Well, I have used Grado cartridges for a long time now. I have a Grado arm, so my comments may not apply since that combination is pretty hard to beat. I have a second arm on my TT and I have had numerous cartridges in it - Shure's, Denon's, ATC, a few moving coils, plus a few others of which I have forgotten. However, I keep coming back to the Grado combination. My current plan is to buy a third arm and try some of the newer MC cartridges again.
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I have owned a Lyra Helikon and now own two Delos cartridges. I don’t know where you heard that they were "thin" sounding but that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. Lyra cartridges are very evenly balanced across the audio band; don’t mistake high detail retrieval for lack of body.
I too am a Grado fan and own a Black, Gold, Sonata and their mono elliptical. For me, the real high value, exceptional sounding carts to own these days are the Nagaokas, MP110, MP150 or MP200. The 200 gives my Delos a run for the money for sheer performance alone.
Ortofon MC2000 is spectacular if you have an appropriate high gain phono stage or dedicated SUT for it. I’ve been able to find unused NOS (New Old Stock) and the package is very impressive with invitation to the ortofon Golden Ear Club. This is a high compliance and extremely low output MC (can be used on the same tonearm with your grado). Ortofon MC-2000 is full or details and really a mind blowing presentation. The NOS unit can be very expensive, but cantilever and tip is so special, do not expect any re-tipper can replace it with something equal. Only the original worth the effort and money.
If you’re considering the low compliance Miyajima, which must be very interesting cartridge, you can look for Ortofon SPU Royal G mkII with Replicant-100 profile and very special coil. The Miyajima and SPU can be definitely grouped together, while the Miyajima has Shibata profile the SPU Royal G has Replicant-100 profile. However, for both cartridges you need much heavier tonearm than for your Grado. SPU and Miyajima are Low Compliance cartridges and highly regarded for their organic presentation! But with Replicant-100 profile on SPU you will get more details, really nothing to miss. And life span of Replicant-100 is up to 2000 hrs !
A good Miyajima (Kansui or Madake) is much more expensive than your budget BTW
Grado fan for sure :-) they do have an organic midrange magic about them. I have a REF Platinum in a FT3 on a SOTA Sapphire into a CROFT RIAA-RS, quite nice....but get the MC itch....like stevecham I have a Delos ( on a Bardo / Triplaner into a NOVA II ) and I find it very transparent....
for fun I have the above mentioned Nak 110 on a Denon, might switch it into the SOTA but my sense is the NAK punch far far above weight class...
have fun !!!!
johnss, my stage is I think a nice one, its the LKV-2sb. Dual mono, outboard power supply, decent amount of gain for a lo-out cart. Usual options for loading and gain. I'm not sure about changing that out, it'd be a pricier proposition.
Chakster, thanks, I thought my arm at 15.5 grams would be alright for low compliance Miyajima but perhaps not. I'll look into the Ortofon you mentioned. Do think there would any synergy issues w/my arm. 12" Ace-Space with any of the other carts mentioned. If so how heavy an arm would be appropriate? Not that Id go that far but I'm more curious what you think. There is used w/200 hours, Miyajima Madake for sale(2500) a short drive from me. Buying a used cart though has never been something I've felt comfortable with. At least not at that price point. But those reviews are pretty stellar.
Steve, thanks for chiming in on your Lyra experiences. Being a Grado cart user yourself it's nice to hear your feedback and suggestion of the Nagaoka's. I'll be sure to check out the mp200 you mention! Would you describe the Lyra having standard width in terms of a soundstage?
Spatial King, another Grado fan! Thanks for chiming in!
Here’s a dark horse: Shelter Accord. Not sure if they just discontinued this model, as it was recently removed from their website, but you can probably still find it right about your price range if willing to buy direct from Japan.
