Shure M447 vs 44G - head to head comparison by ProfessorBX
Brother vs Brother
There is really no question that the crown for standard as far as scratch artist needles has been passed in the last couple years has been passed from the heavily aged Stanton 500al to the Shure M447 and 44g since their reintroduction a few years back. For the first time DJ’s really didn’t have to worry that much about skipping and could concentrate on the only thing that should have mattered in the first place-the sound. That said, even with the information that Shure has tried it’s best to impart knowledge about the differences between the M447 and 44g, I still see much confusion as far as which would be the better choice in any given situation. Frankly sometimes I was even a bit confused myself, so I did what any globe trotting superstar scratch artist would do-I called the great Needlz brothers and asked for some 44g styli to compare to the new M447 styli I had at the time. What was to be a test that lasted a few months actually turned into one lasting about 9 months because of the changeover from review editor of Snatchcon to coming over to the Skratchworx ship. This was really for the best, as I feel that I was able to really get a feel for any and all differences between the two needles.
Loud brother, shy brother
The main difference that Shure is quick to point out between the M447 and 44g is in the audio, so this is what I wanted to look at first. On first listen the most apparent difference besides a difference in output volume (which really wasn’t as large as the difference in output voltage would indicate) was that the M447’s highs were defiantly harsher on the ears than the 44g. While the 44g is fairly balanced across the frequency spectrum, the M447 has highs that almost cause the eardrums to bleed in comparison. Bass was actually fairly similar between the two, with warm and somewhat boomier bass found on both, just a bit lower (obviously) on the 44g. The 44g did win as far as detail picked up on blind listening tests, with instruments sounding more natural and detailed on the 44g (though the difference in detail was not that huge). The 44g would defiantly be a better choice if one was both mixing and scratching, as on a large sound system the M447 can start to sound really harsh on the ears of the crowd. On the other hand, the 44g does need both an eq boost in the highs and a drop in the low end for optimum sound when scratching, while the M447 really only needs a small drop in the bass to sound it’s best when cutting.
Strong arm or soft touch?
While both the M447 and 44g have fairly low tracking forces compared to the average DJ needle, the difference in weight needed between the two is still different enough to take into consideration. The M447 tracks at its best between 2.5 and 3.5 grams of weight (as least I found), and really starts to lose tracking around 4 grams. On the other hand the 44g held best I found at around 1.5-2.25 grams of weight (in my findings at least, I know a lot of folks who can get away at closer to 1.25 grams), and really started tracking worse at above 2.5 grams of weight. As well, with heavier weight settings the 44g tended to bottom out more easily, making it a good idea to take some extra time when setting up the needle as it has a bit less headroom for poor weight adjustments. While these may not seem like huge differences as far as amount of weight used, when cutting up rare wax, this can be the difference between cue burn and a record that walks away without any audible damage. At the same time though, the extra weight used with the M447 isn’t so great that one should overly worry about damaging their wax. As well, the M447 seemed to need a bit less time to break in before holding at it’s best, though this may have been unique to my samples.
Who Has Kung Fu Grip?
Now the part that everyone I am sure was really looking for-who holds better? Well folks…..I hate to say it but the differences are small, if any. When PROPERLY set up, the 44g really does hold almost identically to the M447, no worse or better. I tried both S and Straight tonearms, angling the needle and putting it straight, and for pretty much any cuts I threw their way the differences were imperceptible. But there IS a catch-in the average battle/club setting one often doesn’t exactly have the most time to spend setting up their needles, and often times you only have a couple minutes to put your needles on and go, if that. In cases like this the M447 would be a safer choice as it doesn’t really hold all that poorly when set underweight (the 44g doesn’t really have that much room to start with as far as weight range, so it is harder to set underweight than the M447), and the M447 also behaves better when set at higher weight settings, unlike the 44g which really does not like to have much extra weight, and bottoms out pretty quick. As such, the M447 would be a better choice for the average battle as one could probably get away with a quick and dirty needle setup than with a 44g. While this might not seem like that big a deal, trust me, when someone is telling you that you have one minute till the your opponent is done and you have to be ready to go, needles setup and records cued, this can be HUGE blessing. If you have time for proper setup though, either one will suit you quite nicely for whatever cuts you can throw at it.
Which Brother is the “Sexy One”
Really in the end if you are going for just holding ability and are staying in the bedroom, either needle would be a safe choice as they are both champs at holding on the cut. That said, if one cares about more than just groove holding ability then the choice isn’t quite as clear as both have their clear areas where they excel. The M447 would be a better choice for someone who is battling a lot as it really is hard to improperly setup once one has the a basic idea of what range(s) of height/weight their needle likes to be in, or is a scratch artist in a band or who simply is performing/recording and wants their scratches to cut through the mix with minimal eq tweaks. On the other hand, the 44g is a better choice for someone who is mixing as well as scratching or is doing a lot of rare groove sets and is concerned with preserving their vinyl as much as possible in a trick mixing setting. Also, one thing to keep in mind is that with the styli being interchangeable, one can always carry around a set of both styli to use depending on the situation. Really though, in the end you win no matter what you choose.
And for those who don’t like to read, the pros and cons of each needle:
M447 - sounds shrill in comparison to the 44g, uses more weight, can be set up improperly and still hold somewhat well most of the time, holds the same as the 44g when setup properly.
44g - sounds warm and clear (would be a better choice for mixing), holds well at lower weight settings, more sensitive to improper height/weight settings, holds the same as the M447 when set up properly.