High output MC cartridges


I'm looking to replace my MI cartridge with a HOMC cartridge.
I've narrowed it down (price/output mV) to either the Dynavector 20x2 MC, or, the Sumiko Blackbird MC .
Before I take another plung .... I thought I'd run it by the AG community to see if anybody out there has experience comparing these two offerings?
thehorn
It makes no sense to replace MI with any HOMC, only if you want to downgrade with your cartridge sound quality. Even LOMC has much higher moving mass than any MI, but with HOMC everything is worst. Watch SoundSmith lecture, he will explain why (after 23:00 timeline)

Another MI or MM or at least LOMC
chakster is absolutely right. High Output MCs have to have a large coil structure to produce the output leading to a high mass situation. Not good for something that has to move very fast. A good moving iron cartridge has perhaps the lowest moving mass of all resulting in instant transient response. Get a Grado Ref 2 or a Soundsmith Zephyr 2. If you have the urge to go MC then get yourself a little tube phonostage and do it right.
LOMC not always have bigger mass. In case of cantileverless or front coil design this mass can be very low either. As there is no cantilever - in theory it's faster than standard MI (should be the same transient response as Decca).

HOMC if to look only into mass yes it's worse than MI. 

although for my ears it's comparable to MI. 
I think there is only one reason people buying HOMC cartridges, the reason is the phono stage that can’t handle LOMC.

But if they got a decent MM phono stage to handle MI then a decent SUT (or headamp) will help to handle some decent LOMC with the same phono stage.

Instead of any HOMC i would recommend to try some killer vintage MM or MI with superb cantilevers and best stylus profile.
The only time I’ve ever purchased a HOMC was because I got a really good deal on it. It is my 2nd best cartridge, a Van Den Hul MC Two Special.  Maybe my best.  The fact that it's a HOMC doesn't necessarily make it a bad cartridge. 
i have the Blackbird - very happy with it - using all tubes, VPI Prime and 8" full range open baffle DIY speakers from Decware. 
I purchased the blackbird HO as a package with project 9.1 turntable.  I liked the way it sounds but after a while  it became fuzzy sounding.  I checked out the stylus and thought it might be dust in the generator.  Long story short I blew away the fragile wires with a gentle puff of compressed air. My biggest audio blunder. Soundsmith could not or would not repair it.  Andy in Washington did and it is now a back up.  
Beware the Sumiko open cartridges.  I also run a Dynavector LOMC and I like it.
I had a Dynavector 20B on an Empire 698 TT. The combination sounded excellent!
In general I have not liked HOMC cartridges compared to any of many LOMC, MM, or MI types I’ve owned. I’ve owned Benz Glider (2 versions), Transfiguration Esprit, and a few Sumiko’s. Sumiko was just plain not good. The others are sitting in a drawer gathering dust. And I’m not claiming this is due merely to high moving mass, because I don’t know.
The only HOMC cartridge I’ve ever particularly enjoyed was the Benz H2. However, compared to it’s own low output sibling it rather fell through.

If the money were mine and for some reason I didn’t want to buy a SUT and an LOMC instead, I’d much rather buy a top flight MM. The truly excellent and much lauded Goldring 1042 can be had from Juno records in London for £200 (vs $575 from LP Gear), which is an absolute steal. Alternatively I’d aim for an Audio-Technica VM760SLC, VM750SH or VM740ML.
@chakster 

<<I think there is only one reason people buying HOMC cartridges, the reason is the phono stage that can’t handle LOMC.

But if they got a decent MM phono stage to handle MI then a decent SUT (or headamp) will help to handle some decent LOMC with the same phono stage.>>

On the other hand, KLCB would lead to GECB.  Maybe better to try POMC first, then decide whether to TUDA.
mijosty, I was just wondering what your qualifications are? Don’t get your dander up, no one’s trying to accost your sensibilities, it’s a question.

It’s like this, your average slob doesn’t even know there are MM and MC cartridges, let alone know "High Output MCs have a large coil structure to produce an output, leading to a high mass situation. Moving iron cartridge has perhaps the lowest moving mass of all resulting in instant transient response" .... Obviously you have insight on the subject of phono cartridges. I was just wondering how deep you go???

As for your Grado suggestion I’ll pass, Grado + Rega + Oracle = hum. I liked the Grado, minus the hum, but I liked my Grace F9 better.

