the grado is solid, but the at150 cartridge, or garrott bros k2, or k3 will improve sound, lower the noise floor, and non will break the bank. the arm change is lateral.
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I'm a bit suspect of the tonearm as some tech had changed out one of the pivot points that supports the arm to the tonearm base (it's different from the original) and the arm lifter seems to be shot once again. But your point is that going with a different tonearm in that price range would do little sonically. In that case, maybe I'll try to get the Denon arm fixed up properly, if that's possible.
Thanks for the guidance.