Seeking Legit Cartridge Expert?

Anyone out there have a reputable guy who knows the nuances of carts in the $2000+ range? So many opinions.....

current set up 

VPI Super Prime Scot / 10.5 arm

Hana ML

Harbeth 40.3XD 

What's going to drastically improve my sound / detail....mostly listen to Hard Rock, Zeppelin etc....




Look forward to at least 10 brand/models suggested as being "the best"

Audio Technica ART9@$1500. IMO spending  more should go to a "better" table/arm.

I've had good luck with used for considerably le$$.

ART9 on VPI CLassic. Presently Kiseki Blue.



right thanks 😃 I was considering the ART9XI or ART9XA...not sure which one or if it would be better than the Hana ML , thanks! 

"Better" is infinite in these audiophool threads.

Someone else can chime in on the "better" between the XI/XA.

THE $$ uber exotic  carts use the air core (XA)build. Your Allnic has the gain, so you can use it.

Either, likely will be a good choice among the many.

Your setup has no subs? Another factor in the chase for "the sound"




yes , better was a poor choice of wording ...improvement in detail/clarity?

I've read the XA is more forgiving (make not so great sounding LPs sound better) & the XI is more detailed ...

I do have subs...dual 18’ plenty of coverage... 😃

Yeah Denon DL-103 and have a wood body mounted on it then you'll save a ton of money and enjoy the music.



I’ve run the ML for significant hours, it’s an excellent VERY accurate transducer and an amazing value… It’s polite so perhaps not the last word in dynamics for Zeppelin…. The Art is probably good or even a properly setup Ortofon Black….


As mentioned, a phono stage is missing from your component list. That makes a big difference in detail/resolution.  

Your Harbeth's make everything sound good, so I'd look for a cartridge that was more dynamic with excellent detail.  The Miyajima Shilabe would be a hopping dynamic cartridge that should be great with rock and jazz albums.  It also has a potent bass sound.  Lists about $2750 or so.  Could get it for well under $2000 if you go used or they have a good sale on.  It's the kind of cartridge that keeps your feet moving.  It tracks about 3.2 but supposedly doesn't add more wear to records than ones that track at much less than that.



So far the best cart for VPI me try is dynavector. Try 20x2L or better the XX2

I’ve had the Hana ML in my system and also have the 40.3’s.

What amp are you driving them with?

@OP As you have an ML in your system, you should listen to a Umami Blue - sounds great on everything but it is a big sounding cartridge with great dynamics so very well suited to rock.


Several things you can do to make a significant improvement in your turntables performance. In order foe a great cartridge like the Ortofon Windfeld Ti to sound it's best you have to change that arm. VPI has it's newer Gimbal arm that is a direct replacement and arms like the Kuzma 4 Point 9 and Schroder CB will fit. Then I would add an isolation platform and finally a cartridge. The best cartridge I have ever heard in the $3000 is the Soundsmith Voice which also is high output which has many advantages and it is handily superior to any moving coil cartridge below its price. Nest up would be the Soundsmith Sussurro and Ortofon Windfeld Ti. Above that would be the Soundsmith Hyperion and the Ortofon Verismo. 

If you insist on keeping the arm you want to go for the highest compliance you can find like any of the Van den Huls or an old Shure V15. Unipivot arms do not hold the cartridge securely. Makers of high end unipivots go to great lengths to stabilize the arm. Basis added a 2nd bearing and Graham uses an opposing magnet system. Tonearms can only have two degrees of freedom, vertical and horizontal. Unipivots as you are aware every time you pick up your arm add a third degree, axial or torsional. They do not hold the cartridge body securely. 

I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I went from a Hana ML to a Umami Red and holy cow! I also bought a Soundsmith Paua at the same time and it’s equally impressive. I thought the ML as fantastic until I listened to the Umami, now I’d hate to go back. I paired them with a Parasound JC3+ phonostage. I’m in vinyl heaven. :)  BTW, I am also using Harbeths, though SHL5plus XD.

And this, my friends, is exactly why I recommend getting an arm with a removable headshell, or changable arm wands, OR, even better a TT with two tonearms.

easily listen to friend’s cartridges, buy/keep alternates;

sapphire cantilever ... new, vintage, rebuilds by VAS/others, true mono cartridge ... One of mine is Shure’s last V15Vxmr body with new Jico SAS stylus on Boron. Not as great as the original beryllium cantilever, but darn close.

One, I bought a AT33ptg/II MONO Body with broken cantilever ($33). and had VAS put an advanced stylus shape on boron. It’s terrific, that combo doesn’t exist unless you build it.

