DJ booths are war zones. I’m sure many of you have experienced the crime scenes depicting every form of harm that can been metered out by careless DJs upon turntables that aren’t theirs. Like company cars, the temporary users couldn’t give a crap, and generally abuse the hell out of turntables that are generally thought to last for ever.
Luckily I’ve never walked into a scene where turntables aren’t working, but it does happen all too often. And while it can’t fix snapped tonearms, the DJs Dream Customs ICE Headshell gives you a fighting chance of resurrecting a seemingly silent turntable.
Let’s get this out of the way first. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. They are not designed to be your go-to pair of headshells, but have been invented to bail you out in dire situations. So let’s not get all bent out of shape about tracking for sound quality. E-mer-gen-cies only.
So having established what this is — how does it work? The ICE headshell is essentially a Technics type headshell modified with a minijack socket, which allows you to plug in a cable and hook up directly to your mixer channel’s phono input. And that’s it — an incredibly simple concept that just works. It amazes me that nobody thought of it before.
But a plug comes with a downside. Added weight has the potential to mess up stability, as can a thin cable that suddenly feels like ship yard rope when attached directly to your headshell. These issues are handled easily by adjusting the tonearm weight, and by running the cable in a way that it doesn’t drag the tonearm off track i.e. in parallel to the arm.
I put the ICE headshell to the test with regular vinyl and DVS. And despite the added weight and wayward cable, it performed flawlessly. If you manage the cable correctly, you should detect no real difference in audio quality or tracking either. Indeed, I battered the hell out of my elderly Shure, and the ICE too it all without skipping, jumping, or otherwise performing in a less than stellar way.
One thing did occur to me — why can’t the ICE simply pass through the signal from the jack socket to the headshell connections? That way you could just have one headshell for everything. Perhaps it would require added bulk that a regular headshell can’t handle.
This has been a ridiculously easy review, partly because the ICE headshell has just one job, and that it does it perfectly — a word I don’t use very often. If you’re a turntable user who plays out regularly on other people’s gear, the ICE headshell is pretty much essential. It’s up to you if you buy one or a pair. But buy at least one because having read this review, and you happen to come across such a war zone in a booth, you’ll immediately regret not having heeded my advice.