A bit warmer and more musical than Ortofons. Much better than the Benz Glider L2 I once owned. Good marriage of technicality and emotion. When paired with the right phono stage (Herron VTPH-2A is superb here), it’s a step above the also-excellent Ortofon Cadenza Bronze (and I like the Bronze because it’s more musical than the higher-level Ortofons I’ve heard). Beautiful midrange, stopping just short of a Koetsu stone body. I really like this Shelter and it’s big brother Harmony. It takes the Koetsu Coralstone Platinum on an FR64S arm to beat them in my system. My Accord is still burning in, and it’s come along very nicely. It doesn’t complete the audiophile checklist - i.e. nude elliptical on aluminum cantilever - but from what I hear that doesn’t matter. The body materials are relatively exotic with titanium and high-quality dry carbon fiber, and of course the "magic" comes from the coil windings. It looks like virtually nobody else has tried this model, so it gets no press, unlike the Harmony.
Or you can get out cheap with the Ortofon Kontrapunkt "h" that was posted for $575 here recently (I don’t know the seller) - and run a 2-cartridge setup for the 2 flavors. The Kontrapunkt series became the Cadenza line, and the "h" should be comparable to the Cadenza Red in performance. I’ve owned Kontrapunkts "a" (Red) and "c" (Bronze) to go with my Cadenza Bronze. I like them all a lot, but the Shelters are better (for more money). I was kinda tempted by this "h" too, but had to remind myself I have way WAY too many high-end cartridges already!
First of all you have to read this article about tonearm/cartridge resonance. This will help to select a cartridge for your amr correctly. If your cartridge is made in japan then compliance measured @100Hz, but for correct calculation you must know the compliance measured @10Hz (cartridges made in US already have correct figure in cu, but Japanese must be x1.7 to convert to normal 10hz compliance). Following the Ortofon’s diagram you can see what is optimal or not optimal for your tomeam, but i must take in count cartridge mass, also mass of the mounting screws (they can add mass a bit if you will use heavy screws).
Compliance of madake is extremely low ( 9cu @10Hz) as stated on their website. And the mass of the cartridge is about 9.5g. Seems like you can use it on your arm and the resonance is still in a good range, but the madake could be better on higher mass arm.
The only problem with used Madake is the service, bamboo cantilever is not available from anybody else, so for the service you must be able to ship it to Japan, but as far as i know the do not retip them, they will give you a new one instead, to do so your used cartridge must be from legit dealer. or you will be by your own with your exotic Madake.
Sadly you can’t mount an SPU on your tonearm, because the headshell is not detachable.
Another interesting LOMC is Fidelity-Research PMC-3 with Contact Line stylus and Air-Core Coil designed by Ikeda-San. Also low compliance and very close to the FR-7f
P.S. Can’t find a compliance figure for your Grado, but all my Grado cartridges are about 30cu (high compliance), if your Statement V.2 is also 30cu then (with 10g self mass then) your 15.5g tonearm is not optimal for this cartridge. You can use the same orotofon diagram to make sure the resonance frequency if lower then desirable range! @fourwnds
However, this is all in theory, practically it can be different to our ears.
@tomic601 hey!, whaddya know, maybe there is more Grado fans than I thought! Grado’s there sure is something about them for that full bodied natural presentation(midrange?). Seems like you got some nice set-ups going.
2-votes Lyra. with Nagaoka coming in with a photo finish needed and a dark horse Shelter breathing down everybody's neck : )
@mulveling right on!, I appreciate your recommendation, Shelter was not something I was remotely considering. Not for any reason, just under my radar. I’ll have to do my due diligence here and check em out. Lots to think about.
Thanks again everybody for your responses.
@johnss I started to think about what you said. I think I was thinking if I was buying new, but on the used market, if I could get into one of those Herron’s for that price that I’ve read sooo much about. That would be an alternative I hadn’t considered. By all accounts they are quite something.
I can also confirm the Cadenza Bronze is also a great match for the Herron VTPH-2A! I think you could be very happy with that pairing. In my 2nd system I’ve been mixing/matching between the Bronze, Accord, Herron, and a Rogue Ares Magnum phono stage. Here are my loose & subjective ratings for the 4 combos, with my reference Koetsu Coralstone + FR64S w/ VAC Renaissance SE phono stage in the main system being the "10" reference (and at a very large multiple of the cost):
1. Shelter Accord + Herron: 9.0
2. Cadenza Bronze + Herron: 8.5
3. Cadenza Bronze + Ares Magnum: 8.25
4. Shelter Accord + Ares Magnum: 7.0
I use a Fidelity Research FR64fx arm on these combos; SOTA Nova V table.
