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.
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.
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.
Dear @rykk999: Did you already ask to Elusive Disc about trough that link?