Need some Cart recommendations, $300 - $700 (New/Used) range…warm, full, yet great def.

As always…all thoughts welcomed…but actual experience is preferred.



Background: I want my records to sound like records (full, organic, etc.) not cds (I say this because I’ve had and heard several hi end turntable/cart combos that sounded sterile and analytical… I hate that). I don’t care if it’s coloration I’m seeking or not. If you have a problem with this notion…that’s ok but please don’t debate it here.

Right now I’m very satisfied with all aspects of my system…just want to have an extra cart to rotate in.



I have the following

-Turntable is Vintage Kyocera p701 (think old HK, AR suspended design…uses ceramics to dampen) it’s an awesome table worthy of even very high end carts.

-cart is a Hana SL …which I really really like after wasting a lot of time and money on other carts. (And no, not ruling out the ML…but wouldn’t mind a bit of a different sound signature)

-Phono pre- PS Audio Stellar- love this too…landed on after many disappointments and wasted $. My pre should accommodate most suggestions and it’s not going to change.


I am open to MM, MI, or MC…but seems like we are moving toward MC?


As mentioned/implied above…I like FULL/LUSH sound


Carts I’ve liked: Shelter 201 (awesome for the money!), Shure Vintage Carts (M95ED?), Hanna SL

Carts I think I’d like: Nagoka, Grado

Carts I haven’t liked: dynavectors, ortofon red, blue, bronze, and, omg, Rega Exact (yuk!) 😉


re. Grado…sounds like these may be my exact cup of tea…but, possibly foolishly, from what I’ve heard, I worry about hum and weight… Definitely would love some input from folks with actual experience here! I am intrigued by Grado.


I’ll try to find some specs in mean time.


Thanks in advance.





Empire cartridges may provide the sound you seek. Grado is good but beware the Grado hum. Soundsmith is also quite nice. 

DL103R pros:

Very easy to set up with it’s forgiving conical stylus. A musical presentation that exudes the flow of music while displaying density of tone and smoothness.

DL103R cons;

Conical stylus prone to quick wear. Once worn, sibilance is more prevalent after the inner alignment null point is passed - IMO a good reason why they are typically seen on tonearms in the 12” length range even though numbers don’t explain.

AT33PTG/II pros:

With it’s advanced elliptical stylus, the increase in resolution & transparency is easily appreciated once dialed in. A case in point of why the DL103/DL103R upgrade retip business is so brisk! Another not to be overlooked feature is it’s rare tapered cantilever which is a very effective mechanical diode at preventing reflections from going back down to the stylus tip. This rare bonus results in a very clean & organized presentation of music that is never harsh yet highly resolving - quite unique at such an affordable price point.

AT33PTG/II cons:

Can be a bit fiddly to optimize in a tonearm in order to get all of its performance due to the advanced stylus profile. Displays slightly less leading edge definition of mid-bass notes compared to DL103R.

Summary down & dirty is that in an optimal setup, the Denon plays more to the heart while the AT equally engages the head.

Thanks boothroyd…tried to pm you…but may have been blocked due to my overuse of ellipses!

In this price range and given what your looking for I think you’d have a hard time beating the Hana. I was also looking at the Grados at one point but never pulled the trigger - so no experience there. I think the 103R would be a good fit, but without a SUT I’m not certain how it would work out. Looking at the specs for your phono, it appears there is a custom loading option. For whatever reason I find the 103R performs best when over loaded and then pinched - so 30 ohms and as much gain as you can muster. A 1:40 works well - but you may be able to enjoy it with 60 ohm and 72 db gain. With both the Hana SL and the 103R in rotation, I typically go to the Hana for newer lps and the 103R for older or cheap lps - largely because of the stylus shapes. 

I have and listen regularly to a Grado Sonata, Benz Micro Glider, London Decca Super Gold, and a Denon 103r. The Denon is my least favorite. The Glider and Super gold are stellar- you may want to look into them too.