Review: Shure M97xE Cartridge

Category: Analog

Until recently...the Shure V-15 series of phono cartridges reigned supreme among moving magnet types for forty-five years. The following amongst audiophiles of all pocket books was unprecedented. Historically, the company's number two cartridge was referred to as a prince because everybody knew that the V-15 was king!

When the first V-15 was introduced in 1964...the company's number two was the M3D which had already been introduced in 1958 as the first true stereo cartridge. The M3D was Shure's first phono cartridge to track as low as 2 grams yet could survive a five gram TTF quite easily. When the V-15 Type II was introduced...the M91E became prince. With the introduction of the Type II Improved in the late 60's...the M91ED became second in command although a few of us knew that the co.'s M75ED T2 was the real prince!.

In 1973 Shure introduced the V-15 Type III and stated "Anything Two could do Three can do better". The M95ED was then crowned prince. In 1977 era IV was amongst us with the Type IV introducing a new stylus shape known as the Hyperelliptical and the M97HE became number two. Both Era IV cartridges featured a new means of attacking record warps via "The Dynamic Stabilizer."

In 1981 yet another V-15 was unveiled and with the introduction of the Shure V-15 Type V and a significant leap in high frequency reproduction...Era V was here and so was the ML-140HE...Shure's new number two which incidentally was a very underrated pickup that could be purchased for $92 street price and found its way into my home back in 1983 even though I also purchased the new Type V MR stylus...Micro Ridge which sported the longest footprint of any Shure needle ever.

Somewhere after you and I decided that the phono cartridge had no further worth to us and as the digital compact disc won our hearts over...Shure...along with other needle makers felt compelled to cut back cartridge and styli production and the V-15 Type VMR along with all the former number ones and twos ceased to be. 1997 because of the outcries of the few remaining vinyl junkies and even fewer true analog audiophiles...The V-15 was brought back in the form of the V-15 VxMR. At this point Shure introduced its next number two...the M97xE which now stands alone as Shure's reigning king because alas...Shure recently deemed it necessary to once again eliminate its champ due to scarcity and rising costs of the materials needed for the VxMR.

That brings us to where we are now...a review of Shure's latest king...the M97xE. I purchased several of these carts back in late 2002 or was it it early 2003? I don't remember for sure {Shure?} but my intent was to keep vinyl alive as much as possible and I passed them on to some audiophile friends for about $89 each to cover costs of S+H and listing.

I was excited about the product but didn't get to keep any 'til recently when I made my latest purchase from a vendor who asked me to make an offer. After turning down my initial third bid was accepted and I received my cart for $50 plus...I did give the last one of my original batch a two hour test in my PE 3048 table back in 2003 but put it away as I thought I heard enough to at least feel hey that's pretty good.

Had I actually kept that last one for myself longer...I might have had a more enthusiastic reaction and made the important discoveries that now have manifested themselves to me in a fashion I never imagined possible...especially from Shure.

"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 is precisely what you'll read everytime you see someone selling the M97xE on the internet. It is a quote directly from Shure Incorporated. Yet it is precisely what you get as Shure continues its tradition of no hogwash high-fellootin' outrageous claims but rather honest ones instead. How refreshing is this in a business where everyday some flowery descriptive reviewer finds infatuation with a product ten times the Shure's price...or more!

The M97xE is going to be an extremely important contributor to vinyl's comeback. Just take a ride over to Ebay or and you will understand why it's the number one seller for phono pickups here in the U.S.A. The OM5E by Ortofon is a best selling phono cartridge in Europe and it too will be an important part of vinyl's return.

The Shure M97xE is like a fine wine that only gets better with age. I once stated in a report that compared a whole slew of cartridge and styli in the under $100 category that the M97xe lacked that special emotion that makes a cartridge truly something special. I'm prepared to eat those words. I also stated that the pickup could very well be the "sleeper" in the bunch. Well in the words of the Emperor of Japan after the bomb..."I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant."

The cartridge arrives to you in a nice silver box that is sealed by Shure in plastic so as to not cause any doubt by the owner as to whether the cart has been tampered with or used by the dealer for customer demonstration. The model number appears on the box with the word "Audiophile" stamped in big letters right below it. This is opposed to earlier versions of the model that were packaged in a small non-sealed plain silver cardboard box minus the protractor.

