First Moving Coil (MC) Cartridge Acquisition


I have been listening to MM carts my whole life. I am interested in dipping my toes into the MC stream to see what sonic improvements can be had. I am looking for recommendations in the $1K range. Currently, I am running an Ortofon 2M Black and Shure JICO MM. Turntable is a Merrill Super 12 Polytable, Jelco 750 tonearm, into a Herron VTPH-2A phono stage and Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum 2 integrated.

I would appreciate any recommendations. I am entertaining Hana MC carts or something with .5mV or higher as I don’t want to get a SUT. Please provide any feedback on the Hana that A’goners have employed.
arturos73
I recently replaced my Ortofon 2M Black with Hana MH on a VPI Scout 1.1. Much smoother presentation with the Hana and much less surface noise and tics and pops less noticeable on used LPs. Detail from both cartridges is comparable however.  
Slightly off topic...but replace your 750 with a 850. Big upgrade.
Soundsmith has a few that you would be wise to check out. I've had all MC over the years but my next cart will be a Soundsmith for sure. If you're the least bit technical minded then watch Peter Ledermann explain phono cartridges https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F65mODzn4Gk&t=1559s
and even if you're not, just look at the photo at 25:13 and realize that's a very small MC on the left, Soundsmiths BIGGEST on the right. That right there is huge. 

I have the same Herron. You do not need .5mV or higher. My Koetsu Black Goldline is .4mV and works beautifully. Many of the Soundsmith are .4mV as well.
millercarbon: Are you referencing Soundsmith's Moving Iron offerings?  Those are intriguing. I would appreciate any feedback from people moving from MM or MC to a MI. I want to make the greatest improvement possible from MM within my budget.
stonehead: Was the Hana a significant upgrade though? I'm looking to step up the scene considerably.
noromance: I hear ya on the 850, but need to get the cart right first.
I haven't owned any Ortofon cartridges, so can't say how they compare to Hana, however I do own the Shure V15 Type IV and M97XE, both with Jico SAS. The Hana SL is much smoother top to bottom and detailed but without any glare. It's better than some of the higher end MM carts I have like the Nagaoka MP500 and Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood. I think it's very close to my Kiseki Blue NS and Van Den Hul MC Two, both of which are more than double the price of the Hana SL. Not a "giant killer" but a great value at the asking price. 
You have some nice gear! I’ve been using a dynavector 20x2L with a Herron vtph-2a and have no desire to make any changes. The 64db is plenty of gain in my setup, exactly as Keith recommended. Besides the dynavector being a great sounding cart, it is easy to set up, quite rugged, and very long lasting. Dynavector also offers a rebuild path. 
I went from a koetsu black gold line to ortofon cadenza bronze to a soundsmith and couldn’t be happier 
Good to hear. No complaints with my Koetsu. I'm in no hurry to replace it after just one year. Its not high, but its on the list. But not because of the Koetsu, but because of the Hyperion. I just get the feeling its in another league. 
There goes that stylus jitter again. Millercarbon, can you name me one reviewer who uses a Sound Smith as his primary cartridge? You see the occasional Grado but I have never seen a Sound Smith. This is not to say they are a bad cartridge. I can't say that as I have never used one. But I sure have yet to hear stylus, "jitter." I have heard miss tracking. 
I am looking for recommendations in the $1K range

In my opinion, in that range the Audio-Technica ART9 is an absolute no-brainer.

In my system it plays as well as my VdH Colibri XGP, Benz Ebony TR and Allnic Puritas and when I've brought it along with me for testing in other systems, it's done equally well against offerings from Lyra, Zyx and others.

The Herron offers 64dB or 69dB gain, so I see no need to restrict yourself to .5mV or more.  If you've got it set up for 64dB you should be fine down to 0.3mV or even less, while 69dB should be be fine down to 0.2mV or even 0.1mV depending on how quiet the Cronus Magnum 2 is.
mijostyn-
There goes that stylus jitter again. Millercarbon, can you name me one reviewer who uses a Sound Smith as his primary cartridge? You see the occasional Grado but I have never seen a Sound Smith. This is not to say they are a bad cartridge. I can't say that as I have never used one. But I sure have yet to hear stylus, "jitter."


I would name you one, except it wouldn't change anything. At best it would be an appeal to authority, which being one of the more common logic errors I tend to discourage.

Mike is trying to personalize this but its not a personal thing its physics and common to all cartridges ever made. Mike you have been hearing jitter every record ever played. There is no avoiding it. Jitter can only be reduced, never entirely eliminated.

What is jitter? 

