First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

the thin end of the wedge
klegier
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First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by klegier » 12 Jan 2019 03:52

Been lurking here awhile. I am a regular over at AVS, but the conversations WRT to TT/cartridges are pretty slim. I figured I would come over here and ask the folks who are in the know.

This is my living room setup. I have a theater room with lots of power, Klipsch LaScalas, Fortes, and numberous 18" subs, but I find relaxing in the living room with my wife while listening to records is more satisfying.

TT - Pioneer PL12D, rebuilt case of 2" maple. All guts are stock
Cartridge - Ortofon 2M Red on Ortofon headshell
Preamp - built into Denon 4311ci AVR
Amp - aforementioned Denon
Speakers - Pioneer CS88a with all new drivers and crossover. Basically it is the Pioneer cabinets with new 3 way drivers inside. I like the vintage look, and the new drivers really brought them to life. (All drivers are from Dayton)
Subs - 2 x DIY sealed 12" subs powered by Sony 330ES and EQ'd with Audiocontrol Richter Scale graphic
Record collection - Approximately 600. I had ~200 and my wife had ~400 when we met. I haven't even listened to all of them, but I do scrub each one thoroughly before it hits the turntable. I am still searching for a decent record cleaner, but have honed my manual technique pretty well, I think. Records are ~200 60s-70s-80s rock, ~100 metal, ~100 country, ~100 southern rock, ~100 fusion/jazz/R&B.

Purpose of post:
Cartridge upgrade from 2M Red (which replaced Shure M97xe which developed hum) - budget <$250, prefer MM or HOMC so I do not have to upgrade preamp immediately

What I am looking at so far (these are actually all in my cart on Amazon and am just trying to decide):
1) Ortofon 2M Blue
2) Denon DL-110
3) Clearaudio Concept MM
4) Nagaoka - MP-110
5) Sumiko - Pearl
6) ??? Your Recommendation

It has been awhile since I heard the Shure, but I do not mind the 2M Red. It does get harsh at times, depending on the source. I would like a wider soundstage (stereo separation for rock guitars) and slightly smoother treble (although I have found the treble as well as the bass quality varies greatly from record to record).

What cartridge you recommend?

Other upgrades I am considering are:

Preamp - Been looking at all the usual suspects, but prefer something under $300, and has multiple capacitance load settings, even though this may not be needed. I think I am just curious to see how it affects the sound. Will it perform "better" than the Denon AVR RIAA EQ?

Tonearm wire - been contemplating going into the Pioneer TT and upgrade the tonearm wire to Cardas 4 x 34 clear tonearm wire (2' = $75! :o ). My rational is that the wire in there is 45 years old, as are the solder joints, and the new wire will have lower capacitance further removing that variable from the playback chain. I would also upgrade the RCA sockets on the back of the TT to new Cardas parts as well.

On one hand, since the 2M Red is "tolerable", maybe I should make the TT upgrades, then perhaps a preamp upgrade, and see what the 2M Red sounds like? Or, just start with the upgraded cart, and maybe the other upgrades will not be necessary? Thoughts?

Any advice welcomed. Thank you.
Keith
PS, not that it makes a difference, but I am in my 50s, semi retired, and played guitar in metal bands as a hobby until about 40. Still have stacks of amps and a closet full of guitars though.

klegier
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by klegier » 12 Jan 2019 04:16

Thought I would try to post of photo to see if I could on here without a photo service:
IMG_0674.jpeg
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Living room rig:
IMG_0640.jpeg
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TT upgrade parts:
tt parts.JPG
(120.99 KiB) Downloaded 233 times

Alec124c41
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by Alec124c41 » 12 Jan 2019 06:25

The Blue would be an easy upgrade, giving you a smoother presentation. Very pleasing.
The DL-110 is IMO a bit more dynamic. I call it my party girl. Always makes me smile. Use the included weight, for fuller bass.
Have an older MP-11, that is not bad.
Can't comment on the others.

Cheers,
Alec

tlscapital
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by tlscapital » 12 Jan 2019 11:44

Indeed, the 2M 'Red' is not liked by many and is just the "obsolete-ant" gadget/bait from Ortofon to make you buy the 'Blue' afterward... Not my idea of "ethic" in business that I like to support. But I've heard it at a friend's place and it is pleasant enough to get it's credits as a good cartridge that is easy/lazy plug and play on it's "own" headshell.

Denon DL-110 from your list. Likely not the most detailed and finest cartridge from an "audiophile" point of view, but it is very "musical" as 'Alec124c41' pointed out. As for your upgrade path, I would suggest to go one step at a time to be able to really evaluate each addition benefit's individually. So start first with the gear you have before making changes.