Inside the newer sealed box is an aluminum case {You have to pay almost twice the price of the Shure to get this kind of treatment from Stanton with their 681 EEE II} that neatly serves as a classy home to cartridge and toolkit which contains the necessary hardware plus a screwdriver. All of this is surrounded by rubber with slots for the appropriate items. Beneath the rubber tray is a two-point stylus protractor and instructions for mounting the M97xE. Yay to Shure for being the only manufacturer I know of that supplies this overlooked item with their economical high performance cartridge and boo to them for not explaining how to use it!

But no problem...I will explain it to you here in full detail. You really have to credit Shure for supplying the protractor as it is critical to phono cartridge setup. All phono cartridge manufacturers should be so attentive to their customer's needs. With the cartridge featuring a .002 x .007 elliptical (nude-mounted?) diamond that is superior to the company's former longer footprint hyperelliptical gem...alignment is critical and must be precise in order to obtain the full benefits of this cart...especially on inner grooves where distortion is inherent and can rise rapidly.

When pulling the M97xE from its'll notice the aluminum mounting block right away as it is quite striking in appearance and pictures just don't do it justice. It has a highly polished chrome-like appearance along with such a solid feel. You immediately get the sense that Shure constructed this cartridge much better than the older M97's along with superior bonding of the cart body to the aluminum block. This quite effectively reduces or even eliminates unwanted resonances.

Mounting the M97xE is a small chore to some but I found that ten to twenty minutes should suffice using the supplied screws and nuts. Mounting the cart in fixed headshells may take a bit longer but mounting the cart in the Pioneer PL-518's removeable headshell wasn't bad at all and somewhat easy although the tiny nuts are perhaps a bit too small as they spin in the slots of my particular unit but I was able to hold them in place to fully tighten them anyway.

In the PE 3048 which uses a Dual 1200 series headshell...the nuts were barely large enough to hold in the slots which made tightening and mounting much easier. The color-coded cartridge terminals are in a different order from top to bottom when compared to older Shures so please beware of this and don't hurry the install thinking you know...when in reality you don't! Follow the clearly illustrated instructions.

How To Use The Shure M97xE Stylus Protractor

Start by having the cartridge exactly midway of the headshell. Note the "A" and "B" points of the protractor. "A" is near the inner grooves of a record so keep this in mind when aligning the cartridge. This protractor differs from previous two-point types in that on most others you must keep the platter stationery during the swing from point "A" to point "B" and that the points are reversed while definitely not being in straight line with each other. On this new protractor it is not necessary to shim the turntable platter in order to prevent slight movement but DO make sure power is off to the turntable itself!

Place a record on the turntable then place the smooth cardboard protractor's hole over the record spindle while resting on top of the record. Note that vertical tracking alignment VTA is perfect by placing the stylus on the record and noting that the cartridge body is not tilted too far back or too far forward. It should be just right with the overall body being perfectly parallel to the record surface. If the body hits the record during a slight warp...then VTA is probably not set correctly. This little injustice will also make the M97xE sound somewhat noisy and cartridge brilliance along with clarity will also be affected. Add angled shims if necessary or adjust tonearm height.

Swing the tonearm and cartridge over the record/protractor. The idea here is to start at point "A" making sure that the cartridge body is parallel to the protractor's lines while the stylus tip rests directly on the point itself. Square it up!

The easiest and safest way to accomplish this is to swing the Dynamic Stabilizer all the way down making sure it clicks into the "Guard" position. Note the white cue line on the stabilizer. Make sure the bottom of this line touches the point "A" precisely while maintaining perfect parallel alignment. The bottom of the white cue line is directly under the stylus tip. Move the platter so that the cartridge can be set at point "B". Then move cartridge and tonearm to point "B" and adjust the body so that the sides of the stabilizer appear parallel to this set of lines again keeping the stylus cue mark perfectly on the point.

Repeat the process back and forth until the cartridge is perfectly parallel while the bottom of the white cue mark rests precisely on each of the two points. Then re-tighten the hardware while re-checking alignment afterward. Do not be concerned if you windup with the cartridge body turned slightly inward as opposed to perfectly straight. This may take some time and practice. When the cart is perfectly parallel to the sidelines of both points "A" and "B" while the stylus is set to directly on the points themselves...then you've reached perfect alignment! are aligned!

For those of you who might have received this cartridge in its earlier form without the protractor...don't fret...your M97xE is just as good as the newer version but you need to download the free protractor pictured here from Use smooth photo printer paper and set the image as per instructions.

