IÂve used the AT-150MX for years. Before changing out the arm on my Technics SL-1210MKII it was my go to cartridge. Currently the 150 is on my 2nd tt, a Denon DP-500M with a Jolida JD-9a. My 1210 w/Jelco arm has a Denon DL-103a into a Musical Fidelity 308 pre-amp. The 103r is used for those recording that excel with a smooth touch. My advise is to try a MC cartridge. I like Denon, price vs. performance they are hard to beat. That said there are tons of great MC cartridges out there and it really comes down to how you want to hear the music.
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I got my bump in performance by upgrading from a Jolida JD9A to an all-tube MAGI Phonomenal. Still using the AT150MLX. The Phonomenal isn't easy to find, however. That's not what you asked for and isn't much help (unless you find one), so ....
I've read good things about the wood-bodied Grado Reference (high output) and Statement (low output) cartridges working well with the Technics, especially if you start at least with the Sonata1, which is the most affordable of their wood bodies with a nude-mounted stylus.
The Zu/DL103 has a reputation for working well with the SL1200 as well.
I have the 2M black and an AT440mla and what I highly recommend is to buy a vintage Shure V15 IV from Wittsolutions (eBay reseller) and then a new stylus for that cart from Ed Saunders. I guarantee you will thank me for this amazing combo. Should run you no more than $500 for both. This was one of the finest cartridges EVER made.
Thanks for the good ideas!
I have upgraded the Op amps and capacitors in the JD9 so I am kind of reluctant to part wth it but maybe I should think about it.
I still have a Shure V15 Type 4 that I used on a Luxman PD 272 (still have the table). I think that I wore the cartridge out - there are scuff marks on the bottom of it - or it was not set up very well in the first place?
Does anyone know how to tell when a cartridge is bad and installing a new stylus would be a waste of money?
It's really hard to upgrade from the AT150MLX without spending a lot more money. The AT440ML is a big step backward. A few reviews have mentioned the 440's upper midrange glare, which is probably due to the plastic body resonance. The 150MLX has a thick, solid aluminum body. The internals may be similar, but the damping and mechanical construction are significantly diffferent.
The 150 and 440 have different generators. The 440 treble glare comes from a rising high end and a cantilever resonance at 16KHz. The resin body is probably less resonant than the metal shell of the deluxe bodied 150. Both need < 200pF capacitance and to cure the 440 treble, load it around 30K or fit it with a 150 stylus.
I think the MP500 is more bass oriented and it might be more like the sound you're looking for. You might want to try a couple of 400K resistors in parallel with your phono input before you spend more money. This will take your input impedance to 42K and make it slightly less bright w/more bass.
The 150MLX is an extremely good value. The other carts you're considering cost twice as much and are just different, not necessarily better IMO. Maybe the money would be better spent on other items in your system?
You're right about that. The optimum capacitance loading is a very narrow range. I was using a Jolida JD9A phono stage, which is highly configurable. Its capacitance loadings were 0, 47pF, 100 pF, 200, 300, and maybe more. The SL12x0's cable has 100 pF capacitance. I found that the optimum was right in the middle between 100 and 200 pF, at the 47pF setting (+100pF in the cable). 200pF sounded OK but not quite as good to my ears as the 147 total.
I have since switched to an older MAGI Phonomenal all-tube line stage. While the newer version has a 0pF setting, mine starts at 100 pF, meaning a total of 200pF. It sounded OK but was a touch bright, so I added the 1-ohm resistors to my Magneplanar 1.7s and that fixed it. Good thing, because--like its name suggests--this phono stage is phenomenal.
Again, a lot of good advice. Thanks.
Knowing that this hobby can be expensive to upgrade as was pointed out, and recalling that I liked the sound of the Shure V15 type 4 cartridge in my old rig 30 years ago - I decided I would try the JICO SAS replacement stylus for a $160.
I will let you know how that turns out. Wish me luck!