Help me decide on my next cartridge (


They say that rule #1 of owning a turntable is -

“Do not spend more on the cartridge than the table”.  So, we are talking about <$900.

That being said, this is my current setup:

  • Parasound Halo Integrated amp
  • Pro-ject Debut Carbon Esprit DC turntable
  • Ortofon 2M Blue MM cartridge
  • Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II speakers
I like the 2M blue, but it’s getting up there in listening hours, and it’s the only cartridge that this turntable has had; so I don’t know what I’m missing by moving up.
I would appreciate any and all suggestions.

clipdin
Please share who this “they” is. I am most interested to know.

If you like the Ortofon, why not go for a Bronze or a Black? Audio Technica AT540ml or Nagaoka 150 might also be a good match.
So, we are talking about <$900.


Some fantastic MM or MC cartridges can be found for $900, not the Nagaoka, not the Ortofon, not the Grado, and not that Hanna MC and usual suspects. 

Actually for $900 you can easily look for best cantilevers, best diamonds, best generator etc. You can ignore all the cartridges with aluminum cantilever and conical/elliptical diamonds. Withing your budget you can pretend for Boron, Beryllium cantilevers with MicroRidge or LineContact diamonds if you willing to use your cartridge longer than others. You can find much better MM cartridge if you will look for top of the line models from the heyday of Moving Magnet technology (mid 70's or mid 80's). When you buy NOS (New Old Stock) you will get the best for the buck compared to modern cartridge. Some gently used also fine if you can trust the source. Stylus replacement is a benefit of MM, so i would not recommend to buy MC (especially refurbished or retipped). 

And yes, you can look for Audio-Technica, Victor, Grace to name a few of my favorite brands of Moving Magnet type. 


Yes just like buying a car by the brand of tires on it.
Cantilever type and mass is related to frequency response.
Stylus type is related to groove wear, sound quality and diamond life span.

Do not limit yourself with a choice of cartridges available in the shops today, we’re living in the digital era, there are much better cartridges produced in analog era (especially under $1k).

After reading many comments about serious problem with brand new Ortofon 2M cartridge pins (falling out when people trying to remove the lead wires) i can only think how poor is the quality control at the Ortofon today. I have never experienced anything like that even with 30 years old cartridges.
I think you're probably better off selling the TT and putting your proceeds and additional funds towards a better table.  In my view it's your weakest link in the chain, not the cartridge.
I'm with three_easy_payments here 

your table is $500-$600 new, a $900 cart is not going to make that much difference. If your cart is done/wore out then yes by all means buy a new cart and upgrade. when you do think about your next table-arm and make sure your new cart will work compliance wise with your upgrade path. At lease that way you have a cart you can upgrade with. also better carts are worth rebuilding so that's something to consider. 

One member here mentioned to buy a NOS cart, i'm sceptical of that due to the suspension systems degradation over time. NOS carts should be bought with the understanding they may need a rebuild. heck any used cart for that mater. 

If you don't have a MC phono section in your parasound that's something else to think about as well.  
SHURE ULTRA 500 sounds good everywhere, quote from cart expert David (dlaloum) I couldn´t agree more. You won´t be disappointed, + new HQ replacement styli available from JICO Japan.
SHURE ULTRA 400, 2nd best from SHURE. Both for ridiculous prices, not so easy to find though.

But firstly, you need a better TT, I highly recommend ORACLE DELPHI MKII because it´s simply musical.

Good luck !
I’m entirely in agreement with this:
I think you’re probably better off selling the TT and putting your proceeds and additional funds towards a better table. In my view it’s your weakest link in the chain, not the cartridge.

The Debut Carbon Esprit is a fine choice for an entry level turntable, but sticking a $900 cartridge on it is decidedly overkill. If you’re sticking with it, my choice would be either an Audio Technica AT540ML or Nagaoka MP-150 on the lower end of the price scale, or an AT-150Sa or MP-200 on the high side.

The latter two at $400 is about as high as I’d go on a Debut Carbon Esprit. Which isn’t as damning as it may sound, as I own an AT150Sa myself and consider it one of the finest MM cartridges I’ve ever heard.
clipdin says:
I don’t know what I’m missing by moving up.
I would appreciate any and all suggestions.

