The answer, not in order is: Keuwetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum, Keuwetsu Onyx Platinum, ClearAudio Reference and Insider. Reasonable contender for much less money, Benz Micro Ruby or Reference.
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First, sorry I delayed in response. I was out of town. The Insider is not as extended in the high frequencys or quite as detailed as the Reference, but they share pretty much the same personality otherwise. The Keuwetsu (which I choose) is warmer and smoother than either of the Clearaudio cartridges, and supplies approximately the same resolution, but with more mid range weight and warmth. (Probably the wood body?) My system tends to be very high rez, so it is the choice for me, musically, not necessarily because the quality is better. I have tried the transfiguration, and sort of liked it. My problem with it is that it seemed somewhat pale and thin when compared to the others we are discussing. You cannot complain about its detail and speed. I also thought it was not quite as convincing in the phase accuracy department. I have not heard the Symphonic line in my own system, so I will not make comments. On all these fine cartridges, the set up is so critical, that it would take two pages to stress the point. The tracking weight, for instance, is critical to two hundred's of a gram. This is no problem to hear!
Dear Albert,thanks for your response. I have transfiguration af1,and I think it sounds very good,but I didn't compare with others. Moreover I have just bought a Symphonic line and a clearaudio reference cartridge,but I haven't listened to them because I am leaving home to go to another one and so I had to put my system off and this makes me suffer a lot!!! I am very interested to advices about clearaudio set up. I'd like to e-mail you for this,so if you agree you could write to me at email@example.com and leave me yours.
Guys, cost-no-object is an oxymoron in cartridges. Remember you actually rent those thingys: the price of retipping and actual replacement once the suspension runs out is dear. I'd go for a reliable good sounding than a fragile excellent sounding one. And one manufactured by a company likely to stay afloat for a long time in vinyl's dark times.
The Benz Lo4 beats the AT OC-9. You could relax much better with it, double sheesh...And if I had to buy one with cost not being an object, I'd buy the Koetsu Onyx Platinum, whether I compared it directly with others in my system first, or not. Besides tracking force, VTA and preamp loading/gain can certainly fine tune the cartridge to synergize with the sound of the rest of your system...no doubt about that.
I appreciate your comment. However, the Benz is more expensive, and the OC-9 is discounted more as well as with greater distribution and a larger more financially stable company (Audio-Technica). What I meant was that the OC-9 is a good all-around cartridge and a good starting point for those with not a lot of cash to get into mc's. Considering the cost of retipping the OC-9 makes sense.
I have an Audio Technica condensor microphone, and feel that they do make products of fine value. I enjoy making nature recordings with my DAT/SBM ADC and AudioQuest mic cable, and hope to successfully record a Thunderbirds airshow soon. That'll be fun, but almost impossible to avoid clipping. Thunderstorms have been the hardest so far, but I have a feeling these F-16's will be a gargantuan task...I don't think you're right about the finacial stability, or the discount. How much did you get this OC-9 for, less than dealer cost?
A great topic with some excellent posts already. There have been gigantic improvements in the performance of cartridges over the last decade (compared to very little improvement in CD laser pick-ups). Here are my top ten cartridges, no particular order, cost no object (today most cartridges--including many of the following ones--are cruelly overpriced): 1.) Transfiguration Temper Supreme (one of the most musical systems in the world, picks up the smallest details, but unfortunately requires very quiet phono stage) There is at least one clone of this cartridge: Crown Jewel, with a different outer body. 2.) Jan Allaerts, MC 2 Finish (outstanding dynamics, beautiful tone and temperament, probably the most intellectually and emotionally satisfying cartridge I have ever heard, harmonizes well with the Simon Yorke turntable; but, again, requires excellent phono stage because of low output and unusual load) 3.) Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum (warm, beautiful timbre) 4.) Benz Micro LO.4 (a great value considering it can be retipped for a fraction of the cost of the cartridge; unjustly underrated by most reviewers) 5.) Sao Win SMC-10 (full-bodied, plastic, makes even bad vinyl sound heavenly, the same manufacturer makes one of the best step-up devices) 6.) Van den Hul, The Colibri (unbelievably detailed, fast, accurate, with enornmously deep bass and lots of air) 7.) Lyra Parnassus D.C.t. (highly precise, with exact timing, helps intellect and emotion to engage with the music on the vinyl) 8.) Ortofon Status (clear, detailed, precise imaging--not a great value considering that the Ortofon SPU Royal comes close to the same perfomance at about a third of the price) 9.) Haruo Takeda Miyabi (ultradynamic, musical, but you need an excellent phono stage). 10.) ZYX/Namiki R-1000 (extremely neutral, with divine voice reproduction) I have never liked Clearaudio cartridges (too dry, too overpriced, do not reproduce all of the low-level details), although some may have good reasons for liking them (phono preamp less critical; round, earthy tone).