Much better MM cartridge than Shure V15 IV?

Hi, I have a Pro-ject 2 Xperience turntable, and I'm running a Shure V15 IV with Jico SAS stylus on it. I'm wondering how much higher quality MM cartridge can I attach to the carbon Pro-ject 9cc arm without exceeding the capabilities of the turntable/arm combination? Grados tend to hum on this deck unless I shield the motor's EMF. I have not tried anything else yet. What would you suggest as a clear significant cartridge upgrade?
There is definite three word combo: Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood.
Go straight to the top of the Mountain. Marakanetz could not have said it better!
Marakanetz: Thanks for the Interesting suggestion...seems to have the right specs too. What do you do about stylus replacement? How well does the stylus wear?

If you don't mine me answering your question, I will give you a suggestion. I have 2 of the Virtuoso's. One is original, and the other was sent to Soundsmith for their basic ($150), stylus upgrade. The difference was jaw dropping. I'm sending the other one even though there is nothing wrong with it for the same treatment. Best $150 I ever spent!
Ortofon 2M Bronze or Black
What is your phono stage and the rest of the system? Your music and sound preferences? Before putting $1k cartridge on mid-fi table better take your time. What if you want to upgrade the table first? There are other and much cheaper good MM cartridges: Nagaoka 300 and 500, Goldring 1042, Garrott. Cartridge, within reason, is the least important part of analog front end. If you like Grado you probably won't like Ortofon.
I'd leave the cartridge alone and invest in a really good phono preamp.

Even the best moving magnets will perform only "ok" in that arm. And the Shure V15-IV is no slouch btw.

Thanks Inna and Audiofeil, for the reality check.....My system could be called 'mid-fi', which is why I'm not sure how to prioritize my upgrades.

Amp is Rogue Cronus tube integrated (with ss phono for MM only). Speakers Stirling LS3/5a, cables Kimber Monocle XL.

I had thought of a Pro-ject phono tube box SE as a first step upgrade option, or (much bigger bucks), invest in a Well-tempered, VPI Classic or Linn LP12 turntable, and keep the Shure and everything else as is.

What would you do?
My music and sound preferences: Mahler, Bruckner, Elgar, Fifties torch singers, Brazilian bossanova. British-style sound preferred. Musical, not etched. Good large ensemble instrumental separation.
If you decide to change the phono preamp, make a fairly big move.

Why? When you eventually decide to upgrade the table/arm/cartridge, you'll be set.

The alternative is to upgrade the table/arm/cartridge now as the Cronus is a very nice component. However, this will be significant more $$ than a phono preamp.

I used to own that table...nothing wrong with the arm or make a quantum leap in performance you would have to spend an absurd amount on a cart...or upgrade componets...or both...although u categorize your gear as mid have made some nice choices...the law of diminishing returns is around the corner...that being said...I had excellent results with somiko...possibly blue pt special?
My music and sound preferences: Mahler, Bruckner, Elgar, Fifties torch singers, Brazilian bossanova. British-style sound preferred. Musical, not etched. Good large ensemble instrumental separation.
My bad...didn't realise amp takes mm audiofeil suggestion of phono pre is s good one...opens up other options...
You're already there,save your money or stick in Red Kettle if you just want to be rid of it.
It's good to get opinions as to the wisdom of further investment. I was wondering how close I am to diminishing returns and you guys have helped clarify that. The phono amp investment seems to be a path I can take. I like this system a lot, so maybe pristine vinyl purchases might be a better investment!

Stirling has recently released AB-2 bass units to match their LS3/5as. They are not yet available in the US but can be ordered from the UK. That might be a reasonably sensible way to increase the scale of my sound in my smallish listening room?
Smart,of course ALL Bruckner fans are !
Good idea...get a few hi grade vinyl releases before anything major...a tube phono pre would be nice addition...the more I think of it...there is nothing blaringly wrong with your system...a sub would add oomph but dont expect miracles
Phasecorrect, thanks for affirming my choices so far. Clean vinyl ....yum!

