help with cartridge selection

I'm very new and would appreciate any advice.
I have a Garrard 401 and a SME 3009 S2 Improved(fixed headshell.
I have been reading about what cartridge to use with this arm and there are several options. From what I understand if I want to use the SME 3009 S2 Improved without mods I can use a Goldring 1042, or a Shure V15 or a Grado Red or a Shure M97xE as those seems the better matches.
And also some experiences tell that if I wanna use a Denon DL103 with the SME 3009 S2 Improved I need to change the SME plastic bearings for bronze ones and make other mods.

I couldnt find too many comments about how the arm/cartridge combos match with the Garrard 401 specifically. So I would like some advice on what will be the best cartridge for the SME 3009 S2 Improved with a garrard 401.
I have 3 of the 4 carts you mentioned. I will give you a brief description of how they work with my VPI HW jr table and PT-9 arm. I was pleasantly surprised with the M97, it payed all my albums well and tracked like a champ. Good range top to bottom but a bit forward sounding and leans towards bright. It is a good stand-by cart but not sure if I could live with it full time. The V15 has the range of the M97 but a bit more refined, everything sounds better. I can live with this, a good all arounder. The Goldring is the best of the bunch, sounds like an expensive cartridge, plays all the notes, puts all the bad stuff on a record out of ear shot. Tracks with no problems, nice wide, deep presentation. The more i listen to this cart, the more i like it. Keep in mind this is with my set-up.
I agree with Zenblaster. My Goldring had 95% of the quality of my Clearaudio at way less than 1/2 the price. The M97 will sound less refined but who can argue with the price-great backup cartridge.
Check out the Audio Technica AT33 series of high compliance MC cartridges.
No experience with any of those cartridges, or with your tonearm for that matter, but what the cartridges that reportedly perform well on your arm all have in common is fairly high compliance. This makes perfect sense. Your arm is relatively low in effective mass (9.5g according to SME documents turned up by Google searches), which means it was designed for high compliance cartridges.

The Denon 103, OTOH, is a pretty low compliance cartridge. It likes a tonearm of 20g effective mass or higher, and is one of the worst possible matches for 9.5g tonearm.

Changing your bearings would improve the arm in general, but would not normally alter its effective mass. More than that would be needed to get a 103 to play its best. I can't imagine it would be worth the trouble and risk just for that. The 103 is a reasonably good cartridge on the right arm, especially for the money, but there are plenty of good cartridges out there with more suitable characteristics for the arm you actually have. Forget the 103 unless you're prepared to change tonearms. Check out Raul's thread "Who needs MC when we have MM" for many high compliance choices that should perform well on an SME 3009 S2 Improved.

Arm/table matching is fairly insignificant. If the arm fits the table and isn't too heavy for the suspension then you're unlikely to have any issues. I believe your table has no suspension, so for you it's even less significant. Matching of cartridge to arm and cartridge to phono stage are both 1000 times more important. Focus on those.
Just a note here I would not necessarily concur with the Denon 103 being a bad match for the SME tonearm.Over at VA a few years ago John Elison estimated that the real compliance of the Denon was around 10-12cus not 5-6cus given in the Denon manual,as this is a 100hz rating and not the more typical one usually given for 10hz.Therefore this 'new' or more realistic rating would more correctly place the Denon close to the optimum 11-12hz required,thus it's fine to use on that SME arm.Please correct me if I'm wrong here.
I can't speak to the stock Denon 103 but the 14 gram Zu/Denon 103 and 103R perform quite well in tonearms with effective masses around 10 grams. I have many positive responses from customers in this regard.

Zu voiced these cartridges with Rega tonearms which I believe are in the 9-11 gram range.

However, a heavier counterweight may be necessary.

Dealer disclaimer.

You're right about those numbers of course. The 103's real compliance has been known for many years, long before John Ellison ever posted about it.

My guidance was not based on arm/cart resonance calculations, which are only useful for avoiding gross incompatibilities. Actual performance is better assessed by listening, and my guidance was based on that.

I've used the stock 103/103R in arms with effective masses ranging from 10-11g (including Rega) up to 18g or so. Does it work on the lighter arms? Sure. Does it work optimally? No, not even close.

I assume the OP is looking for the best performance for his money.
Agree completely with Doug,s assesment. My experience with my stock 103 is that it does not come into its own until used in arms of 15 grams effective mass or greater. If you do the math, this also agrees with Bill's point about the ZU working well in arms at 9 to 10 grams effective mass (it was designed on the Rega arms)as the metal body adds about 5 grams to the whole affair. My 103D works better in the lighter arms, but it has not been made in thirty years or so.
I appreciate all the contributions. I will look for high compliance cartridges and have gotten some advice from Raul, also. I think that there are enough options available without my forcing the issue with the Denon 103/103R with this arm, albeit the consensus that it's an outstanding cart. Thanks everyone, it's been very helpful. Cheers,-bird
Dear Bird: +++++ " My guidance was not based on arm/cart resonance calculations, which are only useful for avoiding gross incompatibilities. Actual performance is better assessed by listening. " +++++

Doug is spot-on in the subject.

I agree with Zenblaster on the Goldring 1042 that is very good performer and the " humble " Shure M97 can be even better ( surprising good ) with the Jico SAS stylus replacement.

Regards and enjoy thye music,