Cartridges - what have you owned and your opinion

Saw this on audiocircle and thought it may be fun to list some cartridges that you have owned and lived with and your opinion of them.
These are not reviews, just your observations of how they sound in your system.

Dynavector XV-1 - owned this since the turn of the century and my favorite cartridge of all time. Mainly due to its ability to sound natural and un hifi sounding. Slightly loose in the bass, and naturally detailed in the higher frequencies with nice dynamics.
- I load at between 100 and 250ohms and track at 2.05 grams. Currently getting rebuilt for the 3rd time.

Lyra Helikon - very detailed cartridge which tended to float from note to note, but ultimately a little too leading edge for my tastes so sold it a few years back.

Audio Technica OC9-II - closer sounding to the Helikon than the cheaper price should allow. The OC9 has terrific transparency and detail, but also smooth. Somewhat lean bass and incredible bargin for the price. Ultimately connects with my head more than my heart.
I load at 25 or 50ohms and track at 1.75 gms.

Denon 103R - another great cartridge, which in direct comparison to the OC9 sounds a little grey and grainy especially in the higher frequencies. But and a big but, it connects with the heart and has a very nice ripe bass with lovely mid range. lower treble can be a little etched. Overall a great little cartridge that is very musical and to the heart

Benz Ruby 2 - don't really have anything positive to say about this cartridge - grey, grainy, undynamic and unmusical.

Koetsu Rosewood - lovely musical sounding cartridge. Not as transparent as some cartridges, but has a nice robust sound which is quite pleasing to some mediocre recordings. Tracks adequate, but not as well as my other cartridges. Another cartridge which plays to the heart.
- Hates being loaded into a high primary transformer load of say my EAR 834 - 40 ohms. Impedance loading sounds nice around 100ohms.
cool idea for a thread. Nice setup btw !

Last 8 years has been all Lyra for me. Lydian beta for 2 years, then a helicon, now a Skala.

The Skala retains all the best traits of the Helicon, but seeminly lowers distortion (greater clarity) and adds warmth/weight through the entire frequency range. Very nice step up for me.
Being relatively new to this I've only had two, but I liked both of them.

I started with a Shure M97xe which was super starter cartridge. Great timbres, warm sounding, and IMHO a terrific overall sound for a cartridge that only cost $50. Not a lot of resolution, but never offensive either.

I've since moved up to the Audio Technica OC-9, and I'd have to agree with Downunder. A very smooth player with a nice natural overall sound. It is, however, a little lean in the bass and a little cool sounding. While I enjoy the OC-9, in some ways I preferred the fatter sound of the M97.

I wouldn't switch back, but the next time I upgrade I'm going to look for a cartridge that adds some of the M97's warmth and fatness back into the sound.
Grado Green: Muffled. The midrange voice, though, sounds very human but as if coming through a screen door.

Denon DL-110/160: Dynamic, exciting, like the Mummers. Lacking internal insight.

Ortofon MC5: Smooth and detailed but no soul.

Pickering TLS-2S: Warm, personable, warm, rock and roll. Soft around the middle but with fair extension on the top. I bet it would be greatly improved with a fine line stylus on a ruby cantilever. It has heart.

Ortofon 2M Red/Black: Sweet detail, lotta bass, real heart that swings. Nice midrange that is not as thick as the Pickering but has more presence, more 'reality'. Black takes it to the smoothest extreme detail-wise while the Red comes on with powerful impact and presence.

Denon DL-103: Stock - muffled and thick. Modded with wood body, potting, fine line stylus etc it has incredible impact and detail. Very open, seems "natural", whatever that may mean to anyone. The 2M Black is a bit compressed in comparison.
I have owned two Benz Ruby 2s - Low Output - over the last 10 years. I have had those mounted in a Well Tempered TT and now a Raven AC w/Tri-Planar VII U2. First let me say that I never really knew what the cartridge could do until my Raven/Tri set-up. Obviously set-up is paramount in getting everything out of a cartride. We offer opinions on many cartridges, but we don't know if the reviewer has aligned the cartridge correctly. Bottom line, I think the Benz Ruby is far better than most people realize. It may lack some clarity and the bass might be a bit soft, but it does a lot musically very well. That said, I'm nearing the end of the life of my current model and I will probably look to another maker next time around.
Well, I will give the quick synopsis of the few I have tried, since I got back into analog about 5 years ago.
Note: As a point of reference, my analog system first consisted of a Basis 1400, with RB 300 tonearm, then went to a Basis 2001, with a RB 900 tonearm, which was replaced with a Basis Vector M3, with the tonearm wires being terminated with XLRs. (The phono preamp for the Basis 1400 was an ARC PH-3, and was quickly replaced with the phono boards in my Ayre K-1xe preamp, which is designed to run balanced.)

