New or used cartridge


I have have good experiences buying a previously owned cart in the past, but have heard several telling me to buy new..  I wish there was a way, to tell how many hours was on a used cart.  Other than putting the cantilever under a microscope,  I see no way concerning the hours/use/condition of a used cart..  I kinda look at it as buying a used car.  Let someone else take the initial "hit". then buy from them, as they're moving over or up.  I have an excellent Koetsu Urushi Black I'm going to put up for sale.  I love it's sound, but am wanting to move up the ladder so to speak.
Please give me opinions concerning this.
handymann
Or used. And get it Soundsmith serviced with new cantilever/stylus assembly of your choice.

And it will unfortunately sound nothing like the original, so what is even the point of that?
Well, to be fair sometimes a re-tipped or replacement cantilever will sound better than the original.  But to invictus005's point (I think), you simply have no way of knowing what your cartridge will sound like after altering it.

While every one seem to fear the stylus condition by an second

hand cart, according to J. Carr the stylus change is the least

trouble. Anyway by ''exotic cantilevers'' in which the stylus need

to be glued. Not to mention the possibility to chose for a better

stylus shape or kind. There is not as much choice by cantilevers

and suspension. I fear the condition of coils and suspension the

most. It is of course the price difference which is the basic reason

to buy second hand.

@handymann New Old Stock is the best when it comes to old models, but used cartridges from the collectors hands are no problem (they are used with a great care in rotation with others). All my cartridges are used or NOS. But i prefer fully original cartridges, refurbished cartridges may be different from sample to sample. My multiply (used) samples of the favorite models sounds the same, so i believe they are all have low hrs of use, but for those you believes in burn-in process of everything it is even better. In my experience all used (rare) cartridges are better than new expensive LOMC models i have tried. So i think the key factor is not the condition (of caurse they must be in excellent condition), but the construction, materials etc. I think you’re talking about LOMC cartridges only, because in case with MM cartridge everyone can try to find NOS stylus replacement later.

Like those guys who’re selling you NOS tubes (for example) cartridge must be tested before each sale. If the cartridge works fine then what’s the problem to buy lightly used sample much cheaper or to buy rare cartridge that is impossible to find NOS? Honest sellers (audiophiles and collectors) not trying to cheat their customers and ebay for example is very strong with return policy for full refund if the buyer is not happy. 
Good luck with a used cartridge i only get a new one as i trust nobody to be honest with the hours on a used one.
I know only one person who's counting hrs for every cartridge in use, but if the cartridge sounds good compared to other cartridges (even compared to new) then it's fine and not worn. Advanced styli can be used for up to 2000 hrs (MicroLine, MicroRidge etc). $30 Inspection by PRO is an option for purists. But i will repead that every used cartridge can be returned for full refund (this is ebay policy and customer protection). Every new cartridge became used once it is opened and checked. Living in a "trust nobody" word might be difficult.  
ebm
Good luck with a used cartridge i only get a new one as i trust nobody to be honest with the hours on a used one.
I couldn't agree more. A phono cartridge is the very last audio component I would ever consider buying used.

There are cartridges that is impossible to find and to buy new, same about classic turntables or even records! But people stored them with a great care and this is the reason why they are valuable on the market today, 40 years ago they were new. I see NO reason to ignore them. It is always a good investment too. 
If you like used cartridges keep buying them
Buy from a trusted source. I done so and have had good luck. When all goes right you can get a tremendous value. I've done so and enjoyed the rewards that would otherwise been beyond my wallet.
I know it can be hard to trust these days but some of the statements that say resellers cannot be honest about hours on a used cartridge is a very sad reflection on todays society.

Personally, ALL of my cartridges have been bought used from very well respected members with excellent feedback over the years.
C,mon surely among this "gentlemans club" there can be some trust?

Yes maybe one day I will get burnt but once you have been around the block a few times it is usually fairly easy to sniff out a potential scam artist or less than honourable soul. Granted this method is not for the meek or the naive!
That being said a little research and common sense and you can save a LOT of cash to put towards other parts...like cables, fuses etc!

Just my take and ymmv
I’m on my 5th used cartridge and have sold the first 4 as used as well.  I have had no issues whatsoever and have been able to buy cartridges I could not have otherwise afforded.  There is a risk for sure.  But that’s part of why you get them for such a discount.  

I value the Audiogon feedback and only buy cartridges from members with impeccable feedback.  Obviously YMMV.  
Purchasing a used phono cartridge is a lot like buying a used Tooth Brush.

Not really a good analogy imho

Really hard to brush your teeth with a cartridge......
@handymann, I want to separate the cartridge from the stylus if you don’t mind. My first cartridge was a used Shure M91ED. It cost $35 that I bought off of ebay. I came with the original box, packing material, and a used but otherwise in good condition original stylus. I also bought a new JICO SAS (Super Analog Stylus) for that cartridge which also was a first for me. I popped in that stylus, used my Technic alignment tool, rebalanced the tonearm and that $35 dollar cartridge produced a great sound for the price

After having a positive experience with the Shure M91ED cartridge I stayed in the Shure family and bought a used Shure V15VxMR cartridge also. Now keep in mind this is just the cartridge. Normally they can go from $500 and up and I saw one for $220 Canadian on US AUDIO. Little did I know at the time that $220 Canadian was equal to $150 US. A steal of a deal if this is legit. Turns out it was, as the Shure and some other cartridges last for decades. I then did what I did before and bought a new stylus, the JICO SAS (Shure) VN5xMR stylus. The music sounded so sweet especially with my Pro-Ject Phono Box RS MM/MC preamp.

