Anyone using the Clear Audio Virtuoso Wood?


Anyone used a really high end moving magnet? I hear they can be compressed or mushy even with the extra fine cut of the needle and well-made magnets. I also hear MM's are overall better rockers. My experience is all my selections, listed below, are pretty good, but I would really like a contrarian point of view, e.g. not just the normal, "All moving coils are better than moving magnets," line. I agree, in theory, but in the real world I wonder if it always works that way.

The carts I have in mind are all about $800.: the Shelter 501 (an MC), the Dynavector XX-2 (an MC) (purchased from the gray market at $800.), Lyra Argo or Dorian (again MC's) or the Clear Audio Virtuoso (a MM). My system has pretty good microdynamics, but they could be better; maybe 5 out of 10. The macrodynamics are more like 7 out of 10. All subjective of course.

My system consists of Cary and a Spacedeck with a '70's Kenwood phonostage. I listen to mainly rock and jazz, with some other stuff mixed in. Seems something more analytical might be good, like the Lyra or Clear Audio, as most of the equipment produces a well defined soundstage with a little bit of romance.

My question is: I want a cart that if it gets broken, I'm not going to feel ripped off if I have a cat jump up, or I accidentally knock it, or there's an earthquake. Two of these cart's have no rebuild/replace policy (Shelter and Dyna), two do (Clear Audio and Lyra).

Positive or negative words on any of the above? Anybody got two arms you go back and forth with?
biomimetic
Jeff, I expect your experience may be due to a loading problem. Excess capacitance loading will result in high freq. ringing with this cart.(and most other MM). Mine sounded shrill also; until I dropped all extra cap. (only the cap. of the cables and the small cap. of the input jfet). Sounded MUCH better. I'm now listening to a Shelter 90X and the Clearaudio is in a drawer.
I'm on my third--but that's because I have 5-year old twin boys that have mangled the previous two (when they were 3 yrs old). The point being that I've had several chances to go in a different direction, but have been satisfied enough to stay with the Virtuoso. Prior to this, I was using a Benz Glider (low output MC) that never did much for me.

That said, I find evaluating cartridges to be really difficult. There are just soooo many variables and tweakery (arm compliance, platter mats, isolation, damping, VTA, tail-dragging, anti-skating, azimuth, etc.). As meticulous as I am with 'by the book' setup, I still end up making little adjustments here and there.

As for the environmental, I am using this cartridge on a Wilson-Benesch Circle with an ACT 0.5 arm, ringmat platter mat, all sitting on a Bright Star Audio air mass base. This feeds a BAT VK-3i pre with onboard phono stage, to a BAT VK-200 into Maggie 1.6s and a Vandersteen woofer.

I'm sure there's something better out there, but overall, I'm a pretty happy owner for the last four years.

Finally, Clearaudio has a pretty generous trade-in policy in the event you want to jump from MM to MC.
Exactly what is that 70's Kenwood phonostage?
I'd be very surprised if you couldn't make some substantial improvement in this department. The world seems to be awash with great sounding inexpensive phono stages at the moment. The phono link is vitally important.
You may find this a more productive way to spend your $800.
It's from a '70's Kenwood called a KR-44 - midline from '77. I like it as well as the Grado I've heard and think it's a decent comparable solid state-wise to the EAR 834. Both are phono's I like, despite their respective probs. Plus the Kenwood actually uses higher quality parts than either of those. Like I said, I've been restoring it, and it's all elna, noble, orange tops (not orange drop). Much better than the starter Project phonostage I had. Basically a lot of older equipment just seems to have phonostages that are better than what you find in good integrateds now - back when I thought cats and tubes wouldn't mix (they do) I had thought maybe I would go Levinson or Arcam for an integrated, but their add-on stages were definitely not this good.

Actually, the Kenwood has made me think I may need to redefine my buy in price point. I had said about a third of a good preamp, e.g. about $1200-1400 (e.g. an EAR 834p with the volume run directly into my amp). On the other hand, I had been thinking about getting something like a Cary SLP98, which would match my Rocket. But I think I have decided against it as I would like something tubed but solid state regulated like Acoustic Research or the Cary 308. But then again, I could spend a lot of money and get something I don't like; for instance the standalone Pass Xono just did't do it for me. I have to say the Steelhead at that astronomical $7300. is the best of all worlds; but you know, like ow, even though in theory I can afford it.

You would think if the acoustic signature/over capacitance thing about MM's was true, you would be noticing it with gear as transparent as a BAT/Maggies combo?