Grace Level ll

has anyone had any experience with these cartridges? Seem to be compatible with the earlier F8 cartridges, but with better cantilvers and stylus.
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Can you provide more information? I've never heard of "Grace Level II". I own and enjoy a Grace Ruby. Thanks.
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.
Thanks for the info, but i will simplify my question:

F-8 LEVEL II and F-9 styli are not compatible ?
F-9 and F-14 styli are compatible ?

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. 
Love the Grace cartridges that I know. Only the F9 though, unfortunately. I have 3. One with the SoundSmith Ruby OCL that sounds incredible. Would love to hear the Level II at some point.

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.
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@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.
Just picked up a used Grace II RC but I think it maybe the Beryllium cantilever version as the plastic stylus holder is translucent brown.

It will be interesting to see how it compares to my Grace F9 Ruby.
@ateal some info about Level II RC is here  
maybe you can add some pictures later
Thanks Chakster. It is still in Japan but will be with me in a couple of weeks. Do you know what color each stylus was. I know that Red is Ruby cantilever, Orange is Boron, Green is Aluminum, Brown is Beryllium or Ceramic????

EDIT: I now think the Green/Yellow is Ceramic, the Blue is Aluminum and the Nude is Sapphire.

Can anyone else confirm.
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.

Be careful as using a higher compliance cartridge on a heavier tonearm can wear out the suspension quicker 
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: 
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

Interesting facts:

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

Going deeper in technical information provided by Technics in their patent from 1979 i’m shocked how complicated in manufacturing can be one tiny part of the phono cartridge called the cantilever!

Boron is known to have a hardness next to that of diamond and a very large resistance to abrasion, so that it is useful e.g. for cutting tools, sliding components and bearings. Further, since it has a low density and a large elastic modulus, the elastic ratio is largest among all the presently known materials. This means that the sound wave propagation velocity in boron material is highest among the presently known materials, so that boron is particularly useful for a cantilever for supporting a pickup. This invention (patented in 1979 by Technics) relates to a boron cantilever and a method making the same, particularly to a boron pipe cantilever for supporting a pickup stylus for converting shape signals recorded on a recording medium to electric signals, and a method of producing such cantilevers with a high production yield. According to this invention, a boron cantilever, particularly a boron pipe cantilever having a high mechanical strength and an excellent elastic ratio, ε/ρ, can be obtained, where E is elastic modulus and ρ is density.

Some new facts (at least for me):

Technics was way ahead of its time when they invented amorphous Boron Pipe cantilever back in the 70’s. Generally, a pure amorphous boron layer is best in view of mechanical properties such as tensile strength. It has been found according to this invention that a stronger boron cantilever can be obtained by a boron multilayer pipe, in which each layer is in a limited thickness. The thickness of the wall of the pipe cantilever is determined by required weight of the cantilever, required acoustic properties, etc. It has been found according to this invention that a boron cantilever pipe having a certain wall thickness and composed of plural boron layers is stronger than a boron cantilever having the same wall thickness composed of a single boron layer.

Among various known methods for forming a boron layer, the CVD is considered to produce the best quality boron layer. However, commercially available boron fibers are sometimes mechanically weak due to porosities, inner strains, micro-cracks, etc. Further, when a metal substrate having an amorphous boron layer thereon is removed by, for example, etching the metal substrate, the amorphous layer sometimes gets broken. This is considered to be because of the inner strains in the boron layer.

A CVD-deposited boron multilayer on a metal substrate according to the finding of this invention is strong even after the removal of the metal substrate, and is good in appearance also. The thus prepared boron cantilever is excellent as a cantilever. In this case, the thickness of each amorphous boron layer in the multi-layer structure is preferably between 3 and 15 microns.


Some of my Technics top of the line cartridges here.

But look at Technics Boron Pipe cantilever in comparison to the Grace LEVEL II Boron Pipe cantilever. These are the most expensive cantilevers made for phono cartridges in the 80’s. This type of cantilever (Grace) is not available for modern cartridge manufacturers, instead they are using inferior Boron Rod now (and mostly for expensive MC, not MM).  
The man loves his phono cartridges!  To our benefit.  Great information.  Thanks!
The man loves his phono cartridges! @frogman 

True, here is the one with Sapphire cantilever i’m currently using.
Has anyone seen a sapphire cantilever from Grace for LEVEL II before?

