Phono cartridge for classic rock

Any suggestions for a phono cartridge that plays "classic rock" well? It seems that the MCs I've used over the past few years (Lyra Dorian, Ortofon Kontrapunkt A) aren't the best choice. They play some of my old records superb and then some with cold sounding midrange and highs.

If Stanton still made the 881 with the shibata stylus tip they offered I'd be in heaven, but that's not an option. I do have a Dennon DL103 in the closet but haven't tried it with my current gear. I'm using a VPI Scout (just got it and love it), Electrocompaniet ECP1 phono and ECI3 integrated, Linn Ninka loudspeakers. Thanks for any advice.
Grace F9E
Audio Technica AT150MLX
Shure V15 TypeIII, IV or V
Assuming that you are looking in the same general price range as the Lyra and Ortofon (~$1K), try a Dynavector 17D3.

One word of caution though, you mention that previous cartridges have sounded superb on some recordings and not so good on others. I can't think of any cartridge that will sound superb on all recordings, especially since some recordings are just bad. There's not much a cartridge can do with a bad recording.

I have heard the EMT cartridges on a few occasions. I thought they were great on rock. I heard the Denon 103R for the
first time a few days ago. Again, I liked it on rock too.
EMT makes a cartridge called the tsd-15 for just south of 2K.
Your price range may help narrow the choices.
Look for a pre-owned Shelter 901.

Should do the job and will be quite affordable.
I would agree with you that many MCs are not a good choice for rock records. They are nice for chamber music however. The best rock cart I have found so far is the Shure M97xE with a Jico SAS stylus. I have mine on a Rega arm and it works perfectly. Don't know how it does with the heavier VPI arm though.

Listening to some Ten Years After and Robin Trower last night I was thinking "this is probably how these records were meant to sound". Full, rich, lots of guitar tone.
Not sure how much gain your phone pre has, but the Sumiko Black Bird would be a great choice, and would also put out some great bass for any type of rock music - but if you're phono pre isn't on the warm side, the Black Bird might give you that cold sounding mid and highs that you don't like. I use Benz.. they have a warm full sound that I think is perfect for classic rock or any other type of music... JMO.
Bring yout 103 out of ther closet. It will sound great with rock n roll!!
I agree with Downunder ... give the DL-103 a try. I find it fantastic with rock but I do wish it tracked heavily modulated inner grooves better. You may find it acceptable, however.

If the Denon doesn't do it for you, I would suggest the best Dynavector you can afford, or, if your system is slightly on the warm side and isn't overly analytical (I'm not familiar with your gear...) the previously mentioned AT-150MLx.
Listening to my Shelter 901 with Zepplin II spinning, sounds great!
Denon 103R
I also agree with the Blackbird. Worked nicely on both my HW-19 with audioquest arm as well as on my TNT w/ SME-V arm. I am replacing it with a Benz Glider since I broke my Blackbird. I will have it retipped at Soundsmith tho. In comparison, the Glider is a bit more detailed on the upper end and digs as deep if not a little deeper than the Blackbird on the low end. while the Blackbird has a bit less groove noise and masks the cliks/pops a bit better. I am running this into a Wright Pre and Transcendent amps. I listed to mostly blues and blues oriented rock, a little jazz now and then mostly for the audiophile quality recording.
I definitely agree with Vinyladdict.

But do you ever wonder if this picking behaviour arise from your ECP1 phono and ECI3 integrated ?
Jmcgrogan2 has give you a good point of today's Hi-Fi logic.
The success for a system is to uplevel the average recordings to an acceptable average.
Some SS combinations they tend to prefer DD tables to reveal their nature & express their capabilities. (ie. Goldmund)

How about a Decca (London)? The most 'live sounding' cart there is. Great taut bass, rhythm and a misunderstood gem. It doesn't trash your records (at least it hasn't over 30 years with my LPs). I use mine on a Hadcock (it likes damped unipivots) and it compares very well to my Allaerts MC1B on a Schroeder (both on a Platine Verdier); not quite as subtle with a less airy soundstage, but on rock it beast the pants off the Allaerts.

this thread is 5 years old

I have a very nuanced cartridge/arm
zyx universe ii/Durand Telea
stunning with nuance and detail for nearly everything except a few really driving rock pieces

I am looking for the possibility of a second arm with an interchangeable headshell for those overpowering rock pieces

I would like to swap between
1) mono - mm
2) mm - rock cartridges

I have a Doshi Aalap with 1 MC and 2 MM inputs

any relatively inexpensive but good - bang for your buck arm with detachable headshell, mono and mm recommendations?
ACUTEX M320 III STR and SHURE ULTRA 500 are perfect match to rock and make Robin Trower shine :) They also fit perfectly any kind of music :)

I strongly recommend the Audio-Technica ANV150 as well and I do have one NIB for sale. My price is 790 USD including tracked delivery Worldwide.

