Cartridge upgrade for $600

My TT is an Origin Live Aurora with Silver arm MkII. I currently use an Ortofon 2M Blue ($199). I want to increase detail and soundstage, and maybe try a MC cartridge for the first time. What do you recommend I consider? My amp is MF with built in phono (switchable) driving Usher speakers. Thanks in advance.
Which MF? How much gain in the phono stage? What input impedance values are available on the phono inputs?

Without knowing those specs any MC cartridge recommendation would be about as useful as recommending tires without knowing what car they're for or where it will be driven.
Musical Fidelity A3.2 Intergrated with phono:
Input sensitivity: 250mV (line); 2.5mV (MM phono), 350┬ÁV (MC phono). Input impedance: 220k ohms (line); 47k ohms (phono). Overload margin: 26dB (line); 24dB (phono). Channel separation: >70dB, typical.
In that price range, I would suggest you consider remaining in the MM or MI domain. Low end MC cartridges are not necessarily going to be superior to any of the better ones. You could just move up the Ortofon line or consider a Sound Smith MI cartridge that meets your price limits. There are literally dozens of good choices available to you.
The Audio Technica AT-150MLX will outperform any MC close to $600 and perhaps up to $1K IMO.

Dealer disclaimer
Among great-performing MM/MI carts at $400-600 are the Audio Technica AT150MLX (TAS's Cartridge of the Year), Ortofon 2M Black, Grado Reference Platinum or Sonata, something from Goldring or one of the MM Clearaudio wood bodies.

I have had and loved the AT150MLX for the past 4 years. It has nice detail without beating you over the head with it, and a lovely top-to-bottom linearity and coherence. Great tracker too. Often selling for $499, you can find it for around $318 if you look around. You must load its capacitance at between 100-200 pF. Mine sings at 150 pF.
One day you are thinking of trying a different Integrated amp and now you are looking at cartridges ?

Whatever you decide to do , make it worth while , even if you have to save more money to do right now it seems that you have some money just burning a whole in your pocket.
If you go with Goldring get 1042 only. $350 from
Yes, I agree, stay with MM/MI.

04-17-12: Inna
If you go with Goldring get 1042 only. $350 from
Yes, I agree, stay with MM/MI.

Great tip. The Goldring is a lot of cart for the money and I've never read anything bad about it.

In the same price range, the Audio Technica AT150MLX is available for $324.95 at Also, the Goldring 1042 is available at (stateside) for $375. It might be even money with a UK deal when you consider shipping costs and time to delivery.
I have the same OL table and recently upgraded from the original Silver arm to the OL Encounter Mk3c. I used many different cartridges withthe Silver arm and ultimately ended with a Sumiko Blackbird. The deck and arm responded well to each upgrade. Your table and arm will perform well with many very good cartridges so you can look forward to nice improvements in the future as you upgrade cartridges. If you would like please email me at my audiogon username and we can discuss my experience with the OL aurora and OL arms.
I am considering cartridges now rather than int amp b/c I feel upgrading my present int amp (MF 3.2) to something in my budget wont give me the upgrade Im looking for. But a cartridge should.

It seems folks are together that for $600 I should stay with MM. What if I can get something like a Sumiko Blackbird used for $600. Is that a better path than say Ortofon 2M Black? Thanks all.
the 2m black is as good as any under $1000 mc cartridge you are likely to find. Now, good is a relative term. My 2m Black sounds different than my Lyra Delos or Ortofon Kontrapunkt B, but I can't say one is better than the other, just different with different strengths and weaknesses, although the Delos and Black have more of what is important to me.
With respect to a MC, what about an Ortofon X5 MC? I know it comes in an ugly red body, but its got a good reputation and the output is HO MC at 2 mV. Its $550 at Needledoctor. I think this might be a better choice than a 2M Black

I was considering this choice along with the AT 150 MLX, but for the money the AT is probably the better deal. The Ortofon X5 also has a much lower compliance than the AT, which does not suit my low mass arm. But if you have a higher mass arm?
>>04-18-12: Manitunc
the 2m black is as good as any under $1000 mc cartridge you are likely to find.<<

Strongly disagree. A couple years ago I heard the 2M alongside a Dynavector (dealer disclaimer) 20XL and the Ortofon paled in comparison.

In general, I hear a certain lack of dynamics / punch with high-output Mc cartridges, as compared to top-tier MM or MI cartridges (Grado, Garrott, Clearaudio).
I hope this helps, if dynamic range is a priority.