The next used cartridge and used stylus I bought was a Soundsmith Zephyr MKIII High Output Moving Iron cartridge and stylus and I haven’t looked back from buying used. There is nothing wrong with buying used, especially when sites like ebay offer built in protections for the buyer and seller. And if I ever want to sell them I can, as we all and you will one day too, get the upgrade bug!

If the cartridge was produced in the last two years then it probably
has under 200 hours. Most cartridges are good for 1000 hours.
I have had exceptionally good experiences buying used cartridges
on Audiogon. Most of them were cartridges that people did not
like because they failed to break them in. You will usually do much better buying from an individual than a dealer. Finally if you find you need to replace the stylus than Soundsmith can do it for a reasonable price and usually a better stylus. 
The MicroRidge and similar advanced LineContact styli must be replaced after 2000 hrs, the Conical and Elliptical stily must be replaced every 200-500hrs. 
Handyman, you mention an Urushi.

If you are considering rising in the Koetsu line, note that Koetsu likes to service their own cartridges by completely rebuilding them. It is said that they will not touch a cartridge which has been serviced by another.

Therefore, your options are limited. You could get someone (like Soundsmith) to inspect the cartridge, but not service it. Then, if necessary, send it to Koetsu for rebuilding at great cost. The result of this would be essentially a new Koetsu with Koetsu sound. Unless Koetsu refused to rebuild it because of tampering by the former owner.

Alternatively, you could get someone like Soundsmith to service it at lower cost. But you might not get Koetsu sound or Koetsu longevity.

I have the KRSP with diamond cantilever and like it a lot. Rebuild price will be very high - hope I can afford it come the day. But after 700 hours the stylus still looks good.
Terry9:  Thanks for the info, but there's nothing wrong with my Urushi Black. Just thought I would move up.                                          Steve
@terry9 
Consider having your Koetsu rebuilt through a Japanese or Asian deputy service. E.g. EIFL (Japan) advertises this for low-2000s on stone platinum model. Otherwise, the USA distributor & dealer will each take a hefty cut, and do nothing to expedite the process. Also, the rebuild cost does not rise for the premium stones, so the long-term cost on say a Coralstone can start to look pretty reasonable. 

I've also heard that Koetsu will not touch a cartridge that's been worked on by any 3rd party. Not sure if that still holds, but it certainly keeps me away from any 3rd part work. Over the years I've seen an awful lot of Koetsu with SoundSmith ruby cantilevers "less than 10 hours", etc, for sale.
@mulveling 
Is EIFL an authorized service facility? Their website does not specify.

I'm as guilty-maybe more than some, about not reading the initial question thoroughly, or posting "my" response before reading others. My Urushi Black is in very good condition. It doesn't need to be serviced. Just thought I would consider my options, as far as moving up the food chain.   I've seen where some retailers offer a trade in allowance of as much as 25%, but their prices are already inflated, so that doesn't mean much. May go up to a Jade Platinum. I need to go online, to get a description of the different sounds of each. If any of u can describe the different sounds of the upper line of Koetsu's, I will appreciate your input. 
@terry9 
They're just a deputy service that facilitates the transfer of Japanese goods. They would route your cartridge directly to Koetsu Japan (which is the only place to receive a genuine rebuild) on your behalf, just as if you were a Koetsu owner living in Japan. I haven't yet used EIFL myself, but it looks like a viable option, and I've used deputy services from Japan in the past for purchasing other goods (often of quite significant value).
@handymann
Yeah, trade-in won’t get you much unless you can use it as a bargaining chip for a dealer that’s willing to cut into his margin. Probably better off selling the Urushi yourself.

The stone Koetsus are all wonderful, though unfortunately I haven’t heard an Urushi. The differences between Onyx, Jade, and Coralstone are all relatively subtle. They each have better (more powerful and clean) bass response than the RSP. The Onyx is a pretty excellent all-rounder. The Coralstone is a slight bit more warm, organic, and fleshy sounding. It is probably the best sounding, overall, by a small amount. But they’re all great and give the full dose of Koetsu magic. Don’t stress too much over the stone differences. I highly recommend any of them!

Do give consideration to the amplification needs of a 0.3mV output platinum. The Bob's Devices Sky SUT's make for an extremely synergistic pairing with any stone Koetsus, for a very reasonable price.
My KRSP with diamond cantilever has a subtle but unique smoothness in the mid to high frequencies. I attribute this to the fact that the stylus and the cantilever are one piece of diamond - but that's what I was expecting, so maybe I'm fooling myself. Worth $4000? Don't know. But I'd like to compare it to a stone body on my air-bearings.

@mulveling 

I've also heard that Koetsu will not touch a cartridge that's been worked on by any 3rd party.

