Cartridge suggestions


Hi. Helping a friend find a new cartridge for his Pro-ject TT. He has a 2Experience with 9" EVO carbon arm. Listens to mostly jazz/acoustic music. Phono stage is an EAR834P clone. Speakers are Spendor BC1's. Ideally a neutral and articulate cartridge as if anything too laid back might end up making the whole system a bit too mushy. As the phono stage only has MM capabilities, LO MC cartridge isn't an option. So, HO MC, or MM/MI options please. Looking to keep this under 500 and used isn't really an option. Thanks!
perkri
I am not a huge moving magnet fan, but I did get to spend quite a bit of time with the LP Gear Vessel R3SM. It uses a ruby cantilever and Shibata stylus. A bit spendy for a MM cartridge but it sounds glorious! Nicely detailed, refined, even tonal balance, and has a cohesive presentation that a MM cartridge has. A bit off the beaten path and does not have audiophile cache, but its a great cartridge. Scuttlebut is its a custom design by Excel for LP Gear. 

My other choice would be a high output moving coil then, and either the Ortofon, Sumiko, or Hana offerings. 
Practicability considerations:

Signal Strength, related amplification factors

I also use only MM; higher output a choice factor, I prefer at least 3.5mV.
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Calibration Skills (and related tools)

Skills and tools for many alignments/calibrations are VERY important for ANY TT, ANY Arm, ANY Cartridge. Expensive or Basic. A bargain setup can beat a very costly system depending on calibrations.  LP can beat CD, beat streaming, ... ONLY if properly setup!

Owner skills, or access to a professional for proper setup is important.
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Stylus Shape, Cantilever Material, Replacement

Think stylus shape, cantilever material, and cost/availability of replacement stylus now when choosing a cartridge.

highly respected source of replacement stylus

https://www.jico-stylus.com/

I prefer either Shibata or SAS stylus shape. I avoid the most brittle cantilever, thus I bought a replacement stylus: SAS stylus tip with Boron cantilever from Jico.

https://www.jico-stylus.com/product/vn5xmr-hg-sas-b/
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Cleaning Skills

Using advanced stylus shapes with more contact surface in the grooves makes cleaning even more important. Clean Stylus is important. People who experience lots of disruptive static most often lack the proper cleaning skills. I recently improved my cleaning skills, and am enjoying my used LPs with SAS tip essentially static free.

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Elliptical Stylus is Less Costly

Example: Shure m97xe. now discontinued (Shure stopped making cartridges). I used this quite happily for years. Jico makes a replacement stylus for it:

https://www.jico-stylus.com/product/n97xe-sas-b/comment-page-6/

Find one? Find a body and put a new Jico SAS stylus in it? (body you can return).
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Brushes

I like Shure brushes (and the sound of their cartridges).

Damped to steady LP irregularities, anti-static, and gathers small particles before the stylus gets to the grooves. Other brush arrangements exist.

Shure (others) with integral brushes can be used with the brush down in use, or pivoted up off the LP, Shure factory damped brushes, when down in use 'push up' 0.5g; so i.e. for 1.25g tracking force, using brush, set at 1.75 tracking, and anti-skate to match the 'effective 1.25 TF.

If set, and changing to brush up out of use, re calibrate TF to 1.25, double check anti-skate which was set for 1.25 already.

Jico wrote me that their replacement brushes are NOT damped, just a brush, so the upward force is different, a bit of guess work involved. 
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Protection of Stylus 

Check out the method/ease of stylus protection during detailed arm/cartridge/stylus calibrations.

Shure flip up/down brushes, Jico replacement stylus with flip up/down brush, and Audio Technica slip on protective cover are all easy.

My Grado Mono cartridge (love it's sound): it's small snap on plastic cover is ok for shipping, but lousy for protection when calibrating.
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USED

I would consider buying a used cartridge body, from a highly regarded source, only if returns accepted. 

I would plan on the cost of a replacement stylus in cost calculations.

Used Stylus, separate or comes in used cartridge body you want: that's risky, might get lucky, but 
Audio-Technica VM740ML or VM750SH.  About as good as MM gets (in my opinion) and fits the "neutral and articulate" brief perfectly.
Thanks for all this info! I had previously heard good things about the LP Gear cartridge, as well as some of the AT's. 

