I have no direct experience, but based on reviews and comparisons to what I *do* know, I nominate the Sumiko Blackbird. Actually, the BPS EVO III would probably do the trick unless you want another nth of detail.
I have the entry-point for an HOMC, the Denon DL-160, and it's excellent and very involving in all the music types you mentioned. I'm a big fan of jazz and classical, but that cart draws me in effortlessly in acoustic music such as Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, CSNY, and Emmylou Harris.
Those who've heard or owned the both the Denon and the Sumiko HOMCs (e.g., Ferrari) report similar sonic characteristics but with more detail coming from the more expensive Sumikos.
Here are excerpts from a Blackbird review
from the Audiophile Voice.
Although I curently use a ZYX R100, it replaced a Grado Sonata, which does midrange very well and HF/LF adequately for a MM. My friend uses a CA Maestro and has nothing but great things to say about it, especially comparing it to MC's he's had in the past. Fremer also said some very positive things about the CA in Stereophile.
The grado sonata is listed as 1.5 and the Era Gold says it will take to a 2.5, so I worry it would be too low output.
It sounds like you want a Benz cartridge. Very musical with a comforting warmth...
Stringreen: what would you suggest...$700 max, will buy used, if low hours...but, with using the Era Gold, it states I can only go as low as 2.5
Coming from Shelter 901, I had to switch to Sumiko Blackbird to better match my integrated amp. I don't think I lost anything in terms of details, speed, dynamic, soundstage, and transparency. In fact, many areas improved. Yes, it could be because of the better match to my arm (JMW-9 Sig) and integrated (Plinius 9200).
I switched from the stock Goldring on the Music Hall MMF-5 to a Sumiko Blue Point No. 2. I am very happy with the sound. Very balanced with detail and warmth.
For the suggestions of the Sumiko Blackbird or Blue Point Special Evo III, I was advised by Music Direct that these were too heavy to be used on the MMF-5.
The Grado cartridges are available in two outputs, the 1.5mv that you mention and a 4.5mv version that will work very well with the Slee.
My vote goes to the Audio Technica AT150 and spend the rest on albums. It is an unalloyed value in the market. It has high output and is very arm tolerant, as well as being extremely quiet as far as surface noise goes. You would be able to take it with you when you step up to your next turntable.
The better (from AT440MLa on up) Audio Technica cartridges are a bit of a bargain from a stylus standpoint, as the 440MLa, AT150, and OC9 all use a MicroLine stylus which--because of where it sits in the groove--is both quieter and extracts more detail than a typical elliptical, and is evidently quieter on used and worn records than a Fritz-Geiger (according to the test/review in the May/June issue of $ensibleSound.
What are the sound characteristics from the AT's?
A TT, et al. retailer suggested the Dyna 20x. What do y'all think? In a review it mentions the Shure V15 is better for bright systems...seems like a tough comparison though, and I'm just baseing this on price.
I had a Sumiko BPS EVO and I replaced it with the new Micro ridge version Dyna 20XH.
I liked the EVO, especially for the $$ spent.
But the Dyna simply has it all over the EVO in every way. I honestly can`t come up with a single area where the EVO might be a bit better.
A few things stand out with the Dyna that I really notice with no effort:
1) The surfaces are quieter...by far.
2) Instruments are more tuneful. Wood blocks and the like come across with more realism. I`m no wordsmith but to give an example,on Dire Straits "Down to the waterline".. I noticed the wood blocks where struck on different spots and with different force giving slight tonal differences with each strike.
Same goes for instruments across the board...IMHO
3)I can pick up more sound on lead in and I can hear and follow further back as well as the track fades off..uncanny!
This cartridge is the best I`ve ever had. I`ve been content over the years with my modest entry level equipment.
Micro Acoustics 2002e for awhile, then the Shure V15-Type V`s seemingly forever then to the aforementioned.
But, I have to say, I can see me moving on up the chain if the improvements are as noticable as this new Dyna is to me!!!
I vote for the new version Dyna 20XH
I am running a Rega P5 with a Dyna 20XH and the Graham Slee Era Gold and am happy with it.
The only comment I would have is that my CD player seems to play a little louder than the analog rig. Not necessarily sure why and doesn't make a difference. I just turn it up a hair louder for vinyl listening.
Thanks Dsockel...seems like we about have a similar setup...I'm going more towards the Dyna, just hope it's warm enough...it sounds like it's detailed from all the reviews/posts, but worry that it might override warmth/musicality
I think it's between these two now: Dyna 20xh and Benz Micro H2 wood body.
I can get them both for the same price. The Benz will be used, but broken in. My thinking is: a) I don't have enough time to break one in anyway, so instant changes will be nice without wondering what's to come and b) it will show me what I'm missing, or if I'm looking for something else quickly.
The benz seems like a real nice cart, as does the Dyna. I'm wondering if the benz will take me further down the road later with upgrading table, arm, etc.