MC Cartridge Advice, $1-2K zone

not ready for the $5,000 refurbish for my Koetsu Onyx

sage advice for new MC cartridge for SME 309 tonearm?

What sort of sound are you looking for?

No good answer other than best possible, no harsh, no fake bright

Currently have Shelter 501

Just had an Urushi Gold rebuilt locally, with Fitz Gyger. Built to last.

Other options considered:

Hana ML - good, boring
Phasemotion PP200 - would have been my choice

Denon DL-103R with ruby cantilever and paratrace tip - a bargain at $1,000, great performer, but don’t last long. Just send back to re-tip.
Audio-Technica AT-OC9XSH


A lot of good choices in that price bracket. I’ve enjoyed this one in rotation with an Ortofon Cadenza Blue for a couple of years. Seiji Yoshioka, the builder of Transfiguration cartridges, died recently so this will be unobtanium from any source soon. The reviews online match my perceptions of the cartridge.


I have Rega Apheta 3 and Clear Audio Talisman V2. I prefer the latter. This review recommends Ortofon Cadenza Bronze.


I’m with Steven regarding AT cartridges. three or four years ago they revamped the OC9 range and I wanted a cheao MC having only had good MMs in the past. I figured AT would be a good value cartridge that is made in large numbers. I went for the AT-OC9XSL and it’s in an SME 3012 - works fine and is so much better than MMs that I’ve had.


Juuust over budget. I own one and rotate in in often, a strong overall performer for the price point
Dynavector - XX-2 MKII MC Phono Cartridge - Music Direct


Sumiko Starling, $1799. Very balanced, lots of detail, smooth midrange.
Zu Audio’s modified Denon 103. Zu/DL-103 Mk.II | Zu Audio | Hi-Fi audio speakers and cables hand built in the USA


I have the SoundSmith Zephyr Mk3 (a version labelled for Origin Live as Mark Baker liked it so much). It’s 2.4mV high output, I run it through my Luxman internal MM phono. Was listening with it last night. Very good performance indeed.


The Zu Denon 103DL paired with the Auditorium 23 103 SUT is rumored to make magic, have not experienced myself but you could still sneak under budget for the cart and SUT



Second the Rega Apheta 3. Had the 2 until I upgraded to Aphelion 2 and it was nicely balanced and accurate and musical.


thanks for the recommendations

re-setup TT chain, will do vinyl Saturday (first time in years)

I probably should simply refurbish my Koetsu Onyx but given its historical signifance in Koetsu land (long-body made by Koetsu’s founder by hand), I favor not risking a sendoff…with potential loss, sending back something different, or damage


Ooh nice - I have the Sumiko Songbird ($899, I think) which I love for similar reasons you mention here. I always figured whenever I decide to upgrade I would go to the Starling (or whatever replaces it if it goes away). I love their cartridges


I’d refurb it as it is one fine cart.


Me too. It is otherwise a useless bit of audiophilia.

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Easy, no question, Hana ML. Price is about £1,000 GBP here in the UK.

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I have one of these arriving next week (US$1,260):

Review here:

I won’t have it installed for another few weeks. Have to wait until my TT guru gets back from Munich.

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Dynavector DV-20X2 at around $1,250 is a nice moving coil cartridge for the money. I used to own the high output version.

Edit: I misspoke. I owned the low output version, not the high.

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Interesting. This is one I haven’t heard of. I wonder if they’ll supply a frequency response plot with the cart?