How will you split $3000 between phono and cart ?

A jittery situation:
I am looking to buy a phonostage cartridge combination. Budget is $3k for both. I can buy preowned phonostage but cartridge has to be new. TT is a Nouvelle Platine Verdier and tonearm is SME 3012 S2.

Now, I can either go ahead and buy a very good phonostage and a entry-mid level MC cartridge or I buy a very good cartridge and a decent entry-mid level phono. I have listed the possible options:

Option 1:
Choose any of these phonostages:
1. Naim Superline - $2300
2. ZYX Artisan - $2000 (used)
3. 47 labs phonocube - $2500 (used)

Choose any of these cartridges:
1. Ortofon Rondo Red
2. Ortofon 2M Black
3. ZYX R50 Bloom
4. Sumiko Blue point Evo III

Option 2:
Choose any of these phonostages:
1. Lehmann Audio Black Cube SE ($1100)
2. Trigon Advance ($1300)
3. Ray Samuels Nighthawk ($1000)
4. PS Audio GCPH ($1200)

Choose any of these cartridges:
1. ZYX R100 Yatra
2. Ortofon Cadenza Red
3. 47 Labs McBee

You may suggest a combination that is not in this list. I would be happy to research it further. The situation is I have to compromise somewhere, but where ? My TT experience is very limited so is my exposure to analog gears so please help with your experience and suggest what would you pick if you were me.
Having gone the path of similar considerations, I'd opt for long term happiness and buy as good a phono stage as I'd feel comfortable buying. Then I'd settle for a lesser cartridge at first, knowing I'll upgrade in the future. After all, the stylus does wear out. Rather than any of your fist choices, I'd buy a used/demo Parasound JC-3 or a RCM Sensor Prelude. Mehran at Sorasound might have a demo RCM Sensor available sometimes at your price point. A lower priced phono stage I'd also check out is the Heed Quasar @ $1100.
There is a Conrad-Johnson Motif 7 that is a solid state preamp with phono for both MC and MM. You should check it out in the archives. It is listed for $1,100.00 or make offer. My son has one of the Motif's, forget which, a two box system, that has a very good sound if a bit to forward for my tastes. I prefer a sitting in the 6th to 10 row center aisle, others want a more forward presentation. Given that I am familiar with the Ortofon Kontropunts A, B, and C, they also have a bit of a laid back not in your face presentation and should be within your budget. Hope that helps, I am not familiar with enough of your selections to give a valid opinion on them, hence my suggestions.
In general I would say get a better phono stage and I think you know I think v highly of the ZYX Artisan. Photon46 maks a very good point about the cart being a wear item and so will be replaced in the normal course of events anyways. One other thought about the cart is that you do not want to get too far ahead of the tonearm quality-wise since the arm and cart form a mechanical system that converts the physical groove modulations into voltage modulations. The two parts of that system has to be compatible for it to function properly. I am not familiar w that arm so I can't comment on the cart.
You didn't list the rest of your equipment and music and sound preferences.
I guess, you don't want tube phono stage.
$700 to $1,000 new cartridge.
$2,000 to $2,300 Used phono box.
Whichever ones float your boat.
$300 for a Denon 103r, and the remainder on a Parasound JC3 phono pre... That's the way I would go.
The more u save on cartridge, the more you can spend on phono and vise versa.
The rest of my equipment is:

Naim CD5X CD player
Naim Flatcap2X power supply for CDP
Naim Nait 5i2 amplifier
Tannoy Turnberry SE speakers

While I listen to a wide variety of music I am a lot into Classic Rock (Fleetwood mac types), Swing Jazz and Blues.
Tone and Timing are the first two things I look for in a system, followed by Dynamics and then resolution. Other audiophile attributes like soundstage, extreme transparency, focus etc are not something I look for, if it is there it is a bonus. If you are familiar with the Naims or the Tannoy prestige line, you can see what I mean better.

$300 for a Denon 103r, and the remainder on a Parasound JC3 phono pre... That's the way I would go.

I currently use a Denon 103Pro, I dont find the resolution good enough. My CD player beats it.
There seems to be multiple recommendations of Parasound JC3 phonostage. I never thought about that phonostage it is hardly discussed.
If you can stretch your budget just a couple hundred dollars more, you could do what I did. I bought a used Parasound JC-3, ($1600-$1800) and a Lyra Delos, (new $1650). One of the best combos that I have ever heard, Just superb.
Get the best phonostage you can afford. If you like the 47 Labs best find out what modest cartridges have synergy with it. The Verdier and SME are to refined for the option 2 phono preamps.
03-31-12: Pani

There seems to be multiple recommendations of Parasound JC3 phonostage. I never thought about that phonostage it is hardly discussed.

