Thursday, October 25, 2012

In Praise of the Empires - Empire 2000/S and Empire 2000E/III

Browse enough internet audio forums and sooner or later you are bound to come across a discussion about the old Empire moving magnet cartridges that were manufactured by the Empire Scientific Corporation in New York a long, long time ago. Often someone has picked up a second hand turntable that came with am Empire and they seeking help to find  new stylus for it. The surprising about these discussions is that nobody has a bad word to say about them. Comments range from "they're good" to "they're exceptional." A quick check of Ebay reinforces these views with some models of old Empire carts minus their stylus fetching tidy sums.

Intrigued by this, I recently purchased an Empire 2000/S from a seller in Canada. It was new old stock (NOS) and came in its original packaging, including a lovely black velvet gift box. Out of its box, the Empire 2000/S is a rather ungainly and ugly beast.

It  has a grey metal body and an odd black removable frame that allows it to be secured to the tonearm. Although, it has very little plastic in its consrtuction it looks  cheaply made.  Its specifications, however, are anything but cheap. The frequency response is 10-35,000Hz; it has a 0.2 x 0.7 elliptical nude diamond; and 30db channel separation. Still it did look like the mounting frame was inadvertently designed to capture resonance, vibrate like crazy and totally stuff up the tracking. The phrase "O ye of little faith" springs to mind. While it's not the easiest cartridge to mount - needs small screws and 3 hands - it is fairly straightforward to align once mounted.  As soon as the needle dropped into the groove, I knew this was something special.

The sound of music this thing reproduces is exceptional. There is a huge amount of detail, its incredibly well-balanced in the sense that there appears to be no over-emphasis of any of the frequencies. Bass, mid-range and top-end are all so smoothly working together. Sounds good? It is even better. Without a doubt this cartridge delivers one of the most 3D music sounds I have ever heard. Thanks to its channel separation, the stereo imaging and layering and positioning of vocals and musical instruments is simply superb.

A little bit of research revealed that there were a number of cartridges in the Empire 2000 series. Some further research revealed that there were in fact several different 2000 series produced by Empire. It was one of those companies that often used similar number series for different product lines several years apart. As well as the 2000/S, there was also a 2000X and a 2000Z.  And thanks to Mantra Audio in the UK I also managed to track down some information about a 2000 - 4000 series Empire produce.  In this series, 2000 designated the stereo cartridges and 4000 the quadraphonic cartridges. The specifications can be found here. The cartridges in this series all have gold-plated bodies. The 2000E/III was the top of the line of the stereo carts. It has a frequency response of 5-35,000Hz; channel separation of 35db and another nude 0.2 x 07 elliptical diamond stylus.

Pictured here, mounted on my Michell Tecnoarm, is a secondhand 2000E/III which I purchased on Ebay for $65. It shipped with a NOS Empire spherical stylus, not its original elliptical.  Yet still the sound was beautiful, revealing what great potential this cartridge had.  I have since replaced the spherical stylus with a reproduction of the original elliptical made by the famous Jico company in Japan. The level of detail revealed is quite staggering, once again the stereo imaging is exceptional.  While the 2000/S is one of the best cartridges I have heard, the 2000E/III with a greater channel separation and better bass response may just be the best I have heard.

It is certainly superior to a $600 current production cartridge made by a very famous brand; and its also threatening to best some of my beloved Denon MC cartridges, including a very nice Soundsmith rebuild.

Both these cartridges are simply stunning. The E/III has a slight edge over the 2000/S, but this may change over time as the 2000/S burns in. 

For the record, both cartridges were tested with a Graham Slee Genera, and the excellent performance I heard could well be because the Genera is a perfect match for these beautiful old cartridges,


  1. I was always a fan of Empire.

    I had the "lowly" 2000 E/I cartridge.

