Advice needed on MC cartridges

I’ve an Ortofon Black 2M cartridge on my VPI Classic 2 turntable, It’s a moving magnet type cartridge with a Shibata stylus and cost about $700 when purchased. I could easily be wrong, but am under the impression that the Ortofon 2M Black is about as good as it gets with MM cartridges and if I wished to upgrade I’d need to be thinking about moving into a MC, moving coil, type.

So I’ve been trying to learn something about moving coil cartridges and what differences or improvements in sound quality might be obtained by using one. My integrated amp, a Luxman 507uX Mk2, has a built in phono stage and can play either type,

Generally speaking, how much more would need to be spent on a MC cartridge before a noticeable, or significant improvement, might be heard in sound quality over the Ortofon 2M’s performance? What improvements in performance might you obtain using one a better quality MC over the Ortofon 2M Black? And third, what MC cartridges might you recommend that would fit in performance and budget wise with a system composed of the above equipment plus Magico A3 speakers. My other equipment is a Marantz Ruby CD/SACD player and a Shunyata Denali Hydra power conditioner.

I’ve never heard a MC cartridge in use so would be interested in following your advice and recommendations to see if I can find a dealer or someone that might be able to demo one so I can hear what the differences might be in performance. Thank you for any responses or suggestions



Hana SL  mc cartridge for $750 is an easy recommendation. It is low-output with a Shibata stylus. It will work well with the Luxman mc input. Lower noise floor and more detail retrieval.

Have you thought of moving iron cartridges, Soundsmith has some great sounding MI. They also have lots of material on their web about the difference in cartridge  types. I see went from to a mc to a mi and am very be happy with my the results.


The AT VM750SH has much better separation than the Ort Black

There is that.

The AT MM & Ortofon HOMC I own I prefer to my Hana MC.

That’s all I got.

Jasonbourne52, I'll look up the HanaSL mc cartridge you recommended. Thanks

Johnto, I'm unfamiliar with MI cartridge so will go to the Soundsmith site to get educated about them.

Fuzztone, I'll look up the two cartridges you recommend as well. Thank you too.



I like the ofton black...its a great cart...enjoy it and stop chasing the Other side of the Rainbow....its still Earth. IF But that's your choice my man....

Mike, there is no magic hear. Before going to a moving coil system there are several high output cartridges that offer a significant improvement over the 2M Black. The moving coil market is valued differently than the high output cartridge segment. A moving coil cartridge of the same performance and quality of manufacture as a specific high output cartridge will cost 2 to 3 times as much and then you have the expense of a low level phono stage on top of that. As am example the Soundsmith Voice costs $3000. You will have to spend at least $5000 on a moving coil cartridge to equal it and you have not included the phono stage yet. It is also far easier and cheaper to build a SOTA high level phone stage than low level phono stage. IMHO, people who buy inexpensive moving coil cartridges and low level phono stages are doing themselves a large disservice when we have cartridges The Voice available. The Goldring 1042 is a stunning $600 cartridge. The LVB 250 2M Black is no slouch likewise the AT VM760SLC and the Clearaudio  Charisma and Maestro V2. The first MC cartridge that will better any of these that I have personally heard is the Ortofon Windfeld Ti. This cartridge with a suitable phono stage will cost you at least $8000, a jump which is really not cost effective for most people.

owned the 2m black for years. 

a dynavector dv20 x2l sounded much better, smoother and more dynamic. 

an audiotechnica ART9 ( new model ART9XI) destroyed the 2M black. so much cleaner, colorful, dynamic and a huge sound stage.  

Dear @skyscraper  : So, your MM cartridge world ended with the Ortofon Black?

In reality that world only started with your Ortofon and you have a great " land " to discovery down there.


Please do it a favor and try any of the very good options that a high knowledge level audiophile as @mijostyn already did it, including the new Ortofon top fligth Black: LVB 250.


Btw,  ""  so will go to the Soundsmith site to get educated about them..."""

Be carefully about, your unit can't handle the impedance need it for SS cartridges.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


I also have alot of love for my Audiotechnica ART9.  I went from an aging Shelter to the Art and the Art is better at pretty much everything on my Sota.

