Give Deja Vu Audio a call or email they are Clearaudio dealers and specialize in analog. http://dejavu-audio.com/index.html
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One of the best cartridges I have heard on a Clearaudio Ovation with their Magnify tonearm and on the AMG V12 is the AMG Teatro moving-coil phono cartridge.
The Teatro provides great detail, bass and dynamics like very few cartridges in this price range, $2,700. I listened to it for an afternoon and played Witches Brew and Respighi's Pines of Rome as well as Nat King Cole and a group of other vocals. It was outstanding across the board and handily beat out a Benz LPS that they had on the other arm. YMMV but for me it is one of the best cartridges I have heard. My next bonus check will find me the proud owner of one. If you are near NJ you can hear the cartridge at the Audio Connection. Good Luck with your search.
Thanks for the Deja Vu hint, I will probably check them out. The usual problem is, the systems and rooms are different so it's impossible to
make a decision based on auditioning at their premises. Besides, they are heavily into tubes and I'm purely solid state. I'm also looking at (used) Koetsu and Kiseki cartridges, has anyone had any experience with them on Clearaudio?
I’ve run various flavors of Koetsu Platinum on my Clearaudio Innovation, for the 4 years I’ve had it. I think it’s a wonderful combination; incredibly musical with great resolution, great for all genres from classical to rock. Excited to be moving up to the Master Innovation very soon (with 12" Universal to compare to my current Phantom Supreme).
Currently running a freshly rebuilt Onyx Platinum, with a nearly new Coralstone in reserve. Also had an RSP on this table; also very good. And I’ve also run a Cadenza Bronze here, and it’s quite nice, but the Koetsu are obviously better and more enjoyable.
I got into Koetsu some years ago by hitting the used market to get into reasonable price brackets. It worked out well for me.
I've got a Dynavector xv-1s on my Innovation and like it a lot. Its quick and clean with a good soundstage and deep tight bass, . Had an xx-2/2 which I also liked. The xv-1s is just more of the same. I can't compare them to a lot of other cartridges and everything is system dependent, but they are definitely worth exploring.
Bass is quite satisfying and extended with any of the stone-body Platinum models; slightly less satisfying with the Rosewood Signature Platinum. That said, Koetsus doesn't have the bass thump/punch of a modern high-line Ortofon; my old Windfeld MC (and what I've heard in the A90 and Anna on other systems) had better bass than any Koetsu, but lost out big-time in mids and highs (much sweeter and more natural with Koetsu) -- hence my switch.
Lots of experience with the Innovation, but less so with that particular SME arm.
Keeping your budget in mind I can second the recommendation for the AMG Teatro which is a truly wonderful cartridge. It's become one of my go-to cartridges for an affordable, but high-performance moving coil.
Another good option is the Clearaudio Stradivari. It's a little more money, but I find it to have higher resolution and a little bit more dynamic snap than the AMG without giving up any warmth. If you can stretch to $5K then the Clearaudio DaVinci is one of my all-time favorites. It has most of the magic of the Goldfinger, but without the eye-popping price tag.
Having said all of that, I've absolutely fallen in love with the DS Audio DS002 Optical Cartridge. It's $5K and comes with its own dedicated phono stage (which is required), but I haven't been able to find anything that comes close in terms of performance without spending a lot of cash on cartridge and electronics.
I'm a dealer for all of these products so take these words with a grain of the appropriate seasoning. Having said that, if I were spending my money then I would do the DS Audio and not look back.
I would also agree with esoteric about the DS Audio cartridge and phono preamp. It's a very special cartridge. I listened to it for an hour or so, though it was on the AMG Viella TT and not on a Clearaudio TT. I didn't recommend it because you said your budget was around $3K. If you can stretch it to $5K the DS Audio is worth a listen.
Is the DS Audio cartridge more sensitive to the dust and grime than conventional ones?
Not in my experience nor the experience of my clients. It's a traditional Shibata stylus and is going to behave the same with respect to dust as other cartridges using the same stylus profile. As with any cartridge keeping LPs and the stylus tip clean is well worth the effort.