MC versus MM. Which to choose.

I am pretty much a vinyl newbie so bear with me. What are the benefits and drawbacks of both of these types of cartridges. Is there a clear better choice for someone just getting into vinyl? The MM seem to be less costly but how does it compare sonically? Take for instance the Clearaudio Concept cartridge. The MM retails for $200 while the MC retails for $800. Is the MC version a better sounding cartridge?
What phono stage and TT/ arm do you have?
In audio, don't assume that price is proportional to performance. Like Grinnell said, the choice should be based on your phono stage, etc. But the phono stage is most important. Unless the Clearaudio MC is a "high output" MC (meaning it makes at least 1.0mV of signal at 5cm/sec stylus velocity), you are going to need a more expensive higher gain phono stage for MC vs MM. So, not only do MCs (high and low output) tend to cost more than MMs, you also generally pay more for phono stages that work with them because of their low output. If you are truly a beginner, and if you are on a typical beginner's budget, I say choose a MM cartridge (there are many that are wonderful) and choose a MM phono stage to go with. Don't limit yourself to Clearaudio, either.
Bare in mind that there's no great MM set up that can uncover what average MC set up can.

I am a newbie to vinyl but not to being an audiophile. I have not had a turntable in many years. I am thinking about an ARC PH5 or possibly PH6 for a phono preamp. I have been looking around but used ones go fast. I have not decided on a table or arm yet. The rest of my system consists of a Ref 110 with a LS25 mk2 preamp and ML SL3 speakers.
I agree, a very good phono stage is vital with a low output MC. Personally, I think that LOMC are the best way to go but some prefer the sound of MM. Listen to both and make up your own mind. Don't forget to have fun.
I think the MC carts sound much better even the high output versions. MM carts always have sounded kind of heavy and boxy, they still sound pretty good but to me it always sounds like veils are lifted when you go to MC. I've had carts at quite a few price points and the most expensive I owned was by far the best (shelter 90x) I made plenty of recordings with that cart and there was a magic that I have not heard since but thankfully it was captured on the recordings. Yes the phono stage matters a lot but so does the cart even more so in my experience.
Dear Marakanetz: +++++ " Bare in mind that there's no great MM set up that can uncover what average MC set up can. " +++++

IMHO that is a daring statement where exist no clear and precise foundation from your part, at least you explain nothing about that could confirm what you are saying.

Even that I repect your opinion I have to say that I like both alternatives: LOMC and MM/MI cartridges, both are more similar than differents but this depends on the phono stage characteristics under use.

In the same way that a LOMC cartridge needs that we try to fulfil its set up needs ( mainly load impedance.) the MM/MI cartridges for it can shows at its best always ask the same: that we can fulfil its needs and this means load impedance and load capacitance.

We can get the best on a MM/MI cartridge is our phono stage has no load impedance and load capacitance options.

If we can fulfil the MM/MI needs as with our beloved LOMC cartridges then your statement is IMHO way wrong. There are a few top MM/MI cartridges that compete bis a bis not with average LOMC but with the top at the top LOMC cartridges but as I said all depends on the right set up.

Of course that I disagree on this regards with Ejilf and Nanbil.

If any one of you want foundations on the MM/MI alternative you can read that long thread about that's full of good reasons on what I states here.

Now Lostbears are not looking for the best of the best and the Lewm advise seems to me adequate for him.

Regards and enjoy the music,
It's senseless to argue. Everyone should do what he or she likes. Just trying to help the OP. Marakanetz, I disagree with your sentiment, but more importantly you are not helping the OP by stating such a strong opinion with no backup information to support it. The rest of you guys can send me all your "boxy" sounding MM and MI cartridges; I will keep some of them. Probably I won't like some of them, either. This is to say that there are mediocre cartridges of every type. You guys have been successfully brainwashed by the audio establishment.

Lostbears, it seems you have a more substantial budget than I would have imagined. In that case, it probably IS wise to buy a very good phono stage with MC capability. Then you can decide at leisure whether or not the "MM/MI alternative" (as Raul likes to call it) should be so casually dismissed.
PH5 on OP list is capable of driving medium output MC cartridges down to .5mV. In this output range there are plenty MC carts that would outperform even pricey MM.

