broken dreams - new cartridge help please!

I need help on selecting a replacement MC cartridge. Two years ago I put together my first serious vinyl system:

- Transfiguration Axia S MC cartridge
- VPI Scout 2 with upgraded heavy platter and JMW 10 tonearm
- EAR 83P preamp
- Line Magnetic LM-211 IA tube amp
- Legacy Studio HD Monitor speakers

Note I listed the cartridge first - I did a lot of research and perhaps spent an inordinate amount on it, but I got an amazing deal from a EU vendor from Audigon ($1100US - new in box). Loved the set up! Sound was better than I thought possible :-)

Now the sad part - last week my house cleaner snapped the cantilever off while dusting :-(. I had told her to leave the stereo to me to dust, but I guess the desire to clean what I hadn't for some time got the better of her. As the 10 JMW sticks out a bit from the VPI base and the acrylic dust cover no longer fits, it was exposed. Unfortunately, the plastic cantilever guard was such a difficult fit that I was more afraid of snapping the cantilever off trying to put it on and take off that I never used it.

I checked with Needle Doctor about replacing but as I suspected they cannot. I have emailed Immutable/Transfiguration but no response :-(

Sorry for the long preamble, but I had to commiserate with some one who might feel for me (my wife doesn't get it- she is happy listening to an Amazon Echo Plus).

Checking current prices on the Axia reveal $2450 new, $1600 used. Currently cannot afford that. I need to come in under $1000. Need some help from you more experienced audiophiles out there! My listening tastes are a bit eclectic, but center on rock and blues. Want to stick with a low output MC.

Here are some that I have been considering:
- Ortofon Quintet Black S MC
- Audio-Technica AT33Sa
- Dynavector 20X2L
- Sumiko Blackbird Low MC

I know some of these may retail over $1k, but I am not adverse to a low hour used cartridge or scouring the net for good deals.

Any help on the above options or alternatives would be very much appreciated :-)

Thanks, Rick.
It looks like there is a problem with Transfiguration doing any work right now, this is part of the OP dilemma.

If this is true then he may have little choice in the matter.
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.

There is much more (far more than what I have written above) to rebuilding a cartridge than affixing a new stylus or altering the cantilever. In over 30 years of involvement in the phono cartridge industry, I have not seen one retipper who has presented the entire story, who has effectively said "Here are the all of the considerations. Here are the cons as well as the pros. Make a wise choice that is best for you".

To retip a cartridge that was originally equipped with a stylus made by one manufacturer with one made by a different manufacturer is like rebuilding a Porsche engine with Jaguar pistons and crankshaft - the components used for rebuilding may be of high quality, but the design philosophy is rather different from the original.

@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).

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 ...

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.