Cartridge Database - what have you used/owned and your opinion of it

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A Tale of Two Cartridges . .

I recently purchased a Shelter 501 Mk II and as my tonearm has a removable headshell I am able to compare it with my old Koetsu pretty quickly.  I have two of the same headshells.  The effective height of the two cartridges is virtually the same.  I say effective because while the Koetsu has the taller body, the Shelter has a more radical angle to its cantilever, so it sits taller in the saddle making the VTA nearly the same w/o my having to adjust tonearm height.  All I have to do is take a moment to re-balance the weight or tracking force. 

The Shelter is the more incisive cartridge.  Imagery outline is sharper and instrumental separation cleaner.  On a particular recording of female vocal and piano, the singer's head is more compact and clearly defined in space as are the piano notes.  This is very nice and tonality sounds very flat here.  With the Koetsu her image and voice are more saturated or liquid but not as defined.  A little darker tone, too.  The Koetsu has a fuller lower midrange/upper bass which likely accounts for that along with a more gentle high end and serves tunes like "Cowboy Movie" from David Crosby's fabulous "If Only I Could Remember My Name (1970) very satisfactorily.  The Shelter is a little light in the behind here.  Also, the Shelter can be whiter sounding if you know what I mean.

The Shelter sounds flatter, sharper and the more neutral of the two.  Quicker, as well.  Art Blakey's "Live at Keystone 3" (Concord Jazz) flies!!!  His drum kit and cymbals in the background (unlike his Blue Note recordings) are more subdued with the Koetsu and a little less defined comparatively.  Mine is an original Black, btw, like 25 yrs old.  I believe that Koetsu has moved nearer neutrality in later models.  I love the Shelter here. 

I expect to continue to experience greater emotion with the Koetsu with it's richer and fuller sound with most of the music I play, but love the quickness, agility and imaging of the Shelter!  I'm happy to have both and have a pretty good idea of which to use for what music. 
« Last Edit: 2 Aug 2013, 07:58 pm by jimdgoulding »


All on a Rega P3 with RB300 arm

Grado Black - Good cart, not a lot of detail but not offensive
Grado Red - See Grado Black. I didn't put a whole lot of effort into determining differences and none jumped out at me
Denon DL-103r - Sometime very nice, sometimes not so nice so I determined it was not a good match with the RB-300 arm. I have a Musical Surroundings Nova with many dip settings so compatability with the pre was not the issue IMO
Nagaoka MP-200 - Nice, well balanced, good detail and nice bass
Nagaoka MP-200 with the MP-500 stylus. See MP-200 but a nice upgrade in all areas, keeping in mind the MP-200 stylus had some miles on it and the 500 was brand new. I think the Nags are a good match for the RB300 arm


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Since I go back to the early 60s I have had more than I can remember. My current cartridge is an AT MC. Sorry, I had a brain tumor recently and have lapses in memory on occasion. It is the one above the OC9 and which retails for $750 or so. A friend compared it to his Koetsu and it was not embarrassed by the comparison. Not that it was as good but was still musical etc. J&R have had them on occasion for very good prices. Phono stages are very important if you want to get the sound your cartridge is capable of. I have a Naim Superline now and love it. I am using a Teddy Pardo power supply which is much more reasonable the the Supercap and gives excellent performance. Not as flexible as the ASR I use to have but easier to use and an equal but different sound quality.


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too many to mention all of them.

blue point special on a rega p-3.  excellent but a little bright.

benz glider - one of the best I've ever had.

benz micro L0.2 - good detail but a little dark

dynavector karar ruby - great all arounder

dynavector 17d3 - not used yet

current:  EMT - TU2 on a rega p25.  best I've ever had.

others.  sumiko blue point, denon 301d, grado sonata etc.


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Grado Green on a pro-ject 1.2 LONG time ago did not have it long
Grado Reference Platinum on a Pro-Ject 1.2 it was a good budget entry level set up. I forget what Phono stage I was using maybe the one in my counterpoint SA3000... no hum no real issues had it a VERY long time
Dynavector Karat 19A mkII Black had this on a rega P3 very nice cart but it aged quickly.

Current cart
Transfiguration Orpheus on a Nottingham Analog Interspace ,ridiculously expensive but I got a phenomenal deal on it...BEST cart I have had and one of the best Ive heard


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Audio Technica AT95E - I think it's a great starter cartridge. Sounds pretty well balanced except for a little brightness and gives you the fundamentals at an inexpensive price.  I used it on a couple of vintage tables, a Kenwood from the 70s and an MCS table from the early 80s with good results on both.

Ortofon 2M Blue - A significant step up from the AT95E in terms of detail and also extends higher in the treble and lower in the bass.  I find it to be a really good cartridge for the money.  I find that music sounds more natural and cohesive.  I'd say the sound quality is forgiving of worn out vinyl in that any distortion a don't seem to be emphasized. Very enjoyable to listen to. I use it with my Rega RP3.

Soundsmith VPI Zephyr - This cartridge is another step up in every area over the 2M Blue.  I'd say it's a true audiophile cartridge in that it passes along quite a bit more detail and low level info in the music.  It won't hide any wear or smooth out poor recordings, but you'll hear the good stuff in the grooves. It too, seems to be very well balanced across the frequency range and instruments and voices are quite lifelike.  It's a very neutral cart.  I've used it with my VPI Scout.


