Looking for a Warmer Sounding Phono Cartridge

I've grown tired of the sound of high end MC cartridges. Detail aplenty, but I've begun to detest to the screechinesssssss.

No, my system is not biased that way. I'd consider my system neutral. Components are listed below. The Koetsu RS sounds wonderful. The other cartridges in my rotation are the Hana ML and the Shelter 901 MK III. These are not described in the literature as very etched sounding nor very detail rich. They are mostly characterized as neutral.
My ears no longer tolerate the highs, anything above 3KHz I would estimate. My hearing disappears at about 8KHz. I don't have any hearing problems except for the loss of higher frequencies. I find also that I'm not as interested in "getting everything that's on the vinyl". Not anymore. I want warmth with quality. I listen to the "audiophile" recordings, to R&R LPs from the 70s and classical and opera from all eras. Some LPs are very good, some not so, but performance overrides the defects. I want to continue to enjoy all of them.

So I'm searching for a good quality warm sounding cartridge, MM, MI, MC or some other, doesn't matter.

I've been researching the field and have come up with these candidates:

- GradoTimber Master 3
- Shelter 501 Mk III
- Soundsmith Zephyr MK III

I was pretty sold on the 501. based mostly on the article by Michael Fremer, but a very helpful contact at Upscale Audio turned me onto the other two. His advice sounds very sound and seems to come from experience with all three.

I would like to keep the discussion limited to the above three and to cartridges less than $1500 USD, unless there's a really great one that I've missed.

Thanks for your help.

My stuff:

Koetsu RS, Hana ML, and Shelter 901, Musical Surroundings Nova II phono pre. Alternate pre is Paragon System E (tubes) and a DIY SUT with Cinemg 1254 trans, sometimes Apt Holman Preamp 1, Technics SL-1200G, Denon DP-57L, Levinson #38s preamp, Rane EQ and Crossover, Bryston 2.5B cubed amp, Revel M105 bookshelf speakers, and HSU 15" Sub.

128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xkevemaher

@lewm Thanks for the suggestions. It was definitely a worn out stylus. As I mentioned, I really wasn't aware of the care that cartridges require.

A year or so ago, when I knew a bunch more and had performed over 20 alignments I pulled the cartridge out of deep storage. It still skipped. Other cartridges sound great on the same table. So there's nothing amiss with the table. In fact, this particular arm has very smooth motion and little bearing friction.

I retired the stylus assembly and replaced it with the SS R-9E.

@rauliruegas I load the cartridge with 47K. Total capacitance of cables and phono input is about 150 pf. I make my own phono cables. the bulk cable has a capacitance of 17 pf/ft, measured by me. Short runs have little capacitance, about 50 pf in the case of the cable I'm using.

As I noted previously, I've measured the FR of this cartridge. It has only a tiny rise above 10KHz, indicating that the loading is optimal for achieving bandwidth out to 20KHz, not the much higher bandwidth required by quadrophonic LPs. 

I have derived the equations that calculate the FR from my model of a cartridge The calculations agree with my measurements. There's no need for the 100K loading. In fact, it might introduce noise in the form of IM distortion.

The very small decrease in low freq response below 100Hz does not, to my mind and ears, drive my system beyond neutral.



@kevemaher  : Grace load values for the F9 produce a flat FR ( quadraphonic or not. ).


" The very small decrease in low freq response below 100Hz does not, to my mind and ears, drive my system beyond neutral. "

The key words in your statement are : " to my mind and ears " because for be those 5db in that bass FR is not neutral when for you it's for your " mind/ears ". So fine with me.



@rauliruegas Please read the F9 manual posted by farsch on he Vinyl Engine website. Both impedances are mentioned, but 47K is the only one in the spec list.

I'm pretty sure that Grace knew what they were doing.

There you can look from where came the flat frequency.

Your loading measures you did it just does not gives you flat frequency as you already posted.


As I posted, that's what you like and it's fine with me. Why that " big deal ".