New cartridge $500 range

I have a Pro-Ject 2 Xperience turntable with a Sumiko Blue point #2 cartridge. It is time for a new cartridge. I’m thinking of switching to a MM cartridge. Is there something out there that would be a upgrade from the blue point in the $500 range. 

Rest of my system:
Emotiva XMC-1
Parasound 2125v2 for the front left and right speakers
AV123 Strata Mini front speakers
Pro-Ject Phono Box SE phono amp
Pro-Ject Speed Box S
Parasound Zphono USB phono amp (mostly for recording)
I also have an Emotiva UPA-700 to power my center and surround speakers.

I am thinking of a MM cartridge to get a little more gain, having to turn the volume way up kind of bothers me a little. I would be open to staying with the blue point or another MC cartridge. I would just like something that is easy to setup

Hana EL is an easy recommendation here! It is a low-output MC cartridge. It will sound better than a high-output MC like your Blue Point (I had one). Smoother with more detail across the frequency range. Don't worry about having to set the volume control up more.
Some of my fav. MM, in order from cheaper to more expensive models:

1) Pickering XSV/4000 with genuine Stereohedron stylus tip.

2) Audio-Technica AT-ML170 with MicroLine stylus tip.

3) Grace Level II Ruby (original, not SoundSmith)

P.S. Within $400 - $500 only the first option, but it’s hard to beat at this price!
If your gonna use a low output cart you use a step up, or have the ability to add gain via phono stage.. My Macs have it on the older and newer (better) models 2X or 50 series preamps. Their SS Phono sections are pretty nice too.

You need a certain amount of gain.. It can rob the luster out of the ol LP, no depth, no twinkle (wind chimes) in the music so to speak.. A good phono stage...Makes a good cart sound great sometimes.. Loading it to complement the two.. Cart and phono pre.. Takes a little tinkering..

The Goldring 1012GX has a hefty output of 6.5 mv. The Grado Reference Platinum 2 has an output of 5mv.
Any one of these should fit the bill!
@thegreenline - I gonna suggest getting a new phono stage

try this one... MOON by Simaudio 110LP V2 Phono Preamplifier: Home Audio & Theater

It is within your $500 budget and will improve sound greatly


what are you trying to improve from the sound you are currently hearing by upgrading carts from your sbp2?

i concur w others who have said one needs to think about cartridge and phono stage as a matched tandem
Hana SH, Goldring 1042, Nagaoka MP300, come to mind, all high outputs so no worries about extra transformers or cables or whatever. Even if you decide to upgrade your phono stage you would still have a good cartridge.

Goldring 1042 is an excellent cartridge. I use it with Nottingham Spacedeck/Spacearm and Acoustech PH-1 phono stage. Whatever I upgrade in the system I can clearly hear the change. Even minor things like putting one half inch Walker isolation disc near the turntable motor. 
Excellent cartridge is the one with extended range on both ends, decent stylus profile for lowest possible record wear and superb sound quality (and very long life span over 1200 hrs), user replaceable stylus is a must have. Mid or high compliance for superb trackability.

Most of the modern MM cartridges are dull (rolled off highs is a common problem) and this is the reason why, compared to modern MM, an MC with exaggerated high is preferable for most of the users.

An MM with crystal clear treble and deep bass is very hard to find!

Some of the best vintage MM have completely different sound presentation with silky smooth highs, those carts are addictive. Hard to say why, most of them have an exotic cantilevers made of unobtainable materials (beryllium, boron pipe). Those carts are from an era when mastertape was a reference, not a digital file.

When an MM or MI is something special then today's manufacturers don’t hesitate to charge $12k for it. And for $500 they normally offer something very basic and nothing special.


"When an MM or MI is something special then today's manufacturers don’t hesitate to charge $12k for it. And for $500 they normally offer something very basic and nothing special."

