Benz Micro Ace Sh hours

Hey all,

Sometime in 2014 I bought from a reputable audiophile and A'goner a beautiful VPI HW-19 Mk 4 with a Sumiko FT-3 tone arm and a Benz Micro Ace SH (2.5mV) MC cartridge. Back then, the cartridge had several hundred hours' worth of playing. Since then I'v eput at least another 300-400 hours on it. So figure a total of 700 hours, minimum. It's a beautiful sounding cartridge, full of sweet mids and a powerful presence.

Lately I've noticed more high-end distortion on select tracks, especially vocals and piano. Might my cartridge be getting long in the tooth? I've adjusted for VTF and VTA with little result. I'm not averse to getting a new cartridge in the $1000-$1500 range new/used, but what should I be looking for in the shelf life of this Benz cartridge?

Associated equipment:

VPI HW-19 Mk 4 tt
Sumiko FT-3 tonearm
Hegel 160 integrated
Jolida JD9 Mk 2 phono
Acoustic Zen Adagio speakers
Acoustic Zen interconnects throughout
Decware Styx speaker cables
If you want to spend a little and get a whole lot more send your cartridge to Soundsmith and have a sapphire cantilever installed. It will bring your cartridge to a whole new level. For 299 you will have a cartridge that beats much more expensive cartridges. Do it now and thank me later. Meanwhile, while this is in the shop spin a Denon DL 103 loaded at 200 ohms. When that wears out send that to Soundsmith for the same and watch your jaw drop to the floor.
+1 for Ray's suggestion for Soundsmith. Here is one other outfit that I can recommend too.
As long as you clean your albums and your stylus regularly there is no reason not to expect 1500 to 2500 hours play time out of your cart. I currently have 2200 hours on a ZYX Universe that I keep waiting for it to let me know it’s time, still sounds sweet as ever. As a rule of thumb, as I look to buy a used cart I always figure in the cost of a retip and or a rebuild and buy from the original owner with perfect feedback. +2 for Soundsmith.
It could be the vacuum tubes in the Jolida are going bad. IME you'll hear them deteriorate the way you described first. Just a thought since the cartridge should be good beyond 700 hours. Tubes on the other hand are unpredictable. 
If you still have the crappy Chinese 12AX7's in the Jolida, find yourself a pair of Telefunken's. These are the best by far in this preamp and I have tried many different ones in mine. I do, however doubt if your problem is a tube issue as12AX7's are very long lasting tubes, especially in this application.
If you're hearing distortion from stylus wear it's likely to be much more apparent on the inner grooves. That was very apparent when I had an old, worn Koetsu. Try to determine if there's a correlation between the distortion and inner grooves. 

700 hours should be perfectly fine in *optimal* playing conditions, but there's no telling how many actual hours it had before you, or how exactly it was treated / cleaned.
@dill  Hey. I tube rolled the originals with GE 5751's a while ago. I think it's a combo of my VTA and perhaps my alignment. I haven't checked things since the gentleman who sold me the turntable delivered it and set everything up a few years ago. I do know the tonearm is not parallel to the platter; it's at a slight downward angle.

@mulveling the distortion was on the first few tracks - the outer grooves. And yet there's no distortion on other vintage records with vocals and piano. Could it be the LP itself?