Budget MC Suggestions?

I've been back into vinyl for over a year now, enjoying it all immensely. I have a Thorens TD-320 with Shure V15VxMR playing through a Gram Amp 2 SE phono stage and I do love the sound. But I've been reading so much about the superior sonic quality of low output MC that I've gotten very curious. To the best of my knowledge, in 35 years of listening to records I've never heard an MC cart. So, I'm wondering two things. First, is it possible on a shoestring budget (say $300 for cartridge and phono stage or transformer, used is fine) to find an MC set-up that will sound better than my present MM set-up? If so, what preamp and cart do you recommend? If it's not possible on that budget, how much does one have to invest in MC to outperform the V15-Gram Amp 2SE set-up? Second, what exactly are the sonic improvements I should expect to hear? Thanks, Rich
1. No

1a. See #1

1b. $400+ Denon 103r, about 250, & K&K step up, about 200

2. Detail, detail , detail!

Some would say that your Shure is a better setup than the Denon. I think they are both fine cartridges for the money, and use the 103r myself.

I'd say if you enjoy it that much, don't screw with it. All that will do is get you started wondering how much better the next level of upgrades are. Then you will fall blindly into the never ending upgrade fever, spend all your money, lose job, wife & dog in the pursuit of audio nirvana. Then, you'll end up selling it all and go back to where you started.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it!!!!
I have used the V15VxMR in the past but not on the RB 250 that I have now. It was on a Music Hall with the Pro-ject arm. It really is a very good cartridge. I currently have the 103R that Jphii recommended. It is not broken in yet, neither is the RB 250, but I believe that I can already here a difference with the low compliant Denon. There seems to be more magic and detail, especially in the background.

I have a new V15VxMR in transit, $217 from Beach Audio, so I will be able to give a good side-by-side using the RB250 in a week or two. I'm not familiar with your arm or phono stage so I can't help there. You may want to do some more investigating about your arm before moving to a low compliant MC.

Jphii is right about the change to MCs. I am currently feeding my new addiction to them.
What arm do you have mounted on the Thorens?

The Denon requires at least a very stiff medium or heavy mass tonearm. If it
is a Thorens tonearm I am not sure whether I will work with the low
compliance Denon. However if you have one of the Rega arms I would
certainly recommend the Denon as well.

Restock is right. In my overzealous pursuit of giving kudos to the 103r, I forgot that your arm has to be able to handle it! Like Dan I ordered a Shure also. SInce they are being discontinued, I figured why not.

See what I mean, once you get started....
Thanks for the help so far. I had to check with Steve at theanalogdept.com to figure out what the stock arm is on my TD-320. It's a TP16-IV. Its effective mass is 12.5 grams. Based on a formula on Steve's site I plugged in the weight of the DL-103 (8.5 g) and the compliance (which if I'm reading internet info correctly is 56 cm) and learned that this arm/cart combo will put my resonant frequency out of the recommended range of 8 - 12 hz. (THIS IS NOW EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT THE SUBJECT!) So, it appears, if these numbers are correct, that the DL-103 would not mate well with my rig. Oh well.

So, there's also been good reviews for the AT-OC9ml/II. I've tried to discover the cart weight and compliance for this cart but have had no luck. Does anyone have that info? Also, will the AT cart give me the same results as the Denon MC cart (vs. my v15vxmr) -- more air, greater detail, just more musicality? Thanks again,
The AT-OC9/II weighs 8 grams (don't know the value when expressing to tenths of a gram) and has a compliance rating of 9 cu.

I don't know if this cartridge sounds better than the Denon DL-103R but I seem to recall seeing several people post on Audio Asylum that they liked the AT more than the Denon.

I'm pretty sure the AT will put much less wear on your LPs than the DL-103R. The AT-OC9/II uses a microline stylus and recommends 1.25 -1.75 grams of tracking force. The DL-103R uses a conical stylus and requires 2.3 - 2.7 grams tracking force. A conical stylus has a smaller surface area contact with records than elliptical, Shibata, and Fineline styli. Thus, the higher tracking force coupled with smaller surface contact are means the DL-103R is likely to put more wear on your records. I love Denon cartridges but will never try these high tracking force, conical stylus versions because of the potential for excessive record wear.

One counter argument to keep in mind is this: The conical stylus will ride higher in the groove. If wear is more excessive, when it is time to replace the DL-103R, you can then change to an elliptical/fineline/Shibata design which will ride deeper in the groove and probably will bypass some of the wear.

Mr. Kidknow
I figure the Denon 103 would have a cartridge resonance of about 13Hz on your arm Winegasman,and this is just about perfect anyway and would be a good match.With resonance you have to get it away from the danger zone of below 8Hz really.To raise it to 13Hz is quite good and a figure I would be really happy with.This would not interfere with low level music signals coming in at say 15Hz(Church Organ)and is well away from the mechanical resonances of the table.Years ago Paol Ladegaard recommended 15-18Hz as the ideal.You are in no danger.
Thanks Stefani. If you're sure on the numbers then I guess I'm at these choices: (1) DL-103 or AT-OC9ML/II, and (2) a decent, inexpensive step-up transformer to mate with my Gram Amp 2SE. Thanks again, Rich
Now the compliance is either 5 or 6cu.These are my calculations-based on Total Weight-12.5gms for the arm plus fixtures(nuts and bolts)1gm,plus cartridge weight,8.5gms=22gms.Then you multiply this by the compliance(5cu vertical for the DL-103)Find the square root of this figure and divide it into 159.155(The magic formula)giving a cartridge resonance of 15Hz.Which is still fine as the Denon only goes down to 20Hz.I checked the Denon Japan site and they gave the compliance as 5cu although I had calculated for 6cu which I thought the cartridge was-my info is old or wrong? But either way you are O.K.It is low resonance which is the major problem.

Denon measures their compliance value at 100 Hz. Several people have posted over on Audio Asylum that Denon Cartridges (at least the 103 series) typically have compliance values around double the advertized value when measuring in the 10 Hz range. For example, the DL-103 and DL-103R are advertized as having 5 cu but people have been finding it's more like ~ 9 cu. Using your weights and the 9 cu value, I get 11.3 Hz resonance.

I don't own any of the DL-103 series cartridges so I can't speak from direct experience on this issue.

Mr. Kidknow
Thanks so far. I guess I'm going to keep my eye out for a used DL-103 or a used AT-OC9ML/II and get whichever comes along at a reasonable price first.

Now, as far as a preamp for an MC, it seems to me to make more sense to get a stand-alone phono preamp rather than a DIY stepup transformer kit. Does anyone have any experience with either of these 2 preamps (Musical Fidelity X-LP or Rotel RQ-970BX), which both handle MC and which are both available used right now? Thanks for your help, Rich
denon dl160 is a very nice cartridge and high output, too..less than 200 landed from audio cubes...not as good as the 103 (and its variants) but it also does not require a transformer
new dl103 is 199 I think new from audio cubes
conicals make contact with more of the record groove while elliticals and others touch less of the groove giving them more detail. so an extra gram isn't going to cause more wear since the weight is spread out and not as concentrated as an ellitical.