My first Lyra was on Rega P25 and after having a Grado, Benz Glider I wanted a MC Cart and the Lyra Lydian was a wonderful match for the table and arm. In the price range you provide you can buy a new Delos or a good clean used Helikon and a Skala just was listed for under 2K but sold promptly. Keep your eyes open here and you will find a deal or just get the Delos. It is a great cart with new technology and sounds awesome for 1500.00
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The AT33EV has already been recommended, and you might try the AT33PTG/II (a linear contact stylus as opposed to the EV's nude elliptical). The PTG has a much smoother treble that the 150, but tracking is similarly excellent. The caveat is that the compliance of these carts is not quite optimal for medium mass arms like the Rega so you have to be careful about isolation from footfalls.
If you really want to spend in the $1-2K range, I'd try to hear a Benz for a very different, less neutral sound than the ATs, with more vibrancy in the midrange.
I would first think about upgrading the phonostage. You would waist your money otherwise. If you want $1500 new cartridge you would want, say, $2500-$3000 new phono stage.
But frankly, if I were you I would replace the entire front end including phono and cables. You want a realy good sound and are prepared to pay for it. Then why not get it? Start with the phono and work your way up, or start with the table/arm and work your way down.
update- I put a deposit on Pete Riggles string theory arm. This will give me a couple of months to decide on a cartridge while it is being made. I am leaning toward a new Lyra Delos or a lightly used Helicon, Skala. Can't go wrong with a cartridge handmade by a Japanese master and his assistant right? Also like what i have read about the Transfiguration Phoenix. A phonostage upgrade could be in the future, but I think the Nighthawk is very good. My tt may sound modest, but it is highly tweaked with a new motor, spindle/bearing, copolymer subchassis, new pulley, lead mat, outer ring clamp, bren record weight etc.
I agree with the Lyra Delos. I have one on my Rega P9 - a very easy combo to listen to. The build quality of the Delos is hard to imagine until you read the specs of how it is done by hand. And, the engineering behind the design is remarkably simple - why has it taken so long for this design to come forth?