Be carefully about, your unit can't handle the impedance need it for SS cartridges.

Thats not true.

Soundsmith high and medium output cartridges are designed for standard 47k load.

The low output require 470ohms.

here is the info you need -


If Mijostyn is correct, having to buy an exceedingly expensive $8000 MC cartridge to hear imrpovement over the current MM cartridge, is certainly not a cost effective alternative in keeping with the cost of the other components. Maybe I should stay put with the Ortofon 2M black and hope Santa leaves a Ortofon Windfeld Ti under the tree this Christmas.


System 2. This weekend, I got my Decca Gold back with a new line contact stylus. I first played a few tracks with the stand in replacement, a VM750SH which I am fond of. I expected it to beat the older Decca. Well, the Decca blew it away. Whole different level.

Spending thousands for a cartridge is insane! They all wear out and need replacement! The most I would spend would be about $1300 for the Hana ML with the micro ridge stylus. But I still think that the SL at $750 is just about as good for a considerable cost savings. I have been using moving coils since 1977. IMO there is no contest compared to any mm or mi (Grado/Sound Smith) type - even the vaunted Shure V15mk5 with the micro ridge stylus. I have a NOS one I am saving for posterity! The big advantage a good mc type has is low inductance coils. Superior (faster) transient response compared to mm types with their inductance measured in the hundreds of millihenries. Low inductance mc types are also immune to cable capacitance loading.

There are several Fidelity Research FR-1mk3 mc cartridges available on EBay for around $400 from Japanese sellers. I have owned the FR's and like them very much! Any cartridge, tone arm and SUT from the late Ikeda-san is a worthwhile acquisition!

I moved to high quality cartridges about 30 years ago… a Van den Hull Frog (MC)… about $3,500 on my VPI Aries. It completely took my system to a whole new level. I think I put a couple thousand hours on it and 20 years of use with no maintenance. I now have a Koetsu Rosewood Signature ~$5,400. There is no comparison with reputable high end cartridges with budget oriented stuff.

I went from an Ortofon 2M Black to the Hana SH (high output) MC.  As much as I enjoyed the detail of the 2M Black, I found it unforgiving and revealing of every flaw on a record.  The Hana is more detailed and surprisingly more forgiving.  I can't say how pleased I am with the Hana and I was able to plug into my IA's MM port without the need for a phono pre-amp.

Hana SH

Presuming the Luxman 507 has the same phono input (or better) than the 550axII then a MC low will be fine - I am using Rega Apheta 2 on my deck which is 0.35 and the MC input works well  - The Hana SL or DV MC looked great but meant I would need to use shims on my deck so I stuck with Rega

@dover , @rauliruegas  is warning skyscraper to get the right output version for his phonostage, high or low. The cartridges have different internal impedances. People do make that mistake buying a low output cartridge for a moving magnet phono stage and wonder why they can't get any volume. 

Moving coil cartridges tend to be brighter which many people like but many recording engineers will tell you moving magnet/Iron cartridges sound more like their master tapes. Like always, a generalization is likely to fail somewhere. It all depends on what you like to hear. It is why Howard Johnson's made 28 flavors.

Switched from 2M Black to Hana ML which I think is much more relaxed, still detailed and melodic but not as aggressive as Ortofon. Overall much better experience for me. There were few recordings i.e.. Tina Turner's What's love got to do with it, that some notes from Ortofon were simply cringing to my ears.

