Cartridge Advice Sought

I re-entered the vinyl fold about 3 months ago and have been really enjoying it. Currently, my analog rig comprises a Pro-Ject RPM 5 table and 9c carbon fibre tonearm mounted with a Clearaudio Aurum Classics Wood MM cartridge, with signal being sent to a Channel Islands Audio VPP-1 phono stage and VAC-1 power supply. For the money, I think the Aurum is a fine entry-level product, but I've been thinking about the next step and the weak point in the set-up is probably the cartridge. Budget is $400 to $700.

Some of the carts that have caught my eye are: another Clearaudio in their MM range (Beta S, Virtuoso, Maestro), Benz Micro Ace, Denon 103R, Ortofon Rondo (Blue, Red, Bronze), Dynavector (20X, 19A, 17D2), Nagaoka MP-50. Any advice or suggestions would be most welcome. I listen mainly to various types of jazz, with some rock and classical thrown in for good measure.


Max, respectfully disagree, very nice rig, but the table/arm combo is the weak point. I would suggest resisting the urge to upgrade and saving for a better table and arm even if it takes a year or so. Additionally, a record cleaning machine would be a good investment. In the mean time, invest in some good software. Most records are currently going for fire sale prices.
Hi Marty,

Thanks for your post. Could you elaborate on why you feel the ProJect gear is the weak point? I'd also be interested in any suggestions of table/arm combos.


Max, it's kind of a bad answer, but experience guides me in this one. Linn pretty much taught us all in the early 1970s that a very inexpensive cartridge on a very good turntable will sound way, way better than the other way around. Right now, your phono replay system is very well balanced, all of the pieces performing to an equivilent level. This is not to say that improving the phono cartridge will not improve the sound, it is just that it will not give you the maximum return on investment, or bang for the buck as it were. An analogy might be to take a nice, high-value automobile, like a Honda Accord, and put $800.00 Firestone racing tires on it. It may handle a bit better, or not, but it probably is not the best way to allocate funds. Probably better to bank the money and start saving for the Beemer, or Lexus, or whatever the next step is. Just my thoughts, hardly gospel.
There is new review of this turntable They recommend an Ortofon Rondo Red.This is what the reviewer used to extensively investigate the RPM 5.This could be your next move.
Thanks for the advice, good food for thought. I've done a bit of research on other 'tables and some that I've drooled over are models in the lower half of the range of brands like Acoustic Signature and Clearaudio.

Stefan, thanks for your input.