What VERY expensive MC cartridges have you owned, and are they worth it?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Warren Jarrett, Mar 4, 2018.

  1. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    I love turntables, tonearms and cartridges. And I have owned a few expensive carts: a couple of Koetsus (Urushi and Rosewood Platinum), a few Benz Micro Ebony LP and Ebony TR, an Ortofon SPU Reference Gold, Triangle Arts Zeus, Audio Note Io and a Shelter Harmony. I loved them. But now I am playing old Denon 103D and 103M carts, and find that I really didn't need those expensive ones. Its seems that the turntables and tonearms I am using, plus the rest of my audio system, have turned out to be MUCH more important than a fancy cartridge.

    Has anyone else had this experience?
     
  2. WayneC

    WayneC Active Member

    Location:
    England
    I do like a high end cartridge and I too have had various, but I do see your point about whether they are needed.

    I have two turntables and use a SPU Synergy cartridge on a Garrard 401 for everyday use. When listening to its sheer musicallity I find myself thinking "why would anyone want anything else?" I agree with you, the overall system and how it is matched IS more important than the cartridge.
    - I suppose it comes down to what you want hifi for. For me, when I sit there its an immersive emotional experience, and I believe the front end transducer is more than the icing on the cake.
    So when I'm sitting and actually listening to the system (as opposed to background music) I wouldn't want to be without something more serious. I love my Transfiguration Proteus. It provides simply more reality and 3d than the SPU can deliver. But it will wear out! Hence the second TT.

    I'm not sure if any of that helps...
     
    Warren Jarrett likes this.
  3. WayneC

    WayneC Active Member

    Location:
    England
    Sorry, the question is what have I owned. Jan Allaerts, Clearaudio Accurate, Proteus, couple of Koetsu's, couple of SPU's.
     
  4. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    Yes, these are indeed "expensive"cartridges, and really great ones. The other half of the question is, would you be really disappointed by ANY less expensive cartridge, or is it possible that some more mainstream MC cart could provide you with the detail and musicality of these highly specialized carts without the expense?
     
    H8SLKC likes this.
  5. Salectric

    Salectric Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    I don’t know if a Benz LP qualifies as “very” expensive, but it’s my most expensive cartridge. I have used it for the past 9 years or so on a Triplanar VII mounted on a high mass Galibier Gavia table. The two times it was away for retipping I listened to a Denon 103R on the same arm, and I can honestly say that I counted the days until I could get the Benz back in my system. The 103R is certainly a decent cartridge (and of course is off the charts when you consider price) but the Benz has considerably more refinement and subtleties, and their absence from records that I know well is hard to accept.

    That said I do agree that the cartridge is not as critical to satisfying vinyl playback as the turntable (#1 in my experience) or the tonearm. But once you have a really good sounding table and arm, the cartridge becomes very important.
     
  6. James Glennon

    James Glennon Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dublin, Ireland
    What is the starting threshold for 'expensive'?

    JG
     
    mike catucci likes this.
  7. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    An Ebony LP is $5000 in the USA. A Triangle Arts Zeus is $4000. I consider these expensive, even though my Koetsus, Audio Note and Shelter were even more expensive. But, actually, "expensive" is in the budget of the beholder. So, for many of us here, any cart over $3000 is expensive, because, I notice, spending more than $1500, or even $1000, for a low output MC cart is considered unthinkable by those of us. So I really mean just on a comparative basis, not on an absolute basis.

    In other words, I don't mean any particular "threshold". I merely mean this: are more expensive REALLY consistently worth more sonically than less expensive, where cartridges are concerned? I am convinced that turntables, tonearms, speakers, amplifiers, preamps REALLY do cost more to make, if they are going to be "better" than cheap ones. Cartridges are a little more hidden about why the more expensive ones should really cost more.

    In my case, now I am collecting interesting cartridges from the past and re-tipping them with Boron cantilever/MR stylus. The Denon 103D, GAS Sleeping Beauty, Monster Alpha Genesis 2000, SAEC, and others are turning out to be absoutely STUNNING compared to these latest-and-greatest "expensive" carts that many of us have owned (and do now). So I am thinking that the specialized audiophile cartridge prices have gone up so high, in recent years, I am just not sure they are any better than the best ones from the past.

