Try moving magnet, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the performance and sound quality and value. Audio-Technica VM540ML is my current favorite. At $250 it’s a massive bargain.
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Have Andy Kim at phonocartridgeretipping.com or Steve Leung at VAS Audio quote you a retip with a new boron cantilever and microridge or line contact stylus.
Send it to either of them and you'll probably have it back within a couple of weeks and it will likely sound considerably better than any of the alternative choices you've listed above.
ElusiveDisc.com lists "$1449.99" for Re-Tip/Exchange on a Transfiguration Axia. Sounds like a decent option; not sure why Needledoctor couldn’t help more. Give the other guys a call and see what they say. They’re getting some 40% cut for simply passing along an 8 oz package, so you’d think they would be eager to help.
I’d save a bit longer and get what you want rather than potentially settling for a lesser $1K cartridge. I’m also of the opinion that if you love a cartridge that needs work, keep it original by only having work done by the manufacturer. Otherwise get a different cartridge, and sell the body to someone who will get the work done wherever they like.
Isn’t Transfiguration Japanese? Sometimes you can search & import cartridges directly from Japan for greatly discounted prices. Varies a lot by brand, though.
I’ve heard so many stories like yours over the years. We really need a vinyl-junkie PSA: have your cartridges LOCKED away when the cleaning lady comes. It’s not enough simply to tell them to stay away from the audio gear. It’s NEVER enough! They must be physically restricted from coming into contact with your precious cartridge.
Hi folks- thanks for the suggestions and info!
I have reached out to both Steve @ VAS and Andy at phonocartridgeretipping.com and both have indicated they can replace with a boron cantilever. Do any of you have experience with both? Are they on par with quality and service?
Regarding future protection, I may try to craft a cartridge cover that is easier to put on than the one that came with it, but also look into a new plexi cover that will fit the JMW 10 tonearm. Any one out there have a cover that might fit that they would swap for the one I have that fits a VPI Scout with 9 in arm?
tomic601 no jinx, just good karma :-). I will def use cardboard as a defense on cleaning days if I don't have anything else.
The Absolute Sound review comparing the $249 Audio-Technica VM540ML against the $649 VM760SLC to be nearly equivalent in performance, not just in technical detail, but in communication of emotional content.
Your pain is felt.
The Blackird is a great cart. It is does however, have the exposed cantilever. It will break in a microsecond due to loss of awareness.
Have you considered the AT ART9? Just a little north of your budget. I personally found the ATOC9 III great for half as well.
I used both for several years on my VPI.
Can you expand on why you would suggest someone should buy a used cartridge over a retipped cartridge?@big_greg
J.Carr explained it on this forum much better than me. But i will try again.
Just because you, me or anyone else have no idea about canculations made by the original cartridge designed for a certain high-end model - this is the reason why certain type of cantilever and stylus has been used (most of them are exclussively made for one particular brand and not available to anyone else, never ).
You can "upgrade" only cheap/average cartridges when you change one cantilever to another, or one stylus type to another. But your retipper can’t upgrade a state of the art high-end cartridge made by well knowd cartridge designers, just becase your retipped has no clue about many aspect of the original design, material and more important a calculation to match them together.
The right way to "retip" or "refurbish" a high-end cartridge is to send it to the original manufacturer and original designer who can work on it.
If you work on it with somebody else then you have no idea what you will get and it’s no longer an original cartridge. Maybe you will like it, maybe not, but this is not the original cartridge (cantilever, stylus mass, lengh, thickness can be way different compared to the original).
It’s funny when people are so concerned about cartridge alignment and micron difference between the protractors, vta or sra, but can accept a third-party cantilever or stylus instead of the original (sometimes unique) stylus/cantilever combo on their MC cartridges.
I don’t care what a honest retipper will tell me, i know that he does not have an access to the original materials available only to the original manufacturer. Also i’ve seen a pictures of retipped cartridges under microscope and compared them to the originals. The originals are way more accurate (or completely different).
And if we’re talking about just re-tip (on existing cantilever) then you will see the enormous amount of glue added by the retipper.