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Benz Ruby H, earlier version before the Ruby 2, still own.
This cartridge has double the output of the Ruby, 0.5 versus 1.0 mv on 5 cm/s scale.
I upgraded from the Glider and it was pretty amazing
Has the Gyger stylus. Great, great bass in comparison to Glider (Med. output which is about 1.2 mv)
Great on rock in comparison which I did not expect.
I still use this cartridge, but may have to retip as Benz is done due to long term illness of technician.


Sumiko Blue Point Special  eh, it was ok, especially for the money (I think $200 at the time), plus I was using an Onkyo receiver's internal phono stage, and it was on a Pro-Ject turntable, so maybe it wasn't just the cartridge :lol:

Lyra Lydian on WTT Reference into a BlackCube feeding a PSE hybrid pre.  Very satisfactory--worked great for 15 years until it finally gave up the ghost.

Lyra Decca on WTT Reference into a BlackCube or Jeff Rowland Consummate phono stage into a Consummage pre.  Loving life, especially the JRDG phono stage, but the cartridge mates very well on the WTT Reference table.  The system is musical, detailed, and mid-range is fantastic.


I didn't see a link to Michael Fremer's digitized cartridge comparison.  Interesting to be able to compare a bunch of cartridges below $1k without having to set them all up.

He has similar digital download comparisons of preamps, recordings, etc.  Kinda fun to do a little blind testing in a very easy way.


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Hi there, new to this site, and this seems like a good thread to start with. Since getting back into vinyl/analogue about a year back, I have replinthed and modified a TT (CEC BD3200), added an excellent phono-stage (Vincent PHO-8) and bought five carts to add to my original Grace F8C, bought back in the late 70's when I was a teen :). I am totally hooked, my music has never sounded so good, after nearly thirty years of fooling myself that digital was king! My carts, in order of preference, though they're all great in different ways, are: 1; Grace Level ll RC (rare ceramic cantilever), Eq2; Denon DL 103 & Grace F8C, 4; Grace F8L, 5; ADC XLM mk ll (would be better with a lower mass arm), 6; Shure M97xE not far behind. While, as I said, they're all great, it is clear to me that the Grace Level ll RC is a cut above the rest. It is the most refined, accurate and detailed cartridge of my collection, an absolute pleasure to listen to, delicate but dynamic, wide and airy soundstage, emotionally engaging, it is hard to fault in any way. A recent and fortunate purchase that has taken my music to another level...... Here's some pic's  :)

Cheers... :thumb:
« Last Edit: 18 Mar 2017, 02:16 am by stevoz »


Currently using an Ortofon Quintet Bronze with standard preamp setting of 100 ohm, any recommendations or advise?


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In order of preference.   I like the sound that comes out but it changes depending on the record that is being played.

S Clark

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  • a riot is the language of the unheard- Dr. King
Currently using an Ortofon Quintet Bronze with standard preamp setting of 100 ohm, any recommendations or advise?
Recommendation:  Enjoy it.  That's a really nice cartridge.  :thumb:


Obviously cartridge preference will depend on the synergy with the other system components.   Here is a list of the cartridges I have owned in my life in the order of preference.  The ZYX Universe and Shilabe are both superb (a tie for the best I have heard), but the Shilabe is slightly more forgiving at the expense of the final bit of detail in my system.

Miyajima Labs Shilabe
ZYX Universe SB
ZYX Airy 3 SB
Shelter 901 MK II
Shelter 501 MK II
Shure V15VXMR
Dynavector 10x5
Sumiko Blue Point #2


Currently using an Ortofon Quintet Bronze with standard preamp setting of 100 ohm, any recommendations or advise?

The specs show the coil resistance is 5 ohms.  100 ohms load (ie. 20x coil resistance) should be good but - if your phono stage offers you the option - I recommend you try 470 ohms load (ie. 100x coil resistance).

Your soundstage should expand and you will get more airy highs.



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Good job reviving this ancient, but very valuable, thread.  I'm coughing a bit from all the dust, but it's a small price to pay for all the great info contained herein.  I had forgotten all about Fremer's poll questions with the downloaded files to compare.


I have a Pickering xv-15 625e that was on the TT, that I got from a friend.

I like what I'm hearing but have no experience with cartridges. :oops:


Really enjoyed time with a Ortofon Cadenza Bronze on a Origin Live Silver mounted to a Feickert Volare.
Waiting on a new deck from Origin arriving then giving a ZXY Uni a try along with a new Sound Smith.


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Dual 1219 is using a Shure V15 MKIV with a Jico stylus
VPI Prime has an Ortofon 2M Black


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Dynavector XV-1S - overall great cartridge. 
ZYX Universe II - slightly better and more detailed than the XV-1S
Lyra Etna - didn't have to turn up the volume due to higher output.  Somewhat bright for my taste.  Would love to try the SL version.
Ortofon Anna - best cartridge owned so far- although somewhat polite.  @ 0.2 mV output, sounded better by adding a SUT.