To rewire the tonearm can be necessary in some cases. But unless you want "pure silver" thingy because you know how it sounds and that is something you need and/or want, be sure of that. I had to redo my getting "tired" second hand ones that were also giving me issues with the tonearm connector, so I decide to redo them once and for all properly.

Faced with the choice, I found a dealer on line who was honest enough to lead me to his "entry" level copper silver coated cardas wires according to my playback in sound expectations and explanations. He could have advised me his expensive pure silver instead but he explained me that those in my case might sound too "bright" for me and my gear.

So a necessary wire replacement in my case with a hint of better clarity (neat soldering !) to be accounted for. On the other hand, the re-cabling of my tonearm with a low capacitance shielded cable (given to my by a friend) proved a real improvement in sound. Evidently my old original SME RCA's needed replacement, but the cabling difference as well.

The adjustable preamp is mandatory for me. Having play my Denon DL-102 (HO MC MONO cartridge) with my external preamp with the factory settings (MM) for a while, as it is recommended for the Denon DL-102, until the day I went in and decide to adjust set it by ear, instantly I discovered how it could truly perform while opening up like never before...

Even if some cartridge are more "exotic" than others, it's no luxury to set other's gain and loads to one's preferences in my experience. And accordingly to the rest of the phono gear chain as well. Since the amplification and speaker presentation will also play a big part in dynamic, clarity and depth sound definition. Or not. Your AVR not so much I am afraid.

A pure (even vintage receiver) analog dedicated amplifier should give you much more of that if you want to hear that as well. Not just that it is music playing, but records with the bold maximum out of them that you play. An AVR device whose outputs are standardized made for digital signal will just refrain the analog signal to mush in comparison.

Pauw
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by Pauw » 12 Jan 2019 12:59

The easy move is the Blue ..... :D

cafe latte
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by cafe latte » 12 Jan 2019 13:11

2m Red is like bad cd, the blue is better but still something that is annoying. I have a DL160 which is a step above the 110 it is nice but not as good as decent MM. Not against MC but dont go high output MC just no point for the extra trouble, people but cheap MC and high output thinking they are buying into the mag reported magic and it is just not so. Clearaudio is basically a retipped AT95 the Nag is nice, but compared a MP-500 (i have one in my collection) to a much cheaper Grado gold 2 (must be a 2 one a one) and the Grado wins as is more open and half the price. Sumiko Peal I dont own so wont comment, but I have a LOT of carts MM MI and MC and advice is if you are looking at this sort of budget dont go MC there is just no point. Actually my fav carts are MI and MM and I have a lot of MC so dont get blinkered by MC it is not the only way to Nirvana.
Chris

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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by raphaelmabo » 12 Jan 2019 13:15

I loved my Sumiko Pearl but I would suggest the new Sumiko Rainer or Olympia instead, they are more dynamic and more rhythmic while still keeping the smooth character of the older Pearl. Olympia has better stylus and cantilever so more details in the sound. A Rainer can be easily upgraded to an Olympia or Moonstone when funds allow (same cartridge body, just different styluses/cantilevers, like the Ortofon 2M-serie).

Never been a fan of the 2M serie, I found 2M Blue too analytical for my taste, to much CD-sounding.

I had the Denon DL-110 and loved it, it was smooth and well balanced. Now I'm running a Benz Micro MC Silver (HOMC), compared to the DL-110 it has more presence and 3D detailing, bass is tight and controlled but less full. I like it! But it's more expensive than a MM-cartridge when the stylus is worned out.

klegier
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by klegier » 12 Jan 2019 15:34

Thank you all for the great replies. Did more searching and reading this forum last night. Here is the revised shopping list:

1) Ortofon 2M Blue - Easy Choice
2) Denon DL-110 - X - Stick with MM at this price range
3) Clearaudio Concept MM - X - Get an AT instead
4) Nagaoka - MP-110 - X - see MP150 instead
5) Sumiko - Pearl - X - see Olympia instead
6) Audio Technica - VM540ML
7) Audio Technica - VM95SH
8) Nagaoka - MP150 - better reviews, aligns with price range
9) Sumiko Olympia - better aligns with price range

So, to eliminate the ones I have personally decided to skip, the new list is:

1) Ortofon 2M Blue - Easy Choice
2) Audio Technica - VM540ML
3) Audio Technica - VM95SH
4) Nagaoka - MP150 - better reviews, aligns with price range
5) Sumiko Olympia - better aligns with price range

I was gonna put the prices on there, but don't know how this forum feels about that kinda thing. But these are all more closely aligned WRT to price.

I have a feeling this is gonna come down to the Nagaoka and one of the ATs, although the Blue never gets tossed out completely.

Thank you again for the assist thus far.