This is why i think it’s better to buy another cartridge NEW or LIGHTLY USED if the cost of the retip/refurbish by the original manufacturer is too much for a user.
So many great MC or MM cartridges available on the market for under $1k (new or used), this is why i think an OP could simply try another cartridge made by well known designer.
Some good points.
I've had my Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood retipped twice, once by Soundsmith and once by Andy Kim. In both instances it seemed to perform and sound the same, but of course time passed and my audio memory isn't that great. It's true different materials were used. I think that some might consider the ability to choose a different cantilever material a plus.
I bought a used Van Den Hul cartridge that arrived with no diamond on the stylus. I sent that to Van Den Hul and not only did he retip it, he completely rebuilt it. Definitely a different level of work and done by the creator, A J Van Den Hul himself.
Yes, the story about VdH cartridge refurbidhed by VdH himself is a good example of my theory, because the SoundSmith or even less qualified retippers (there are a bunch of them around) in this case is the worst scenario for this High-End cartridge. VdH is using exclussive materials for his High-End cartridges. He's expensive, but you know why.
Trying completely different cartridge is also good idea, because there are many cartridges of any kind that we never tried yet.
thanks for the further dialog. I did explore trying to get the cartridge repaired by Transfiguration, but I cannot get a response from them. Unfortunately, I have heard that Mr Seiji Yoshioka, the master crafter of Transfiguration cartridges, has died, which may make it impossible to repair.
So, what to do with a cartridge that retails for $2450 that has a broken stylus? I can't afford a new one, but didn't want to give up on this one. I have sent it to Steve Leung at VAS. He is going to replace with a boron line contact cantilever. I understand that it is not the original, but I am hoping it will sound better than any cartridge I could get for under $500.
I think it is also wise to acquire another new cartridge at some point as a backup and for comparison. I do want to stick with low output MC to pair with my EAR 834P.
I will report back on how things go. It will be another 1-2 weeks before I get it back.
I understand that it is not the original, but I am hoping it will sound better than any cartridge I could get for under $500.
Why do you think so ? Last year i’ve bought on ebay Dynavector 23RS MR with Ruby cantilever NOS and Dynavector KARAT 17DS MR with Diamond cantilever for about $500 each. Diamond is the most expensive and exotic cantilever. Both carts are fully original, both with MicroReach tips. Both are LOMC made in the 80’s.
The quality can be superb even for a relatively low price, you never know how cheap you can buy unused vintage cartridge online.
Instead you paid $500 just for the cantilever/stylus and repair fee. Of cource it’s up to you, but the price for repair job and materials is equal to the price of the new cartridge. I have no idea why people think that $500 for repair with third-party parts (not the original) is cheap in this case?
If you’re getting a $2400 cartridge fixed for under $500 its $2000 cheaper than buying a new one.
If you’re sending your High-End cartridge to a third-party vendor you have no idea what you will get. You digits means nothing. If you can’t send a cartridge for rebuild to the original manufacturer (read a cartridge designer) why you’re buyin such expensive cartridge? Just to send it to third-party vendor ? I just don’t understand the logic, really. You want a US vendor to fix a Japanese cartridge from a well known designer ? If the original designer is available this is the best way to fix a cartridge if you really like the cartridge.
My rebuilts have sounded good or better than new.
I often read such comments on the forums, seems like a third-party service is always better than original cartridges voiced and tuned by legendary cartridge designers?
You’re free to believe in this BS, but you can ask any cartridge designer (if you can) why it’s not true, luckily we have Jonathan Carr on our forum and he explained why it’s not a good idea.
Your cartridge can be better than the original only if you’re upgrading an entry level cartridge with some better and more expensive parts such as cantilever and stylus tip.
Not everyone has the love or trust for vintage carts as you do.
Of course, but destroying ultra High-End cartridges (voiced by world’s best cartridge designers) with third-party vendors is not for everyone too. It’s like leaving your Porsche at Ford Car Service to replace the most important part in the engine with "something else" to say "ohh, that was cheaper and much better than the original". It could be a project, experiment or whatever, but definitely not the right way to treat ultra high-end cartridges. This is a compromise, nothing else.