How could you disagree with my statement? I merely stated a personal preference for low output moving coils while acknowledging that some prefer moving magnet/moving iron cartridges. I further suggested that the poster listen to both cartridge types to gain a personal understanding of which he liked better. A personal preference is simply a statement of choice-it is not a mathematical equation that has only one correct answer. I like single malt scotch (Ardbeg "Ungeadail" and Laphroaig "cast strength" are my current favorites), a good friend of mine hates scotch but loves good sipping rum-is one of us wrong? No, both of us have personal preferences that are in conflict. I would never force my friend to drink a glass of scotch because I respect his right to choose rum. LOMC and MM/MI have different qualities-some will like LOMC and some MM/MI-let's allow the poster make up his own mind.
IMO vinyl newbies should start with inexpensive but good MM carts. The 2M line-up from Ortofon are inexpensive, sound great and are easy to set-up. Why buy an expensive cart when you are just getting into vinyl...?
Marakanetz, There you go again. IMO, Nanbil has it about right. And I think Raul would agree. And Tbromgard more or less echoed my earlier post.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I recommend you start with the MM Audio Technica AT150MLX. It's a very high performance MM with replaceable stylus. Thanks to economy of scale, the AT150MLX serves up a lot more tracking ability, frequency extension, low level detail, and dynamics than you customarily get for around $325. It's Abso!ute Sound's Cartridge of the Year this year. It comes with a nuded MicroLine stylus, the kind that usually only shows up on $2000+ MC cartridges. It's a great stylus that plays in the unworn parts of your record grooves.

It gives you a solid introduction to the resolution of high end cartridges while retaining the advantages of a high output MM cartridge--lower noise (because less gain is needed in the phono stage), user-replaceable stylus (about $225), no immediate need for an MC transformer or high gain phono stage, and less challenge in load matching to the phono stage--100-200 pF in cabling and/or phono stage input will do it.

If you decided to move up to an expensive MC cartridge in the future, you'll want to keep the AT150MLX around as a backup, especially when you have to send the MC to an expert to get it retipped.
Marakenetz, you could at least add "IMO" at the end of your posts. Some experienced audiophiles will disagree with your opinion. I tend to think great MM cartridges (mostly vintage models) represent great value and I actually prefer the sound of my best MM models compared to the MC cartridges I owned, up to $1500.00 price range. Some of my favorites cost me less than $100.00.
Dear Nanbil: Yes, you are right and I made a mistake because Idont read carefully your post.

Btw, Exist some vintage MM/MI cartridges that are superlative but not available for the people but if you have time to " hunt " trhough the internet, here are two of them that I'm sure you could like it ( even more than some top LOMC ones. ) if you can find out: Technics P100CMK4 and AKG P100LE or Acutex M320IIISTR ( flat nose. ).

I enjoy both cartridge designs and IMHO no one is perfect.

Regrads and enjoy the music,
So why do some still prefer MM? They must have certain qualities to go after that MC just cannot have or can but at very high price point.
For one thing, the top MM/MI cartridges when well set up in a good tonearm seem to track piano music better than (my) MC cartridges, to include Koetsu Urushi, van den Hul Colibri, and Ortofon MC7500. The really good MMs capture the overtones and the decay of a piano more realistically, IMO. At least I attribute this to the superior tracking ability of the MM/MI class vs the MC class, and I believe that the hard data from tracking tests does support that. Mind you, there is plenty to like about MC cartridges as well.
If they do this with piano they should also do it with voice and acoustic guitar.
There is an opinion that MMs have more impact and coherence, and MCs are faster and have more resolution. These are general statements.

12-22-11: Inna
So why do some still prefer MM? They must have certain qualities to go after that MC just cannot have or can but at very high price point.
I don't have the quote in front of me just now, but I read the Abso!ute Sound review of the AT150MLX just a few days ago, and the reviewer mentioned that although the AT150MLX doesn't have that last little bit of air and detail up in the highs, it has more musical "body" to the tonal balance, which makes it easy to get lost in the music instead of the details (I'm paraphrasing here).

My own perception is similar. I grew up with live music, have two siblings who made or make a living in music performance and direction, and played and listened to a lot of live music myself. I still play live music in public regularly and get to live orchestral concerts several times a year. The tonal balance, detail balance, and overall timbres I get from my system, sourced from an AT150MLX, never seems to set a foot wrong. The music sounds "right," making it easier to get lost in the art of the music itself rather than being distracted by the artifices that create and play back the recording.
My advice is to participate in some lottery (+10 Mil).
Your chance to win the loterry is approximately the same as
to find the Technics P100CMKIV,AKG P100 LE and Acutex M320
STR. But the difference is: if you win the lottery you will
not care about the rarity of those carts.

