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.



I auditioned the strain gauge at Peter's listening room. He spent two hours with me. I really wanted to like the strain gauge but it was just too sharp on female voices and violins for my taste.

@mijostyn To my understanding the Soundsmith Strain Gauge will need some EQ that isn't supplied by the manufacturer. Without that EQ an un-equalized strain gauge will have an EQ error due to that flat spot in the RIAA pre-emphasis curve. So it would cause the cartridge to sound bright.

Dear @frogman : " How many examples of equipment with great measurements that sounded mediocre, even poor, have we all experienced? "

your statement was something that happened several years ago but not today, could be everywhere an item that fullfil what you said but you can be sure that’s an exception.

I have first hand experiences about measurements and learned what to look for through them and which ones are really important. I learned all those when we manufactured a phonolinepreamp and this was over 10 years ago and even that that phonolinepreamp inside the owners systems today is still competitive and it still is my phonolinepreamp reference that has some modifications over the originals units.

In those times we fixed the main targets at different levels of the design and builded needs. We makes several mesuremenst with our tools about and other measurements were made by others because we did not own the Audio Precision as the one used by J.Atkinson in STRPH and guess what: the unit measured really good and excellent in some parameters before we listened to it and when we did it the unit was " rigth on targets " and I can tell you that we were and are extremely demanding MUSIC lovers/audiophiles. At the end we only had to fine tunning it with almost no severe active/passive parts changes.

With out those kind of first hand experiences you can’t understand the today measures importance and how read those measures and what are telling you.

The amps I own were modified and were measured and are excellent even today and the same I can tell with my speakers and speaker crossover modified too and my tonearm is like the phonolinepreamp " made in home " and excellent too ..Those adjectives were shared by audio friends to me.

As I said my subjectivity is well weigthed by objectivity and enjot a lot the MUSIC putting at minimum developed distortions/colorations and yes my real reference is live MUSIC seated at near field position.

You can be sure that the MUSIC " color " you like it is not exactly what likes M Lavigne, me or any other gentleman. What you can be sure too is that I always try to finish a dialogue when the other gentleman tells me: " I like it " end of the history because no one can't questioning that personal preference but what I can do is to analyze the overall scenario/context room/system from where is developed that " I like it ".




really the MC Century, Anna Diamond, and MC Diamond are really all equivalent.

all three excellent cartridges. maybe nuanced differences at most.

the MC Century was a limited volume, so they had to bring out the Anna D., then war, thus the MC Diamond. three versions of the same thing.

@mikelavigne the name change actually did involve a design change as well. Ortofon’s chief designer is on record explaining about the new suspension of the MC Diamond, using nanotubes or something. In a video interview with Fremer (part of his coverage of the Munich event) he boasts about the enormous improvements or words to that effect. He also says they felt a desire to change the suspension because some owners had experienced tracking issues with the discontinued Anna and Anna Diamond.

I’m one such owner and my regular Anna sounded gorgeous but was by far the worst tracker I ever owned. I bought it used and therefore couldn’t be sure what caused the tracking problems. A factory rebuild didn’t solve the issue, so I resent it and after almost a year (!) of waiting they returned it with the new nano suspension installed. Thankfully this has improved the tracking somewhat, although it still doesn’t track everything. FWIW, sonically I don’t hear any difference with the old Anna, but perhaps things will improve after the suspension has settled.


@atmasphere ,yes, that is the cause of the brightness and I could EQ that easily in the digital realm but the real deal breaker for me was the strain gauge's tracking ability. Peter thinks he has got it as good as he can and feels it is acceptable. Generally I will only look at cartridges that can do 80um or better at 315Hz. Miss-tracking is very annoying. Miss-track a record once and it is permanently damaged.

@edgewear , Ortofon is very conservative with it's ratings and list's the MC Diamonds tracking ability at 315 Hz as 80um which is excellent and should easily handle any record. The Replicant 100 and GygerS styluses are the two most severe styluses out there and really have to be spot on in the groove. If you are still miss-tracking it is either a set up problem or just as likely something else you are hearing like phono stage clipping. 

When I have mine in hand I will run it through the torture course and report back what it can do. Yours should do the same.