I do not think that is true. The MM market will generally not support those prices. Actually I should say the high output market will not tolerate those prices. The most expensive High output cartridge I know of is The Voice by Soundsmith for $3000. Next would be the Charisma by Clearaudio for $2000.  The AT VM740ML is an excellent cartridge for $330. The Goldring 1042 is another excellent cartridge well worth $600.
Audio Note MM is also expensive, I think it is actually based on Goldring.
If I wanted to upgrade the Goldring 1042 I would probably go with either Audionote or perhaps one of those vintage that chakster talks about. 
I just see no reason to jump to $3k+ MC. 
I'd recommend an Ortofon MC3 Turbo. It's a high output MC, like your Sumiko, but I believe the output is a little higher, and the nude fine line stylus should give you a significant upgrade in sound from the elliptical stylus you're running now.
Second the Hana EL/EH recommendation. I have the EH in one of my turntables and love it. To my ears, it really sounds its best at about 50 dB worth of gain. 
The Sumiko is already a pretty good $500 cartridge, I agree with others that your better bang-for-buck upgrade would be a phono stage, highly recommend the Dynavector P75 which you should be able to pick up used in that price range. Huge upgrade and tons of flexibility for loading and output.
hmmmmm replace cartridge or phono stage.

On one hand, upgrading a cartridge can lead to better parts: cantilever, coils, shell, diamond/stylus profile.  Just updating from the Blu Point#2's elliptical should offer significant improvements say in getting more information, better transients, fuller vocals, etc.

On the other hand, when amplifying the minute cartridge generated voltage multiple times over to get to line level, quality of parts as well as execution is also important.  One may expect better clarity, quieter background noise which leads to hearing more minute details.

Both offer sonic upgrades, but which one is best for you?

In high-end audio, many believe in the importance of the entire audio chain.  Also, many believe it's always best to address the weak link.  I too believe that your best bang for buck is to upgrade your phono stage rather than the cartridge.  That way you reduce being hampered by any future cartridge upgrades, especially if you run into a great offers like a half retail price new cartridge.
How about an Ortofon 2M Bronze.
5.5mv output. Your Sumiko is 2.5mv.
The 2M Bronze is around $440.
You said budget around $500.
If you can stretch to $750 I would recommend the 2M Black. I found it has more detail than the 2M Bronze and smoother highs. Most likely due to its shibata stylus. The stylus on either one is user replaceable.
That might be something you find important.
I've used the Blue Point #2 for years and never have to turn the volume knob on my Nakamichi 410 pre-amp past around 9 o'clock - and that's pushing it. Of course, that could be because my speakers are the ADS 1230s, with a db rating of 94. Like you, I wanted to try something new and considered the Ortophon bronze MM but it can't be mounted on the tone arm of my Thorens TD166 mk 2. The head shell of that tome arm is limited to only a few of today's cartridges.  Thus I've reconciled to sticking with the Sumiko, which seems to provide all the detail and resolution I need. I had considered the Ortophon only because I got the hankering for something different, not necessarily better. 
I not think that is true. The MM market will generally not support those prices. Actually I should say the high output market will not tolerate those prices. The most expensive High output cartridge I know of is The Voice by Soundsmith for $3000. Next would be the Charisma by Clearaudio for $2000. The AT VM740ML is an excellent cartridge for $330. The Goldring 1042 is another excellent cartridge well worth $600.

You don’t know, but I know and reviewers till tell you more about it:

It’s $12500 retail price and you might heard of people associated with that new brand:

Mr. Hideaki Nishikawa is inseparably associated with both TechDAS and the brand he previously led, i.e. Micro-Seiki. The same applies to Top Wing cartridges - their creator is another legend of the audio world, Mr. Hiromu Megura. His résumé is extremely interesting, as he was the assistant of the main designer of the F-8 cartridge for Grace brand (Shinagawa Musen Co.) and the main designer of the F-9. Maybe another name will tell you more: Nakamichi Corp. Meguro-san developed the Center-Tech system of the Nakamichi Dragon CT turntable, he was also one of the designers of the Nakamichi TX-1000 cassette recorder. For the record, let’s say that the Dragon CT turntable featured a movable platter and its movements compensated the eccentricity of the record.

One problem here, if the basic Grace F9 cost $300-500 amd some of the rarest and best Grace carts like Level II and F14 cost within $1200 - $2500 range NOS (with advanced profiles, exotic cantilevers etc) the brand new TopWing cartridge cost $12500, there is more expensive model for $16500.

