Can you provide more information? I've never heard of "Grace Level II". I own and enjoy a Grace Ruby. Thanks.
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The cartridge line came out in the mid 80's. I believe it came out at the same time as the F14. The level 11 was based upon the F8 and the F14 was based upon the F9. They had upgraded parts, styluses etc. The one that I am looking at has a Boron Cantelever and a Microridge stylus. I am not sure if they had still offered the F8 or the F9 at the same time. I believe the F8 and F9 were from the 60's and 70's. The vinyl engine's cartridge base lists these cartridges and some of their specs, but I have not been able to find out a lot more about these. I believe most of these were offered in Japan and then Sumiko brought a few in. So they are rare cartridges. The seller is asking a comparable price to the Ruby. He considers the Level ll an upgrade from the F9. I am trying to see if anyone has heard one of these. I found 2 that sold in the past year, but have not got info from them.
Given the wonderfulness of my Ruby, I would be curious to listen to an F14. The nomenclature is still a bit confusing to me. There is "Level II" and within Level II there are F11 and F14? Is that correct? I've never heard of these cartridges maybe because I have not paid much attention to those very late Grace products. However, I do think the Ruby was made well into the 80s, at least. Correct me if I am wrong.
The cartridge line came out in the mid 80’s. I believe it came out at the same time as the F14. The level II was based upon the F8 and the F14 was based upon the F9. They had upgraded parts, styluses etc. The one that I am looking at has a Boron Cantelever and a Microridge stylus. I am not sure if they had still offered the F8 or the F9 at the same time. I believe the F8 and F9 were from the 60’s and 70’s... The seller is asking a comparable price to the Ruby. He considers the Level ll an upgrade from the F9. I am trying to see if anyone has heard one of these.
I have NOS (sealed) stylus for GRACE LEVEL II cartridge (Boron Cantilever and Micro Ridge tip). It was one of the most expensive model release in 1983 (the price was 37 000 Yen), this model was in production line untill 1988, more info here. I know it can be a huge upgrade for F8 cartridge and they must be compatible, it’s even better on the Level II of course. But is it compatible with F-9 and F14 ? I have F-9 and F14 as well, but since the Level II MR/BR stulus is still factory sealed i don’t want to experiment with them. Has anyone tried the Level II Boron/MicroRidge stylus on F-9 or F14 body?
I like Grace cartridges very much and F-9F (Shibata / Discrete-4) is the best one in F-9 series (imo), but the Level II and F-14 were the most advanced grace cartridges and that’s why they are so expensive and mega rare today.
I’m happy to report about new arrivals:
A significant upgrade over the popular Grace F-9 series is the scarce F-8 LEVEL II, released by Shinagawa Musen Co.,Ltd in Tokyo in 1984 (discontinued in 1988). This ultra High-End and Extremely Rare model comes with tapered Boron (BR) cantilever and nude Micro Ridge (MR) diamond. Amazing! Nowadays the combination of tapered Boron pipe and Micro Ridge stylus tip available only in the most expensive MC cartridges. The Grace LEVEL II was indeed the next level of performance for high compliance MM cartridges on peak of analog technoligies in the 80’s.
Look what we got here: NOS (New Old Stock) Grace F-8 LEVEL II MR/BR cartridge (left box) and factory sealed RS-8 MR/BR stylus replacement (right box). Japanese heritage has been delivered with my time machine!
I have more rare Grace models such as F-14 and others, i just need time to check them out in my system.
Hope im not alone with my love to the Grace products from the 80s on this forum.
Larry, do you know the compliance of SoundSmith Ruby OCL ?
The original Grace is a high compliance cartridge, as stated by Raul the SoundSmith rebuild or just SoundSmith styli may be totally different from the original Grace specs (compliance for example).
I’m sure that SS Ruby with OCL is an upgrade for some of the F-9 models, but the luxury Level II (Boron/MicroRidge), F-12 (Beryllium Cantilever / Line Contact) and F-14 LC-OFC (Boron/MicroRidge) are amazing in stock condition. There was even Diamond Cantilever version of the Grace F-12 MM cartridge.
I would like to find more information about extremely rare Ceramic Cantilever used in one of the Level II RC/FC (OFC) model from 1984.