Anyone who tells you that MC cartridges are categorically better than MM and MI cartridges is at least lacking in experience with a variety of cartridges. That’s the nicest way I can put it. Since I cannot agree to the inherent superiority of MC vs the two other major types, I also cannot agree that we know the mechanism; low inductance is nice in theory, but it is clearly not the sole determinant of best sound quality, for the very reason that there are so many superb sounding MM and MI types that have much higher inductance. Compliance, moving mass, cantilever material, stylus shape, resonance control, and black magic all seem to be important. There are 100s of very good sounding cartridges from which you can choose, and 1000s of opinions about them, but don’t assume that the 2M Black is the best you can do in an MM cartridge, and certainly do not discount the excellence of MI type cartridges, like those currently made by SoundSmith. Among MCs, the "low output" type in general sounds better to me in my system than did any of the high output versions I have ever heard at home (Benz Glider X2, Transfiguration Esprit, any Sumiko). Among reasonably priced LOMC cartridges that you can buy new, I really like my Audio Technica ART7, which is now sold as the low output version of the ART9X series. For about $1K, you cannot go wrong with that choice. The Dynavector 17D3 is excellent, so the latest version 17DX is probably good too. As a neophyte, you probably should not buy a vintage cartridge, so I will refrain from listing the many that I own and love, and for goodness sakes don’t buy a vintage FR cartridge, no matter how good, just because there are pros and cons regarding that vintage. Audio Technica, Ortofon, Dynavector, Hana, Grado, SoundSmith and a few others are quality companies currently making excellent cartridges that you would fall in love with. I can’t honestly name any current production MM types that are sure to out-do your 2M Black, because I don’t own any; mine are all vintage. However, if Ortofon make an MM rated above the 2M Black, it is probably superior. Raul named some Clearaudio MMs he likes, too. AT make superb MM cartridges, too. AT makes at least one of the cartridges marketed by Clearaudio, for Clearaudio. In the end, you have to make the buying decision. Consider it a step in your own evolution as an audiophile. Over time and with more experience you will begin to know what you like without input from others.

Another vote for HANA, using the microline LOMC cartridge and love the detail and warmth it has provided. 

@mijostyn  : rigth, a warning on LO MI and the warning    comes because the op is thinking in MC cartridges and the SS advise came from a MC cartridge owner that changed to MI. Of course HO SS can works through the MM stage.

Prolem with dover is that has a way different commonsense than you and me or it like to " hit " me every time he " can ".

Thank's for your post.


@lewm nails it with a slight type is superior without careful consideration of the ecosystem it lives in…. arm, table, isolation, wiring and phono preamp / sut with appropriate and variable loading.

I suspect Mijo has never heard a properly setup Lyra Delos, but that is another matter…

Actually, we live in a world of fantastic cartridge values…. for under $3k, you have enormous choice of great sounding and technically excellent cartridges… As others have already named….

Enjoy your search and the music


I have the Luxman L-509x, Technics SL1200mk2 (tonearm rewire, damper) and I have the Marantz SA-KI Pearl player.

I went from the Hana SH on the MM input to the Audio Technica AT33SA (LOMC) and am really enjoying the sound.

While the Hana was a vg cartridge, I think the AT sounds more natural/relaxed.  That could be HOMC vs LOMC, but the sonic differences are there.

The AT33SA has an internal impedance of 10ohms and so matches quite nicely with the L-509x MC input impedance of 100ohms for loading.

Just tossing out my story.

Thank you all for your input. I’m learning a lot from you all. I’ll try to respond to each of your posts one at a time below.

Noromance- glad you had good luck with your Decca stylus replacement

Jasonbourne- thanks for the explanation on the the MC’s low inductance coil, faster transient response, and their lower cable capacitance loading. I’ll be looking int the Hana’s as several here have recommended them.

Ghdprentice- you mentioned your $3500 Ven den Hull Frog MC cartridge took your system to a whole new level. Could you explain what improvement you have been hearing and what cartridge and type you’d been using previously?

Socalm- thank you for your useful comparison of the performance of your Hana ML to the Ortofon Black 2M and the link. I really trying to get an understanding of how a MC might sound different form a MM so that comparison was spot on.

Richdirector, yes the Luxman. 507uX Mk2 does have a built in phono stage you can set for either MM or MC. Don’t know what setting a MI might use but I’ll figure that out as I keep learning from all.of you.

Mjjostyn and Dover, as a former Howard Johnson employer at age 16, I can attest to what mijostyns is saying. Interesting that you mention MC’s being brighter, generally speaking. I’ll have to listen for that if I’m able to get any demos. Thanks

Knock1, thank you for the comparison of the Ortofon 2M to your Hana ML. A lot of folks here seem to like the Hana’s.

LewM- Thank you for you long and thoughtful post. You provided a lot of pertinant information to consider. I’ve already read your post twice. Thank you. The low output type MC’s seem to get better reviews so far here. so i’ll keep that in mind. As you advise I won’t be buying vintage or used. If you don’t mind my asking How do you think a Audio Technica ART7 might sound differently than my Ortofon 2M?

