cartridge recommendation


the cantilever of my benz micro  MC2OE2 cartridge broke recently.
benz micro offered me kind of repair discount for another cartridge, like mc gold or other.
i'm not sure if this is the one i'll go on.
looking for one up to 500 $.
naturality of sound is very important to me, can't stand coloration.
think i need kind of high output 1-2 mv. ( i'm working with an integrated amp with build in phono stage).
have some names that was given me, but i'm open to others:
Benz Micro MC Gold/silver, LP Gear Bin 215, LP Gear Bin 323, Hana EH, Audio technica AT-OC9, DL103.
my turntable and arm are WELL TEMPERED.  


stone1
One man's neutral is another man's "colored".  However, most would agree that Benz cartridges impart a kind of coloration, in that they tend to smooth over rough spots.  But some like that effect.  I have no idea about any LP Gear cartridges, didn't even know they sell cartridges. Of the ones almost on your list, I would suck it up and pay a few hundred over $500 to acquire a Hana SL, which I've heard and is good, but if output is too low, then EH on the assumption it will have have the family sound.  I don't think a DL103 will perform optimally on your WT tonearm.  Nor does it have the needed voltage output. I'd also look into some of the MI cartridges made by Sound Smith.  In my experience, high output MC cartridges in general sound less good than good MM and MI types.
WTL tonearm normally goes well with Dynavector cartridges, but those cartridges have relatively high compliance for MC. They are also LOMC (low output), but 23RS MR or 17DS can be found for $500, for this price they are absolutely amazing.

If you’re looking for High Output MC then it’s a waste of time, you’d better upgrade phono stage to use LOMC or just find MM/MI/MF

Usual suspests: Victor X-1IIe, Audio-Technica AT-ML150, Glanz MFG-610LX and if you will check WTL toneam effective mass you can maybe use some high-ish compliance Pickering 3000 or Stanton 881.

Looking for neutral cartridge see what’s been using by Doug Sax for mastering as absolute neutrality.

Make sure to check the brand new Garrott P77i

Actually with $500 you’d be better with MM or MI for sure, especially those kings from the pinnacle of MM

Denon 103 is a garbage, i’m wondering how many times people with mention this 60s design with conical stylus in 2019? A bit of search about diamonds profiles will help to understand that conical tip must be avoided in the modern world, we have so much better profiles available from almost any manufacturer.
must say first time i hear about MI version.
what is the difference compare to MM and MC?
one specific one from Soundsmith around my budget?
He can explain better, just watch his lectures:

https://youtu.be/F65mODzn4Gk

https://youtu.be/WmwnN_T_wW8

and you will understand what's the difference between MI and MC 
thank you chakster.
first it is very important that you refer to my specific turntable and arm.
let say i’ll give up the high output mc and go for some external phono stage, how will you grade between a low output mc and one of the mm or mi mentioned.
what is "those kings from the pinnacle of MM" ?
about the videos we need to take in account that he is from Soundsmith .

after my cantilever broke i tried 2 cartridges i have at home.
one is ORTOFON OMB10 . it’s very clean etc. but must say i can’t live with it, compare to the benz i had . lot of coloration.
the other one is monster cable alpha 2 fro the late 80’s.
it’s less colorized and very detailed but a bit thin and body less , i believe it because the low output 0.30 mv.



about your remark -  lewm -    "most would agree that Benz cartridges impart a kind of coloration, in that they tend to smooth over rough spots."
among other kind of music i listen a lot to jazz  .
although i agree that the benz have it's issues, i never heard so accurate brass sound as i had with my benz.

The pinnacle of MM is 70s/80s production, not sure if you’re familiar with this MM thread with a lot of discoveries. With your budget you can buy great MM or MI cartridge for sure, the Glanz (Mitachi Corporation) for example patented MF (Moving Flux) generator, must be used with MM phono stage.

You already have Moster Cable LOMC (designed by Nakatsuka-San, now ZYX). People who prefers LOMC are happy about this cartridge, but you’re not so happy. The phono stage for LOMC is much more critical than for MM, also cartridge loading etc.

I think a decent MM or MI is what you have to try, at least $500 is not a big deal, but it must be a right choice of cartridge.

I’ve linked the TAS article about cartridge neutrality, one of my favorite is Audio-Technica AT-ML170 and AT-ML180, both are much more expensive than your budget, but Stanton or Pickering with Stereohedron stylus is cheaper than your budget. Or maybe lower models in AT-ML series like the AT-ML150 with MicroLine stylus. These cartridge are neutral.

I’ve never used SoundSmith cartridges, he made all B&O cartridges back in the day and repaired nearly all cartridges in existence. I think we can trust his words regarding MI even if the lecture is just a promotion of his own brand.

However, only you can judge a cartridge in your system.
In today world every $500 cartridge considered "cheap", buying those gems from the 80s we often pay less to get much better quality and it’s true with MM design. For some exceptional MM cartridge made in the 80s the budget must be $1.5k today.

