Amethyst versus Nagaoka MP-150/MP-200


Does anyone have any experience with these two carts, by any chance?  I have the Amethyst and I've used it for about 40 to 50 hours now. I think it's a beautiful cartridge, and I'm a fan of Sumiko in general, but it doesn't hit the spot like some of the other carts I've used.  So I think I'm going to sell it and buy something else.  I've had my eye on the MP-150 for a while.  Would be curious to hear folks' thoughts on this cart, especially from anyone who has heard the Amethyst, too.  (Also, if anyone has thoughts on what a good selling price for the Amethyst would be, please let me know.)  Cheers.
F234c21e 1943 4278 a34d fc4d112f4006three_paws
What is Amethyst? 
Look for Garrott Brothers cartridges, much better than Nagaoka
It's a Sumiko MM cartridge.  Sells for $600 in the US, and about $900 in Japan.

What makes Garrott Brothers carts so much better?  Thanks.
What spot does it not hit?
Nags are great but may lack top end sparkle—if that's what you're missing. If so, Audio Technica VM750SH or 760SLC will do the job.
Nagaoka is a low compliance MP type, nothing special (the MP200 is better than entry level).

What makes Garrott so special? The sound! Search audiogon for Garrott Brothers story if you don’t know who they are. You can also search for previous P77 (or new P77i) cartridges on audiogon, it’s adorable MM by people who own multiple carts. Dynamic Coil, advanced stylus profile. It’s really great. I like the original from the 80’s (here in mine), but improved version is new P77i. If I remember correct even the JICO SAS stylus is compatible.

Or all you need is just an approval of your own suggestion? 




"Or all you need is just an approval of your own suggestion?"

Is there a need for that? I just asked why you think it’s better. The fact that they have a good story doesn’t answer my question, nor does merely pointing to stylus topology. I’m curious what sonic characteristics set it apart. You haven’t answered that. Instead, you’re making snarky comments about me. Maybe just sit this one out, mate.

Noromance, the top end is exactly what’s missing for me. It’s warm and smooth but a touch too polished and laid back for me--I want a little more energy on top. Appreciate that feedback.


I don’t like to describe the sound in words, you can find information about Garrott on their site. If you want to hear something like "luch, silky smooth and seductive" then it’s about sound of Garrott. The sound is natural. Hope it will help.

The problem with audiogon is very limited choice in recommendations, I always trying to remind people than apart from Ortofon, Sumiko, Nagaoka, Goldring and AT there are more amazing cartridges, less known particularly in the USA.

Back to Garrott:

The principal difference between the two Cartridges is the Stylus Assembly. The new P-77i is fitted with a Micro Scanner MKII diamond and tuned accordingly. The old P-77 uses a Micro Tracer Diamond.

The sound of the Micro Scanner MKII is more extended at both ends of the Audio spectrum therefore sweeter treble and deeper bass with overall flatter Frequency response.



Thanks--I'll keep those in mind.  That said, I'm still curious about the two carts I was actually asking about.  (While I appreciate your effort to broaden our horizons, if questions about "A versus B" are answered with "go with C", not only is the question actually not answered, but the conversation loses focus and spirals.)
As always, this is the law of audiogon threads
Cartridges are very system dependent like speakers so finding the perfect one for your system can be a real challenge. I would recommend a good dealer that will allow you to try different cartridges to find the best fit for your system or you will be chasing the unobtainable for awhile.
Thanks, sir.  Do you have an opinion about the cartridges i asked about, by any chance?
@three_paws I own the same Sumiko Amethyst cartridge as yours on an Opera Consonance Wax Engine TT, acquired in July 2020,  connected to different SS / tube amps and speaker pairings. 
After listening to classical and jazz LPs released ca. 1965-1985, and newer Pop/Jazz/Electronic/Contemporary Classical recordings ca. 2010-present I must say that I’m quite impressed with Sumiko’s tonal clarity and depth of sound. I have auditioned Nagaoka cartridges before with positive experiences, but for me I’m leaning towards Sumiko for the broad timbral ranges that I personally aim for in specific chamber, symphonic and electronic music genres. 
If you do decide to sell the Amethyst you can probably garner $370-$400 USD, depending on its condition.

Hope this helps!
I do not know about Amethyst but have Nagaoka 300 with a 500 stylus on a Linn Sondek with an SME3009R arm.

It sounds divine.
I have the 150 and upgraded the stylus to the 200. Great cartridge. I like a warm sounding cartridge and goes well with my modded 1200 mk5 tt.
Thanks, guys. 

scchengmus, I totally agree with your description of the Amethyst, and I've thought for a while that it's probably a great cart for classical, though I haven't really tested it with that genre, since I listen mostly to 50s-70s jazz these days.  The only thing I miss with the Amethyst is a bit is more energy from the cymbals (I'm a drummer, so that's partly why), which is why I find myself listening to the Sumiko Olympia more often than the Amethyst -- it's not nearly as clean, but it's very alive, and it still has the warmth and musicality that I really like.  I was hoping that the MP-150/MP-200 would have the same lower frequency depth and presence but a bit more happening in the upper registers, too.