Tim_p- i’ll definitely be looking into the HANA line.

Jim (tomic60)- Thanks, I am trying to dope out how much more more i’d have to spend to get a significantly better/different cartridge performance from my Ortofon Black 2M considering the components and setting of my current system. You mentioned an upper end $3000 figure for a good cartridge. For my current system with a VPI Classic 2 turntable do you think a cartridge costing that much might be overkill for my system? Or should I really be thinking of cartridges of that cost as suitable for my system .without any other system upgrades?

I’ll look up Lyra Delos cartridges too since you mention them.

Erikt, Thank you for mentioning the AT33SA and how well it matches it matches with the MC impedence of your Luxman-509x. That's definitely pertinent to my system and I’ll be sure to look up the AT33SA in short orfder. Thank you much.

Hope I didn’t miss anybody and thanks again all. You’ve given me a lot to think about and research.


I, too, had a Hana SL moving-coil cartridge mounted on a JMW 10" Memorial Tonearm on a VPI TNT 3.5 turntable.  It was superb but one channel failed open after a bit more than one year.  Before that a Clearaudio Stradivari v2 lasted six years in the same tonearm/turntable and was still OK when I traded it.  Despite the Hana SL problem, I replaced it with the somewhat more expensive Hana ML cartridge, which is still going strong after three years.

The sound of the SL and ML was excellent.  In fact, the Sound of both was, to my ears, noticeably better than the $3,750 Clearaudio Strdivari, v2.

Op. On my Frog. Previous cartridges… it has been a while, early on I had a Shure V15, Audio Techniques (?) a couple in the $500 - $750 price range.

The difference… like night and day. Surface noice vanished… wasn’t just a little reduced, vanished. Most ticks and pops vanished… or were so reduced they became negligible ( I attribute this to the stylist going much deeper into the grooves). The soundstage widened and depth increased. Amount of detail increased… the bass went up radically. I had my old ~ $750cartridge on my new VPI TT for about a week. I remember particularly the bass improved with the new table… but much of the substantive improvement came from the cartridge.

Normanthagard, thank you for the recommendation on the Hanas cartridges.

Ghdprentice, Thank you for describing in what ways the Van den Hull Frog (MC) improved your system’s sound quality. Interesting how your record surface noise was so reduced. That’s always been an issue for me. Years ago I tried solutions like Carvers Phase Linear Autocorrelator and Burwens Transient Noise Eliminator, but never considered a better designed needle and cartridge could help in that regard..



👍 A really high end cartridge is a thing of beauty. It was truly a jaw dropping moment of how good a turntable could be. I just thought surface noise and pops were something you had to endure… then they just disappeared.


I now have a high-end Linn with a much better cartridge (better… but the biggest gain was getting out of the sub $1k range to the Frog). Just for fun I recently played some albums really loud… I just couldn’t believe how quiet the background was.


In choosing a cartridge the thing to do is to choose one who’s description matches your desires. If you want etched detail at any cost you will pay the price in scooping up unnecessary noise. The Frog is a beautiful, detailed and natural sounding cartridge… I enjoyed it very much.

Skyscraper: I had a similar experience with the High Output Moving Coil Sumiko ‘Songbird’ cartridge, moving from what appears to have been a worn-out Stanton 500-II moving magnet cartridge. I also changed phono stages at the same time, but I’m pretty sure the improvement came from the cartridge. With a decent LO, neither 44year old son or myself could tell the difference between Peggy Lee on a CD and Peggy Lee at Basin Street East on an LP. For lack of experience, I couldn’t tell you how a Song Bird compares to an Ortophon Black (which I had [and still am] considering for my second system), but I can testify that a cartridge ‘upgrade’ is certainly worth the money. I have heard A-B comparisons between Moving Coil and Moving Magnet on YouTube; the MC was certainly brighter and ‘faster,’ but the MM was more mellow. If you have two tone arms, two turntables, or replaceable head shells, you could have the best of both worlds. Good luck on your journey toward High Fidelity nirvana— the perfect system! (I speak tongue-in-cheek) 🙂


I too have recently got hold of a Hana ML low output  moving coil cart. mounted on a Sota Sapphire tt. The Hana simply out performed every other cart. I ever had. One sweet sounding cart. to be sure.