So the reasons for a HOMC are several. One, MI on my system have hummed. Two, my tube pre-amp has a 47k Ohm RIAA phono stage, no go zone for LOMC’s. Now .... as for the Soundsmith Zephyr 2???

What do you know about the Soundsmith Zephyr II mijosty/anybody? (now the Zephyr III)/. BTW, why the Zephyr mijosty, and why not the Aida?

Grado + Rega + Oracle = hum. I liked the Grado, minus the hum, but I liked my Grace F9 better.


My Grado is dead quiet just like any cartridge from my big collection of Grace. If you like F-9 then LC-OFC versions of the F14 and LEVEL II is the way to go.


So the reasons for a HOMC are several. One, MI on my system have hummed.


You know why?


Two, my tube pre-amp has a 47k Ohm RIAA phono stage, no go zone for LOMC’s.


Most LOMC are fine with 47k Ohm, all you need is much more gain



The Zephyr was in your price range. The Grado is not humming because of your system. It is humming because it does not like your turntable. Get one with a DC motor or far outboard motor. I have zero experience with Soundsmith cartridges but plenty with Grado's. The Ref 2 is a noticeably better cartridge than the Ortofon 2M Black to which I have compared it. It is also twice the price. I have not compared it to other MM cartridges. 
Horny guy, get another Grace F9 and save yourself the indigestion. My ability comes from a great education, a questioning mind and experience.
It bothers me that you do not understand the relationship of mass to inertia. Are our high schools really failing our kids that badly?
A cheap SUT opens up a whole new world of options ( and possible confusion granted) but should not be ignored.
Then there are no gain worries at all.
There are some good deals on the Bay right now on Soundsmith Aida if you want to try a good MI cart out.
I’ve just noticed that “the horn” asked for comparisons between the Blackbird and the Dynavector.  He did not ask for opinions on HOMC cartridges.  So, I would say, first don’t buy an HOMC. There are many great MM and MI cartridges in the ca $1000 price area and below that are more likely to thrill you. Second, if you feel compelled to do so, I would choose the Dynavector based on my own less than good experience with a Blackbird and many favorable reports on the Dynavector.  But I never heard the latter in my system.
I had wonderful experience with various Dynavector cartridges including rare HOMC DV30A, but the most impressive were LOMC like 17DS and 23RS MR, now i have NOS 17D2 on the shelf
lewm - you’re a gent & a scholar (“the horn” asked for comparisons between the Blackbird and the Dynavector. He did not ask for opinions on HOMC cartridges").

Out of all the contributors who were good enough to add to this post [& I do sincerely thank you all], lewm, you were the only one who read my question correctly.

As I stated "I’ve narrowed it down (price/output mV)", [chakster] you’ve hit the nail on the head " there is only one reason people buy HOMC cartridges, the reason is the phono stage that can’t handle LOMC".
My Audion Premier 2.0 MM pre-amp does not have the gain for a L.O cartridge, that’s why I’m researching HOMC cartridges.

As for [mijostyn] I did compliment your knowledge, and was hoping you were a shop owner, cartridge rep, or someone in the trade. Shame you never learned the adage .... never assume, as you’ll only make ass out of - - - etc, etc. To quote you [" The Grado is not humming because of your system. It is humming because it does not like your turntable. Get one with a DC motor"]. My TT is an Oracle Dephi, which has a DC motor.

Again you assume " get yourself a little tube phonostage and do it right".

My AUDION Premier 2.0 Line Preamplifier / MM has a tube phonostage, and the thought of adding an external phono stage to what is one of the finest phono stages on the market, along with another set of interconnects is simply absurd.

Assumption #3, [It bothers me that you do not understand the relationship of mass to inertia]. Your talking to an engineer my priggish friend, and as for [ Are our high schools really failing our kids that badly]? I’m 59, and graduate school has been a good number of years ago, so wrong again. As a matter of fact the only thing you have got right is High Output MCs have to have a large coil structure, and for that I commend you.


[mijostyn], your Soundsmith Zephyr 2 suggestion was a good one, which lead me to further research the topic. I was intouch with My Kind of Music, in Toronto [super guys], and the owner was adamant that as good as the Zephyr III is, with my system, making the leap to the Adia is the prudent way to go. For the extra $500 U.S dollars the Adia is not an exercise in diminishing returns.

