MM Cartridge Talk


What’s your favorite MM cartridge and why? Bonus points if you compare your favorite to other MM carts you’ve tried and how they differ. 
jimmy225
I just got a Clearaudio Charisma V2. The only other recent MM cartridges I can compare it too are the 2M Black and the AT VM95ML. It is slightly on the dark side but not at all muddy in the bass like the VM95ML. It is extraordinarily detailed for an MM and more dynamic than any MC I have used. I have not heard it get harsh yet. Female voices are smooth. Cymbals sound just right. I was listening to Buster Williams Audacity last night and the system was doing a great impersonation of the Regattabar. 
The Charisma is a special cartridge. It gives back the intensity missing many MC cartridges without giving up much in terms of detail and high frequency performance. The overall effect is a touch darker but noticeably more dynamic. Tracking has been faultless so far.  






my fave for years has been the grace f9 with various different original or aftermarket styli

have tried many others - nagaokas, goldrings, of course various audio technica, ortofon, clearaudios - always come back to the grace with its warm open natural sound
Dear @jimmy225 :  Which your target with this tread? what do you want fo find out when each one of us own way different room/systems to yours?

Do you want to buy 2-3 MM cartridges and try to find out the best ones or just for fun?

Appreciated your answer.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.

I currently use a 2M Black and like it a lot but want to hear what other people are using and why they like what they’ve got. No website has everything and the number of good sites shrinks every year. It makes it hard to know what options are out there without talking to others
Shure V15mkVmr! This might still be the best of the sonically-limited MM-principle cartridges. I have a NOS one still in the box. The MC-principle cartridges surpassed MM types long ago (Ortofon SPU, EMT ...).
AT440ml. Microline on aluminum. Nearly new original stock. Current equivalent 540:

https://www.audio-technica.com/en-ca/cartridges/line-series/vm-series/vm540ml

Recently compared to my prior favorite Shure V15VxMR, with new Jico SAS on boron, main system downstairs and in my office system, AT won.

I used the Shure downstairs for many years, in prior SS system, while they sounded essentially identical, I preferred the Shure’s damped brush feature. I have forced air hvac system, air borne dust occasionally landing and picked up by brush prior to stylus pass. Thus that new AT stayed in the drawer for many years.

New setup, Vintage Tube Phono, AT beat the Shure by a speck. I was surprised, I thought the At suspension would be deteriorated or hardened.

Moved AT440ml to New Office System, VintageTT in office, no dust issue (location and vertical turntable), a shootout, the AT has a speck better imaging that the Shure here as well.

Now main system, large JVC plinth: MC favorite on 12.5" long arm #1; Shure in 9" arm #2; Grado Mono in compact arm #3; a dream to have all three balanced, switch arms in same listening session in seconds. Compare cartridges in seconds.

btw, the New Jico SAS on boron stylus now in the Shure has a brush, but it is not damped like the Shure’s brushes are/were.


Elliptical Stylus, I like my Shure 97xe, also has a damped brush,

I used it for a few years after I broke the V15 Shure’s original brittle beryllium stylus. occasionally use it downstairs now, still sounds surprisingly good. The Shure’s track lightly, I like that..
What’s your favorite MM cartridge and why? Bonus points if you compare your favorite to other MM carts you’ve tried and how they differ.

It’s hard to imagine ONE favorite MM cartridge. If someone will tell you ONE favorite cartridge then I will skip this opinion. It’s impossible. Once you’re into cartridges it can’t be just one.

Another very important remark is the price.

It can be a favorite MM cartridge for under $700 because it’s relatively cheap with outstanding performance, and there are too many great cartridges within this budged, but there are different MM cartridges under $3000 (if you have a decent system those carts can be much better).

Newly made cartridges or something legendary from the heyday of MM technology ?

Too many people ignoring classic high-end MM, they don’t want to buy anything used or even NOS (it’s a phobia). Too many people don’t want to buy anything until Mr.Fremer (or someone else) will tell them this is good. But reviewers like him never review classics (cartridges from the 70s/80s) today. But you will find so many opinion on this forum from different users over the years.

