Cartridge recommendations under $2500


Since auditioning cartridges is so difficult I’m looking for advise on MC cartridges that should pair well with my equipment. I’m looking for transparency with a bit of warmth and I’m ok buying a low hour used cartridge from a reputable source. My equipment includes:

Linn LP12 with Mose Hercules, Cirkus and Ittok (Effective Mass 11.5g)
ARC PH7 Phono Amp
ARC LS25 MKii Pre Amp
ARC VT200 Power Amp
Raido C1.1 Speakers
Shunyata Alpha Helix Power Cables
Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables
Morrow MA7 Interconnects
Morrow PH7 Phono Cable

Some cartridges I’ve been researching include:
Ortofon Cadenza Black
Ortofon Cadenza Bronze
Lyra Kleos
Koetsu Rosewood
Koetsu Black Goldline
Hana ML

I want to keep the cost under $2,500 and I’m not in a position to upgrade the turntable / tonearm at this time. Oh...and my current cartridge is a Linn Asaka for what it’s worth.

Thanks in advance for your collective advise. I hope this is enough to get the ball rolling.
Ag insider logo xs@2xbstakston
Don't forget that for Koetsu you need a heaviest possible tonearm, it's a very low compliance cartridge! If you can get heavy tonearm like IKEDA then look for Miyajima cartridges. Don't know why Hana is in your list if you can get Koetsu ? 

The rest of the cartridge from your list are for mid mass tonearm. 
I tried several cartridges in that range including the DV xx2-2, Cadenza Bronze, Zephyr MIMC.  The DV is worth a look.  It has detail and warmth in moderation.  The Cadenza is very warm and kind to poor recordings.  The MIMC is a good one, fairly neutral.  I suggest replacing that under performing PH7 first.  It held back all those cartridges severely.  
Thanks for the quick feedback guys... wlutke, what did you end up replacing the PH7 with?
“Don’t know why Hana is in your list if you can get Koetsu”

@chakster,

I am no pro but Koetsu Blackline Gold - $3K cost more than twice the price of Hana ML, is it really that much better?

Hana ML, IME is a very balanced cartridge with gorgeous sound. I loved it so much that I’ve decided to try the Hana Umami Red. At $1200 US retail, Hana ML is a absolute bargain and well deserved to on anyone’s list of under $2500.
@lalitk 

the OP considering Koetsu Rosewood, not that entry level Black which is the worst Koetsu. He has mentioned Rosewood and this is another level. 

Comparing Hana to Koetsu Rosewood is very strange in my opinion.

You're right about the prices, Hana is relatively cheap MC, but Koetsu always was the most expensive premium cartridge.

If a person can buy premium Koetsu then why even look at the Hana (aka Excel Sound) ?    




Bstakston,
I went with the Herron.  Here’s what I wrote in a previous thread:
”My impression of the improvement to the PH-7 was in extension, tightness/amplitude of bass, timing, lack of glare and most definitely dynamics.  Where the PH-7 bettered it was noise floor.”

I have the Koetsu Black Goldline, extremely happy with it on my Origin Live Conqueror arm. I never pay one second of attention to compliance, mass, or any of the other BS that so obsesses some of these guys so maybe they can tell you the only reason I lucked out is my arm weighs a ton. But I don't think so. More likely I think they are repeating something they heard, or assume that one time turned out bad that must be it therefore blah blah blah. Bottom line be careful when people tell you one thing won't work with another. They may be right. Or not. 

Also Koetsu is nowhere near as warm or smooth the way some would have you think. Its actually fairly close to what I would call neutral, if people hadn't misused that term so much. The sound is very close in character to the Benz Ruby I had before, another extremely satisfying cartridge. The Koetsu just gets more magic out of the grooves. 

My system has improved tremendously in the 2 years I've had the Black. The cartridge continues to amaze with its very natural detail, dynamics, presence and imaging. There's just more there there, as MF would say.

When I was about to order mine I called and talked to a dealer who sells a lot of Koetsu. I was reluctant to buy the entry level and was leaning Rosewood, even though that would have been a stretch. He said the Black is so close, yes the Rosewood is better but the Black is very very close. 

The most important thing to me is the sound. The only spec I pay attention to is output. The Black has a nice medium output making it much less likely you have problems with noise, finding a good phono stage for it, etc. Just makes life easier.

Not knocking any other cartridge. Probably you could not go wrong with any of them. Just so much the better if you can match their sound with your preference. Hope this helps.

