Best Cartridge for $1000-$1350?


Hello... I have an RPM3 turntabe (Sumiko Blue Point No. 2) with a Tube DS preamp (Golden Lion tubes). Im considering upgrading the cartridge. What MC cartridge in the price range of $1000-$1350 works good with this type of turntable/tonearm and preamp? I listen to Classic Rock (40%), Pop (30%), Greek (20%), Jazz/Orchestra (10%). In order of importance: Sonics, Soundstage, Air, Musical, Detail, Frequency Response, I guess the holy grail. Hope you can help. Thanks.
deanshias
Buy the Van den Hul MC2 Special (new in box) for $950 + shipping (half-price). It is listed here on Audiogon. Seller is: audioarts_nyc Nothing better at this price!
Why that one? Cant find too much info on that cartridge. How trustworthy are the sellers on this site?
Have you considered an AT ART-9 (low output)?  Maybe spend a few dollars more to get a Soundsmith Zephyr III?  
I have no problem spending more if its worth the difference in value. How are the two different? how does it comare to the Van del Hul that roberjerman recommended? Does it fit well with my turntable/preamp?
What about the Shelter 501 III MC at that price range?
@deanshias   

Facts mixed to my opinion and the opinions of others....

The ART-9 is very highly regarded and is the pinnacle of the AT "house sound."  But it is a low output MC cart that will require a phono stage capable of handling low output carts OR a step-up device or transformer to boost the cart output.  Great dynamics, deep detail, tight timing, smooth response, air, transparency, soundstage and image.  Lots of info on the Audiogon Analog Forum.

The Soundsmith Zephyr is an outstanding example of a moving iron cart.  Very dynamic and detailed, great soundstage and tight image, warm, a great rock / jazz cart.  Higher output compatible with most phono stages without step-up device(s).  

In my opinion....

The ART-9 may be a little on the analytical side, the Zephyr

Both are outstanding performers.  In the final analysis, either cartridge will need to work well with the arm carrying it.





Have a look at the Dynavector 17D3
All these sound good.. But how do you know how well it works with a Project RPM3 arm and turntable?
Look at the vinyl engine.com. They have tools to calculate whether the cartridge will be compatible with your tonearm and phono preamp.

Another approach is to work with a dealer, if you live in location with a good hi fi shop, who will help you with compatibility matching, and hopefully provide you with explanations along the way.

Hard to replace a good dealer with random advice from an online forum. You will get a lot of opinions here, some will be helpful and some not so much.

I am not familiar with your tonearm, but the website says it is suitable for a MC cartridge. No information on tonearm effective mass.

Best Regards,

Jim Perry
+1 on the Shelter; great cartridge!
@OP,

Maybe your question should be...Which tonearm in a given price range...?
I couldn't find much on vinylengine. My question is really which cartridge would go best with the type of music I listen to (mentioned earlier) with this specific tonearm/turntable (Project RPM3) and cartridge character (mentioned earlier) in the price range of $1000-$1350. Its not the cheapest investment so want to make the best choice and everything everyone mentioned here sounds good. 
deanshias

OK I looked up your phono preamp which has max gain of 60 db. That means generally that you should use a MC cartridge with about .5 mv output.

The Shelter 501 (.4 mv) would be an OK match, and I think you would like the sound (I have a Shelter 901).

The Dynavector 17d3 with output of .3 mv (I have one of these also) might be marginal with output that low.

The ART 9 output is OK at .5 mv, but based on reviews (i have not heard this cartridge) might not match the sound you want.

You might also want to look at reviews of the Hana cartridge. I have not heard it, but the reviews are good and it falls in the low end of your price range.

You might also talk to a local dealer if there is one in your area. You might be able to hear a few cartridges which makes for the best decision.


For the type of music you like, another consideration could be the Clearaudio concept MC. It's .4mv so your equipment looks like it could handle it. The sonics of this cartridge are very good for $1K. Great channel separation and layering. I've owned one for a little over a year & have a lot of hours on it. Still sounds great. I listen mostly to indie & alternative rock. 
..and its safe to assume that these type of cartridges would sound that much better than the Sumiko Blue Point No.2 that I use now?
I've never heard the SBP2 but did have the original back in the day & replaced it with a Grado Signature MZ8 & that was an improvement. I still use that cartridge with a XTZ stylus & it is also very nice. But since that is a MI (not a MC), I didn't mention it earlier. 
ART 9 .  dial it in and it won't be bright or analytical- warm and smooth and extremely clean, biggest sound stage i have ever witnessed from a cartridge.  my ortofon cadenza blue barely beats it... 
The Bluepoint is a fine sounding cartridge in of itself. Especially with the RPM3.