Some people always searching for NOS or used and can confirm that classic high-end MM are better than many new cartridges.

If you don’t want to get lost you have to tell where you’re.

If you have price limit also tell us, because not everyone can invest $1k+ in MM cartridge.







I abandoned MM carts in the mid 70s when I tried my first MC, the GAS Sleeping Beauty and never looked back. But recently when I pulled a Grace F9R out of storage and ordered Soundsmiths OCL stylus replacement for it I have been very pleasantly surprised, so much so I have found myself comparing it to my MC carts and it seems to be very competitive, and when you factor in the price and the fact I can run it without the need of a head amp in my headphone system makes it a winner. The Shure V15 certainly have their following but back in the 70s it was all about the Grace F9 and the ADC XLM MKII for me. Has anyone tried the Teo Audio CBP MM that is advertised here on the Gon with a money back guarantee? The price is so cheap that I am just looking for a reason to buy one and try it myself, especially since I am so pleased with the Grace and the SS stylus assembly. Enjoy the music
ADC XLMs sounded great - smooooth and far more detail than a Shure V-15MkIv, but had a nasty habit of the suspension just failing - about half the ones we ever sold just collapsed. The other half were wonderful. They were extremely compliant, and favored tonearms like the Grace 707 on a heavy Japanese DD. Never would get the ADC/707/TD-125-II combo to work, although a couple Linn-Sondek LP-12/707/ ADCs I heard seemed to work well. 
well if we are heading back down memory lane for oldies but goodies i would nominate the micro acoustics series especially their ma2002e with their electret conducer - super low mass great tracker nice balanced sound
When I returned to vinyl in the early 00's, I found a nice Philips AF 777 on which I installed a Grado Black. It had been about 25 years since I owned a turntable and I found this humble combination to be very satisfying. I think it worked especially well as the Mission speakers, I had at the time, were a bit forward and the Grado a bit laid back. Synergy
What Chakster said.  The only one of my MC cartridges that is clearly up with the best of my MM or MI types is my Ortofon MC2000.  Other LOMCs I own are also very good, and I do listen to them frequently, but no one of them stands clearly above the best of my MMs or MIs, such as Grace Ruby with OCL re-tip, B&O MMC1, Acutex LPM320, Stanton 981LZ, etc.  I don't mean to say that only vintage MMs need apply; I have a hunch that there is a new generation of MMs or MI types that are also competitive with kilobuck LOMCs.  This is only my opinion, using the only ears I own.
IMO, @myjostin should have made an addendum, as his initial Charisma failed in the first 4 months.
A few of my favorite MM carts are the Stanton 681EEE and the Shure V15VxMR for vintage/out of production. A few of my fave current models are the Goldring 1042 and the Nagaoka MP500. Grado makes some really nice sounding carts too, but they’re MI carts. 
Shure Ultra 500Shure V15V xMRStanton 681 EEE
Tops - the Shure Ultra 500 (9.3 g. w/ effective mass of 0.165 g) - more detailed, solid performance across all frequencies and tracks every platter I've ever had without effort. Naturally, it should be paired with a lower mass tonearm like an SME Series III.
@technick, I have a Systemdek IIx that has a Grado Black on it.  I am looking to upgrade and am considering a Nagaoka MP300 or MP500 as an upgrade.
I have a reasonably neutral amp (Simaudio Moon 340idpx) and B&W CM5 S2 speakers.  I like the Grado because it compensates for the B&W's which I consider too bright.
In light of my system would the Nagaoka be a good balance?  Long term I want to swap the speakers for something with more warmth and for that I am considering Dynaudio or totem.  All of this is subject to change until I sit down to a serious audition.
The new Audio Technica AT-VM95ML looks incredibly tasty to me. Love MicroLine styli and a slight bit of mass loading might be worth experimenting with.
I'll try to rank the ones I have owned (and can remember).

Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood
Nagaoka MP 500
Shure V15 MKIV with Jico SAS stylus
Shure M97xe with Jico SAS stylus
Realistic R1000 (re-badged Shure M95ed) with Jico SAS stylus
Goldring 2200
Audio Technica AT-95E
Stanton 981 HZS
Music Hall Tracker
Grado Sonata

The Virtuoso wood comes closest to some of my MC cartridges in terms of delivering smooth, dynamic, and detailed sonics.  It does soundstaging and imaging well and to my ears is fairly neutral and has a strong bottom end.  The only thing about this cart is its exposed cantilever.  I stopped using it for a long time after breaking it off twice and paying for two re-tips, but I am using it currently and really enjoying it.  It's a little more rowdy than my Hana SL, but comes close in terms of enjoyment.

The Nagaoka is a little more polite, but also perhaps a little more "brittle" sounding with some material.  Still, it's a very nice cartridge that is pretty neutral, maybe a little on the 'dark' side that does everything well.

The Shure cartridges are all nice, especially with the Jico SAS stylus.  I've never been able to get them loaded quite right to deliver a satisfying (to me) top end, they seem to be either rolled off, or too bright, depending on how they are loaded.  

The Stanton 981 HZS is purported to be a great MM cart, but mine did not sound very good.  It came with a second hand turntable I purchased, so it may just be worn out.  Replacement styli seem to be unobtanium.

The biggest bargain of them all is probably the AT-95E.  I don't know what they go for now, but they were about $100 at the time.  Mine came with a new turntable I bought.  I took it off without even listening to it as I thought it would be junk, but was surprised when I mounted it on a turntable I decided to sell.  I didn't spend much time listening to it, but was surprised by how good it sounded, especially for its price.
My all time favorite MM/MI was a Sonus Blue Label (on an LP12/Keith Monks arm in the mid-70's).  l recently found a NOS Grace F9 Ruby, fitted to my WTTT/WTTA, but I'm eyeing a new toy...Sumiko Amethyst or Grado Master3 or maybe a Benz Micro Ace H.  Anyone with thoughts on these?  My preamp is a C-J PV11 (47 dB MM gain).
That is quite true Slaw. My 1st Charisma lost it's diamond at age 4 months. I sent Musical Surroundings USB microscope pictures of the cantilever and in four days I had a brand new cartridge and a return label for the broken one. That is what I would call great service. Errors happen. It is what you do about them that counts. I would not hesitate recommending Elusive Disc and Musical Surroundings for anything they carry.
Boothroid, I have a VM95ml. For What it costs it is a great cartridge. It tends to get a little bloated in the bass. There is a bit more bloom then there should be.  It has no tendency for harshness. It Tracks Fine. 
I have always been an Audio Technica fan so here are my favorite onesAT12SA with the shibata stylusAT14SA with the shibata stylusAT20SS with the shibata stlus and the beryllium cantilever
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mijostyn, Thanks for the update on the VM95ML 👍
Curious if a little experimenting with mass loading (or a heavier headshell) to lower its resonance point would tame excessive bloom along with a slight tweak of VTF?
When you say 'MM' do you really mean it to be limited to MM or can we include MI (Grado, Soundsmith) and H/O MC (Hana EH, SH, Sumiko Blue Point #2, Dynavector 10XL)?

All those are roughly comparable to the Ortofon 2M Black or Bronze, and don't require additional step-up devices.
My personal ranking on MM/MI is:

1. Acoustical Systems Fideles and Victor X1-IIe
2. Ortofon 2M bronce and Goldnote Vasari gold
3. Ortofon 2M black
4. Ortofon 2M blue and red

In position one and two the first catridge is more dynamic
and the second more audiophile.

just my 2 cent
Boothroyd, that is a reasonable expectation but somehow my ears are disagreeing. I think the problem is endemic to the cartridge itself. This is just my intuition speaking. Certainly I'm wrong enough. Just a thought.I think the watermelon gummies are stronger.