Parnassus Cartridge Reviewed


Lydian, Clavis and now Parnassus — a genuine hat trick for a new(-ish) manufacturer. What’s most remarkable is that it’s a trio of cartridges, hardly hot currency in 1991. But the analoguists, watching the record racks in the shops shrink before their very eyes, still have enough ‘presence’ to justify the creation of new moving-coil designs this late in the game, and Lyra looks set to satisfy whatever demand remains.

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It is, however, starting to sound like a formula: Reviewer hears awesome cartridge. Reviewer laments the passing of vinyl. Reviewer makes some maudlin remark about, ‘If only we’d had cartridges like this in ’83…’ But it doesn’t matter. In the here-and-now, enough of you still play records, enough of you still want to eke out the maximum, and the Parnassus is aimed precisely at your tonearm.

At first, it looks like a Clavis with a slight colour change and gold trim on the body’s Swiss cheese perforations. Lyra is sticking with the flat-top, chamfered-side shape first seen all the way back to the time they were called Tsurugis, and it works well enough…especially as it’s made-to-measure for those who prefer to play their cartridges alfresco. Again, there are screws on the sides, accessible even when the cartridge has been fitted, which allow quick removal of the body shell. And, again, you do this at your own risk, because it does subject the delicate innards to the nasties of the atmosphere in even a spotless home.

The body has been drilled for lightness, true, but the pattern of holes is quite specific. In the best VPI Brick/HFN Fluxdumper/Grado manner, Lyra refers to the way the eddy currents around the magnets affect the sound; the pattern is said to reduce these. This lightened shell is precision-machined from a solid block of non-resonant aluminium alloy and seems even less detectable than the body of the Clavis if left in place. It suggests that, while Lyra all but implores/condones the removal of the body for superior performance, the company is also making it less necessary.

The big change inside is the use of the latest in platinum/iron composite magnets

In the case of the Parnassus, the core and pole pieces are made from 5N high-purity copper while the magnet itself is a platinum-iron mix containing 70% of the dearer stuff. As with all gains in magnet design, the new kid on the block is stronger and more precise in its behaviour.

The rest of the design consists of the usual big-in-Japan tweakery, Lyra’s parent company Scan-Tech showing a remarkable facility for incorporating into its products the street-level audiophilia which most manufacturers don’t even learn about until they’ve been out of fashion for a year. The business end features an Ogura PA line-contact, ultra-low mass diamond fitted to a Ceralloy (ceramic and aluminium alloy) cantilever, for better tracking and a higher resonant frequency. The coils are made of 6N high-purity, stress-free (no parental abuse?) copper wire. happy marriage?

Spec-wise, the Parnassus is a classic, track-at-1.8-to-2g design with enough output to work adequately into a 47k ohm input. The cartridge is a bit hefty at 12.5g (deduct 3g for the shell if you run it naked), but the SME V and medium compliance make this about as easy a cartridge to install as anything in the high-end arena. One note worth mentioning, though, is its affinity for cartridge demagnetization. The blurb suggests a once-a-month blast from a demag; I used the Audioquest device after the first month’s use and confirmed the company’s support for such periodic attention.

Read more about the Parnassus cartridge on Page 2.