Cartridge recommendation?

Hi everyone,

I was hoping to get some cartridge recommendations from you. I have a Marantz TT-15s1 with a Croft RIAA phono amp. The Marantz came with a very nice Clearaudio Virtuoso cartridge. However, the stylus is extremely fragile. I've never broken a stylus before, but I've broken two Virtuosos (and at $900 a pop, it's not worth it). I picked up a Denon DL-110 that is a very clean sounding cartridge. However, it's a bit too clinical and precise. It doesn't really capture the warmth and weight that initially turned me on to analog.

So, I was looking for recommendations on a cartridge (MM or HOMC) in the $500 range that would bring back a bit of the warmth that I'm missing with the Denon. Thanks in advance for any insight you might have.

Best, Scott
If your tonearm height is adjustable, try and lower the base a bit. This sometimes will give you the results you desire.
If you want warmth go with a Grado Sonata ($600) or a Grado
Platinum ($350). Just make sure they are compatible with
your tonearm ! The Grado weighs 6 grams,the table you have
does not mention what the weight of the cartridge that should
be used!

Another candidate for the Audio Technica AT150MLX. It beats the pants off my DL-160 on ... well, everything, so it would be even that much better than the DL-110. You can also alter the tonal balance by playing with the VTF and VTA. I recently lowered my tonearm (SL1210 with height adjustment) a skooch and warmed up the presentation a bit. Best of all, the AT150MLX has a replaceable stylus for $180.

You also might be a candidate for the Zu103. It's a low-compliance cartridge which should have a more rugged cantilever. Although your tonearm is probably optimized for a medium-to-high compliance cartridge, the Zu version of the DL-103 weighs a lot more than the stock DL-103, thus raising the tonearm's overall effective mass into the 103's comfort zone.

Those wood-bodied Grados are also probably a good suggestion as a lower cost replacement for the original wood-bodied Clearaudio cartridge.

Still, the AT150MLX has the sound of a high resolution cartridge. The cantilever is pretty fine but has held up well for me. I've owned mine for 8 years and clean the stylus regularly with a piece of Magic Eraser. No bends, crimps, or breaks.
I think that is you are looking for a warm presentation the Grado line is a nice recommendation. I would add to that the Nagaoka line. They should work very well with your excellent phono preamp and turntable. The 150 is a very good deal. The stylii are also user replacable.
Audio Technica AT150MLX

+1...Excellent cartridge. One of favorites.
I found the Goldring Cartridge on my MMH-5 to be extraordinarily "musical" and what analog, is typically described as sounding like. They are not expensive,well under $1K depending on the model and MM. You may want to investigate the line.
Since Nagoaka makes Goldrings they should sound good.
Choice between them is matter of which body is easiest to align on your arm,and price of course .

Viridian, MP-150 is not a "good deal" , it is THE best deal
available on phono carts !
Before you do anything, you need to make sure your current cart is fully broken in. The effects of break in are huge on a phono cartridge are huge. Way more than another component. I would say not to do anything until you have at least 100 hours on the Denon.
Also consider rolling the tubes in the Croft.
I had a Grado Sonata and was sorely disappointed in it. Lots of grain with a brown character to it. Sold it.
Thanks to everyone for the recommendations. Seems like I have a lot of research to do!
The Denon 301 MKII is a great HO moving coil and can be had inexpensively. It can fool your ear into thinking you are listening to a much more expensive cartridge. Seriously, this is the unit you are looking for.
The stylus on the Virtuoso is extremely fragile and you broke two at $900 a pop?? Do you still have one of the bodies?
These styli are easily user replaced - upgraded. You could have sent it to Soundsmith for a serious upgrade for $350, or an improvement, a tapered alum cant and nude ellip for $150. If you want to replace yourself get an AT95 shibata at LpGear or Turntable Needles and trim the plastic. There's another option if you're interested.

If you want a replacement, I suspect Nagaoka MP500 will meet your criteria.
Is that a way of saying something scatological? I have never seen that phrase before in audio.
Anyway which tubes are in the Croft?
In phono stages using "old stock" tubes can be more of a problem than usual. The tubes have to be selected for low, very low noise. There are dealers that will accommodate you but self selecting could be a problem. These selected tubes are generally more expensive than the others, but I would still be interested personally . I am a tube rolling addict though,-
What,are you hoping the tubes will do for your set up?
See my system posts for Croft tube info.
It uses 12AX7 tube throughout. It comes with JJs which are not bad. But if you want to hear lots more detail, transparency and nuetrality, Telefunkens take it to a new level. 5751s are worth a look too.
All the Clearaudio MM's are made by Audio Technica. If you pry up the stylus you'll find a set of AT V magnets sitting atop the assembly. Procedures for stylus replacement are well documented here (Who needs MM/MI thread) and on other forums.

I have a Virtuoso. The cart is easily user upgraded. The use of the word scatological with a question mark, reveals ignorance about this subject. Stock stylus is nothing but a straight aluminum cantilever with a bonded elliptical tip - a $35 stylus. Maestro stylus is boron/micro. All the rest are similar to Virtuoso.

$900 is the price of a V2 Virtuoso? Seems like a lot of money to lose if the cantilever/tip breaks. These are rather sturdy, perhaps they were defective?
The selection of NOS or even just good old 12AX7s is getting smaller every day, with corresponding high prices. Telefunkens are almost indestructible and can still be found in reasonable numbers and quality.
My personal favorite for this type of tube is in fact the 5751s. I like Sylvania triple mica black plates which should not be a surprise. Some other good ones are the Raytheon windmill getter, RCA triple Mica black plates, and there are others to investigate.
The JAN tubes while a little overly transparent and thin sounding are a tube that may be a good one to see if you like the 5751 sound, you can also use GE 5751s which are more abundant and less hunted down into extinction, Black plates and triple mica once again are bet including their 5 star line.
You can also use current product like the Gold Lion ECC 83 12AX7 if you want a warmer sound. I think your best move for a tube roll is to employ Jim McShane a good tube dealer found at McShane Design over on Audio Asylum. I have been happy with tubes I have gotten from him,- usual disclaimer no financial interest just a customer. He knows many amps and what tubes do best in many of them.
You should determine if possible which tubes are the phono amplifier tube/s and which are phase splitters inverters or in less amplified circuits etc.
I have been changing styli on cartridges since 1971, probably around 100 at least. I have broken 3, and 2 of these were on the Virtuoso! Problem is, the needle sticks out too far and is easily broken off. When one installs the cartridge in the headshell, it's mandatory [in my opinion] to keep the rather large stylus guard in place.