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.
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.
Hi folks,
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.


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Call Peter at Soundsmith and get his thoughts.  He did excellent work replacing the cantilever and stylus on my Cardas Myrtle Heart, and was very accessible when I wanted to talk to him.  Probably the best $450 I ever spent.