Acoustic Sounds

EBI Audio


By: Michael Fremer

April 22nd, 2024



A Superbly Built, High Value MC Cartridge From India

an excellent value

This is another of those very familiar stories. The vinyl bug bit EBI Audio's founder Tariq Shafeeque at an early age. His father was a big collector and you know how that goes. He grew up and became a structural engineer but vinyl continued to be his passion and hobby. Over time it morphed into a business, which is EBI Audio. EBI stands for "Engineering Beyond Imagination".

You'll be thrown by your first visit to EBI's website where you'll find products priced from 75,000 to 330,000 but these are rupees, not dollars. The KHUMAR cartridge, for instance costs 129,800 rupees or $2382/£1890.

Your $2382 gets you a low output moving coil cartridge featuring a handcrafted Ebony wood body housing a generator system with a super low 2Ω internal impedance and a generous output of .3mV (1kHz, 5cm/s), which means either an iron coil former and/or very strong magnets. the variety of which are not in the product description. Wire is OCC (Ohno Continuous Casting copper). This is specially processed wire that reduces grain structure per foot from 1500 to 70, which is claimed to be audible. The .288mm boron cantilever/shibata III stylus assembly appears to be manufactured by Orbray Co. Ltd. (formerly Namiki, formerly Adamant Namiki).

The other specs printed below are all very good and indicate a cartridge that's compatible with today's mid to high mass tonearms in terms of weight, height and compliance. Recommended tracking force is 1.9 grams.

Looking at what you get for $2382 makes clear that if this cartridge is well constructed and sounds as good as it should given the components, the KHUMAR could well be one of today's best MC values.

It comes packaged in the obligatory handsome wooden box:

Set Up

The narrow, tall shibata stylus's contact edge is among the most difficult to see to adjust for 92-93 degree SRA even with a microscope but with the arm parallel to the record surface, the SRA appeared approximately correct.

Using a digital oscilloscope to measure azimuth, I measured 29dB <L-R) and 29.5dB (R-L) with the head shell parallel to the record surface. That's close to as good as it gets. The oscilloscope usually is off by a few dBs compared to a voltmeter measurement so it's reasonable to assume the >32dB channel separation spec is accurate. In other words this is a very well constructed cartridge.

After the recommended twenty hour break in I got more serious about dialing in the cartridge and found it sounded best lowering the back of the arm about 3mm and then tracking at 2 grams. At 2 grams the KHUMAR cleanly tracked the Ortofon test record's 60µm test band, produced a very slight buzz at 70µm and gave it up at 80µm, which is typical MC performance.


Of course a wood body has an effect on a cartridge's sound. I don't know how people can debate this. Softer woods are more likely to resonate at lower frequencies than hard ones. Ebony is a hard wood. Of course wood grain varies piece by piece so there's hardly guaranteed uniformity. While the wood type has a sonic effect, in my experience the rest of a cartridge's construction contributes more. Rosewood is a hard wood too, yet Koetsu's rosewood cartridges have always sounded kind of soft.

How does the cartridge sound? I ran it into one of the CH Precision P10's current inputs so loading wasn't a variable. First up was Vivaldi's six concertos for flute, oboe, violin and bassoon featuring Jean-Pierre Rampal and Pierre Pierlot. The soloists are accompanied by a small string section and a harpsichord.

This is a pleasing recording in which all of the instruments should be recognizable and well separated spatially and timbrally. The KHUMAR pleasingly rendered all of these instruments and didn't produce any obvious colorations or congestion. I also ran the cartridge into the Ypsilon VPS-100 using the MC16L and this produced a somewhat warmer, midrange-rich, yet still transparent and uncongested sonic picture.

Staying in that musical area, I moved on to Jacqueline Du Pré and Stephen Bishop Play Beethoven Cello Sonatas No.3 and 5 (EMI HQS 1029)— a record I picked up in Warsaw two years ago during the Warsaw Audio Video Show. I've had an American Angel copy (36384) that didn't sound particularly good. What a difference! The instrumental timbres were so far superior on the U.K. pressing as was the overall transparency.

This is another recording the KHUMAR did an excellent job with for two reasons: one being the fine rendering of instrumental textures and its ability to portray macrodynamic variations in the playing that the recording captures particularly well. The other is the way the Shibata stylus all but eradicated a few areas where I was used to some noise. The Shibata profile brings the stylus in contact with groove areas not reached by other stylus profiles, which means it usually gets to virgin groove territory that's quiet and wear free. The KHUMAR confirmed that claim on this record.

Next up was (for some reason), Elvis Costello's Trust (F-Beat XXLPII) and (Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-340). BTW: All of the Elvis Costello Mo-Fi reissues were cut from tape with no DSD middle man and they were all well done with no "smiley-face" equalization). Both versions are great and both made clear that this cartridge has a bit of an upper midrange/lower high frequency "lift". It's not a glare but more of a ledge that made cranking up the volume somewhat unpleasant. Of course it wasn't at all a problem on the classical selections that were played at lower levels.

I played a side of the IMPEX triple 45rpm 1Step reissue of Jennifer Warnes' The Songs of Leonard Cohen (IMPEX IMP6033-1). This is a mid-80s digital multitrack recording mixed to analog tape. It has a brightness that doesn't show up much on Warnes vocals, which are natural-sounding until she ramps up the volume (or you do) and then it can get a bit forward—as can the drums. As expected the KHUMAR somewhat emphasizes that quality, which was clarified when I played the same tracks using the Lyra Atlas Lambda SL that costs around five times more. The Lyra pushed all back on the stage and diminished the forward tonal quality allowing the tracks to be played louder without exciting the forward edge.