Quite so. And nobody here helping with that either. Oh well. This will help.

Whether turntable, cartridge, or arm, what you're missing and what you will get when moving up is refinement. That's mainly what you will notice as you move up from your budget/entry level setup. Dynamics, extension and detail improve as well. But mostly its refinement. Which if you stop to think about it, detail is more refined, dynamics more refined, extension at both ends, ditto. 

That's the big picture. Zoom in and you will see the three main components- table, arm, and cartridge- each contributes to this in its own way.

The cartridge generates the signal. With a better cartridge you should easily hear big improvements in dynamics, detail, and extension. Cymbals and guitars sound more like cymbals and guitars. 

But all the cartridge does is wiggle. If the arm also wiggles, which being attached to a vibrating cartridge it is bound to do, then together all that wiggling is gonna blur and confuse the sound. So a good arm is equally as important as the cartridge you mount on it.

The turntable only has to be stable. That's all. Stable at 33 1/3, stable in spite of spinning, stable in spite of the wiggly cartridge and arm vibrating like hell all the time. If the speed isn't stable you don't hear pitch changing. None of them are that bad. What happens instead is big dynamics like bass, the extra drag of the groove oscillating actually slows the platter just enough to rob the music of its drive and immediacy. A cheap table actually sucks the life out of the music. 

A noisy table, you never hear the noise. Rumble, only time you are gonna hear rumble is a 20 year old Technics with a dry bearing. Instead what happens is the very slight rumble that is way too low to be heard is nevertheless not too low to obscure the faint micro-details that are what make the hairs on your neck stand up when you get the eerie feeling of the singer actually being there between the speakers.

So now you take all that and apply it to your situation. If what you want is something quick and easy that will make a big obvious improvement then forget Rule #1 which is a stupid rule anyway and get the best cartridge you can afford. You will be happy. Believe me. Very, very happy.

Anything other than that and it will help to start thinking a lot more long term. You might for example get the best turntable you can afford and use it with a cheaper arm and cartridge for the time being. Even the cheapest arm/cartridge on a really good table is going to sound great. But it will be a different sort of great from the cheap table better cartridge sound. If you have a nice quiet room where you are able to sit and focus and enjoy listening deep into recordings then you will probably prefer this. Because the better table will reveal a wealth of previously unimagined hidden detail. But if you are up and around or your room isn't very quiet then this will be harder to appreciate and you might prefer the more easily heard changes you'll get with a new cartridge.

You know why they say your mileage may vary? Because it varies.


Post removed 
Clipdin, just get the 2M Black and make sure it is set up correctly. You will notice an improvement and there are painfully few moving magnet cartridges that can better it. Your turntable will handle it fine. 
Black is good, try to look for a used Winfield (low mileage)..somewhat better.
Listen to millercarbon’s advice. A cheaper cartridge on a great table is a lot more satisfying in the long run. Because, unlike flavor of the month streaming, with vinyl, you are in it for the long haul. And you need to orient your thinking to see this as an investment in your future (audio) happiness. If I could advise my younger self, it would be to have bought the table I have today instead of going through a long an laborious path of upgrades. Then again, maybe every person needs to learn for themselves.

Thank you all for your input.

This actually went in a different direction than I had expected.  Now I’m interested in knowing what turntables you all would suggest?  I guess this puts me in the $1.5k ballpark.
I would have recommended Nottingham Analogue, except that I see their turntables are truly insanely priced across the pond.  The Ace Spacedeck seems to be well over twice the £1500 UK price, at $4500.
That being the case, there are a plethora of choices available at or around $1500.  My suggestion would be to move up the Pro-ject ladder and look at the Classic, 2Experience and RPM-5.  All three are well built, competent decs and safe bets at that price point.
One member here mentioned to buy a NOS cart, i'm sceptical of that due to the suspension systems degradation over time. NOS carts should be bought with the understanding they may need a rebuild. heck any used cart for that mater.

@glennewdick How many NOS cartridge with bad suspension do you have (MM or MC), would you like to recall the brands ?

I have ZERO vintage cartridges with this problem, each NOS cartridge package i have opened myself was superb. I tried many. This problem does not exist for me, except for one brand i would never buy again -Technics cartridges. 