Your point about subs interests me. The matching LS3/5a bass units sit underneath each speaker and act as a speaker stand. As far as I understand the specs, they dig about 20HZ deeper than the speakers alone, down to 50HZ max. Is that a very light addition to the bass response of my speakers? The cost is quite high: $1500 to have the units purchased and shipped to the USA. Does that seem like money well spent? Phono amp a better idea?
I'm not familiar with that product...but 1500 will buy you a very good dedicated sub with greater bass performance...rel, velodyne,etc...however if u don't listen to bass dominant aware a goof sub will offer very subtle improvements
Respectfully disagree with Pasecorrect's otherwise good advise, re the addition of a good sub. A properly integrated sub will retrieve hall information/ambience in good orchestral recordings now missing due to your main speakers' limited bottom end extension; even if the recordings are not "bass dominant". It will also (partly as a result of the new-found hall info) improve imaging. The LS3/5a's are a perfect candidate for use with a sub such as a REL Strata. IMO , the improvement will be anything but subtle.
That's fine...Sumaato will have to ultimately decide...most musical reproduction is midrange reproduction which the ls 3/5s Excel at...I ended up selling my sub...but my mains at the time went lower than 3/ I didn't gain/miss much...miles do very...some swear by subs...others not so much...worth a try though
Good to hear all these viewpoints. I take Frogman's point about hall ambience being well developed by the addition of a sub...that was my (theoretical) understanding too. That's a clear direction to go in and I plan to pursue it. Bruckner needs all the help he can get.

The cartridge choice is an issue still. I remember a few years back, at one of the high-end exhibitor rooms at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver; I was listening to a good turntable, with two identical arms mounted on it, each carrying a different MC cartridge. The quality difference in how they each rendered the music was dramatic and clearly related to price. That observation is what stimulated my original question about upping my cartridge quality. But within the domain of reasonably decent MM cartridges do you think perhaps the range of quality is narrower?
Sumaato...u really want to change carts! Ha...what cables are you running from tt? Kimber? Your mm options are somewhat tapped...a new mc phono and a denon cart looks like an early xmas yourself! Hap holidays
Phasecorrect, yes, maybe I'm fishing for a nice self-present for Xmas! You guys are Santa's helpers.

I'm running a modest Blue Jeans 3 feet phono interconnect to my Rogue amp.
Before spending mega bucks...try a new interconnect...maybe Kimberly hero...with some pristine new vinyl...if u want eek out every last bit of potential from your system...made a difference for me
For this kind of music adding REL sub might be a very good idea. So do you want to upgrade the front end or "rear end" ? I bet both.
Inna, I'm not sure which way to go yet, but it seems to me that adding bass is an obvious path to follow as a next step. The RELs have been used before with LS3/5a, but it's a little unclear whether owners of these speakers wholeheartedly agree that the addition of a sub is a positive thing. Anyone who has fiddled with LS3/5a and different types of subs, please share your experiences.

Without going as far as phono amp/MC/new deck, maybe a better cartridge and a sub would max out my system well enough. Stopping at diminishing returns sounds like a good idea. Already the vinyl and recording qualities show up very transparently on this system.
Just to mention this, good turntable isolation can make a big difference. The rest of the equipment benefit too, of course.
I have the table on a corian sandwich with three sorbothane semi-sheres in-between the two 1/2 " thick slabs. It's a DIY result that looks good. i have no idea if this could be improved upon! Any suggestions welcome. I know Pro-ject makes a 'Ground-it' isolation platform, but i have never tried it.
While I enjoy my updated Virtuoso black at present I still
regard Stanton 881 S as one of the best MM carts ever. Much
less money for the Stanton btw. Look for the 81 stereohedron stylus.

Nandric, that's quite a recommendation, comparing it to the Virtuoso. Thanks. I've never considered Stantons....Is that model still available? I'm not finding it online yet.
While the Audio Technical AT150MLX costs less than many of the carts under discussion, (currently about $325 at lpgear), it is an excellent cartridge on several fronts, quick and responsive, yet has a nice full-bodied sound.

Two things to make it work well in your rig: you should probably add a headshell weight to get a better arm weight/compliance match as the AT150MLX has a lower compliance than the V15. Second, the AT150MLX likes to see a 100-200 pF capacitive load. If your Cronus isn't configurable for that, then you need to choose some interconnects that have 100-200 (ideally 150) pF capacitance. That rules out your current Blue Jeans.

Anyway, I've been living with an AT150MLX for 3-1/2 years and still love it like I did when it first broke in. I've upgraded everything downstream a few times (including cabling) and each time revealed how much better the cartridge is than I first realized.

It's finally getting noticed in the high end press; Abso!ute Sound named it Cartridge of the Year for 2011.

Also, I get great results with this heavy butcher block cutting board, isolated from above and below. It's just an opinion at this point, but I think maple does a better job of absorbing vibrations than Corian. I have a friend with a Music Hall turntable (made in same factory as Pro-Ject) who also uses one of these with excellent results.
Sumaaro, I see Stanton 881s regulary on Look for
a good specimen with 81 stereohedron stylus in pristine
condition. If you have no luck email me.

Sumaato...what exactly is missing in your current system? Nice recommendations cart wise...but nothing i would call a quantum leap above the shure...Rel has a T series that is great value...
To be honest, I don't feel I'm missing anything, but I know there are two things that can be tweaked into existence:

bass, with a sub, and upper mid band/lower treble resolution with better instrumental separation. The stereo depth is excellent, imaging is great, speakers disappear...they are brilliant BTW.