    I had mine in a decent Pioneer PL-112D belt drive turntable, feeding a clean Pioneer SA-5200 integrated amp (10W RMS x 2), which drove a pair of HUGE 15" 1963-vintage RCA 3-way dynamic speakers (not coaxial!). I did the crossovers myself. Great, thick bass, high end & punch.

    I straightened everything out with a BSR 12-band/chan equalizer/spectrum analyzer (with pink/white noise generator), using a pair of Sennheiser condenser mics.

    That whole setup, with the 2000 E/I cartridge made my entire vinyl collection sing. Just unbelievably good.

    My favorite "demo" vinyl track that I'd use to blow away my high-end hi-fi snob friends was Thomas Dolby's "Hot Stuff", of his "Aliens Ate My Buick" record (1988).

    I situated my pals to the back of the room for the max soundstage sweet spot, I lowered the tone arm, and a couple of seconds later my friends busied themselves with hoisting their jaws off the floor in amazement.

    These were real digital, 24-track studio snobs.

    One of them remarked that it honest-to-god sounded like Thomas Dolby and his band were RIGHT THERE, IN THE ROOM, ONLY LOUDER & BETTER. No exaggeration.

    And I always remember feeling that most of the credit was due to that Empire 2000 E/I cartridge.

  2. My mistake - the name of the Thomas Dolby track was "Hot Sauce" (not "Hot Stuff").

  3. Hi Paul

    Great story that does indeed reinforce just how good the Empires were / are (if you can get NOS). The 2000E/I was no slouch in the Empire 2000 line. The Empire 2000E/I, 2000E/II, and 2000/III all had very similar specs: same stylus, same channel specs, tracking etc. The only difference was their frequency response. Sadly, the 2000E/I could only manage 8-32,000Hz:), whereas the 2000E/III delivered 5-35,000Hz.

    1. Hey "RAD" - tnx for the quick feedback and your kind words...and a great website you've got here, btw!

      I figured that since your last entry here was this past October 25, that it'd be a few weeks or more 'til you got back to it...but happily you were all over this within a few hours.

      ..."only" 8-32,000Hz.. gee, was it that good? That E/III of yours is a beast, all around. I am envious!

      That Pioneer 5200 amp was a classic (but modest), 1976-vintage, solid state amp with push-pull circuitry, and lots of negative feedback (very de rigueur in those days), but it sounded quite good, and the ancient RCA speakers it was pushing were highly efficient.

      The PL-112D deck dated to around 1978, I think. 63dB S/N ratio, .07% wow & flutter - so it sufficed. I always kept the lateral weight off the tonearm, as it was a bit problematic, and I wanted to keep the mass to a minimum.

      Cheers, & happy holidays!

  4. Hi, I have read your post concering the Empire cartridge. In the seventies I used a 2000E/II and I loved it.
    Now after many years I again use an Empire, this time the 2000E/III and I still love it.
    You are right, these are remarkable cartridges.

    Ed Post
    The Netherlands.

  5. Back in the 70's I went thru a few different phono cartridges before I bought an empire 2001AEIII the empire 2000 and 2001 line are the best phono cartridges for the money need to find another one


    1. lotus_paradise@hotmail.comJanuary 2, 2014 at 3:51 AM

      Living in the past---
      Didnt seem that long ago until I thought about it---
      Nice to know that the old Empires I bought then still sound as good to some as they do to me.
      I use a 2000EI in one table and a 2000EII in the other. The EII I use in a Sansui 3030BC in an old SME headshell.
      My back up amp I could never get rid of is a Sansui AU-777A, it needs cleaning--my current amp is a Yamaha R-S700 driving into 4 home made speakers following the Phillips book from 40 years ago, my daughter blew the voice coil dust covers off 2 of the woofers 16 years ago. I happened to do some equipment service at the Canadian branch of Tannoy and they were very kind to me and GAVE me 4 replacements and actually installed them and checked them out in their sound room! ----The only thing they insisted on was that I clean up the cabinets before they gave me some Tannoy badges ! I must admit that I have heard sounds out of the system I have never heard before using the Yamaha, I had an Onkyo prior that I thought was good but it got zapped by a near by lightening strike---luckily, as I would not have bought the Yamaha. I know its not the top of the line amp but it is awsome to me!
      Thanks for the Empire support