I think that you will be extremely happy with your retipped Axia. You're retipping like for like with boron cantilever and as long as the stylus is similar in profile I very strongly doubt that you'll hear any difference, certainly any significant difference, from the way your Axia played before its demise.
And I also strongly feel that it will perform well above the level of any of your new options listed in your original post.
You should keep us posted when your cartridge returns from VAS.
Dear @rykk999: The Axia is very good quality performer and no maters what no re-tippers can do the job for the cartridge can performs as the original.
You need to stretch your money to take the @mulveling advise: 1,499.00, this is not a true re-tip but you will receive a " new " Axia.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
It’s funny to see our Mexican posts when he’s contradict with himself.
Once he told us that only Ortofon can do the job to refurbish Ortofon cartridges, because they are so special and have an access to their own exclussively made materials, now he said that for another cartridge brands it does not matter. What a BS! This is typical double standards!
If anyone would like to re-cantilever VdH cartridge not by Mr.VdH himself, but at VAS or at Kim then it’s a downgrade for sure. Much lower price, but a downgrade in quality. This rule is the same for all ultra high-end cartridges from well known designers.
You want to believe that all the cartridges must be send to SoundSmith or whatever retipper for an "upgrade" ?? Mystically 99% of the owners yelling "my cartridge is better than the original", but only a few can actually compare an original cartridge and another refurbished sample not by faulty memories, but in real time. We often see a refurbished cartridges for sale for some reason.
It also make me laugh when audiophiles claiming they are able to hear a tiny the difference in VTA or VTF or micron difference in cartridge alignment, or even a f*****g fuse (omg), but not able to hear an entirely different cantilever/stylus mounted by some third-party vendor on a bench at his garage on some ultra high-end cartridge from world famous cartridge designer who used exclussive parts for his cart, voiced and tuned accordingly after a years of try and errors.
Read an old J.Carr’s comment and learn a bit:
Changing only the stylus will alter the sound less than if the cantilever material is changed. When a cartridge is designed, the designer will consider the moving mass (sum of the stylus, cantilever and coils), the resonant character of the cantilever, and the (sonic) propagation velocity of the cantilever (affected by the cantilever’s mass and rigidity), then choose the suspension and dampers accordingly. If you change the cantilever material, you are effectively throwing the original designer’s calculations away.
@chakster I understand the point you are trying to make about retipping not being original but if I can get it 95% of the way there, that is already satisfactory for many people. You have to understand that 5% is sacrificed because of damage and small shifts. Just think of it like destroying a car engine. Even if you get a replacement engine from the manufacturer and when to the dealership to install it, it will not be the same as original because it won’t fit exactly like original with but it will feel very close and be driveable and many people are fine with that.
chakster"It’s funny to see our Mexican posts"
Why is it that you like to refer to people based on they're ethnicity rather than they're actual name you refer to people as Slavic or Polish or Mexician why don't you say they are black or Jewish or Muslim all of these people have names it is disrespectful to not use them even if it is just a screen name it is more meaningful and respectful than referring to them by their ethnicity?
I understand the point you are trying to make about retipping not being original but if I can get it 95% of the way there
With all my respect, i think it depends of the exact cartridge model.
I’ve owned refurbished cartridges, i wish to believe they are very close to the original, but when i compared them to the original they are not even close. Comparison is the key, we must have two samples to compare A/B in our systems. I did that, not even close (it wasn’t your job, but another popular retipper).
Yes, this is the reason why most of the manufacturers of ultra high-end do not bother with refurbishing or re-tip, they are simply offering a brand new cartridge for 60% of the retail (under their exchange programm via official distributors).
I am not the one who’s ready to pay 60% of retail when it comes to $3-5k cartridge, but for many serious audiophiles it is not a problem at all. My point is that when someone jump to a premium category he must stay there, it will cost a lot, but this is a premium segment (it’s always like that). For "normal" people we have tons of amazing cartridges to choose for $300-1500 (NOS, still sealed, lightly used or even brand new from honest sellers, from grey market sellers etc).
It’s not necessary trying to be super cool buying a Porsche if you can’t even pay for service. This is my point.
