I have been using the Denon 304 or the AT 33 EV. They are excellent cartridges and are in the $400- 600 price range. Before I bought anything I would play around with the VTA settings, your present cartridge is a good one. In general raising the tonearm at the pivot end will increase the treble. You might also consider getting something like the Bob's Devices SUT, even if the output is theoretically high enough now. See current Stereophile for more info on it.
Have you tried the Scout off of the Gingko?
I originally had it on just a shelf on my rack, but that was a quite some time ago. Why do you ask?
I am using a Dynavector XX2MKII cart, the same phono stage as yours, (except mine has a Signature upgrade from The Upgrade Company) 300 RPM motor, and Signature JMW arm on my Scout. Significant improvements have been made by isolation and vibration abatement methods in use. The XX2MKII is a cartridge I heartily recommend for the Scout. Implementing isolation and vibration control can make tremendous improvements in performance without spending a great deal of money. As mentioned in the thread, arm and cartridge set-up is also a must to get maximum performance. Also, be pateint, and observe carefully what small changes in VTF, VTA, and azimuth can make. Bottom line, the Scout is a great platform, and if care is taken it can get you a LONG way to excellent analog sound.
I have had numerous cartridges over the years on many different decks and the one I enjoyed the most was the Dynavector 20x on a VPI TNTjr.
It's in your price range new so I would give it some serious consideration. It's not a "bright" sounding cartridge, but I think it's worth a try.
I'm selling my moving iron Sounsdmith Aida cartridge that was recommended to me over the Dynavector by my dealer and I've been very happy with for a few months on my Scout. It retails new for $1000 and the used price is in your range. If you're interested, please check out my ad in the classifieds here. Thanks.
Intelligent suggestion by Stringreen. A base like the Cloud might well darken the sound.
In addition, before dropping money on a cartridge I'd try all of the following:
- reduce VTF
- reduce/eliminate anti-skating (if you use)
- raise arm height
- higher phono input impedance settings
Getting the most from a vinyl rig requires active, thoughtful user involvement. Because playback conditions are always changing, no dealer can do these things for you. You must learn to do them yourself, and keep after it constantly. There are ample resources on the web or on DVD to teach you how. You just have to provide the interest and effort.
Develop an understanding of the gear you have and optimize it before dropping money on new stuff that may or may not provide what you're seeking. Even big dollar cartridges with the finest top ends (like my ZYX UNIverse) don't sound that way if they aren't set up right.
Thanks for all the sugestions guys.
I did try taking it off the Ginko, but it seemed to muddy the overall clarity, and did not have an effect on the upper treble. I am a drummer, so I prefer a "hotter" top end to get a nice sizzle and air out of the cymbals.
You are right, I need to learn setup techniques. Unfortunately I had the guy at Music Direct set up the table when I bought it, and to be honest, I am a little intimidated with the setup stuff. I definitely need TT setup 101, no doubt about it.
I'd suggest getting Fremers TT set-up DVD then. Watch it and learn, then try it your self. Using the VPI alignment jig is a breeze. It's great to get past the fear of TT set-up as it frees you to get the most out of your gear.
I recently purchased a Denon DL-S1 on a VPI TNT jr. w/12.5. It was recommended by a couple of AGoners as superior to a XX2MKII, VDH Frog, and Shelter 901. I didn't compare them myself, because it was not possible. However, I have listened to a $5,000 ClearAudio and I found it comparable. It tracks very accurately, has uniform sound reproduction across the frequency range.
I listen, primarily, to classical music. I hear a great deal of the room resonance, the bows digging into the strings, the intake breath on wind solos, and the piano sounds like a piano with the rich harmonic resonance.
I have listened to a few rock albums and they are dramatically more detailed and enjoyable.
Big band brasses and winds sound full and distinct. The harmonic voices of the Mills brothers sound natural and full.
I purchased it new from Glen Carol Audio (authorized Denon dealer) for $800 (great guy to deal with). My wife and I are completely satisfied and don't even consider upgrading.
Search Frog or Shelter 901 and you should find my thread where I received the advice on the Denon DL-S1.
Mekon56...... VPI's need a solid platform to appreciate its qualities. If the elimination of the Gingko made the sound worse in the way you describe, you need a more solid table, shelf, etc. that it sits on. Harry recommends a solid butcher block platform. That will give you the "snap" you're looking for. Its like tightening the snare drum head. If its too loose, the rat.ta.ta.tat is reduced to a rub.a.dub.dub.
Michigan Maple Block makes a good one 3" thick. Runs about $125 with freight. I replace the standard feet with Star Sound solid brass ones; brass sounds better and it gets rid of the rubber washer in the regular feet. I think it improves the bass and transient response over the regular feet or even the Mini TNT feet. I am a dealer for both VPI and Star Sound.
Agree with Srwooten, you seem a good candidate for Fremers' DVD. It covers all the basics well.
Fear not, however unskilled you may be at TT setup, I'm far more unskilled at drums! In 6th grade they gave up and made me play my turn during the band concert on a practice pad. ;-)
Wouldn't a butcher block do essentially the same thing as the Ginko, just give a different "flavor" result sound wise?