Look real close at the stylus. Notice it sticks out down below the cantilever. So when the groove comes along and hits the stylus its not only a sideways force its also putting torque into the cantilever. Both the complex twisting torque and the sideways inflection create vibrations that run up the cantilever, through the suspension, and some of it gets dissipated as heat but a lot travels all the way to the other end. 

Now about the other end. In a MC its a coil. In a MM its a magnet. Either way its pretty massive. A whole lot more massive than the stylus, for sure. Which matters. Because once that mass starts vibrating that vibrational energy has nowhere to go but right back down the line and all the way back to the stylus. Which being very low mass has no way of dissipating all that energy except to bounce off one side and into the other.

That bouncing around is jitter.

This isn't even all that new. Its not just a Peter Ledermann thing either. He merely happens to be the next best explainer to me. So until I make a video I refer people to his. Go watch it. Really. Its awesome.

But Onkk Cue turntable designer Paul Beckett knows all about jitter, as does another couple guys whose names I forget but have heard discussing it. But I really do not want to get into the same faulty appeal to authority reasoning. The physics speaks for itself. Anyone can understand it. New concepts do tend to take a little effort to understand. People do tend to have questions. So if there's anything above that's the least bit unclear, especially after watching Ledermann, just let me know. Happy to help.

If the budget is under $1k then you can look for a NOS Dynavector KARAT series with Ruby or Diamond cantilevers.

KARAT 23RS MR or KARAT 17DS.
Dear @arturos73 : The recoemendation for the ART9 is very good alternative and a true few. step.up to the Black:

https://www.audio-technica.com/cms/cartridges/0b93b60b61b69617/index.html

Stay away from vinatge MC units where you have not warranty or original re-tipping.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.
You could try an AT OC9/II cartridge.  It's a a very good performer and a great match for a VTPH-2a and the Jelco SA-750 arm.  I have used that combination in the past.  Or if you want to try a cartridge with a higher level of performance, there's an AT ART9.  Both are very good MC cartridges, especially for the low price they carry.  
Was the Hana a significant upgrade though? I'm looking to step up the scene considerably.

In many pursuits the graph of quality vs. price approximates a straight line - the higher the price the better quality you can expect.

The graph of price to quality vis a vis audio looks more like a blind hunter let fly with a scatter gun. You get cheap over-achievers and very expensive flawed cartridges in a pattern like a cloud, not a line.  Sadly this (cartridges)  is also the worst area for not being able to audition before you buy, so you pretty much have to rely on reviews and boards like this for suggestions.

A good friend runs a low output Hana and so I am somewhat familiar with it.  It sounds quite good and might surprise you. The experiment won't break the bank in any case.
No one can tell you which flavor you will like in your system, there are so many cartridges on the market and they are different. People who enjoyed ART-9 on this forum, and raved about for a long time, sold them and bought something else, just like with many cartridges. Do not expect a universal answer. Vintage LOMC cartridges are much cheaper even with the most exotic cantilevers just like Dynavector KARAT diamond series that you can probably find NOS (never used) under $1k (i paid less than $500 for one of them NOS and it was amazing deal on ebay).  

A lot of people on here buying NEW grey market products without warranty, they don't care just because the price is $200 lower. The more important is not OLD or NEW, but who is the seller or dealer and how they can support a buyer when there is something wrong (in the worst scenario). If you or your cleaning lady will destroy a cartridge it doesn't matter was it New or Vintage, they will be destroyed anyway. 

If you're looking for a sound quality then it's up to you which cartridge is better, there are many vintage cartridges that can be 3 times cheaper and 2 times better than anything new.  
For $1000, you might want to consider the Audio Technica ART7 or ART9.  The former has much lower output than the latter, but either might work with your Herron 2A.  I own an ART7 (.12mV output), and I have more than ample gain with my Manley Steelhead set at 65db total gain. (The line stage section of the Steelhead adds no additional gain. So it's 65db total.)  I would think your 2A can also supply 65db in MC mode, and especially if you are using a linestage that adds gain, you'd be in good shape.  The ART9 would be a piece of cake at >0.5mV output. Hana seems to be all the rage these days, for good performance at low cost, but the ART series may be superior for a bit more $.  Still both are under $1K.  In fairness though, I have never heard a Hana.

Millercarbon, in my experience, Koetsus behave like they have more than 0.4mV output.  That rating may apply to a stylus velocity of 3.54cm/sec, which used to be the standard.  At the modern standard of 5cm/sec, my Urushi behaves as if it has at least 0.5-0.6mV output.
I'm using a Herron VTPH-2A and a rebuilt Clavis Da Capo with an output of 0.25mv.  No problem with gain.  I am considering an ART7 as a second cartridge (0.12mv) or if the Clavis Da Capo experiences a catastrophic failure.  
I'm running a Herron VTPH-2A with EAT Jo No 5 cartridge paired with an EAT C Sharp table and it really sounds exceptional.  This cartridge also hits your price point.