I recently added the Dynavector Karat 17DX. $2250. Quiet w/plenty of detail. 
Koetsu Black is entry level Koetsu cartridge, all information about this model available online, there are many people explain why it's an entry level of Koetsu. 
I am a Lyra fan but not that familiar with the Kleos.  I have not heard the AT ART7 or ART9, but they seem to get a lot of positive comments.  The ART7 might have a little too low output to work well with that ARC phono stage.
I love my AT-33PTG/II for $500 from 2juki on eBay.  Many great reviews for both cartridge and seller, many saying best cartridge under $1000.  Is a low MC microline and is an excellent and accurate tracker.  Might be worth a try and then buy more vinyl with your $2000 extra. :)
Given your arm the Ortofon cadenza Black is the easy winner at your price point. I like the Kleos a lot but it is over your price point. Do not buy used cartridges. You never know what you are getting.  The Koetsu's are too stiff for your arm and are not the best trackers. The Hana is nowhere near the Ortofon in performance. The Clearaudio Concerto V2 is a thought if you do not mind your cantilever sticking out in the breeze. Clearaudio and their representatives do a first class job in taking care of their customers. The Vanden den Hul MC 1 Special is another fine cartridge in your price range. It is hard to beat the Ortofon in this price range. I would go with it.
The Hana is not the ultimate...but start there. It's fine. And compatible. And resellable. Learn from it and leap in :)
I agree also on HANA microline, using a MCMH with my Gold Note Mediterraneao and love it....for now.....
Agreed that the Lyra Kleos is out of the desired price range.  I have a Lyra Delos and from everything I've read, the difference between the two is noticeable, but not an order of magnitude higher.  I love the Delos, but it can be a bit bright without loading it right and it's very sensitive to VTA, VTF and so on. It tracks incredibly well and once dialed in it's an amazing cart that might be the best value for the price point. 

Plus, the designer (J. Carr) frequents the forums and his advice is invaluable. You might want to consider the Delos in your list. 
Both the Delos and the ML offer excellent value. I run them both on different tables/systems. Agree, don’t buy a used cartridge unless you know and trust the dealer very well. The Herron phono pre is super, but you have many other choices:-)

enjoy the music and the journey 
The Lyra Kleos is outstanding IMO. Im running one on a VPI Super Prime Scout however it’s $3700. Loading changes are very noticeable, and with my Manley Chinook PS there are many loading options. A bit more than your $2500 budget.
Maybe try a Lyra Delos at $2000 as mentioned already.
I haven’t heard it personally but it reviews very well FWIW.
How can anyone tell you what to buy?

Some people never heard anything better than entry level cartridges like Hana, some just don't have enough experience with different cartridges. Most of recommendations is like "buy this, because I bought this". 

With $2500 budged you can buy many brand new great cartridges that are not in your list like Dynavector, Shelter, Miyajima ... if you're looking for LOMC.  

