Cartridge upgrades for Technics SL-1200MK2?

Just bought a Technics SL-1200MK2 and paired it up with a Shure M97XE and it sounds absolutely wonderful! Just thinking ahead here .... what cartridges should I be considering down the road. I listen primarily to Classical and Jazz and my main amplification is tube- based. I prefer a warmer sound rather than a forward in-your-face presentation. I have a feeling the Technics will respond nicely to cartridge upgrades. I am shocked at how good this unit plays. Puts my former high quality belt drives to shame!


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...the Sumiko aftermarket headshell is another good tweek for medium and low compliance cartridges.
+1 on that recommendation!

I just upgraded my 1210 M5G rig from a Shure M97xE to a Denon DL-160 high output moving coil (HOMC) and added the Sumiko headshell.

I consider it a *great* match with this table and arm. The Sumiko adds just enough mass up front to offset the Denon's lighter weight and stiffer compliance. The Sumiko shell also is way more rigid, less resonant, and has much better cartridge leads than the stock Technics shell. Given that those cart leads sell for $20 separately the Sumiko shell is an excellent value.

I liked the sound of this setup better with the finger lift mounted to the top of the headshell instead of underneath.

As for the Denon, it gave me more of everything I was looking for--more transparency, clarity, frequency extension at both ends, bass definition and clarity, inner detail, smoothness, musical involvement, and soundstage width and depth. It dropped surface noise way down, too. Denon uses a tiny rectangular stylus that gets deep into the groove. I also listen to a lot of classical and jazz and this Denon has done well by me. Acoustic instruments sound excellent with it, it's smoother with violins than the Shure was, and the clarity improved significantly on large orchestral works.

If my experience is any indicator, then I suspect that any number of HOMCs of medium-low compliance with the Sumiko shell would be good, including the Sumiko Blue Point 2, BPS EVO III, Dynavector 10x5, Ortofon MC3 Turbo, Benz Micro MC20E2, etc.

I also recommend keeping the Shure around, mounted on its own headshell. It's handy to use with the damping brush in place when you have a badly warped record and don't want to risk damaging whatever nicer cartridge you migrate to.
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I'm using an Audio Technica OC-9 MKII on my 1200 MKII table and it sounds terrific! What a joke, I bought the table for $80.00, adjusted the loose play in the tonearm and it sounds better than more expensive tables that I have owned. I have also used a Denon DL-110 which sounded very good but not as nice as the OC-9. I am using a Graham Slee Era Gold MK V phono stage with cinemag transformers for the low output OC-9. I am actually content with this setup and don't feel the need to upgrade. I think this table deserves a good phono stage along with a good cartridge to hear what it can really do.
I've heard good things about the Audio Technica AT150MLX for a MM cartridge. It's a noticible step up from the AT440 mentioned above, but also at 3x the money at about $260.00. Anyone else that can confirm that with this TT?
Good Listening!
07-23-07: Myraj
I've heard good things about the Audio Technica AT150MLX for a MM cartridge. It's a noticible step up from the AT440 mentioned above, but also at 3x the money at about $260.00. Anyone else that can confirm that with this TT?
I bought the May/June issue of The $ensible $ound because the cover story was about using a KAB-modified SL-1200 mk2 to archive LPs to CD-R. He tried 4 carts on the TT--the AT 150MLX, AT440MLa, KAB-modified Ortofon Concorde Pro-40, and a moving iron Stanton with higher-performance new old stock (NOS) replacement stylus. He also compared with the now-discontinued Shure M15VMR.

The review included some patent drawings for various stylii including the MicroLine represented by the ML designation in the AT cartridges. The MR in the Shure cartridge stands for MicroRidge, and the reviewer was confident that these stylii were either the same shape or v-e-r-y similar. He found the AT150MLX to be very fast, very linear and neutral--more so than its AT440MLa sibling. He said there's a bit of a midrange bump in the AT440MLa that makes it brighter and more forward. He figures the solid aluminum body of the AT150MLX gives it an advantage in neutrality and resonance control (with attendant improvements in linearity and resolution). He could be right. After all, that's what Zu Audio did in part to modify the Denon AT-103 cartridge--put it in a solid aluminum body.

Reviewer noted that the Stanton sounded the warmest and most romantic, the AT150 the most neutral with a tonal balance like the master tape or a CD, and that the Ortofon split the difference. He also said the MicroLine stylus was absolutely the best for getting good sound off old, worn vinyl, and that the Fritz-Geiger stylus of the Ortofon must have been designed for new vinyl because it sounded excellent there, but was noisy on worn vinyl. He felt that it was a far more exciting cartridge sonically than the departed Shure, and that the high-dollar rush to buy the last remnants of the Shure run is nuts because the AT150MLX is a better cartridge all around with the same basic stylus shape and better separation, channel balance, and trackability.

He also noted that the stereo separation, low crosstalk, channel balance (within 1/2 dB), and tracking of the AT150MLX were top notch.

So it sounds like a great match with the Technics DDs, and the only limiting factor would be whether its tonal balance suits you.
Thanks so much gentlemen. Where can I pick up the Sumiko headshell?


John, I was in your exact same shoes 3 months ago. I have a Technics SL-1200MK2, and I was using a Shure M97xE for a few months. When it was time to upgrade the cartridge I went with a Dynavector 10x5 that I found used here on Audiogon, and I can say first hand that the sound you will get with this cartridge on this turntable is amazing. I can say that the other cartridge I was considering was the Denon DL-103R which I hear compares very favorably.

Obviously you would want to listen to the cartridges in your system, but I know that's not always an option. Since it's not, I thought I'd offer my experience with a cartridge upgrade from the Shure M97xE on this particular table. It's a great turntable, and it really will bring out the best in most cartridges within the right compliance.

I use a Shure V15III on mine.