Cartridge suggestions for my rig

Hoping you analog gurus will have some ideas for me. The cartridge in use now is a Clearaudio Maestro V2 moving magnet. I have never had a low output moving coil cartridge and am now ready to try one. 

Listed below are the table and arm and then a few of my sound preferences.

Table is a Linn LP12 that is highly upgraded with Stack Audio parts which are all from the first generation "Ultimate" tier except the sub-chassis is the second generation Alto. The bearing is a Karosel. The power supply is the on board Vinyl Passion Revolution. Power cord is an adapted Zu Mission w/ a Furutech FI-11 copper plug.

Tonearm is an Audio Origami PU 7 w/ hardwired Cardas wire and DIN connector. 

Phono stage is a Manley Chinook

Preamp is an Aesthetix Calypso Eclipse (top tier of the Calypso line up)

Sound preferences -- Since I have the hearing condition known as Hyperacusis, I am extremely sensitive to any brightness, leanness, harshness, shrillness, etc., etc. (to my ear, any form of silver in the cabling adds leanness).  That sensitivity is only one of it's characteristics by the way. So, I want to minimize brightness, minimize analytical sound and don't want a forward mid-range. In addition, I am one of those that is very sensitive to absolute polarity so, I easily hear airiness, spaciousness, dimensionality, etc. I guess it is fair to say that I have some part of one foot on the analytical side since I also love detail.

How much should I spend on a new cartridge? Do I need to double the cost of my current cart? At what dollar amount would you say is the upper limit for my table and tonearm? I have noticed that one prominent poster here is running a Koetsu Rosewood Signature on his high spec, LP12/Ekos setup. Might that be overspending in my case? I have been peeking at the choices in the $2K to $3K area (the Clearaudio Maestro V2 was $1100 at the time of purchase).. The one MC cart that I have a little familiarity with is a Hana ML that is on a friend's VPI table but, it is all new and came with the Audioquest Angel all silver interconnect. It is far from broken in (meaning all of it, table, cable and cart). It is just now starting to shed a bit of the extreme leanness that I have been hearing from that setup. The other most prominent characteristic I'm hearing so far is a high degree of detail. It's way too soon to really know what the Hana sound is. I have seen somewhere in these forums that the Sumiko carts are made by Excel who also make the Hana carts so, might they have a similar sound?

I would be pleased to get some cartridge suggestions here and yes, I know that I have opened the door to be told to throw away the Linn. To each, his own I say.


Ag insider logo xs@2xmwh777
Post removed 
Post removed 

Lean cartridge is not my game either. Many like the Dynavectors with an LP-12. Your arm could probably handle the Xv1 range but you might want to start with an XX2-mkII to see if you like the Dynavector house sound. Def not lean or aggressively detailed.The XX2-mkII is a great cartridge for the $ and Dynavector offers a trade up program if you want to go higher up the chain. 

Lean cartridge is not my game either. Many like the Dynavectors with an LP-12. Your arm could probably handle the Xv1 range but you might want to start with an XX2-mkII to see if you like the Dynavector house sound. Def not lean or aggressively detailed.The XX2-mkII is a great cartridge for the $ and Dynavector offers a trade up program if you want to go higher up the chain. 

Get a DS audio cartridge. With the sale of the Manley and the Koetsu,you could get a W3 Cartridge and a 003 energizer, you will never look back.

I noticed several references to price in your OP. I would suggest NOT basing any such decisions with price as a measure of quality. Double or triple the price doesn’t equate to quality or performance…IMHO. Many here will disagree. But there seems to be no rhyme or reason to support a price/performance link in high end audio  

It seems you know well the characteristics you seek. I’m sure you’ll get many good recommendations at many price points. I happen to have the Hana ML and am pleased with it…depending on the quality of the pressing on the platter. And there is vast difference between recordings. So much so that you may love a cartridge when it’s the recording that is providing the magic. I suppose I’m showing my frustration with analog. No consistency in vinyl media. A great recording will give chills while the next album in the que can make your ears bleed.

