Upgrade from clearaudio concept MC cart


The clearaudio concept MC v1 cart is the lone holdover from my previous system (well, other than the dual rhythmik e15 subs) and I’m curious as to how much more I can expect from the following carts or carts in similar price ranges. The one cart similarly priced to the concept is the audio Technica Art9 but everyone just raves about it being the equal of carts double its price so it’s in the running.

Let me say too that the concept mc is no slouch and having been retipped by needleclinic it may be even better than before. I am enjoying my stereo more now than ever but we always want to eek out that last bit of quality.

Current system:

philharmonic bmr speakers
rhythmik e15 subs x 2
van Alstine Synergy amp
nuprime dac10 (pre and dac)
musical surr. Nova II phono pre
Nottingham 294 w/ 12" ace space arm
boston audio mat1 (platter mat)
clear Day double shotgun speaker cables
audio art ic3se interconnects
gik room treatments



carts im interested in: 

AT Art9
Charisma MC2
Charisma Ref 1 or 2
Kiseki Blue NS
Ortofon Cadenza Bronze
Clearaudio Charisma v2 MM

joegator81
Many years ago we have clarified that Clear Audio MM generators is actually an Audio-Technica, if you will search for the Virtuoso then you will find an old posts by Raul and Nandric. If you're considering an MM cartridge that is actually not in house production by Clear Audio, but an OEM by well regarded Japanese brand, then why not look for the top Audio-Technica MM cartridge ever made? Their second from the top has MicroLine stylus, Gold-Plated hollow pipe Boron Cantilever, Ceramic base, Dual Magnet etc. The name of the cartridge is AT-ML170 from 1988 and on the linked page you can read more about it. Another killer MM cartridge is the Victor X-1 with Shibata stylus, Beryllium Cantilever, i got NOS (never used) in original box for my fellow audiogonners if anyone interested. 
You might want to look at the Clearaudio Talisman cartridge as well. It’s a MC cartridge but a major improvement over the Concept MC. I found it to be better than the Benz Glider that I owned for many years, at least in my system. YMMV

Thanks for the suggestions. My list is not at all exhaustive. I'm aware of the clearaudio / audio Technica claims. I've owned 3 clearaudio carts and one audio Technica and they were all fine pieces. I think there is more to a cart than just the innards though and I'm waiting on actual reviews of the clear Charisma v2 MM, for 2 grand it better be great. 
I heard the Charisma at the Musical Surroundings event at the Audio Connection late last year. It was mounted to the new Clearaudio Concept Black with Satisfy tonearm and used with the Nova II into an Ayre system with Vandersteen 5A Carbon’s. Again YMMV, but I thought it was the best MM I have heard to date. They played a few of my own albums and the vocals in particular were outstanding. On classical music, Gounod: Faust - Ballet Music / Bizet: Carmen - Suite, the leading edge dynamics were outstanding. I had never heard a MM sound like that. You might want to reach out to Garth at Musical Surroundings. He was really helpful when I upgraded my analog front end.

For reference, my analog rig is also a Clearaudio Performance DC with the AMG Teatro cartridge into a Nova II.
Thanks Joey, that's good to know. I'm familiar with the concept TT, used to own one and I've owned the clearaudio maestro v1 and v2. Do you have any opinions on how the clearaudio Charisma compares to the maestro? 
Slightly off topic but I found the Boston Mat to damp the music to such a point as to remove critical information from the system. As a quick test, try removing it and replacing it with a vinyl record.

 "The one cart similarly priced to the concept is the audio Technica Art9 but everyone just raves about it being the equal of carts double its price so it’s in the running"

joegator81-
If your phono stage has enough gain(65-70) you may also want to include the ART 7. It's very low output. One can be found for a few bucks less than the ART9. Typically found on Ebay.

Different build, possibly more refined with certain music. Been enjoying my ART 9 for a few years.
My sense of the Charisma is that it is more refined than the Maestro but my experience with the Maestro is limited to demos in my dealers showroom so I cannot really articulate the differences between them. It’s also been at least 3 years since I have heard a Maestro.

You might want to ping Nick at the Audio Connection. He is a real expert on turntables and cartridges and can probably tell you much more than I can. Garth at MS is also a great resource and can surely give you a detailed comparison between the two.

From personal experience I did compare the V1 Maestro to the Benz Glider and preferred the Benz, which I bought and owned for 5 years. Overall I prefer MC to MM. The Charisma struck me as a great alternative and I haven’t been tempted to use a MM for at least 20 years. I did seriously consider it, it was that good, but in the end went with the AMG Teatro MC. Again, listening is your best indicator since we all have different listening priorities and different systems, rooms, etc.
Thanks for the suggestions everyone. 

Jockey, the Nova 2 tops out at 60 so the art7 is a no go. 

Noromance, when I replaced the foam mat with the Boston audio mat1 I got the very opposite of what you heard - the acoustic guitar chords in nutshell from Alice In Chains unplugged now had separation between each string where before you just heard the chord, kind of like turning up the treble and turning down the bass on an acoustic guitar amp. Positively unsubtle. Dean Peers bass on airborne has a delay that extends outside of the speakers and the detail of the notes are much easier to decipher. Again, not subtle. I haven't tried vinyl, if I find a piece flat enough I might give it a shot though 
I'll add zyx to the list: 

Bloom 3 on the lower end 

Ultimate 100h a little further up the line 
@joegator81 So weird and proof if ever it was needed that systems and tastes vary. I do recollect hearing a delineation between notes as I do going from rubber to vinyl (as a mat) but the graphite damping that removed the smear or clutter between notes also robbed the minute information from the system.

Noromance, I don't know your table but the mat1 is consistently toted as a great match to the Nottingham tables, maybe just a synergy thing. I'll try to find som flat vinyl though. I know clearaudio recommends no platter mat on their delrin platters as they are similar to vinyls properties 
joegator81 See my table in my details. I use a 10" EP!
That's a cool system, definitely don't want to do anything to mess it up 
Dear @joegator81 : LOMC cartridges by Clearaudio are really good and you can stay with other Clearaudio MC model. LOMC cartridge quality level performance ( everything the same. ) beats MM ones.

Even that's not a today Transfiguration model  this one is new and Transfiguration means: QUALITY.

I read what an owner posted about the Aria:

"  Every time I think I know what to expect from Transfiguration- the new cartridge surprises me. So much power and energy in this little toy. It�s also the most elegant looking among all Transfiguration cartridges.

The cartridge suits all type of arms and acts at it�s best. Transfiguration is famous for voice and opera type reprouction, well not anymore. This one rocks and jazz just as good as Dyna and Accuphase.

Specifications:

Type: moving coil
Output Voltage: 0.4mV
Frequency Response: 10Hz - 20kHz
Tracking Force: 1.7-2.2g
Mass: 7g
Channel Separation: > 27db
Channel Balance: 10 ohms
Output Impedance: 10 ohms
Stylus Tip: PA, solid diamond
Cantilever: boron
Dynamic Compliance: 12x10-6cm/Dyne

New: $1450     """

and this is the cartridge link for sale:


https://www.audiogon.com/listings/cartridges-brand-new-free-shipping-2018-01-06-analog 


other nice options:

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/cartridges-phono-cartridge-mc-type-lomc-2018-01-02-analog 

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/cartridges-new-retip-by-soundsmith-s-peter-ledermann-2017-12-22-an... 

 and my advise is that you stay with LOMC cartridges.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.


Thanks Raul, I'll keep the trans aria in mind as well. 

So, what I'm gathering from all that's been posted is that there is room for improvement over the concept MC even in the $1500 range?