Anyone using the Clear Audio Virtuoso Wood?

Anyone used a really high end moving magnet? I hear they can be compressed or mushy even with the extra fine cut of the needle and well-made magnets. I also hear MM's are overall better rockers. My experience is all my selections, listed below, are pretty good, but I would really like a contrarian point of view, e.g. not just the normal, "All moving coils are better than moving magnets," line. I agree, in theory, but in the real world I wonder if it always works that way.

The carts I have in mind are all about $800.: the Shelter 501 (an MC), the Dynavector XX-2 (an MC) (purchased from the gray market at $800.), Lyra Argo or Dorian (again MC's) or the Clear Audio Virtuoso (a MM). My system has pretty good microdynamics, but they could be better; maybe 5 out of 10. The macrodynamics are more like 7 out of 10. All subjective of course.

My system consists of Cary and a Spacedeck with a '70's Kenwood phonostage. I listen to mainly rock and jazz, with some other stuff mixed in. Seems something more analytical might be good, like the Lyra or Clear Audio, as most of the equipment produces a well defined soundstage with a little bit of romance.

My question is: I want a cart that if it gets broken, I'm not going to feel ripped off if I have a cat jump up, or I accidentally knock it, or there's an earthquake. Two of these cart's have no rebuild/replace policy (Shelter and Dyna), two do (Clear Audio and Lyra).

Positive or negative words on any of the above? Anybody got two arms you go back and forth with?
The Clearaudio V-Wood was the only cartridge I've yet to try that I can say that I hated. To me it was shrill on top and just not particularly good anywhere. In comparison, a cheaper Dyn dv20xh sounded very very nice on my system as does shelter 901 & the Lyra Helicon. Youst my opinion, system is Vpi Aries 2 with JMW 10.
In normal operation, I tend to agree about the Dynavectors being good all-rounders, but they are a little touchy-feely, round, plummy, whatever... more like the $100. Grado I'm using. It sounds great on the Space, but I think I need something a little clearer, maybe.

Not so sure I could as easily categorize the Shelter, for instance. I do love the Lyra's I've heard. I know some people think they sound cold, but they feel so damn clear and accurate. No shrillness either.

Anyone know if high end shrillness is part of a moving magnet signature?
Jeff, I expect your experience may be due to a loading problem. Excess capacitance loading will result in high freq. ringing with this cart.(and most other MM). Mine sounded shrill also; until I dropped all extra cap. (only the cap. of the cables and the small cap. of the input jfet). Sounded MUCH better. I'm now listening to a Shelter 90X and the Clearaudio is in a drawer.
I'm on my third--but that's because I have 5-year old twin boys that have mangled the previous two (when they were 3 yrs old). The point being that I've had several chances to go in a different direction, but have been satisfied enough to stay with the Virtuoso. Prior to this, I was using a Benz Glider (low output MC) that never did much for me.

That said, I find evaluating cartridges to be really difficult. There are just soooo many variables and tweakery (arm compliance, platter mats, isolation, damping, VTA, tail-dragging, anti-skating, azimuth, etc.). As meticulous as I am with 'by the book' setup, I still end up making little adjustments here and there.

As for the environmental, I am using this cartridge on a Wilson-Benesch Circle with an ACT 0.5 arm, ringmat platter mat, all sitting on a Bright Star Audio air mass base. This feeds a BAT VK-3i pre with onboard phono stage, to a BAT VK-200 into Maggie 1.6s and a Vandersteen woofer.

I'm sure there's something better out there, but overall, I'm a pretty happy owner for the last four years.

Finally, Clearaudio has a pretty generous trade-in policy in the event you want to jump from MM to MC.
What kind of phonostage were you using John?
Exactly what is that 70's Kenwood phonostage?
I'd be very surprised if you couldn't make some substantial improvement in this department. The world seems to be awash with great sounding inexpensive phono stages at the moment. The phono link is vitally important.
You may find this a more productive way to spend your $800.
It's from a '70's Kenwood called a KR-44 - midline from '77. I like it as well as the Grado I've heard and think it's a decent comparable solid state-wise to the EAR 834. Both are phono's I like, despite their respective probs. Plus the Kenwood actually uses higher quality parts than either of those. Like I said, I've been restoring it, and it's all elna, noble, orange tops (not orange drop). Much better than the starter Project phonostage I had. Basically a lot of older equipment just seems to have phonostages that are better than what you find in good integrateds now - back when I thought cats and tubes wouldn't mix (they do) I had thought maybe I would go Levinson or Arcam for an integrated, but their add-on stages were definitely not this good.