Don’t want to disappoint you @halcro , but none of the LEVEL II models have rounded plastic insert, your stylus has been replaced by the previous owner to the RS-8 (from previous F8, not LEVEL II), because this is the LEVEL II Ruby. As you can see the stylus replacement has rectangle shape, not rounded shape like your f8. Your box is from LEVEL II, your cartridge generator is also level II, but the stylus is not, i also have that rounder RS-8Ruby stylus and it’s from the previous generation to be correct. The original LEVEL II ruby stylus replacement is not red (and not rounded shape), it’s clear, the cantilever is red of course, but there is no "ruby" word in front. The stylus design you displayed belong to the F8 cartridge from the 70’s, but the LEVEL II Ruby invented in 1982. I know it’s too complicated, but this is how it is.

Grace LEVEL II cartridges are all comes with rectangle insert just like this.

But anyway, the question was about Sapphire cantilever, not Ruby.
The Ruby is well known since the F8 and F9, but the Sapphire is only for LEVEL II LC-OFC and i think it’s one of the rarest, it has white rectangle plastic insert with white sapphire cantilever. Here is the one i’m talking about. I also have the same rectangle Ruby for LEVEl II.
''Better than'' and  ''other than'' relations. I bought F-9 because
this one was considered to be better than F-8. But one can get
this ''level 2'' stylus for F-8 but not for F-9. I feel cheated for about
''The other than Raul expert reg. MM kinds''. Our ''new Raul ''
 comes from Russia. Not recognizable as such because of the 
name. Chakster is not an Russian name. Misha is. He remind 
me of my first experience with ''cart of the month''. But back then
 one could  practise this MM hobby for free. If one was fast and 
well informed. Even make some profit. Not so anymore . With
Misha we get similar prices as with MC's (grin).
Don’t want to disappoint you @halcro , but none of the LEVEL II models have rounded plastic insert, your stylus has been replaced by the previous owner to the RS-8 (from previous F8, not LEVEL II),
What difference do you think it could possibly make to the sound produced Chak.
I have the Level II Body, the Level II Generator, the Grace Ruby Cantilever and the Grace Line Contact Stylus (as opposed to the Super Oval of the REAL Level II).
According to your philosophy....the Line Contact should be an improvement over the Super Oval....? 🤔
I can find images for the Grace F-9 Ruby with BOTH square and rounded stylus assemblies.
If that is the case....why is it not possible that the Level II Ruby ALSO came with both square and rounded stylus assemblies?

I also have the LEVEL II Disco with BERYLLIUM CANTILEVER and I ever glad I don’t have it with the Boron cantilever as there is not a single boron-cantilevered cartridge that I listen to or is amongst my top 10 🤗
This LEVEL II Disco can be heard
It is very easy to explain @halcro
It’s all about chronology, depends on the year of production.
The best Grace cartridges made in the 80’s. not in the 70’s.

If you prefer to start with popular F9 series then all of them designed and sold with classic rounded shape plastic inserts, everyone familiar with this shape, look here. The F-9 is from the 70’s and much better than earlier F8 model. Many different diamonds made for F9 series, but the plastic insert is the same, just different color. When you will extract this type of stylus you will see a drop of glue on the back fixing the tension wire.

The next model was actually F12 (virtually unknown). For this model Shinagawa Musen also changed the shape of the plastic insert, it is no longer a rounded shape, it is a special shape, look here. It is interesting but if you will extract this stylus there is no more glue on the back. Same with F14 model released a bit later. This is the new shape of the F14 plastic insert, look at the back.

The styli for F12 and F14 are much better than anything for F9. They are better not because of the design of the plastic body, but mainly because they are made with top quality cantilevers, previously not available for any Grace F8 or F9, such as Beryllium, Boron, Sapphire and even the rarest impossible to find Ceramic.

This is one of the rarest Grace ever made, this model called "F14 Excellent", it’s black while all conventional F14 are gold. As you can see the stylus from F12 series is compatible with F14 (and with F9 too), so the owners of the F9 can ungrade their old rounded shape styli with new rectangular shape styli. This is the reason why you can find F9 with F14 styli on used marked.

But the signal generators were dramatically upgraded in F14 and LEVEL II series, the best generators are LC-OFC. For this reason upgrading just the stylus on previous F8 or F9 is not enough.

To completely upgrade F-9 we need at least F-12 or F-14 LC-OFC

To upgrade the very old F-8 series we need LEVEL II

1) F-8 and F-9 are not compatible
2) F12, F14 and LEVEL II are not compatible too

Here is the example of non compatible cartridges and styli: F-9e on the left and F8 with LEVEL II stylus on the right. 