Don't be overly concerned with slight differences from one protractor to the other as there are many points along the correct plane of proper stylus overhang. You have to understand that these little ten cent pieces of cardboard were well thought out by their respective engineers and not just tossed in for the hell of it. I include here even Rega's little one point guage that concerns itself with the inner groove.

On the Pioneer PL-518 the cartridge woundup perfectly straight just a hair forward of the midway point of the slots on the headshell. On the PE 3048's dual-gimballed suspension tonearm..perfect azimuth was attained with the cartridge turned ever so slightly inward and a bit further past the midway point of the slotted Dual 1200 series headshell.

I set the tracking force TTF and anti-skate both to 1.75 grams which renders an actual TTF of 1.25 grams with the Dynamic Stabilizer/brush fully in place. The stabilizer/brush actually pushes upward by 1/2 gram. I don't believe in keeping it up during record play as it is there for good reason. Use it!

I just don't buy into the philosophy that the stabilizer gets in the way. It produces no sound of its own when kept clean which brings me to yet another point. The tiny micro-bristles of this brush pickup just about every fine particle of debris it can find. If you think that your record is clean...well...think again!

You had better develop a ritual however...of dry cleaning the brush thoroughly before placing the stylus on the record as the slightest amount of debris on the brush may cause the cartridge to skate considerably when gently cue-dropping over a quick sloped lead-in groove. Shure's 50/50 formula of isopropyl alcohol/distilled water is great for cleaning the M97xE's elliptical diamond gem but just avoid contact with the stabilizer's brush when it comes to this solution.

My ritual is to clean the stylus and stabilizer with the dry supplied brush making sure to briskly clean the brush on the stabilizer itself. You'll be surprised how much dust can accumulate on the stabilizer during a single-sided play. Well...better the brush than having the dust accumulate on the highly compliant stylus!

The Sound itself!

The Shure M97xE could have easily been named the Shure V-15 Type III Point Five. That is exactly where it would logically fall into place given its trackability spec and overall sound quality. Thus...when Shure recommends to owners of the original first three V-15's to purchase this new model rather than hunt down original replacement styli that sell for insanely high prices far beyond the M97xE's street price on Ebay or settling for cheapy generics that fall way too short of the mark...they are being quite honest and practicle. How refreshing is this from the world's best maker of quality transducers? They are actually trying to save you money...and grief! So way cool for my fellow "Poor Men"!!! Yes...and I mean you also...young lady.

After mounting and aligning the M97xE in both the Pioneer PL-518 and PE 3048 turntables I was able to draw some very interesting conclusions about this cart. sounds great! Right out of the box it has plenty of dynamicism but definitely is warm. "Warm" to me means that there is more of an emphasis in the bass response just as "brilliant" would indicate there is emphasis in the upper registers.

The real surprise is that this warmth disappears after a full 200 hours of break-in! At that point the cartridge becomes the most neutral sounding cartridge on the face of the earth.

The first 20 hours were spent in the tonearm of my Pioneer PL-518 and the sound was lovely but still somewhat warm with god detail and soundstaging but I found myself wishing for the transducer to open up a bit in the highs. This too was with my oder basic Radio Shack phono preamp/mixer which was a cut above those found in most receivers.

Then I received my new TEC TC-760LC Audiophile Phono Preamp which boasts low noise and the flattest of frequency responses. I decided to mount the M97xE in my PE 3048 turntable which is rubber idler driven with a great and respectable synchronous motor. The PE's tonearm is quite similar to that of the Dual 1218 or 1228.

This straight low mass tonearm boasts some of the lowest bearing friction ever which in turn is quite vital to the success of a highly compliant cartridge such as the Shure M97xE. The cartridge sounded even warmer but still with great detail and dynamicism.

Then...right around the 100 hour mark I clearly could hear a change as I was playing one of my all-time favorite LP's...The Beach Boys "Sunshine Dreams". Right in the middle of "Friends" the high frequencies became more prominent and downright clear! This also meant that the soundstage became deeper and...believe or not...wider and taller!

This was quite stunning to me as I never witnessed such a break-in period the likes of this and by the 200 hour mark the cart had fully opened up. Was this due to the cartridge's cantilever slowly breaking in or the TC-760LC's burn in period or both? I don't know but now know not to ever judge a phono cartridge's performance on a first impression basis.

Transient response is tops! The M97xE is as fast as you could possibly want with great detail and accuracy of musical timbre. The differential between loud and soft spots on the record is quite incredible for a cartridge at this price point and far exceeds others costing three times its price.

