Looking for a new cartridge (and maybe phono stage) for my Rega RB808


Hello Agoners! I have a conundrum that I’m hoping you can help me resolve. I’ve owned a Rega P3 for a number of years now, which has seen several modifications...each of which has improved the listening experience to various degrees. I’m now at a place where I’d like to step up to a more exotic cartridge and have narrowed down my choices to a small handful. This is where I need some advice!

:)

The P3 has turned into something else over the years. Its got a Groovetracer Reference subplatter, the Rega 24v motor, and...most recently a RB808 tonearm. Prior to the new tonearm I was using an Incognito-wired RB300 with a Benz Micro MC Silver.

My phono stage (currently) is a modified Acurus P10. A while back I had it upgraded with an external PSU, chunkier rectifier diodes, and several capacitors replaced with more exotic versions (Black Gate, Elna SILMIC). These little modifications made a noticeable improvement and I’ve been happy with this phono stage. I’m not wedded to it though, and replacing it may open up my choices of cartridge. It’s gain setting tops out at 57db. So any suggestions for a good MC preamp are welcome.

These are the carts I’m considering:

*Benz Glider (with MicroRidge stylus)
Hana SL
Shelter 501

*I’ve wanted one of these for a long time, but it’s been discontinued and maybe a newer design is better”?

Where I start to gloss over is when I start reading about compliance and effective tonearm mass, etc. I think my RB808 has a mass of 10g. That being said...are any of these cartridges off the menu? I will greatly value the community’s input!
0fc51040 5b9f 4cce 87d6 6ffe74096071boy412
I had a Benz Micro Glider for years. Wonderful cartridge. Loved it. Next after that was a Benz Ruby H3. Wonderful cartridge. Loved it. Ran each of these something close to 10 years. Across two very different turntables, and two very different arms. Ran both into ARC PH3-SE, but with different phono cables over the years.

While quite a ways apart in price they both had a characteristic Benz sound- very well balanced and engaging. Nothing hyped, nothing sucked out either. Moderate output so no troubles there either. Finally, when I was ready to upgrade I was able to sell each of them quickly and easily and for a lot more than I’d ever imagine an old cartridge to be worth!

Currently, as of late last year, running a Koetsu Black Goldline. Another super smooth performer. None of these I would classify as exciting, or use very many of the usual descriptors for. They all just sound very neutral or natural to me. As compared to a number of others I have heard that do not. The main thing that changes is the ability to hear deep into the recording.

The Benz Glider is a terrific little cartridge. It does after a long enough time leave you wanting a bit more. Which is exactly what you get as you go up the line. A bit more inner detail. A bit more "you are there" palpability. A bit more dynamics and extension, across the board.

That to me is the key. Too many guys, something catches their ear they get all excited and buy it. Never lasts. Whatever gets you excited, it usually turns out the more excited you get the faster you get tired of it. All of these cartridges I’m talking about, the improvements are of a nature it takes a long time to fully appreciate. I’m not talking about they need to burn in. I’m talking about they do things, at first you might think its the cartridge only to realize later its the recording. Gradually the realization sinks in that the very best components are the ones that do the least. Doing the least lets the music through the most.

Do not waste a moment's time on technicals like compliance. Output, sure. Needs to match your phono stage so you have enough gain and keep noise levels down. All the rest you can safely disregard.

A lot of guys are scared to death to buy a cartridge used or on-line. All my cartridges were bought on-line. Never a problem. Would not hesitate to try buying one used either if the right one came along. Very nearly did with some very high-end Koetsu priced very low due to being so old. When the price gets low enough what do you really have to lose?

Not that the others you’re considering aren’t good. As Fremer says, when you get up into the good cartridges they are all good, its more a matter of taste. For reasons of taste or whatever you are wanting a Glider. Well, go find one then! They are out there. Good luck!
Thanks for that reply! That all resonates with me.

:)

I have no qualms with buying a cartridge online, or even used for that matter. Thankfully you can still find “new” Gliders out there. There are a couple here in the classifieds in fact!

In terms of output level I need to figure out what is going to work best with my preamp (or decide to replace it with something more flexible). The highest gain setting I have is 57db, and that is at the lower end of what is acceptable for a low output MC. I guess a medium or high output cartridge would be OK. I really liked the MC Silver I had! But my goal is to get something more revealing, and my understanding is that a low output cartridge is more...capable?
@boy412 
I have a Zyx 4D cart running through a JLTi phono stage which is rated at 55db The Zyx is rated at .24 mV output. 

Really nice post by millercarbon - good advice there!! I started with a Glider too, enjoyed the hell out of it for 2 years. Eventually took a chance on a used Koetsu, and Koetsus are still my favorite cartridges today.

I’ve also had good experience with Shelter and would be curious about the 501.
Rega RB808 tonearm effective mass is 10g according to this article.
Add the mass of the cartridge and screws when you will calculate tonearm/cartridge resonance, read here how to do that.

If your combo will be within 7-12Hz then you can use it. If you’re out of that range you need another cartridge (difference compliance).

If your cartridge dynamic compliance in the manual stated at 100Hz then you have to multiply it on 1.7 before you will make any calculations. Cartridge compliance at 10Hz is the key. After you will convert cartridge compliance from 100Hz to 10Hz (*using x1.7 formula) you can go back to the ortofon diagram for correct calculation of the resonance frequency.

The rest is a matter of personal taste, there are so many different MC cartridges available, but some decent MM are simply better, especially on your TT and your tonearm.




Phono gain is one factor but it plays in with preamp gain and amp input sensitivity (or gain if you will). Without the full info it will be a matter of experimentation...
Btw do you have shims or vta adjuster to allow vta changes?

You could try the ~.5mv  Sensitive Sound ART Dark that I import if you like. Its right at home on this arm mass.
@solypsa Thanks for the post!  My RB300 had a way to adjust VTA (Incognito EzRider) but this new arm does not. I don't have shims for it either, but I've been thinking I should have some for this eventuality.

I'm not familiar with Sensitive Sound cartridges. I'll look into them!

;)

*Benz Glider (with MicroRidge stylus)
Hana SL
Shelter 501

*I’ve wanted one of these for a long time, but it’s been discontinued and maybe a newer design is better”?

New design is not always better and if you don't mind to buy a discontinued models your choice of cartridge can be much wider. 

If you like MicroRidge stylus (which is great) you can look for the MicroLine stylus too. Audio-Technica made some exceptional MM cartridges with this stylus tip, they are belongs to discontinued AT-ML series with tapered Beryllium and Boron pipe cantilevers. Models like AT-ML150 (Beryllium) and AT-ML170 (Boron) are amazing. 

Speaking about new cartridges vs. old cartridges we can remember Beryllium cantilevers, this material is no longer available, so it's impossible to find a new design with Beryllium cantilever anymore. New is not always better.

Mid compliance Audio-Technica MM is perfect for your tonearm. Highly recommended. 

@boy412 you will definitely want a few shims. The rega carts are quite short compared to most MC.
The Sensitive Sound carts are pretty new to N America (I'm based in Seattle). Since I'm biased I'll refrain from comment but trying firsthand is always best!