Help with selecting Replacement Cartridge

Here's my situation: I have a current-version Linn LP12/Lingo with a Linn Ekos II tonearm. The first cartridge I had on the LP12 was a Benz Glider Series 2, which I liked a lot and which seemed to suit the LP12 reasonably well. I decided I wanted more detail and refinement, so my dealer suggested I get the new Linn reference cartridge, the Akiva (replaced the Arkiv in Linn's line).

That turned out to be the worst decision I've made so far. To make a long and very frustrating story short, the Akiva is an extremely poor tracker. It sounds wonderful if I only play absolutely perfect 180+ gram LPs; unfortunately my record collection is made up of many LPs ranging from fair-condition '50s and '60s LPs, '70s Dynawarp, and '80s to modern mass-market pressing. Compared to the bulk of the collection, the number of perfect audiophile LPs are few and far between. The Akiva shows signs of mistracking on a sizeable majority of my records, and the Benz Glider played them all without complaint. It seems ludicrous to me that a $3000 list price cartridge from the manufacturer of my turntable would be so fussy that it won't play decent-condition mass-market records without mistracking, but that's the situation.

So I'm looking for a replacement. I really liked the Glider so I've been considering the Ruby 2, which is in the same price range as the Akiva. I've been told that some people like the Ruby with the LP12/Ekos, but others have said the Ruby is slightly too heavy for the Ekos. I don't know. I've also been steered toward the Clearaudio Discovery, but I've heard from one person that it's pretty cold and analytical. I thought the Akiva was a bit on the analytical side - I wouldn't want to go farther down the analytical path. Other ideas for cartridges that are in the same league and can match with the Ekos would be great!

I've been fooling with the Akiva (the original and two replacements) for way too long now, and I need to stop wasting my time and damaging my records. Your thoughts/experiences/suggestions would be most appreciated.
You'd have to ask a Linn person about the weight, but I use a Ruby 2 with my LP12 and Ekos and I think it sounds great. I do have issues with my anti-skate, but I think my problem is that the Ekos' adjustment knob is not calibrated correctly on my unit. I don't have any tracking problems at all. I upgraded from the Benz Glider and it was a noticable improvement. More details and information, but still as musical. If you liked the Glider you will like the Ruby.

I've also read a gillion great things about Shelter cartridges, but I'm not sure if they make a good match for our combo.
A Shelter 501 would do just fine for $800, and sound great. Very musical cartridge, with quite a bit of "Koetsu-like magic" and excellent at detail retrieval, without sounding analytical.

The Shelter 901 is better at detail retrieval, but loses some of the "Koetsu-like magic", and is more analytical. Still one of the best cartridges made, though. $1500.

ZYX R-100 FUJI is an excellent alternative to the Shelter cartridges, at a slightly higher compliance and more money. Also a very killer cartridge, and you may like the higher compliance sound and tracking ability of those types of cartridges. Compliance is similar to Benz, but the ZYX have the very musical "Japanese" MC sound, which I personally prefer over the Euro cartridges.
If Twl says the cartridges he mentioned will work on an Ekos, then I second at least one of his recommendations.

You didn't mention what kind of music you like. RCA put a lot of different stuff on those Dynawarps! LOL.

We listen primarily to classical, much of it large scale. For that the Shelter 901 is exceptional, some say the best there is. Don't get the idea that it's cold or harsh. Never. Neither is it warm or cuddly. It has zero tracking or tracing problems regardless of what's going on, thus its extraordinary detail retrieval. It also has shockingly good bass response. Great detail plus deep, clean bass means complex musical passages are played with transparency and power. For example, I can follow interweaving melodic lines from cellos, basses, tympani and bassoon all going on simultaneously. Above all that, the shimmering decay of a cymbal or triangle hit never breaks up. It's almost scary.

If smaller scale or studio-processed music is more your thing, one of the other two cartridges Tom mentioned might offer a bit more "magic" and/or be less "ruthlessly" revealing.
Thanks. Phild, I understand your issues with anti-skate. The adjustment knob is sort of not correctly calibrated. Here's what I mean by that: I find that regardless of cartridge I must set the anti-skate a notch or two higher than the tracking force setting on the tonearm's dial. However, I've measured tracking force with a gauge and found that the calibrated dial on the Ekos is about .15 grams off. So if I have the cartridge measured at 1.9g (for instance) the dial setting is at about 2.04g, and the antiskate ends up at approx 2.1 to 2.2 or so.
Hi Twl and Doug - I haven't been able to hear a Shelter cartridge. Are there any dealers that would allow me to try-before-buy?

I find some of the Japanese cartridges to be a bit too cool-sounding for me (the Linn cartridges are made by ScanTech/Lyra and are somewhat cool). How do the Shelters or ZYX compare to Lyras in that regard?

Doug, I listen to classical quite a bit, but most of my records are rock/pop/electronica. A ruthlessly revealing cartridge is probably not a good idea right now.

I've promised myself my next turntable will allow multiple tonearms so that I can pick the appropriate cart/arm for the music, but that's a ways off.
Rex, you're probably right. Despite its phenomenal bass, the 901's unrelenting transparency would be too much of a good thing on a lot of pop/rock/electronica.

Twl and others can tell you more about different cartridges, but I've never heard anyone call a Shelter 501 cool. I have heard the Lyras called that by others and now by you, so I'm beginning to believe it!

Pretty risky for a dealer to demo cartridges, don't know if any still do. I took a chance and bought my 901 used (here) for barely more than a new 501. If I didn't like it I could have re-sold it easily enough. Sort of a demo, and since I kept it I also got to keep the savings.
The 501 is not a "cool" sounding cartridge. It is well balanced, with good bass, and very musical. It is on par with the Helikon, but a little more "Koetsu-like". It is not quite as revealing as the 901. It sounds to me like it could be a good match for what you are after. The ZYX Fuji is quite revealing, and on par with a Shelter 901. The 501 has about a 40 hour break-in, and goes through some strange tonal phases during that time, so don't judge it too early. I noticed a boomy quality at first, then a nasal congestion, and then it finally really came out after about 25 hours, and finished off at 40. It is really a killer cartridge once it is broken-in. Absolutely great for the money, and a very good buy. Fully equal to just about anything else that sells for $2k, except the 901 of course.

Jay Kaufman at Audio Revelation is one of the biggest dealers of Shelter cartridges, and is a supporting advertiser on this website. I'd recommend calling him and asking what he can do for you.