Grado sells quality products; the differences between the cartridges are most probably one is "hand selected" meaning a few more quality checks versus fewer or none for the other. Go with the Grado , remember that company invented the modern cartridge. Great value for the money.
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Tes, Crem1 but which Grado? Worth the extra $50 for the Red? Both are the "upper 10" of their production, but the Red has a more completx, supposedly better stylus.
Stringreen, I didn't mean to disparage online vendors at all. Just that, since I got a defective cartridge online already, I figured I'd avoid having to return another via mail if it was defective. My tone arm only accepts P-mount cartridges, which limits my choices of brands as I indicated.
No manufacturer has 0% defects, and no mail order house, no matter how conscientious, achieves 100% customer satisfaction. Should one bad experience with one bad cartridge with one mail order house knock Audio Technica out of the running altogether? Especially since they make such a price and quality range of P-mount cartridges.
I don't know who your errant online vendor was, but LP Gear has quite a selection of P-mount cartridges here. Notice that they have 5 Audio Technicas all the way up to $160, the Grado P-mount Prestige line, the Ortofons (though you can also get P-mount OM-10 and also replace the stylus with even nicer OM stylii), and even two from Shure, including a NOS Shure V15 for $399.
That all said, I'd say go for the Grado Red. The Red/Blue group use a much nicer cantilever than the Black/Green level, and the internal wiring uses better copper than the Black/Green ones. And if the stylus on your Red wears out, you can keep this same level of performance by getting a replacement stylus, which currently retails at $55. So think of it as a savvy investment.
Grado is particularly good about keeping replacement stylii available through the years. The Prestige Gold stylus ($90) is the official replacement stylus for Grado's top of the line cartridges from the early '70s, such as the Z2+.
I started out with a P-mount turntable I got at a garage sale this year, and frankly, I was put off by the snobby attitude of some analog vendors when I wanted to upgrade the cartridge from the conical-stylus Yamaha-branded cart that came with it. Good is good, and the Ortofon P10 I replaced it with sounded noticeably better in every imaginable way. I am sure you will get a similar or better improvement with a Grado Red.
And who knows? If you like the improved sound enough, you may play your LPs more than you do now.
The question that you posed isn't that easy to answer. Unless, we take into account the Turntable( read complete record player) as a part of the solution/answer.
Turntables design, construction and manufacturing execution account for much of what a cartridge is capable of revealing. Audio-heads attest that a hand full of modest priced tables(record players) that can reveal as much as the "high priced spread"; unfortunately, yours has limits that are the fault of limits imposed by an industry that expolits our knowedge base. Again, I suggest that you buy a modestly priced Grado (read green) that over-looks the limits to bring music to your ears.