First up was the Benz Micro Glider 2 (MO):
A nice cartridge, with a decent enough black background. It had a fairly extended frequency response, but to be honest it was somewhat analytical in my opinion, such that when I listened to it, I imagined I was listening to a very nice CD player. The soundstaging and imaging was good though. (If I was to give it a Stereophile grade, I'd give it a C). However, it also had an exposed cantilever, which for a visiting kid, made sounds through the speakers somewhat like a guitar when you strummed it. (Needless to say, after it broke, I moved on to ....

My second cartridge, which was a Koetsu Black. Now this is when I truly fell in love with my analog system. The first thing I noticed is the deep, dark black background that the Koetsu has. The soundstaging and imaging was very good. The Black, while it has a slightly rolled off top end, and a fairly loose bass response, still had that Koetsu mid-range magic that you hear so much about. Is it too lush? Maybe, but I could not have cared less, as this is what analog is all about, IMHO. It just makes you want to listen for hours on end. (If I was to give it a Stereophile grade, I'd give it a B-).

My third cartridge was, naturally enough, a Koetsu Rosewood Signature, which I got an incredible deal on from a seller on Ebay. This was a clear step up from the Black, as the soundstaging and imaging was even better. It had more extended treble, and a somewhat tighter bass response, (but still not really deep, or tight, to be honest). However, it provided me with near reference sound from the upper mid-range up through the treble. (I think there might have been a slight bit of roll off to the very top end, but not so much that you'd care, after you started listening.) The mid-range magic was still there from the Black, and it integrated even better with the more extended frequency response. The background was still deep and dark black. At this point, I knew I was hooked on having deep dark black backgrounds. (If I was to give it a Stereophile grade, I'd give it a B+). However, I found a great deal on another cartridge that I wanted to try, because of the reports of its incredible bass response, so on I moved, to ....

My fourth cartridge was the Shelter 90X. This cartridge while an improvement over the Koetsu Rosewood Signature in most aspects, was not better in all aspects. The Shelter's background was not nearly as deep and dark black as the Koetsu line. It was, I think slightly better than the Glider's background though. In addition, while it had a warm touch to the mid-range, it did not have the lushness that the Koetsu line had. (But enough of the nit-picking, on to the good qualities!) It was a more neutral sounding cartridge, with great extension on both ends of the frequency range, which gave it a nice balanced sound. From its great bass response, (the best I have ever heard, I think), to its upper treble response, (although, to be honest I think its treble response has just the slightest touch of graininess to it, as I was to find out when compared with my next cartridge). The soundstaging and imaging was as good as the Koetsu Rosewood Signature. This was what I consider to be a reference cartridge, (especially for the money), as it had great frequency extension at both ends, and the sound was very well balanced. (If I was to give it a Stereophile grade, I'd give it an A-). And I would have stopped here in my quest for the perfect cartridge (for me anyway), except for the merely good deep, dark backgrounds. (I found that I still longed for the deeper dark black backgrounds that I had experienced with the Koetsu cartridges, despite their drawbacks.) So, when my friend was selling his cartridge, and having heard it and liking it a lot, I figured I'd give it a shot, so .....

My fifth, and currently my last cartridge (and one which I truly think IS my last cartridge!), is the Dynavector XV-1S. This is truly my reference cartridge. It has very, very good bass response (nearly as good as the Shelter - within spitting distance as they say). It has a wonderfully detailed and extended treble response, (slightly more detailed and refined than the Shelter 90X). The mid-range to quote Downunder has a "sound natural and un-hifi sounding". It is not Koetsu lush, but it has that certain something that just makes me want to tap my toes, if you know what I mean. The soundstaging and imaging is incredible as well, better than any of the other cartridges I have ever owned. (If I was to give it a Stereophile grade, I'd give it a solid A).