Unfortunatly with the exchange rate the way it is, out the door Soundsmith’s Adia is $3grand Canadian, but as the Chinese say "that’s the way the egg rolls.


Thx again for the input boys,

appreciated.





Yw.
Btw I have no affiliation to Hifi Heaven but I have bought quite a number of items from them over the years and Jim is nearly always willing to strike a deal.

Good luck!
Some decent IM/MI cartridges are much cheaper than SoundSmith.
For example: ADC TRX-2 with Sapprire cantilever and Vital III PH diamond.
Designed by Nakatsuka-San (now ZYX) for ADC back in the day.

Also some absolutely killer MM cartridges can be found for $500-800 NOS with best cantilevers and styli.

Say [chakster],you really know how to leave a guy hanging.
[chakster] " some absolutely killer MM cartridges can be found for $500-800 NOS with best cantilevers and styli".
I found a a few other used MM + a Sure V15 mkIV (not sure about Sure’s) .  You?
Am interested in your opinion as just to what you’d classify as killer MM, & the best NOS cantilevers and styli are?
Thx for going the extra mile.
Hey [Uber],
thanks for the heads-up concerning Hifi Heaven.
Money’s money. I’ll try to keep ya posted.
Bill
Please do.
I know Chak will regale with you lists of vintage mm carts although some will be near unobtanium and as for spare NOS styli...... 

Although sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time.
Am interested in your opinion as just to what you’d classify as killer MM, & the best NOS cantilevers and styli are?

Over the years many audiogon members discovered the best MM/MI cartridges, exact models provided by the contributors of this forum (including myself) who tried so many of them and even compared them to some very expensive modern MC cartridges (i did it too). The lucky ones purchased those MM when they were cheap and underrated (10-15 years ago). Most of those MM are from the mid 70s/80s. Most of us who joined a bit later paid our dues, those cartridges always goes up in price on used market because they are highly competitive with modern high-end carts (normally 5-10 times in price). I do not value all vintage MM/MI as high as some specific models, the Shure is definitely not in my list of the best carts, except maybe ULTRA series. I do not value high any cartridge that degrade in quality in time (especially the ones with weak suspension), some models are not good and we know why, so they must be avoided. Personally i’m buying only perfect cartridges (New Old Stock or very close to MINT condition). If i like the sound in comparison to my reference cartridges i am looking for more samples, then i compare different samples. In the last 5 years i discovered some killer MM cartridges, every sample that i bought was great. I also managed to find some NOS styli for them (only originals). I hate refurbished or re-tipped cartridges, i like only fully original samples in top condition. In the price range from $600 to $1500 anyone can find and buy absolutely amazing MM/MI or even MC cartridges from the golden age of analog (70s/80s), in perfect condition of course. I’ve mentioned my favorite models on this forum many times. We’re all have different preferences, but some rare models are hard to beat.

The best stylus is the one that last forever (say 2000 hrs) like MicroRidge, or MicroLine (and related expensive profiles). They are the best for details retrieval and for less record wear. FineLine, LineContact or Shibata also great. The diamond must be "nude". The cantilever must be Beryllium or Boron Pipe, Sapphire and Ruby also nice. Mid or High compliance, low moving mass. This is some of the basics.

Conical styli must be avoided, aluminum cantilevers must be avoided if you’re looking for the killer MM/MI (imo). Good styli starts from Nude Elliptical, a good cantilever must be at least Titanium Pipe.

Some cartridges you can’t go wrong with:

-Victor X-1IIe (Titanium/Elliptical)
-Pioneer PC-1000 mkII (Beryllium/ Elliptical)
-Victor X1IID (Beryllium/Shibata)
-Sony XL-50 (Boron/Elliptical) 
-Audio-Technica AT-ML150 (Gold-Plated Beryllium / MicroLine)
-Audio-Technica AT-ML170 (Gold-Plated Boron / MicroLine)
-Audio-Technica AT-ML180 (Gold-Plated Boron or Beryllium / MicroLine)
-Grace F14 with Beryllium, Boron or Ruby cantilevers.
-Grace LEVEL II with Beryllium, Boron, Ruby or Sapphire cantilevers.
-Stanton CS-100 WOS (Sapphire coated cantilever / Stereohedron II tip)
-ADC TRX-II (Sapphire Cantilever / VITAL III PH tip)
-Glanz MFG-61 (Boron / PH)
-Joe Grado Signature XTZ

P.S. This is what i use myself and i have a spare of some models and styli for them. Never had any problem with any of those carts, i think it’s safe to by any of them used or NOS.