Using my vast collection of vinyl that covers many types of music...I was able to determine that this really is a grownup Shure and not necessarily your father's Shure. The type II thin aluminum cantilever is superior in some ways to the V-15 V's beryllium one. The Microwall/Be cantilever becomes brittle over a period of time whereas the M97xE's cantilever gets better with age like a fine wine.

It is true that the V-15 V had double the high frequency trackability spec and was a champion of the inner groove but once the M97xE is aligned to won't even give IGD a thought. Sibilance is superb with the M97xE and the cart has the ability to tame any harshness in the highs while maintaining its total neutrality. Yet...there is wonderful "air" to the music as the M97xE aced all tracks on Telarc's "Fennell-Cleveland Symphonic Winds" album which can cause a lesser cartridge to misbehave badly.

The M97xE's type II cantilever and diamond gem can really dig deep into the record groove apparently touching parts that have not been reached by others. Such an eye/ear-opening example to me was when I played an old RCA "1812 Overture" LP on RCA that features full orchestra and children's chorus. The inner grooves of this thirty plus year old monster consistently sounded bad with other cartridges...even expensive ones exhibiting some nasty distortion and mistracking. Funny how now that same recording is one of my very favorites with the Shure M97xE at the helm!

Popping out my Telarc Robert Shaw "Carmina" LP proved to me that the cart not only is quite dynamic but handles percussion almost to perfection with cymbal clashes sounding very realistic as opposed to sandpapery-like. The Love group's "Forever Changes" on the New York based Sundazed label sounds absolutely transparent with subtle details spewing forth from the cartridge in exemplary form! You're gonna luv the Jazz string basses as certain pluckings of strings will be sure to rattle your floors and windows.

Of course the Shure was easily able to track everything with such an impressive ease and clarity on my "Professor Johnson" test LP. Such a piece of equipment tends to sound more like a refined instrument.

Now all this sounds good so far but beware...the M97xE is only as good as the record itself and bad recordings will immediately manifest themselves as such while mediocre ones will sound precisely that. Believe me...there are some so-called audiophile thick vinyl pressings that cost all of $30 that will surely disappoint you when played through the Shure while others will absolutely stun and delight ya! Classic example...MGM's Kama-Sutra recording of The Lovin' Spoonful's Greatest Hits sounds absolutely drone while the Rhino version of the same is clearly delightful.

I believe I prefer the sound of this cartridge at present to almost any other you can think of. Certainly the Pickering XSV-3000 while being quite dynamic and clear especially on the inner grooves was still perhaps a bit brilliant with a quick-wearing stylus. The same could be said of the Stanton 881S or the Ortofon OM series and I've already explained to you the V-15 Type V's shortcomings.

Although I am not as familiar with moving coil designs as others certainly are...I consistently read reports of "brilliance" in these types. This may very well be impressive to some but others may find such a characteristic fatiguing in time.

This is a true calibration cartridge with wide flat frequency bandwidth that will tell the truth and oh, can it ever etch! "The Birds, The Bees And The Monkees" LP on Rhino will sound so rich yet the older Colgems version will not! Stereo separation while being very good during the first twenty hours of break-in becomes outstanding after two-hundred hours. I wonder how many of the few present vinyl makers will windup selecting the Shure M97xE to determine their vinyl's actual sound quality.

Deep bass is excellently reproduced with the stabilizer in place and groove noise is kept to a minimum but I would caution you about the use of fluids. I can easily tell when a former owner of one of my LP's used Discwasher fluid because the damn stuff leaves a residue on the vinyl's surface that translates into supreme surface noise. The M97xE will pickup this garbage quite clearly and annoyingly until the forsaken stuff disappears after five, ten or even more playings. Otherwise...on well kept vinyl or newer ones it is extremely quiet and hum is totally inaudible....NIL!

Use a nice dry cleaning brush like the Hunt E.D.A. Mark 6. I do not use a wet record vac. I cannot afford one. Besides...who's to say that these giant investments don't leave their own traces of residue anyway?

The bottom line is that the Shure M97xE represents tremendous value and one would be hard pressed to find a significantly better performer at any price point. Perhaps the real tell-tale here is that it is the ONLY phono cartridge I've ever owned to get significantly better with time. All of the others seemed to have peaked after a five to ten hour break-in period only to gradually lose their charm.

The Shure M97xE is a real long term keeper and a great champion amongst poor audiophiles. It is so good that I believe I will prolong the purchase of that $200 Benz-Micro low output moving coil model that I had planned to make so as to test my new preamp's mc capabilities. As vinyl's full return is now inevitable...Shure has once again climbed to the top!

