If you love the Ortofon 2M Black, you'll really love...... (help me upgrade)

Still trying to find a new cartridge and I've identified very clearly that I love the sonic signature of the 2m Black but would love something that had overall more of what it does well. With that info is there cartridge anyone would recommend up to 2500?
IMO, 2M Black is the best cartridge of all time and at any prince. Enjoy it and treasure it. I have several at home and will buy more. Technicolor magic.
If the budget is up to $2500 then you can probably buy at least two superb cartridges like Grace Level II (or F-14) with the best possible stylus/cantilever combo like original Ruby/Elliptical or Boron/MicroRidge. Another favorite is Stanton SC-100 WOS signature with Sapphire Coated cantilever and Stereohedron II stylus. They are all high compliance MM, simply amazing. 

Again: with your budget you can buy 2-3 different MM chosing from the very best. Audio-Technica AT-ML180 OFC or OCC must be in this list too (imo). 

With any of them you will be blown away by its quality. And having at least two for the price of one (within your budget) is safe

Thanks Chakster but I'm not looking to get back into the vintage market. 

Thanks Chakster but I'm not looking to get back into the vintage market.  

If they are NOS you are safe, no ?

Anyway, i'm curious what you can get with $2500 limit, except the usual suspects from Ortofon, Nagaoka, AT, Dynavector ?

Maybe you should look for the Miyajima Shilabe or Kansui if you want something interesting. 
 One thing is for sure, while I am certain it is a very fine product, there is no way that the 2M black is the finest cartridge ever made in history. So you can start from that. After that, it would be a matter of your opinion. Perhaps you might want to start with other Ortofon cartridges that are ranked superior by Ortofon, in the sense that the retail price is higher or according to build quality. If you stick with Ortofon  products, you are likely to preserve the sound quality that you seem to admire so much in the 2M black. I own several  Ortofon MC cartridges, and it is my observation that they do share a certain very neutral house sound.
Thanks for the advice. Is there a particular model of Ortofon that you recommend?
@lewm i’m sure you have the Ortofon MC2000 (Raul’s favorite, lol) ?
I was so happy to find NOS, the package is amazing and the invitation to the Ortofon Golden Ear Club :))

Tell us what do you think about that vintage ortofon in comparison to the new cartridges.

Was it one of a few MC that can pass Cannon Shots on Telarc 812 ?
This is an amazing tracker, high compliance MC (very rare combination) 

Chakster, I am currently in mad passionate love with the Ortofon MC2000. However, it only works for me (with no SUT) because of the very low input sensitivity of the Beveridge direct-drive amplifiers. By this I mean that the amplifiers seem to require rather low signal voltage to drive them to full output. I run the MC2000 direct into my Manley Steelhead which can provide only 65db of gain. I use the Steelhead as a full-function preamplifier, so there is no downstream linestage that provides yet more gain. I calculated that 65db of voltage gain for an average 0.05mV signal would produce barely 0.4V output. Yet somehow the output of the Steelhead when driven by the MC2000 is sufficient to drive the Beveridge 2SW amplifiers to high SPLs, and the Steelhead is very quiet even wide open. However, you would dislike my sample of the MC2000, based on your often stated principles; I bought it from Nandric who had it re-tipped by Axel prior to sale. Axel tried to mimic the original cantilever and stylus shape as much as possible.

The MC2000 does not work well with my other audio system, for lack of adequate phono gain, in the absence of a SUT. Or rather, it gets unacceptably noisy just at the point where it develops adequate SPLs. In fact, I was going to sell the MC2000, until I tried it on the Bev system.

dhcod, I have no direct experience of the modern MM cartridges made by Ortofon, but is the Quintet on a higher plane, commercially, compared to the 2M Black? If so, you might try it. Another highly regarded Ortofon MM is the MM20FL Super, a vintage model of which I own two, both NOS.

I also love my 2M Black, but I usually use my Clearaudio Maestro V2.  It's very similar sounding to the Black, but maybe a bit warmer (romantic?) sounding.  

I prefer the 2M Black with rock music, but the Clearaudio with every other genre.