Really? It's been widely reviewed and in glowing terms in both the online and paper mags.
It would certainly be top of my list in that price bracket.
The Parasound JC3 phonostage has quite a pedigree.

Option 1: 47 Lab + Zyx cart.
Option 2: None
Get the GCPH and Cadenza Red. Both sound extremely good; I've had both the GCPH and the predecessor Ortofon Kontrapunkt ("a" and "c") in my system, and have fond memories of them. I've also extensively heard the 2M Black, which is an awesome cart - but the Cadenza/Kontrapunkt is better if your phono stage can handle a low-MC, and the GCPH surely can. The Kontrapunkt/Cadenza line is fantastically musical; my hangup on the higher-end Jubilee/Windfeld is that they're too analytical...and kinda bright.

I'm also a tube fanatic, and I'm not sure you're going to significantly outperform the GCPH without spending much more money OR stepping up to tubes.
As someone who appreciates the timing, tone, & timbre virtues of Naim, I suspect you'd greatly appreciate the same virtues evident in the RCM Sensor. The Parasound and RCM both operate in that category of (sorry for the overused, tired phrase) "punching above their weight class." The Parasound offers much higher name recognition, more handsome casework, and convenience of a single chassis. The RCM offers many more adjustments of impedance and gain, a separate power supply, and less appealing looks to my eye. In the end, I chose function over form and went with the RCM.
To deviate from the list a bit, I'd go ASR Mini Basis, used, and Lyra Delos new.
But photon46 isnt the RCM much more expensive (somewhere around $3k) ? I have heard the RCM in an Avid + ZYX setup and liked it quite a lot. I am considering it pretty seriously now. It has great drive and timing, very airy and clean as well. Tonally it could have been a touch warmer but I am not sure, the rest of the setup also contributes to the tone so who knows. Have you heard the Naim Superline by any chance ?

Regarding the cartridge, will a ZYX R50 bloom be an upgrade over Denon 103pro ?
Yes the retail price is $3k, but if you call Mehran at Sorasound in San Francisco, Ca., he might be able to help you with a demo piece. Sometimes, depending on circumstances, some latitude in pricing might be possible. He's a very nice guy and is a great resource for vinyl hardware. I've only seen one for sale used over the years here on Audiogon, so it seems most folks who buy them hang on to them. If the RCM proves not to be option, I'm sure a demo/used Parasound phono stage will pop up for sale and make you very happy.

I've not heard the Naim Superline. As to the ZYX R50 vs. Denon, I can't help you. I'll confess that I'm not that much of a fan of the Denon cartridges I've heard. Right now, the main cartridge I'm using is an Ortofon Kontrapunkt H and will upgrade to a Cadenza black in the future. I could see how someone might prefer a slight bit of additional warmth in the RCM if the rest of the vinyl chain, audio system, or room had any tendency to brightness. I find the RCM a quite neutral conduit. I like the idea of a transparent phono stage and adding needed warmth though your choice of cartridge.
I will suggest the synergy of a Dynavector XX-2 Mk II and the Dynavector P75 Mk II phono stage. You get the added advantage of a low impedance LOMC cart that takes full advantage of the P75's Phono Enhancer (PE mode). Love the combo in my system (with a Mk I P75 and a SoundSmith rebuilt XX-2).
I would probably get Lyra cartridge and whatever phono within your budget works best with it. And you do want excellent dynamics, without it there is no good sound.
Lyra was not on my mind, I was thinking of ZYX or Ortofon. But now too many recommendations for Lyra makes me look into it. Has anyone compared Lyra to a ZYX or Ortofon ?
I would definitely get a phonostage that is the best I could afford. In your price range that could be the new Manley Chinook at $2200. Then use what I have on hand and save up for a great cartridge to use with it.
Photon46, I contacted Mehran for the RCM phonostage. He indeed has one demo set for sale. But he is reluctant to sell it to me because he says there is already an RCM dealer in Singapore so I should buy from him. I would like to talk to you over email regarding this, please write to me at and we can discuss a little more on this.
I have the GCPH and it is a fine phono stage. Very versatile, sounds great. I use it with a Scoutmaster and Shelter 501.
Update: I bought the RCM Sensor Prelude phonostage.
Now for the cartridge, oscillating between ZYX R50 Bloom and Ortofon Kontrapunkt H.
Could you do a (mini) review of that phono stage? Please.
I have ordered a XYX RS30 cart. Once it is set I will be able to write a more accurate review of this phonostage.

Briefly speaking it has the resolution, speed and drive of phonostages costing $10k and above combined with very low noise floor.