I would get a better phono stage considering your investment in analogue playback.
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My choice is of the budget of mentioned but idealy matching set up is Lyra Titan. Although it's quite pricey you can get used with low hours or near-new for twice as cheap. When I play it, I always think that there can't be anything better in this domain.
I disagree that your phonostage needs upgrade. It would take too much funds to get to the better performance level.
Nobody seems to have read your question properly, which was which of "these" cartridges do you prefer and why. I have heard everything there except the GAS and Ortofon. My favourite would be the Carnegie, I used this on an ET2/Sota Star many years ago and liked its transparency, sense of ease. I ran it with a tweaked Marantz 7 tube pre straight in at 47k. Listen to primarily Classical & Jazz. My only reservation would be the replacement of the original cantilever boron, aluminium and carbon fiber composite and whether the ruby has altered the sound.
I've heard lots of cartridges but only the 17d2 on your list. I really enjoyed it but found that for a little more money the entry level Lyra's are better.
I also think a phono stage upgrade could change your life. Looking at you equipment, I imagine a tube unit would match nicely and balance the sound out in a very satisfying way. You can really squeeze more sound out of every cart on your list.
Of the many you have listed I have enjoyed both Clearaudio Aurum Beta Wood and Benz Micro Glider II both are excellent at their price points with light jazz, smooth jazz and acoustic and vocals.(Clearaudio Performance SE CMB table)
I would just like to comment that with the level of your system and turntable arm combinations it appears that you like to acquire equipment. Just looking at the number of cartridges you have etc. Are you sure you are not focusing on the right things? Like love and appreciation for music and not the collection of more gear. You may confuse yourself with too many options instead of maximising your primary source.
I would sell off most of those cartridges and phono/pre you have acquired and purchase the Lyra Titan and a mid to upper level tube phono pre. I prefer the KISS principle as you can tell.
I guess its hard to get an answer to my original question, and as usual, people think they need to answer questions not asked, but I will try to address those concerns.
First, I have all these different options because I was able to purchase them at extremely good prices, used of course. In some cases, I was the only bidder, at a very low price, and didnt expect to win, but I did. I doubt that my entire investment in cartridges would equal the price of a Titan at retail.
While some of you may have good memory retention for the sound of components, I guess I dont. If I started to test each combination I own, by the time I got to the last one I would have no idea what the first one sounded like. And sometimes I just like the sound of a combination for no particular reason other than I like it. So I use that combination for a while until I get a wild hair and try something else, or another great deal comes along.
While it may seem that I collect, rather than enjoy, I can assure you I have spent much more on vinyl than I have on equipment, and have well over 5000 albums, even after getting rid of my albums back in the 80s when I bought into the CD myth. Havent bought a CD in more than 15 years. I spend a lot more of my time listening to music than I do fiddling with equipment.
That said, I do appreciate the workmanship involved in building a turntable, and the craft involved in cartridges and tonearms. You will notice from my system description that many of my items are vintage and were state of the art when they were first released. Not having the ability to listen to higher end equipment locally, I have no way of knowing how much difference any upgrade would provide.
I dont need someone to tell me what I want to listen to. I was just asking for opinions from the wide range of members here who may have more experience with these cartridges than I do. I have enjoyed each and every one of the cartridges listed at one time or another.
I do agree that I should probably trim down my collection, but I'm not in any hurry to do so. I am building a 3 arm DIY table just for fun and maybe testing purposes. One of the arms will be a Sumiko MMT with removeable headshell for quicker comparisons. The other two arms will be a Roksan Tabriz, Rega RB300, Grace 704 or Linn Ittok.
I am interested in the comments regarding upgrading the phono stage before upgrading a cartridge. I do find the SimAudio and GCPH to be much better than anything I used before, and the GCPH with remote runs straight into my amp which I like, along with its many loading options. There arent many phono preamps that have a volume control, easy loading options and a remote.
So, any more thoughts on my original question?
So just to get this straight - you are asking for people to tell you which cartridge people like best from the list of cartridges you own. There are two major flaws with this question -
* Listener preference and bias will vary wildly and may or may not be anywhere near your own preferences
* An analog system is the sum of its parts. Cartridge, arm, table, phono, and setup. Change one of these variables, and the whole deal is off.
Most of the people on the forum have the goal of assembling a system with the highest possible audio potential. (with respect to their own biases). If you have this goal, then you need to do 2 things:
1. Upgrade your phono stage. I've owned the PS Audio and borrowed the Sim. The Sim is better than the PS in my experience. The phono stage is arguably the most important in the analog system, and you have a large gap in potential here between what you have and higher end, better sounding phonos.
2. Sell all your mid tier cartridges, and buy 1 or 2 really nice ones. The 309 is a good arm and gives you quite a bit of flexibility. If it were me, I might consider a Lyra Delos, Dynavector XX2, or the best benz or Ortofon I could get for $2k or so.
If, on the other hand, you just like to tweak and play around with stuff - then keep up what you're doing
I guess I am not asking the question so that someone else can make the decision for me as to what to keep and listen too. I am asking the question just for general knowledge sake, and perhaps to help other members who might be considering any of the cartridges mentioned.
I have Marakanetz telling me the GCPH is good enough for any cartidge available, and Goatwuss telling me there is a large gap between the GCPH and a decent sounding phono preamp.
I will probably buy one or two higher end cartridges next, possibly a Cadenza Black or Dyna Rua II or Lyra Delos. I do agree that if you just want to buy and forget, you are better off getting the best you can afford up front. There is no cost saving to making small upgrades along the way. It may be fun, but not economically efficient.
Goatwuss, what phono preamp would you recommend. The Aesthetix has piqued my interest, with its remote, balanced inputs and external loading options.
You're bound to receive a very wide range of responses
in analog in particular synergy is everything, so what dazzles one of us may well be a pure anxiety listening experience for you with your system in your listening room.
I like to dig around in the Vinyl Asylum Archive to get a range of opinions and from looking at the individuals systems and knowing their relative experience and at times listening tastes I can get a good generalized assessment of a cartridges relative virtues and vices.
But the just going with what the majority likes you might as well
get out the dart board.
Manitunic, The PS Audio is a good contender at its $1000 price, and has quite a bit of flexibility with its options, but there are much better sounding phono stages out there.
I owned the GCPH and borrowed a ASR Mini Basis Exclusive to compare with, and it was night and day - a significantly bigger difference than when I compared a couple $300 -$500 carts to some $1500 - $2000 carts. So at the ~$2900 I would recommend looking into that.
I'm sure the full ASR Basis stage is better, but much more expensive.
Another stage that I haven't personally heard but people seem to like is the Ayre.
I'm sure Aesthetix is quite good too - I haven't heard them though.
Maybe bring a couple home to compare?
The problem is that I have no opportunity to hear these products either in my system or anywhere else unless I just buy them and then try to sell if I dont like it. At $3000 a pop or more, that's not something I am likely to do unless I am convinced of a products superiority or bang for the buck.
Have you heard any of the modifications to the GCPH and how would you compare it to the Simaudio LP5.3?
Where do you think the price line is for diminshing returns for a cartridge. Is a $3000 cartridge appreciably better than a $1500 one?
Sounds more like you just have a lot of stuff and want to parade it in front of those who don't. If you were a serious listener, you would be telling us the ins and outs of each cart and providing us with valuable info. Not asking "Which of my fancy baubles should I wear today? They all look so good. What do you think?"
If indeed you are serious, then you should get down to work, find out the differences between each cart in terms of sound and performance based on your own experience, and let us know so we can learn from your trials.