I appreciate the lively discussion but please keep to the topic and facts and try not to get "bent" out of shape (yes, pun intended :-).
As mentioned, Transfiguration is not able to do any repairs. I understand that the original artist will normally be the best way to ensure best results in replacing cantilever and stylus, but that is not available. I am not sure what percentage of the whole the cantilever and stylus make (likely very high), but the rest of the cartridge is a great base to work with and one that I am not ready to throw away.
As a mechanical engineer with semiconductor structure and interconnect experience, I know a little bit about materials and systems. The cantilever and diamond stylus are part of the cartridge system. Obviously, there are other parts that make a great cartridge, including housing design/material, magnet design/material, windings and coil design/material, and overall geometry. And of course quality. High end cartridges are almost more a work of art than mass produced, robot made electronics. A large part of the cost is in labor that is highly specialized. So yes, Van den Hul is best at repairing his own work.
That said, just as in art (or counterfeit $100 bills) there are people who can approach the work of the masters. They may not be 100%, but they may be very good so that 99.9% of people would not know the difference. Another part is obviously materials - I am assuming the the available boron cantilevers with line contact stylus are of good quality.
I do not know if Steve at VAS is such a person, but I am willing to take the chance. From what I have heard from others and from him, he is careful and takes pride in his work. That is all I can ask for at this point.
I will let you know my perspectives once I get it back.
Buying a Porsche may not be about being super cool. It may be a dream that one would love to fulfill before leaving this earth. I also don't think it is about being super rich. It is about trying to fulfill one's dreams and desires given the lot one has. I am also a sports car and motorcycle enthusiast. Currently I drive a Honda Civic, but that doesn't mean I don't aspire towards a Porsche (or Aston Martin, or last model Viper). Regarding a motorcycle, I am the proud owner of a 2007 Ducati Monster S4RS. To my eye, this is not only the best looking Ducati, but an amazing rush with 140hp and 400lbs. I bought it used with under 10k miles at a third of what the previous owner had into it. And for the most part, I do my own maintenance - it is a labor of love.
Regarding my recent love of analog audio, I bought the best components that I could afford at the time. I am not rich, and out of the entire system (see my original post for details), the cartridge was the only component that I bought new. At that, I got an amazing deal and only paid $1100US from a high end european audio broker.
I have been extremely happy with the outcome and relish my listening time. For me, this has nothing to do with being super cool, but at this stage of my life (just turned 59) it is about trying to get the most out of every moment. I am generally the only person that even listens to my system. Right now my finances are not such that I can buy a new or used Axia.
Does that mean I shouldn't have bought it if I can't afford to buy a new one? Not to me. Hopefully my finances will improve (working hard on that :-) and I will also be able to buy a used Aston Martin at some point. For now I will do the best I can with what I have and (try to) enjoy each day to its fullest.
It’s a metaphor, nothing personal. You can ignore my statement (i don’t own a car and i don’t design cartridges), but read what a Lyra Cartridge designer (Jonathan Carr) posted long time ago, he is one of the most knowledgeable person on this forum when it comes to MC cartridges. I hope you know his own brand Lyra?
Boron cantilevers are all different, LineContact type diamonds are also different. This is what makes one cartridge different from another, but more important how all these parts work together and here we come to a calculation and some sort of secrets that only original cartridge designer understand.
I decided not to bother with my $4-5k LOMC cartridge when i realized no one can do what Nakatsuka-San is doing. Downgrading an ultra-high ends is not what i need. Instead, i just bought another cartridge and start my own reasearch by trying many different cartridges, they are all much lower cost (under $1.5). You know what? I am much more happy with a result. Same about refurbished or re-tipped vintage MM, the originals are superior, in fact most of them superior even compared to some very expensive MC (but this is another story).
I will repead that i often see re-tipped and refurbished cartridges on sale after people raving about them claiming they are better than the original.
Practically an MM and MI cartridges are so much better, even everyone’s favorite re-tipped always claiming the MI are much better than any MC (watch his lecture here). If Peter retipped many thousands cartridges and still pretty sure than MI is better then maybe all you need is his MI with replaceable stylus ?