The best cartridge from Grace are F14 and LEVEL II and there are many different styli to choose with different cantilevers and different diamonds.

I prefer LEVEL II to F14, but this is just my personal preferences, someone can prefer F14.

But the F8 and F9 series are old and not so special as the F12, F14 and LEVEL II because they never ever had the best cantilevers designed for them.

However it is possible to upgrade F8 cartridge body with better LineContact stylus from LEVEL II, here is one i had before.

I hope it will help to understand the story behind wonderful Grace cartridges.

the Grace Ruby Cantilever and the Grace Line Contact Stylus (as opposed to the Super Oval of the REAL Level II) @halcro

Your RUBY stylus is for old generation F8 cartridge, also compatible with better LEVEL II, but the diamond is ELLIPTICAL, none of the RS-8R comes with LineContact tip. I will tell you more - none of the RS-9R for F9 Ruby comes with LineContact tip. They are all nude ELLIPTICAL.

LineContact is what SoundSmith can provide, but it is not the original Grace.
Do you have your Grace Ruby refurbished by SoundSmith?

According to your philosophy....the Line Contact should be an improvement over the Super Oval....?

I’m not sure that "Super Oval" is correct translation from Japanese language, probably it is Super Elliptical or Hyper Elliptical. Probably LineContact is better, but one problem - there is no LineContact RUBY from Grace for any model.

The best from Grace was MicroRidge but only for very expensive models such as F14 and LEVEL II with BORON PIPE cantilevers.

For some reason Grace made Utility-4 and Decrete-4 styli for LEVEL II and F8 and F9 with LineContact type and Shibata type diamonds, but the cantilever is aluminum.

I also have the LEVEL II Disco with BERYLLIUM CANTILEVER and I ever glad I don’t have it with the Boron cantilever as there is not a single boron-cantilevered cartridge that I listen to or is amongst my top 10

Nice, i remember you told me about it. The DISCO version is what i need in my collection, these cartridges made for DJs and Broadcast Radio Stations. It’s so nice than Grace offered amazing sound quality even for professional needs. Actually my "F14 Excellent" was a special calibrated broadcast version for mastering studios and critical listening.

P.S. I have F14 LC-OFC with Beryllium cantilever, also NOS stylus with Beryllium cantilever for F12 cartridge (still sealed). 

Dear friends, some new facts discovered and i want to spread the light on LC-OFC coil wire material and the story behind it. This is interesting.

LC-OFC is not a new mantra or an illicit drug. It stands for linear crystal-oxygen free copper utilized in this Grace LEVEL II BR/MR cartridge coil wire and terminal pins. High technology finally flatters humble copper. Copper ranks behind gold and silver as a conductor of electricity. Unfortunately, gold and silver, being precious metals, generally are far too expensive for electronic use. As electronic circuitry becomes increasingly sophisticated even the quality of wiring becomes important. The LC-OFC patented by Hitachi in 1975. Frequently dubious innovations come from unknown companies in West Podunk, but the fact that one of the world`s largest corporations produces LC-OFC lends credibility. Hitachi occupies roughly the same niche in Japan as General Electric does in the U.S. When viewed at a microscopic level, copper appears as a series of crystals. The boundaries between these crystals detour audio signals. A standard 1-meter length of copper wire contains 150,000 boundaries. Oxygen free copper, a refinement, reduces the number of boundaries by two thirds. Linear crystal-oxygen free copper contains only about 20 boundaries per meter! Almost a decade of research led to these revelations. In ordinary copper, the space between the crystal boundaries creates a microscopic vacuum. This muddies audio signals and alters high frequency response. Oxygen free copper removes the rectifiers but leaves the capacitance. LC-OFC eliminates all interference, allowing the audio signal to meet only simple resistance has little effect on the sound quality. Some major audio companies voted their belief in the superiority of LC-OFC by incorporating it in their products. For example, the line of Grace LEVEL II and F-14 high-end cartridges incorporates LC-OFC in their top models. Audio-Technica did the same in the late 70’s.

This image explain a bit about difference in copper wire from the basic TPC and OFC via LC-OFC to the OCC.

P.S. You can replace the cantilever and stylus tip, but you can't replace the coil wire !
This is the reason to look for the best LC-OFC version of the Grace cartridges. 