I would never rebuild any cartridge, this is a waste of money (imo), i tried and wasn't happy about result comparing them to the originals. 

A good cartridge must be fully original and in perfect condition. 

This question can go in a couple  directions.

Your equipment appears solid. A phonostage isn't listed, so an onboard?

If you're  eventually going to get "serious" about playing records, a proper phonostage will allow you to hear the potential of your Pro-ject/cart.

That $900 would go further considering a used unit, and have something leftover for a nicer cart. Just upgrading the phonostage with the stock cart, it will likely sound more convincing than it does now.


Or the Moonbeam 4, But the Comet is a significant improvement if you can stretch for it. Down the line you can even trade it in for a higher model if you like. Great product, great company.
Agree that SOTA tables are a solid choice, and will get your out of disposable-turntable hell. You really want a Sapphire or Nova, though ;)
One of my tables is a SOTA Sapphire, but I would never buy another SOTA product.

The reason is that I am a hobbyist and like to work on my own tables. The available service, promo lit and spec sheets for all marques, where it is available, is posted on Vinyl Engine. All except SOTA who felt proprietary about this information and refused to allow it to be posted.

I harbor no ill will to the company, as this is simply a business decision, one of many that has to be made to keep a small company afloat. As a hobbyist it does preclude me from buying any more of their products however.
Chakstr

 I have not owned personally any NOS carts (well i suppose my VDH cart is well over 15 years old now) I'm going off what friends who have owned many have talked about during our weekly Audio club luncheons. So as I said MAY need rebuilding. 

I have also had 2 carts rebuild by the manufacture both VDH carts and both came back sounding better then they did when I sent them of course they were both wore out by that time and I can not remember if they are exactly the same as new.  the last cart I sent was a $1500 cart it cost me $500 to have it rebuilt ( new cantilever, suspension and stylus) so I think it was a good saving over a new cart. I'm actually just about to send it back to VDH for a second rebuild. 

Ok so the reason I mentioned the suspension is because I work in an industry that used many types of rubber ( input flexible material) both synthetic and natural and all types degrade over time. I've pulled O- rings out of packages (10 years sitting on a shelf) that just crumble I've found all types rubber'ish compounds that will not last decades (Teflon-silicon  included). material's like this do not last forever. and will change in hardness and structural integrity over time. let alone deform and sag. 

So yes not every NOS cart will need to be rebuilt depending on the construction but something to keep in the back of your mind. 

I may be incorrect in this but I feel its something to consider when buying older carts. 
viridian, I think that is called cutting off your nose to spite your face. I would think that you could have enough fun playing around with tonearms and cartridges. 
The suspended SOTA turntable is one of less than a handful of turntables that are utterly bombproof under any reasonable condition you might encounter in the average home excluding 2 year old humans.
It so happens that the company has changed it's philosophy and is now selling motor and controller upgrade kits that people are welcome to install themselves. I understand they have found a lot of favor with the VPI crowd.  
There are plenty of great turntables to buy out there. And I scrupulously avoid anything embraced by the VPI crowd as you call them. YMMV.

I just looked in the mirror. Fortunately nose still on face.
Well, you’ve gone and done it; or rather I’ve gone and done it.  Instead of spending $900 on a high(er) end cartridge for a $600 turntable, I’m now buying a $1,750 Sota Comet V turntable and adding a $750 Hana SH cartridge to it.  I had a good conversation with Donna Bodinet at Sota and she’s hooking me up.  My turntable will have the cherry veneer.

Thanks for all your input.  I think I’ll be very happy with this setup.  😊
@glennewdick  

I have not owned personally any NOS carts (well i suppose my VDH cart is well over 15 years old now) I'm going off what friends who have owned many have talked about during our weekly Audio club luncheons. So as I said MAY need rebuilding. I have also had 2 carts rebuild by the manufacture both VDH carts and both came back sounding better then they did when I sent them of course they were both wore out by that time and I can not remember if they are exactly the same as new.  

It's perfect when a manufacturer himself can work on old cartridge to pimp it up. That's fine. I know that VdH service is the most expensive service, but this is how it should be done with VdH cartridges. I think if someone else will work on VdH cart you will not get the VdH sound.