Bottom Rung Koetsu..

Was thinking of going with a MC cartridge and a dealer recommened a Koetsu Black. (about $1200) The Black is, of course, the bottom of the Koetsu line. Though the price isn't cheap, I have always been a bit leary about bottom of the product-line items in terms of value. Anyone have experience with this cartridge or have comparisons to other similarly priced cartridges? Thanks
Any Koetsu is a good cartridge. The question is do you like the sound? I like the Koetsu sound. Another cartridge to consider in this price range is the Shelter 901. Some consider it to be the best sounding cartridge of all. This is very subjective. Both the Shelter 901 and 501 provide excellent price/performance ratio. They are low output MC with about 9-10 compliance number. I think the weight is about 7-8 grams. Check the EIFL Export website from Japan.
I use the Koetsu Black with a Rega 600 and Michell gyrodec...I am quite happy with the sound. Have also heard good things about the Shelters but have not listened to one in person.
Good Luck!
In its time--a long while ago--Koetsu Black and Denon DL 103D were considered roughly equal. You can buy a new 103D for $229, which I see as a great bargain. I got a second one, 20 odd years after my first, and enjoy it as much as my Koetsu Rosewood Signature in another system. Email me for how to contact Denon if you're interested.
Tom, I also use a DL103 in my system. I agree with your assessments. Many times, however, people cannot believe that a low priced cart like the DL103 can compete with something like a Koetsu. And sometimes they just want that name brand recognition. Also, he doesn't tell us what his tonearm is, and we both know how tough the DL103 is on arm bearings. The Koetsu and Shelters are a little easier to manage at 9 or 10 in compliance than the DL103 at 5. It is one stiff mama. But I love the sound of mine. I use a Origin Live Silver 250 arm and it handles the Denon real well.
Twl, your comments are on point with respect to having not mentioned my TT/arm. It is a Nottingham Spacedeck/Spacearm. I, for one, have no problems with achieving sonic pleasure at a good price. Name brands be damned if there is a suitable "giant killer" to be had.

I appreciate these other suggestions and welcome more. I listen to jazz, classic-rock, and blues in about that order of frequency. I like detailed, extended top end, transparent midrange for vocals, and a tight, punchy bass (NOT "BOOMY", though - I just HATE when that happens). I should add that I briefly auditioned the Koetsu Black on MY TT/arm at a local delaer's shop and found the Koetsu to have amazing detail and timbre on the top end, but slighlty lacking in bass, for my taste. Of course, the bass could well improve upon break-in - the cartridge I auditioned was "cold-out-of-the box".
I have owned and used both cartridges over a period of many years in a Well Tempered arm. My samples must differ from the above as the Denon, good as it is, is not close to being competitive with the Black in any area. It is particularly bettered by the Koetsu Black in smoothness, detail, dimensionality and bass response. In this case, you get what you pay for, and not by a small margin.
Motdathird, I think that the DL103 is not a good match for a unipivot tonearm. Its compliance is so stiff(the stiffest cartridge made), that I think it will "wag" your tonearm all over the lot. It sounds to me like the Koetsu Black you listened to was doing that to some degree also, since you noticed a lack in bass weight. Koetsu usually has a kind of warm type sound. Most unipivots prefer a higher compliance cartridge that does not destabilize their attitude. I read the Nottingham web page on the Spacearm and they use "rods" to stabilize, like a tightrope walker, instead of silicone fluid. Since I haven't used the Spacearm, I can't say for sure it wouldn't work, but I am very skeptical about it. Unipivots do some things very well, but handling an extremely low compliance is generally not one of them. IMO, the 103 is a cartridge for medium mass gimbal-bearing arms with bearings of the highest quality and closest tolerance. If you stray from this formula with the DL103, you are moving into risky territory. I have seen some lower-end tonearm bearings literally ruined by a 103 in a year's use. The clearances had been chattered open to a point that the arm was useless for decent reproduction. Of course on a unipivot, you don't have to worry about that. But the stability of that tonearm in tracking that cartridge is a big concern to me. I'd be looking for a compliance of around 15 or more if I had the Spacearm. I would try listening to the ZYX cartridge line. They are a very innovative, music oriented analog company that makes some excellent carts in your price range.(100 series)They are much better suited to your arm(compliance 15)than the ones we have been discussing. They can be purchased from Music Direct online. You may also try the better Dynavectors. They are alot of cart for the money, but I think the ZYX is better. The arm/cart interface is very important and needs to be considered as a package. A great arm and a great cart do not necessarily make a great sound together.
Hey guys, you have made my day! I have been a day 1 fan of the 103D and I thought it was LONG GONE. I looked and looked for one when my 103D got old due to the "discovery" of CDs. I have gone through the $5K cd decks and DACs, and even now with a Sony ES SCAD, I have been longing for my turntable, but I have held off putting it back into action because I've been looking for a Threshold FET 10PC. I've had no luck, but I've got a line on a Pass X Ono. That didn't really intrigue me enough to buy it until right now. I had purchased a Grado reference wood body recently, set my table up again, and bought a Forte PH-1 line stage (as a substitute until I get a 10PC or X-ono), but it didn't sound right to me and I've left it in the system waiting to be "tuned". My arm matched the 103D like magic, and sounded like heaven. The Grado, although I know it was new out of the box, sounded like something I "couldn't deal with now, and haven't". Yes, I tried the Black many years ago, and a demo Rosewood for a week, but I went back to the 103D as the best buy. Fortunately I've set up many a table, learning from starting out with an LP12 and many different tone arms. I ended up with an Oracle Delphi (mk? I've had so many and done so many upgrades, it would be a mutt) and a MDC-800 tonearm. THE ARM by David Fletcher, and I know of no better arm in the world. In my recent table setup senario, I called the very kind gentleman in charge of tone arm engineering at Sumiko. I was asking what maintanence I should do on THE ARM since it had been idle for 5 years and he told me, "nothing". I don't mean he didn't tell me anything, he told me to do nothing. He said the tolerances on that arm were so strict that it would either work perfectly, or fail. The main thing he stressed was that it be kept in a clean enviroment. The down side of the conversation was that if it failed, I would have to replace it, and the only thing close was the top of the line SME. No repair for THE ARM, but nothing compares. Great huh? Well luckily for me MY ARM still worked perfectly. It is in a very dust free enclosure. No dust cover on the Delphi, but the custom built enclosure has always kept my equipment extremely clean. How the hell did I get off on this? Anyway, the 103D is an incredible sounding cartridge, when mated well. Now that I know they are still available, I need one ASAP. I did use a D on a couple of less than perfect mates, Srinx (can't remember the spelling)PU2 and PU3, a couple of Linns, SMEs, and none did total justice to this cartridge, still VERY nice sounding. So if you can get a 103D for $225., upgrade your arm if it does not sound great. It would be money more wisely spent. Although the Keotsus always sounded great, as did MANY other cartridges on my table/arm combo, none were a better deal than the D. People have raved for years about the Blue Point Special being the best money deal in a cartridge, I would say they MISSED the clear winner. Tom P.S., somebody email me on where to pick one up, or better yet a re-tip for mine.