Can be found used for much less than MSRP.  Highly recommended!
I have reviewed the post and do not see what phono preamp you may be using.  Does it have moving coil capability?  If it does then in the Ortofon line you have many options at or near your price range.  The Quintet group of either the Bronze or Black would be Ortofons current introductory moving coils well within your range.  The next step up are the Ortofon Cadenza also in your range (Red, Blue and Bronzed) and with a little reach or dealer negotiation you are not far from the Cadenza Black.  I have used both the Bronze (wonderful but slightly on the warmer side of neutral) and the Black which I also love.  I have replaced both with the Windfeld Ti and they now sit on the shelf as I debate if I will part with them.  
There are lots of great high output cartridges out there.  The Ortofon 2M Black is a great cartridge with lots of detail and is not particularly rolled off on the top and lower ends.

If you are willing to sacrifice just a little detail for warmth, liquidity and timbre I would suggest that you look at the Grado Reference Reference 2 (not a typo - that's the model).  This is one of the best sleeper high output cartridges on the market.

Similarly the Miyajima Labs cartridges are excellent.  I have limited experience with the Takumi, which is their entry level model.  Sounded great on a friend's restored Luxman PD-444.

I should also add Soundsmith to the list.  Peter makes a great cartridge, based on the old B&O MI designs.  My only complaint is I feel that these cartridges have become overpriced in recent years, but that's just my opinion and doesn't take anything away from their excellent performance or Soundsmith's excellent customer service.

You can still find the original Ortofon Winfield....better than the Black, but in the same sonic picture.
Love the 2M Black..but my favorite is my Clearaudio V2 Conceeto Mc is amazing.
better than about 10 others I tried.
I’m just gonna throw it out there, Nagaoka MP-500.

only $650 too. I'm sure it will get shunned for its lowly price. 
I've just been discussing this same question my local dealer but with an upper limit of 1k (Rega Exact vs 2M Black), the other one in this range I really want to hear is  The Vessel R3SM

The Vessel blurb is a turn off:

The creative brief for The Vessel™ cartridge series is simple: "Allow the artist to express his music with its amalgam of contradiction as it is elevates and transcends with the natural and artificial interpretation of the human art."
Vessel is a rebranded Excel cartridge from Japan. Same guys who make the Hana. 

Clearaudio MM cartridges are cheap Audio-Technica’s encapsulated in wood coverings. 

Ortofon 2M Black obliterates the above in every possible way.
For an introductory cartridge the 2M is good, but far far from the best. The Cadenza line is much better than the 2M. I sold my last Ortofon MC cart and bought a Soundsmith. Very nice and he will take care of you in the future.

With a $2500 budget one should,at the very least,give Soundsmith a chance. IMO they are near the pinnacle of reference performance with customer service second to none.

Soundsmith Boheme.
I've had the 2mblack, the MP-500 and the Exact .Six of one , half dozen of the other IMO , all very good .
On a Rega the Exact because of the 3 hole mount .In 2500$ range I would certainly go Soundsmith .
What tonearm are you using / plan to use?
120 bucks (recently got cheaper as I think it’s being phased out) for a Sumiko Pearl is far more shun-worthy, and so good on my Linn/Akito rig that I eventually bought a replacement stylus...an amazing sounding cartridge, but seriously so inexpensive that most won’t bother to hear one, and that’s a shame. The newer Sumikos (Ranier, Olympia, Newark, Fresno) that are likely replacing it also may be good, but to me look kinda cheap.
Dear @dhcod : In that price range today LOMC designs is mandatory and you can't go wrong with either of next very good cartridges that I have first hand experiences because I owned or tested in my system:





All of them outperform your Ortofon 2M Black.

Btw, the Linn Candid was buided by the same Lyra Kleos cartridge manufacturer Scan-Tech. The other 3 needs no presentation.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
I was looking carefully at that a90 but didn't pulled the trigger. As of last night I finally figured out how to get my London Decca Super Gold working and that's way better than the 2M so I'm thinking I'm going to listen to that and reevaluate in a while. Thanks for all the suggestions!

+1 for Soundsmith
I have two and each one is unique and satisfying. There are a couple of on-line retailers selling the current models for as much as half off. That's a real deal IMO.
Read here that the Sounsmith Zephyr MK III is much better overall then the 2m Black. Id like to know, I have a 2M on a VPI Scout and when time comes for a new cart Id get the Zephyr if  offers something  better…I have no complaints of the 2M just nothing to compare it to and Im sure sound could be better..
I really like the clearaudio MM (using a virtuoso). Also liked the concept MC from them. They don't get much press. Good to see some love for them here. 
@boxer12 do you know that Clearaudio got their MM cartridge generators from the Audio-Technica inexpensive models? You should try the AT top of the line MM cartridges like the AT-ML180 OCC or OFC. 

