MC suggestions

I have long been a Grado fan.  Currently running a Statement Reference v2.  I love it, but.  I auditioned the Ortofon Quintet Black and the Dyna 17d3 and the Benz Glider and while each were excellent in their way, the overall feeling, despite being faster and transparent left me wanting, I was happy enough with my Grado. Id like to take another crack at this now. What I am looking for at this point and I hope you guys can make some suggestions, is a cleaner, and more live sound. This combined with a nice sense of space and width to the soundstage.  Is this asking a lot in my price range which is 2.5k(ish)?  I am of the opinion after spending sometime trying to figure this out, that an el34 based tube amp combined with the Grado cart are just too similar in voicing(warm).  I had hope that running a ss phono stage combined with the low output statement would be just the synergy.  It definitely moved the needle in the right direction and I could live happily if I didn't think I could push it a little farther in the detail direction without losing what I love about the Grado sound.  That is primarily it is not brittle, its natural sounding, nice soundstage all around.  Perhaps if I had solid state amplification it would be a synergistic match made in heaven.  Some carts I have been thinking about are VAS, Miyajima, Dyna(I did really like the 10x5 I listened to at one point).  Not to rule out Lyra but would be worried about the thinness I've read about from some users.  Grado fans seem a little few and far between and I wonder if there are previous fans who have moved on.  Maybe I just need to have a couple carts around and their is no one right cart. I have hesitated pursuing a cart change because my system has been tuned to Grado's sound but if I can get close with another company making MC's that wouldn't call for recalibrating my rig that much would be great.  Thanks for reading and sorry to be so long winded.
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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. 
 @mulveling Thank you so much for the detailed reply
i have yet to meet any tube component that can’t be improved with HRS gadgets.... ha

have fun !
Air Tight PC7 for $2500 retail is amazing.

fourwnds, that is a nice phono stage. but would suggest you change the load resistors from metal film to Vishay bulk Foil. no comparison. the noise floor will drop and micro detail will come through in spades without any sort of frequency balance changes.
@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.