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Shure M97XE Phono Cartridge

52 Reviews

Discontinued by Shure. Currently unavailable. Consider the Ortofon 2M Red, or the Audio Technica VM520EB as alternatives.

The M97xE is a superb smooth-sounding phonograph cartridge designed to provide long hours of undistorted listening, without fatiguing the ear. Its highly precise tracking ability and flat frequency response are made possible by Shure's unique Type II low-mass thin-wall aluminum alloy stylus cantilever, combined with a precision-crafted, finely polished, elliptical diamond tip.

This cartridge is able to accurately reproduce very difficult musical passages, particularly in the high-frequency range, where audio modulations are the smallest and most concentrated, and stylus tip movement is consequently the most rapid.

The very low mass M97xE cartridge shares several important features with the V15VxMR audiophile cartridge. Shure's exclusive viscous-damped Dynamic Stabilizer, which maintains a uniform distance between the cartridge and the record under difficult playing conditions, such as those caused by warped records, or mismatched tonearm mass. When such stabilization is not required, the stabilizer brush can be locked up into its detent position, which, under ideal playing conditions, can provide even better sound quality.

Dynamic Stabilizer

The Shure exclusive viscous-damped Dynamic Stabilizer maintains a uniform distance between the cartridge and the record under difficult playing conditions, even those caused by warped records or mismatched tonearm mass. When such stabilization is not required, the stabilizer brush can be locked up into its detent position, which, under ideal playing conditions, can provide even better sound quality.

A die cast aluminum mounting block for secure, vibration-free attachment to the tonearm. The SIDE-GUARD stylus protection system that helps prevent stylus damage if the cartridge accidentally slides across a record. This unique feature responds to side thrusts on the stylus by withdrawing the entire stylus cantilever and tip safely into the stylus housing before the cantilever can be damaged.

Die Cast Aluminum Mounting Block

Ensures secure, vibration-free attachment to the tonearm.

Side-Guard Stylus Protection System

The innovative protection system helps prevent stylus damage if the cartridge accidentally slides across a record. This unique feature responds to side thrusts on the stylus by withdrawing the entire stylus cantilever and tip safely into the stylus housing before the cantilever can be damaged.

Audiogon Review

The Shure M97xE may or may not be a baby V15. I’ll leave it to those who have heard both recently to answer that. Taken on its own terms, the M97 offers way above average detail retrieval, good imaging, decent soundstaging, excellent tracking and dynamics, and terrific build quality. More importantly, and harder to adequately describe, is its remarkable listenability and marked lack of harshness. I can easily imagine someone living happily with this cartridge for a decade or more, instead of ceaselessly clamoring for something better. (There’s a word for people like that: “sane.”)

I’ve stayed up late on numerous occasions with this cartridge because it ‘gets out of the way’ (as they say in the magazines) and allows the music to shine. I suspect the few affectations it exhibits are more the doing of my turntable than the cartridge itself. True, surface noise can be slightly intrusive if you’re used to moving coils or more expensive moving magnets. I also wish the Shure had slightly tighter-sounding lows on some recordings, and improved soundstaging on others. Maybe you’ll find those qualities in the V15. Then again, maybe not. One thing’s for sure: the M97xE needn’t stand in its big brother’s shadow. It’s a wonderful little cartridge that deserves an audition in nearly any sub-$1000 analog playback system.
  • Output: 4.0mV RMS at 5 cm/sec
  • Stylus:Diamond tip, Polished natural gemstone, Elliptical, Side x front radii: 0.2 x 0.7 mil
  • Cantilever: Shure Type II - Very Low Mass, Heat-treated aluminum alloy / tubular, 1.0 mil wall thickness / 20 mil diameter
  • Frequency Range: 20 to 22,000 Hz
  • Tracking Force: 0.75-1.50g
  • Weight: 6.6g
  • Stereo Channel Balance: Within 2 dB
  • Channel Separation: @1 kHz - 25 dB
  • Recommended Load: 47 kilohms in parallel with 250 pf
  • Height: 15.875mm
  • Amplitude: 80 µm at 400 Hz
  • Accessories Included:
  • Stylus Guard
  • User Guide
  • Mounting hardware
  • Stylus cleaning brush
  • Headshell Screwdriver
  • Shure's Hi-Fi Cartridge Comparison Guide
  • Features:
  • Dynamic Stabilizer Damper/De-staticizer
  • Die-case Aluminum Mounting Block
  • Side-Guard Stylus Protection System
  • Karl wielgus


    I have to confess an irrational fondness for this shure cartridge. I find it smooth with wondrous bass. Presence and sage is marvelous. I prefer it to the ortofon 2m red. I was using. My reaction is subjective, but i so enjoy the sound.






