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New phono cart needed

DWPress

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I really don't use my TT much these days but have quite a few musician friends who are putting out vinyl along with their digital releases. Recently a musician and I compared the two formats and, of course, the digital sounded better but the vinyl didn't sound as good as it could have. I have a decent TT and pre so the main culprit is probably the cart which is a Shure M97x I purchased in the mid 90's probably and has certainly exceeded playable hours lifespan.

Nothing fancy needed just not broken, it'll realistically get 10 hours of play a year but play anything from a new pressing to my very worn 70-80's collection. Suggestions for something in the $100-200 range? Mounted on head shell would be nice to minimize time but willing to bust out the protractor.

Googling around the last few days the Ortofon 2M series seems to be a safe bet.

current gear:
Technics SL-D2 (stock tonearm and HS, replaced wiring in early 2000's)
Schiit Mani 2 pre (either MM or MC)
 

USER

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Audio-Technica AT VM95ML. In 2024 no one should be using an elliptical stylus. A micro-linear stylus will provide you a more even frequency response as it moves toward the inner groove and will also have less distortion and do better with worn records than an elliptical. It will work well with the Schitt as you can load it appropriately (the lower the capacitance the better). Having owned and measured 50+ cartridges the VM95ML and the VM540ML are the only modern cartridges that I can recommend with a clear conscious.

You will likely find measurements of the recommended cartridges in our cartridge measurement library if you want to compare them and find best loading setttings
.
 

BurntFinger

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Agree on the VM95ML. It punches well above it's price.
I have 2 dozen carts in rotation, and that one is always a pleasant surprise even after following some much more expensive units.
 
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DWPress

DWPress

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Thanks for the suggestions everyone!

You will likely find measurements of the recommended cartridges in our cartridge measurement library if you want to compare them and find best loading setttings

Yes, I looked through quite a few pages on that thread but most of that sort of measurement knowledge I forgot 20 years ago and hopefully won't need to know for another 20. ;)
 
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DWPress

DWPress

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DSJR

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A VM95 was my choice too. The ML tip has a life and 'vitality' to its reproduction 'tone' which is great if you also use and enjoy digital sources, but if you're used to a duller balance it may be too much (I remain a fan of the old fashioned Sumiko Pearl and its newer styled/tipped but related siblings for that vintage beefy tone due to the hf suckout). I know the 95ML and like it a lot, but sadly as yet, not the 95SH which I gather is more refined and a little less 'raw' up top (according to the German 'Lowbeats' test with measurements and soundbites).

The dealer still lurking within me suggests lid removal when playing and careful siting regardless on decks like this - apologies - the mid bass region can clean up if you can do this...
 
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DWPress

DWPress

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I have a separate DSP setting for vinyl playing (which would need redoing with a new cart) where I can do a loopback from my Okto to computer and apply correction before the active XO. If the new cart has some frequency issues I can always tweak it there even though I don't have a test record - I have plenty of records I know all to well or can compare to a digital version.
 

restorer-john

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The AT is a great recommendation, although it costs more than the entire SL-D2 complete with cartridge back in the day.
 

AaronJ

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For 10 hours a year consider getting the AT VM95C for like $40. I’m a big fan of the less exotic stylii, especially for records that are of questionable quality and cleanliness. VM95ML is a great cartridge no doubt but I couldn’t enjoy it as I constantly had the alignment and cable capacitance on the back burner in my head. Maybe it’s just me but I’ve found tonearm quality to have a greater effect on IGD than stylus quality. I use the least exotic stylus in existence on a Denon DL-103 and it tracks inner grooves as well as the Shure V15V-MR.
 
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DWPress

DWPress

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The AT is a great recommendation, although it costs more than the entire SL-D2 complete with cartridge back in the day.
Truth! I purchased mine brand new back in the day.
 

drmevo

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Maybe it’s just me but I’ve found tonearm quality to have a greater effect on IGD than stylus quality. I use the least exotic stylus in existence on a Denon DL-103 and it tracks inner grooves as well as the Shure V15V-MR.
I did a handful of comparisons with records that have hot inner tracks. I compared my VM540ML with my Sumiko Moonstone, the latter of which is supposedly a “great tracker” even though it’s elliptical. It also costs about the same or even more than the 540.

Testing both on my 1210GR, the VM540ML consistently outclassed the Moonstone when it came to inner groove performance. It wasn’t close. The Moonstone does sound nice for most of the side, but the sibilance that occasionally creeps in (or bursts in, sometimes) leads me to want to leave elliptical behind.

I agree with @USER - there’s just no good reason to go with elliptical these days when you get better tracking and longer stylus life with ML and other advanced profiles.
 

BurntFinger

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I fully realize that ASR is not the home of subjective missives:cool:, but here it is:
I bought every version of the VM95 series excluding the 78rpm version to experience. My vinyl set up consists of several turntables and some very adjustable phono preamps.
I found the ML to be the sweet-spot. The SH is capable of incredible detail - such as available in the vinyl realm - but it's very fussy to set up properly and seems to accentuate surface noise more prominently than micro-line stylus equipped units.

Full disclosure, did the same with the Ortofon 2M series. My preference was the Bronze over the SH-stylus Black version.

YMMV
 

WDeranged

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I fully realize that ASR is not the home of subjective missives:cool:, but here it is:
I bought every version of the VM95 series excluding the 78rpm version to experience. My vinyl set up consists of several turntables and some very adjustable phono preamps.
I found the ML to be the sweet-spot. The SH is capable of incredible detail - such as available in the vinyl realm - but it's very fussy to set up properly and seems to accentuate surface noise more prominently than micro-line stylus equipped units.

Full disclosure, did the same with the Ortofon 2M series. My preference was the Bronze over the SH-stylus Black version.

YMMV

I did the same thing and tried the whole range. Came to the same conclusions as you.
 

drewdawg999

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Found this comparison interesting:
Depends on what you want from your vinyl, neutrality or excitement? I found the Nagaoka more exciting, with a fuller warmer sound. The AT was neutral with more detail, and wider soundstage. As I don't strive for neutrality with my vinyl (it loses so easily to digital in that department), I like the Nagaoka here.
 
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