Dear Nikola, If you win the lottery, as we Yanks like to say, "Money talks". I am happy with what i have.
>>12-20-11: Marakanetz
Bare in mind that there's no great MM set up that can uncover what average MC set up can.<<

Come here and give a listen.

How do you like your crow, hot or cold?
Dear Lewm: ++++ " At least I attribute this to the superior tracking ability of the MM/MI ...." +++++++++

I agree with you and if you re-read the first page of the MM/MI thread you will read that one of the main MM/MI characteristics that made a difference between these cartridges and the MC is IMHO: cartridge tracking superior habilities.

The LP grooves are not a flat " road " but more similar to a " stone "'s road where a " car " is driving.
The cartridge stylus is almost forced to jump every nanosecond on playback and as that cartridge stylus stay in permanent touch with that " stones " /groove as better the music information pic-up by the cartridge at the same time as more microscopic " jumps " ( tiny very tiny. ) the cartridge stylus has as more distortions appear on the cartridge sounds/performance.

MM/MI cartridges have better tracking habilities and we can hear it as you already experienced.

In the other side, what the TAS reviewer stated that the 150MLX150 has not the last bit of air and detail in the highs could be that in his set-up system he can't achieve it but not because the cartridge but his system ( trhat can't fulfil the AT cartridge needs. ) or his cartridge set-up.
IMHO Part of the LOMC " last bit of air and detail in the highs " are caused by distortions, distortions that came from tracking cartridge behavior and for the overshoot that LOMC cartridge have at high frequency levels. only a few LOMC have clean and accurate highs. Normally MM/MI ( the top ones. ) are better.

regards and enjoy the music,

these are two different worlds, MMs and MCs. Both have their Pros and Cons. You might read Rauls thread from the beginning. Yes, it will take a while but gives you insight rather than following advices of dealers selling what they just have on stock. But some dealers providing a variety of carts, MMs and MCs, do exchange carts. when you have finished testing you may choose your favourite cart.

best @ fun only
Raul - from your last post which in your opinion are some LOMC's with clean and accurate highs.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to everyone - Santa has to go get dressed.
mc is best....flame on.....
I have MC and MM that I really enjoy. MM is the cheaper way to go. I'd say get a nice MM if you're on a budget. If not, get both. You'll be surprised how much you like them both. The point of diminishing returns kicks in real fast though and the high end MCs can get uber expensive. IMO, don't go down that road. Get a descent cartridge and don't skimp on the rest of the signal chain to get the top end MC. I have a MC that retails around $9,000 and I enjoy my $179 Ortofon M20 fl super almost as much, sometimes more.
It is harder and harder to deliver to the market a high quality below $500.00 cartridge. I am listening now to an Empire 2000E that was bought NOS and from a Gramaphone review I read from back in the 70's that cartridge sold for Around $229.00. It sounds very good on my Black Widow arm but there are no tonearms being made today with 3.5 gram effective mass. We have gone to heavy mass arms and low compliant cartridges. An ass backward approach to playing and preserving your vinyl. Before CD's everything was about keeping you vinyl collection healthy. Now records are a mere alternative, a high price infatuation with the past. There are only a few high compliance cartridges being made, set up properly they will induce far less wear.
The opinion that MM carts track piano music better (Lew,12-12-11) and voices (Inna, idem) I heard already in the 80s.
Then the context was the apperance of the first Supex MC cart which changed the game. Anyone wanted MC cart since then. While each of us has his own psychology nobody wanted to stay behind. This can be called 'collective psychology'.
Those who can rembember the 80s are now old enough to make
their own choice(s). That is btw why one need at least two tonearms.

I think Lostbear would like to know why some think MC is better than MM. If you would please back up your statements with your experience.

Lostbear, I have a few good MM/MI cartridges which I enjoy very much. Some are very detailed and some more musical. Most were purchased under $200 except the Soundsmith( which you should consider). I have not used any MCs due to the cost factor and phono being MM only but I will in the future when I upgrade my preamp. I would listen to both as your budget allows.

Good luck in your search for the Grail and Merry Christmas!
Dear Rockitman: IMHO that depend not only on the audio system resolution and facilities as what are your music/sound priorities what are you looking for.

I never left behind the LOMC alternative when I took the MM/MI one. Why? because there is no reason serious reason to left any of these alternatives when you knew both.
As I always name it are just alternatives.