Just do your own search, try to audition carts, for example Miyajima dealer in US can offer free trial (at lest that was an option few years ago). 
the new audio technica art9 replacements, art9xa and xi are awesome for the money but sound best on lighter arms.
i have the ortofon cadenza blue which i picked over the bronze and black.  the blue stresses dynamics and neutrality of presentation.  it sounds excellent.  
if you want a richer sound the bronze and black are good choices, ortofon quality is tops.  
if you want a richer sound still then the soundsmith zephyr mimic star es would be a good choice.  
Thanks again to all who have taken the time to respond.  I really do appreciate everyone’s comments and advice.  It’s helpful to hear other’s experience.  The Herron phono amp has been on my radar for some time.  Some day I’ll make a change with my phono amp but for now I need to stick with the PH7.  I’ll do some more research on some of the cartridges suggested that weren’t on my original list.  I sure wish it was easier to audition these things.  As of now I’m leaning towards the Cadenza Black.  I definitely want to learn more about the DV xx2 MKii and the Zephyr MIMC and The Hanna still interests me as a lower priced option to consider.  keep the comments coming...
Hana is a great value.  I had the SL for 6 months and really can't fault it, especially for the price.  I sold it and moved up to a Lyra Delos.  It fits well into your budget while the Kleos is well beyond your budget.  As another person stated above, the Kleos is known to be a bit better, but probably not as much as is the price difference.  The Delos is THE value in the Lyra line of offerings.  I paired it with a Manley Chinook phono stage.  The Chinook offers a lot of loading options and is every bit the value in performance for a phono stage as the Delos is to a phono cartridge.  All of this, of course, is my opinion.  As another person stated, the Delos can be a little bright at first.  But once the suspension has about 50 hours of run-in time and you find the best loading that works with your system and your musical tastes, it is hard to beat.  My tonearm is on the lighter side of medium mass and tracking is definitely not an issue.  Flawless!
I own 3 cartridges, all of which I enjoy, all within you $ range. EMT Tsd-75, Air Tight PC 7, and Charisma Audio (Denon) 103. The latter under $1000 last time I checked. 
i have  hana  ml on a reed 2a    its beautiful and a beast...better than my  allnic puritas $5000
I run a Cadenza Black on my TTW Momentus  and an old van den Hul 1 on my Goldmund Studio/T3-F. Both are great, and I'm thinking about a new vdH! Both run thru my Pass Labs 25 phono pre!
Benz Micro Wood is also worth considering.
I have an LP12 with Ittok and use the Ortophon Quintet Black, which works well.  The Cadenza series is a whole other level, but should work well. 
I second the van den Hul MC ONE SPECIAL recommendation, although I don't know what "warmth" means. It is very detailed and accurate. It doesn't add or subtract much. Lousy albums sound lousy and great ones sound great.  It's now distributed by VPI, although I would go to a dealer who can set it up. That should improve it's visibility since they will package them with their tables and provide great service..Should be able to get 15-20% discount which will put it well within your price range.
You could visit VAS NY INC Youtube Page and listen to Multiple Needle Drops.
Similar LP Tracks are used and System for the replays.
For myself, after listening to many of the Needle Drops, I thought is was reasonably easy to work out from the replays a Cartridge that has a Transparency.
There might be a Model that catches your Attention, there is also a 
Cadenza Black on there to listen to.   
Since VAS was mentioned check out the vAS Nova. It comes in several iterations - you can call Steve Leung directly and he can work with you.

It beats my Cadenza Black (and my buddies who has both).
Smooter just bit less analytical and far more enjoyable for longer sessions. You can also get the matching SUT if needed.

I do love the Cadenza, don't get me wrong (and I think the bronze is superb as well - if not better in some ways) but like the Vas NOVA a hair better. For context - both my buddy and I have a VPI tables.
At that price point lots of great options many already mentioned. Over time I have discovered the value of a “balanced” presentation after experience with cartridges that excelled in certain areas or were colored in some way. I always felt my ART 9 and before that even my OC9 met the definition of balanced. Recently, I moved to a Charisma Audio cartridge which raised the bar in this regard—simply wonderful, enjoyable—never drawing attention to itself. Highly recommended with several models below your price point. Caveat—not sure about synergy with the Linn.
Extremely happy with the Hana ML.
@dodgealum,

May I know which Charisma Audio cart you own? 
@lalitk I am using the Signature One but my comments apply to the entire line based on my reading of the reviews but also more importantly speaking in depth with Bernard Li of Charisma about his design objectives.
@dodgealum,

Thanks, glad to hear your feedback. I got Signature One coming next month. We will see how Sig. One stacks against Hana Umami Red. 
Cool—please post your observations!
I have recently read a report, as a result of an individuals audition of the
Hana Umami Red.

The individual offering the report is very familiar with
Urushi Cartridges, and is claiming the Umami Red
is a New Design coming from the same Production Facility that produces the Urushi Cartridges.

The Report is that the Umami Red Cartridge is not a noticeable Sibling to the Urushi Cartridges, it is quite unique in its presentation,
and should not be anticipated to fit into the Urushi Line Up of Cartridges.

In my view, the Designers of the Umami are probably quite conscious of this departure from the Urushi as part of the Brief for the New Design,
not needing it to be a version of a Urushi, as this is already available through variances in Urushi Models, hence the noticeable difference in performance being produced by the Umami.

Urushi in Japanese Language refers to a Valued Tradition of a
 Ancient Technique of applying a Lacquer.
The Lacquer is produced from a Very Toxic Sap, that is extracted from a Urushi Tree.

The Hana Models reference as 'Umami' in Japanese Language refers to opposing Culinary Flavours of which 'Umami' is Savoury.
The Term Unami is made from Two Words which means
(Umai)  Delicious (mi) Taste
I would feel the Term Umami was very much a consideration for the Design Brief, it had to be noticeably a Opposite ?

The Report on the Hana Umami Red also makes a comparison to a Windfeld Ti as being a reference as there is a similar presentation.