Top 3 high compliant mm/mi cartridges

I am looking for suggestions for a vintage mm/mi high compliant cartridge. I plan on using one with a newly aquired ADC LMF2 tonearm.
Rnadell, You must be a novice in this forum. Our 'oldest'
and 'longest' thread is about MM carts. You can spend your
holiday period on reading and save 'mucho' money for the

To my ears, the Ortofon VMS30MKII sounds best. The VMS20MKII is easier to find, of higher compliance and Ortofon still makes its replacement styli. The Stanton 981 HZS and Pickering XSV5000 are very nice. JICO makes Shibata replacement styli for the Pickering XSV4000 which (to me) sound quite nice on the 5000 body. The Stanton 881 and Pickering XSV3000 are easier to find and have the house sound. JICO Shibata styli are available. I prefer a richer, warmer presentation with vinyl than with cds, and the carts that I've mentioned provide that for me.
The Grace F9E or F9E Ruby, with (assuming it has been used significantly) Soundsmith's $250 ruby cantilevered/elliptical stylus "retip."

The cartridge is rare, sought after, and expensive for a vintage cartridge, though (with good reason, IMO). A non-ruby F9E that was offered by a seller in Japan, apparently in excellent used condition, recently sold on eBay for $437.

-- Al
All the info above is good. I have personal experience with the top of the line Stantons and Pickerings; they are wonderful when in good condition. I listen to my 981LZS much of the time, in fact. Its output is more akin to that of an LOMC however. (The "L" stands for low output.) Make sure you have plenty of gain for it. Raul says he liked the 981HZS even better. (H for high output.) As you may know, if you've read Raul's thread, I also love the Acutex LPM320STRIII, but the LPM with that 320 stylus may now be extinct. It seems that before the thread got started, there was an existing but very small supply of the best vintage cartridges and styli gathering dust on shelves in the US and Europe. The thread seems to have stimulated a buy-out of NOS, such that it is really a treasure hunt, now. Read the MM/MI thread for more ideas than you can shake a tonearm at. Vintage AT cartridges are also much loved, to go with your AT tonearm.
A correction to my previous post: I misspoke when I used the word "elliptical" in conjunction with Soundsmith's $250 retip option. From their website:
With exacting care to angular positioning, we install a RUBY "Single Crystal" cantilever which holds a Nude "Contact Line" diamond, one of the most sophisticated stylus/cantilever assemblies ever made and often superior to those found in cartridges costing many thousands of dollars. This combination creates an ultra low mass system, capable of the finest reproduction from your cherished vinyl. The Contact Line Diamond has three times the contact area in the vertical direction of the groove wall compared to an elliptical shaped diamond. This lowers the "force per unit area" on both the diamond as well as the record groove, resulting in lower record and diamond wear. This upgrade can be done to almost any cartridge and stylus assembly. Once done, tracking force can usually be reduced to 1.3 - 1.7 grams.
-- Al
Please wait, as my Grace F9E Ruby will shortly be offered with my Sony x800 table. Those who know, be looking as this combination is seldom offered, mint condition.
Actually, a thread like this is just what we need. Who wants to read three years' worth of posts on Raul's threat! (Not that it isn't great reading, but who has the time.) What we need is a Cliff's Notes version!
Hessom 11, 'the new king' may look more attractive but as
Lew stated: '...a buy out of NOS,such that it is really a
treasure hunt, now.' I bought some AKG 8 ES 'super nova'
but of course without styli. No idea what to do with them.
So the desper is already present. I am curious if the new
thread will be of any help. BTW the question is not which
cart but where to find them.


Nagaoka MP50/500 are said to be excellent and are readily available. (MP500 is current production, I think.)
Ortofon M20FL Super and M20E Super are still available NOS.
Who is to say that some of the current production MM and MI cartridges are not every bit as good as the vintage ones, maybe even better. Take a look at Grado, Clearaudio, Sumiko, Soundsmith. Recent manufacture makes those less of a crap shoot in terms of condition.
Over the last few years I've been fortunate enough to have gathered a small handful of "top-top" and "very good" vintage MM/MI/MF cartridges, and enjoy all of them.

If I wanted to buy a vintage one today I'd look carefully at the Nagaoka MP-50 on ebay right now (recently mentioned in Raul's thread). If I was concerned that the MP-50 was not high enough compliance for my arm--or if I wanted new--I'd look at getting the most Soundsmith cartridge I could afford in the SMMC line (acrylic body), high compliance version.