Well, those are my two cents worth anyway.
Highphonic MC-D15 Signature: The best I ever heard/owned!!!
Here's just the ones I can remember right now:

Grado FTE +1
Shure M91ED
Fidelity Research FR1 Mk. 3F
Blue Point Special
Audio Technica OC-5
Audio Technica OC-7
Audio Technica OC-9
Sumiko Talisman S
Lyra Evolve 99
Denon 103
Dynavector 10X4
Dynavector 10X4 Gold H
Clearaudio Aurum Beta S

I also have a Denon 103D and 103R, a Shibui, and a NOS FR 1 Mk. 3F that I haven't gotten around to using yet.
I've owned a great number of cartridges, but I will stick to 3 that I've owned over the last 10 years and have used in my current system. First was the Benz Glider. I don't recall which version I had. It was "nice" but rather mechanical sounding and uninvolving, which led me to seek out another high output MC, and I chose the Transfiguration Elite. The Elite was superior to the Glider in most ways, but it still lacked that certain something, the goose-bump factor lets call it. At this point I became convinced that I had to (1) spend more money, and (2) try a low output MC. I had read over the years about the lushness of Koetsus and how the Urushi retained that lushness but with better top and bottom definition, so that's what I bought. I've been very happy with it. It does occasionally raise goose bumps. I'm thinking now about other MCs that might be even better. Back in the good old days, I was very fond of the Grado TLZ, which I still own. I haven't heard it in years, but my sonic memory tells me it was superior to the Glider, at least.
Best...Dynavektor XV1-S, Benz Ebony LP, Benz Ebony High Output

Not the best...Grado Sonata, Koetsu Rosewood, Onyx

Not even close...ADC, Sure, Lyra, Stanton, Ortofon, etc.
G'day all, quite a few MM's over the years, from way back Shure M91ED, Grace F9 (sadly never set up optimally), numerous budget MM's, and more recently Ortofon Super OM's (quite 'in your face' but engaging) , M97xE's (my present favourite with optimal capacitance and resistive 'loading') and recently an Ortofon 2M Red, very nice but a little too 'euphonic' to me. Regards, Fap.
downunder, i bet you broke the cantilever all 3 times. i owned one and broke it twice. never again an expensive accident. now own a air tight pc-1 as long as i had the dynevector xv-1 twice. sounds as good maybe even better with out the hazard trap. in between had the shelter 9000, did not like very much, took long to break in and it had an edge to it. would concider new pc-1 supreme or a goldfinger v2 if the change bug over takes me.
I should clarify re my XV-1. It has been sent back to Japan only twice - DOH!. I was thinking about 3 times to come back.

First time it was well worn out with approx 3500 hours on it.
2nd time is now and I screwed something up when trying to put a BIG cartridge on a small Ortofon headshell. Nothing obviously wrong wrong with it except it does not work. It has approx 2000 hours on it so it is getting long in the tooth. Dyna Japan will give it a full checkup and change the stylus if needed and send me back a dyna headshell so i can try it in my ortofon AS-309S tonearm.

So Koegz, never had an issue with the exposed cantilever on my XV-1 - my only issue is that I play it too much.

You do need to be very careful thou as I fucked clearaudio concerto cantilever by not concentrating 100%.

I do want to try the air tight thou - but very expensive.

BTW - I also have an ortofon Jubilee which is very nicely balanced, plays most things well but does not really have any personality. Not a bad thing but seems to like SUT's more than active phono stages.
Believe it or not, my Goldring Elektra sounds really nice on my NAD 533 table with the Rega RB-250 arm, and works very well with my current system. While I have your attention, I'm thinking of moving up to the Rega P3-24 or P5.....what cartridges should I consider ?? Here are some of my thoughts : Rega Exact II, Dynavector 10x5 or 20X, Benz-Micro Ace H, Sumiko BPS Evo III, or Ortofon 2M Bronze. I want to still use my Rogue Cronus phono stage, so I need to stay with high output MC or MM.

