in my experience comes near this Acutex and when I say " you ever dream " it is in that way you can't even dream this kind of quality performance:

IMHO almost any other cartridge ( especially LOMC ones. ) sounds not only " anemic " but its performance is only a bad " caricature " where the Acutex shows its true/real music performance greatness.

Both frequency extremes set new standards as the midrange too. In the highs I never heard ( only live music. ) this kind of harmonics reality that makes that the whole presentation has an " I'm there " feeling/sensation.
On the other side of the frequency the bass is so real/true powerful that I'm asking me if I'm imagine what I'm hearing.

That power on the bass does not comes because goes deep or comes in more quantity NO this power ( all over the music recording. ) is the power/presence that you heard on live music, this characteristic gives to the whole music presentation accuracy that we are loosing through lesser analog sources and this accuracy put " new " sounds in what you here through the Acutex with a layering definition and with a layering presentation that is almost impossible to say other that hear it, at least I don't have the right words to explain.

Do you know ( like I was thinking ) if you already know everything about quality performance sources music home presentation?, dear friends all of you and with out any single doubt and IMHO: I think you did/do not till you hear this Acutex in your loved today home audio system.

I want to share something that happening yesterday during the test cartridge recording:

I take the Montserrat Caballé RCA Red Seal recording ( LSC-2862 ), first side first track: from Bellini, Norma: Casta Divina.
I can't believe what I was hearing from the very first Caballé " celestial/heaven " note of her voice, I start to feel a shivering/chill that was going up/coming slowly from my waist and through my spinal column and up to my brain/senses.
An experience that only rememeber I had on live music events sometime.
Well, I continue on this recording and when I was hearing the side two dedicated to Donizetti somewhere in that recording my wife comes and see me and ask me: Raul, what happen why do you have tears on your eyes?, just incredible!!!!.

I can following speaking of several experiences with this cartridge in way different recordings in way different kind of music but I don't want to waste your time.
The only think I want to share with you is that in any single recording the hearing experience is a TOTALLY NEW EXPERIENCE, yes a totally new different and unique experience.

Can I ask for more?, normally my answer will be: no but today I can't say it because I have a lot of other cartridges ( humble cartridges, unknow cartridges. ) that one of them could give us a new surprise, who knows?

Yes, this Acutex 315III STR is at 10++ level on the quality performance cartridge ladder, alone at the top.

Regards and enjoy the music,

Associated gear
Please see my Agon virtual system

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Read inside the review.
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Follow-up: The Technics EPC P100CMK4 is an extraordinary performer and extremely hard to beat. If you hear it against the Acutex you could have a hard day to decide which one likes you as the best.
I'm sure you can like both and can live with either but the unique characteristics that are involve in the Acutex performance IMHO made that the LPM 315III STR is seated a top.
The Technics accuracy is something to hear but the Acutex is nearest on this Technics characteristic and the Acutex music presentation is more real. Please take in count here that we are talking on differences yes but differences that happen at very high quality level performance.

Now, in the case of the Acutex/Technics those differences not only make a great different cartridge presentation but a better Acutex performance!!! that's not easy at all.

Ok, now in the Acutex music side: Oh! what a recording that: Satchmo Plays King Oliver, in the first track/side one you don't only heard Louis voice but you can check your hands with his hands.
I never heard better Louis voice and trumpet play, this is him and you are with.

Yes, the Ray Charles/Bassie double albun is a musical “ orgasm “ with the Acutex cartridge, so good!!!

if you take Dido LP recordings and heard through this Acutex cartridge you can really feel that you are not hearing it but that you are been caress all over your body an heard the Dido voice caress your face in especial: what kind of experience!!!!

But in recordings like D. Bowie ( Cat People ), L.Branigan ( Self Control ), Pictures at an Exibition, Firebird or Beethoven 9th that power I'm talkin about takes that word in its wide music means on that perception/feelings.

I can’t stop hearing recording after recording. Every single recording that I was think I knew it takes a new dimension with the LPM 315III STR analog source: I’m just hearing and discovery my best know recordings, great unexpected so vivid experience!.

Today I have 12 hours hearing this incredible analog source and it refuse to disappoint me in anyway at every SPL I try it from 75db to 96db at seat position ( continuous SPL ) with peaks at 80 to 105dbs.

Even at 75db you can feel the physical presence/power and vivid music performance.

Some of you could ask: what about soundstage cartridge performance? and I say WHO CARES when we are talking of MUSIC and when we are talking of a new source that can give us all what you already dreaming and what you not even dreaming on music sound reproduction through does imperfect LP’s.
We are talking of that so vivid music experience where feelings and emotions are taking our mind where the music shows its greatness and where you and the music and the music and you are a sole and only one entity, soundstage?: who cares.

Some of you could say/think: “ Hey that’s what I’m hearing in my home system “, sorry but IMHO not at this high/top and unique quality performance. Remember that this Acutex cartridge is today: “ The Best “.

Btw, Lewm this cartridge has not the VdH “ refresh “ touch, I can’t imagine what if it has it!