Dunno why - just haven’t gotten that 4th combo to really sing for me yet (tried 20x and 40x gain settings on its internal SUT). Any of the other 3 combos are great, but the top 2 really start edging into special territory. I’m also a bit of a nut for NOS tubes. I use a quad of Telefunken smooth plate 12AX7, and a stock 12AT7 (which I believe is an Ei Yugo smooth plate) in the Herron, with 500 ohm loading plugs. In the Ares I use Mazda silver-plate 12AX7 and 1950’s Sylvania black plate D getter 12BH7.
Another factor to consider is that Ortofon has very good service/support. When your Cadenza wears out you can get it completely rebuilt (they only retain the shell) for roughly half of the list price - good as new again. To be honest I’m not even sure what support Shelter offers, if any - and I’ve had no luck so far getting info towards that end from my dealer.
The Cadenza also has a very easy to work with specs: 5 ohms and nearly 0.5mV output, which makes it an easy match to either active MC inputs (like the Herron) or SUT’s in the 10x - 40x range. The Shelter is also 0.5mV, but its 15 ohm coils make it a poor match for the higher gain 30x/40x SUT’s (like in the Ares). The Shelter does work very well with a Sky 20, though.
Call Keith Herron up and ask him about pricing if you’re interested in going that route, btw. I’m not one who is going to say the Herron is better than anything ever - I do like my VAC better (I also really like the phonos VAC builds into their preamps!) - but it’s a lot of sound for the money, and so is the Ares Magnum (given the right cartridge pairing) for that matter.
Dear @fourwnds : Next are very very good alternatives for you and better than any of the other named here but the Coralstone:
Btw, Lyra Kleos is an excellent performer and the gentlemans that could say " tinned " sound are just with a wrong audio system.
The top model in the Cadenza line is very good too.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
Chakster, Would you care to say what is so irreplaceably "special" about the line contact stylus on the MC2000? Assuming that the cantilever is replaced with a cantilever of like material and the stylus with a good modern line contact type, why couldn't some of the MC2000 "magic" be preserved? As you know, I own a re-tipped unit, and I am very pleased with it. Would I rather have an NOS one? Yes, but I don't. On the other hand, I find its SQ to be very parallel with published descriptions of the MC2000 sound that date from its introduction.
By the way, I would not recommend the MC2000 to anyone who is not patient, knowledgeable, experienced, and possessed of a sense of humor. It's VERY prone to pick up hum and RFI, and the output is VERY low. But the rewards for getting it to work quietly are great.
@lewm I guest you don’t have an Ortofon booklet with your sample refurbished by Axel for Nandric?
There is all info about the cantilever in the booklet every NOS owner have in the package, there are some nice pictures of the cantilever and stylus tip. Have you ever seen an original cantilever of the Ortofon MC2000? I’ve never seen a cantilever like that from any other manufacturer.
I’ve posted a link to detailed review.
I think cartridges like Miyajima Madake with bamboo cantilever is also not for everyone, but it’s an interesting and unique design in its own way like the Orotofon MC2000 imo
By all accounts, the original MC2000 bears an aluminum cantilever with a "fine line" tip. That’s another way of saying "line contact". According to our friend, Nikola, Axel had a small supply of actual original alu cantilevers with "fine line" styli he obtained from the same suppliers that made the MC2000 cantilever/stylus for Ortofon. Ergo, one could say he had the actual Ortofon part. One of those he installed on my MC2000. I think Nikola insisted on this, because he prefers pressure-fitted styli to glued ones. As you know, pressure-fitting can only be done with an alu cantilever.
So, my unit may (or may not) be identical to NOS. I am only repeating here what Axel told Nikola. I also have a copy of the bill to Nikola from Axel, which is consistent with Nikola’s information. Yes, it is an unusual looking cantilever; I agree. I don’t wish to misrepresent Nikola; he did not promise me that my re-tipped MC2000 was exactly like an NOS one as a condition of the sale. But I am happy with what I got, regardless.
But my point is that re-tips can be worse, the same as, or better than the original. There is no certainty that a re-tip will always be a downgrade. And by the way, you are a lucky man to have a known NOS MC2000; 90% of such cartridges on the market these days are actually MC2000 Mk IIs, a very different animal. And even those are quite rare. NOS MC2000s are nowhere to be found on my side of the planet.