Sorry to "highjack" this thread, but I fgure this is a good place to hear your ideas. Thanks.
Would a used XV-1 with 500 hours on it be a smart purchase? I have a Dynavector 20XL and was thinking of moving up to the XX2, but after reading all this praise on the XV-1 I'm tempted to try it (especially if a used can be had for not too much more than a new XX2).
IMO the Denon carts are silly good for the price...I've had DL-110 and DL-160, both good enough carts...then the very low output DL-304 (0.18mV) - that one blew me away with it's musicality and 'live in the room' feel...

I have had Ortofon OM5 - great for the price as well, but of course FAR behind above carts...

Rega Bias was another great performer - as good as DL-110 and DL-160 but different...

Now I am a very content Shelter 7000 owner - I can stop looking for carts, it sure is good enough for me! It delivers the kind of sound that leaves me breathless (you know what I mean) sounded fab from start - I knew right away this was what I was looking for - but upped another notch after approx 200 hours...



Fortunately this is another 1000 hours or so away, still...

I bought my Dyanvector XV-1S from a friend who put about 400-500 hours on it. I paid $1,900.00 for it, if that helps. (Another friend sold one for approximately the same price about a year ago, so that seems to be about the right price range, or at least it was until the latest price increase.)

I can highly recommend this cartridge to anyone, as long as you have a phono preamp which has a fairly high amount of gain. (The output of the cartridge is only 0.3mv.)

Oh yeah, before I forget, if you do get one, I disagree with a few of those reviewers who state that you need to run it with a VTF much greater than the manufacturer's recommendations of 1.8 - 2.2 grams. Some of them are saying to run it at up to 2.8 grams. (I run mine just a hair under 2.0 grams.)
Lets see, I haven't used anywhere near as many carts as most of you but I've had a Rega Exact which I used briefly until I picked up a phono stage capable of handling LOMC's.

I then got a good price on a Dynavector Karat 17D2 MKII. I liked it but it was a little bright on my Scout/Scoutmaster but there were other factors at play there I think, different cables, speakers etc than my current system. I did like it but I suppose I didn't love it.

I then got, (and still have), an Ortofon Jubilee. I like but as Downunder said, it's better with a step up than an active gain phono stage. It seems to have more emotion with the transformer than without, although it could be just that my current phono stage is better than it's predecesssor.

Finally I'm now using a Dyan XV-1s. I love it. Quiet, dynamic, not lean but not overblown. Lets the emotion of the recording through. A great cart and when I wear it out I'll be getting it rebuilt or replaced with another.
Taste and System is always different to each but I would like to rate them in another way

I was impressed from :
Fidelity Research Fr-7 series
Takeda Miyabi Standard
Zyx UNIverse

"ok" cartridges, but no sleepless nights
(some of them I listened to in real High End Systems too)
Clearaudio Goldfinger
Dynavector XV-1s
Kondo IO
Lyra Skala
Zyx 4D

Here I was glad when the "performance" was finished
Air Tight PC-1
MySonic Lab Eminent
Music Maker
most Koetsus
Shelter 90x
Grado ZTE+, Black, Green, Prestige Gold
Audio Technica AT125LC, and few more lower
Schure M97xE
Clearaudio Aurum Classics Wood

My pick for best performance/price is ADC XLM, then comes AT125LC, both at under $100 for both cartridge and stylus. On my turntables (Clearaudio Bluemotion and Thorens TD145MKii), Clearaudio does not sound distinctively better than ADC XLM.
Without considering the price, I would go for Clearaudio, ADC XLM, Grado Gold, and ATC125LC. Currently using Grado Gold on Bluemotion and ADC XLM on Thorens. For me it is hard to distinguish sound on either unless I pay close attention. Thorens/ADC wins in very slight margin over Bluemotion/Grado Gold with slightly deeper base and wider sound stage.
I need to think this one thruuuuu
Audio Technica 20SL
Ortofon can't remember the designator
Various Grados
8Sig.,TLZ, The Reference
The Koetsu Rosewood
and then I HEARD A HUGE SLEW of them on friends high end systems.This question almost dates me back to the 70's,
But I'm happy some manufacturers have not given up with the passion of creating new phono cartridges i.e.Koetsu, Grado