A thought... as long as you can find a stylus carriage for your AKG 8 ES, someone who retips carts should be able to replace the cantilever/stylus on the detachable 'stylus.' So if you find one which has a broken cantilever, that should be fine...
Thanks to all for the suggestions, I didn't realize that cartridges like the ortofon m20flsuper and the Nagaoka m50 were high compliant. I have some of these cartridges mentioned and will be trying them.
Nandric, I have read much of the ongoing mm thread, I must confess this is a lot easier than sifting thru the miles of info thanks to all for repeating yourselves.
T_bone, Thanks for your advise. I got one as you suggested
so I am at present a 'proud owner' of 3 AKG 8 ES. I will
post them all with one broken stylus to our second retip service in Holland with the hope to get just one back in
'full capacity' with promissed capabilitys.

Rnadell, Sorry for my assumption reg. your status as novice. As is the case with all assumptions thy can be right or wrong (like the 'truth values'?).
My method is ,uh, intermediary. Because of my age I can't
rememer all carts 'of the month' (pace D) so I do this
the ouder way around. Fishing in 'my waters' at
I have enough (auction)time to check the potential candidate in the extended version of the thread. Just looking for the difference between AT 20 SL and 20 SS. I want mention the price I payd for the AT20Sl.Lucky me Raul
is not visiting this site very often...

Dear Rnadell: Yes, as Lewm posted that Ortofon M20FLSuper is a high compliance and very good one. Btw, I can remember any vintage MM/MI cartridge that was/is low compliance all the ones I know are high compliance, normally over 20cu.

Now, you know that Mr. Pritchard was the ADC founder/designer and that tonearm you own was designed by him, well after he left ADC he start Sonus company with new cartridge designs one of them was this one that's really good performer and that I have no doubt will be a very good match with the ADC tonearm ( the cartridge is very high compliance: 50cu, I think. ):

As Lewm point out too today MM/MI cartridges like the Ortofon 2M line are really good cartridges.

Rnadell, cartridge compliance always is important when we are trying to find out a good tonearm match but compliance ( along tonearm effective mass. ) only can tell us the cartridge/tonearm combination frequency of resonance but not its precise behavior or quality performance level.
IMHO the best we can do ( this is what I do all the time with success. ) is to mount the cartridge and see what happen.

I posted several times that in some of my cartridge/tonearm combinations the resonance frequency was really out of the " ideal " range: 4hz-6hz and I can't report any problem with its behavior or whole performance.

Now: could be that the same cartridge/tonearm combination can shows/showed better quality performance ( everything the same. ) if that resonant frequency been 10hz instead 5hz?, yes coulod be and that's why a removable headshell tonearm design is a desired characteristic because changing headshell weight we could approach that ideal resonant frequency range.

Rnadell, anyway our ears are the best judge about.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Point taken.
There's a big difference between carts with a cu around 20, and those closer to 50. Most modern MM/MI carts have a cu around 20, and are designed to work in med mass arms. A cart with a cu around 50 (Sonus) might sound sluggish in a med weight arm. Some with a cu around 20, sound sluggish in a heavier arm.

The Sonus Formula 4 arm was a 4.5g oil damped unipivot. It can sound spectacular with carts of 20cu or greater. However, the structural rigidity will not support heavy weight or lower cu carts.

I think these aspects of cart/arm matching are often overlooked in evaluations. Japanese carts often have cu rated at 100Hz and are not comparable to 10Hz figures. Rules of thumb, multiplying 100Hz cu by 1.8 to get 10Hz cu, sometimes works, sometimes not.
Nandric et al, I thought the issue with the AKG P8ES had something to do with the fragility of the wiring in the body of the cartridge, which is why there are so many of them out there with "one dead channel". This problem could not/would not be fixed by replacing the stylus assembly. Fortunately for Nandric, his apparently only needed the new stylus. (I've got a P8ES vdH but have yet to audition it.)

Rich, Why not try to find an ADC XLM to go with your ADC tonearm? It was once thought to be king of the hill at the 1970s retail price of ca $300 and much less if purchased from any of the then prevalent discount houses. Quality control was not the best, I can tell you.
Dear Fleib: +++++ " A cart with a cu around 50 (Sonus) might sound sluggish in a med weight arm. Some with a cu around 20, sound sluggish in a heavier arm. " +++++

My Sonus Dimension 5 sounds nothing less than spectacular on the Grace G.945 that's a medium EM tonearm and the Gold Blue sounds prety good on my AT 1503 that is more on the high EM side.

As I posted if we can is good try to put the resonance frequency around 8hz-10hz but if not the best way to go is: listen and decide.
Through the years and through a lot of test procedures with a lot of different MM/MI cartridges I found out that that tonearm/cartridge resonance frequency is important but not to important for we " stop " what we doing till we have the right EM tonearm. I found out that we can achieve more differences on quality performance through headshell changes ( different build material and headshell shape. ) than trying to match that resonance frequency.

