What is the “World’s Best Cartridge”?

I believe that a cartridge and a speaker, by far, contribute the most to SQ.

The two transducers in a system.

I bit the bulllet and bought a Lyra Atlas SL for $13K for my Woodsong Garrard 301 with Triplanar SE arm. I use a full function Atma-Sphere MP-1 preamp. My $60K front end. It is certainly, by far, the best I have owned. I read so many comments exclaiming that Lyra as among the best. I had to wait 6 months to get it. But the improvement over my excellent $3K Mayijima Shilabi was spectacular-putting it mildly.

I recently heard a demo of much more pricy system using a $25K cartridge. Seemed to be the most expensive cartridge made. Don’t recall the name.

For sure, the amount of detail was something I never heard. To hear a timpani sound like the real thing was incredible. And so much more! 
This got me thinking of what could be possible with a different kind of cartridge than a moving coil. That is, a moving iron.

I have heard so much about the late Decca London Reference. A MI and a very different take from a MC. Could it be better? The World’s Best? No longer made.

However Grado has been making MI cartridges for decades. Even though they hold the patent for the MC. Recently, Grado came out with their assault on “The World’s Best”. At least their best effort. At $12K the Epoch 3. I bought one and have been using it now for about two weeks replacing my Lyra. There is no question that the Atlas SL is a fabulous cartridge. But the Epoch is even better. Overall, it’s SQ is the closest to real I have heard. To begin, putting the stylus down on the run in grove there is dead silence. As well as the groves between cuts. This silence is indicative of the purity of the music content. Everything I have read about it is true. IME, the comment of one reviewer, “The World’s Best”, may be true.



@thekong There are much improved generators available today, that are encouraged to be produced and are being produced for DS Audio Optical Cart's.

I have heard a Top of the Range DS Audio Cart' in use, but not heard one in use with an alternative generator design as of yet.

I have encouraged a friend who owns a Grand Master to adopt one the New Design Generators, of which they now own and are using.

I will at some point get the opportunity to experience the pairing in use.

It would be great if it proved to be one more encounter, where the experience is indelible for its attraction. 

@atmasphere , I think there is a lot more to it than sound quality. 45% of album sales are to people 18 to 35 years of age, people at the beginning of their careers who can ill afford expensive turntable gear. Records make great collectibles. You get a much nicer token of the artist than a digital file. You get nothing streaming. Lets not talk about CDs. Men in particular instinctively like machines and tools almost absent in the digital world.

There is no best cartridge. The sound quality of records is so variable you could not discern a best cartridge through them. Anybody going to change cartridges with each record? You also have to take into consideration the tonearm and phono stage but, there is no best "system" for the same reason.  

I agree with Mijo that there can be no single “best” cartridge, for both objective and subjective reasons, and have said so. So too have many others. And yet this thread goes on,… and on.

Obviously this is an impossible question to answer in absolute terms. None of us have heard all the possible contenders.  But...In your opinion, what is the best cartridge you have heard?'  That can be answered. 

I have recently started using a SS Hyperion II. In one of Peter's lectures he talks about cartridges sampling the record groove as the stylus bounces from wall to wall. He claims that his designs stay in contact with the groove more of the time. I now understand what he is saying. With the benefit of hind sight ( hind hearing), every system I have listened to sounds like the stylus is scratching its way thru the grooves, shaking as it progresses. The Hyperion sounds like it is lubricated and just slides smoothly along. This characteristic is at first disarming and then so darn, obviously right. This is definitely not to say that it smooths out the sound. It has micro definition in spades, little details are revealed in all their thrilling glory. It also scares you with how dynamic it is, how present it is and how it conveys the emotion engraved in the record. Goose bumps, tears, smiles, joy. To me this is why we play this game.

Another test is how different do various records sound from others. Here again the Hyperion excels. One record can sound shrill and brash another dull and muffled. This strongly implies that it is getting out of the way and reveling honestly what is on the record. 

It tracks superbly.  

The best cart I have ever heard, 


@richardkrebs Thank you for your review of the Hyperion.

@aj523  Why do you like yours? How would you characterize the sound? Comparison? Thanks!