P.S. Brand new $12 000 Top Wings cartridge is MM, designed by Hiromu Meguro, former design assistant of the Grace F-8 cartridge and principal designer of F-9 cartridge. I love Grace and collect them, got some uber rare Grace models and they are shockingly good, but $12 000 for a Top Wings is a good illustration of the modern High-End world and its prices.
the link you gave  chakster 
http://www.regonaudio.com/Stanton881AudioTechnicaATML70.html
i'm not sure you can get those cartridges like the stanton  today.
when you talk about  "AT-ML150 with MicroLine stylus"
you mean something like this?
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/cartridges-audio-technica-ml150-occ-phono-cartridge-gold-plated-be...  


yogiboy - do you recommend any particular grado ?
i’m not sure you can get those cartridges like the stanton today.
when you talk about "AT-ML150 with MicroLine stylus"
you mean something like this?

You can get every cartridge from cartridge collectors on audiogon, including some extremely rare units, people even swap cartridges from their collections, but it’s a private deals. I have owned each cartridge from my recommended list, how do you think i got them? Stanton or Pickering are not the rarest, but the condition is important. I am not that old as many audiogonners who bought them when the price was low 10-20 years ago, but it’s still possible to buys nice vintage MM cartridges even in NOS condition (that’s my main interest). I am trying to document each cartridge from my collection, you can check my pictures below:

Stanton 881s (Alluminum cantilever / Nude Stereohedron stylus tip)
AT-ML150 (Beryllium cantilever / MicroLine tip )
Victor X-1IIe (Titanium Cantilever / Elliptical tip)
Grace LEVEL II BR/MR (Boron Cantilever / Micro Ridge tip) - this one is very rare
ADC TRX II MI ( Sapphire cantilever and Vital II )
AT-ML180 (Gold Plated Boron Cantilever / MicroLine tip) - also extremely rare
AT-ML170 (Gold Plated Boron / MicroLine tip)
AT-20SLa - also killer MM
Glanz Moving Flux cartridges - on of them is the rarest 61 model
Victor X-1II (Beryllium / Shibata)







I have a Soundsmith Carmen mk2 and it is a great sounding cartridge. Many Soundsmiths are available at fabulous prices as the line has been redesigned.
stone1,
For $350 the Platinum Reference (4.8mv) or the Platinum Statement (1mv). BTW, the Needle Doctor will give you a refund in case you are not pleased with the purchase!

chakster
i think i prefer a new  cartilage.

johnto - i saw that the  Soundsmith Carmen mk2 is 999$' its beyond my budget.

is there any advantage with MI over MM?
@Stone1- I'll let someone else tackle your question, though some years ago (late '80s?), I had a Well Tempered -the original one, which had been heavily tweaked and used a range of cartridges, mostly MC. One key to that arm was getting the 'right' amount of fluid in the cup b/c the damping could change the sound. I can't remember all the cartridges I used with it, but did have a Van De Hul (a higher output MC) and one of those Lyra Parnassus with the unobtanium magnets. Given the price of state of the art MC cartridges today, the notion of a vintage cartridge (even if rebuilt) may make sense, see below.
@chakster (and others)- I remember many of the cartridges you list from new, back in the day. That AT20 I had new, if I recall, it was an early Shibata- and considered a very good cartridge at the time.  This was circa 1973? or so and it was installed in an AT arm that had a pneumatic lift with a hose and cuing lever that mounted flush to the turntable plinth. (It was on a Technics SP 10 back then).
---
I'm just now going back and exploring some of these older cartridges- I've been using the fancy current ones, and the prices are getting daunting for top tier. I got a Monster Genesis 1000 to use as a stopgap and it is a little lean sounding, not bright, just not as full sounding in the lower midrange or as tonally rich as the Airtights I have been using for the last decade or so. But it is still breaking in and at the price, it is a phenomenal performer.
I had many Grados back in the day- they were always considered very good sounding for the money- I do remember some people had issues with hum, which may be due to the design and electrical noise thrown off from the motor? being picked up by the cartridge. 
Peter L from Soundsmith is a gift. 

The Grado MI's typically have 1/10 the inductance of most MM's - 45 millihenries vs. 450 mhenries. Smaller coils, faster transients! Way back when, the Grado FTE ($15!) was an easy recommendation for a "best buy" cartridge! Present day Grados are still great values! And they are USA-built!

whart - maybe it’s because my English is not perfect, but i didn’t understood clearly your recommendation .
especially between mm and mc.
as i wrote i have the monster alpha 2 cartridge.
right now, connected to a build in stage, it has wonderful details but sounds very thin.
a mm ortofon i have sound very colorized to me.
i totally agree with you that the well tempered is a bit pain in the ass with the fluid and other enlightenment's. 

roberjerman - grado is one of several that i consider, but i’ll try to make some more research.
that inductance , or hum that both of you mentioned is something to worry, isn’t it?

Grado can’t compete with any cartridge from my list above.
I have Grado Signature XTZ as the reference Grado

i think i prefer a new cartilage.

None of the new MM/MI for $500 is equal to those rare ones from the hey day of MM/MI. Manufacturers ask much more today for entry level cartridges build with entry level parts. It’s day and night compared to those vintage high-end MM/MI cartridges if you will look at the stylus type, cantilever material, coil wire etc... even the specs if you want to.  