  6. i run strictly Empire cartridges on my turntable setups- I was lucky to purchase an older Technics turntable setup which has and Empire 2000 EIII on it, and came with a small tray of other used Empire cartridges including a 2000 S, a few 99XE's and a 2000 EII. I absolutely LOVE the sound quality they produce, and have replaced all the styluses with new correct eliptical diamond styluses for the cartridges. The Empire 2000 series has pretty much left me with no desire to look for something better. If anything, it's my amplifier and speakers that hold back the sound, not the catridge at this point. Huge fan of these guys.

  7. Do any of you know anything about the Empire 6000 e/x? Do you know if the quality goes up with the numbers or down?


    1. Hadn't heard of the Empire 6000 series.

      The Empire numbering of series is something of an enigma, and series numbers such as 2000, 4000, 6000 etc aren't indicative of quality. However, the suffixes following the series numbers usually denoted a better stylus as the numbers went up e.g, 2000 E/111 has a better stylus than 2000 E/1.

      Just how confusing the Empire number series was can be seen in this list that comes from:

      EMPIRE CARTRIDGES 66-LE/X 66LE/X 66-PE/X 66PE/X 66-QE/X 66QE/X 1000MZE 1000AE/111 1000AE/III 1000AE/X 1000AJS 1000E/11 1000E/II 1000E/X 1000EQ/X 1000LS 1001ZE/111 1001ZE/III 1001ZE/X 122XE/N 1803 2000MK111 2000MKIII 2000TE/X 2001AE/X 2001MK111 2001MKIII 2001ZE/X 2002/V-ZE 2002/VZE 2003SE/X 2003/Z 2003E/H 2003E/X 2003ZE/X 2004 2100E/111 2100E/III 2121E/111 2121E/III 2200E/1V 2200E/IV 2200XE/111 2200XE/III 2202E/111 2202E/111 2203E/H 2203Z/H 220XE/111 220XE/III 2300E/111 2300E/III 2400E/111 2400E/III 2500/111 2500/III 2500QE/fi 2500X/EP 250ES 3000/111 3000/III 3000A/111 3000A/III 3000AE/111 3000AE/III 3000D/X 3000E/111 3000E/III 3000ME/X 3000ME/X111 3000ME/XIII 3000MK111 3000MKIII 3000MS 3000XLE 3003 3003EE 3003EEE 3003SC 3500E/111 3500E/III 366HB 4000E/V 4000MK111 4000MKIII 4000XL111 4000XLIII 4000Z111 4000ZIII 4000ZE/X1V 4000ZE/XIV 4004ATS-4 4004ATS4 5000PHASE1V 5000PHASEIV 5000LS/X111 5000LS/XIII 5000MK111 5000MKIII 6000/XEE 6000/XEL 6000E 6000E/IV 6000E/1V 6006 660EEE 666E/3 67E/111 67E/III 6900E/3 7000ED 7000V 700NE 727E/111 727E/III 8000/XVE 8000EX 845QE/D 845 QE-D 845 QE/D 845QE-D 9000V/S11 9000V/SII 9000ZE/X 9900E/3 AE1000/XV B195E/11 B195E/II E500 EXL20 KX1000V LS6000 MK1VNE MKIVNE MODELTWO PRO4500/111 PRO4500/III QPHASE1000 QX2005 SE9300 TTE/111 TTE/III XL15-41E XL1541E Z400E/111 Z400E/III 1000/XLE 1000LSX/111 1000LSX/III 1000MEX/11 1000MEX/II 1000SE/X 2000ED 2000ME/X111 2000ME/XIII 2002/11 2002/II 2002XE 2002/Z 2002/ZH 2002E/X 2002EE 2002EE/X 2002HC 2121E/11 2121E/II 2200MS 2201E/11 2201E/II 2202E/H 2202Z/H 222E/111 222E/III 2500PE/X 2500X/EN 2600E 266RB 3000/11 3000/II 3000MK11 3000MKII 3000PHASEIV 3500/Z-11 3500/Z11 3500/Z-II 3500/ZII 4000XL/11 4000XL/II 4002ZE/X 5000E 500E 6000E/X 640EE 666E/2 66LE PE/X 67E/11 67E/II 6900E/2 727E/11 727E/II 8000/111 8000/III 9980E/2 990PE/X 999AE/X111 999AE/XIII 999TE/XIMP AE1000/XIII AE1000/X111 B195E/1 B195E/I CDM-1 CDM1 MK111NE MKIIINE QPHASE500 QX5000/1V QX5000/IV TTE/11 TTE/II XL15-31E XL1531E XLT/111 XLT/III Z200E/111 Z200E/III 1000 LS/X III 1000LS/XIII