    I seem to remember writing somewhere-I thought it was here, but I can't find it, that this was a 'rolled off, miserable little turd of a cartridge'. I stand corrected, and this review is to correct that impression. I'd written that after substituting the 97's stylus into my V15xMR, having been told the cartridge bodies are the same. They are not. I'd been using a V15VxmR with the JICO stylus for many years now. If you know the JICO styli, you probably know their sonics better the stock Shure styli. But alas, their durability and trackability do NOT. So when I started getting whiffs of mistracking after 2 years on the JICO, I thought it good to try the ol' 97xE. Cut to the chase-I was very pleasantly surprised, because: 1.)The overall sound is quite similar and, 2.)It tracks better-hotly cut violin tracks are especially sweeter, and 3.)The stock replacement styli are about a third of the cost of a JICO for my V15xMR (which sadly Shure discontinued). Not QUITE as pristine and tidy as the V15VxMR, but 98% of the time I defy you to tell the difference. I have this cartridge dialed in to the nth degree on a Teres turntable with a Morch UP4 arm. It is not embarrassed in such a set up; quite to the contrary. It really shines with a good table. I bought this cart as a yeoman back up to my V15xMR. I'm in no hurry to replace the V15; think this is my new go to cart.

    Carlos Bauza


    There is faulty Quality Control at Shure. Several samples of the M97xE have had poor internal assembly so that ground path is broken causing total hum.



    This is a confounding cartridge. Its rolloff at treble and bass makes many normal records sound turgid and muffled. Rock records come through OK because they are usually bright. The Stabilizer has some quality control issues and can be turned "off" when needed. The inner wiring has poor quality control because the four colored connecting pins may not be properly soldered internally. Causing loud hum or signal dropoff. But replacing the stylus with an expensive JICO SAS aftermarket one converts this dud into an impressive performer, worthy of the total cash investment.



    I have to say that this cartridge is by far one of the best I've ever used. If you are having issues have your turntable checked out or buy a new one. This baby tracks great, separation is outstanding and it sounds better than all of my CD Players! ND has been around for a long time so if you contact them I'm sure he will tell you what needs to be done. A truly great product and for the price nothing compares...

    Action Dan


    I previously had the 97HE model on a vintage table and was profoundly impressed with the performance. Incredible clarity, detail, and transparency. Although not in the same league, the current m97xe is a safe, good value option, by a legendary American company with an impeccable track record of quality. Impressions: slightly recessed highs, nice open midrange, somewhat relaxed(loose) bass. If you are primarily into classic rock or equivalent, I would opt for the 2m red which is more lively and punchy. However, the 97 does a reasonable job on vocals, and has a nice, vintage, romantic sound on jazz and classical which imho it was intended for. Not the holy grail or the sonic bummer it's made out to be, the 97 is an above average performer making it a solid value. However, AT, Grado,and Sumiko make excellent carts in this range as well, so Sure isn't the only game in town.



    It's a good cartridge for a budget price. If you purchase it just don't go expecting $5,000 of performance out of it and you'll be happy. I've had zero problems with tracking or distortion with the stabilizer up or down. (Marantz 6300) Over all it's a good cartridge for the money.



    Good! Really Good!



    I had some issues with this cartridge. First, I had some tracking problems even with the stabilizer up. I also feel the cartridge to sound too soft on the treble, the sound lacking detail. For those looking for a soft ,warm sound it may be ok. Not so for me



    To my ears, the sound of this cartridge is average, with a very noticeable roll off of high frequencies, some tracking issues, and a lack of general finesse of the sound. The strong point is the "analog" kind of sound, soft and fleshy.Good for mid fi systems with tone controls, not my case



    Hey audio folk. I bought the M97xE and I must say at first I was not happy with it. It seemed dull and lacked pizzazz. BUT, however, the more I played my records, the better the M97xE sounded! I mean really smooth and nice. Incredibly neutral and very detailed. it never gives me ear fatigue, which is a huge problem with alot of cartridges that sell for under $200. (The Ortofon 2M Red for example. Please do yourself and your ears a huge favor and do not buy that cartridge.) Back to the Shure. It's very simple. If you want a smooth, accurate sound that is very warm and transparent, the way vinyl is meant to be heard, then do yourself a huge solid and get a Shure M97xE and get it it on your TT asap. You won't be sorry. From one audiophile to many others



    Amazing sound for the price. Not that far from my Dynavector DV 20XL- The bass could be a little more focused and the highs could use a little more finesse but for 89 dollars y don't think you can find something better. Ideal if your system tends to the bright side



