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


Showing 4 responses by chakster

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!
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.

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!

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.