Regards and enjoy the music,

Ps: Before I heard cartridges in the level 9 ( and up ) on the cartridge quality performance ladder I heard music 3-4 hour by late night and in that time was time too for book/magazine reading.
With cartridges in that high performance levels I just can't read nothing, the music presentation I'm hearing give me no space/minute to do it: what a pleasure!! I can say.
Hi Raul, A quick search uncovered this post to another forum. Hunting these vintage cartridges sometimes feels like an old man on the beach with a metal detector looking for dubloons. Thanks!

"The day was silver lined, after all, though. Number one, it was a brilliant day at the beach, and we drove a bit past Coos Bay (where the speakers were) to Bandon, and had some terrific clam chowder. Number two, I picked up a new-in-box Acutex M320 III STR cartridge from a thrift shop for... well, I won't say for how much, but substantially less than we paid for lunch. It's a real time capsule - tatty box, but the contents gleam with a pristine circa 1978 glow. Bolts and spacers still sealed in bag? Check. Cute little screwdriver supplied? You betcha. Cartridge/stylus actually unused? Inspection at 400x magnification says absolutely. Then again, I don't know if it's actually a very good cartridge or not, but apparently it is a rare one these days. Some googling suggests the other driver was a Philco. Also suggests the Acutex was probably only a so-so cartridge, and may even be unusable due to age, despite its pristine-itude. Oh well. The chowder was still great."

Great to see you getting even more pleasure. Shame about the soundstaging but, as you say, sacrifices for preferences seem the order of the day.

Thanks for sharing your views again and happy listening
Dear Dgob: +++++ " sacrifices for preferences seem the order of the day. " +++++

only to be more precise on the Acutex soundstage performance: do you think that with that performance level you or me are " sacrifycing/trade-offs " something with this Acutex?, certainly not the cartridge soundstage is splendid but the main Acutex performance characteristic is its capacity to reproduce the whole and every nuances on the music we heard through our audio system.

Both cartridges, EPC-P100CMK4 and this Acutex 315III STR, are near perfect items.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear friends: Next week I will receive an original and new LPM 315III STR.

I had the opportunity to make a choice, the top of the line stylus replacement LPM 320III STR ( same cartridge body and internal characteristics than the LPM 315. ) or the 315 I bought. I decided by the LPM 315 because I will send one of the LPM 315 stylus to VdH for a " refresh ", my experiences about tell me that when I receive it not even the LPM 320 can touch it! ( Lewm stay tunned. )

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear friends: I was thinking these last days ( again and again ) on the quality level performance in the Technics EPC-P100CMK4 and the Acutex 315III STR and what I was thinking is mainly where are similar and where different and the importance of those " where " and how ner/far are those differences and I'm asking me: hey could be the other way around? that people could like more the Technics trade-offs against the Acutex?

Both cartridges have so high quality performance level and are more similar than differents that here maybe was/is a little unnfair to put one cartridge over the other on quality performance level.
It is true that the Technics has not that " live energy " that the Acutex shows ( no cartridge I know has it. ) but it is true too that the Technics has other characteristics that the Acutex can't shows at same level.

Unfortunatelly I can't edit the Acutex review but through this post I want to make a correction ( My mistake, the Technics deserve that correction. ) in the quality performance level of the Acutex in the cartridge ladder level performance.

The Acutex 315III STR belongs at 10+ ( not 10++ like I posted. ) level sharing this position along the Technics EPC-P100CMK4: Honor to whom deserve Honor!!!!

Regards and enjoy the music,
If the 320IIISTR is "Top Dog", then my as "NEW", Acutex, LPM,415IIISTR, purchased in the 70's, for my "Dual 1229", must be "Rare & Expensive"! What do you think it would be worth, if I include it as an "Extra", with my "Dual", when I put it up for auction? Thanks, MR
Dear Enmahrr: I think is better if you keep it with you.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear friends: The LPM 315 VdH arrived and as I assumed: its quality performance outperforms the original LPM 315. I any one of you own the LPM 315 IMHO is worth to send to VdH for a " refresh " treatment, this elevate an already very good performer to an excellent level.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear friends: I think this link belongs here and could help any one of you interested on the Acutex cartridges:

Regards and enjoy the music,
I forgot, this link too:

I just got an AR XA turntable and it had an Acutex M312 III STR Cart with no Stylus. I am thinking of putting the STR 320 stylus on .

Now to save the 180 for the Stylus( NOS)

I have the LPM 315 and the LPM 320. I believe the 320 is the better balanced cart. Both carts have strong bass output, but the 315 is a good bit overdone in my view. The carts are very similar overall, but the 320 is more refined, smoother and cleaner sounding. I suppose this can be attributed to the different stylus design and titanium cantilever. The very strong bass output of the 315 can make some records sound muddy and less detailed. 

Initially, the 315 can sound impressive with it's more forward sound character, but when directly compared to the 320 I realized it was a step down in it's overall sonic signature.