I have used a Sumiko Blue Point Special  for years and find it to be very balanced in tone and overall presentation.  I have also used mm cartridges and prefer the HOMC.  I have a well tempered record player and a Krell phono stage.  I think the Blue Point special is a bargain.
Post removed 
I have also used mm cartridges and prefer the HOMC.

MM cartridges are not the same, maybe your MM was bad if you prefer HOMC. My experience is opposite, a decent MM is always better than High Output MC. Also stylus wear and required re-tipping service make HOMC inconvenient and expensive to use, while the stylus replacement on MM or MI is amazing feature. Againg: SoundSmith lecture spread the light on MC versus MM/MI, loads of technical info. 

Looks like you have  much more experience with cartridges than I.  All I know is that I am content with the sound of what I have.  Probably not the last word in cartridges but Ima not going to get on a merry go round.
@dpetri had at least 3 nice high output cartridges and enjoyed them too, but in A/B comparison to my top MM/MI they can't win the contest. 
@thehorn,

I bought a Soundsmith Zephyr MK/III Hand Made High Output Cartridge from Greg Leurquin of Hi-Fi Heaven and tried it out for about 3 weeks with 2 different turntables and I found it couldn’t even come close to the quality of sound, imaging, dynamics and soundstage that my Shure V15VxMR cartridge with a Japanese JICO VN5xMR HIGH GRADE neo SAS stylus made.

I ended up selling the Soundsmith Zephyr MK/III Hand Made High Output Cartridge at cost.

Here is an informative link with detailed reviews about all Shure V15 phono cartridges: https://hometheaterreview.com/shure-v15-phono-cartridge-reviewed/

Now on the Shure V15VxMR cartridge, I stumbled across a Canadian seller who wanted $202 Canadian for the cartridge which came to $152 US and took a chance hoping nothing was wrong with it and have been jamming ever since. So I really got lucky on that cartridge.

I could have bought an original Shure VN5xMR stylus but the JICO reviews were so good I opted for the JICO VN5xMR HIGH GRADE neo SAS stylus - brand new.

And everytime I did an upgrade, (tube preamp with telefunken tubes/all Duelund interconnects) the sound coming from my turntable got better and better. The Shure V15VxMR cartridge took whatever I through at it with breathtaking ease.









Hey [chakster],
Be reseaching the Grace F-9 & the Sony XL-50.
How's the Sony XL-50 stack up against the F-9 Grace?

@tyray .... thanks for the post.
Looking into the options you've suggested.
And I did buy the Soundsmith Zephyr MK/III used for a heck of a mark down, I just couldn't find the receipt. 

Most Shure V15 cartridges do go for about $500 and up used and the Shure VN5xMR stylus for the Shure V15VxMR cartridge, go for about $300 and up used. The JICO VN5xMR HIGH GRADE neo SAS stylus, $250 brand new with killer specs.
@thehorn

 How's the Sony XL-50 stack up against the F-9 Grace?

Sony is rare and not so popular, you will not find much info about this model, but Sony is better cartridge, it has Boron Pipe cantilever while Grace F9 has aluminum (or Ruby if you're lucky). I have both cartridges, my Sony XL-50 is mounted on dedicated Sony Soundtech headshell made for this cartridge, here is the only picture of my Sony. 

It's not easy to find a perfect sample of Sony XL-50, the performance primary depends on condition. Since my Grace F9 and Sony XL-50 are both perfect i can confirm than Sony XL-50 is much better cartridge.   


@chakster

One of these days I’m going to take your advice and purchase a NOS unused Shure VN5xMR stylus. I’ve noticed more and more NOS and used Shure VN5xMR styli come onto the market within the last year. I’ve had the opportunity to purchase the rare Shure ULTRA but not the high price money to pay for it. 
@tyray yeah, NOS styli for rare tip top cartridges is a must have, only with NOS original styli we can actually hear the great potential of the best vintage MM. But some of them are very hard to find.