My clearaudio Virtuoso cartridge broke as well as some others on an earlier forum. Seems a problem with this cartridge. I hate to have to buy a new one if they might warranty it? Though I was told for 200 dollars it could be repaired. Is it worth spending 200 or buy a new less problematic cartridge??
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I found this review site very useful when choosing a cartridge:
Eventually went with a Clearaudio Maestro V2 Ebony and could not be happier with the results.
I have a Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood and have broken the cantilever not once, but twice. I had it re-tipped again but am afraid to use it.
If you can afford a little more, get a Hana SL. They are fantastic. I have one on my Clearaudio Emotion. The Denon DL-301 MKII is also very nice and closer to your price range. Nagaoka makes nice MM carts. I have the MP-500, which is also a little out of your price range, but very nice.
I'd be inclined to replace the turntable with something better before putting that kind of money into a cartridge. I suppose you could move the cartridge in due course. While you may hear some improvement with a better cartridge, you are not hearing its potential capability. You don't say what you have in it currently. There are superior stylus replacements that will elevate existing cartridges for less money.
Hana are very nice cartridges, but how can anybody say it is the best MM cartridge out there? You can’t. IMO there are better MM carts out there, but you will pay a little to a lot more $$$. Also, how easy is it to retip or rebuild them in the future? Can it be done? How much? I can rebuild my soundsmith for the cheap instead of spending big bucks down the line.
Check out the Soundsmith Otello or Carmen. Both are excellent choices. Huge vote for the Ortofon 2M blue, bronze or black depending on how much you decide to spend. Don’t overlook the Sumiko Blue Point. Still a decent value as well. That kind of investment will also properly adorn your table with a good Grado. The Audio Technica line is good too. Most important thing, listen to as many as you can in that price range as you can. Clearaudio may also be a good match as well at their lower pricepoints. Their offering can as well as other can climb up to 10k or more as you already have discovered. Good luck and happy listening🎶
A while back Michael Fremer did a cartridge shoot out and he posted files of each cartridge playing the same song. You can read aboout the shootout and listen to the files here. You might consider listening to them blind to make your own unbiased pick of which of these sound the best. https://www.analogplanet.com/content/nine-cartridge-survey-produces-audible-results.
He gave the results of the poll and identified which cartridge belonged to which file here https://www.analogplanet.com/content/nine-cartridges-compared-reviewed-and-voting-results
I picked up a NOS virtuoso ebony cartridge for about the money you mention above & it is outstanding for the money. Betters the LOMC's I've used prior to it. I can see how you could break them though. The stylus is certainly not protected. Kinda sticks out there just daring you to break it. If you don't mind going old school, check out Raul's large mm thread. There are a lot of great old mm or mi cartridges out there that you can still get high quality stylus's for.
Also worth checking out is the AT33 PTG/II MC, I was able to get one on eBay for $460 including shipping. I was choosing between the Hana EL vs AT33 PTG/II and spent a several weeks researching and reading forums. The deciding factor for me was that my previous cart is a AT440MLA MM which served me well with no issues. So far I'm really happy with the sound, it tracks really well and is more refined compared to my previous MM cart. Its still early days as I'm breaking it in but I can strongly recommend the AT33 ptg/ii based on my experience.
Here is a pretty decent resource that you can get a sense of different cartridges actually playing music. The recordings are of sufficient fidelity that, at least for me, i can get a sense of the differences in the sound of the cartridges. The narrator’s comments I find helpful too.
My vote is also for Nagakoa. Its a good value.
Actually my Marantz is a tt151 made by Clear Audio / not tt150 my error.
I also settled on spending more money, and went with the Soundsmith Zephyr mimc star. I very much also liked there rebuild policy for 20% of the cartridge cost.
Thank you everyone for your great input, I considered many of them.
But hold on here. Isn't the traditional wisdom that lower-mass generators, the better? MCs are best because they have the lowest mass signal generators. Why is it there isn't a single MM in the high end market?
With my first turntable it had a decent MM. I upgraded to AT-OC9L/II and it blew the MM's socks off. The AT isn't even a very expensive cartridge, you can easily find it for less than $500 new.
I’ve noticed some problem with suspension only with 3 cartridges out of a bunch of 50 vintage cartridges i’ve owned, they are all from the mid ’70s, late ’80s.
Those carts are Technics (notorious for suspension problem), a few hardly used Victor X-1 for some reason and one NOS Glanz MFG-71L
Never had any problem with suspension/damper or styli with the rest of 47 different MM/MI cartridges including different samples of NOS Victor, Glanz etc.
The best way to check suspension condition is to use Hi-Fi Test LP. With this record anyone can measure the actual tonearm+cartridge resonance frequency. We can compare the actual test results with given cartridge compliance and given tonearm effective mass. If the cartridge suspension/damper is stiffer or softer the result will be different between the actual test with LP and for example theoretical test with this diagram
However, softened damper is easy to determine visually, in this case a cartridge with recommended tracking force is much closer to the record surface that it should be. They are so calles Lowriders! Those 3 cartridges i have mentioned above have had this problem. I’ve never seen an old cartridge with stiffer suspension in my life, only softened suspension!