But +1 for the Shelter - simply incredible and .5mV
Also +1 for the Hana SH or SL. Stereophile raves about them in their newest issue. I have the SL on my Sumiko FT-3 tonearm/VPI HW-19 Mk 4 rig and it sounds beautiful. The SL is .5mV while the SH is 2mV.
Dear @deanshias: The today Sumiko ones beats the one you own, you can try it and are inside your targets:

http://www.sumikoaudio.net/en-us/our-brands/sumiko-phono-cartridges/products/reference-series

the Shelter 501MK3 is very good option too and fulfill your needs.

These are other good alternatives:

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis93bih-lyra-delos-cartridges

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis93g5c-dynavector-dv-xx2-mkii-like-new-cartridges

R.
Have been using a ART9 for about a year now. The best features are:
1) A soundstage that is not only wide but so deep sometimes the sound seems to be coming from outside in my front yard.
2) Best bass responce I have ever heard. Tight, clean and bold without being in your face.
3) The .5mv output is perfect for my pre which has 60db gain.
4) Tracks like a coon hound. Clean and open all the way to even extreme inner groove records.
5) Makes records sound 20 years younger. The uber small line contact diamond is using mostly unused portions of the groove.
6) Very easy to align properly.
7) Some say it is analytic sounding, to me it is faithfully reproducing  what is in the groove. Old Brubeck Columbia 2 and 6 eyes never sounded better.
7) I now have about 350 hours on it and it keeps getting better. Every session with familiar material reveals new details. 2 days ago I played my RL mastered "The Nightfly" and the piano solo during "Ruby" was simply stunning. The piano was sitting 6 ft from me with my eyes closed.

For $860 I doubt if you could buy a better OVERALL cartridge that sounds excellent with all genres of music. YMMV
Soundsmith Boheme. $1200.
I love my ART9.  I like it more than my previous Dynavector that was pricer. If your preamp can handle it then it may be a fit. I use a Manley Chinook pre.  The cart is superb at most any price.  

Soundstage, imaging, bass and clarity are top notch. It was this cart and the Chinook that made my vinyl best digital for me with a clear winner. 
So I went to a local dealer and he recommended the Hana SH with my tonearm and preamp. I read some reviews and the Hana SL seemed more to my liking. With my tonearm and preamp.. would anyone here know if the SL would work? Cant really find much online.

Specifications for the tonearm on your RPM 3 Carbon are as follows:

  • 10” carbon; aluminium and resin
  • Effective Arm Length: 254 mm
  • Effective Arm Mass: 16 g
  • Overhang: 16 mm
Tube Box DS

- Termination resistor, variable - steplessly 10 ohms to 1,000 ohms
- Statements capacity / resistor - 47 pF, 147 pF, 267 pF and 367 pF * / 47 kOhm
- reinforcement - 40 dB and 50 dB / 60 dB
- Signal to Noise Ratio - 93 dBA
- THD<0.1%
- Accuracy of the RIAA equalization curve - Deviation max. 0.5 dB / 20 Hz - 20 kHz
- Switchable subsonic filter - at 20 Hz, edge steepness 18 dB / octave
- Input, high level output1 pair RCA / RCA sockets each
- mains connection - Plug-in power supply, 18 V / 1,000 mA DC; 220-240 V, 50 Hz
- current consumption - 490 mA DC, <1 W in standby


Hana SL Specs:

Stylus: Nude Diamond Shibata
Output Level: 0.5 mv / 1 kHz
Output Balance: <1.5db/1KHz
Vertical tracking force: 2g
Trackability: 70µm/2g
Frequency Response: 15-32,000Hz
Impedance: 30Ω/1KHz
Inductance: 40 µH
Suggested Load Impedance: >400Ω
Cartridge weight: 5g
Cartridge Color: black
Victor X-1II with Beryllium Cantilever and Shibata stylus tip can be found NOS for the price you have mentioned. It's a killer MM cartridge (especially in NOS condition) that will put any MC to the dust. This is top of the line cartridge from JVC / Victor. 

https://audio-heritage.jp/VICTOR/etc/x-1ii.html 

 
The link is in Chinese though
@deanshias you can't read japanese ? lol 

Specifications JVC/Victor X-1II (mk2) or X-2

Type: moving magnet
Stylus: (DT-X1II) 0.15 mil square NUDE SHIBATA diamond tip.
Dynamic Compliance @100Hz = 12cu (EQUAL to 20cu @10Hz)
Output: more 3mV (1kHz, 5cm/sec)
Channel balance: less than 1.0dB
Channel separation: more than 25dB
Impedance: 2.2k ohms (1kHz)
Load: 47 to 100k ohms
Tracking force: 1.5g (+/- 0.2g)
Frequency response: 10 to 60,000Hz
Weight: 7.5g  
The Hana SL at 5g is right at the edge of a good match with that 16g effective tonearm according to Vinyl Engine: https://www.vinylengine.com/cartridge_resonance_evaluator.php?eff_mass=16&submit=Submit

The Hana SL has a 20 * 10-6 cm/Dyne dynamic compliance which puts it’s resonance around 8 Hz.

