Need a MC Cartridge recomendation...

I need a cartridge recommendation. Here’s my story…

I own an EAR MC-4 which I use with my Sonic Frontiers SFP-1 phono stage in MM mode. Bill Thalmann (former chief engineer at CJ) did a very comprehensive mod on the SFP-1 with Teflon V-Caps, rebuilt PS, re-wired with solid core Teflon Ag, new RCAs, new IEC input, NOS Mullards, etc., etc.. etc

Together, I can’t ask for more sonically – very pleased.

I use a Clearaudio Stradivari (0.7mV output, 50ohm internal impedance) on a Graham Phantom Mk II. My total gain I get from the combo is 57 dB – 20 from the MC-4 and 37 form the SFP-1 in MM Mode.

Given my line stage puts out 12dB SE, the total is just not enough when I listening at higher volume levels – there is surface noise from the record and it is not dust or dirt. Moving to different taps on the MC-4 provides more gain, but sucks some of the life out of the music because of the impedance mismatch – next tap is 12ohm and provide 25 dB gain.

At lower SPL levels, the system is dead quiet. Again, this combo is extremely musical – we are just talking noise at loud SPLs.

So…I have been thinking about replacing the MC-4/SFP-1 combo. I do have my eye on the Avid Pulsare. I have heard it a reference phono stage at a very high value price.

I contacted two dealers I had worked with before – both are dealers for EAR and AVID. After explaining the above, both dealers told me that the Pulsare is a lateral move at best from what I have – lots of respect for Bill Thalmann’s work and parts selection, as well as the MC-4 and the Pulsare. However, they both felt I would need to consider very high-end phono stages to actually make a material upgrade – mentioned Aesthetix IO, Einstein Turntables Choice, Allnic H3000, Steelhead, among others.

They both discouraged me from doing this.

The felt a better, more cost-effective approach is to replace my cartridge with a medium output, lower internal impedance MC that mated well with my MC-4. If I use the 6 ohm tap, the gain is 27.5dB out of the MC-4. When mated to the phono stage’s 37 dB, I am at 64.5 and good to go per my calculations.

What are some suggestions for a MC with an output of 0.5 – 0.7mV, is comfortable at 6 – 10 ohms and has a retail around $4,500 - $5,000?

I listen to jazz of all sorts – small acoustic combo, vocals, instrumental, large band, fusion, recent pressings, older pressings, etc. The balance is rock and small chamber classical.

I had a Benz-Micro before I installed the Stradivari. The Benz was too warm and slow for me – I like the attack, the pace, the detail of the Stradivari. My system is listed on A'Gon.


I know you're not going to take this advice - get your turntable off of the Gingko. If you have VPI minifeet, get rid of them too and get Bearpaws - You will be amazed at how different your turntable sounds. I felt that the Gingko slowed down everything to a crawl. I love the guys that make it, but don't care much for what the platform does to the sound. If you do take it can always re-install it...JUST TRY IT>
Both the Lyra Skala and Lyra Titan will meet your needs (internal impedance of 5.5ohms and 0.5mV output). The Lyra house sound is anything but slow and warm. I think it will be right up your alley. Plenty of reviews and user feedback on Agon.
Thanks for the recommendation - I am assuming that most feel a Titan marries well with a Phanton Mk II, correct, with compliance, tracking, etc?
I would highly recommend the Lyra Skala or Titan. I have both an Argo i and a Helikon i and will certainly move up to one of these cartridges in the future. Compliance should not be a problem with these and your Graham.
You can also try a Lyra Delos. It sounds much better than a lot of more expensive carts. True in tone, healthy output, Detail and holographic Body.
I love the Shelter 90x(.6mv output I believe). Find a used one(~$1000). If the stylus is worn, the Soundsmith retip with a contact line stylus is fabulous.(just takes about 6 months to get it done).
I love the Shelter 90x(.6mv output I believe). Find a used one(~$1000). If the stylus is worn, the Soundsmith retip with a contact line stylus is fabulous.(just takes about 6 months to get it done).
Thanks for the input so far.

One dealer suggested a Shelter 9000 - any comments on compatibility with the Phantom & TNT?
I compared Shelter 9000 against My Lyra Titan. Lyra wins by substantially better tracking abilities. Sonically they're on the same level of performance and only individual can decide which one sounds better. Perhaps most of Shelters have tracking issues.
Flyfish...any updates on what cartridge you are looking at? Thx
Well, I am leaning toward the Lyra Helikon. Life got in the way, though, as my central A/C broke and needs to be replaced. The cartridge purchase needs to be postponed a bit.
Good luck. Keep us posted. Thx.
Dear Flyfish:

Unless you can get a smoking deal on the Helikon, I would recommend the Delos. Although considerably cheaper, overall it is the better-sounding cartridge (performance level is in the same general range as the Skala). Further, its slightly higher output should interface better with your system.

kind regards, jonathan
I had basically the same issue for some. Every time I would listen to my buddies system I would come home and be disappointed. I finally decided on an Aesthetix Rhea phono amp and a Myabi cartridge. Amp ran 3500 and cart was 3450. I run a tube pre amp, Cary SLP-05. am very happy with output as I listen to pop and rock at levels as high as 106 SPL. I have Radio Shack meter! Never had an issue of compression or noise. At least not yet. The MC is very quiet in the grooves and much faster than any MM. I learned the speed thing only lately. I have been a Grado lover for years. No more. I really wanted the PC-1, but the cash barrier stopped me!