What are my experiences on the whole subject ( LOMC vs MM/MI that never was my " attitude " and certainly not the main subject other that to know the MM/MI alternative along what I had: LOMC cartridges. ) is that the best MM/MI ( almost all vintage ones. ) with the right set-up can compete with the top LOMC ones bis a bis and if you push me a little even beat some LOMCs. There are a few MM/MI cartridges that competes easy with the A90 and other LOMC of this caliber.

Now, my main music/sound reproduction targets are accuracy, neutrality and even tonal balance. I can achieve those targets more easily with MM/MI cartridges, but that's me.

Even that my today cartridge reference is not a MM/MI one but a LOMC cartridge.

Cartridge tracking abilities is IMHO the lost-link on cartridge quality level performance.

We need, as I posted several times in different threads, that the cartridge's stylus stay always in the groove ( terrible road, btw. ). This cartridge tracking abilities in my experiences depend mainly on the cartridge whole design and not in what tonearm is mounted.
The cartridge behavior on that subject depend IMHO and experiences on it self.

Every thing the same between two or more cartridges the one with better tracking ability will perform way better not only better because one of the benefits of that tracking cartridge ability is that distortions goes really down.

We have to think on the cartridge tracking ability taking in count that the LP what's in the recording through the grooves came with distortions of different kind between them distortions caused by imperfect work by the LP cutter head in the vinyl.
IMHO the main target in any cartridge is not to increment the self LP distortions, that's why is so important that cartridge ability along other cartridge desired characteristics.

LOMC cartridges normally are not very good trackers but the few that are makes the difference for the better: lowering distortions.

The A90 is one of them.

Btw, buy a Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood and give a try for 2-3 weeks. Could compete with your A-90?, this depends on the cartridge whole set up: " mechanical " and electrical.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Nikola, In the late 70s I was still in medical training but had already been an audiophile for a few years. I owned Magneplanar Tympani spkrs with Transmission Line woofers that I built myself. Some guy brought over a Supex and a Mark Levinson JC1 step-up (designed by John Curl) needed to run the Supex on my system. I really was not impressed at all, and I remember wondering what the fuss was all about. The sonics were "different" from what I was used to, but not necessarily better. I think several more years went by before I finally succumbed to MC cartridges. At this point, I am squarely in tune with Raul's post above. Both types can have merits, but dollar for dollar (or Euro for Euro), MC cannot compete with MM/MI. On a cost-no-object basis, then it is up to the listener to decide.
Dear Rockitman: That benefits of superior cartridge tracking abilities that means lower distortions means at the same time more music recorded information that with cartridges that are " jumping "/out of the groove walls at microscopic levels.

So, two advantajes: more precise and clear recorded music information with lower distortions!!!

Well, you can flame the MM/MI if you want.

Regrads and enjoy the music,
Dear Lew, I see that you was as 'self-willed' in the late
70s as you are at present. I myself was then a 'strong
believer' in the truth as presented by the HIFI Magazines. So I had just one subscription for the daily (news)paper but 4 HIFI Magazines. I have no exact recollection when the first TAS come out but for a long time it was my Bible and H. Pearson my pope. In any HIFI discussion I needed to use just one single argument:' according to Pearson...' The only problem was that I was not able to buy new gear each twoo months. However I was very fast with replacement of my ADC 25 for a Supex. My oldest son
got the ADC but refuses to give it back...


There was a time when H.Pearson, right or wrong, could make or break the bottom line of most any audio company with a single paragraph in TAS. He wheedled that much influence on the readership.

Nandric made referance to this influence experience and he speaks for many including myself though hopefully we are all the wiser to it today.

Back to the subject of MC, TAS started the conditioning process for the good of the collective about 1977 onward, yet with a host of quirks and added expense with many MC of the time, if not all. The truly great MM and MI of the 1970s and early 1980s were ignored.

Anyone with a table capable of two arms or more can hear for themselves comparing their favorite MC and modern tone arm to a ridiculous inexpensive alternative combination that could very well out perform their choice of MCs.
My advice would be to find a dealer you trust, and listen, if they are set up for cartridge demos. If you have friends who are audiophiles, their systems and experiences would also be of value for you.

But a thread such as this often becomes a "Mine's better, here's why" shootout, because there is no right answer to a subjective question. The only real answer to the question you posed is "It depends on what you like, based on your system and your budget."