Should be a good match as far as compliance goes.
Ok.. made the jump for the Hana SL. Now just have to wait a few weeks before all is said and done.. Hope it all works well.. Thanks everyone for your help. Ill keep you guys posted if you want to hear the results.
Hanna is a low budget mediocre MC cartridge made by Excel Sound Corp, even the specs clearly demonstrate it (rolled-off highs and average bass, alluminum cantilever), nothing special. Why do you want an MC cartridge like Hanna? Victor X-1II is superior cartridge approved by many experienced audiogon members. The Victor X-1II easily compete with $3k LOMC, it has rare Beryllium Cantilever and don’t forget that JVC Victor invented Shibata profile this is how it looks like on state-of-the-art Victor's Beryllium Cantilever: https://scontent-arn2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/21192370_1846802035337955_7936227095118872695_n.jpg?_n...
While chakster is correct that Hana is Excel's consumer brand, it is not 'mediocre'. The Hana line does have a house sound and that's fine. They have been making carts for a bunch of big brands for years (and still do).

If he wanted a boron cantilever plus a microline or shibata diamond, he could got for a Audio Technica OC9/II, which is my other needle (when I switch it up between Koetsu's, Art 9, and Hana's).

He'll be happy and might try your suggestion another time.

Relax...this is supposed to be a hobby.
Its been a while with a follow up with this post. Local audio shop ordered and installed the Hana SL. I dont know what a lot of the other cartridges sound like that everyone mentioned here, but I love the way this sounds. Sonics are smooth and spacious. a lot more detailed that the Sumiko but not over analyzing. Low end is more apparent but not too much. High end is clear, smooth and not fatiguing. Overall a good balance. I dont know how to explain it, but it just has a mature sound. Just wanted to thank everyone for their time and help.  Now..Time to focus on records for a while until the next adventure :)
For the past few years, the best cartridge to me at any price is the Ortofon 2M Black. I've recently went on another cartridge hunt, trying VM760SLC, MP-500, Hana SL, Quintet Black, ART7, and a couple of others. 

Ortofon 2M Black remains the absolute pinnacle. Worth its weight in gold and then some. I've previously compared it to a spiritual experience and it's exactly what it does on each and every listening session.

It is the closest thing to a master tape that there is and I've owned and listened to many.
Now that the OP is settled in with his new Hana cartridge, may I ask what you thought of the AT VM760. I’ve had my eye on that one. I think the 2M Black may be too much of a truth teller for me. I like to be lied to.... (-:
@fjn04 

I think the 2M Black may be too much of a truth teller for me.

If you're looking for the real truth tellers then read this TAS article and find yourself Stanton 881s mkII with Stereohedron stylus. Actually the closest to the Stanton 881s mkII is Pickering XSV-3000 (Stereohedron). Both carts are in $300-400 price range. 

Dear @fjn04 ; Is extremely dificult to say " to much true teller for me " with out listen it. Unfortunatelly with phono cartridges we can't do it beforen  pull the triger.

Now, the AT VM760 as the Ortofon comes from a very high " pedigree " manufacturer as an Audio Technica that's a guarantee just by its name but the VM720 is the latest designs:

https://www.audio-technica.com/cms/cartridges/6637a2f0787470c3/index.html#BVRRWidgetID

you can't wrong with in anyway. Go a head ! and have fun and come back to share your newest experiences with.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.
Hmmm- Didn't see the VM720 on the AT site. Sure wish they had threaded holes, but it is what it is..... With Koetsu, you have to go to URUSHI to get threaded holes. Very Strange! Also looking at Audio Note IQ 3. This darkhorse begins life as a Goldring, and then AN does some wiring changes. The plan is this cartridge will go in to the MM phono of my little Croft phono Int amp. The latter powering Harbeth P3’s. Table is WT Amadeus.
@fjn04 VM760SLC is a fine cartridge. I still have it like new in box. I may use it sometime in the future. Unless someone here wants to make me an offer.

