$300-$500 Cartridge for Thorens TD-1601 Turntable

Hello.  I am considering the purchase a Thorens TD-1601 TT.  My dream table, so please don't try to talk me out of it.  Trying to decide a good cartridge to go with it.  I am a higher-end, Mid-Fi kind of guy, pretty darn good is good enough.  I value ease and reliability over esoteric.  The TT will be a splurge.   Relevant Info:

  • Budget $300-$500
  • Moving Magnet (simplicity, more connectivity options)
  • Natural/organic sound.  No fatigue or harshness!
  • Robust and durable. No breaky.
  • Connect either to Parasound Z-Phone Pre and/or Vintage Sansui AU-5900 integrated (newly refurbished)
  • Current speakers: Paradigm SE-1 or Classic Dynaco A-25 (Speakers will be upgraded one day).
  • I play a good bit of used vinyl, though I clean them with a VPI vacuum machine, and discard the scratchy ones.
  • I like the idea of being able to replace/upgrade the stylus over time.
  • Buying the TT now because my old Dual CS-5000 needs service and I'm ready to move on.
  • Small wood-paneled room.  There will be no room treatments.

Looking for a good match, organic sound, durability and ease.  Cartridges under consideration are, inno preference order are (sample prices for reference):

  • Nagaoka:  MP-150 ($300), MP-200 ($425)
  • Grado: Opus 3 ($275), Platinum 3 ($400)
  • AT: VM95SH ($200 low cost Shibata), VM750SH ($450)
  • Ortofon: 2M Bronze ($500), 2M Black ($545 from Germany)
  • Sumiko: Wellfleet ($450), Amethyst ($600)

Thanks in advance for your input.  



Another cartridge that I absolutely love is the Goldring E3.  You might find it's all you want and/or need.  A savvy shopper can find one for around $115.00.  Sleeper cart of the decade, IMHO.

Try one...

Love the Nagaoka 200—would look no further. Absolutely superb cartridge. Funny, if I ever buy a new table …will look very seriously at the 1601. Let me know how it works out if you go that way.


I would personally avoid the Ortofon Bronze, FWIW.

Great counsel, much appreciated.

Bonus question, With no regard to brand, etc., what shape stylus would produce the least background noise on older less-than-perfect records?