It’s interesting that stylus replacement with Grace Ceramic Cantilever and Line Contact stylus priced by the manufacturer as high as the Grace Boron Cantilever with Micro Ridge stylus in 1983. That unknown Ceramic Cantilever was much more expensive than Ruby for Level II.
Any other cartridge manufacturers out there (using Ceramic Cantilevers) ? This material is not in use anymore as i can see. Why?
Ceramics used in audio, sounds like a sexy idea, but every such implementation has been short-lived, so far. This suggests to me that it doesn't work very well. Kenwood made an optional ceramic mat for the L07D. They are VERY rare. I think they are rare because they did not sound as good as the standard stainless steel platter sheet and were unloved. But still sexy.
Chakster, When you wrote the above post on the 29th, did you know there is a Level II Grace for sale now on eBay, and that the seller is Russian? Asking price is way too high for a vintage cartridge that has unknown provenance and performance. I say this as a great admirer of the Grace Ruby, both with its original stylus and with an SS OCL re-tip. (I own both versions.)
@lewm i would like to learn more about ceramic cantilever made by Grace. I know nothing about it. Hope someone can help.
It’s been said a lot about the other things in audio made of ceramic (mats, clamps etc). BTW i use very rare Noritake ceramic clamp and i like it on my Luxman PD-444. That company ( Noritake ) was the oldest state of the art ceramic manufacturer in Japan. Ebay prices can be strange, i saw this clamp sold for a grand this year.
I’m not connected to any sales from the local dealers and they are pretty far away from my town. The price might be high for those who are not familiar with performance of the Level II (it’s another level indeed), but look at the prices from the japanese sellers on ebay for Level II (even mono). This model rarely rurns up for sale even in Japan, it’s not like F-9 (even with Ruby).
I got Level II and some better Grace models with various NOS styli. I’m not intended to sell any of them in the near future (only if i will find spare one), i just love the Level II and several F-14 MM. All my F-9 are gone, i realized that they are not as good as the higher models of Grace made in the 80s with high-end cantilevers.
What i can say, if the mass market F-9 Ruby Elliptical easily goes for $500-600+, then rare Level II with its hollow pipe Boron Cantilever and Micro Ridge tip must be double in price (imo), especially if the cartridge is NOS in the box etc. It a luxury model, i just love it. I would’t sell much cheaper myself in the worst situation. So i don’t blame local ebayers who asking that much, i know that ebay/paypal cut 16% from their prices, they even charge sale fee from the shipping.
Dear Chakster, You may be correct about the excellence of the Level II Grace cartridges. However, it is not always a good idea to judge a cartridge solely by the materials of which it is made or by the shape of the stylus. My only point is that I would have to have heard a level II in order to throw caution to the wind and make such a purchase at the asking price. Also, my reservations about the asking price of the cartridge on eBay are not only based on its age and unknown condition (although those factors are important, to be sure), but also on the fact that I have no opportunity to inspect the cartridge and no leverage on a seller who is 6000 miles away in another country, eBay rules notwithstanding.
By the way, the Ruby jumps up another level with the SS re-tip using their OCL stylus. I own both an original elliptical one and a re-tipped one and have compared them extensively. At first, I preferred the elliptical but not after the SS re-tipped one had about 10 hours of playing time on it.
@lewm i hope you can find one in the USA, i have a sticker on my own Level II, Sumiko was their distributor in the states back in the day. The original Grace is always what i'm looking for, not the refurbished ones, not sure what is the compliance of re-cantilevered one you got from SS, but most likely not so high as the original. I think you don't have to worry when you buy factory sealed NOS sample.
Compliance does not change much, unless you also change the suspension elements, which should not be necessary in most cases and was not done in the case of my Ruby. On the contrary, I would think that an NOS OEM cartridge built in the 80s is more likely to suffer from stiffening of the suspension due to both elapsed time and lack of use, compared to a cartridge that has at least been used once in a while over that same period of time. Anyway, I do have it both ways (one with original cantilever and stylus vs another re-tipped by SS), and the latter version is superior.
I can confirm about Boron (Orange) and Ceramic (Green), Ruby of course Red.
I also have Black and this one is not transparent like all others, but same shape. This is unknown to me, looks like Beryllium or Aluminum. I've heard that Grace made a limited run of styli (for japan only) after the cartridges were discountinued. Maybe it's one of them.
I just received the Grace II and the stylus has RC marked underneath so I guess it is ceramic. No other markings anywhere.