For example, I've listened to many a cartridge, high and low ouput MCs, etc, etc. And I run a Grado Reference Sonata through a Grado phono stage. And I love it. But that is no more guaranteed to be the right combination for you than a Koetsu Rosewood with a Burmester phono stage. It all depends on your ears.
12-26-11: Rauliruegas
Dear Rockitman: That benefits of superior cartridge tracking abilities that means lower distortions means at the same time more music recorded information that with cartridges that are " jumping "/out of the groove walls at microscopic levels.

So, two advantajes: more precise and clear recorded music information with lower distortions!!!

Dear Raul...Please recommend that is available today, the absolute best MM cart you can think of. My system link is there if needed for the recommendation. Given the price of hi end MC's, it would be nice to have an inexpensive cart to test out your MM sound quality theories.


Dear Rockitman, check out the huge 6000+ post thread. All kinds of stuff to learn. Look at ebay and Audiogon to find some of those gems, sometimes for cheap. If learning more about the MM alternative would not be interesting and fun for you than maybe just try a Clearaudio Virtuoso or Maestro, but vintage can be a cheaper alternative. Or just stick with modern MC since you already enjoy them a lot. Good luck.
My dear audiophile friend, who is now too ill to have fun with this hobby, and I found out about HP's feet of clay early on, I think around issue #3 of TAS, when he went wild over the then new Harman Kardon solid state preamp (Citation 12, I think). He and I auditioned one and found it to be just plain awful, "shrill" is the best single word description. This was our first bit of evidence that HP favored a very clinical sound with exaggerated hf response. What HP did do that makes him memorable is to invent a language that can be used to describe the differences in sound among audio components. In that way he was/is a genius.

To his credit, he did also recognize the Audio Research products early on. His endorsement of this and other tube gear was a seminal event in shattering the notion that solid state was inherently superior to tubes just because it measures better in the then common analytical tests. (This is not to say that present day SS gear is in any way inherently Inferior to present day tube gear. Don't want to start a war. The SS gear of the early 70s was like early digital gear of the late 80s.... not so good sounding but great in the laboratory.)
Dear Rockitman: I will email you about.

Btw, IMHO and in the other ( many. ) people opinions my MM " information " is not only theories but something that you as any one can confirm.

Regards and enjoy the music,
i have purchased a few of Raul's highly recommended MM gems (thanks Raul) and found that they were absolutely wonderful for the dollars. vintage $200-$500 MM's that outperformed 10x as costly MC's. and even did things which were competitive with even higher level MC's. and they were typically very listenable and musical.

for a few years i had multiple tt's and arms and a phono stage which accomodated MM's and MC's. i had these various cartridges side by side, and the best MC's were able to consistently resolve detail and texture which sounded indistinct on the MM's. and ultimately this advantage (albiet at a much higher cost) did allow for a higher musical experience. for the best moving coil a lower noise phono stage is required, more accurate set-up is needed.

at this point i still own a few nice MM's but now only have 1 tt and 2 arms, one for a mono MC and one for a stereo MC.

MM's are excellent but for ultimate performance it's MC.

i know likely since i bought my last MM there are still others which have been found to be even better. maybe they can be equal or better than the best MC's; or maybe they are just different. but i've moved on from that question for myself.
I am far from "done" in comparing MM to MC cartridges. I view this as a work in progress. I would also point out that MI cartridges and induced magnet (IM) cartridges have something to offer which may be unique with respect to both conventional MM and MC cartridges. (Sometimes I think it is the IM/MI "alternative" that draws me in the most.) Then, in the end, it's what you personally like plus what your system "does" best. Plus plus, Mike might be playing with MC cartridges that I do not dare dream about in terms of cost. Having said all that, I am at the point where I would never be without at least one of all 3-4 types. Two years ago, I was a total skeptic on anything but MC cartridges.
everyone needs to be at the place where the their approach to enjoying vinyl playback is most enjoyable for them personally. and after my years of 'playing the field' of multiple tt's, arm's, vintage tt's, cartridges, etc......i've found that (at least for now) simplification is where it's best for me.

if i look back at the last 5 to 10 years of vinyl culture, many things have been learned by many people. the collective knowledge and overall vinyl playback performance for the dollar for all of us has taken leaps and bounds. much of it fed by people actively comparing different products with open minds and ears. it's why i added turntables and arms when people thought i should just enjoy my one tt. i was curious.