As far as set up, I have enough of the "stuff" required and have a "healthy" amount of OCD and understanding as to the process of properly setting up a cartridge. And yes, makes a huge difference!


I also like the Audio Technica ML Microline Cartridges, I have the AT440ml (earlier version)

this I consider a great find, NEW, BUY IT NOW, $192. delivered

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Audio-Technica-AT440MLb-Cartridge/202816707471?hash=item2f38d15b8f:g:VkgAAOSwtsBdw2Ui

no returns, but, says unopened, and protected by paypal/ebay, and, use your best credit card with protection.

'Quadrophonic' in description. Don't be confused, these are terrific for stereo. The advanced stylus, deeper in the groove, were needed for the short quad lp era. Actually, we have quad to thank for these advanced stylus shapes.
Buy a cartridge only from reputable brands who actually made them, not from the brands like LP Gear who does not make them, they often sells fake styli for well known cartridges (i’ve seen it many times and their styli does not look like my originals for certain cartridges, it was easy to compare them visually). LP gear is not the manufacturer. Most of the cartridge manufacturers are in Japan, so various brand just ordering their cartridges from Japan with their logo on it, but such brands does not design cartridges, they are not a cartridge designers. They are doing it just to make profit, not because they want to invent something new and interesting.

So if you want something interesting you have to look for well known brands in cartridge design, it can be American, Australian, German, Swiss or Japanese brands.

You could use an MC, but only with external SUT + MM phono stage (or with external Headamp + MM phono stage).

However, total cost of the nice MC with nice SUT is much higher than for a decent MM or MI cartridge. Also you can’t swap the stylus on MC cartridge (only re-tip).

Also spending much for a cartridge on this cheap lightweight plastic belt drive turntable is not a good idea, the tonearm does not have adjustments, it can be too complicated to adjust a cartridge on this cheap tonearm, you can’t even change the VTA as far as i know, so stay away from expensive cartridges.

The idea to look for MM is good idea.

But what is your budget ?

As you know many people prefer NOS tubes and they are almost always better than NEW modern tubes (i tried many). Same about most of the modern MM cartridges, for some reason they are not better than NOS vintage cartridge from the golden analog era (70s/80s) when MM was a king!

Few years ago i installed Stanton 881s mkII Stereohedron on the same turntable, i also did it for a friend. He was more than happy with Stanton 881s, the stock ortofom M2 Red sound like garbage in comparison with Stanton 881s which is not even the best Stanton from the golden era.

Read this article first, then you will understand why they are so good.

Pickering XSV/3000 is a twin brother of Stanton 881s, but for the Pro-Ject tonearm slightly lower compliance (mid compliance) would be even better, there was a special version of Pickering XSV/3000 with lower compliance (15cu instead of 30cu), that version was made since 1989 and it was Pickering XSV/3000SP. You will find more online. It’s not a problem to find NOS sample of XSV/3000, but the 3000SP is very hard to find, but it’s better match for Pro-Ject arm.

Over decades audiogon members shared personal experience about vintage MM cartridges, many people compared them to very expensive LOMC. Taking in count the price difference many a’gon member prefered vintage MM to expensive MC. You can find all information on audiogon. For me it was very interesting reading for a few years :))

Some of the top MM for moderate price are: Stanton 881s, Pickering XSV/3000 and 4000, Garrott P77, Victor X-1IIe, Grace F9, AT-ML150 OCC, Ganz 31L and Astatic MF200, Jeweltone or Nagaoka MP-50, Pioneer PC-1000 mkII ... and with a higher models from the same brands you can get absolutely the best MM cartridges, but for much higher price than vintage ones.



elliottbnewcombjr

Using advanced stylus shapes with more contact surface in the grooves makes cleaning even more important. Clean Stylus is important. People who experience lots of disruptive static most often lack the proper cleaning skills. I recently improved my cleaning skills, and am enjoying my used LPs with SAS tip essentially static free.
It’s a lot easier to keep a stylus clean if it only plays clean records. That’s where LP playback cleanliness starts, imo.
I like Shure brushes ...Damped to steady LP irregularities, anti-static, and gathers small particles before the stylus gets to the grooves.
It sounds like you’re playing dirty records.
Jico wrote me that their replacement brushes are NOT damped, just a brush, so the upward force is different, a bit of guess work involved.
Guesswork isn’t likely to yield proper phono cartridge setup.
I wouldn’t use a phono cartridge that relied on a brush but if I did, I’d measure its effect with a proper VTF scale.
@chakster  

Did you read my post before you responded?
Did you read my post before you responded?