    Koetsus are a very special case, because they really don't sound like any other cartridge, both in their strengths and weaknesses. But maybe ALL the specialized carts are "special cases" and provide very special sound qualities that cannot be equaled by ANYTHING else. Or maybe, some of them are so expensive ONLY because they are very limited production, whereas when vinyl was king even the GREAT cartridges were manufactured in larger numbers.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
    Mr Bass, H8SLKC and James Glennon like this.
  8. 5-String

    5-String Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sunshine State
    The most expensive cartridge that I own is my Dynavector XV-1t.
    It is a wonderful cartridge and I love it very much. This is a 10k cartridge and I believe it was definitely worth the price. With the Dynavector 507 MkII arm on my Transrotor turntable it is the end of the analogue journey for me.
    That been said, I also like my much cheaper Ortofon Cadenza Blue that I use with my Clearaudio Ovation and also my Denon 103 and I play both very often.
    Cartridges are like guitars or like bottles of wine, you need more than just one. Like guitars, cartridges have their own personality traits and their own unique colors. I could never live with just one cartridge.
     
    Hendertuckie likes this.
  9. advanced101

    advanced101 Forum Resident

    Ive have/had my share of expensive carts/ tonearms. I consider them one unit since it is difficult to separate their characteristics.

    I think they provide the second greatest SQ range only to speakers. I think per dollar amps are the weakest return.

    Say I had $10k to spend on one component. I would spent that on a Koetsu RSP + FR 64S before I spent that on an amp, cables, preamp ( Assuming mine was quiet and good on gain).
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
  10. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Of the cartridges I have owned the more expensive ones have sounded better- to the point where I would miss something if I had to back track. My current best cartridge is ~ $2K and it is more than sufficient to keep me happy listening to LPs. It is to the point where the quality of the pressings and recording are the limiting factors.
     
  11. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    For me and my setup the Dynavector xx2 mkll is the end of the road. It is on a VPI scout le and I love it. I have a second tonearm that has a at-oc9ml/ll I use for questionable records both are all dialed in I can swap them in seconds and I never listen to the at-oc9ml

    I think my current turntable is maxed out with the xx2 to do any better I would have to start over. I simply can't afford it. For me this is as good as it gets.
     
  12. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    Oh yes, I had an XX2 at one time also. It was very good.
     
  13. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    Well, you are certainly not paying for materials in a £5000
    Cartridge. Research and developement maybe.
    I don, t think its very good value for money.
    But that's not the issue here.
    My old Troika always put a smile on my face,
     
  14. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Austin
    Worth it? I dunno. Top tier phono cartridges are very expensive today, and are a consumable. Once everything else is nailed down, yes I've gone the distance over the years with a range of high end phono cartridges. Used Lyras for a while, currently using Airtights, which seem to work well with my horn type system- a little more fleshed out in the midrange, less "spectacular" sounding than the top Lyras.
    I have a second, vintage table I've set up (an SP-10) on which I plan to install an SME 3012R and fool around with some vintage cartridges, including SPUs.
    Many years ago, I used higher end Grados, Ortofon, even had a strain-gauge cartridge at one point (couldn't get it to work right in my system).
    There's certainly a theory that with a very good table and arm, you don't need to go crazy on a phono cartridge. I guess I've fallen into the trap of not wanting to miss out once everything else was up to par--the Airtights have sounded like real music in my system, albeit at a price.
     
  15. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    I'm a big fan of the Denons, but in some way liken them to a rubber gasket or something used on a Ferrari. It's quite inexpensive in of itself, the problem is that it is useless unless you own a Ferrari to put it on. I've seen a lot of people excited about getting a "giant killer" Denon 103 and being disappointed when they put it on a modest arm/table and don't see what the big deal is.

    As for me, the most expensive cartridge I've owned is the Koetsu Rosewood (standard) I'm listening to at the moment. It's worth every penny and when it needs to be replaced I'm going to try to go up the Koetsu line to the Urushis. I say "try" because I don't think Ortofon is going to let me get out of their 100th anniversary year without buying the new SPU A they've released. I think they have some more tricks up their sleeve this year as well.
     
  16. chacha

    chacha Forum Resident

    Location:
    mill valley CA USA
    I would love to hear a Koetsu sometime. Descriptively it sounds like something I’d really like.
    I’ve had top of the line Linn cartridges since I got my table in the late Eighties. The Troika probably was my favorite. Their stuff has gotten so expensive now that I can’t afford so I decided to go in a different direction and got a MM Audio Note IQ3 a couple of years ago.
    It’s gotten me most of the way there for less than a third of what I was paying for the MCs. Great sounding cartridge. Having some tracking trouble though at the moment so might need to replace stylus.
     
