Cartridge questions

I’m using a Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC ES cartridge and it’s coming up on a year of consistent use. I’m thinking it might be time to send it in for a retip and maybe rebuild. I need some advice because it still sounds great, I’ve taken good care of it. It is the only cartridge I have and will want to get another one to use while it goes in for maintenance.

I’m hoping to find other well playing cartridges and build up a collection to switch in on occasion. Eventually I will have capability of two arms and cartridges.

What do the rest of you do under this circumstance and would like to know your experiences with cartridges you like and tonearms for that matter, mine is a jelco tk850l.


Funnily enough, I have the medium output Zephyr Mk3 on a Jelco TK850L. It’s my second arm.

The advantage of this tonearm is the interchangeable head shell. A limitation is it’s a pain to change the VTA. There’s a clever device that I might invest in soon, it’s sold on eBay:

Stereophile is spectacularly useless as a reference because whoever compiles it (Fremer?) thinks people are made of money and that you can’t get a grade A cartridge for less than the price of a decent car.

As a 2-arm guy, you have to be thinking if your phono amp can take two low output carts or whether you want a medium or high output unit, or you just want to try something different.

It also depends what you are planning for your second arm, going up or down in price.

As a temporary replacement for the same arm, but a unit you might use long-term, perhaps a Zu DL-103 Mk.II, or a Hana SL or SH. The Hana generally are well regarded and good value.

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If your cartridge is properly adjusted you can use it for 5-10 years without the need of retipping. The first thing it will need then some time is new rubber suspension.


I concur with this view.

Why retip it if it still sounds great?


While Stereophile’s primary analog reviewer Fremer does favor mega dollar cartridges, it’s not accurate to say other viewpoints aren’t represented in their pages. This month’s issue makes the alternative case that cheap cartridges with simple styli shapes offer listening pleasures that are worthy alternatives to the big buck end of the market (when paired with superior tonearms.) Other writers have also made similar arguments in their pages in the past.

And there are a nice number of cartridges in Stereophile’s Class B for under $1,000.

You need not buy a Ferrari to enjoy performance driving.

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Mike Fremer’s review helped shape my decision to purchase Rega P10 + Apheta 3. Their combined cost is a fraction of Origin Live’s top tonearm, yet he ranked the really high. He previously reviewed RP10 and P8 and made good recommendations.

Analogue Corner’s recommendations helped me select a number of cartridges over the past 3 decades. Their prices ranged between $350 and $3000. I enjoyed them all.

The Rega P10 has had universally good reviews, literally dozens of them. That said, a couple of dealers I’ve spoken to who sell loads of Rega, both located within an hour or so of Rega’s factory, say the P8 sells a lot more as it it considered better value for money and still a great deck.

My main arm is an Origin Live Illustrous Mk3, the cheapest of the more expensive dual pivot models. I’ve had it 7 or 8 years. The star of the Origin Live line-up is probably the Silver arm, incredibly good for the price and compares favourably to Rega. However, the price adds up as you start pimping it.

Mark Baker, who is Origin Live, started his business doing Rega upgrades, and he still does, including a full rewire upgrade.

As to tonearms, I can highly recommend the UK made AudioMods brand. I have one of their Classic III’s on my Acoustic Signature Final Tool and couldn’t be happier as to the price/performance ratio. Unfortunately, there’s such heavy demand for them Jeff isn’t taking any more orders until autumn of this year. I’ve been very tempted to buy one of his new Series Six models also.

Having a P8 and comparing to the P10 I’d agree the P8 is the better value, with the P10 providing a step up in sound. My thought at the time was at the price range of the P10 I’d kick in the difference and go AMG Giro with a Lyra Kleos SL and not look back. Reality set in and the P8 was my go to. Should I consolidate turntables the AMG would top the list.

I owned the RP8 (not the P8) it sounded great but the tonearm had plastic parts, and felt a tad flimsy. P10 tonearm, though ultra light weigh, feels and acts differently. It definitely sounds better.

Corolla sales were always better than Camry’s :smile:

Getting ready for a TT upgrade (leaning SOTA non-vacuum) and considering an Origin Live Silver arm with a new cartridge. Currently run a Grado Sonata on a Pro-ject RM9. So… considering upgrading to the Grado Master or possibly the Ortofon 2M Black both MM. I’ve had some issues with hum with the Grado and I’ve read where the Black can be overly bright – not good for a 65-yr-old with decades of too-loud listening behind him! Also wondering if I should make the move to MC with a Hana SH or Dynavector 10x5. Some question whether my phono stage (Plinius 8200 IA) can accommodate the MCs, which has me leaning to the MMs. Any advice on MC vs MM and/or cartridge comparisons is appreciated. Thanks!

You won’t have compliance issues with the Silver arm and there are any number of good cartridges in the $500 to $1,000.

I use both MM and MC and feel that MM is NOT a compromise, especially moving iron which allow light cantilevers and can have remarkably good detail. I would go for something with at least 2mV output. I have a Goldring 2500 MI that I’ve rarely used, but outputs 6mV and has thunderous bass.

I would drop Mark Baker at Origin Live an email. I recently bought my SoundSmith from him and love it.

I own a 2M Black and it is a wonderful cartridge. Not too anything.

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I recently put on roughly 6000 (10+ years) hours on a Benz Ace MC cartridge. I noticed some unusual “sibilance” on familiar discs. Following replacement of said cartridge the problems were resolved after playing the same discs. I suspect the elastomeric suspension elements had degraded as opposed to wear on the stylus.
Have you inspected the stylus? One year seems to me a short time for a stylus/cartridge to fail due to normal use.
Have you contacted Peter (what’s his name?) about this?

Agree completely, have a Ortofon 2M black on a Traveler V.2 and just replaced the stylus, no regrets.
As aangen states, it’s not too “anything”.

Thanks much for the insights…I’ll be going with an MM, still debating and researching which one

I would not rule out high output moving coils as well. They connect to the MM input but carry the benefits of MCs.