Denon DL 301 MKII
So, I've put some more hours on this cartridge and have been really impressed with what it brings to the table. No pun intended! I'm using it with my highly modded Thorens TD 850/Origin Live/Michell Tecnoarm, into an AcousTech PH1 into Audible Illusions M3A. The amplifiers being used are Rogue M120's driving highly Modded Magnepan MGIIIA's. M&K high pass is used, as well as a pair of M&K 150 subs. (I'm listing the chain to give you a total picture of what is being used to evaluate the sound.)
Anyway, I would suggest that anyone looking for a top-notch, refined and balance moving coil but does not have more that a dozen Ben Franklin's laying around might find this little gem a worthy substitute for more pricey units. Granted, I have not heard everything in this price range but I have owned and listen to many of the other so called giant killers, none of which, IMO, really are.
Okay, so what do I like about this cartridge and what makes it special? Well, in the above listed system it brings a dynamic well resolving natural presentation. It uncovers details that other cartridges in this price range mask over. It plays the soul of the music and sits very well in your ear. You can listen to the cartridge for hours without fatigue. No, make that, you want to listen for hours to this cartridge. Finally, the price is right. Although it goes for around $325.00, or so, It can be found for $275 and at that price it is a steal!
Why should you pay more for a higher price MC? Well, if you have the money you can improve upon all the traits of the Denon 301II but it will come at a price. I've listen to $800-1200 cartridges that do not offer anything that this gem doesn't offer. However, to run this cartridge you will need a phono stage that can power it. It is a LOMC with .4 output, so MM phono stages need not apply.
For those that follow the Denon line of cartridges you know that the 160 was discontinued a few years back and the 110's price was doubled from $125 to $250 or so. This cartridge's price has held firm at $350 but I wouldn't be surprised if they raise the price on this too. As Janis said, "Get it while you can"!