Best regards

To emphasize oomph at the expense of nuance and detail, try scooting VTF up by a hair.

As you know, the UNIii is profoundly responsive to tiny VTF adjustments. If you're like me you optimize it daily (sometimes more often) to optimize its strengths. Of course this requires constant awareness and adjustment, as changes of .001g or less should be audible in your system.

When the urge arises to play on the dark side, an increase of say 0.1g from the ideal VTF will add macro-oomph at the cost of some HF response and low level detail. Play around with it.

Not that you shouldn't acquire more toys! But the above is a cheap way to tweak sonics with the excellent toys already on hand.


There is no such thing as a cartridge or arm that is better at rock than anything else. That is a myth plain and simple. Electronics (including speakers) don't have taste and can't tell what music you are playing through it.

In short if its really good at jazz and classical its really good at rock too. That's how it is.

Now it may be that a particular recording reveals a weakness. That weakness will show up elsewhere guaranteed. Do as Doug suggests- its a good suggestion.
I am tracking at 1.7 gm
I recall you mentioning your cartridge relaxed some Doug

0.01 increments?
My digital scale jumps around more than that
(O ring time?)

I may be finding a few bad recordings that are congested rock pieces

As a 1st pressing UK Who Quadrophenia is dynamic as ever

Part of it may also be overloading my room volume wise
>> I am tracking at 1.7 gm
Meaningless data, since every cartridge is unique (especially cartridges that resolve at the level of the UNIii).

>> I recall you mentioning your cartridge relaxed some Doug
Yes. I adjust VTF virtually every session, based on sonics.

>> 0.01 increments?
Yes, though "increments" suggests a precise measuring that I don't bother doing. I adjust until sonics are optimal.

>> My digital scale jumps around more than that
Mine too, but that's irrelevant. I haven't used my scale since I first mounted the cartridge. A scale can't tell you what optimal VTF is. Only your ears can do that.

> (O ring time?)
Maybe. The Talea has a VTF fine-adjust knob on the end stub. Use that first. If you need finer adjustment, O-rings like I use on the TriPlanar are effective, easy, repeatable and cheap. Sliding one O-ring in or out by its own width will affect VTF by less than .01g, but may have an audible impact.
The percentage of crap recordings in rock is higher than in classical or jazz.

I would say true, however there's crap recordings of all genres.
Denon 103 or Audio Technica line of MM cartridges. I stand by Audio Technica, especially if you have a vintage rig.
Since the OP mentioned a desire for a classic high-performance MM/M cartridge from the height of the LP era:

You can still get a NOS Stanton 681II cartridge. You can also upgrade it with a Shibata stylus.

You can also still get a NOS ADC ZLM cartridge.

Grado also has limited production of their top-line carts (other than the Joseph Grado Signature Series) from the '70s and '80s. I had one of those and it was simply fantastic for every kind of music, throwing a massive 3D soundstage.

Here are the full cartridges:


If you have a Grado Prestige cartridge body lying around, you can upgrade it with these limited production stylii.

In addition to the replacement stylii available for these cartridges, you can also upgrade a Prestige cartridge (Silver or Gold version recommended) with the stylii back in production for the Joe Grado Signature Series:


Modern rock remasters can be a nightmare

I bought a more soulful Booker T rerelease on Sundaze the other day
Completely shrill

I listen to a lot more chamber, romantic and jazz music but I can't remember it because I am so inibriated and the strings cresendos are doing 150 db

I Follow you - set with your ears not your eyes

So are your ears a weatherman's barometer?
I agree with Bongofury. A-T and the Denon is tough to beat regarding playback of rock and pop.
I agree with Bongofury too, and particularly like the Audio Technica line of MM cartridges for vintage rock. User replaceable styli trump the Denon 103 for me, but sound wise both are good.