Hey, Another option and in your price range is the new Hana Umami Blue. It retails for $2500. Hana ML is an incredible cartridge. 
Chocoholic is right. Price is not the deciding factor here. Some brands of carts you are paying for the materials in the cart body. Most of the Hana line punches 2x -3x its weight. In fact at Axpona in 2022 one of the vendors told me they had a $12k cartridge that had been damaged during setup. The distributor of Hana gave them a Hana Umami Red. I tried to buy the Hana from them. They said no way. They said it sounded better than the cartridge costing 3x as much. The Hana ML is going to be a little more forgiving and the Hana Umami Blue gives you more out of the pressing good and bad as Chocoholic said or implied we are at the mercy of the pressing. I own the Hana Umami Red. Your tt can cover all of these recommendations easily.
All that being said. You want a fine line (style) stylus. It mimics the cutter head. Therefore it will play back closer to the original. Most important is installation and setup. This can not be done just by looking at the cartridge or using a basic protractor. You need certain tools and good ears. 
This cartridge is going to last you for years or even a decade. I don’t know if you have heard of Wally Analog Tools. They have a service where you can send in your cartridge and make sure it is within factory spec. Also, They will create a shim that sets up the VTA/ Azimuth/ and gives you the measurements or adjustments for the Zenith which is so important most do not realize. Plus, you will need a good VTF scale to setup the proper weight. Especially in a Shibata stylus which is a version of a fine line stylus. You are better off spending $1000 on a cartridge and it be set up perfect than spending $12k on a cartridge and you setting it up by eye balling it. A Ferrari cannot perform unless it is tuned or setup properly. 
I hope this helps. 


I had a PU 7 for years. Great arm.

I think you are headed down the wrong path. Moving coil cartridges do not come into their own until you get to the $5000 mark and my favorite MCs are all in the $10,000 range. With your phono stage I think you would be thrilled with the Soundsmith Voice. It is seriously superior to any of the bottom line Hanas. It has Soundsmith's best stylus and a ruby cantilever. It is one of the best tracking cartridges I have ever heard and I greatly preferred it to a Clearaudio Charisma I had. My old Voice is now driving a pair of Magico S7 speakers at a friend's house and he is thrilled with it. It sounds a lot like the MC Diamond I have. It is a great match for your arm and phono stage.

I confess I initially was underwhelmed with the Soundsmith Sussurro MkII ES, but I have to eat my words. Since I last tried it I have gone back to my old phono stage (a Quad 24p) and I have mounted it on a better tonearm (SME IV) and now it gives the London Decca Reference a run for its money. Very lively indeed. Better than the MP-500, even.

So take the suggestion of The Voice seriously!

Sorry to hear about your auditory condition. With it in mind, I’d second the Dynavector rec. Also consider the Audio/Technica ART9, whichever version is current now. I have the original; it is full-bodied with plenty of detail and no shrillness. I’d venture the newer ones are much the same and probably a little better all around. 

Thank you to everyone who has replied.


Special thanks to you for reminding me about Wally Tools. I was aware of them in general but, had never really looked closely until now. After watching many of their videos, I am now planning to dive in and get more serious about cartridge alignment.

You have opened my blinders a little wider and no doubt, you will agree with the following. The potential built in zenith error (that I never knew could exist) that can exist on a cantilever, by itself, is enough for me to up my game. Beyond that, when you understand that the "eyeball" methods are just inadequate when dealing with the fine line stylus, that is, if you want to get all that you have paid for in a premium cartridge, then it's time to up your game. After all, considering the investment of money and time in all the hardware associated with this analog game, not being serious enough about the alignment is short changing yourself.

I think that I will get all the necessary tools and use them on my existing cart first to see what will happen to the sound before I then go for a new cart.

Also, thank you for your other comments on the Hana carts.

Yes, you did help.