Another Cart opinion thread....

Hi all,

I have a Music Hall 2.3SE and am looking to upgrade the stock cart (essentially an AT95E).  I'm considering the AT VM540ML, Nagaoka MP-150, Sumiko Moonstone and perhaps Denon-110.

I'm looking for something with great detail, not too bright, tight bass and smooth mids.

I have a Rega Mini phono stage, Krell HTS 7.1 pre/pro, Adcom 5802 amp, Martin Logan SL3's and a REL Storm III sub.

Any suggestions?  Differences in sonic quality between these carts?

I'm looking for something with great detail, not too bright, tight bass and smooth mids.

For those qualities you may also want consider a Grado Gold2.  I've heard good reviews on the Nagaoka you mention as well.
I've done a direct comparison between  AT VM540ML and Nagaoka MP-150. Nagaoka MP-150 is the clear winner with fuller sound and better dynamics. The 540 is too thin and analytical (for my taste) to the point where music just isn't enjoyable.
Great report.  Thank you.   I was already leaning toward the Nag.  My only experience with AT is my current cart.  For the price it's very good, but I find some of the highs a bit piercing and it seems to be missing something in the mids, but I like its soundstage and separation of instruments.  There's also a lot of headroom when it comes to solos.   I didn't know if those characteristics are throughout the AT lineup.

I don't have any experience with Nag, but I like what files I've heard that were recorded with the 300.
Here's a different idea.  Don't invest any money in that table.  If you're not happy with the way it sounds now, buy a better turntable.

I started out with a Music Hall 2.2, added a the speed box, put on an acrylic platter, and put a couple of better cartridges on it, including the current one, a Nagaoka MP-500.

A Music Hall 5.3 or 7.3 with an inexpensive cart like the AT95 will sound much better than the 2.3 will with an upgraded cartridge.  I currently have a Music Hall 7.1 and with an old Shure V15 with a JICO SAS stylus it sounds way better than the 2.2 with all the upgrades I did to it.  I had an AT95 from another table I had and have mounted it on the 7.1 and it also sounded better than the 2.2.

The 2.3 is an entry level table - it doesn't have good motor isolation, it doesn't have much mass, it has a cheap tonearm, and the feet are pretty cheap.  Either be happy with it as is or get a better table.   I'm not saying it's a bad table, but buying a better table will give you more bang for your buck if you're looking for an improvement in sound quality.  
Thanks for the advice.  It's a good suggestion, and thinking out of the box.

However, I'm not unhappy with the way my set up sounds, I'm just trying to achieve a more rounded sound.  I don't want to head down the rabbit hole.  There's always a better sounding this or that.

(and with 2 kids in college........need I say more)

I would hope a 1,300+ TT would sound better.

Not really out of the box, just trying to help save someone from wasting a bunch of money based on my own experience. 

You can usually pick up used Music Hall 5.X and 7.X for around $400-$600 for the 5.x and $700-$900 for the 7.X and probably find one with a decent cartridge already on it.
I’m looking for something with great detail, not too bright, tight bass and smooth mids.

The cartridge you’re looking for is Victor X-1II
and of course my all time favorite AT-ML series from the 80’s, anything from model 150 and higher.

So many users of these cart left this forum, but you can find feedbacks in archive of the forum for sure.
Fantastic cartridges for those you're looking for fidelity. 
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Not really out of the box, just trying to help save someone from wasting a bunch of money based on my own experience.  

Thanks, It's always good to learn from someone else experience.
I would upgrade that phono preamp

That's probably a correct statement.
^ yep, phono pre first

All,  Thank you for your input.

I have somethings to consider.  I'm off to my local Stereo store next week (yup, I still have one, VERRRY High end).  I was in last week,  he also thought the weak link was my preamp and offered to lend me a new phono stage to take home for evaluation.  At least that's one piece of equipment that can be tested in my home environment before purchasing.

I'm still hoping for description of how the above Carts are similar / different sonically and in performance.

Schitt Mani phono and Nagaoka MP150.
So many variables in the production of analog sound from vinyl....table, cart, preamp, amp, speakers, and a lot of other things. If you have a local dealer willing to lend equipment for a home trial you are very lucky. Take him up on his offer and audition as many variables as you can.

Cartridges.....that's a hard one. I went back to a vintage Pioneer PL-530 table I bought long ago after selling a much more expensive table. The Pioneer was last fitted with an AT cart. After putting the Pioneer back into service I decided to install a new cart. Went with a Grado Gold just on a whim and advice from a local dealer suggesting that the cart probably wouldn't perform best until at least 50 hours of break in. He was right.

Whatever recommendations anyone gives, it all comes down to what sounds better for you. Someone with the exact setup as you may have completely different tastes in sound. It's, for the most part, a gamble a lot of the time.

Well said.  Yes,  I'm lucky to have someone local willing to lend equipment, but like you said....the cart is a total gamble.  I'm sure any of the carts I'm looking at, or the ones mentioned here would be pleasing,  I'm also sure, I'll be questioning my decision no matter what it is!
I own the original mmf7 with original eroica h cartridge. It’s a fabulous table. It was in storage for many years and recently brought it back out and it plays like day 1. My recommendation, as another said, is to maybe replace the preamp. I highly recommend either the musical fidelity lx lps or the lx2 lps, essentially the same preamp. They are unique in that you can change out loading plugs in the rear. They sound fabulous with fantastic midrange. I thought of selling my mmf7 but cannot bring myself to getting rid of it just yet. It was my second turntable....the first being a denon dp 37f. You can grab a lx2 lps on Amazon right now for $199 reduced from $299. The lx lps can be had for $250. One difference I found is that for some strange reason, only the lx lps comes with an assortment of loading plugs, the lx2 does not. What hifi 5 star reviewed preamp for what its eye is on the pro-ject the classic direct is the only retailer showing it on their website, however it says out of stock and 6 to 8 weeks can be preordered. If it's anything like the classic sb, then it should sound terrific for only $1599.