another arm/cart question (long post)

Hello all. I've gotten some good advice here for 2 of my tables and would like to hear from the experts again. I've just built a Thorens TD124. Its got a rebuilt motor, main platter bearing upgrade with sapphire bearing and Torlon thrust pad. MK2 motor spring upgrade kit, Audiosilente idler wheel, new mushrooms and grommets, and an Ortofon plinth. New armboard on silicone O-rings, and a fully rebuilt, rewired SME 3009 series 2, unimproved, with an effective mass of 12.5g. The arm has the FD200 fluid damper kit, but its not currently attached. For an initial setup, I put an old Ortofon 540mkii on it and it sounds very good. In fact its close to my Sumiko blackbird low, and AT-OC9XML on my other admittedly lower quality tables/arms. Phono stage is the built in one on a Mcintosh C47, which is quite adjustable for MM or MC. It runs through 2A3 tubes into Altec A5s with modded Hiraga crossovers. Being impressed so far with the 124, I wonder how much better it can sound with a cartridge upgrade. I love my Blackbird and thought about a Starling, but am open to advice. My budget is only 2K for the cart and Ill need to purchase another headshell and wires, so maby $1800ish for the cart. I've studied the resonance charts and know that only gets you about halfway there. I don't have test equipment, only my ears. The chart shows a good match with the starling but Id love some advice. The last 2 times i sought advice here, I followed it with amazing results so thank you all for that !  Also I've raised the arm, and added a 3mm mat to increase the distance from the magnetic platter to the cart for when I upgrade it to MC.  I'd like to know if I will have a good combination with the Sumiko Starling, and if not, which cartridge would you choose ? Fire away !


I forgot to add that the arm has brand new, polished bronze knife edge bearings. I’ve read that these bearings can introduce chatter with certain cartridges, and that is why I opted for the fluid dampening kit if that helps

I've use the BB and AT OC9.

I found the AT ART9 to be a more pleasant ride. "Affordable" entry to high performance MC's.

ART Series - Line Series - Cartridges | Audio-Technica

Yes the OC9 really improved my Dual 1229. I have been curious about the art series and wondered how much better they were than OC9. 

Search the archives, and you'll find ART9 admiration from owners of mid fi to substantial setups declaring it fit to play with the big guns-provided you the have proper supporting gear, which it appears you do. Naturally, phono stage is paramount.

The ART9 to my ears in my setup, made the Blackbird sound a bit hot on the top.

Compared to the OC9, everything is simply presented on a more convincing level.

Presently using a Kiseki Blue, which I believe ISN'T worth it's MSRP ($2K) having used the ART9.

Unlike some you have posted a lot of detail - nice.

Eff mass of arm *should* work with a lot of MC carts. In practice iirrc that arm likes lighter mass and higher compliance. AT offerings for example.

SME 3009 series 2, unimproved, with an effective mass of 12.5g.

I am not sure about how one would tell about the chatter wth knife edge bearings.
But I did put on a Korf head shell and the sibilance seem pretty much gone except for the loudest pressings and is only on a few LPs now.

Thank you for the responses.  I believe I’ll spend a little more time researching the art series.  The OC9 definitely has a great bass and I can’t imagine that improving. It was also very easy to set up and didn’t seem picky. 

The OC9 definitely has a great bass and I can’t imagine that improving."

You're in for a pleasant surprise if you choose the ART9. 


I’m surprised no one has mentioned that the ART9 has been superseded by the 9Xi, for a bit more money.

Opinions on the art9xA vs art9xI ? Shibata vs special line contact ?  Most of my records are new or newer. Many 180g. I don’t have enough experience hearing various profiles to have a preference 😵‍💫

I chose to purchase an ART7 (0.12mV output) rather than an ART9 (0.5mV output), on the premise that lower voltage output version of an LOMC is usually better than the higher output version. Also, the ART7 has the unique amorphous core coil (which probably also accounts for its lower output). I am very happy with it. The latest equivalent to the ART7 is the ART9Xa. I have not heard either the 9Xi or the 9Xa. Let me hasten to add that I have not directly compared the ART7 to the ART9, but the latter version certainly has its admirers, so I feel certain it is excellent.  I suspect these four versions of ART cartridges are probably very close to one another in performance.

@lewm IIRC, @dgarretson also chose ART7 and for similar reasons which seem reasonable. @adrianleewelch one caution is that that very low output level of the 7 requires more careful matching of phono stage or SUT gain, many don't have enough output, so the 9 series is going to compatible with far more gear (and could affect resale value in the future). 

I've been impressed with the original 9 when I heard it on a friend's rig mounted on a Terminator linear arm and a heavily modded SL1200 table. IMHO, the whole series is very good and an exceptional value at its price point. Cheers,


Yes I read about the .12 output of the 7, and wondered what that would equate to in real world application. I believe my McIntosh has 60db gain, with the ability of going up 6 more db in the trim settings. The lowest cart I have now is the 0C9 at .4.  I’m sure one day as I progress in the hobby I will get a stand-alone phono stage but I have some other purchases to make first. My spouse and I are both public servants so we have to budget for all of these purchases. Does anyone know how the McIntosh C47 would work with a super low output cartridge ?  I’d likely go for the 9 vs the 7 but I am curious about compatibility. 

Not the best example of what the differences are between ART models, but enough to get the idea-

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

"I believe my McIntosh has 60db gain"

Might be a little low for the XA. You will be using the volume control well  past 12:00 just for normal listening, and not hearing it at its best.  65db+ is where you want to start. Step up transformer needed.

Check out the linestage gain. Add that number of db to 60db, and you might have enough overall gain. Also, the input sensitivity of your amplifier and then your speakers figure into the results.

This is all great information. I find that it’s not easy to search the threads when you don’t know what questions you are to be asking. Thank you all for contributing!