Cartridge options going forward

As much as I hate to admit it, my Lyra Etna is getting a little long in the tooth. I really look forward to listening to music with this cartridge but the amount of money they get for it has reached the point where I want to consider a more fiscally responsible alternative. I have owned a Kleos and Skala before the Etna and while the Kleos is good, it is not an Etna.  Any ideas?
128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xmtwilke
Not sure what arm you are using but I can't imagine a more "fiscally responsible" choice that will not disappoint in the footsteps of your Etna than the Charisma Audio Signature One. If you are curious about the sound, you can read my review of the Sempersonus TE-2 posted here (which has a Sig One mounted) or reviews of the Benz LPS, which has a very similar sonic profile (but is significantly more money). The Sig One is a top tier cartridge at a price that won't make you feel guilty or nervous about what is on the end of your arm.
A “fiscallly responsible” option might be the Soundsmith Strain Gauge. It’s around $8k I think, which includes the phono stage/preamp (it’s available in a few different configurations, but you have to use their preamp). 
It has a user replaceable styli and the replacements are like $5-600. 
Have Soundsmith retip the Etna with his best OCL diamond, preserving the stock Etna cantilever.
You should post your system or at least turntable, tonearm and phono preamp. That will hopefully result in better input.

Lyra was not my cup of tea. I recommend you hear an EMT cartridge. I think they offer great sound as well as great value.
Many suggest restoration.

I would ask Steve’s advice before going any further, he is highly respected.

he gave me some good specific advice when I was researching, considering buying something for him to repair, sent him model names of ones I was considering.

I don’t think I will ever buy a very expensive cartridge, especially as I came to decide I would buy new, not re-tip or re-build, I always want a new suspension, so get a better profile and thus longer lasting stylus, enjoy it, new cartridge when needed.

I liked the specs, bought this new one, it’s my first MC, I love it’s wide channel separation imaging ability and it’s tight channel balance which allows a very stable phantom center.

I agree. Contact Soundsmith before you do anything else. You might want him to rebuild your Etna even if you decide to buy something else. Good luck!
Luxman PD171 turntable, Jelco TK850S tonearm, Cardas Clear Beyond Phono Cable, PS Audio Stellar Phono Stage
Did you try any other cartridges besides Lyra ? 

What's the budget? 
I have owned Lyra for the last 10 years or so, Skala (retipped once by soundsmith), Kleos and most recently the Etna. I did try a Soundsmith Sussuro but did not keep it.  Would like to find something under 5000. Retipping or rebuilding is a long process and I don't want to be without. I am not quite at the replacement/rebuild point yet.Just trying to get a feel for what might be an alternative. That said a legit under 5000 Etna alternative may be hard to come up with.
Dear @mtwilke : IMHO  What you need is a cartridge that can walk along the quality of your analog rig, the Etna is to much for your analog rig honored its great quality performance this cartridge can shows any audiophile.

This one could gives you exceptional overall MUSIC enjoyment and put on sale the Etna or if you still want the Etna then  you must change your analog rig. Your choice:

