budget cart help

hey all, i'm new to the analog world and need a little help. i recently acquired a JVC QL-A75 turntable. the stylus on the cartridge that came with it is broken so i am in the market for a new cartridge. The local shop where i plan on having the cart installed has these in stock:

Grado black, green, blue and gold
Shure M97XE

I am not looking to spend more than about $200, so my question is, which of these would be best? the cost to performance ratio is what i'm looking at. as in, i'm sure the Grado Gold is the best of the bunch but is it $100 better than the Shure? Or is there even a big difference among lower end carts?

I am not opposed to ordering something online and i was intrigued by the Ortofon's and have heard good things. so my last question is, what other carts are out there for less than $200 that would fit well with what i have? i was specifically looking at the Ortofon 2M Red or the OM10 or OM5E.

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks
What cartridge is mounted on the TT?

It may be worth pursuing a replacement stylus, depending upon what it is.
I have a Ortofon Red and it is quite good; also the Denon 110 high output MC is very good and a little over a $100 when I bought mine.
The best inexpensive cartridge I've heard is an Ortofon M20FL. With 4.0 mV output you can run it with any phono stage that has at least 38 dB of gain. Compliance is 20. You'll find plenty of comments about it through Google. Here's one from Audiogon:


It isn't in production anymore, but you can usually find it as new old stock on ebay for less than $200. Unfortunately, I don't see any on ebay right now, but there's one listed on Audio Circle for $155.


I have no connection to the seller. If for some reason you don't like it (doubtful), you can easily resell it. They go like hotcakes.
Back again:

Is the tonearm straight or curved/S-shaped?

The deck originally came with one arm, but with the option of a straight or curved tone arm wand (think the S-wand added mass, but not certain).

There was also a factory supplied moving coil cartridge that was unusual in that the stylus was modular and could be replaced by the owner/user.

If it comes with an undesirable after market cartridge you still need to ID and research the tonearm as the new cartridge should to be a synergystic match between the two.

The difference between inexpensive Grado and Sure cartridges (two mentioned so far), as far matching them up with a tonearm, is not a small one.

In other words I don't want to see you to purchase a "good" cartridge that will end up performing poorly with your tonearm.
The best bang for the buck is likely the cheapest one. I haven't owned an AT3600, but I'm currently using their very similar CN5625AL (purchased locally for $32) and it's working great on my LP12/Ittok combination. From your list, I've also enjoyed the M97xE, Grado Green, and Grado Blue. Having enjoyed other Grado models, though just up to the Statement Platinum1, I believe the Green is the best bang for the buck in their line.

Dekay makes a good point about getting the right match for your arm. Grados worked a lot better in the damped arm of my Well Tempered than in the Ittok on my Linn. I don't know much about the Q damping of your JVC, but it might work a treat with a Grado cartridge. If it were me, I'd take a chance on the Grado Green. Nice thing about buying from a local dealer is that if he mounts it up and it's not a good combination, you'll likely just be able to try something else and not get charged for the one that didn't work well.
thanks for all of the responses!

the cartridge that is currently mounted is an MC-200E. The stylus (DT-200E) would cost at least $136 (per LPGear.com), hence the search to outright replace the cart.

the table came with both straight and curved tonearms. i have the straight on there currently, but that's only because i dont know which is better haha.

how do you "match up" carts with tonearms? what specs of each do i have to look at in order to make sure that they are compatible?

my search has recently led me to the Nagaoka carts as well. does anyone have any experience with these? if so, which model is a good "starting point"? i dont want to have to upgrade the stylus too soon. i was looking at the MP-110, 150, and 200.
I like Grado sound so I would go for Gold. Whether it would be the best match with your tonearm I don't think we can know. But that's what I would try first.
A couple of comments:

The straight tonearm is for high compliance (MM) carts weighing between 4-17 grams. The curved arm is for low compliance (MC) carts weighing between 8-34.5 grams. You'll find this in the Service Manual at Vinyl Engine. In short, your tonearm is very flexible and can probably accommodate any of the cartridges mentioned here.

The modern way to match a cartridge and tonearm is to find the resonant frequency and try to land between 8 and 12 Hz. But the calculation can't be done if you don't know the effective mass of the tonearm or the compliance of the cartridge. No need to worry. Audiophiles got by for a long time without crunching these numbers. Some seasoned folks dismiss the exercise as a waste of time. JVC didn't list the effective mass of your tonearm, so there's no point in worrying about the equation. I just wanted to point it out because you asked.

I stand by my recommendation for the Ortofon M20FL. It's an unheard of giant killer. Check out this forum:

best cartridge under $500
Dear Maindenhel: I think that many of the advise cartridges here are very good ones but if I be " obligate " to choose between them I stay with Mingles advise: Ortofon M20FL Super, this is a lot lot better cartridge that what its price or " look " can tell you and like Mingles point out: if happen that you don't like it ( that I doubt it. ) then you can re-sale very fast and maybe at higher price that you buy it.

Regards and enjoy the music,