Did the third party Transfiguration repair ever happen and if so how did it turn out?
I found this line in a Micheal Framer piece from Sept 2018 about the Ortophon Century but also covering a few recent deaths in the industry.
"Immutable Music’s Seiji Yoshioka, designer of the Transfiguration phono cartridges, passed away February 17, after a lengthy hospital stay. (I hadn’t written anything about this before because his family, which plans to keep the brand alive, wasn’t then ready to make an announcement.)"
This seems to hold out a faint hope for the future of existing Transfiguration cartridges but I've found nothing else so far on the net about the brand continuing.
My interest is I have a Proteus, which is still OK for now but will prove very difficult to replace when it wears out.
Hi folks, and yeti42-
I have received the repaired cartridge about 3 weeks ago now. I have held off writing anything as the new stylus has broken in. I tried to take some pics, but I do not have a macro lens and they did not turn out very well.
So- I can't claim to have the ear of a true audiophile, but I know what I like, and I really liked my set up. Again, I do not have any other cartridge to compare with. After reinstalling the repaired Axia I felt that the mids seemed a bit flat - this was noticeable with female vocals. As it has broken in, it has improved, but I can't help but feel that it is not as clean and transparent as the original. But, I may have been biased by some of the comments on this thread. To be fair, without a true A-B trial it is very hard to judge.
Overall, I would say that I am happy with the result, as I can once again listen to music! For $445 to repair a bent housing and install the new boron cantilever and line contact stylus, I believe the results are worth it, compared to buying something equivalent to the original.
In the future, I will purchase another cartridge (thanks all for the recommendations!), and then be able to compare.
For now, all is good, and I very carefully attach the cover and move the arm to the center of turntable when the cleaner comes.
This is not a pitch for any inherent superiority of MM cartridges as some believe; there are great examples of both MM and MC. However, I know the EAR very well and I can say with confidence that the MM section is inherently better sounding than the MC section (MM+transformers). If the overall gain structure of your system allows it you may want to consider an excellent MM instead. Its higher output (+3mv) would allow you to bypass the transformers for potentially much better sound.
I am sure others can offer suggestions as well. All of the MM’s that I have used with the EAR have been vintage MM’s and not that easy to find: AT ATML170-OCC, Empire 4000D III, Andante, Azden and Acutex LPM 420STR. All are excellent (the Andante not quite “excellent”). The EAR is a beautiful and fairly lush sounding unit and benefits from a cartridge that is not too “soft” sounding or lush itself. I found the Empire to be too soft sounding with the EAR in my all tube system. The best tonal balance was achieved with the Azden and the Acutex. Both those cartridges offered excellent definition and detail. I have not heard it, but the Ortofon 2M Black has been getting a lot of attention. Perhaps others will chime in. Good luck.
I am sure others can offer suggestions as well. All of the MM’s that I have used with the EAR have been vintage MM’s and not that easy to find: AT ATML170-OCC
AT-ML170 OCC is amazing MM cartridge, no doubt.
The AT-ML180 OCC or OFC is even better.
More affordable and not so rare is AT-ML150 OCC with Beryllium cantilever and MicroLine stylus ! Highly recommended if the budget is not high.
Rare Sony XL-50 (MM) is my new discovery (Boron Pipe cantilever).
I can add in the top list (they are very expensive): Grace F-14 or LEVEL II with Beryllium, Ruby, Sapphire or Boron cantilevers, those carts have the best profiles (MicroRidge). Amazing cartridges, expecially LC-OFC versions.
You can always try F-9 with some nice styli if the budget for Grace is not high.
Definitely the Victor cartridges: X-1II or X-1IIe
Well my Transfiguration Proteus is malfunctioning, don’t believe it is a stylus problem, discussed this in another thread. At any rate I think I am screwed. Fortunately I have an Ortofon Jubilee as a backup with about 800 hours on it.
I have yet to try an MM or MI. Has anyone tried an MM or MI with Allnic H3000? I am not in position to spend $4 to $5K on a cartridge and think it might be time to try something different.