Search the reviews. It punches well above it's weight. 


I'm using a Hana SL through a Herron VTPH2A and it sounds great.  64dB is more than enough gain.  For cart flexibility and better tuning I actually run the Hana SL through a Zesto Allasso SUT applying just 61dB gain and 400 ohm loading - a perfect setting to my ears.  I can bump the gain to 65dB and it simply sounds too hot.  I feel the SL sounds just as good as the ML but $500 cheaper - thereby representing the best "value" in the Hana line IMO.
I appreciate all of the well-reasoned responses. The AT ART9 was one I had not considered before, but is an intriguing cartridge.

Chakster - your advice about seller integrity and dealer support is well taken. Does anyone have a NOS MC dealer they recommend?

With any major audio purchase, i like to due thorough diligence. Thanks all for your input and recommendations.
I moved into a Soundsmith Mimic Star about a year ago. I had a MM Clear Audio virtuoso wood that cam with my new Marantz tt that Clear Audio built for Marantz. After having the Clear Audio cantilever get bent, how I still scratch my head. I inquired about having it repaired, and reading about others with similar issues, I spoke to Kat at Upscale audio who suggested a few great cartridges though after my shock of loss of my expense cartridge she told me that she really likes the Soundsmith and there warranty is only 20%of the cost of the cartridge. That was enough for me. I love the cartridge, was 1400 ish and think I paid 1200 apx. I since have had a cpl discussions with Peter Ledderman of Soundsmith who has a life long customer with the cost of such a delicate item. Love the sound!!!  Good luck
My giant killer moving coil cartridge is the Ortofon MC-3 Turbo. About $450.00 and I must admit that everytime I need another cartridge, I keep purchasing this one. I just can't justify spending more unless I go above $1500.00. Honestly, if I was going to spend $1500.00 on a MC phono cartridge, it would be to buy three Ortofon MC-3 Turbo carts instead!
Or you can try the AT AT33PTG/2 it has a micro linear stylus and you can pick one up for around $550.00
Dear @arturos73 : If you can stretch your budget then this is very good option too:

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis9i1ba-kiseki-blue-ns-cartridges


R.
+1 on the Kiseki Blue NS.  It's the best cartridge I own.
I use a Hana ML and highly recommend it.  The Kiseki Blue is another VERY good option/recommendation.

Best,
Jose
I use the dynavector karat 17D3 diamond cantilever, with SME IV arm. At this price the best in forty years of listening. 
I have a fairly new Hana EL and to me it sounds very traditional, smooth and warm with detailed bass.   I use it with a Jelco 750 9" arm.  Of the three old TT's I have connected, it's getting 50% of the play time these day.  I also use an AT-33PTG/II on a SL-1800MKII it's performs at the same level as the Hana EL but is ever so slightly brighter, in a good way. The last TT is set up for MM cartridge's.  If I had your gear, BTW, great gear, I'd think hard about the Hana line.  The Ortofon Black is very close in presentation to the AT-33 but just a bit mellower.  My MM TT has an AT-150MLX cartridge on it and it's been my "Go To" for many years. 
I'm using and recommend a Denon DL110 MC cartridge.  Well under 1000.00;  I like that it has a high voltage output not requiring a step up amplifier. My previous cartridge was a Dynavector Ruby. 
I decided to purchase a used Denon DL110 MC cartridge that had a bent cantilever for practically nothing.  The cartridge was still able to be used because it was bent right at the diamond which was a nice relief that it could be re-tipped.  I heard and read so many great things through the years about the sound and the frequency range it covered.  I recently had it re-tipped by Sound-smith with a ruby cantilever and nude fine contact line diamond. I have to say it sounds amazing on just about any condition record I throw at it.  I have owned Ortofon 2m bronze, black, blue, red, Shure V15 type IV with original stylus, Audio Technica 216EP, MicroAcoustics 530 MP, Denon 301MKII, Pickering XV-15 625e, & Sumiko EVO BPS III, blue point no. 2.  In the end, I have to stress synergy is paramount. I have a tone arm that uses a angular contact bearing for vertical support and a radial bearing for horizontal support (static-balanced type, S-shaped pipe) with a total mass of 22g with 6g cartridge and the Denon line seems to work extremely well compliantly speaking. The before and after sound was just astounding. I also want to explore the Sound-smith line too because I am very curious about the MI tech and its benefits.  What I have been able to surmount is that the best way to judge a cart purely on paper is the channel separation spec. Higher than 30db is extremely good.