Low Output MC recommendations?

Hello all,

I'm completely enamored with the sound of my Denon DL 304 Mk II, and have had no desire to replace it for the last nearly 3 years. I keep wondering about upgrading, but since Denon doesn't make anything higher up, what low-output MC Cartridges can everyone recommend? I'd like to keep the same sound signature, just "more" of everything.

I've experimented with 4 different phono stages, and settled on one that provides maximum flexibility, and is a synergetic match with the Denon (and the rest of my system).
FWIW, the 'table is a hot-rodded Project Classic. Amp is the Kinki Studio EX-M1+ and the speakers are Wharfedale Linton Heritage 85.

My listening is %70 Classical, %10 Jazz, %10 Soundtracks, and %10 Rock/ambient.

Thanks in advance!


The $750 Hana SL (Shibata low-output) is an easy recommendation! BTW I have that same Denon mc in my collection. Excellent cartridge!

I loved my Denons. I loved my Lyra Delos even if it wasn't particularly romantic sounding. I got to say, though, that my now broken-in Hana ML gives me the best orchestral string tone I've ever gotten on my stereo. Even DG's can (but not always) sound luxuriant. Best of all, suddenly my old Leonard Bernstein Masterworks LPs have beautiful string tone. And surprising soundstaging. Who'd a thunk it?

The Hana EL is no slouch and is a bargain at $475. It has become my favorite cartridge over the years.

Hana is an excellent cartridge but if you can stretch your budget a Zyx Bloom 3 would be a better choice as most of your listening is classical.

Or see if you can find a Denon DL-S1. Or for a bit more money an Audio Technics ART9Xa or i.

Consider sending it off to Andy Kim at the Needle Clinic, especially if you've run up some hours on it.  He took my Zu Denon DL 103 from garbage to sounding better than some of my other cartridges that cost thousands.

For what it's worth, I haven't heard any bad LOMC:  Koetsu Rosewood Signature is very musical and worth it; Linn Krystal was very good; Linn Kandid is supposedly better; Lyra Atlas is excellent and detailed.  Supposedly, there's the $2,000 level, which is very good, then the $5,000 level which is better, and then the $10,000 level which probably isn't worth it for most.  I would stick to the $2,000 level for most bang for your buck, unless you want to jump to the $5,000 level. 

Might wanna check out Soundsmith. Great re-tipping prices for down the road and out-the-door fairly reasonable for what you get.


The tonearm on the Project Classic is simply not good enough for a low compliance moving coil. You would be better off saving for a better turntable.

If you need a new cartridge - make sure it is not low compliance.

The lower end Van den Hul MC cartridges are more medium compliance as are some of the Dynavectors. The Van den Hul are superb on classical music - beautifully balanced.


You don't tell us your price point.

Must look at Ortofons. Various pricings. I have both heir top models Anna (hi mass arms) and Verismo (lo mass) and both are superb.  Anna best for rock and big programmes, Verismo for voices, chamber music but is a good all-rounder.

Also van den Hul.  I have four, at various price points.


+1 petg60

The ZYX Bloom 3 is great in the right arm. I am not too sure about the mating with the Project Classic... 

If you like the Denon sound take a look at the Paradox Pulse Guard SMR. 

I took mine over to VPI and  listened to it with Harry and Matt. Harry couldn’t believe that it was only $1100. He said that it sounded more like a $6000 cartridge.

I also agree with the Art 9 recommendation. I own the original version and it’s amazing for the price. I sure the newer ones are even better.

Both of these cartridges were mounted on my VPI Classic 3.

The new Benz Micro S series are simply outstanding with the Wood SL being the sweat heart in the middle. The Wood SL has simply slayed all comers with its Micro-Ridge stylus and new suspension. Feed it into a transimpedence phono stage and look out!

Love both my AT33Sa and VAS Ebony 103 (essentially a custom DL103). But no idea what your budget is or the effective mass of your tonearm.