And I apologize for this digression from the actual topic.
Dear @lewm : I owned 3 original MC2000 and there is nothing special on its cantilever/stylus combination. The real subject in the MC2000 about its quality overall performance belongs to its motor and suspension.
One of my samples was at VDH for a new boron/vDh stylus and performs way better than my originals in the same everything set up.
Nomatters what aluminum camn’t performs with better quality than boron cantilevers and VDH or today stylus shape are way better groove tracers than the " venerable " stylus tip in the MC2000.
Who was whom said that the stylus tip can be fitted by pressure in aluminum cantilevers instead glued?. Was not a re-tipper but J.Carr but things are that Lyra cartridges were and are not designed with aluminum cantilevers because J.Carr is not " crazy " as some of us ( including me because I re-tipped in the " old times " some vintage cartridges with aluminum as material in the cantilevers: go figure ! Yes, a stupid action. Fortunatelly I learned and fix my mistakes. ) inexpert audiophiles. Period.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
i recently returned to the Grado fold, almost by accident. I was rebuilding my three (don't say it) turntables, and needed a cartridge to test out what should have been the pick of the litter. Popped in a Grado green (yes, Green, as in cheap) and remembered the magic. What did it sound like? Music. Is it accurate? Not sure, and not sure i care. I plan to get a much better model and really looking forward to it.
It is warm, but not syrupy, and *very* dynamic and tonally rich - which suggests detail which suggest HF extension. My Linn troika/ittok/sondek sounds very pleasant but dead next to it.
Downside? Tracking. Not awful, but not its strength. Once i fussed with my admittedly fussy arm (Syrinx) i have had few if any tracking issues save ONE album that appears to have some distortion baked in, and simply excites this combination. It may in fact the tracking it accurately, btu it sure does sound scary.
OK that's off topic. Grado's sound like music. End.
The Ares does indeed ring like a bell; that's not one of my favorite features :(
Sometimes I simply ran it with cover removed; you could also use an HRS damping plate if you remove the loading hatch plate and the (IMO ugly) tube cage. At the end of the day an MC tube phono stage at this sub-$3k price point has some compromises, and the chassis is one of them here. However, I was not able to notice any obvious microphonic effects from the cover in use. My favorite 12BH7 tubes (use them in place of 12AU7) also tend to be microphonic and noisy - and the Ares in general is not quite as quiet as the best, more expensive, tube stages. But also, I'm still quite fond of it - GREAT sound for the money when you get the right cartridge match. Plus Rogue support is absolutely second to none. Maybe they are working on a more upscale phono stage, and that one will be VERY interesting!
Funny, the Herron has a really nice chassis, but it has some kind of bad interaction with the Stax T2 amp I've been pairing it with, so I do get a little bit of hum there. It's been dead quiet in all other configurations I've tried, though - so I certainly can't blame the Herron here. The Ares doesn't have that problem with the T2, though. Still haven't figured it out yet. Weird.
@johnss I will look into this. I wonder if the designer would agree with you and not mind humoring me. Bill has been such a cool guy to go through this process with. This could be a nice tweak to grab that "micro detail" that I know is there. I'm listening to Hawkins/Jackson Bean Bags and damn it's almost perfect I'd say. I know its not part of my original post for MC suggestions but has anyone listened to The Statement v2. It would be just under my 2.5k target range, with their trade in policy it would be 2350. Tonepub had some very nice things to say. From what I understand Grado has apparently invested in a new winding machine.
By all accounts, the original MC2000 bears an aluminum cantilever with a "fine line" tip. That’s another way of saying "line contact". According to our friend, Nikola, Axel had a small supply of actual original alu cantilevers with "fine line" styli he obtained from the same suppliers that made the MC2000 cantilever/stylus for Ortofon.
Interesting, then you are safe and maybe close to the original, but still not there.
The original stylus called a Symmetrical Contact Line (SLC) diamond. This is NOT a Fine Line diamond, because in the booklet that i have with my original MC2000 they are comparing a "footprint" of different profiles including FineLine. The "footprint" (as they call it) of FineLine is not completely symmetrical, so the typical FineLine is inferior compared to Ortofon Symmetrical Contact Line (SLC). This is why i said this is a special profile.