Btw, @elliottbnewcombjr you have no idea about the quality performance of cartridges like the Etna levels.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
Out of curiosity what would be an appropriate analogue rig for the Etna in your opinion?
I’m liking the Lyra Kleos SL.  My first Lyra, and it is a *little* better (but def. better) than the less expensive Dyna XX2MkII, IMO.  Kleos SL is less than 5K.
If you can locate one you might give some consideration to the new "HANA RED".
Recently sent my MC to soundsmith for repair and they did a great job . Having said that have you ever tried a Koetsu or Kiseiki ? They sound stunning and very natural .
Faced with a similar dilemma I decided to try something radically different while I arranged for a rebuild of my Proteus and ordered an SPU Royal N. My tone arm allows some flexibility of effective mass by changing the material of a sub plate on which the cartridge is mounted. I could go from 13g with aluminium to 18g with brass, with the weight of the cartridge, its adapter and screws this gives 35.5g against the cartridges compliance and it seems to be enough for decent bass performance. Ortofon’s own arms have an effective mass of  between 3 and 5g without a headshell and a G series SPU weighs 30g so they would play in the same region. If you know the weight of your headshell  you can work out if your Jelco will give an SPU a decent ride. 
What I did find is that once aligned an SPU with a replicant stylus is a very enjoyable cartridge, to the point I’m not sure I’ll keep the Proteus, but I will send it to Ana Mighty Sound and try the result before deciding.
An SPU Royal GM is the equivalent pickup head to the Royal N, it will be at the limit of your arm’s antiskate adjustment according to the numbers but I found the the Royal N didn’t need nearly as much as the 3g VTF would suggest.
Thats only one option of course, there’s a lot of cartridges out there, If my phonostage could take the output level I’d have been tempted to try an EMT but even a standard Lyra is above optimum.
Meanwhile investigate a Lyra rebuild, I don’t know the US situation but in the UK they don’t charge as much as some other makes and they will upgrade to λ spec, you might even be able to opt for SL but that is a guess.

The Etna is that much better than the Kleos? I own the Kleos and it's outstanding. If the Etna is that much better I would send it to Lyra for a rebuild.
Mtwilke, Get yourself an Ortofon Windfeld Ti then send the Etna back to Lyra to rebuild when finances allow. Then you will always have a back up if something goes wrong and you won't be in this position again. The Windfeld Ti is a great cartridge that punches way above it's price point. It is very neutral and an excellent tracker. You will see this in all the reviews. In the meanwhile you can have an Etna Lamda at a significant savings.
I sent my Skala to Soundsmith for a rebuild, and it came back a much different sounding cartridge, and one I'm none too happy with in general; I wouldn't go down that path again.  I also agree that the price for a Lyra rebuild simply isn't worth it (their trade-in allowance used to be considerably more generous), nor is it necessarily worth the price new.  I have cognitive dissonance thinking that an elderly Japanese gentleman is the last living repository of such skill and knowledge.  What - when he dies, Lyra effectively goes out of business?  Happened to Transfiguration.

I bought an Audio Technica ART9, and don't think I'll ever go back to a $2K+ cartridge, since as a consumable item it's simply not worth it.  The AT gives me 98% of what the Skala gave me when it was new (and in fact does some things better).  AT has been in business making cartridges for 58 years, and it shows in the materials, build and sonic qualities.  Just my 2¢.
To your point palasr - another consideration that has really worked in my system is my second Ortofon - a cadenza black.  My first was a Jubliee which provided years of good playback.

The Cadenza Black mounted on my Vector 4 is as good or better SQ than the more than twice expensive Transfiguration Proteus which bit the dust after 500 hours and also went out of biz at the same time.

Not sure I will ever buy a 5+K cartridge again after spending the last year with CB - also not likely to go OOB.
I have cognitive dissonance thinking that an elderly Japanese gentleman is the last living repository of such skill and knowledge. What - when he dies, Lyra effectively goes out of business?

You have no idea what you’re talking about. Mr. Jonathan Carr is younger than most of you and contribute on this forum from time to time with valuable information you can’t find anywhere, he’s a cartridge designer. What is really strange is to send Lyra to someone else for rebuild pretending for upgrade in sound.
Different cartridge is always a good idea, we like many cartridges, not just one from any particular brand, except for people who does not have much experience with cartridges.