It’s probably my second favorite MM after 2M Black. It has a lot of detail and drive, but the midrange is slightly recesses. Very typical of Audio Technica sound. I do prefer the VM760SLC to 150MLX and to ML170.

But the holography and sheer brilliance of the 2M Black is out of this world. When listening to the 2M Black, it feels like the mind has gone on this fantastical journey and the real world no longer exists.


Tried the Hana SL, thought it was too laid back, relaxed, at least for my tastes.
jbhiller361 posts09-14-2018 12:09amI love my ART9.  I like it more than my previous Dynavector that was pricer. If your preamp can handle it then it may be a fit. I use a Manley Chinook pre.  The cart is superb at most any price.  

Soundstage, imaging, bass and clarity are top notch. It was this cart and the Chinook that made my vinyl best digital for me with a clear winner.
@jbhiller , same experience here.  I had the Blue Point #2 for five years, moved up to the 10x5 for two years, until an unfortunate accident.  Then, the ART9, which I think is just fantastic.  My music taste is similar enough to OP, and I completely agree with all your observations.  It's great!

Side note, I got a message today from NeedleDoctor, and there is a new Hana.  I has a nude microline stylus, and comes in high or low.  I don't have any feedback on it... but it seems like it could be a step up for Hana.  No challenge for me, though... I'm keeping the ART9 for a long time!
@soundermn,

We are living parallel lives!  I to had a Dynavector that suffered a broken stylus (right off the thing entirely) in an unfortunate accident. Then, like you, I had to replace it.  I bought the ART9.  

I also have an Ortofon 2M Black.  Wonderful cart, but not near the ART9 for my tastes.  
Yes, we are... don't you also have a Primaluna Dialogue HP Integrated?

For what it's worth, the Dyna was in an accident that was 100% my fault.  It just sort of happened, but it was on me.  I'm thinking I may send it to Sound Smith for a new cantilever, and keep it as a backup.
My setup is:
JVC VL8 turntable - in the family since new
AT ART9
Manley Chinook
Dialogue HP Integrated
Revel F208 speakers
Yes soundermn, I have a Primaluna Integrated, Manley Chinook and the ART9 too!  It would be fun to hear each other's systems.
For that level table and phonostage, I would look into the AT OC9 III.

Half the price.It isn’t an ART9,but does give a good amount of what it does.
I owned both. Great carts in their price points. The OC9III may best the two in price/performance.

Unless, you’re planning on moving up the food chain with your table/phono stage, the ART9 may be underserved.
I have been playing with the Art 9 and Dynavector 17D3 on my Technics 1200G and for me the Art 9 sounds better overall but the Art 9 has only 50 hours on it now still need more break in time. The 17D3 sounds way better on Rega Tables like my Rega P6 or RP8 that I plan on selling on here soon with the Dyna 17D3. 
Also using the Manley Chinook SE with the Art 9/1200G with my Yamaha A-S3000 and Dynaudio Special 40's speakers. Overall tone of the ART 9 is just awesome when I hear piano strikes coming from the Art 9 they sound very natural and clear not so much with the 17D3 on the 1200G.
We have so many info about ART-9 on this forum, but the world of cartridges have so many better / different options including some rare ones. As for the Audio-Technica cartridges i would advice every ART-9 owner to compare it to the AT-ML180 OCC or OFC MM cartridge which goes for much higher price than ART-9 and the reason is obvious (stylus replacement).
Now finally after 190 hours play my AT-ART9 slightly outperforms my AT-ML180/OCC sample, on the Trans-Fi linear tracker. The high register is a bit more refined, so seems I get more musical and natural performance from the ART9. My reference MC so far.

My next MC to evaluate will be the Highphonic MC-R5, can hardly wait to begin listening to this great vintage LOMC. It has been hailed as one of the finest MC carts so it will very interesting if the modern ART9 can hold its position. In my system.
No it can´t. Now with the vintage Highphonic MC-R5 no more listening fatigue which has been an issue with that ART9. Additionally the MC-R5 can be listened on higher volume level without increased feel of distortion I noticed with ART9.
Highphonic performs very dynamically and very cleanly, less artificial sounds and more music, and tracks all the Telarc 1812 Overture cannons with ease at 1.1 g. Absolute MC reference in my system today.
Now finally after 190 hours play my AT-ART9 slightly outperforms my AT-ML180/OCC sample, on the Trans-Fi linear tracker. The high register is a bit more refined

@harold-not-the-barrel  interesting, tried 100k Ohm loading for your AT-ML180 ? If you loaded it at 47k Ohm then with 100k Ohm you can improve high register of your AT-ML180 MM