Cartridge recommendation around $2k?


I'm ready to invest in a new cartridge having become tired of the quirks of my Decca Super Gold. Previously I've owned a Delos and I'm currently testing out a highly upgraded DL103R. Really like vocals and strings with the DL103 but dynamics and soundstaging are lacking. I listen to all kinds of music, except rock. Lots of jazz and blues but also tons of psych and hip hop/electronica. Soundtracks and Latin music too. Nothing dense though, if that makes sense. The Delos was a good cartridge at it's original release price, less so at $2,000. Arm is a unipivot, VPI Fatboy. Anyone have a somewhat versatile cartridge to recommend?
dhcod
Hard to go wrong with SoundSmith
I have a VPI and used the Audio Technica ART 9@$1200.  It was the flavor of the month here, 6 years ago.
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/pani-new-art-9-up-and-running

The  Kiseki Blue@ $2K is on my table presently. Acquired a "lightly used" one for a sane price. While the Blue has the slightest bit more refinement in the upper frequencies(subjective, overall system dependent) it isn't 2X "better" than the ART9. 

I haven't used something more exotic on my table, I've heard plenty of carts over the years -$50-$10K++. The ART9 will easily play with the carts in the $5K price point(assuming the phonostage is up to the task)

If you have 62+db gain put the ART9 XA on your list. The XI for 60db gain
https://www.lpgear.com/product/ATART9XA.html

Also consider Soundsmith, as mentioned. I just have experience with the entry level Otello. It is, to my ears one of  "the BEST" $399 carts today. 

In your price range I'd also consider the SS Zephyr MIMC. The only concern I see with it is the cost($2K) /performance comparing it to the ART 9@$1.2K. I believe a member  did a detailed review of both in his system?

Yes, and I don't think he ended up keeping the Zephyr, or at least I know of someone who didn't... not sure it's the same person. I only have 58db of gain so I'm on the outside looking in on the ATs although maybe it's worth a try- but if I'm looking for dynamics, that's certainly not the way to get them.

Thanks for the Kiseki Blue suggestion. I'll check that one out.
The problem is your arm, not the cartridge. You wil never get ripsnorting bass out of that unipivot. If you are wedded to the VPi unipivot, you want a medium compliance cartridge.

Also I see in your system you use a Lamm phono - I had one in my system, it is smooth, not particulalry dynamic and the MC input transformers are pretty average - mid level Jensens. I know this because I tried other step ups with the Lamm. My Marantz 7 modded blew the Lamm into the weeds - resolution, speed, noise floor, everywhere.

If you are using this phono then try a high output medium compliance Soundsmith into the Lamm moving magnet input - this may give you more of what you are looking for.

If you insist on a LOMC then you need a MC with 40ohm impedance to match the Lamm transformers correctly - Benz, Dynavector

FWIWI I used a Garrott modded Denon 103 years ago - it was very dynamic and threw an enormous soundstage, using a modest Electrocompaniet phono at the time.

I believe one of EMT’s cartridges is in that range. As good a build quality as you are going to find. Made very well. 
@Dover- I'm actually very happy with the arm. No bass issues. I've mounted cartridges I can't afford on it and I was blown away by how balanced and transparent this arm sounds compared to many high priced arms I've used in the past. People are squeamish about Uni's for some reason. I've always preferred them. We all hear differently.

Thanks for the advice re: matching with the Lamm
 "Thanks for the Kiseki Blue suggestion. I'll check that one out."

dhcod-
better cross that one out too.  It's .4mv.  A smidge less than the ART9 XI@ .5mv

Someone with more knowledge can chime in regarding 58db being enough for  .5miilivolts. I've

   "You wil never get ripsnorting bass out of that unipivot. " 
False statement of the day.
Hmm, I just read that .5 is good down to 56db so I'm guessing that the XI and the Blue would work now that I'm researching it more carefully. It also depends on the cleanliness of the gain in the preamp and I'm pretty good there. Maybe I'll just give the XI a try since it's so beloved.
I have the Charisma Audio version of the Denon 103. I believe Sound Smith has their own (very similar) version. I find it quite competent with macro-dynamics and slam. Jumping up to 2K, I like both the Air Tight PC7 and EMT TSD 15 and 75. I find the EMT (on my Kuzma arm) to hold the edge over the PC-7 when it comes to dynamics. I think the other poster hit it right on when he mentioned the Lamm likes to see more output. I think 0.6mv to really unleash the Lamm. . Funny I had the Lamm and think it was very good. I kick myself for not trying a higher than 0.3 mv cart on it. Neither my Koetsu or Benz had enough output for the 57.5 db of gain the Lamm offered. Too bad I didn't try a good SUT, which I hadn’t become aware of until years later.
Yeah, that's the other thing, and I think you are confirming it. Maybe I just need to try the Auditorium 23 SUT before I venture into new cartridges? I've been trying to avoid it because of aesthetic issues. I'm really tight on space and another component, even a small one, is tricky.

Try an EMT HSD 006. The EMT cartridge line is IMO underappreciated and a super price performer ($1,600) See the review in the link below. The output is fairly high so it will easily match with your 58 db of gain. Very natural and dynamic

https://www.stereophile.com/content/listening-192-koetsu-ortofon-emt-page-2
The ultimate Denon 103 upgrade is the Audiomusikraft First Series cartridge/shell.  I got the Bronze shell weighing in at 21 gms and its extremely good.  Has made it in Stereophile's Class A cartridges for a number of years.  I replaced the original103 stylus with a VAS Audio 103R retipped with the boron cantilever and microridge stylus and it sounds spectacular. First time buyers have to buy the shell w/ the cartridge - after that, just replace the cantilever and stylus as it wears out. No need to wait for lengthy retips and relatively cheap compared to performance. I use it w my Kuzma 4P (11) - make sure that your tonearm can handle the weight. I do not see a need to buy expensive cartridges anymore. Link to site below - also check out Stereophile's Recommended Components for the last few years.

