Asking for members blessings on Nagaoka MP 300 purchase

I’m a tube guy and always have been. But I have assembled a Naim XS and Harbeth C7 system with a Luxman PD 151. My work schedule gets in the way of my listening, so I use this system more than my tube/horn setup. The cartridge purchase is the final step, and this system is complete. Give me the Jack Nicholson TRUTH ( I can handle it) on your Nagaoka opinions. Lets try and keep the thread to this subject only.


Big admirer of Nagaoka cartridges, but I advise get the best one you can afford in the MP series.  There's not that much difference in cost last time I looked. (I just bought an MP500 on a lark.)

Nagaoka's are moving-iron cartridges. So are USA- made Grado's. I'd get a Grado at your budget price. 

I have the MP 500, have not heard the 300. But for a little extra you will never say what if. Amazing detail, wonderful separation. Perhaps the best bargain in analog.

So they have a lightly used MP 500, which I believe was a return with very few hrs. I actually can get it for less than the MP 300 new. The 300 is supposed to be a bit warmer, but will does up some detail to the 500. And my understanding is the 300 is a bit more forgiving of less than perfect VTA setup. So it's certainly not the money. It's more about a bit more warmth and allowing the slight margin for error with less than prefect setup. Funny... of all the Nags, I found the least amount of info on the 300. I think that's because most who can shell out for the 300 stretch a few more bucks and get the 500. 

Unless you really know the provenance of the used MP500, I’d advise you to suck it up and buy a new MP500. 

The upper Nagaoka line tends to offer incredible midrange clarity and soundstage, along with excellent dynamics.  The MP500 has the same body as the MP300, but offers the upgrade of a line contact stylus vs elliptical, which tracks better and gives a more delicately detailed treble, with better space and air than an elliptical. As others have suggested, opt for the 500.

Agreed that the MP-500 is desirable, mine outperforms my Grado Statement 3 and my Soundsmith Sussurro MkII. It is very close to my London Decca Reference. I can't say anything better than that!

Fwiw, the Nagaoka MP-300 is pretty sensitive to VTA.  It is also every thing suggested above, great insight and detail, slightly warm tilt, room filling bass.  The most “life like” sounding mm/mi cartridge I’ve heard to date. I like it so much I ordered an MP-500 stylus to see what that can do.  But if the VTA is even more sensitive than the 300, I will be doing a lot of adjusting between discs.


Funny thing. I just set the top of the headshell parallel to the LP surface, and the MP500 delivers the goods on every LP. 

@lewm interesting that you don’t find any differences with the VTA between disks of different thickness with the MP-500.  I have some lp’s that are incredibly thick, and some from the 70s and early 80s that, well, maybe the bean counters intervened on material use.  The Nagaoka MP-300 is very sensitive to VTA, and changing thickness of platter mats makes a difference between meh and wow!


Have you ever calculated the actual change in VTA that occurs when one adjusts for an "average" LP (in terms of thickness) and then plays for example a 200gm LP or on the other hand an exceptionally thin LP, like maybe an old RCA Dynagroove (they are flexible, so I assume they are thin)? The change in VTA is infinitesimal. If it makes a big (audible) difference to you, have at it. As for me, this is a level of anal behavior that I refuse to enter into. If I am missing something as a result, it’s an acceptable compromise. This is my attitude toward all of my cartridges on all of my different tonearms. Same goes for fussing with load resistors with MC cartridges. I use any value above that which is needed to achieve a ratio of 1:10 or better, between the internal R of the cartridge and the input impedance of the phono.

I found this quote on line, credited to Michael Fremer: "I don't buy that at all [?] nor do I buy changing VTA with different thickness records. On a 9" tonearm you need to move the back of the arm 4MM (that's a lot) to effect a 1 degree SRA change. The differences in thickness between these mats and indeed, between a 120g and 180g record is far less than 4MM and far less than 1 degree. Any differences heard from tiny changes in VTA/SRA are either in one's mind OR due to azimuth shifts that are easily audible and especially true on unipivot arms due to the offset angle..."

I might add also that claimed "improvements" associated with small tweaks of VTA (usually much much less than 4mm up or down) are usually based on snap subjective judgements, hardly a reliable indicator. But again, to anyone who derives satisfaction from tweaking VTA, you have my full support, because this is a hobby that first of all needs to give us pleasure.

@lewm thanks for your reply, all reasonable points. Yes, I agree such small changes in VTA shouldn’t matter.  And I have no standing to question Michael Fremer.  I had the pleasure of meeting him once at a demo, he’s quite funny in person.

My point, I guess, was that others here and elsewhere noted that the Nagaoka MP-500 is sensitive to VTA in their systems.  That’s one reason I opted for the MP-300 initially, because I thought the “Superfine polished elliptical bonded diamond” stylus would be less fiddley than the more sophisticated stylus on the MP-500. My experience is that the MP-300 is more sensitive than the Audio Technica cartridge with a Shibata stylus it is replacing.  The Nagaoka also sounds noticeably better, especially when the VTA is dialed.  YMMV.


Awesome cartridge. The entire line. I have the MP500 and have had it in my system for 5 years. Perfect for me. 

I’m currently playing a Harvey Andrews ("Friends of Mine" gatefold, 1973) album through the MP-500 on a Rega RB330 on an Acoustand pod (it’s how I play unknown vinyl to protect more valuable styli). I think my wife brought this album into our joint lives 47 years ago. She denies it, and maybe there is a let out in that it might have come from my brother’s collection (joint with his wife, whose tastes are not mine at all).

Ignoring those details of vinyl sortation, the point for this thread is this: the MP-500 sounds very nice without much attention to VTA. I can change the VTA on that pod with pennies put under its spikes, but have not yet found a need to go there.

I do have a couple of Acoustand pods on the way that include VTA adjustment, and I’ll swap the Rega tonearms onto them, as they have no built-in VTA adjustment, and use the two older pods for SME arms that do allow VTA adjustment.

My only point was i don’t change VTA for every or even any particular LP. But by all means, when installing a cartridge I do set VTA using an LP of average thickness. I set it initially so that the top of the headshell is parallel to the LP surface.  After or during listening that immediately follows, I may adjust further. Usually not, and almost never again after that initial setup. I won’t deny that a secondary reason for not fretting about VTA is based on my own particular character.

I carry the lowly but amazing MP-110 in my mobile setup kit as a just in case cartridge….it probably has 100 k air miles on it w various loaner duty to fellow audiophiles…. Fantastic line of cartridges…. superb value. I’ve had friends switch away from 300/500 into Hana…but probably more for system synergy…

I agree w Lew on getting new 500….