    1.25gram very slight up arm worth every1/100 mm until complete,no dull ,no warm ,nobright ,just neutral ! TRY THIS WOW



    Always had fancy cartridge like Rega super Elys or Sumiko blue point special to name only those 2... now that we have kidz and budget is not the same, I tried this Shure and I'm so impress that I wonder why I did'nt try it before. It does make the Sumiko sound like junk. If you have the right azimuth, alignment and weight... this cartridge is a steal! Rega P3 Arcam A70 Bryston 3B Eminence Speaker



    I really like this cartridge. It's not the v15. but then again not many cartridges are in the price range. Very smooth and does not fatigue your brain. It handles all types of music I tried from jazz to classical to punk to rock and so on. Everything is so well balanced in the sound stage. Nothing is over done or under done. You just want to call in sick and feel great listening to the Shure M97xe for days. It is however just a bit tricky to set up correctly You may need a good stylus pressure gauge to do so. Overall, the best cartridge one can buy for under $125.00. Very pleased!



    I poured A1 steak sauce all over my records. This Shure M97XE cut through it like fresh steak knives from Sears. Thank the lord for this blessed cartridge.



    I bought this cart for my T1200 m3d, aligned the M97XE per technics specs. Now is sings like a canary, all the way to inner groove, reproduces a clear and crisp sound.

    Mister V


    This cartridge is a good match for most mid-fi/standard turntables. Although it may not make the mega audiophile community drool, it has a nice lively sound that works with many styles of music. The magic is all in the setup.



    this is a great cartridge for the money but, as Magnabord suggests, you have to take time to adjust it properly. I run it on a Technics 1800 MKII where I can adjust alignments, VTA, balance, etc. Also have an outboard phono preamp. So, utilizing these features of my system, the M97 sounds pretty good. That said, it does NOT replace my $300 Ortofon Vivo Red, but I use it for my older records, or those that have some scratches in them and save the Ortofon for my higher quality LPs. A very strong 5 for what it is and what it can accomplish when set up properly



    When reading cartridge reviews one must understand that there are two leading factors to a negative review: The ineptitude of the reviewer in cartridge set up and their unwillingness to allow the cartridge to break in. You must understand that the M97xe will NOT sound that great coming out of the box. But if you wait and you actually take the time to understand your table, arm and their compatibility with this cartridge, and spin some wax for a good 60 to 100 hours, you will be rewarded with the notion that you just got away with murder. This cart is a heavyweight! Pacing and tracking are certainly of most importance to me. I don't care how much sizzle and "wow" factor a cartridge has. If the cut of meat isn't good no amount of sauce will correct this. This thing reads the groove like a running back navigating a wall of linemen. What good is a cart if it's going to skip and fumble over a groove? Also I believe that people who call this cart dull or rolled off haven't given it enough of a chance. Granted my Klipsch Epics are not necessarily warm and lush and the M97xe's midrangier-than-though character does compliment a bright system, I do believe that this cart will sound good on any speaker and amp. This cart is so good that I wouldn't just say it's a cheap cartridge that will inevitably be cast aside for some high buck MC, but one allowed a throne on the pantheon of the greats. Highly Recommended.

    U Vinyl


    I have this phono cartridge for about a month now. I am using it with T12 TT, Now reviewing this cartridge is subjective, some user will say it is not to their standard some will say it is excellent, it so happened that I am one of the customers who says I am satisfied and very happy with using M97xe. Tracking is amazing, I have no idea why some say the tracking of this cart is horrible, again for me it is excellent. Voltage output is descent. Overall I am very satisfied with it.

    Tom B


    I don't understand the harsh criticisim of this cartridge. It's from an American company and it's ok. I play this one with the brush up and have had no problems.

    Very High Performance For The Money


    Some Audiophiles love to slam this cartridge. I think it's because it's been around forever. Newer means better? Not in this case! You will be hard pressed to find a cartridge that can track as well as the M97XE. The sound is classic Shure, deep tight bass, sweet mids, natural highs. Soundstage is deep and imaging is superb. Instrument separation is amazing. It reproduces loud complex orchestras without strain. Vocals are in the room. The damped brush actually works to remove dust and stabilize the stylus. Shure should double the price.

    Jim Of Oak Creek


    So many audiophiles love to slam this cartridge. I find it to be an excellent tracker, one of the best. It's smooth and clean with great depth. Response is wide and deep. Some find the treble too rolled off. It may be system dependent. On my system the sound is perfectly balanced with natural sounding highs. This cartridge is the best value around.