Phono preamp & Cartridge? for Sota Millennia/SME 5

I just bought a Sota Millennia w/ SME 5 tonearm. I would greatly appreciate if someone could make some suggestions on what is a good phono preamp and cartidge match for my system. I would like a neutral sound.

To give you a better sense, my current system is Sonus Faber Cremona speakers, REL B1 subwoofer run by VTL 150S tube amp and Cary SLP 05 tube preamp.

Looking to spend less than $4500 for each Phono and Cartidge. Some have suggested Dynavector xv-1 and Sutherland PHD phono. Also open to lower price suggestions.
In cartridges, neutral means ZYX. No cartridge I've heard will match a ZYX for neutrality and natural sounding instruments and voices. The XV-1S is also a good cartridge, a little weightier for rock than comparably priced ZYX's, not quite as fast, transparent or neutral for classical or small group jazz. ZYX's are best bought from the US distributor, who sells direct here on A'gon.

A ZYX on an SME V would need the optional "SB" weight, which is available on the Airy 2, Airy 3 or UNIverse. The UNIverse is above your budget (unless you meant $4500 x 2). The Airy 2 is a slightly reserved or polite sounding cartridge but with a really magical way of neutrality or "disappearing". It's great for small group jazz or classical and vocal soloists. Not as great for rock. The Airy 3 does all those as well or better and it adds more energy and freedom. It's excellent for big classical and lively enough for rock too.

Others have more experience than me with phono stages in what's left of your budget. I jumped from a vintage c-j preamp that now sells for $600 to a custom design that retails for $10-11K. No baby steps! ;-)

Enjoy the hunt,
I have heard the Sota Millennia with an Art Audio Viny One (which I own) driving a pair of Green Mountain Audio's C-3's I second the ZYX airy 3. Pick both up used here and be under your budget. A great combo.
Good luck
Any thoughts on if purchasing a used ZYX airy 3 cartridge is OK or do you think of all the things that people sell used on Audiogon I could really get burned with cartridges.

Have you ever heard Koestu Urushi Vermillion cartridge or Dynavector xv-1
I don't know how much stock anyone should put in reviews, but a recent issue of the British publication Hi Fi News & Record Review did a shoot out of about six cartridges in the price range you are shopping. I believe the review included a ZYX cartridge (finished somewhere in the middle or back of the pack), a Koetsu, and an Allaerte (judged to be sonically the best).

I have heard a number of cartridges and phono stages, but I feel there is no way to reliably predict how combinations would work out, given that such analysis would have to include all of the other downstream components as well. I will venture to say that whatever you end up with, your table/arm combination will not be a limiting factor -- I think both are very capable performers.

Purchasing a used cartridge is riskier than buying other used components - they're fragile and consumable. If the savings is significant and you decide the seller is trustworthy then it might be worth a go. I'd suggest speaking to the seller in person. Your feeling for their vibe might be a better guide than some feedback number.

The one time I tried I may have been (slightly) burnt. I think the cart had more hours on it than the 50 claimed by the seller, but it wasn't extreme and there was certainly no way to prove it. OTOH I got a $1500 cartridge for $750, so...

I've A/B'd Airy 2, Airy 3 and UNIverse against Koetsu Urushi (not Vermillion) and RSP. All three ZYX's were more neutral than the Koetsu's, which were warm and had rolled off transients (too which I'm particularly sensitive and which I find annoying). Stone body Koetsu's come closer to neutrality but they're much more expensive.

I've heard the XV-1S (not XV-1) and it is also a neutral cartridge. It has more bass slam and heft than an Airy 2 but less finesse. It didn't go as quiet between the notes or portray inner voices and fine harmonic textures as well. A great rock or big band cartridge, not quite as good for classical, small group jazz, folk, etc. - at least to my ears. The Airy 3 is nearly as energetic and does those finesse things a bit better. Take your pick!

As Larryi said, much depends on the individual system. Even more depends on your sonic preferences. At this level there are few truly bad choices, but many differently interesting ones.

As my friend Nick says - enjoy music, tolerate equipment,
I realize this is a bit higher on the price scale, but any thoughts about the zyx universe silver.
How about the Manley Steelhead/ASR Exclusive + Jan Allaerts MC1B/MC2 Finish.
Read the review of the UNIverse beneath my name for a full description. Short version: it's one of very best cartridges in production today, some would say the best. It's alot more money than an Airy 3 of course, and it's worth every penny. I'd have a hard time going back.

That review was based on the copper version. The silver coils slightly gentle leading edge transients, for a more relaxed presentation. I prefer the more lifelike energy of the copper, others prefer something a touch more laid back. Both versions are superbly resolving, neutral and offer a tonal naturalness that I've personally not heard from other cartridges.