I don't think that spending that much money is going to get you to the next level. How about spending less? Denon DL-110 high output moving coil cartridge will make for a most enjoyable listening experience.
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I have learned my favorite local shop has Grado Gold, Rega Bias 2 and Ortofon Red (and Blue).
I would prefer to give them the business and to have them assist in the setup unless there's a strong reason to go with a cartridge which they do not sell. In the end it's about the sound, of course,
Also, FWIW, I tend to listen to acoustic music: classical (string quartet much more than orchestra) and jazz (combo more than big band) but I also have a lot of rock LP's from the old days which get the occasional spin. Oh, and I forgot to list my REL subwoofer with the gear.
Viridian, thanks for the tip on the Denon--I certainly don't mind spending less.
I've been reading reviews and forum comments on these carts. My concern with the Grado is this: not enough detail.
My present Stanton cartridge yields an ill-defined bass that I don't find appealing at all. Of course I don't want harshness either. I really just want as close to a natural sound as possible. If I'm sacrificing slamming bass or sizzling highs, well, that's more than fine with me.
I'm hoping the dealer will be able to demo one or more of these through speakers somewhat similar to mine. Meanwhile, I keep reading and learning.