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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by balky » 12 Jan 2019 16:04

klegier wrote:
12 Jan 2019 15:34
Thank you all for the great replies. Did more searching and reading this forum last night. Here is the revised shopping list:

1) Ortofon 2M Blue - Easy Choice
2) Denon DL-110 - X - Stick with MM at this price range
3) Clearaudio Concept MM - X - Get an AT instead
4) Nagaoka - MP-110 - X - see MP150 instead
5) Sumiko - Pearl - X - see Olympia instead
6) Audio Technica - VM540ML
7) Audio Technica - VM95SH
8) Nagaoka - MP150 - better reviews, aligns with price range
9) Sumiko Olympia - better aligns with price range

So, to eliminate the ones I have personally decided to skip, the new list is:

1) Ortofon 2M Blue - Easy Choice
2) Audio Technica - VM540ML
3) Audio Technica - VM95SH
4) Nagaoka - MP150 - better reviews, aligns with price range
5) Sumiko Olympia - better aligns with price range

I was gonna put the prices on there, but don't know how this forum feels about that kinda thing. But these are all more closely aligned WRT to price.

I have a feeling this is gonna come down to the Nagaoka and one of the ATs, although the Blue never gets tossed out completely.

Thank you again for the assist thus far.
My vote goes to the AT VM540ML...

klegier
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by klegier » 12 Jan 2019 16:49

balky wrote:
12 Jan 2019 16:04
My vote goes to the AT VM540ML...
[/quote]

Reviews for the VM540ML are off the charts. No brightness is a big selling point for me, but I can't help wonder if the cartridge loading (which will vary from user to user) has a lot to do with this.

But this is where I am leaning right now unless I can be convinced on something else.

cafe latte
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by cafe latte » 12 Jan 2019 23:34

The 2m range up to the blue are not nice, up the food chain further they are good but dont get the 2m blue.
Also the new AT95vm ML actually has the best stylus not the Shibata which is why I bought the ML. ML is actually a newer profile and it has a larger contact area (good) and lasts longer too. cant see any reason to go Shibata or even why AT put the option there.
Chris

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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by KentT » 13 Jan 2019 01:58

Easy choices:

Audio-Technica AT-VM 95 range (any model)
Nagaoka
LP Gear's new MM offering, the Vessel
Audio-Technica VM series.
Ortofon OM 1s, OM 5, or OM 10

klegier
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by klegier » 13 Jan 2019 06:15

Thanks for all the great feedback. I'll be honest. I never looked too much at AT because, I think, when I was a teenager and would get a cheapo TT for $25 or so they always came with an AT cart. I guess I never really got over that. Additionally, I have to admit, even the AT VM540ML doesn't "look" as "sexy and sleek" as some other carts out there. I realize that that is inconsequential, but that was my thinking until you guys converted me. The VM540ML is at the very top of my budget, but if the consensus is that it is the best for the money, then that is my choice.

On a side note, I listened to Supertramp - Breakfast in America tonight, and it sounded great! I was like "Why am I thinking about upgrading?" LOL. That record will now be my go to test record.

cafe latte
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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by cafe latte » 13 Jan 2019 11:19

klegier wrote:
13 Jan 2019 06:15
Thanks for all the great feedback. I'll be honest. I never looked too much at AT because, I think, when I was a teenager and would get a cheapo TT for $25 or so they always came with an AT cart. I guess I never really got over that. Additionally, I have to admit, even the AT VM540ML doesn't "look" as "sexy and sleek" as some other carts out there. I realize that that is inconsequential, but that was my thinking until you guys converted me. The VM540ML is at the very top of my budget, but if the consensus is that it is the best for the money, then that is my choice.

On a side note, I listened to Supertramp - Breakfast in America tonight, and it sounded great! I was like "Why am I thinking about upgrading?" LOL. That record will now be my go to test record.
I have loads of MC MI and MM and recently bought a 10 dollar AT 3600l just to be involved in a thread and for a bit of fun. It was great so great that it is still fitted to one of my turntables. Yes it has faults but overall wow (google it). It is 10 dollars up tops maybe 25 bucks online and with right gear it makes you question everything. Yes my best cart is almost 2k and love it but it is not about money there are some amazing carts out there for nothing. People come here with cheap stand mounters and a cheap system and look for a MC which the mags say is best (it isnt) and honestly a 20 dollar cart will probably sing in that system, and also in mine which is rather a lot of money.
IMO rewind and think about this.
Chris

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Re: First post - Another cartridge recommendation question

Post by Pauw » 13 Jan 2019 11:38

I will go with the idea that you don't have to spend lots to get a good cartridge. Several years ago I bought an Ortofon OM 10 as a temp replacement for a broken MC ....I have adjusted and set it up well and now nearly 10 years later and 3 styli later I am still using it and it really sings for me.......

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