    Shiver likes this.
  17. Newton John

    Newton John Going for the one

    Location:
    Northumberland UK
    I own the Kandid in my avatar photo. Yes it was worth it - represented a big improvement SQ-wise 0n what I had previously and I'd have had to pay considerably more to do better as there was a fair trade in deal.
     
    chacha likes this.
  18. Bachtoven

    Bachtoven Forum Resident

    Location:
    Davis, CA
    My Ortofon Cadenza Bronze ($2309) is the most expensive cartridge that I've owned, and many people would consider it "very expensive." I love its combination of detail retrieval and warmth, along with not emphasizing surface noise like my previous Ortofon 2M Black did.
     
    crispi and David Johnson like this.
  19. JMCIII

    JMCIII Music lover first, audiophile second.

    Define expensive. My Lyra Argo i was an "expensive" purchase for me, even if in the overall scheme of things there are far more costly cartridges out there. But it's my cartridge of choice and it'd be hard for me to lower my sights now that I've elevated them. So yes, I think "expensive" cartridges are worth it - on the right table.
     
    Rolltide likes this.
  20. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    The best cartridge I have ever owned is a Kisiki Purple Heart (the original, not the remake). It was truly something exceptional sonically. I have also owned a Koetsu black, and a Monster Alpha Genesis 1000. These were both great cartriges too, but neither were up to the standard of the Kisiki.

    However, on a good table, the Denon 103 sounds great. Its not as energetic as many MCs, but when loaded properly, on a well-matched arm, and using a good head-amp, these can sound extremely satisfying, and are a killer value. But I can say similar things about the Grado black, which if I had to, I could totally live with the sound of too.
     
  21. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    Definitely not paying for materials or R&D. You are simply paying for a very low production-quantity-company to stay in business. The owner has a right to take home a good salary, pay his employees, and pay his operating overhead. So if he sells only 100 cartridges a year, then those have got to be expensive cartridges.
     
  22. James Glennon

    James Glennon Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dublin, Ireland

    Excuse my ignorance, why so???

    I have been using a Dynavector 17D3 low output moving coil ($1,350) for the past couple of years? Please tell me something I should know!

    Unfortunately, 'expensive' nowadays means I can't afford it!

    JG
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  23. chacha

    chacha Forum Resident

    Location:
    mill valley CA USA
    Nice. Wish I could afford one but can’t right now. When it came time to replace my Akiva I had to step down to the AN. It’s really terrific for the money.
    Do you have the Radikal? Another thing I wish I could afford.
     
  24. Newton John

    Newton John Going for the one

    Location:
    Northumberland UK
    Yes. I added Radikal, Ekos, Keel, Urika one by one after hearing how much difference they made.

    The Kandid was the icing on the cake really - I wouldn't have gone for it without having everything else in place first. With the Kandid it all sounds amazing but I can't get away from the fact it's a hell of a lot of money to have tied up in a turntable. I am seriously thinking about selling the whole lot once I've made needle drops of all my LPs (about 90% done so far).
     
    chacha likes this.
  25. ggergm

    ggergm red right returning

    Location:
    Minnesota
    Not only is "expensive" in the eye of the beholder, it depends on the era.

    In 1985 I spent $650 on a Koetsu Black, which I thought was a king's ransom. While I liked the cartridge's sound, it tracked like a tank and I didn't think it was, overall, any better than the Signet TK-10ML I also owned and which retailed for a measly $400. (As I was in the business, it cost me a whole lot less than that.) In fact, I soon went back to the Signet.

    Last year I stepped up from a worn out Lyra Delos to their Kleos SL, which has a $4,000 retail price. Because of a step-up program Lyra has, the Kleos SL cost me $2,900, trading in my trashed Delos. That's still over $1,000 more than I've ever spent for any cartridge. It's been worth every penny. The Kleos SL is a better match for my Parasound JC3 phono stage, sounds wonderful, tracks like a champ, and is consistent in its sound.

    The moral of this story is the $650 cartridge purchase wasn't worth the money but the $2,900 one was. Go figure.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
    SandAndGlass, ghost rider and DPM like this.

Share This Page