Mono Cartridge all setup on the second arm, I play i.e. Oscan Peterson, Stereo/Mono back to Stereo in seconds.

Arm with easy arm height adjustment makes playing a variety of cartridges much easier/quicker. I have personally installed/used Acos Lustre 801; Micro Seiki 505’s; Technics ...500 base

Steve at VAS prefers his VPI with easily changed Uni-Pivot Arms, not his but arm like this




the Luxman with Acos Lustre is a terrific TT, advanced features concealed in it's simplicity. I helped my friend buy/setup the Two Arm Version PD444, with a long and short Micro-seiki 505's. Just to show it



Brian Walsh

He uses Analog Magic. 

I am not sure where you live but he does travel. 


And here I thought the OP wanted to contact a person with expertise on phono cartridges, specifically in the $2K price range. I’d advise reviewing the dozens of threads that speak to the question, and then take the leap based on what opinions seem most cogent. In the end, there is no other expert on your ears and your system but you.

Thanks for the recommendation, hsounds. In addition to Analog Magik I use Feickert Adjust+ Pro which was discontinued a while ago.

And yes, I travel to do setups. Went to Capital Audio Fest in November, driving to the show in Tampa next month, and got back from Atlanta recently. Probably flying to southern California for setup work very soon. It's all good.



I had an Ortofon Quintet Blk and the stylus just unhinged and disappeared! Complete disappointment with 0 help from Ortofon so Im kinda soured with them...thanks though...




Yes they do , Upscale offering me $800 trade on a Unami Red...big gamble , $3150 hoping it makes a dramatic difference is alot... 🤔

I know a great guy who just did same… he is on a very happy day 2 of the Red. I’ve had ample listening time w Red - it’s excellent and very competitive w peers. 

AT ART-9XA is a good upgrade.  Second choice is AT OC9XML is possibly the best buy cartridge that performs WAY above its $600 price tag.  

 AT ART9 has fans nearly 10 years

IMO a cart that will give you a taste of what the super carts do for "cheap" limited to whatever the setup is.

By most accounts, your Hana is competent,  and the ears simply don't agree.

I'd go XA, get it dialed in and ROCK OUT!


As others have mentioned, the Soundsmith Paua Mk II is an excellent cart.  It’s detailed and neutral but not boring or bright at all.  I’ve had mine for about a year and it’s a keeper.  New models are quite expensive but used one can be had for under $2k.

Harbeths are fantastic speakers but if someone who was listening to a lot of hard rock asked for a speaker recommendation I would not suggest Harbeth.  They seem to thrive more in the vocals, jazz, folk realm and can sound a little muddy when too much Whole Lotta Love is thrown at them.  Just my experience for whatever that’s worth. 


"Harbeths are fantastic speakers but if someone who was listening to a lot of hard rock asked for a speaker recommendation I would not suggest Harbeth. "

I get this all the time , I have an unusual set up . I also have (2) Emminence tour grade dual 18's w BSS crossover in the chain, it rocks , trust me ...and the clarity is unreal with he 40.3's ...🥳

@tommypenngotti So glad to hear that!  There's a million ways to skin the cat in this hobby and you figured out your own unique way to get the sound you want.  Kudos!  In the end, your happiness is all that matters anyways.


Wow! someone who gets that and isn't flaming me for not following the herd ...rare! There's hope for mankind...thank you 

If an individual has a taste for a particular type of sound the integration of critical parts in the Upstream end will be critical for maintaining the pleasure side to the sound already attained. 

The Cart' is as Upstream as one can, with Audio Equipment used to replay Vinyl LP's.

A I'll thought out selection will undoubtedly get you listening to music.

A careful selection made from assessing listening will be a much more sure footed approach, but this take footwork.

I bought into the Hana SL and it was not in anyway attractive to my preferences for a produced sound and influence on a production. The Cart' is stored with very short usage and kept as a loaner Cart'.

I still have a interest in Hana and will get some time in front of the 'Blue'.

I suggest to commence hearing Cart's a headphones are used to hear VAS NY Inc needle drops of his work and repairs. 

The needle drops will enable you to assess the Cart's Tonal Range, I. E, whether is is Bloomy, Rich or Lean. 

Brands have similar traits in a Cart's voicing, learning about these can be quite valuable.

I can't recommend buying on hear say. 

Why would you want an MC to play Zepplin? Let me suggest the Musc Hall "Stealth" with a nice, rorty Ortofon 2M Blue pre-mounted for $1,650. While I don't listen much to Zepplin or other hard rock, when I do, the Stealth/Blue combo makes the music come alive. Spend the money you save on other vinyl.

"I keep hearing mixed opinions about the ART9XA vs the ART9XI ."