Diamond looks in exceptional condition.
Very keen to mount on the Audiomods tonearm but the cartridge connector pins are very thin and my cardas tonearm wire connectors just slip off. I don't want to squish them to fit as this will ruin them.
Will have to install on the GT2000 once I receive my new headshell.
Grace stylus with ceramic cantilever is Green, the box with the model number is also Green. For examble the box for the Orange stylus with Boron cantilever is also Ogrange. The color of the plastic used in stylus replacement must be the same as the color of the original box.
The color of your stylus is different, so i'm not sure about exact model.
I thought it may not be ceramic for those same reasons but it has RC marked on the stylus and under the microscope the cantilever does not look beryllium and is greyish in color.
It it sounds amazing even though the cantilever probably needs a little bit of running in as it's probably not been used for some time.
Ateal, Congrats on your great find. One High- End audio fellow prefers the Grace F-14/ Ruby over Level II. I personally prefer F-14/ MR Boron over my Ruby. So it all comes down to the tonearm/deck one is using.
To each his own and this is the essence in audio. And yes, I surely would like to try Level II some day.
Enjoy your gear and music
Harold, I have it installed on my Yamaha GT2000 stock tonearm which has an effective mass of 19g when taking into account the headshell. This is not considered ideal as I think would benefit a lighter tonearm.
I was going to install on my Audiomods tonearm which is only 10g and sits on an Oracle Delphi. Unfortunately the pins on the Level II are very thin and the cardas tonearm wire pins are too loose.
Therefore I have kept the F9 Ruby fitted to the Audiomods/ Oracle.
I have to say that even though the pairing of GT2000 and Level II is not supposed to be a good match on paper, it is breaking in very well and starting to wake up and already outperforms the Grace F9 Ruby.
As as for the top line Grace models, I think I have read that the F14 BR/MR is considered the top of the bunch with the Level II ceramic and F14 Ruby close seconds. But as you say, it all comes down to the rig one uses and personal preference.
Grace trademark belongs to the Shinagawa Musen Co., LTD corporation. Grace F-6 and F-7 cartridges appeared on the market in the early 60’s. The first widely popular Grace F-8 series of Moving Magnet cartridges was developed in 1966 with The Japan Broadcasting Corporation, better known as NHK. Upgraded F-9 series appeared in the mid 70’s, but wasn’t so pupular as the F-8. Then Grace released the most advanced ultra high-end F12, Level II and F14 series with the best possible cantilevers (such as Beryllium, Boron, Ruby...) and Micro Ridge diamonds. The best coil wire material appeared in the LC-OFC models only, one of them you can see on my picture. In 2009 on 60th Anniversary the company restocked replacement styli for the fans in Japan. My Grace F-14 LC-OFC comes with special Anniversary stylus from that limited edition series. Few years ago i discovered extremely rare Grace Asakura’s signature LOMC models dedicated to the founder of the company. I’ve never seen them before i bought one.
I’m posting this to show you the latest run of Grace Anniversary stylus, probably one of them. It’s black color. Here is another image of my F14 with this stylus: https://scontent-arn2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/33664711_2235633429788145_1784707409982259200_n.jpg?_n...
Since my last post in this thread i have expanded my collection of Grace, currently using a very rare LEVEL II (LC-OFC) with Sapphire cantilever.
Finally took some nice pictures of my spare Grace LEVEL II (BR/MR) LC-OFC. This model comes with Boron Pipe cantilever and MicroRidge stylus tip.
***The advantage of the Pure Boron Pipe Cantilever:
Somewhere in the high frequencies, every cartridge has an undesirable resonance point. Undesirable because there the frequency response curve climbs a sudden peak. If that peak is in the audible range, your records sound not as intended. That resonance frequency is determined by the total effective moving mass of the vibrating system - the summed masses of the diamond stylus and, most importantly, the cantilever and magnet, etc. To shift that harmful resonance frequency up into the high supersonics, the effective moving mass must be reduced to the lowest possible minimum. Also, too much effective moving mass increases the mechanical impedance, thereby negatively affecting the cartridge's tracing ability. This is why GRACE LEVEL II, in its top grade cartridge (BR/MR), uses a Pure Boron Pipe cantilever. Pure Boron, because among all feasible materials Boron has the optimum combination of hardness (close to diamond's), lightness and rigidity. Grace LEVEL II BR/MR achieves the ultra-low mass that you need for flat, extended frequency response up into the highest range. Flat response for natural, unadulterated, warm and thoroughly listenable music. The extreme difficulties of machining Boron to the tightest tolerances have been solved. Mouting holes for the stylus, for example, must be drilled not by machines but by laser beams.
