Appropriate cartridge for Micro Seiki MA-505 tonearm

I recently acquired a nice, semi-vintage Micro Seiko BL-101 TT with the Micro Seiki MA-505 tonearm. I currently have a rather inexpensive Denon DL-103 cart on it, albeit modified by VAS (Steve Leung). It sounds pretty good as is, but I would like to explore better cartridges.

Before I run out and purchase one, I want to understand where the MA-505 stands in the pecking order. Would you consider it a mid-fi tonearm or is it worthy of more expensive cartridges? What price range would you consider to be appropriate for the tonearm? In other words, at what price point does the tonearm stop scaling with better cartridges?

In terms of what I’m looking for -- better resolution/detail retrieval but without sacrificing the palpability and slightly warm character of my current cartridge. I also wouldn’t mind more defined bass. Having said that, I’m fairly new to the analog side of the world, so please feel free to share your experiences and what other traits I should be looking for. Thanks in advance.



The MA-505 is a wonderful tonearm utilizing dynamic suspension. Assuming that the suspension is in good condition your tonearm will work well with a wide variety of cartridges, including the DL-103. One word of advice: more expensive doesn't necessarily mean better. Just different. The phono cartridge needs to be compatible with the ability of your entire system to reproduce sound. For example, many cartridges are amazingly detailed. Can your other components do an expensive, detailed cartridge justice? Maybe yes.

Really, it's about what you like in a cartridge. The DL-103 is a high output MC cartridge that will work well with most standard 47 ohm (MM) phono stages. You know what it sounds like so I don't need to describe it to you. IMO the MA-101 tonearm works best with a midweight, middle compliance cartridge. If you want more warmth and detail in an MC cartridge I might recommend the Ortofon 2M Bronze. The Grado Platinum or Statement series would also work well. If you wanted to try an MC cartridge I would suggest any of the Hana cartridges.

One last thing: the BL-101 turntable was considered a good turntable in it's day (1980s) but it's a little noisy and quite resonant by today's standards. I'm not saying you don't/won't like it. But you can only wring so much sound out of that deck. Trust me. If you want to try an expensive cartridge I would suggest mounting that tonearm on a better deck. If you want to stay vintage you might look for either a Luxman PD-441 or PD-131. Most modern decks will require drilling or retrofitting to take the 27mm mounting hole required for the MA-505. It's a bit of a PITA but it's worth it, if your tonearm is in excellent condition.

@br3098 -- please accept my apology for not responding sooner. I used to get email notifications when someone responded to my thread. Apparently, those were ending up in my spam folder.

I appreciate your feedback on the MA-505 tonearm and glad to know it is capable of scaling to better cartridges. So before I purchased the BL-101, I actually auditioned a number of TTs including a Luxman PD-171 (Jelco arm), Technics SL1200 (forgot the exact number), and a few more. I just loved the sound of BL-101 (for the price I paid), and decided to roll the dice. I have not noticed any resonance or noise thus far, but perhaps that's because I have placed it on Live Vibe Audio rack with Audio Point footers. My friend who came to help me with the setup was shocked how big of a difference the Audio Point footers made. I consider the Live Vibe racks and their footers one of my best investments. It is phenomenal but I digress ...

Based on your feedback and a few friends whose opinion I value, I am leaning heavily towards the Hana ML cart. I think that's the right level of cart for my setup. Anything more expensive might be overkill, IMO. Or do you think I should be aiming higher?

Having said that, the VAS-modified Denon DL-103 (Steve calls it Ebony 103) is no slouch either. It sounds very very good for the price -- excellent PrAT, good bass, and seems to present music in a very lively manner. But I think at times it can get a bit too energetic if you know what I mean. Ideally, I would want to keep all the characteristics of the Ebony but add more refinement and the ability to be more nuanced.


Arafiq, the Hana sounds like a great choice to me. I'm reluctant to specifically recommend one cartridge over another because it's complex. How can I know what you will like? Your ears, your gear and your budget should guide you. And there's no such thing as a perfect phono cartridge.

But in the unlikely case that you purchase the Hana ML and don't like it for whatever reason, you can sell it and recoup most of your investment to put towards another cartridge.