There are many top qiality vintage MM cartridges under $1000 that easily kill most of the MC under $1000-3000. But no one will tell you which cartridge is good FOR YOU. No problem with tonearm/cartridge matching in your case unless you are not gonna use old school low compliance MC on your technics. I would strongly advice to look for used cartridges in perfect condition or for NOS vintage cartridges. In this case you can buy at least 2 cartridges with your budged, because you can't buy your last cartridge from the start and it's impossible that it will be your best cartridge unless you are testing several cartridges in your own system to understand what you really like. Do not buy modern cartridges based on reviews and stay away of the expensive MC cartridges untill you're experienced with vintage MM models, they are normally cheaper and better, but maybe not so easy to find. I'm pretty sure most of the audiogon memebers have many spare units (mc or mm, reasonably priced). I've owned very expensive new MCs, before i discovered vintage MMs. You can't be wrong with Audio-Technica AT-ML170, AT-ML180 or even cheaper AT-ML150 VM OCC (MicroLine). You can't go wrong with JVC VICTOR X1II (Shibata) or their rarer Victor X1, both are highly regarded here on audiogon. If you want warmer sound you can lookg for original Garrott p77 (MicroTracer) or new version of P77i (micro Scanner mk2). Even if you're on MC side you can try low output and low impedance Stanton 980LZS (Stereohedron) which is MM alternative to the MC and a gian killer if you have the right MC stage! I own all these and have been searching for decent sound constantly since i've come across raul's thread, you can read all there. Apart from the models above my best find so far is Glanz MF61, Stanton CS100 WOS, Pioneer PC-1000 mk2 and various Grace cartridges. I have no intention to go back to my ZYX Premium 4D or ZYX Airy MCs i have owned in the past simply because all those vintage MMs sounds amazing for much less in price!
Denon 103 was always a good match for the Technics arm.
That's not true as the Denon 103 is a fairly low compliance cartridge and works fine ONLY on super heavy high mass tonearms. Since you don't even know the effective mass of the new GAE tonearm i believe you're talking about old technics arm that comes with SL1200mk2 and related. I'm sure you don't know the effective mass of this tonearm if you think Denon is a good match. You should know that Technics tonearms (including their best EPA-100 series) were designed for MM cartridges with mid or high compliance. Technics headshell is a super lightweight headshell. People who use Denon 103 of SL1200mk2 knows nothing about cartridge/tonearm matching. This is the worst tonearm for low compliance cartridges! Some people use heavy headshell to mount Denon 103, but it will be much better if people will use what was expected by the manufacturer from the start (mid compliance MM cartridges). For Denon 103 heavy tonearms (mostly "12 inch arms) like Ortofon, SME, Schick are much better, Fidelity Research, Lustre or even Jelco also fine!
All of the following cartridges sound just fine on my GAE: Ortofon: Per Windfeld, Cadenza Black, 2M Black, 2M Mono SE; Audio Technica: AT150ANV, AT 33 Mono ANV; Stanton 881. The arm is a medium mass arm, very similar the MK2 arm it replaced, ~9 grams. I strongly recommend using a better headshell and have found the Zupreme from LP Gear to be particularly nice. You need to listen to some cartridges if possible. Hana is a good option. Ortofon 2M series is another good option. A lot of people like the AT150 series, and they are good, but I have been disappointed with mine. I think the AT33 series is better for similar money. You might also want to consider the Goldring 1012 or1042, classics and still in production. I would buy new unless you are very sure of the source.
I clearly stated that the Denon WAS a match for the Technics arms, which you agree with.
No, i don’t agree. Denon 103 and Technics tonearm is the worst combination. No matter old arm or new arm, they are both NOT heavy enough for low compliance Denon 103. It’s like mounting low compliance cartridges on Black Widow arm with a few coins sticked on top, those arms are not for oldschool low compliance monsters even if you change headshell for a heavy one. It;s like putting Ortofon SPU on the tonearm designed for lightweight MM cartridges of mid compliance.
..looking for cartridge recommendations that are a good match for the tonearm and have a musical character.
I think the "music character" is much more important than just matching which gives you nothing, because you have absolutely no problem to use any mid or mid-high compliance cartridges on Technics tonearm with stock technics headshell. You can simply use this calculator (hope it will help) https://www.ortofon.com/support/support-hifi/resonance-frequency
Resonance frequency can be calculated by using the formula
• Resonance frequency within 7-12Hz is optimal for the system.
I made three changes to my system at the same time. I replaced (but kept) a Technics SL-1210 M5G and Ortofon 2M black with the new SL1200 GAE. In addition, I acquired a Lyra Delos cartridge for this set-up. I also purchased a Okki Nokki record cleaner. Before playing any of my vintage record collection I cleaned them with the Okki Nokki. The rest of my system is pretty conventional and unchanged. McIntosh 501 mono blocs, Parasound JC2 preamp, Nova Phonomonem II phono preamp and Lagacy Focus SE speakers.
I have to believe that all three changes contributed to the improvement in clarity, imaging, soundstage, etc.. But this combination of turntable and cartridge is, in a word, phenomenal. I feel like a veil has been removed from the music. I loved my record collection before but now it is like listening to new music again. The only downside is that I'm spending a lot of money on vintage LP's. I'm tremendously enjoying this set-up!