Sota+SME IV=Ugh !!!

I’m driving myself crazy, once again! I’m trying to determine which of the below wood body cartridges will give me the warmest, richest, and most romantic sound. Detail and attack are secondary. I listen to a lot of female jazz vocalists, and classical music. My room is rather bright (a lot of glass and hardwood flooring).

My components:
Sota Star Sapphire w/ SME Series IV
Conrad Johnson Premier 16 pre, Premier 12 monos, CJ’s EF1 Phono pre
Tannoy Turnberry Speakers
Stealth PGS I/C’s
VandenHul Bi wire

My Options for a cartridge:
Clear Audio Maestro
Grado (Reference or Sonata)
Benz SH Woodbody
As suggested…

Want to stay with wood body and around $1,000 - $1,400 in cost. Thanks so much for any opinions put forth!
Try a Sumiko Celebration II. Wood body and rich sound. Not as tubby on the bass as a Koetsu, or as expensive.
A wood body doesnt necessarily make a cartridge sound "warm"
Low end Koetsu, e.g., Koetsu Black Goldline (or whatever they call it these days), if your phono stage has sufficient gain. For what you want, the epitome is Koetsu.
Koetsu Rosewood or Signature used. Used Urushi for a bit more, not as romantic but a little more extended.
I had a SOTA with a Series V SME and it wasnt a good match at all. As I remember, the V was a very heavy arm which didn't mate well with the SOTA springs. It worked, but I could never make it sing, and I eventually, left it for something else. Yours may be different, but I'm relating my experience only.
You want warm and romantic Grado will give you that spades !
Grados are colored with a kind of pixilated presentation.
You system seems like it is already pretty warm and lush sounding. Adding warmth through the cartridge is not going to do anything to tame reflections and room node issues.

If you really want to add warmth, an Ortofon Classic SPU Royal N or SPU N E will add it in spades. I will also second the recommendation for the Grado cartridges - the Reference and Master series are very warm and lush.

But... given that your system appears to be so warm already, if it were me I might try something else. Maybe a Benz Glider or Wood, or one of the Ortofon Cadenzas. For a little less money, a Soundsmith Aida or Ortofon 2M Black are also a great match for that tonearm.
Interesting ...

Circa 1986 the SME V debuted on the Star Sapphire. It made the cover of Stereophile and J Gordon Holt *really* like it. The table was voiced with SME arms. You might contact the SOTA folks in Illinois for their thoughts.

I'd pick the Sonata.
I have used the SME on Sota Sapphire, Star and Cosmos with uniformly great results. When Sota was in its early stages, they often bundled their tables with an SME
I had a clearaudio maestro before and it does what you are looking for and it is a great cartridge.
I agree that the Sumiko Celebration is a good option. It was designed using an SME V arm. I had the combination until I recently bought an AirTight PC-1. There is a well written review of the Celebration in an old issue of TAS. The Celebration, IMO, is slightly warm of neutral and has good bass performance and detail. It does not overly extended in the high frequencies and I think it is a good value for about $2K.
Thanks so much for sharing your opinions – there are several options here that I’m sure I would be very happy with.

A few things I would like to present/clarify:

First, I apologize for the misleading title on this forum post caused by not hitting the caps key when punching the =+ key. I meant to title it “Sota+SME IV+Ugh !!!” which was my way of putting forth my struggle in identifying the cartridge I’d like to have with my table and arm rather than “Sota+SME IV=Ugh !!!” which implies I’m having issues with my Sota/SME combination. That is so far from the truth; I couldn’t be happier with that combination.

Secondly, I specified “wood bodied” knowing that non-wood bodied cartridges would also meet my prerogatives. Why did I do this? I simply like stuff made of wood, like why I was attracted to Tannoy’s Prestige line and a Sota TT - their wood work is absolutely beautiful.

Anyway, I’m pursuing a Grado Reference for its characteristics and price point. I realize that the sum of my components, including the addition of the Grado, probably add up to overly warm. For me, this is what I’m looking for, really. I’m so fond of the distant memories I have of my father playing his tube equipment back in the day when that warm lush sound was so prevalent. I guess I’m trying to re-create that joy.

Thank you.
I’m pursuing a Grado Reference for its characteristics and price point.
I would be cautious about the possibility of hum pickup, which the Grado's are prone to with SOME turntables, due to the lack of shielding that results from their wood construction. I used a Grado Sonata for a time with my SOTA Sapphire (from 1983 and still going strong!!), and there was a slight hum whenever the cartridge was moved into position above the rotating platter. By "slight" I mean that it was completely inaudible when music was playing, while being a little bit above the threshold of audibility at the listening position with no music playing and the volume control at typical settings.