How do you even find one of those?
Hey Chakster, Yes I am aware of that. The ML170 & 180 are on my want list. Thanks 
Nagaoka MP-500? Audio Technica Art 9?
If you are willing to sacrifice just a little detail for warmth, liquidity and timbre I would suggest that you look at the Grado Reference Reference 2 (not a typo - that's the model). This is one of the best sleeper high output cartridges on the market.

I'm currently running the low-output variant of this, and had a 2M Black, that failed when the pins just pulled out of the body (out of warranty).

The Black is a fine cartridge, with a great amount of detail, but I prefer the Reference 2.  Lots of detail, but greater warmth and realism, to my ears.

The 2M Black is fine but there are plenty better. Nothing wrong with that, I just bought a zephyr Star, it sounds great but I know there are carts that are better just based on how many carts there are and a realistic understanding of where the zephyr starts sits in the grand scheme of things.

 Nag MP500, clearaudio maestro wood and maestro ebony. Clearaudio Concept Mc. All great carts that I enjoyed more than the black. Maybe even at 150mlx and shure m97xe. 
How do you even find one of those? @dhcod  

I've been waiting many years to find a NOS AT-ML180 with spare styli. A fellow collector offered $3k for that one. 

But SoundSmith aficionados can buy this one for rebuild with any top of the line modern cantilever/stylus combo. It seems like the majority of people are happy about refurbished carts, so why not? Our "guru" claimed all modern Boron rod cantilever are better than old hollow pipe boron cantilevers. Someone should try it.   

Hey Chakster, Yes I am aware of that. The ML170 & 180 are on my want list. @boxer12 

Two of my favorite MM cartridges ever! Hope you will find one, they are only getting more and more expensive. 

Chak, If the stylus on that ATN170 assembly needs replacement, then what is the benefit to having it at all to go along with a complete ML150 cartridge?  You could theoretically rebuild the ML150 stylus assembly to the same SS level as rebuilding the ATN170. Or maybe the seller has no ATN150 OEM stylus assembly for the ML150 cartridge.
I answered my own question! I'm listened to a friend's Audio Note IQ3 at length this weekend on my turntable. Definitely better than the 2M Black. Big step up in terms of clarity and resolution and tactile-fingers-on-instrument kinds of things.... but also not a completely different presentation. Ordered! So I've replaced my Lyra Delos with the IQ3 and a Decca London Super Gold and I think I have two better cartridges for (because I got a crazy deal on the Decca) less than a new Delos!

Chak, If the stylus on that ATN170 assembly needs replacement, then what is the benefit to having it at all to go along with a complete ML150 cartridge? You could theoretically rebuild the ML150 stylus assembly to the same SS level as rebuilding the ATN170. Or maybe the seller has no ATN150 OEM stylus assembly for the ML150 cartridge.

Right, the cartridge generator is the same for all models from AT-ML140 up to AT-ML170, except the AT-ML180 with different generator.

If someone can add new cantilever into that original plastic holder then it can be used on any AT cartridge: AT-ML140, AT-ML150, AT-ML170.

SoundSmith aficionados are so happy about his work, material and sound quality, so i think they believe it can be even better than the original. Who knows?

The problem is the insert with AT-ML170 number which can be used to make a spare stylus if someone already have AT-ML170 cartridge.

A used AT-ML150 cartridge with its Beryllium cantilever normally cost about $350, i sold mine for the same price when i bought my AT-ML170 with Boron cantilever as an upgrade (but for a double price few year ago).

Nandric even told us about transplantation of one Audio-Technica cantilever to another plastic holder, because there is a tiny screw under a white drop of glue, so the cantilever can be easily replaced manually (this is a benefit of the AT cartridges).

I don’t want to bother myself because i have AT-ML180 with spare original NOS styli.

Dear @dhcod : Very good decision. I owned the Reson Reca and listened the Audio Note where both are manufactured by Goldring and I posted that are very good performers, better than we can imagine for its " humble /ugly looks. Enoy it.