The late nineteen seventies cartridge market was a vibrant one, as you would expect. This was the height of the vinyl boom, when the format was all-conquering and the only way to play back recorded music in high quality stereo sound.
As you would expect, the market was diverse, with cheap Goldring G850 moving magnets selling for under £10, while you would have to pay twenty times that for a Supex SD900 – widely regarded as the best moving coil cartridge that money could then buy. In the middle, Ortofon’s FF15E II and VMS20E II were all-conquering, but with some rearguard action from the likes of A&R Cambridge’s C77 and P77. Into this fray arrived the Elite Electronic Industries 500 and 700 moving magnet cartridges, selling for around £50 and £80 respectively. From Melbourne Australia, it was the brainchild of an outspoken young Aussie called Max Townshend, who went on to found Townshend Audio.
The cartridge itself is an attractive well made affair with an 18mm tall gold coloured body, and a highish (for that time) 3.5mV output. Load impedance was quoted as 47k ohms, 270pF, and output impedance 2,500 ohms. The white stylus assembly was the rear star of the show though, for two reasons. First, it had a high quality boron cantilever that was a clear improvement over the cheap aluminium affairs that most moving magnets used, and secondly it was finished with a nude parabolic diamond stylus of 50×3 microns.
The parabolic stylus profile was a revelation; compared to the ellipticals of the day it tracked better and gave a far more detailed and sweeter sound. Not too dissimilar to the Shibata profile developed by JVC for quadraphonic use, it was an order higher than the average stylus tip. Compliance was quoted at 10cu (making it fairly average for its type) and tracking force was a highish (for its type) 1.8 to 2.0g, with 1.8g recommended. EEI quoted a frequency response of 10 to 20,000Hz. The cartridge is widely thought to work best with a very slight negative VTA; EEI quote it as 23 degrees.
The EEI 700 is a remarkably good sounding moving magnet, bettering many budget to mid-price moving coils of its era. Smooth, open, detailed and tonally slightly sweet, it was a revelation to anyone used to a £30 Ortofon. Bristling with information yet wonderfully musical, this is one of the finest sounding moving magnets around.
EEI went on to offer a range of cartridges, from the budget EEI 300H moving magnet with nude conical stylus, the shanked elliptical version of the same (400), and the shanked parabolic EEI 500. It also did the MC555, a nude conical stylused moving coil, and the flagship nude parabolic-equipped MCP555, an MC with the same stylus as the EEI 700. The 700 remains the most iconic of the Elite Electronics cartridges, and is in best supply secondhand. For a mint specimen of this, you’re looking at paying £200 or so now – which is still a bargain!