Cartridge downgrade?

I have been using a Shelter 90x with my SSM for several years happily but it's getting on in age and I've been contemplating what to replace it with when it's time. My table has been upgraded to reference status(super platter, mini feet, 10.5i arm, rim drive). I've thought about many of the likely suspects that might go with this combo(Lyra Titan vs. Skala, Shelter Harmony vs. 9000, Air Tight PC-1, Dynavector XV-1s) I wonder though if I'm just assuming these higher level cartridges are better than mid range ones. In particular, I wonder if I should try out VPI's version of the Dynavector 20x and save $3-4 thousand. Just wondered if anyone has tried a similar so called "down grade" and been happy. Is it possible that these high priced cartridges are overrated or a I just being cheap?
I'll bet a Lyra Skala or even a Helikon will satisfy you. I am a converted Lyra line contact stylus guy for life, having owned Koetsu, Benz, Shelter and van den Hul.
The detail air, dynamic punch, balance and tracking ease are outstanding.
I know Benz hasn't lit fire on these pages, but you really should at least audition the Ebony LP or H. Ayre turned me on to mine, and there are a number of ears I respect who say they both are better than the Dyna XV1S.


Now that you have your LP working to your liking do you still miss the H as much? It sounded as though at one point you preferred the H.
Yes I did. ..but that was then and this is now. The LP has more delicacy, more inner detail, however it is an incremental upgrade. I could be happy with the H as well... I think.
So many great cartridges and so little chance of hitting the lotto. Ideally I think I'd like to have a spare 10.5i arm wand just to try out different cartridges. Maybe carefully selected used ones would be the way to go. Stringreen let me know when you're ready to unload that LP.
In this thread, I echo Stringreen's comments about the Benz LP:

This comes from a guy who loves sells Dynavectors.

Now, your question relates to ratcheting back your cartridge budget, and in this regard, an LP may be irrelevant.

I would consider the improvement from a Dynavector 20X to a 17D3 to be be well in excess of the small price differential between the two.

The Lyra line is markedly different from both Benz and Dynavector, and you will most definitely respond to one over the other. This is something only you can tell, and to a large extent is dependent on both your tonearm, turntable, and remainder of your system.

Sometimes, the answer "it depends ..." is the only valid one.

Thom @ Galibier
Yeah, I agree no one can tell you what you're going to like. I have nothing against expensive cartridges at all. I just wish the cost of trying out the "best" ones was less than $4-5 thousand. I don't expect on line venders have trial programs or ever will. That's why the advise of others sometimes has to suffice.

Thanks for the input guys,

Kent Hall
Hi Kent,

I have my definite preferences, but voicing them here would not be relvant to you. The manufacturers on your short list are made by companies with a true musical vision and with integrity.

I wish I could say the same for the majority of audio manufacturers in general. Many of them seem clueless as far as the musical experience is concerned.

The challenge you face is in lining up your vision with that of the manufacturer. It's never an easy task.

Good luck!
Thom @ Galibier
Well ... maybe you know some of my preferences ;-)

I wish this forum software allowed you to edit your posts so I could be more clear on the "first" try.

What I meant to say was that while some of the carts on this short list may not be championed by me, in no way would I not strongly recommend them for consideration.

Different strokes and all that.

Thom @ Galibier
I think, the secret in Phono reproduction is the quality of the Phonostage and the Gain of it.
Most top cartridges are low output (around 0.22mV), when the preamp can't amplify that properly, frustration (and confusion) can be the result. Same with the connected Phono cable ....
To avoid that, there are cartridges with higher output available, for example the Lyra Skala.
When a combination is not really matched I think, a lower model can give better results (here low gain versus high gain/output etc.).
Next, some manufacturers change the sonic results in their models, here the Skala again for example, that one sounds very different to other Lyras.
I think, there is no general rule.
Thanks to everyone for your input. This thread has opened my eyes to the Benz line of cartridges which I will have to give some consideration.

I found a good deal on a Benz Ebony LP here on audiogon that hasn't been used or opened per seller's report. I'm sure I'll enjoy this cartridge and, again, thanks for your input.
Yes, the Benz LP is a real interesting choice, better than downgrading. These top Benz Systems can create a unique kind of magic when listening to voices, very special.
Have fun.
I have the same situation with my 90X. I am thinking of having a retip job by Soundsmith at $450, I have heard good things about their work. After having two Benz Rubies I would prefer a retipped 90X.

I was not aware that the 90x retip was available. Is this at or something like that? I really do enjoy the 90x and am keeping it. I think it's also very hard to determine when this needs to be done though. I got a second arm wand for my 10.5i so I plan on using the 90x and LP interchangably for some variety. $450 is a good price if it would be good as new. Let me know how it goes if you decide to do it. Do a search, lots of good comments. Peter replaces the stylus with a line contact stylus.
Speaking of Soundsmith, the Voice cartridge is astonishing for the money. It is a moving iron that readily competes with many hi-end moving coils. It would be a downgrade in price, but not in performance. In performance, it might be an upgrade. If Frank Schroeder will personally put it on his on Reference SQ tonearm, that should tell you something.
Would anyone like to venture a guess about the differences in sound between these two cartridges, in the same audio system? Of course, internal impedance is quite different, 38 ohms and 15 ohms, so the 90X must be loaded lower. I would guess 400 ohm load for the LP vs. 150 ohm load for the 90X, for a fair comparison. Maybe higher for people that want more zip in the top-end. So what have other users loaded these cartridges to?
I usually load the 90x at 100 ohms. The LP I currently have at 1000 ohms. Both sound great at these levels. That's where I am now and haven't messed around too much with other settings on the Benz. I seem to recall the 90x seeming bright when loaded higher.