The Rogue amp has all the muscle and transparency one could wish for, I think. There is never a sense that the system is struggling. I'm basically looking to optimize and see how much more I can find in the sound with a cartridge change or other tweaks. Some great suggestions here so far, thank you.
Since you are using Kimber Monocles and the Stirling LS3/5a's have separate bass and mid speaker terminals, what are you using for jumpers?

You have a lot of good going in your system as is. One could argue to go further up the turntable/tonearm chain, but the only weak points I see at present are the interconnects and possibly the jumpers to the treble inputs on the speakers. I have bi-wirable speakers too, and for a long time I bi-wired them, but when I upgraded to a much better single run cable (Zu Audio Libtec, now discontinued), I had to experiment with a wide range of jumpers until I finally hit gold with a matching set of Zu Ibis jumpers. Because jumpers are so short, a fresh set only takes about 15 minutes to burn in, and I found there to be very noticeable differences in midrange and treble quality. By the same token, regardless of Blue Jeans claims, you aren't going to really know what your LP front end is dishing out through a $34 pair of interconnects.

Your quest for more upper octave smoothness and midrange transparency--given the quality of your system overall--indicates a need for better cabling. Check into a pair of Kimber Heroes at least, and a pair of Kimber Select speaker jumpers to match the resolution and quality of your Monocles.
Johnny, The Kimber Monocles were such a surprise to me in terms of what cabling can yield...well worth the investment. so your suggestion to get better interconnects is excellent, particularly establishing the capacitance values to match the cartridge. I'll have to try and find the Pro-ject specs for their tonearm cable capacitance, to complete the picture. I have never considered these values closely, so it's a direction to follow.

I'm using pure silver 10 gauge wire as jumpers between bi-wire terminals. What do you think?

With all these suggestions, I'm going to need some me-time to investigate all of them. Sounds good to me.
Also...if u value speed and transparency...nordost cabling really has few competitors in this of the few cables that yields immediate rewards...some have claimed its bass shy...I would claim it doesn't exaggerate bass

12-18-11: Sumaato
Johnny, The Kimber Monocles were such a surprise to me in terms of what cabling can yield...well worth the investment. so your suggestion to get better interconnects is excellent, particularly establishing the capacitance values to match the cartridge. I'll have to try and find the Pro-ject specs for their tonearm cable capacitance, to complete the picture. I have never considered these values closely, so it's a direction to follow.
Since you have Monocle XL speaker cables, pick equivalent quality phono or interconnects from Kimber's Select line.

I'm using pure silver 10 gauge wire as jumpers between bi-wire terminals. What do you think?
First replace the Blue Jeans with some interconnects commensurate with your speaker cables. Give them 100 hours or so to burn in. Then see how things sound. This may fix it. My hunch is that the Blue Jeans is adding grain and subtracting transparency and your silver jumpers are spotlighting that. If you replace the interconnects you may find that the silver jumpers are just fine. If you find you still need a little more warmth or fullness, try swapping in some Kimber Select jumpers for the silver ones.

The Kimber Select interconnects will probably take care of it.
if you are are going to bother at all with a Stanton 881, look for the 881s and not the mark II - it is constructed much better w/ nude diamond and accurate azimuth (usually).
Yes, the interconnect will be first purchase I think. It may have an important effect on bass too, as may a new butcher block support for the table.

I really like the idea of increasing synergy rather than re-purchasing major components at a higher price level. We know that is an endless story.

Will look into the Stanton, as per your directions.
Leave Shure-it is by far superior to most of MM cartriges and a lot of MC.take care to have good stylus.But this is a high compliance cartrige-much better with light arms and suspended turntables.Works with all MM pre if they are with standard electrical inputs.
I recently purchesed LP 12 Sondek 30 years old(stright from socket without upgrades-mint) with SME 3009 type 3 and Shure V 15 type 2-didn t change anything, only made proper set up of table ,arm.This is really perfect with old records-stil have oryginal stylus.with 180 gr new ,fat records ,sounds still not so good-will work on it.the sound ,You get is different from modern-advartised sounds but by far more musical.My preferences are also with classic,jazz,soul.So in Your present system the most promising part is the cartrige itself-under no conditions change it to latest Shure products-shame but not in the same league
A couple of comments...

First there are a lot of cartridges that are excellent but sound different...
Asking for something objectively better than a V15IV-SAS is a very tall ask..

1) The core poles of the V15IV use sophisticated lamination to reduce non linearities that are common to both MM and MC designs. (some MC's do similar things with other methods, eg: the Lyra designs, and Denons from the DL304 up)

2) The SAS stylus uses a cantilever made of solid boron with an ultra light magnet - so great rigidity, and very low effective mass - it should be lighter than most MC's, and in fact on a par with the very best.