Refurbished Lyra is not the Lyra anymore, once someone else replaced cantilever or even stylus tip with something with different mass/size etc.
Thanx Chakster. Always send your cartridge back to the original manufacturer if  you want to be assured of the cartridges performance. In the case of the Lyra it can even be upgraded. 
Like mtwilke I hate being without a working turntable. Having at least two functional cartridges is a good idea in case one of them goes down. 

mtwilke, other choices besides the Winfeld Ti are; the Clearaudio Stradavari V2, van den Hul Frog Gold,  Kiseki Purpleheart,and the EMT Pure Lime. I personally lean towards the Ortofon but you cannot go wrong with any of these. 
Dear @mtwilke :  Your tonearm is a good tonearm but not for the Etna level because that knife bearing. Designer Sao Win ( TT, tonearm and cartridges. ) puts a warning in the cartridge top of the line manual ( I owned that great cartridge. ):

" don't use knife bearing tonearm designs with this cartridge ( LOMC. ) "

So you can do it better with the SME V ( very good match. I owned 3 Lyras with including the Kleos. ), Kuzma 4Point, Triplanar or Reed and there are other good options about.

The other important and critical issue is the phono stage, yours has a way higher  inverse RIAA eq. deviation with a swing of 0.5db this certainly is not what deserves the Etna and you.

You can take a look for Ayre, SimsAudio, Pass labs and other in that league.

Now, forgeret about re-tippers the only one is Lyra. I don't think that a Rolex or Cartier owner send to fix his watch to a " re-tipper ": Do you?

When you send to Lyra ask for the SL version, the low output that is a little better. In the mean time give a listen to the ART 9XA and latter on you can sale very easy.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,

" Btw, @elliottbnewcombjr you have no idea about the quality performance of cartridges like the Etna levels."


I’m simply saying: channel specs as well as magic need to be combined.

your suggestion, shibata on boron

my example (not a suggestion for OP), microline on boron

IF they has an SAS version, I might have chosen that, but extra cost/extra life would need to make sense for me.

you are very right, and somewhat wrong.

mine solely an example of desired features: strong channel separation for improved imaging and tight channel balance for very solid phantom center image as well as consistent frequency response within range and locked in balance l/r for large orchestras ....

separation/balance specs of your suggestion and my example are the same, internals, body material, body threads differ as well as the stylus shape choice. Me hear any difference? I seriously doubt it.

I didn’t mention it, but I also have preferred range of both tracking force, and signal strength. And, proven better or not, I will not go beyond the stiffness of boron. AT seems to agree with me. I had/fartted in Beryllium’s general direction/looked sideways at/broke my Beryllium Shure V15VxMR stylus,

you are Very Right:

I have never owned or had prolonged experience with high end cartridges,

My top choices over the years have been/are Shure V15VxMR (now with new Jico SAS on boron); AT440ml (currently on my office TT), my first MC the AT33ptg-2 linked above, ML on boron; Shure 97xme my favorite elliptical; and current Grado Mono.

New AT MC moved the Shure to second place primarily because of it’s wider separation and tighter channel balance, easily revealed by my often recommended tracks with 3 guitarists, Eurythmics, Cassandra Wilson, ...


you are Somewhat Wrong (I do have ’some idea’):
(below: the lady doth protest too much)

Not to prove, just to let you know more about me when you read my opinions hither and thither.

I have heard many stratosphere cartridges for long listening sessions/evaluations: wealthy audiophile friends; wealthy client friends (I designed Corporate Office Headquarters), including deep pocket enthusiasts from Columbia House, CBS, Sony, and many others, some I helped assembled complete systems.

Not cartridges, but related experience: I worked with several AV consultants designing AV systems for my client’s Boardrooms, Auditoriums, conference/dining rooms, present for evaluations/refinements with professional sound meters. My friend came to my past and current house with pro sound meter a few times when I changed things around.

Electrovoice engineers (still in NYC then), my AV friend, and I designed my new enclosures together for my 3 way speakers (all electrovoice drivers from 1958:15" woofer, horn mid, horn high)

I worked in NYC for more than 40 years, 18 on 44th street, between 5th and 6th avenue. Leonard Radio, in it’s high end days in my building (old Hammond organ showroom I helped them renovate). I cut thru a building mid block, onto 45th street Audio Row, NYC, Harvey’s in it’s heyday. A lot of my equipment over the years (and many pieces on semi-permanent loan to friends) came from Harvey’s used shelf. My friend at Harvey’s would call me when something nice taken in trade came was coming out of the service dept for sale. My friends would have time to listen for long periods, then suggest I hear .... TT, cartridges, primarily speakers.

