Music Maker II cartridge
I had the opportunity to audition the new Music Maker II cartridge, from The Cartridge Man - Len Gregory about 2 weeks ago. I used it in my system for about 20 hours. System is Teres 245/OL Silver(modded)/Shelter 501/Cotter Mk2/MFA Magus/Berning 45 SET ZOTL/Lowther Voigt Pipes.
I found this cartridge to be quite interesting. It is a MM type cartridge with a full MM output level, so it will work nicely in any phono stage. It has a higher compliance, so it will work best in medium mass or lighter tonearms best. It had a slight mismatch with my HiFi-modded OL Silver.
The basic design is a built on a blank Grado body, and all the guts are from the Cartridge Man. The construction and reliability/function were fine in my sample. Instructions were brief, but sufficient. No problems installing or setting up. It tracks at about 1.5 grams.
The sound of this cartridge varies from break-in fairly noticeably. The first impression is not what you will eventually get to after 20 hours. It improves nicely with a few hours on it. It has a full frequency response, and has good soundstage, imaging, and detail. Detail is not as fine or deep as the best MC cartridges, but quite good for MM. Sound is somewhat reminiscent of some of the better European cartridges.
The most interesting thing that I found about this cartridge is that it gives better performance than most high output cartridges, and has the full output level. I have noticed that many users of "high output MC cartridges" which have about 2mv output, have problems with not enough gain in their MM phono sections to properly play these cartridges. But also, the 2mv output is too high to plug into their MC phono stages, and so they fall "in-between" and may not give the best results in some systems like this.
This Music Maker II cartridge gives people a better option of having sound quality similar to the better high-output MC cartridges, but has enough output to use even in the weakest phono section. So a person who wants a good sounding cartridge, but doesn't have a specialized high gain phono stage, can get high-quality sound from the Music Maker II, and have an easy plug-in installation that will work with any phono stage. It betters the more well known MM cartridges easily.
So for the person who wants good analog sound with minimum fuss, and uses a built-in MM phono stage in their preamp that might not have much gain, then this cartridge is a perfect match for them. It matches well with most modern arms, especially unipivots, and gives better sound than many of the sub-$1k cartridges out there, including some MC types. It alleviates the need to spend additional money on a phono stage to handle a low output. So it could be a cost efficient way to get a good start in analog, because you save the price of that phono stage, and can just plug into your existing preamp phono section. A great idea for a person who has a full-function preamp and wants to get into analog.
This is not a cheap cartridge at over $900. It does not give "cheap" sound either. It gives very good sound, with the flexibility of use that I mentioned above.
Many of you may want to know if it bested my Shelter 501, and I would have to say no(IMO). But if I couldn't afford, or didn't want, an expensive step-up device, and needed to play a high output cartridge, I'd seriously consider this Music Maker II.
I'm always on the lookout for good ways to save money in a system. This would definitely be a better option than getting a $500 low output cartridge and buying a $500 phono stage or step-up device to go with it. As long as you have any MM phono input, you are good to go with this cartridge.
Of course, as with any cartridge, this Music Maker II will sound better in the better arms than it will in a cheap arm. At the price, it is not intended for a low budget system, but is aimed at a higher level system where the high output of MM is needed or desired.
One of the negatives I found, was the stylus protector cover. It was very secure, but it made me nervous taking it off and putting it on because it was kind of tight. But it sure as heck isn't going to fall off accidentally.
If you want to see a rave review of this cartridge, then go over to the 6moons audio review website, and they have a real nice review of it over there. Also you could go to the Cartridge Man website for information.