  8. Back in the day I ran a Pioneer belt drive table into a Yamaha CR 1020 receiver with a pair of Yamaha 2 way NS 500 speakers. My cartridge was an Empire 2000Z. This set up still made the hair on the back of my neck stand up every now and then, years after I bought it.

  9. I have an awesome Empire 400tc cartridge that I just purchased a new aftermarket stylus for...the sound is very vibrant and clean: running my Technics SL-D3 turntable thru a restored Marantz 2385 Receiver pushing classic Optimus 400 speakers with 12 inch woofers, 5 inch midrange and ribbon tweeter. It took me a couple years to put together this classic 1980's setup but it was worth it!

  10. Hello People
    I have 2 Empire 2000e Cartridges with the stylus . In the box appears to be new unused. Is there any interest out there. Make me an offer. Email

  11. Hello. I have an Empire E IV. I don't seem to be able to find out much about it, or which stylus is the most adequate. If anyone could give me clues that would be much appreciated. Great article, very helpful!

  12. Hello. I have an Empire E IV. I don't seem to be able to find out much about it, or which stylus is the most adequate. If anyone could give me clues that would be much appreciated. Great article, very helpful!

    1. If it's the Empire 2000E IV, it gets a mention here:

      I can say with 100% certainty, but there's a good chance that other stylus from the 2000E series will fit the 2000E IV cartridge. Regularly check what comes up on ebay or maybe ask the Needle Doctor:

      Also have a look at Jico in Japan - they do a lot of replacement styli for Empires and many others:

      I should also add that stylus for 2000S, 2000X and 2000Z do not fit the 2000E series. But there is a good chance that all stylus from the 2000E range are interchangeable.

    2. Hi
      I bought an old turntable that came with an Empire 2000 E/IV Cartridge as well. Didn't give it much thought when buying the table, and was new to vinyl then, but always happy with the sound it produced.
      It came with an original stylus which has since stopped working and I have replaced it with a Jico one labeled as compatible wit the E III.
      This is working fine and tbh I can't hear a difference to the original stylus and looking at the prices these go for on ebay I probably will do without.
      Thank you very much for the article, there is not too much info on those cartridges on the web.
      Would it be correct to say that the IV was the top of the line for this series? Are there differences to the E III etc? or is it just different years of production?

    3. I must admit that I have never heard of the 2000E/IV, so I am not sure how it fitted in. The 2000E series was around at the same time as the 4000 series: The 2000 for stereo and the 4000 for quadraphonic. A chart of the different cartridges in the series is posted on this forum:

      and a colour version here:

      The 2000E/IV isn't listed but it could have been a special limited release. You'll see from the charts that the stylus became increasingly refined as you stepped up the line.

      There were other 2000 cartridges released, such as the 2000X and 2000Z which were unrelated to this "E" series (but look very similar and also have an excellent reputation). But time-wise I have never found out how they relate to each other. The 2000X and Z seem to be later models and use a slightly different stylus configuration to the 2000E series.