Read magazines like a fiend, reviews, head for Sound by Singer (both locations) (I did not like Andy’s attitude), Park Avenue Audio (also snooty), .... went to the great audio shows in NYC when/if controlled listening sessions could be contrived.

My take on the pricey stuff: If it makes you happy each and every time you look at, approach, use it, know about it’s superior ......, your emotional state is primed for an enhanced experience. A compromise will always sound like a compromise IF you think you are not getting ......
Relative Importance of Cartridge:

After achieving a very reveling and involving system, including speakers you will never replace.

A phono stage you would never think needs changing.

IF MC, I think SUT to that phono stage best (but I have only done that).

TT: Plinth, Location; Spinner; Arm(s); Arm length(s), Arm features; and especially personally acquired alignment tools/skills must come first.

Then, put what on the end of the stick?

Post removed 

Aren't you kind to strangers. what compels you to make such a helpful and exhausting addition?

As I said, he is "Very Right, but Somewhat Wrong".

"(below: the lady doth protest too much) "

line from Shakespeare was a clue to stop reading.

"Not to prove, just to let you know more about me when you read my opinions hither and thither."  

that's not justifying an opinion, that's sharing who I am. thanks for your kind words in response, who are you?

several of us frequently comment on each other's contribution, and raul has specifically helped me in making decisions related to my major TT upgrade this past year. So, publicly I thought I would let him and anyone curious know a bit more about me. 

I've said it many times, I write answers to share with 'the multitude' I imagine might be following a thread. Many people, here, camera forums, stamp clubs .... join, follow, read, may not write anything ever, or for a few years, but they learn, even watching family squabbles. 

mtwilke, Your tonearm is just fine for any middle to low compliance cartridge. In their literature Lyra was referring to uni pivot arms which are not OK. Your's is a knife edge bearing which has absolutely no torsional instability. Unless you have a very high gain and quiet phono stage stay away from the LP versions. If you listen primarily to rock the higher output versions are also better.  

Now, we assume we cannot audition in person, however, I would call and see if private masked disinfected listening can be arranged, you might get lucky.

luxury of time

I always try to have an acceptable spare (amp, tube, tt, cartridge) ready that allows the luxury of time when evaluating/making/waiting for the best 'real' choice. Seems you are caught without a spare this time.

When you eventually try something in the price bracket you are seeking, you might be thoroughly happy, done, congrats.

or, if not 'it', then that becomes your acceptable spare for the future, money not wasted, never again limited by being without a cartridge, use it with the luxury of time for your next eventual change.

Of course, once you buy something new, love it, or mostly love it, if you then rebuild the Etna, there's your acceptable alternate, or it goes back to primary. I still advise asking Steve for his input before moving forward.

I'm retired, quarantined, curious, I hopped about, spent some time skimming Stereophile's lists

It mentions two Etna versions, standard and lower output SL with veryyyy low impedance, I'm  just curious which version you have.


The Low output, low impedance version really only makes sense if you have a current mode phono amp. Otherwise, most people will be happier with the higher output version. 
What are some examples of a "current mode" phono amp? I believe my PS Audio Stellar phono amp has enough gain for very low output cartridges. It is as good as Fremer's review states and does not appear to be overmatched by the Etna.I have taken mijostyn's advice and ordered the Ortofon Winfield Ti cartridge. I will more than likely send the Etna back to Lyra to be rebuilt/upgraded to the Lambda design standard output when the time comes. It will be interesting to compare the two.The low output Audio Technica cartridge that Raul recommended is back ordered to January. I appreciate everyone's collective experience and input. Fiscal responsibility is a challenge in this hobby. ; )