The central cartridge technology employed by Meguro is his Coreless Straight Flux system, which adapts some of the elements of moving-magnet design, most notably a removable stylus assembly that permits replacement and refurbishing of the stylus for a fraction of the cost of a new cartridge. Top Wing charges $2375, or 19% of the full retail price, for a new stylus, though it’s not replaceable in the field -- you have to send the Blue Dragon back to the factory.

Welcome to modern high-end world!

$475 Hana EL hands down. The best darn bang for the buck cartridge made today. Use it with a step up transformer, Jensen mc 2rr is a Perfect match, as it’s built in loading is at 430 ohms. Run the SUT into the MM input of a tubed phono stage, such as a Tavish design classic or vintage and I guarantee you will be a happy man.
The Hana EL’s output is .5mv.
The Sumiko that the OP is currently using is 2.5mv and he is looking for MORE gain. He doesn’t list an SUT with his gear and is looking to spend around $500
Hana is Excel Sound Inc. This is an old manufacturer or MM and MC cartridges under their own Brand (Excel Sound) and for other brands too.

It’s affordable, but nothing special. Cartridges from Excel Sound were around since the 70’s.

Watch factory tour here.

A cheap MC cartridge with SUT is not cheap in total. Low output carts cause a lot of problems if the system is not top class. And think about re-tipping them, you can use Hana for certain amount of hrs, but what next ?

Look for MM with user replaceable stylus.

If you want only NEW cartridges then look for Garrott P77i (the price on their site is not USD, but AUD). In USD it’s $540 and in my opinion this is the best NEW cartridge you can buy! You can change the stylus yourself. 

Your phono stage supports MC cartridges.  Give a Denon DL-301 MKII a try.  One of the best values out there and within your budget.
AT OC9/II.  Good match for your system and a great bang-for-the-buck cartridge.  It might just be the best cart for your system.   
I wasn’t going to chime in here because I don’t have experience with many of the cartridges mentioned here, but as I thought about it, I’ve had several in my time. Including Dynavector, Denon, Several mid to upper end Audio Technica, A Sumo Coil, Grado, Nagatron, Nagaoka, Goldring, ADC, Pickering and Stanton.
When I read this thread, my thoughts instantly went to 2.For MM, Nagaoka, as high as you can afford and For MC, the Audio Technica AT OC9/II.... What also came to mind is to do significantly better than the Project phono, you’d probably have to step up to something like a Rega Fono/Rega Mini fono A2D, but beware, the Rega MM or MC phono sections are not really adjustable, you would need a cartridge that was a good match for these. The Sim Moon 110LP V2 is a solid choice also.  If money isn’t an issue, I’d look at the Graham Slee phono sections. I don’t know your phono section at all, but I can say that when I upgraded my preamp to an SST Ambrosia, the phono section made allllll the difference in the world and a good phono stage matters. Consider this as strongly as the cartridge. I hope this all helps and makes since. Tim
Just to add, another terrific cartridge IMO is the Ortofon 2m bronze. It sounds fantastic running through a tubed phono stage. $440. The tubes tame some of the dry analytical qualities and add warmth... I got one on my music hall mmf-7.3 ( one of 6 turntables I own). I disagree with stereophile reviewer that the 2m was lacking....he swapped it for the much brighter sounding Golding Elite mc cartridge and seemingly thought it brought the mmf-7.3 to life. If you like fatiguing bright sounding cartridges then I guess go that route. I’m extremely happy with the 2m bronze. My heart lies with the Hana EL though.

One last recommendation for moving coil is the Golding Eroica lx mc cartridge. Much better sounding than the aforementioned Elite, as it is a better all rounder with no brightness or fatigue, an honest sounding cartridge (neutral). I Picked one up from Elusive Disc for $599 recently.

I have discovered over the years that SS amplification combined with tubed preamplification (phono preamp) provides the most enjoyable vinyl experience.

My BP#2 is 15 years old time or a change. A friend let me borrow his Soundsmith Otello. Really liked how it sounded, but again the gain forced me to turn the volume  up more than I’m comfortable with.

Thought about the Denon, don’t know if my phono amp would have enough gain.

i could stretch for the 2M black. Also thinking of the Nagaoka MP-200 or 300 as well as the A-T VM740ML.