@noromance , do you find the AT bright/fatiguing at all?
I am currently running a Nagaoka MP-500 on a VPI Prime Scout and am very happy with it.  I also had a MP-200 and agree that it would be a better choice than the entry level Nagas.

@three_paws
I’m not sure if you listen to vintage jazz in stereo or mono, or alternate depending on your source format. Some studios back-in-the-day definitely produced records that only sound best in mono, meaning through monoblocks post-preamp. But I agree that different Sumikos produce different results for different recordings; I’ve heard 5 types of Sumiko but again, for me personally, my system sounds best with Amethyst (within the Sumiko line up that is). For your system and for what you listen to, yes, switching between Sumiko models could prove beneficial. Comparing Sumiko to Nagaoka, however, I would summarize as “pure” vs. “warm” if we had to use adjectives. Back to my system, the sound frequency, timbre, depth is performing to my musical format needs with the Amethyst. 

For some background as a child listening on my father’s systems, followed by further education and ongoing experimentation, it became clear that pairing is of utmost importance. You can have an amazing cartridge(s) but if the entire life cycle from power to speakers isn’t compatible then all is moot. Unfortunately we are at the mercy of the source, so the quality of each recording is another key point. This, however, we cannot control — for those who want total control this point is definitely out of our control. 
I listen to a mix, and I definitely don't obsess over finding mono pressings, etc.  In fact, I'm just as happy with more recent reissues so long as they have the musicality/warmth of the originals.  (And of course not all originals have that anyway.)

I think of Sumiko as warm, so it's interesting for me to hear you say that Nagaokas are warmer.  My entire system, from phono preamp to speakers, tends to run toward warm, so I actually wonder if adding more midrange/low end from the cart will throw off that balance and muddy the waters.  Or maybe there will be even better synergy.  Food for thought. 

Thanks again for your thoughts!  
@three-paws There are definitely times when I hear warmth, especially when playing jazz trios, jazz ensemble, beat mix tracks, DJ or electronic lounge beats. This is again the intention of those tracks, hence I used the term: “pure.” On the contrary, I wouldn’t put a Stravinsky symphony or Dua Lipa in the same “warm” category simply because of the varying genre. I value hearing sound as it was recorded - “as if you’re there” - which many of us appreciate. 
In visualizing your system I think you built a robust system deserving of different cartridges. But if you really want to sell there are outlets that will buy quickly. Good luck and happy listening! 

If that's how you're defining pure, I'm a bit confused, as I don't think the Amethyst replicates the original tonality with some magical accuracy.  I think it gives them a warmth that isn't inherently there.  That's actually why I like it so much.

Btw, I'm not sure what in my post has given folks the impression that this is my first cart, etc. I have several TTs, amps, speaker pairs, etc. I am just asking about these two specific cartridges, not for advice on how to shop, how to build a system, etc.

@three_paws 
noromance , do you find the AT bright/fatiguing at all?
Nope. I have the 750 on a 401. However, give it about 20 hours. It's not in the same league as my Deccas but it is fine with good frequency response and detail. 
Just a note here. A detailed cartridge is not bright or fatiguing. That is a system issue. Shying away from them is covering up another problem.
@noromance , sure, but I never said all detail is inherently bright.  High frequency detail, or excess of it, certainly can be, especially when the cart lacks tonal balance.  That's not a system issue.
@three_paws Probably the wrong adjective, which is my fault. I was struggling in finding the best word choice earlier. I also sensed that, like me, you have different systems going on. This thread is an isolated subject. 

I have maybe a dozen cartridges; but no MM, only MC. 
thanks, dude, that's super helpful.

@three_paws

Since nobody has answered your question here's my take.

The Nagaoka MP range has an easy open sound, best attribute is openness through the midrange. However the high frequency transparency and precision is ok at best.

The Nagaoka's tend toward full rich and slightly soft. ( I own some ).

Noromance, the top end is exactly what’s missing for me. It’s warm and smooth but a touch too polished and laid back for me--I want a little more energy on top. Appreciate that feedback.

From my knowledge of the Amethyst which does not have the speed in the higher frequencies, if you moved to a Nagaoka, I think you'll get more of the same, slightly different colour, but neither have precision and speed in the top end if thats what you are missing.

If you have a good arm and phono stage maybe you should look to an MC - the Audio Technica AT33 range is excellent value for money.

Thanks, @dover .  I'm starting to think I'd really like the MP-200/MP-150 for their warmth and richness, but they probably wouldn't be a sufficiently different option from the Amethyst to provide that high energy spot that I feel is missing.   I've been curious about AT carts--maybe that's the route to go.  Thanks, mate.
The sumiko moonstone is better than the amethyst 
(I have the Olympia and I love it, but I wouldn't say it's better than the Amethyst--just a different sonic signature.)