I remember when interconnects made from LC-OFC copper were a marketing tool.  I think Hitachi was one of the first companies to brag about it. Then many users (including me) found out it was no big deal in terms of any enhancement of sound quality.  Further, there is no evidence that a coil made of LC-OFC would operate any differently from a coil made of any other good quality copper; even its adherents recommend it for ICs and the like.

The notion that "gold and silver, being precious metals, generally are far too expensive for electronic use" surely must seem specious even to you, Chak.  We have gold this and silver that all over the place in audio.  Also, gold ranks well behind copper and silver in conductivity (with silver being slightly better than copper and both being way better than gold), not the other way around. The chief virtue of gold is its stability; it tends not to oxidize, which is a problem with silver and copper, although silver oxide is still an excellent conductor whereas copper oxide is not. Thus gold is often used as a plating over copper to prevent oxidation. 

And finally, you say above that F8 and F9 series were not made with exotic cantilever materials, among which you list sapphire.  But we do have the F9 Ruby since the 70s; as you know, sapphire and ruby are synonymous terms, maybe not for a jeweler but for cartridge manufacturers.  I would submit that an F9 Ruby re-tipped by Soundsmith with their OCL stylus ought to have many of the same virtues as the Level II and F14 models, albeit not the rarity.  I am happy for you that you own and enjoy so many unobtainium cartridges, but let's keep this in perspective.
I’ve come across the article from 1985, the LC-OFC invented in 1975, then Grace went out of business by the late 80’s, but Audio-Technica is still in business and none of their top models have coil wire lower than OCC grade today, which is better than earlier OFC and LC-OFC. As you can see it’s important for modern cartridge manufacturer, but maybe not important for you?

In 1985, Professor Ohno, from the Chiba Institute of Technology invented Ohno Continuous Casting copper (OCC copper) and this is Audio-Technica standard since that day!

Here is a fresh article if you want to read.

The different conductor types typically used in audio applications. Oxygen free copper was developed in Japan around 1975 as it became increasingly apparent that sound quality was related to the quality of copper and the processing used during cable manufacture. Also around 1975, Hitachi developed their own method for reducing grain or crystal boundaries. Linear Crystal-Oxygen Free Copper (LC-OFC) is Hitachi’s patented process and their exclusive product. After extrusion, the copper wire is re-heated, or annealed, which reduces impurities between the crystal boundaries as the copper crystal grows and leads to a longer grain length. A typical crystal (or grain) in a 1mm diameter LC-OFC conductor is 130 mm long compared to only 4mm (typically) long in TPC or OFC conductors.

Phono cartridge coil wire material is extremely important for the sound quality, always look for LC-OFC or OCC if you want the best!

I am not a fan of Silver Coil wire, but it does make a huge different compared to Copper Coil.

Personally i have compared not only MM with different coil wire, but also LOMC like various Ortofon SPU and the best sounding one was the SPU Spirit with extremely rare 8N Copper Wire.

It’s funny to read a comment that coil wire is not so important from people who’s buying short headshell lead wires just because they are silver, or rewire every tonearm like our Mexican friend.

F-9 Ruby is nothing special, just an overpriced old cartridge with elliptical profile. When i am talking about exotic cantilevers they are paired with exotic diamonds too (not elliptical) when we’re talking about Grace LEVEL II or F12 or F14 models.

I don’t care about refurbished cartridges, they have no value for me.
My passion is original design only.

For those who prefer SoundSmith cantilevers and diamonds for the Grace MM i would recommend to use them with Grace LC-OFC generators for the best result, those generators made only for F14 and LEVEL II (not for the F9). So the F9 is nowhere near the LC-OFC F14 or LEVEL II.

For the owners of the original Grace:
Once you upgrade to the F14 or LEVEL II you don’t want to go back to the F9, believe me. It’s natural progress, they did not just changed the numbers on their cartridgeы with no reason, they are entirely different cartridges with different LC-OFC coils, best cantilevers (Beryllium, Boron, Sapphire and even ceramic) and best diamonds (MicroRidge etc).

Oh, please..."Oxygen-free copper" was and is a marketing tool.  And the Hitachi wire is at best nothing special, if not even inferior to some other choices, like pure silver, in my opinion of course.  Note that Hitachi is no longer in the high end audio business; they didn't exactly take over the world with their copper.Like I said before, I have no doubt that your Grace F14 and Level II cartridges sound wonderful.  Congratulations.  But you don't know exactly why, and neither do I.  Just enjoy them. Correlation is not causation.