Yes, i just missed the price point of $500, sorry

Stanton 881s mkII cost about $350 nowadays and most of the other cartridges i have mentioned are under $700 and even better. Pickering XSV-3000SP is just at your price point and a perfect match for that EVO tonearm! 



Ideally a neutral and articulate cartridge as if anything too laid back might end up making the whole system a bit too mushy. As the phono stage only has MM capabilities, LO MC cartridge isn’t an option.

Cartridges used for Disc Mastering at studios like Sheffield Lab must be absolutely neutral. When Doug Sax recorded his best he used Stanton 881s mkII as his monitoring cartridge for Disc Mastering process. This is the reason i recommend them. Doug was one of the best mastering engineer in USA. There are many others from the industry in this article where AT-ML170 OCC and Technics EPC 100c mk4 also mentioned as reference standard cartridges, they are all neutral. You will not find an equal MM cartridge from the new manufacturers, those cartridges are exceptionally good. The cheapest is Stanton ($350), the most expensive is Technics (over $2000 today), the AT-ML170 is probably $700 just to give you the idea of the prices.    


So, HO MC, or MM/MI options please. Looking to keep this under 500 and used isn’t really an option.


High Output MC is nonsense, never buy them, almost any good MM/MI is better with clear benefits of stylus replacement option!
@chakster 

Thanks!

More info to share...

And the 9"EVO arm is fully adjustable FYI

(And the TT is not plastic...)
Any thoughts on Nagaoka cartridges? Had an MP110 once which I rather enjoyed...
And the 9"EVO arm is fully adjustable FYI

What you mean fully adjustable? Can you adjust azimuth of the fly like you can do with Reed 3P tonearms for example ? Or there is a VTA on the fly like on Technics tonearms ? If you can adjust VTA then the version of the arm you have is probably better than another cheaper Pro-Ject that my friend has.


And the TT is not plastic...

It was an allegory ...
Pro-Ject turntables looks like plastic and they does not have weight like a proper turntables. My turntables are metal for example.




Any thoughts on Nagaoka cartridges? Had an MP110 once which I rather enjoyed...

Here we go again, the Nagaoka MP110 has BONDED elliptical stylus, best cartridges must have NUDE stylus and better profiles (LineContact type at least). If you enjoyed entry level cartridges i can only imagine how a decent vintage MM can blew your mind away with extended frequency range, sound stage and resolution you will get from a better cartridges. 

Yes max out your budget in the Nakagoka line, great sound
The Nagaoka MP-500 is an excellent cartridge, but over your budget.  I'd give a listen to the Clearaudio Concept MM.  $250.
cleeds2,765 posts03-07-2020 12:07pm
"It sounds like you’re playing dirty records
I wouldn’t use a phono cartridge that relied on a brush.
 but if I did, I’d measure its effect with a proper VTF scale."

How do you clean your LP's? How do you clean your Stylus?

Look into a sunbeam, as many dust particles as there are stars. Perfectly clean new or used LP, dust lands during play.

BENEFITS, not relies on the brush. The advance team, like a curling broom

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curling#Curling_broom

It can be left up as I mentioned.

Guesswork with Jico Brush? I get it right, however Shure gives guidance/specifics, based on their expertise, Jico does not.

I do measure TF with a digital scale, with brush up and brush down, however, during play, what dynamics involved?

I set TF and anti-skate with test records, lp with no grooves, ear, specific 3 channel sources, I get it right.

I've been using Shure cartridges with brushes since 1970, and was darn happy to find that Jico makes replacement stylus with their version of a brush.

The Stanton Chackster mentioned, and other Stantons, Pickerings, .... have brushes, can be down in use, or up as desired.
The Hana EH would be an excellent candidate. It is about $475 and is the high output version of the Hana EL. It is a high output moving coil. I have the Hana EL and in my opinion it is the best 500 dollar or under cartridge available.

A second choice would be the Sumiko Blue Point No 2. It is @ $440. It too is a high output moving coil cartridge and is a close second to the above Hana. 