I own the Ortofon MC2000 ( LOMC. ) that's a heavy weight cartridge with a high compliance ( for a LOMC cartridge. ) well this cartridge received a rave review through Audio magazine ( december 1984. ), the cartridge was tested in a whole Technics combo ( TT and tonearm. ) where the resoance frequency ( measured twice because the reviewer can't belive it can works. ) was: 5.1hz.

One of the LPs that the reviewe used was the Telarc 1812 recording and you know what: he loved, the cartridge performs with out any trouble on the bass with those " terrible " recorded canon shots.
The reviewer was nothing less than B.V. Pisha it self.

It was the best cartridge/tonearm match?, from the resonance frequency issue point of view certainly was not but performed as a " best match ". I already had a lot of this same experience with several cartridge/tonearm combinations.

Analog is a set of " imperfections " where the usual theories many times does not conforms as we could wait.

The performance and relationsship between a cartridge ( any ) and a tonearm ( any ) is " complex " because involve several and different factors that have influence on that performance level combination.
IMHO and as I posted that resonant frequency cartridge/tonearm subject can't give us a precise predictable quality performance level behavior.

Till today I never readed or found out any kind of " model " that predict(ed) in precise way what I will be listen in any cartridge/tonearm combination. Tha's why Dlaloum's ( in the other thread. ) " intent " is not only a enormeous one but with no " predictable " precise cartridge performance: at least not what we have to wait when listen it.

I respect your opinion that I assume comes from first hand experiences.
My first hand experiences as some other persons first hand experiences are what I posted here.

I'm not saying that the resonant frequency subject is not important because it is, things are that IMHO that sole parameter is not enough for we can decide which tonearm we could use it and till I have that " model " that can predict the cartridge true quality performance my advise is: please listen with what you have and decide according.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Hello Raul,
I agree with you that too much is made about cu and mass. It is often hard to predict the outcome of a highish cu cart in a heavier arm. I never owned a Sonus cart and therefore never tried one on my Sonus arm. That might be interesting, especially with your results on a much heavier arm. On the other hand, my M20FL Super seems to sound sluggish on my med/heavy arms. Maybe it's the combination, but it seems to sound much better on an 11g Alphason 100S or a 8g Unitrac.

Light weight/low mass arms usually don't sound good with heavy, low cu carts. At least that has been my experience. Resonance goes toward the audible band and the structure of the light arm can't handle the mass or energy.

I didn't mean to imply that strict rules had to be observed, matching cu to mass. With a good tracking cart of 20cu, a wide range of arms can be used successfully. I found this to be true with my Stanton 980. Results were somewhat different with the M20FL. It seemed sound thicker, although I didn't even try the 980 in my heaviest arm.
Regards, fleib
Dear Lew, I would love to read about your impression reg.
AKG 8 ES and other MM carts 'waiting' for your time.
But now your project with SP 10 mk3 is at last finished
we may hope to read less 'technical-theoretical' speculations and more musical 'reports'. I know that you are also a musician and I have the inclination to trust
more a musician then a technician.
Regarding AKG carts . According to AKG the problem was the
suspension ( 'rubber ring'), say, hardening as function of
time. To avoid probable liability AKG destroyd all their
stocks of carts and styli. I have never heard about 'coil
problem'. So even those who own the 'NOS' stylus have no
quarantee that their example will be ok (sorry).
So it seems that those who lack the stylus should follow
T_bone's suggestion (04-23-11) while we all may hope that
some or all retip services are also able to repair the suspension. If some of us is confronted with the coil problem the solution is obvious: bay an other corpus.
I posted three of them + a broken stylus (pace T_bone) to
HIFI79STUDIO and ordered the cheapest retip: aluminium cantilever with a elliptical stylus (100 Euro). If the 'pudding' is 'tasteful' I may try boron cantilever with some more 'exotic' stylus.
Dear Nandric, My memory for the cause may be faulty, but it is demonstrably true that many of the AKG cartridges that come up for sale on eBay are described as "one channel is dead" or "dead but stylus is good". A faulty stylus assembly should not cause one channel only to go completely dead, as far as I know. So there has to be some other explanation for the plethora of defective AKG cartridges. Ne c'est pas? I thought I had read that there was an issue with internal wiring, but I certainly could be wrong.

Dear Raul, Since you mentioned the MC2000, let me also say how much I am enjoying your Ortofon MC7500, in a 10.5-inch Reed tonearm on my SP10 Mk3 (finally). And now, back to MM/MI cartridge discussions.
Dear Lew, I need first to complete the statement I made.
I see often my omissions after I posted my contribution . My sentence should be: ' I have the inclination to trust more a musician then a technician ( +) in musical matters'.
The AKG carts are rather cheap on the German ebay so the
possible 'coil problem' is much more easy to solve then the
stylus problem. I already bought 3 AKG 8ES 'super nova' for
less then 50 Euro. Anyway I hope that one of the 3 will
have 'fantasic coils'.