Actually, the Kenwood has made me think I may need to redefine my buy in price point. I had said about a third of a good preamp, e.g. about $1200-1400 (e.g. an EAR 834p with the volume run directly into my amp). On the other hand, I had been thinking about getting something like a Cary SLP98, which would match my Rocket. But I think I have decided against it as I would like something tubed but solid state regulated like Acoustic Research or the Cary 308. But then again, I could spend a lot of money and get something I don't like; for instance the standalone Pass Xono just did't do it for me. I have to say the Steelhead at that astronomical $7300. is the best of all worlds; but you know, like ow, even though in theory I can afford it.

You would think if the acoustic signature/over capacitance thing about MM's was true, you would be noticing it with gear as transparent as a BAT/Maggies combo?
BTW - KJ, I know how you feel about Benz's, my experience with them has been that they sound exciting for about five minutes and then like romanticized mush. Too warm and imprecise with highlighted micro-dynamics to get you to say "wow", but somehow then they just lose their appeal. I want something that sounds new and true to me everyday, not just pretty.
Biomimetic - I'm using the K&K phono pre available from K&K Audio as a kit. The version Art Audio sells, the Vinyl Reference, was recently reveiwed by M. Fremer. Kevin also sells Dave Davenport's excellent line stage kit. I have both and if you can put up with the very long break-in period for the Lundahl transformers used you will be rewarded.
I just saw another thread here on 'gon where a guy had gone from Clear Audio to Lyra to good results. I may give Lyra a try.
Formerly. It was OK in most respects, not terribly exciting, and certainly to very dynamic. I also had a bit of an issue with warranty issues, the US distributor, blah blah.

I'll just remind everyone, that you'd better check your new cart *very* carefully for mis-aligned cantilevers (most importantly), channel imbalance, and everything else you can think of.

I went w/ a Sumiko Celebration, and happily so.
Shasta - Are you talking about the Lyra or did you have a problem with the Clear Audio and the importer Musical Surroundings - in my experience they are total jackasses. But I was wondering if you would offer up a compare/contrast of your from/to cartridge odyssey.
I am not a fan of the CA MC cartridges, at all. However, and in polar opposition to Mr. Jones, I found the Virtuoso Wood to be a very fine MM cartridge. Involving, with plenty of smack, yet nicely detailed. Perhaps just cat's whisker rolled off on top but pretty damn consisent and strong througout. Well worth the dough, especially if purchased from the guy here on the 'Gon selling them out of Europe.
Agree in every respect with 4yanx, including the seller recommendation. A no-brainer at this price.
Hey - Someone send me an email as to who this is.
check yer e-mail
Shasta - Hey, where'd you go?

I really liked the Clearaudio, esp. with jazz recordings. That was with a Michell Gyro/SME 309. I also had a Goldring Elite and VDH MC 10 at the time and the Clearaudio was the best of the bunch, resolving of low level detail, well integrated, dynamic to my ear, maybe a little soft at the top. Have since owned a VDH Frog and Benz L2 but with entirely different systems. None of the other cartridges made the recordings "swing" quite like the CA. I've heard the Dyna's at a local dealer and they never did anything for me, but perhaps it was the rest of the system or I just have a different "ear" than others.

I was sucked into buying a Virtuoso Wood after reading the Stereophile review when I bought my Scout ( incidently feeding an ARC SP16 preamp). Lived with a dry sound with limited bottom end for years until I moved and accidently snagged the cantilever when setting up my TT in my new house. Bought a Dynavector 20x2h to replace it and was blown away...great bass, exciting presentation and true wonder at what I had been missing!

So maybe system dependence here, but I learned starting on the front end of your system is the most important place to upgrade...and the cartridge and TT is where it all starts.