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Look at Clearaudio Maestro Wood 3.6mv. Great resolution extension, transparency and tight tuneful bass. Set-up is a breeze not fussy at all. Does well with most music types if the vinyl is clean. Excellent reviews.
A great precision German audio manufacturer.
Disclaimer: I presently have one listed in the classifieds.
Try to find an Ortofon SL15e with its own little SUT. It beats the Dyna 17D3, most Ortofons upto $2k and any typical MC cartridge under 1.5K quite seriously. It is an old cartridge so you may need to hunt for it a little but it is there in plenty. You will not regret it. And it should cost you well within $500 including its SUT.
Well said, but I think most Grado cartridges, if not all of them, are based on the moving iron principle, not MM. At least the best ones are. To the OP, you may want to look at the very long thread on MM and MI cartridges here. You will find more good ideas there than you can possibly sort out, re an inexpensive great sounding cartridge.
I have Ortofon SL15 e MKii running with Ortofon MCA76 phono amp. It sounds pretty good, beating my friend's Denon 103R. I also have MC20 and MC100, all of them quite as good as SL15 e MKii. Each of these old Ortofon catridges in NOS or in very good condition can be purchase at under $200 from eBay, and MCA76 or T20 SUT at under $300. These comb at a little bit over $400 would easily beat most cartridges at under $1000.
One catch is that you may get a lemon. You can't be 100% sure for 40~50 year old products.
I actually have a Grado at the moment, and for years before have been a Grado fan. I am thinking of something new since there are plenty of choices. Surprisingly enough with the advise provide by some of you adn with respect to all, I did the find the Grados to be a little on the neutral side compared to being forward. Wonderful cartridges for sure. Please do keep them coming. Thanks
Dear Rapogee: All posted advices are very good especially the Maestro one.
Inside your budget INHO this latest AT model is a very good alternative too:
Regards and enjoy the music,
If you want ultra-resolution, Dynavector 17d3 is hard to beat but its price is a little out of your range. The discontinued 17d2 MkII will be in your price range. It is just as good but you should look for unopened NOS box. I will recommend against buying used cart unless you know the owner personally and how he/she handles the cart.
I upgraded from a Denon 103R to Denon DL-S1. It has all of the great sound reproduction of the 103R but way more detail through out the sound spectrum and extended hi and low end. I have 1000 hours on mine and I am completely satisfied.
Purchase from Comet Supply for under $600 (typically it runs around $1200 to $1500). If they are out of stock, purchase from Galen Carol for around $800.