***The advantage of the Micro Ridge stylus tip:
MicroRidge stylus profile is the most advanced profile in the world today, modern cartridges with MicroRidge stylus cost many thousand dollars. Micro Ridge is very unique stylus which is polished into the unusual shape. It has microscopic curvature of contact surface with records. This makes Micro Ridge Stylus does not change the contact radius by the wear after long playing time. You can always listen to music by the new stylus. At the same time this curvature has the radius of only 2 microns. Due to this small figure, the reproduction sounds have very high definition, wide dynamic range and low distortion. Low equivalent moving mass and the very new stylus will show the new aspects in the reproduction sounds. Micro Ridge Stylus is the newest one that was born by the most advanced technology for video disc player systems. Grace LEVEL II BR/MR has the most advanced square nude crystal oriented MicroRidge diamond.
Both MC and MI types have lower moving mass than any MM, if that’s the holy grail in cartridge construction. Lately I’ve been listening to a B&O MMC1 that I bought several years ago in NOS condition. It has a hollow sapphire tube cantilever and a line contact stylus. Tracks at 1.0 gm. It’s a moving iron type. After only a few hours, it’s brilliant. I am rather shocked.
Lately I’ve been listening to a B&O MMC1 that I bought several years ago in NOS condition. It has a hollow sapphire tube cantilever and a line contact stylus. Tracks at 1.0 gm. It’s a moving iron type. After only a few hours, it’s brilliant. I am rather shocked.
@lewm I am not shocked that vintage cartridges are superior (but they are different too), the hollow pipe Sapphire is what SoundSmith using now, but a hollow Pipe Boron is another story, not available for retippers/vendors (see above).
Grace hollow pipe boron cantilever looks like the Technics cantilever, but the diamond mounted on LEVEL II BR/MR through the laser drilled hole is MicroRidge (can be used for 2000 hrs).
I've noticed people are paying crazy price for those overrated Technics cartridges (205mk4 or 100mk4 with its weak damper) but in my opinion this rare Grace LEVEL II BR/MR is a much better cartridge (i've tried them all). Grace has a MicroRidge stylus on Hollow Pipe Boron cantilever, but Technics has conventional elliptical tip. Grace does not have any single problem with damper. Unlike Technics with their weak suspension, Grace engineers made the right choice of damping material for suspension, so even after 30 years the damper is fine (i've tried so many different samples) ! There is nothing better in the Grace own line of cartridges than LEVEL II BR/MR. This particular model combine all the best features for its time (mid - late 80's)
I will continue with my own "research" about Grace LEVEL II
This is what Technics invented in the 70’s and improved in the 80’s making cartridges like 205c mk4 with very special Boron Pipe cantilever.
It’s nothing but a grown crystals of Pure Boron into a pipe configuration (wow). A tip mounting hole made using a laser beam.
BUT This is pretty much the same that another japanese company (Shinagawa Musen Co LTD) made in the mid 80’s with Grace LEVEL II BR/MR but with at least one serious advantage over the Technics. The difference is the type of the low mass stylus tip. When you comparing Technics Elliptical to the Grace MicroRidge you know that Elliptical simply can’t win (elliptical has very short lifespan).
This is a Micro Ridge shape under the microscope.
Furthermore, type of the cantilever and the whole moving mass is very important according to this Technics research published in their catalog. Here is the moving mass in relation with high frequency peak on this diagram again. They are comparing Boron Pipe to the Diamond Rod.
Personally i prefer Grace LEVEL II (Boron/MicroRidge) over the original Technics 205c mk4 (Borron/Elliptical). Tried 6 samples of Technics 205c mk4 and 4 samples of Grace LEVEL II. All Technics carts came with weak suspension/damper. All Grace cartridges came with perfect suspension/damper. Both carts have rare Hollow Pipe Boron with laser drilled holes for nude diamonds, but the MicroRidge tip looks shorter than Technics Elliptical tip and obviously has lower mass.
p.s. all pictures made by myself with the actual cartridges from my collection