Not only Koetsu, but almost every respected manufacturer will not touch the cartridge if it was refurbished by somebody else before. 
About SUT’s - why not DIY? You can get raw transformers from Lundahl from K&K Audio that are out of the park. I use a pair of silver 1931Ag; less than $2k. Cartridges wear out - SUT's, not so much.
Yes, Lundahls though K&K are a great deal (plus very small fee an assembled box); in my system I prefer the Sky to the copper LL1931, but I would absolutely love to hear the silver-wired LL1931Ag or LL1933Ag (or their higher gain versions) sometime. The LL1931 is certainly a great value for the money. Very transparent, airy, and detailed; a refined and grainless sound with an awesomely huge soundstage. The Skys give up a little on those things, but in return supply more body, warmth, and bass impact. I wonder how much of that sonic difference is attributed to the amorphous core (i.e. would the laminated metal core LL1933 sound closer to the Sky?). In my opinion the Sky makes the Koetsu sound even more "Koetsu", but it’s valid that some would like to take it in the other direction. The Skys are also slightly smoother and more refined than the older 1131 CineMag.

I agree that acquiring a great SUT is a good investment that will never wear out.
@mulveling 

My 1931's are up Seattle way. Ever get there?

@terry9
Dang man, unfortunately I’m on the opposite end here in Atlanta, and travel doesn’t agree with me. I’ve already come VERY close to blind ordering some of these silver-wired Lundhals before, and may end up doing so in the not-too-distant future. I guess if I were going to pick a horse right now, it would be the LL1943Ag, for the higher gain and traditional laminated core.

I already run & love pure silver for all my system cabling, and I’ve read that silver wiring in transformers makes an even bigger difference than it does for other wiring applications. Hence my strong interest in these LL's
I suggest that you talk to Kevin at K&K. He is highly expert and knows the Lundahl line inside out. After discussion, I changed my mind to order the 1931Ag's, and am very happy with the result. They are the best I've heard (not side-by-side, but still...) and that includes units many times their cost.
@handymann 
Sorry to veer off topic at various points. I can also report that I started out in Koetsu by buying used. I've gambled twice here on Audiogon with the purchase of used stone Plantinums (Onyx and Jade), both advertised in the ubiquitous "300ish hours" range, and was very satisfied with both results. Both sellers seemed to be enthusiasts, not dealers or high-volume cartridge flippers. That was several years ago, and I still have them now; I had the Onyx rebuilt last year.

Some people are adamant against used cartridge purposes, but it worked for me. Especially when you can get a full Koetsu rebuild for a reasonable cost. But I'd steer clear of the Soundsmith'd ones. 
Mulveling: No worries. Thanks for your advice and to others as well. I think, when I get around to it, I'll put my Urushi Black up for sale and perhaps get the Jade. Always appreciate all opinions.                                                 Steve
Cost/benefit ratio is very, very low when you hit the stratosphere of cartridges. I'd be very reluctant to sell your existing cartridge until you audition, or if necessary buy the new one and listen to it.  You may find that you've already attained a sufficient dose of audio nirvana!

I have an original Sugano era hand made Urushi and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

If you want to improve the system - why not look at other areas - what phono stage you have etc.?
wspohn:

I have fairly decent hardware.  I have an Aesthetix Rhea Signature phono, an Aesthetix Calypso Signature linestage going into a couple of Krell 600 monoblocks.  I have a Dynavector DRT XV-1s I really like, as well as my Urushi Black.  I have the Urushi mounted on a 1974 Pioneer PL-71.  I had trouble at first, but after talking to Koetsu, I found out my problem was with tonearm mass.  It may sound getto, but I installed a thin strip of Dynamat along the arm itself, with a cut of refrigeration permagum on the headshell, then balanced the tonearm out. It made the difference between night and day.  I've had SO many tell me there's just no way, my Pioneer can sound anywhere close to my VPI, but it does. I'm getting ready to install the Koetsu on my VPI Scoutmaster, to see how that sounds.  I love both carts, just thought of maybe trying something new.  Historically, I'm not one of these people who is constantly changing their equipment.  I put some very low noise tubes in my Rhea and they really brought my noise floor down on my phono preamp.  I really like my sound and it's very articulate, with good soundstage and imaging.  I built a modified QRD-13 that is flush with my front wall.  Being 20" deep, it really helped broaden my imaging.  My Rhea has several stages of gain and I run both carts on 62, which leaves me plenty of room for a lower output cart.  I considered buying a SUT, but don't feel I need it.  Wish I had one to try, without actually buying it.  I found I can purchase a new Koetsu direct from Japan, at a significant savings.  At this point, I may just stick with what I have.  I live in the Nashville Tennessee  area and there's only one high end store I'm familiar with and they don't carry Koetsu.  I'm always appreciative of any comments or suggestions.

Steve
To add a tip when it comes to hours on used carts: the internet doesn't forget, you Google a used cart you are interested in with a claimed number of hours and you find an old advert of the same cart with more hours logged. Go figure
You can reset the hour counter with a rebuild or retip, but sellers should of course state the approximate date of last rebuild/retip too (and who performed it).