Dear @skyscraper  : "" on a MC cartridge before a noticeable, or significant improvement, might be heard in sound quality over the Ortofon 2M’s performance? ""

If you really want to make a true " differences " for the better you need to invest money through that LOMC you are looking for. Not for an entry level in that MC world.

"" $3000 figure for a good cartridge. For my current system with a VPI Classic 2 turntable do you think a cartridge costing that much might be overkill for my system? ""


No, it's not and around that money figure you can really say: I'm in a different " league " and you have really good options around that budget:


Your Luxman has very good design and canhandle that level of quality performance with no problem. Obviously that in any room/system always exist weak links in the system audio chain and yours is no exception.

Example; is it your TT/tonearm the optimum for any of those cartridges?. No, it's not but can works and latter on you can make the up-grades need it.


What's clear is that with your today system you will know for sure the high quality differences for the better.



Ghdprentice, thanks again for the clarifications and advice.. I’d really like to hear your ’’Frog" cartridge.

Oldrooney, thank you for the differences you describe in listening to either type of cartridge.

Mr_m;, appreciate your +1 on the Hana ML cartridge. Seems to be lots of fans of that MC cartridge, and good reviews from what I’ve read so far. I’ve still to read up on every cartridge someone’s mentioned here so far, but hopefully will get on that today.

Raul, I very much appreciate you taking the time to answer my exact questions. That’s been helpful in determining how much I should be budgeting for an upgrade and what would be appropriate for the system components I do have.

Just out of curiosity what are examples of turntable(s)/tonearm(s) you might feel would be optimal for one of the more expensive cartridges. It’s possible with a little saving I might acquire one of those MC’s in the $3000 range that you indicate  could "put me in a different league". I’m not planning on upgrading my VPI Classic 2 any time soon, or ever, unless I win the lottery, but a person can dream. Again thank you vey much for your helpful input and links.



Dear @skyscraper  : Options on TT/tonearms are almost endless and every one has his own preferences in TT and preferences on tonearms.


With those kind of LOMC cartridges what you will need is to change the unipivot tonearm design by a VPI 3-D bi-pivot one.



Raul, why would the Unipivot tonearm need to be changed out? That's no small matter to have to consider doing.


@skyscraper  : because unipivot designs are totally unstable and unaccurated to handle the cartridge tracking needs to the cartridge can pick up the recorded information in the LP grooves and avoid developed added distortions for that tonearm unstabilities. probably unipivots is the worst kind of tonearm design not even for entry level cartridges.

VPI has gimball tonearm designs.



Mike - First a compliment- excellent that you take time and care to acknowledge inputs by moniker / name. A wise practice….. i must adopt….

In general…i find unipivot arms vexatious… a very good friend says this about them : “ they are in a perpetual state of unsetting themselve up “.. I have heard a shockingly good VPI unipivot w Delos in a $100 k system…. so vexing….

So..eventually you could switch to VPI gimbal arm…

Hopefully your local VPI dealer can assist w cartridge selection…. You certainly have many viable choices….

@skyscraper , I am pretty sure the VPI gimbal arm is a direct swap for the unipivot one. They use the same or close to the same base. If you are stuck with the unipivot for now you need to find the highest compliance cartridge you can get to work in that arm. Most of the high output cartridges have a higher compliance. For MC cartridges the VDH Frog Gold and MC-One have the highest compliance I know of. For less money the Ortofon LVB 250 2M Black is a good option. Even less the Grado 1042 .

Raul's assessment of unipivot arms is not overly harsh. They are unstable which you notice every time you lift the arm. It is much harder and more expensive to design and build an arm with multiple bearings. The party line is that they have lower friction. First of all friction only matters in the vertical direction. The friction of a jeweled needle bearing is essentially zero. Zero + Zero = Zero. Smoothness is far more important than friction. Any noise in the bearing will be transmitted to the cartridge. If a horizontal bearing has more friction you just lower the anti skating.