3) The SAS needle is the Namiki patented microridge / microline type - regarded as one of the top 2 or 3 stylus shapes. (there are debates about which sound better - but this is certainly up there competing with the very best)

In terms of arm matching the V15IVSAS is slightly too high compliance for your arm, which is why the Shure design includes the damping brush - which works very well, and makes it a very good match for your arm.

So speaking objectively - by all objective measures - you would have a hard time doing better.

A different question would be whether you can optimise your system better to get the best possible performance from the V15IVSAS.

This implies looking at the turntable and arm setup and its tweaks (isolation, etc..) - then at the phono stage quality - and whether the loading is adjustable....
Many (most) cartridges can perform better when their loading (capacitive and resistive) is adjusted.
The original manufacturers recommendations should be treated as a starting point guideline...

Personally I use a JLTI phono, which supports the use of RCA loading plugs to adjust the loading. (I had it modified to have an internal load of 500k, allowing me to vary the cartridge load from 10ohm to 500k...)
I run low capacitance cable from TT to phono stage - the phono stage sits right behind the TT - allowing me to keep the cable VERY short - the end result is total C of 60pf.
I can then increase the capacitance by either adding capacitive loading plugs, or extending the cable.

The SAS stylus does not have identical response to the OEM stylus - and may requires some loading adjustment to achieve an optimal setup.

I have SAS N97 and V15V but not V15IV, so could not comment on specifics for your setup - but I can definitely say that if aiming for the original OEM shure sound profile, you need to adjust the loading on the cartridge away from the default due to the difference between the SAS and OEM styli.

hope this helps

bye for now

Thank you, David and Ozog, for your considered response and detailed view of my system. It's really helpful to get your opinion of where the Shure/SAS is placed in the panoply of MM cartridges.

My Rogue amp has only the 47k loading. If I want to have the flexibility of altering the load resistance for MM only, will I have to go for a full-on phono preamp or is there some kind of unit that can work inline with my Rogue phono to give me that flexibility?
Yep - you can adjust resistive loading downwards by using an RCA Y adapter (either short cable or solid plug type - I use the solid type).

It is well described here:

hope this helps

bye for now

Sumaato - I'm using a 2 Xperience Classic with the stock Blue Point No 2 cart. I found that the Signal Cable Silver Resolution phono interconnects were a match made in heaven. I probably won't switch carts until I've upgraded my phono stage, but I'll definitely be paying attention to this thread as there doesn't seem to be much discussion of this particular table elsewhere on these forums.
Couple things to try (I use both with my Xpression III table):

- ortofon MC-3 turbo (great fine line tracker with high output so you can use it with MM stages)
- pro-ject phono tube box II (I demoed the rogue chronus magnum with the MM stage, both my local analog shop that is a pro-ject and rogue dealer and I agree the pro-ject phono tube box II is a better stage and adds a MC option. Local dealer also likes the Benz Ace MC low output with the pro-ject phono tube box II but with the Xpression III)

Hope this helps.
I never was a big Shure V15 fan. So I think there are many MMs that would better it, including nearly all that have been mentioned, but this is only my opinion. Obviously there are others who disagree, which should indicate to you that you should pay attention only to your own ears.
Nordost cables make my ears bleed. It's not that they are bass shy; it's that they are treble emphatic. Except possibly quattrofil, but it's not in this price range.
Jazzerdave, thanks for the Signal cable tip. Cheaper option too. Glad to know of at least one more 2Xperience owner! They are great tables IMO. Which phono stage are you using presently? Have you tried other cartridges on your Xperience yet?

Strangely enough, I just discovered a major tweak by replacing the ground wire from my table to my Cronus with a beefy piece of 12g stranded wire....reduced the noise floor from the phono stage enormously. Maybe I had a dud grounding wire before.
Sbrownnw, How would you characterize the difference in the phono stages between the Cronus and the Pro-ject tube box....was it slight or was it night and day, or somewhere in-between?

FYI, I just had my Cronus upgraded to a Magnum, and also went with the huge Tungsol KT120 output tubes instead of the KT90s. The changes to the overall sound are interesting. I get less audible record surface noise than before, blacker backgrounds and a sense that the music moved way from 'demonstrating' and into the domain of live music. Particularly at low listening volumes. The larger tubes increased the power rating of the Cronus considerably, but with my speakers, it doesn't show up as louder, but as more controlled.

The Shure V15 and the table are fully able to allow these changes to show up, so I'm having a new respect for the cartridge. Of course there may be other and better cartridge choices which I'm still looking out for.