Why the cantilever is special? This cantilever is not like any conventional ortofon aluminum cantilever, not like on any other ortofon cartridges.
The Meff value for the Ortofon MC2000 is 0.27 mg. A minimum value. It was achieved quite simply by finding the optimal cantilever length (6.15 mm), and utilizing the correct materials for moving system: an extremely light and stiff aluminum cantilever or conical shape, one of the world’s tiniest diamonds, and diminutive cross-shaped aluminum armature. The legs of the cross are hollow which has allowed for mass reduction of 66% in relation to traditional armature design.
There are much more technical details about this cartridge in the original booklet. I want to remind everyone that Boron was available for Ortofon in the 80’s, but for some reason MC2000 was designed with special aluminum cantilever.
Personally i don’t care about VdH or any other retipers, anyone can buy their own cartridges instead of messing around with refurbishing a special original design made by some other clever designers. Vintage cartridges are valuable ONLY in its original design and in NOS condition.
I don’t believe in the statement that retippers can make any cartridge better than the original. If it’s true averyone can buy a destroyed garbage without stylus/cantilever to refurbish them believing they are better than the original. It makes no sense for me at all.
Some other cartridges with aluminum cantilever are absolutely spectacular, like the FR-7fz or Miyabi MCA for example.
I'm wondering how you loaded you Grado Statement Reference? The low output Statement series needs to be loaded at 47k, just like the high output Reference series. I hope I got that one right, as Grado surely has the most confusing nomenclature in all of audio.
I owned a Statement v1 (or should that be a Statement Statement?). This system had a gorgeous tonality which I liked quite alot. But my current MC phono amp has 1000 ohm as the highest load for MC. In this setting the Statement sounds somewhat dark and lifeless, just as you described. So you really need to load it at 47k to hear it as intended.
That said, if you want to try a new low output low impedance MC I suggest you try Phasemation. The PP-300 at ca. $1800 and the PP-500 at ca. $2500 are within your price range. This recommendation is based on my experience with the P-3G (predecessor of the PP-300), which can compete nicely with much more expensive systems.
It is both heavy and low compliance, so it prefers a heavy gun (i.e. a relatively high effective mass tonearm). Mounted on the FR-64fx it delivers a wonderfully rich tonality and refinement within a powerful and lively presentation. The very high mass FR-64S is an even better companion.
I just purchased a Kiseki Blue after auditioning cartridges at my local dealer. They recommend four different cartridges that they thought would work well with my system. They mounted the ones that weren't already on demo turntables and we compared, with the Kiseki coming out on top in my opinion due to its clarity, depth and warmth.
Grado is a brand they carry but was not one they recommended for my price point and equipment which is Atma-Sphere, Wilson Audio and REL
I worked with Bill at LKV to get the gain at 47k up to wear it needed to be to support a 1mv output from my Statement Reference v.2
Didn't mean to imply it was dark and lifeless necessarily, it certainly is not that. But, I want more ya know. Thank you for your suggestion of the Phasemation, they are new to me!
@audiorusty. That is really nice gear you have and I'm not surprised that Grado wasn't recommended. It does seem like MC's are the default. Maybe for good reason, although given my experience up to this point I don't get it. But, I'm willing to try again at a higher price point and maybe that is where I'll find myself coming around.
Thanks again everybody, this is all very helpful and FUN!
Absolutely, i have replaced stock resistors in various phono stages and the Vishay Naked Foid are superb ! I bought mine from the US manufacturer directly: texas components they are offering all values. Mine were 47k and 100k for MM input. Good service!
I thought I’d post a follow up post if anyone is curious as to what direction I went. Being that the sound I hear in my head is oh-so-close, I reached out to Bill at LKV and he’s really interested in trying out the naked foil resistors. It’ll be some time before the results of this will be known but I’ll be sure to let everyone who cares to know what results from this. We decided to put in 47k and 100k resistors. Thank u everybody who contributed and the mc suggestions are commited to posterity now and I’ll be referring back to them at some point I am sure. Happy Sunday listening.