There's a lot of background business on "Joan of Arc" that the KHUMAR does an impressive job of decoding. The Lyra reveals more and puts all of it further back on the stage. Is it fair to compare a $2300 cartridge to the $12,000 one? I'm just trying to establish that one is clearly better and that the other one at 1/5th the price is worthy of the comparison.

Let's move forward to a superb all-analog recording: the Beethoven 7th with Kleiber conducting the Vienna Philharmonic released by DGG as part of the Original Source series that Mark Ward covered so thoroughly. Here, with no edge to excite, the KHUMAR delivered the goods with appropriate warmth on a wide, reasonably deep stage. Rich sounding strings didn't overwhelm the flutes and woodwinds and the insistent tympani rumbles at the conclusion of the first movement were rendered cleanly. The stage was not as deep as the recording affords nor was the hall reverb fully expressed behind the orchestra and especially when I returned to the 5X the price cartridge, macrodynamics had clearly been somewhat suppressed.

In other words you get less of everything for a lot less money but I'd say you get a lot more color than you often do at the $2K price point.

Finally I decided to play the really spacious, spectacular sounding Sonny Rollins album Our Man In Jazz (RCA LSP-2612) recorded live at The Village Gate featuring Bob Cranshaw (bass), Don Cherry (cornet) and Billy Higgins (drums). Rollins is in the right channel, Cherry on left with Cranshaw center and Higgins off to the right.

I haven't played this one in a while so it was interesting to hear it now through this cartridge. The overall picture was mid-band rich, as I'd heard on the Kleiber, and drier and less spacious than I was expecting, with sustain somewhat foreshortened and decay definitely not what I was expecting but the midband was fully engaged and attractive. I was also expecting a bit more bite to Cherry's cornet but if you didn't know what he was playing you'd know it wasn't a trumpet. Bass was nimble and well-extended. You could almost feel Cranshaw's fingers on the strings. Compared to nothing this was something!

Switching to the Lyra delivered as expected: more air around the saxophone and a more "reedy" sound, plus more of the Village Gate space, greater macrodynamic expression, more cymbal sizzle etc. But fundamentally the KHUMAR's presentation was musically honest—especially in the crucial midrange— and it simply produced a balanced set of expected performance "omissions" and "reductions" I hope are clear based on these observations.


Perhaps there is another circa $2000 cartridge featuring a shibata stylus/boron cantilever combo attached to a low internal impedance motor wound with OHCC copper housed in a hand-crafted ebony wood shell and that's as well-constructed as this one. Perhaps. I just don't know of any.

You could say i was "too hard" on this cartridge but I don't think so. I don't want to leave you with the impression that since it has all of these top quality parts it's the sonic equivalent of something like an Atlas Lambda, because it's not. But it's also true that it's quite the bargain at 1/5th the price.

I can't guarantee that the one you will buy will be as well-manufactured as this one but one can only hope! I'll conclude by saying in the approximately $2000 price point, the EBI KHUMAR is well worth considering.

It's available for now here— how much shipping will cost you etc. I do not know:

1)Audio Emotion

2) Analogue Seduction (these guys sell my DVD)

3) EBI Audio (directly from the manufacturer)



Cartridge Name :- Khumar Cartridge

Type :- MC Stereo

Stylus :- NUDE shibata III from JAPAN

Cantilever :- 0.28mm boron

Coil Wire :- OCC

Height :- 17.8mm

Weight :- 8.8g

Output Level :- 0.3mV ( 1KHz, 5cm/s)

DC Resistance :- 2 Ω

Frequency Response :- 20-20KHz±1dB

Channel Separation :- >32dB

Channel Balance :- <0.5dB

Load Impedance :- ≥20 Ω

Load Capacity :- 100pF

Compliance :- 15 μm/mN (10Hz, Dynamic )

Recommended Tracking Force :- 1.9g

Tracking Force Range :- 1.7 - 2.3g

Run-In Period :- 20 Hours

Manufacturer Information

EBI Audio


  • 2024-04-22 08:37:25 PM

    Come on wrote:

    A really well done review! I wish anybody else would do such comparisons and could make so clear how things sound.

    • 2024-04-24 09:54:13 AM

      Tariq Shafeeque wrote:

      He (Michael Fremer) is a master in his business. Very true reviews

  • 2024-04-23 03:52:25 AM

    Adrian Galpin wrote:

    I hope that it's helpful to readers if I just point out that Analogue Seduction are a long established and truly excellent UK retailer, I'm a recurrent customer, so I can personally endorse them.

  • 2024-04-23 09:07:49 AM

    Matadore wrote:

    Enjoyed the review, also because of music choices for the test! However a first link (in the text) contains a typo (ttps:// at the start instead of https://).

  • 2024-04-25 11:16:33 PM

    Billy Castro wrote:

    Great review Michael thank you for letting me know where I can get your DVD been trying to get it shipped to Mexico City with no luck.

    "Perhaps there is another circa $2000 cartridge featuring a shibata stylus/boron cantilever combo attached to a low internal impedance motor wound with OHCC copper housed in a hand-crafted ebony wood shell and that's as well-constructed as this one. Perhaps. I just don't know of any." Yes there is, I own one, the Clearaudio Talismann is a MC cartridge with a microline stylus, boron cantilever and ebony wood cartridge, around 2K USD.

  • 2024-04-30 10:48:34 AM

    Nels Ferre wrote:

    There’s also the LeSon LS-10 Mk II for $1000 less- not identical- .4 mV output and 6.8 ohm coils. Other than that, it looks very similar. I’ve got one on my Technics G and love it. The $360 cost for a factory retip and a one week turnaround is attractive when the time comes. It’s so good that it’s stopped cartridge lust/envy here.