-- Al
My friend has the SOTA, SME V combo and its awesome. He runs Clear Audio but I think he recently upgraded cart, I will verify tomorrow.
Thanks Al - What arm did you have the Sonata mounted to? Do you think the arm/Grado combo caused the hum or do you think it was the Grado alone?

Thanks, Randy
Hi Randy,

The arm was (and still is) a Magnepan Unitrac. I'm not completely certain as to whether or not the arm may have played a role in the hum, but my guess is that it did not.

Although it doesn't necessarily signify anything conclusive about the possible role of the arm, I'll mention fwiw that the hum completely disappeared when the arm was moved toward the rest position, as soon as the cartridge reached the point of not being directly over the rotating platter.

The only other thing I can add is that over the years I've heard a number of other reports of Grado's having hum problems with a few various non-SOTA turntables (I don't recall which ones), from those I know as well as well as on the web.

Best regards,
-- Al
Nice to read your update on the SME+SOTA combo. As another data point, I used a Sonata on a SOTA Sapphire + Sumiko MMT arm for a year with no problems, hum or otherwise.
I have a Sota Star with SME 3009s2 arm and Cardas Myrtle Cart. I picked the cart up used on this site for much less than you are looking to spend. I am very happy with it.
I hesitate to answer you since I will be putting both of these cartridges up for sale in the near future, but quite honestly, either would fit your stated needs. These are the Benz H2 or Soundsmith's The Voice. The Benz is the more 'lush' of the two, while the Soundsmith is a bit more neutral (but still on the warm side).
I ran the Cosmos with the SME 5 and had a number of Grado wood body cartridges on it. They were not particularly happy in that arm (seemed like effective mass issues, in other arms the same cartridges tracked great), but there was certainly no hum!
I think you need to look at the Tannoy's.
I was a SOTA distributor many yrs ago -
1. SME V works beautifully on SOTA. SOTA was not designed for SME, SOTA/Sumiko took over distribution of the SME long after SOTA was launched.
2. As stated above I would have concerns with matching Grado/SME V. Best Grado I have heard on the SOTA was with an Alphason arm.
3. Suggested cartridges as above - Koetsu Black, Cardas Heart.Also check out the Lyra Delos, it is much warmer than earlier Lyra's.
Other suggestions, sources of brightness in your system that I would be looking to change -
Van den hul spkr cable and possibly your phono stage to tube design.
Reminder, Benz Micro and it's US distributor, Musical Surroundings, offer a generous trade in/up program. I'm currently up to the Benz Micro Ruby Z low output. This is essentially the same S-Class cartridge as the very well reviewed and slightly heavier LP.

All three cartridges on your list will do a very good job. I can't tell you just how nice it is when you feel your cartridge has worn that it still has value as a trade in.
The hum that the above poster is talking about comes from the Grado cartridge. They don't do well with some arms. Even if the hum is inaudible when playing music, it depletes the amp from valuable power and lessons the quality of the audio. When I had the SME V arm with the SOTA, the arm was too heavy for the springs of the suspension ....not a preferred combination.
Stingreen - we had no problems with that SME V/SOTA, no trouble levelling the subplatter and sitting at the correct height relative to the plinth. Did you rebalance the plinth with lead shot correctly ? Why do you say it is too heavy ?
Yup...not only me, but my dealer did as well. Rebalanced it many times, but the suspension kept sagging.
Stringeen, I can understand springs sagging, but we had no probs with Dynavector 505's which are twice the weight of the SME V, so its a bit of a surprise.
The SME/Sota combo is well documented as being a very good complimentary system. If there were balancing problems it was either operator error or defective suspension. After owning most of the Sota line and refurbishing several tables Im betting on operator error.
03-02-12: Stringreen
The hum that the above poster is talking about comes from the Grado cartridge. They don't do well with some arms. Even if the hum is inaudible when playing music, it depletes the amp from valuable power and lessons the quality of the audio.
While I would not completely rule out the possibility of adverse effects on audio quality, if there were any such effects it would not be because of power depletion. For typical speaker efficiencies the hum levels we are discussing probably correspond to less than a thousandth of a watt.

-- Al
Why do you feel you need to have a wood-body cartridge? There are many other cartridges which will give you the sound you are looking for. From your description of what you want to hear my suggestion would be a Sumiko Blackbird.
I own a Sota Saphire vacume turntable with SME IV arm and I have to tell you it absolutely sounds wonderful using the Sumiko Blackbird cartridge.