None of us buyin’ used or worn cartridges when it comes to the old ones, but even NOS (New Old Stock) unit must be checked prior to sell just to make sure it works properly. Even if a cartridge has been opened and used for 5 hrs it is considered "used", but in fact a burn-in process for any NEW cartridge is about 50hrs minimum.

If you really looking just for a brand new modern cartridge then look for Garrott or Audio-Technica top models. You can secure yourself with a warranty, but the overall quality of the modern MM is not better than vintage MM for sure.

We do not have anything at affordable price equal to the quality level of Stanton 881, 981 or Pickering 3000, 4500 for example.

People will tell you about those Nagaoka, Grado, Goldring, Ortofon, Shelter MM , but you limit yourself when you’re considering only modern cartridges.

The golden age of analog is not today, it was 30-40 years ago and some of the best phono pickups produced in the golden age when each big company tried to make something special.

@chakster - first, the article about Doug Sax is a bit old and I think that things changed from there.
btw the photo you put of Stanton 881s says some other model.
from my experience i usually don’t pay much attention to technical build spec, only sound.
by that i’m not saying that you are not right, just that i need other factors than legendary vintage, or build.
first, the article about Doug Sax is a bit old and I think that things changed from there.

Things changed, manufacturers start pushing super expensive LOMC as the ONLY way to reach audio nirvana and they are still doing it.

I’ve returned from modern $5000 LOMC cartridge to vintage MM and vintage MC because they are cheaper and better to my ears and i have auditioned many of them, first nearly all the discoveries from the old MM thread on here (it will take a year to read) and you will find many comments and contribution from other folks who are too lazy to post nowadays.

I do not ignore an MC, i have some farovite LOMC too, such as FR-7fz, PMC-3, Ortofon MC2000, Grace Asakura’s One, Miyabi MCA just to name a few.

This is for example a Garrott p77i made by legendary Garrott Brothers, it was a killer $700 MM cartridge on $6000 Reed 3P "12 tonearm.

btw the photo you put of Stanton 881s says some other model.

It is correct model 881 mkII, but what you see is a genuine stylus model number II D81s ("s" is for Stereohedron), here is a view from another side for you.

You need to know that Stanton 881s is a blueprint of the Pickering XSV-3000 - this is the reason i have recommended Pickering 3000 (Stereohedron) for lower price than your estimate budget.

For much higher price you can search for these:

Stanton CS-100 W.O.S. is my reference, signature model of Walter O. Stanton himself, sapphire coated cantilever and Stereohedron II nude diamond. Check the specs. Here is more about it. CS-100 is better than low impedance version Stanton 980 LZS i’ve had before. Stanton series of the low impedance MM cartridges is interesting, the output of those MM is only 0.6mV and they must be connected to MC input, not to the MM input.
@Stone1- I wasn't making any specific recommendation. My points were that I:
-owned some of the cartridges that Chakster mentioned when they were new, many years ago, and am now exploring some of them again as vintage, given the crazy high prices of new top tier cartridges;
- also agreed that just starting to use an old rebuilt Monster cartridge last week, I had a similar reaction to yours- the cartridge is very lean sounding, particularly given what I am used to;
and, lastly,
-that I also had at one time a Well-Tempered.
Beyond that, and the pricing issues, it is hard to evaluate cartridges without hearing them in your system. Also, they all have a character in my experience, so there's some degree of matching the sound to complement your system's strengths and weaknesses, as well as to suit your personal preference: 
Some people like very clinical 'accurate' sound, I prefer something that has more tone and richness, but not to the degree that it is over-ripe or imposing that sound on everything- that is why I've been using the Airtights for the last decade or so, after several Lyras- which are also very good cartridges, but tend to have more leading edge and less fullness in sound. 
I do think the Grados are a good value and sound good, but it i haven't used one since the mid-'80s or so, so cannot tell you about their current products or their sound. 
I do think the Grados are a good value and sound good, but it i haven't used one since the mid-'80s or so, so cannot tell you about their current products or their sound. @whart 

Joseph Grado Signature XTZ was the best model in the '80s 

I remember many of the cartridges you list from new, back in the day. That AT20 I had new, if I recall, it was an early Shibata- and considered a very good cartridge at the time.

AT-20SLa (Limited Edition). Yes, it was Shibata nude diamond on alluminum cantilever. It's a high compliance cartridge, high resolution, it's shockingly good even compared to today's LOMC 

whart - i totally agree with that:
"it is hard to evaluate cartridges without hearing them in your system. Also, they all have a character in my experience, so there’s some degree of matching the sound to complement your system’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as to suit your personal preference: "
the problem is that they are not available to me to listen and test, and for sure not on my system.
so i have to make my decision carefully as much as i can.
when i’m speaking about "correct" sound i’m not talking about "clinical ’accurate’ sound" i also looking for some "richness" aand i think i had it with my benz. for example brass were reach and very right to my ears.


chakster - i’m a bit confused from all the info.
i’ll take time to read and search a bit.