Bronze (Br) - First Series Cartridges - Audio MusiKraft
I had the unipivot Graham 2.2, went to Origin Live Conqueror. The bass did get better (duh, everything did!) but no more than everything else. It was not night and day. The bass with the Graham was deep, articulate, superb.  

So anyone wants to say you can't get good bass because unipivot, same as tablejockey said, false statement of the day.

Where do these ideas come from? I'll tell you where: audiophiles repeating blather overheard from other blathering audiophiles! My bet is the current blatherer, instead of deciding he should maybe stop repeating this one will keep right at it, say the same thing another 20 times, and this is how these phoney baloney myths take on a life of their own.

Get a Soundsmith. Whatever you can afford. It will be fab. Then if you have anything left over, get a sheet of fO.q tape, carefully cut it to fit between the cartridge and the headshell. Tape a strip along the underside of the arm tube. Look real close at my system pics, the tape is kind of ugly I like to hide it so you have to look close. https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367 One sheet will do a whole lot more than your table. Some of that tape together with a
Soundsmith and some PHT man oh man will your table sing!
 "You wil never get ripsnorting bass out of that unipivot. "
False statement of the day.
I think @dover may have meant with with the Decca SuperGold. My first thought was the same. I run Deccas and they sing on my modest 12" Jelco 850.
@rdk777 What’s your phono preamp? That’s my dream arm, by the way. Always looking for deals but they never pop up! My DL103 is an Ana Mighty Rebuilt. I'm really thinking my lack of gain is the issue now.
I have the ARC Phono Ref 2SE preamp which has a gain of 74 dB balanced. Excellent preamp - I’d highly recommend. Can find a used one around $5.5k or so. The newer used Phono Ref 3 (replaced by the 3SE) goes for around $7k-7.5k.

As for the Kuzma 4P (11), hard to find used  - they do show up occasionally. The 4P is an end game tonearm and works well with low compliance carts like the 103, so it may be a worthy investment.  
dhcod-

If you're comfortable with purchasing overseas, this seller has a good reputation and is selling a Kiseki Blue at a more realistic price.
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lisa6acc-kiseki-blue-n-s-brand-new-cartridges

With it now on level cost comparison, I believe it's "better" than the AT ART 9. At least in my setup, it performs with more overall refinement. To my ears either one is a good buy. ART9 is has a more in you face, detailed presentation that an overall laid back/warm system may need?

I've never heard the Decca carts. All the articles I've read point toward a very engaging sound. If you liked the Lyra presentation, I would say the KB is more of that "sound" compared to the ART9. 


I am aware of that seller. I was also looking at the Cadenza Black he had. 
@dhcod 

No bass issues. I've mounted cartridges I can't afford on it and I was blown away by how balanced and transparent this arm sounds compared to many high priced arms I've used in the past. People are squeamish about Uni's for some reason. I've always preferred them. We all hear differently.

I agree with your comment on balance and transparency. I actually use the Naim Aro unipivot daily ( along with Dynavector 501, FR64S & Eminent Technology ET2 modded ) which I preferred to the Graham.

The upsides of a true unipivot are that they have far less stiction than arms with gimbal bearings - this CAN mean more fluidity, speed and coherency when the cartridge is matched.

Like any arm they are not perfect - I can get more extended, deeper, tighter bass out of the FR64S & Dynavector than the Aro.

As an aside my turntable that I use for all these arms has been extensively auditioned in a controlled system flat to 13hz. I doubt there are many if any systems on this forum that achieve this.

My point was that unipivots require more care in matching the cartridge to the arm if you want to achieve extended, accurate bottom end simply because they dont have gimbal bearings gripping the arm/cartidge  when the cartridge gets excited.

My suggestion is look at the expensive cartridges that you liked best but cant afford, and see if there are common attributes on mass, compliance, gain ( for the Lamm ) that give you pointers as to which cartrdiges are likely to be more successful.

Harbeth 40's might be an alternate solution.



@millercarbon

So anyone wants to say you can't get good bass because unipivot, same as tablejockey said, false statement of the day.

Where do these ideas come from? I'll tell you where: audiophiles repeating blather overheard from other blathering audiophiles! My bet is the current blatherer, instead of deciding he should maybe stop repeating this one will keep right at it, say the same thing another 20 times, and this is how these phoney baloney myths take on a life of their own.

What I actually said was

You wil never get ripsnorting bass out of that unipivot. If you are wedded to the VPi unipivot, you want a medium compliance cartridge.

I wish you would read my posts more carefully. You appear to misconstrue my comment on the VPi into a general statement encompassing all unipivots.

What part of "rip snorting bass" "that iunipivot" "VPi" dont you understand.

Do you not understand that performance ramifications of matching a cartridge to an individual tonearm - the effects of effective mass, compliance ?

For the record I use a Naim Aro unipivot daily, which I chose over the Graham. I use it with a medium compliance LOMC.

I also currently use a Fidelity Search FR64S, Dynavector 501 & Eminent Technology ET2 and have set up 100's of arms of all types.