Associated gear
PE 3048 Turntable
Pioneer PL-518 Turntable
TEC TC-760LC Audiophile Phono Preamp
AudioSource AMP-100 Power Amplifier
Pioneer TX-5500 Mk. II Analog Tuner
Polk R-30 Towers
Kimber KWIK-12 Speaker Interconnect

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Koetsu Rosewood

MGM's Kama-Sutra recording of The Lovin' Spoonful's Greatest Hits sounds absolutely drone while the Rhino version of the same is clearly delightful.
That is so true. I remember those original pressings from the '60s and they were gawdawful--noisy, compressed, practically unlistenable.

Thanks for another comprehensive review and what has served as a sanity check for me, because it corroborates what I've been experiencing. I have an M97xE on a Technics SL1210 M5G and it just keeps sounding better and better. It has far exceeded the resolution and musical satisfaction I expected of a cartridge at this price.

I started out in March with both an Ortofon OM 10 and the Shure. At first I liked the Ortofon better, but over time the Shure has emerged as the clear winner. It has a richness of presentation that belies its modest price.

I would describe a fully broken-in M97xE as neutral while avoiding any hint of sterility. It is also quick without being edgy. Spinning platters with this Shure evokes the strongest emotional reactions I've ever experienced when playing recorded music in my home.

I also like its sound better with the brush down in place, and in that configuration it'll play warped records that would toss most stylii right out of the groove. I sure hope Shure keeps this one in its lineup for some time to come.
"I started out in March with both an Ortofon OM 10 and the Shure. At first I liked the Ortofon better, but over time the Shure has emerged as the clear winner. It has a richness of presentation that belies its modest price."

Ya know, JB...this is precisely how I feel! Even though my review of the Ortofon OM5E is dated recently here on Audiogon...I wrote most of it on EPINIONS about two years ago. This time M97xE review is debuting on Audiogon and the EPINIONS version will just have to wait until they get a slot for the product. Fine...I don't mind that and I am really starting to LUV this site as is a home for those who can wax excitement about a low cost high-performing product without having to worry about dumb retaliatory remarks. I am most impressed with the intelligence level here and have learned plenty in the short time I've been here.

"I also like its sound better with the brush down in place, and in that configuration it'll play warped records that would toss most stylii right out of the groove. I sure hope Shure keeps this one in its lineup for some time to come."

Yes, John...and you know what?? I remember actually witnessing the difference the stabilizer makes when I owned my Shure V-15 Type V back in 1982 and Shure sent me their ERA V Test Record. There was a band of sub audible frequencies that caused the cartridge to visibly and audibly warble without the Dynamic Stabilizer in place. When engaged...the warbling totally disappeared.

Now think about that...I realize that Shure was simulating warps with those deep bass frequencies but doesn't it stand to reason that the cartridge will also handle bass frequencies above the sub audible ones very well also...with the stabilizer in place?

JB...I don't think you have to worry about Shure discontinuing this cart any time soon. It's too popular right now! Another thing that I wish to say here right now is for the benefit of those who stumble upon this thread whether it be in the near future or further on. Both John and myself have found something very special with this Shure M97xE. There is something about this Type II cantilever that differs drastically from any other type or manufacture. IT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER WITH AGE! What is with this?

Yes my OM5e wa my #1 but now it s the M97xE and am afrad tt nthng else wil do!

Also...please note, folks that the cart is doing well in a top rated Technics 1205MG, a Pioneer PL-518 {which is their answer to the Technics}, and a Perpetuum Ebner PE 3048 {which is similar to the Dual 1228 and 1218}. Please note that the first two tables are DIRECT DRIVE units. So much for the theory some audiophles have abot DD types not being of "audophile quality".

Thanks, JB for yor most kind and wonderful remarks. You have great insight yourself and I believe many will benefit from it!
John...Sorry I screwed up your table model but my keyboard went wacky a bit. I meant to say Technics SL-1210 M5G. OK...Me and the darn keyboard got a bit senile for a moment! At any rate I apologize and I hope the people catch the drift. The M97xE is now my standard and I fear that any other cart just won't do!...Peter
Petsound - enjoyed your review very much. I'm a fan of over-achieving/under-rated stuff. Seems to me I have seen 2 very positive reviews of the M97xE here on Audiogon. I am definitely inclined to purchase one. Appears to be a great value. (I too have an SL1210 M5G, purhcased from KAB early this year).
"I too have an SL1210 M5G, purhcased from KAB early this year."