  13. Take the time to visit the me , and say that the change in design and meniu?


  15. Hi, I have Original Vintage 1977 Technics Quartz, by Panasonic
    Direct Drive Automatic SL-1401. Cartridge Empire 2000 ED
    Stylus Vintage Empire, Technics A-M-P, Yamaha Speakers Great Sound-Love Sound for my Carlos Santana LPs Collections.

  16. Can photo instruction with the parameters of the head Empire 2000S do?

  17. I have an empire 2004.
    It has a silver body and bright purple stylus with a black metal mounting system. Any info on this would be much appreciated!

  18. "I have an empire 2004.
    It has a silver body and bright purple stylus with a black metal mounting system. Any info on this would be much appreciated!"
    Your cartridge is a clone Empire 66QE/X (stylus S912)

  19. I uncovered a Empire 2000E111 cartridge that needs to be mounted on my pioneer pl-61 (cool vintage player) It needs a new stylus and the weird black frame , any info where to find these? much appreciated! Would you have a jico part number for it! THX!

    1. See pages 2 and 3 at Jico in the Empire category.
      Finding the black mounting frame by itself may be difficult. Try Canadian and US Ebay.

    2. hey,thanks for the quick reply and info. I really appreciate it! I am lucky to find that one.

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  21. I recently came across an old Pioneer PL 518 turntable. It has an empire 67 e/III cartridge, of which I can find very little about. Any info on this, especially about quality, would be greatly appreciated.

  22. Hi. I've recently been given an old Pioneer turntable (PL-200) that has an Empire E20 cartridge installed...without a stylus. I'm trying to work out if this is, in fact, the correct number/model for the cartridge as I can't find any details about it online. The number is what's printed on the side of the cartridge. If anyone can tell me if this number is correct, whether the cartridge is any good, and whether there are replacement stylus' available (after market of course) I'd be very appreciative.

  23. Great article! I'm going to pick up a 2000/EIII tomorrow and very anxious about it. Thanks for the info!

  24. to:
    Phil Dean-JonesJuly 30, 2018 at 6:51 PM
    If you are still looking, the E20 cartridge takes a Pfansteihl 242DE stylus which would be an OEM Empire S22E. You can upgrade to an 242DET or Empire S44E or 241DME or Empire S300ME or 241DTC or Empire S400TC. HTH

  25. A few years ago I bought a replacement needle from JICO for my Empire 2000E/III. I still am very happy with it.

    Here you will find very good replacement needles for the Empire 2000 cartridges (and other models).

  26. I had been reading about the E III online and decided to try one. My last vintage cart experiment was with a loudly praised Grace job. It sounded "OK" but nothing over my modern carts. Now this Empire is blowing me away. Original elliptical is in fine condx and I bought a spare new made line contact too. The only thing is some sibilance on some records. No adjustments eliminate it and being used records, I may assume that is the issue. My other carts must track lower in the grooves as they don't have much or any of that. Also clicks and pops a little more noticeable which may also point to tracking higher up or in old wear areas. But the sound of piano and instruments and impact and transients are superb. Never would have guessed. Back in the 70s I don't think I ever tried an Empire. What I missed!

  27. It's quite a while since I posted the info on the Empire Cartridges, but I'm please see that it's still assisting new Empire owners out there. Yes, you are correct. The Empire carts are mostly low compliance so track lightly. I think older worn records really work well with heavier carts like the Denon 103. MC, yes, but a nice heavy tracker and a forgiving square cut stylus.

  28. Hello. Nice to find this helpful conversation. I recently acquired a used turntable that has an Empire 9000 ZE/X cartridge with a gold plated body. I can find no specs or information on it anywhere. It's like it doesn't exist. Anyone here know anything about this cartridge? Suggestions welcome. Thank you kindly. TCB