No real "bad choice."

If you listen carefully, you might hear the differences.

Audio-Technica AT-ART9 vs AT-ART9XA vs AT-ART9XI Moving Coil Cartridge (

Too bad this wasn't done with a nice setup.




thanks...I've seen that hard to get a perspective from a Youtube vid on hifi...

might just grab a ART9 , they seem to have many folks enthused...but now Im contemplating replacing my tonearm, here we go , Hifi rabbit hole approaching again..

"contemplating replacing my tonearm, here we go , Hifi rabbit hole approaching again.."

Are you thinking of the drop in VPI gimbal or a REAL nice arm? You can at least transfer a pricey arm to the future REAL nice $ table. You'll probably have to make your own arm board(shouldn't be difficult)?

I'm actually contemplating the same thing. I like my Classic because it looks like an old traditional table.

Whatever ART9 you decide on, good chance your ears will agree with the many fans it has.

Dynavector is known for their “energetic” presentation which may suit the OP’s sonic preferences. 

The Hana’s are a little fickle setup wise. Once dialed they are excellent carts. I have a Red. Great cart. Try the Umami Blue if you like the general vibe of the ML. Not sure a 3k cart on a 3/4k TT is going to get you your value for the money. Your Allnic is an excellent stage, have you played with the loading and gain settings much? They make a pretty significant difference with the Allnic. 

I have a Prime/Modwright PH9.0XT and been also thinking of my next upgrade.

Looking at:

Sumiko Starling

Used Benz Micro

Van den Hul MC1

Dynavector Karat/XX

Ortofon Cadenza blue

ART 9 or VPI Shyla

VPI also has some carts on special right now like a refurbished Shyla and some VAS stuff.

Currently using a retipped Transfiguration Spirit III, a Dynavector Karat 23, Sumiko Talisman A and an Ortofon MC30 Super.

I’d like to narrow my playing down to one cart!

Also not opposed to finding a used cart and retipping.

Good luck!

@theflattire Having a used Cart' overhauled can prove to be a very cost effective method into getting a Cart' in use that is beyond ones usual budget allowance.

I myself have quite a few hours under my belt discussing this method with Third Party Services that do this work.

It is worth noting that many Cart's deteriorate fast in a typical environment to a condition that will be very detrimental to how the Cart's was designed to perform. This can mean a retip, is only one of the tasks needing to be undertaken by a Third Party Rebuild Service.

As a suggestion, I would take on a similar preparation as to the one I last used for a rebuild. I selected a rebuild service that was very familiar with the Brand and Models from the Brand of the Cart' I was showing an interest in. Using this method of approach, I was informed of rebuild options on a extended range of Cart's that could be worked on to offer a very similar voicing to the Cart' I was interested in.

In my case I was assured by the Rebuild Service that a method they use for a particular Cart' has proven to be even more impressive than that of the manufacturers version.

I selected replacement Damping very closely comparative to the material used on the Brands TOTR Cart's from the time of the rebuild. I also chose a Styli>Cantilever assembly not used by the Brand but the rebuild technicians recommendation.

This Cart's has been in comparisons to Cart's from the Brand up to $5K retail on the same TT > TA and system, as well as much more expensive Cart's at another venue where comparisons are allowed on the same TT>TA and System, if Cart's are brought along pre-mounted on an SME Detachable Headshell. 

The Cart' in total cost less than a £1000 inclusive of Donor purchase, the Cart' is hard to criticise if a leaner presentation is ones flavour, even when in use along side Cart's being demo'd that are much much more expensive as a retail purchase.

I today have two more donor models with designs for them already discussed and agreed to be carried out. One such design is to bypass the Cart's Tag Wire Pins, using a connection using much more attractive wire to my preferences, being PC Triple C/EX. Acoustic Revive are charging a $1000 for Tag Wires produced from the same material. SAEC and are the only Commercial Company I known offerr offering PC Triple C/EX Interconnects @ $1500 for 0.5mtr and are also using TA Wand Wire that is PC Triple C, which is the Wand Wire to be used on my own TA.

Being brave with the designs for a Cart' can become infectious, where there is little resistance showed to the idea of design changes spreading through to the designs to be put in place for the Cart's signal path 😉        .

Miyajima Kansui or Fuuga 

there are a lot of options depending on your taste but at least look for high output that will help 

“Legit” is just a social media trope. Anyways… don’t rule out the widely acclaimed AT VM540ML. That’s what I use to listen to Zeppelin and a lot of other guitar-centric classic rock. As a bonus, its micro line stylus life is twice that of most other premium stylus profiles including Shibata.