Best phono cartridge under $350

...Yeah, I know. For 350 bucks you can't expect to compete with the stratospheric but like all things in life there is always the "Best of breed" type of performer in any given price range. The Turntable is a Project Carbon Debut Esprit SB with a carbon arm.   Any thoughts on the subject will be appreciated.

Best regards and Highest Fidelity to all.
Post removed 
Take a look at Grado - some great carts for around $350 and should work nicely with your arm.

They offer stellar perfomance in an affordable package

Regards - Steve
Nagaoka MP150. when the stylus goes, you can upgrade to a MP200 boron stylus for $130. Very musical.
With your tonearm Denon DL103r must be avoided! People always posting "classic" recommendation without even checking effective mass of the arm. Also it is not a $350 cartridge as you need very expensive SUT to make it even work! And it has conical tip.

You can buy great cartridge even cheaper than your $350 budget if you will look for the Ortofon M20FL Super (nude FineLine stylus). On that picture you see my Garrott P77 next to my old M20FL Super. Search for Ortofon M20FL in Raul’s MM thread here on audiogon, this is a great starter! Last year a friend with the same turntable has bought Stanton 881s mkII (Stereohedron Stylus) and he throwed away his stock M2 Red. My favorite Stanton is SC-100 WOS with sapphire coated cantilever, but it’s pretty rare.

Make sure to find reasonably priced cartridge with advanced stylus profile like FineLine or Stereohedron or Shibata. Don’t buy elliptical or conical. And for your turntable look for MM/MI cartridges. My current Ortofon M20FL Super comes with NOS stylus in the box (never used) and styli are still available online for this model. Let me know if you need it.
+ 1 for @chakster ´s thoughts on the Denon DL 103 R. This cartridge is low compliance and low output, and works best in a heavy arm. 
Yeah, Ortofon 2M Blue. I also have a Grado Reference Platinum 2 and I finally love it, but it took a lot of fiddling to get it set up right. 
If your phono stage can handle LOMC, then, in my carefully selective listening opinion, an AT OC9/II is your best choice (shop around and you can meet your price point). If not, there are a lot of MM / MI carts and a couple of HOMC carts that will provide a lesser, but probably satisfying performance. That’s my opinion.
The Nagaoka MP series is, well, unbelievable.  Grado is nice but very colored and not as dynamic as MP 200.  If what you seek is reliability, value, ease of setup and replaceable stylus the Nagaoka series of MM cartridges is extraordinary in every way.  My comparisons have included Grado, Soundsmith, Goldring 1042, Audio Technica, etc, etc.  Try a Nagaoka and I'm confident you won't look elsewhere.


Chakster is absolutely correct. I wouldn't shy away from an old MM cartridge that is recommended in the very large Raul MM thread. That said, before actually buying one, I would check to make sure a quality replacement stylus is available. I know they are available for several mentioned in that thread.  JICO makes great replacements. If you buy a Grado, they still sell a lot of replacement stylus's for their non-wood models as well.        
Amen, samulb . I have zero doubt that Nagoka MP series is unbeatable at its price points . And above its price points .
I can add to the list of great cartridges for relatively low price:
the Grace F-8 Custom which is looks like Level II, but silver color.
If those old F-8 models supplied with advanced original Grace styli of the second generation (Level II) like RS-8U (Utility 4) then it’s nude Line Contact diamond. Second generation styli (plastic holders) are always square shape, the round shape plastic holders are not Level II. Actually it’s a killer combination and F8 are always cheaper than F9.