A gimbal arm has two bearings defining the vertical direction and two the horizontal direction. A gimbal arm can not rotate along it's axis. The rotational effective mass of a tonearm is very low. It takes very little to twist the arm. Your arm tries to deal with this problem with those out rigger weights in back. They increase the arm's rotational effective mass to keep forces applied by the groove on the stylus from rotating to arm. In the process they increase the arm's moment of inertia which is a bad thing to do to a device that has to accurately follow the undulations of your typical record. This is trying to fix a problem with another problem. The makers of the Two best unipivot arms in the market, the Basis Superarm and the Graham Phantom Elite go to great lengths to stabilize their arms. The Basis adds a second bearing and the Graham a system of opposing magnets. They are an improvement but I personally will not buy either arm. Arms that I would buy include the Schroder CB which I own, The Schroder LT, The Reed 2G, the Tri Planar and the SME V, all in their 9" versions I might add. Increasing the length of an arm for a few degrees in tracking error is worse than counter productive. 

Secretguy, thjanks for the recommendation of the Denon. I’ll add it to the list of cartridges to research.

Jim, Thanks, Do you think it would be detrimental to the physical structure of an MC cartridge, perhaps the needle or cantilever, to have it on a unipivot arm or is it just that it would perform better on a different type arm.

Mjostyn, pardon my ignorance, but what is meant by the "compliance" of a cartridge?  I was starting get the impression to LOMC’s performed better than HOMC's, but since you mention having a compliance factor to consider with a unipivot arm, may send me back to the drawing board.

Thank you for your explanation of what constitutes a gimbal arm and how they work. I’ll look up the arms you mention, along with the nineteen cartridges suggested by everyone so far. Hope i don’t get an additional case of sticker shock. Acclimating to the thought of a possible $3000 MC cartridge purchase is unsettling enough for one day, and I’ve yet to research the MI type cartridges.

Thank you for the education and taking the time to post all the above information . I’ve been learning a lot so far from you and everyone else.


The arm you have is not going to hurt a better cartridge. AJ Conti the genius behind the Basis Vector arms ( sadly RIP ) IMO probably wrung the best sonics out of a Unipivot. Look, Mijo absolutism aside, many, many audiophiles w unipivots and high end cartridges are quite happy with the musical enjoyment they provide….

But let’s get real, most of the arms Mijo mentions are > $6 K and up….

I did look up the Schroder CB mijostyn owns and it was in that price range you mention. He’s fortunate to have one. Thanks for the reassurance a good quality MC cartridge can work on a unipivot arm. I can save up to upgrade to a pricey cartridge in a reasonable amount of time, but although I'd like to, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be swimming in the deep end of the audiophile pool.


I've listened to the Hana quite a bit in a friend's system and that is a good suggestion.

I recently picked up a third turntable and part of the package was a MC pickup - a Goldring Eroica LX (low output) that I had planned to swap out for something else - until I listened to it a bit. Very nice and worth considering - in the sub $1,000 bracket.

I have the van den Hul MC One Special which I put in quite a while ago replacing a $500 japanese MM cartridge. Huge improvement in detail and depth of sound but when I put in a phono stage instead of using the MM/MC adjustable phono stage in my preamp, the quality improved substantially.

I wonder what the difference is between the VDH Frog and the MC One Special other than the price being double - the pictures look very similar except the Frog is green. The stylus of van den Hul's last very long due to their design, and I was thinking of a Frog the next time my stylus goes. There isn't much detail about the differences on van den Hul's web site.

Jmarin, appresiate your recommendation.

Wspohn, the Hana cartridges seem to be getting a lot of good reviews here. Thanks for yours.

Sokogear, I’m wondering too how much difference there would be between two high quality cartridges with that much difference in price. I’ll really need to find a dealer somewhere that has both types, so I can hear what the differences may be.

I am willing to spend the money to get a significant improvement in sound. But I’m not guessing there would be that much improvement over the $700 Ortofon Black 2M MM cartridge I already have and MC ones, perhaps the Hana ML for example, which is a fine MC from what people here are saying, but costing only only a few hundred more. Especially if MC cartridges are already generically more expensive. I’m speculating there may be some differences in sound quality one might prefer, but that might not translate to the amount of improvement maybe a Frog or equivalent model could deliver.