Lastly, for a moving magnet choice at only $299, is the Sumiko Moonstone cartridge, as reviewed by Analog Planet's Michael Fremer. Probably one the best under 500 moving magnets available. 

If you want to go cheap, I have to suggest the Ortofon super OM 10. It is simply a wonderful moving magnet cartridge for the money and is easily upgradeable to the OM 20, 30, 40....by swapping out the stylus....super OM 10 can be had for a measly 75 bucks on Ebay. 
I have the Hana EL, and I agree that it is the new Denon 103 and better. Go for a Hana EH, there should not be a very big difference in performance to the EL. Or get a SUT so you can have the EL.

If your friend changes his mind and would consider a vintage MM... I have the Technics EPC-205C MKIII with the original stylus and a JICO SAS. It is very good, and today you need to spend a lot to get the same performance. It is neutral. The EPC-100C is a step up. 
Yes, I agree with above, as a SUT will open up an even wider window to what the Hana EL can do! The SUT will allow you to just utilize existing moving magnet phono input/stage.  There will be no major difference in the  EL & HL as they are both very good. I currently use both the pro-ject tube box ds2 as well as the musical surroundings phenomena 11+ with the Hana EL set at a load resistance of 400 ohms @ 60db of gain and it sounds glorious.Taking the SUT route to run the EL will extrapolate possibly even greater amounts information and inner detail from the EL. The Rothwell line of SUT's made in the UK can be found on ebay. Some models use lundahl transformers from Sweden which are known to be of the best quality. The lower tier MC-1 is the lowest priced model at about $350, but does not use the above swedish made transformers. Although this in combo with the EL would put the cost several hundred above budget, it may be a viable and worth while expenditure. 
I posted this in the wrong thread yesterday

audio technica lowest price Microline Stylus, $170.

https://www.audio-technica.com/cms/cartridges/e798922daa95de6d/index.html

540: current dual magnet version like my old 440ml, $250.

https://www.audio-technica.com/cms/cartridges/e7a3d4bc8b248b64/index.html
When I was using a mm cartridge, I had a Gold Note Vasari Gold Cartridge that was quite excellent sounding.  Gorgeous tone.  Cartridge ran between $200-300.00.  Nothing else in that price range even came close to the beautiful sound from that cartridge.  Not sure if it is readily available in the US as I bought mine right from the Canadian distributor.  
@chakster 
I’ve read you and others quote market prices for cartridges. Are these prices good used condition or NOS? Anyway these discussions got me curious and I bought an NOS 881s  for $300. I have some expensive MC cartridges too. I put it on my Ikeda 407 and am very impressed. This isn’t supposed to be a recommended combination but it’s been playing for 2 weeks and sounds great. $300 very well spent.
Steve.
Are these prices good used condition or NOS? Anyway these discussions got me curious and I bought an NOS 881s for $300.

Great price for a NOS unit, definitely a bargain!
I never buy beaten or bad condition cartridges, so when i share my notes about price statistics it’s for a perfect cartridges only (lightly used). Normally NOS units are more expensive, but depends on the exact model, some cartridges are very rare. Stanton is not so rare like some Japanese cartridges from the same era, but it depends on the brand and model. Stereohedron stylus can be used for 1200 hrs, so even when you’re buyin used Stanton or Pickering (with this type of stylus only) it can be used for a long time and gently used samples are worth to look for too (imo).


I have some expensive MC cartridges too. I put it on my Ikeda 407 and am very impressed. This isn’t supposed to be a recommended combination but it’s been playing for 2 weeks and sounds great. $300 very well spent.

Yes, this is exactly what i mean, some mid priced MM are just great and that particular model of Stanton with Stereohedron stylus was Doug Sax’s monitoring cartridge at Sheffield Lab Disc mastering. For your particular tonearm a lower compliance Pickering XSV-3000SP (only SP version designed for higher mass tonearms) is better match in terms of resonance. Stanton 881s is equal to Pickering XSV/3000 (compliance 30cu), but Pickering SP version compliance is 15cu and it was the latest model is 3000 series.

Glad you like Stanton 881, it’s American classics and most of the modern MM cartridges simply can’t compete to Stanton 881, 980 and 981 (also Pickering 3000, 4000, 4500, 5000 and 7500 models). However, the higher the model number - the higher the price and quality.