Please note that the very reputable KAB features the M97xE in their top table. There is good reason for this as the co. realizes that no other cart keeps the stereo image in such great focus! Go for it! Thanks for your kind response to the review...Peter
Ed Kobesky's review of the Technics SL1200 mk2 also cites the Shure M97xE as an excellent match ( I wonder if some of his caveats about the match diminished over time, given the way this cart just keeps sounding better and better?
Just a little UPDATE:7/13/07:

I have transferred the M97xE back into the fabulous Pioneer PL-518 using the $12 Black Phanstiehl headshell. Perfect alignment was set precisely midway of the headshell slots while keeping the cartridge perfectly straight. I like the design of this low cost headshell as it is ever so slightly sloped and VTA is absolutely perfect in the Pio's medium mass "S" tonearm. The headshell has just enough mass to it to work perfectly with the Shure in the Pio tonearm.

I am currently working on a new special patchcord for the PL-518 and will give a full update when mission accomplished.
Mission accomplished! The new gold-plated RCA OFC patchord works great and all went well during install. The M97xE is wonderful in the Phanstiehl HS. The sound is glorious!...Peter
G'day all, I have three M97xE's on different turntables and completely agree with all the comments. Yes the dynamic stabiliser works extremely well and makes this cartridge compatible with just about any tonearm.

Re 'break in' I recently observed this for myself with one of my M97xE's and I thought I was imagining it! I wasn't. Yes my M97xE's just get better with time!

I find that optimal loading also makes a significant difference with the M97xE, especially in the upper treble. As I DIY my own phono preamps I resistively load my M97xE's at 62 k, in lieu of the 'usual' 47 k and I also keep the capacitive loading to the recommended Shure value. Regards, Fap.
Thanks for your comment, Fap and sorry I'm a bit late with my response but I've been having too much fun lately mounting and listening to my M97xE and Omega in a brand new GLI Pro SL-2500 DD turntable.

First...the new table is a dream and of course it is a much lower cost version of the Technics SL-1210 M5G. The sound is teriffic with the M97xE. I use the TEC 760LC phono preamp which is very similar to the NAD PP-2. The TEC's input is rated at 47K ohms. I also used a cheaper Phantone preamp rated at 50K ohms and noticed a slight lift in the mids and treble frequencies but still prefer my Tec with its 47K ohms loading as the cart now has a completely neutral & quiet quality whilst attaining a very broad w/three-dimensional soundstaging. Wonderful depth with no hype!

I believe it really is a completely neutral well-balanced keeper and just might win the hearts of enough former V-15 III owners {like myserlf!} to help the cause! the way..."SAVEVINYL" on Ebay has the proper audiophile headshell for the SL-2500 and other Technics types whereas the cartridge easily mounts and is midway straight when aligned with the Shure's included protractor...which I still feel is the best of any!

I'm gonna have a report on this site very soon about all this. See ya then!!
The M97xE is as fast as you could possibly want with great detail and accuracy of musical timbre.
Thanks for a thorough, meticulous review. This is one of the primary reviews that helped me make an informed choice on purchasing the Shure M97xE. The M97xE is a step up from prior MM and MC instruments used in a system comprising a Basis TT, Threshold Amp/Preamp, WeberWire, and a pair of Sound Labs.

This cartridge properly balances neutrality and delicacy in vocals and instrumental music; thereby, capturing not only the challenge of a performer’s innate sibilance but also the natural tenor of a piano’s action and sustain. It differs from some rather costly MM and MC cartridges of our past in that it does not exaggerate the natural signature of instruments and individual vocal ranges. Some cartridges evinced an overly "bright shine" handling instruments such as cymbals or piano for instance. The Shure is respectively restrained in its presentation: hence its virtue for a neutral presentation.

I’ve long considered vinyl and reel-to-reel two of the most accurate reproduction formats. While listening to the Shure, I had a difficult time gauging which format is more faithful to the originally intended performance in context of our system. Vinyl with the Shure captures proper proportion in both sound staging and imaging in ways that reel-to-reel could not properly reproduce, though reel-to-reel has greater dynamics. However, upon further listening and reflection, I discovered that bigger staging and expansive dynamics is a bit bloated and unrealistic; whereas the Shure’s neutrality seems more attuned to closely engaging a listener with the originally intended performance.