MM or MC; these type questions only help us all.
Dear Mikelavigne: +++++ " there are still others which have been found to be even better. maybe they can be equal or better than the best MC's; or maybe they are just different. but i've moved on from that question for myself. " +++++

yes, through my experiences about there are a few better MM/MIs but the whole subject is not which kind of cartridge design ( LOMC vs MM/MI. ) is better than the other.

IMHO the best of the best of both worlds are more alike than different on quality performance level. Both cartridge designs are imperfect ones with its own trade-offs and are these trade offs the ones that could define which design matched our each one music/sound reproduction targets.

I think that the " presence " of one does not in anyway diminish or eliminate the other alternative.
Both are very good alternatives and the people that are fortunate to own top samples on both enjoyed both at almost the same level.

From my side and from the very first moment ( 6-7 years ago- ) that I was " aware " of the performance MM/MI level I said and posted that this was and is another alternative where in those times the only road was LOMC.
Two good alternatives to enjoy our LPs is IMHO a very welcomed " stage " instead only one, don't you think?

You are right the LOMC needs cares on set-up and IMHO the MM/MI deserves the same ( if not more. ) cares on set-up. For many of us the MM/MI alternative is almost " new " and we are learning ( still learning. ) how fulfil what MM/MI ask for it can shows at its best, not only at mechanical/geometry set-up but electrical one that means: load impedance and load capacitance and this load combination determine the success level on cartridge performance when in a LOMC we have only one electrical parameter: load impedance.

Anyway, I like both designs and as you I'm trying to go " simple ": less cartridges, less TTs and less tonearms, I don't know if I can have success about but I decided to do it.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I just got into Vinyl also. A friend told me to start cheap and move up. He said the TT is easy to break until you get used to handling it. I started with a Thornes TD 235. The first thing I broke was the stylus. Fortunately it was a $29.00 Sharp. After I got used to handling the needle, etc. I moved up to a more expensive version of MM (Ortofon 2M Black). I use a phono board in my pre-amp (Bat VK-32SE). My next step will be to switch to a better TT, new phono stage and MC.
Dear Mike, Me, too. I wanted to hear what idler- and direct-drive turntables could do, after spending 30 years or so in the belt-drive world, albeit not at the top of that world. My experience thus far leads me to stick with idler- and/or direct-drive vs belt-drive at a comparable price point (which is a very important qualification for me; I do not wish to suggest that there are no great belt-drive turntables, just that I do not wish to afford any of them). Unfortunately, in the process I have developed an affection for the turntables I "collected", and although, like you, I could now settle down with just one (or maybe two), I am finding it hard to let go of the ones I seldom use. Still, as I like to point out to my dear wife, I have had as many as seven here at home; now I have "only" four. She's a good sport. And I tell her they have been a good investment.

Which of the MM/MI cartridges did you audition in your own system? Just curious.
"I like or am fond of my TT's a,b,c...n'' is a different proposition from ''I need the TT's a,b,c...n''. Cheating seems to be a relational 'concept' in the sense of cheating
sombody else. As such it has a very negative connotation.
But the most cases are about cheating our self and there is
no sense in attributing negative assumptions to this kind
of 'cheating'. Ie : mind your own buseness. According to
the most fundamental rules of the private Law anyone is entiteld to spend his own money as he may prefer. In principle that is.

Lew, regarding your question;
Which of the MM/MI cartridges did you audition in your own system? Just curious.
i'm at work, from my memory there was an Ortofon ML20 (or something like that), and an Azden of some sort, then an additional one. i gave the Ortofon to a friend, and still have the other 2.

tonght when i get home i'll get the details on the exact models. Raul very helpful to me in getting these and they did perform as advertised.

i would have no trouble living with any of these as my 'go to' cartridge.
Thanks for taking the time to respond, Mike. For what it's worth, those two just happen to be among the few that I also have auditioned. The top Acutex's and the top Stanton/Pickerings are better, FWIW, and not that I think this will send you out to look for either. Not to say that the Ortofon M20FL or M20E (whichever one you tried) and the top Azden are chopped liver.

the 3 MM cartridges were the Ortofon M20FL you mentioned which i gave away, the Azden YM-P50VL, and the Empire 1080LT....both of which i still have.

i was tempted to keep my Dobbins/Loricraft/Garrard 301 for 'messing' around with stuff like these cartridges. then you need another shelf, arms, another phono stage, etc., etc. and it does add quite a bit of hassel to access things and makes the daily ease of use for the system more problematic. it's easier to have multiple RTR tape decks. they are all on wheels so i can just move them out of the way when i need to. just another aspect of my decision tree.