Shure V-15 Phono Cartridge
Shure was huge in the mainstream market, but by the late 1970s and through the 1980s most analog-loving audiophiles had graduated to moving-coil cartridges (the V-15 was a moving-magnet design). I preferred the sound of moving coil cartridges, but conceded the V-15's tracking abilities were well ahead of most of the expensive Japanese moving coil designs of the time. Then again, Japanese audiophiles loved Shure cartridges, and the V-15 was always a big seller over there!
The Type IV came out in 1978, and featured a stabilizer brush that worked like a shock absorber and helped improve the playability of warped LPs. The Type IV sold well, but there were those who preferred the sound of the Type III. The original Type V was released in 1982, followed by the V-MR (Micro-Ridge) in 1983, and the mellower sounding V-xMR in 1996.
Rumors that the Type V-xMR would be discontinued in 2005 lead to an avalanche of orders, but when Shure stopped making the complete cartridges, they thought they had a three-year stockpile of replacement styli. No way—hoarders depleted the supply in a matter of months. Shure still gets requests to resume V-15 production, but the dust particles created in the process of working with the cartridge's beryllium shank are carcinogenic, and Shure's original manufacturing processes are no longer permitted by OSHA Federal regulations. Shure's engineers claim the required safeguards would have been too expensive, and beryllium's increasing costs have, so far, put the kibosh on restarting V-15 production.
The current M97xE cartridge replacement stylus works in the V-15, so the cartridges will remain playable for decades to come.
(Shure's Michael Pettersen provided background information for this report and told me the Expert Stylus Company in England still replaces diamond styli on V-15 cantilevers. That company does not have a website, but you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org)