Moving Magnet Phono Cartridges

I probably sound like a broken record (no pun intended) but I still haven’t pulled the trigger on the Hana MC cartridge.  I have been considering a moving magnet cartridge instead and have been researching.   I haven’t found many reviews of the better ones online except for users comments.  

I have been looking at the Audio Technica cartridges, Goldring and Ortofon.   I really wish I could find a Shure V15 or equivalent.  To the users of moving magnet cartridges, can you help me out or steer me in the right direction?


I always thought the Shure V15, in all its iterations, was ""nice" but underwhelming. Back in the day, I preferred ADC and Grado cartridges.  I think you can easily find an AT, Goldring, or Ortofon cartridge, or other brands like Grado, that are all superior to the V15. That's my opinion, of course.

The Audi Technica VM750SH is very good but not great. I haven't heard the 760. The Nagaoka MP500 is excellent. I had the older MP50 and it was only bested by my Deccas. However the Nag has less surface noise. You could check out @halcro ​​​​​@chakster cartridge threads for info on the more esoteric older MMs like Stanton and ADC.

Grado! I owned that Shure and it would put me to sleep! BTW, the Grado would be a good match for that Micro-Seiki tone arm that you mentioned in your other post!!

Get a wood body Grado - which BTW is a moving iron (MI) cartridge with better design characteristics than MM cartridges. 

I have been using 2 transfiguration MCs, but I just installed an Audio Note IQ3 and it sounds excellent. Some say it is a Goldring 1042, but it does have a different cantilever and diamond. I would say it’s worth looking into. I had a Goldring 1012 way back and it was very good as well. So I would recommend either the AN or the 1042. 

I didn’t mention Nagaoka or the fact that Nags and Grados are MI, because I’ve done so previously, but yes by all means consider those MIs. Was listening to my MP500 last night. Great cartridge.

+1 on Soundsmith. Not a MM in the traditional sense, but not a MC either. I’m very happy with my Carmen II.

I had been using a 1980"s Audio Technica 112SX with a NOS Shibata stylus. Great detail and soundstage, but fatiguing after a while. Just replaced it with a Goldring E3 which Stereophile gave a Class B rating and is under $200. I imagine the new E4, would be better yet. (It came out after my E3 purchase). 

The Soundsmith Voice is the best high output cartridge I have ever had in my system. Less expensive alternatives are the Goldring 1042, Nagaoka MP500 and the Ortofon 2M Black LVB. I am not a fan of AT's less expensive high output cartridges. I have seen to many manufacturing defects such as styluses pointed in comical directions. 

Those latter AT cartridges with comical styli are ideal for humor records.

I recommend AT540mr all the time, it has very good channel separation and tight channel balance, both important for tight imaging. Sound 'magic' is subjective, think preferred rather than better. 

IF you could find a V15mr BODY, with broken stylus (like mine) ypu can buy this Jico stylus for V15MR body, SAS tip on boron. Very nice.

Boron and other 'stiffer' cantilevers yeild a bit tighter bass, subtle difference.

SAS tip, doubt you will hear any difference.

I used the Ortofon Black in a Pioneer PLX-1000 TT and thought it sounded great...

A lot of good ones mentioned..I am enjoying the Soundsmith Carmen mkII..  just a touch of warmth...beautiful, vivid midrange

+1 @elliottbnewcombjr on suggesting a Jico and a Shure combination


There is a Stanton 881S sans stylus for a good price on that well known classified site. This might be the sound you are looking for there is really no way to know without actually trying it. The 681 and 981 have a little more of a audiophile curve but the 881 is ruler flat and would be a great match for a DD TT espically in the bass region.

Jico has a good shibata tipped stylus and if the combo does not work out for you I would definitely be interested in purchasing the used stylus from you.

The Stanton specs are listed at the end of this catalog. Cheers


How are you going to achieve Stanton 881S specs without an OEM stylus, which I think was a Stereohedron?

Thank you @lewm good point, a Jico stylus will give the OP the best chance to see if this is the direction he would like to go without actually owning a OEM stylus. There is nobody I know of with the equipment or the propensity to test a Jico replacement stylus for dynamic compliance so it is hard to say if they do not match OEM or if they do in fact come close to matching OEM specs so using factory specs to check compatibility with tonearm matching is common practice. I believe Jico does do a good job copying Shure stylus’s so I believe their Stanton copy should be as close to OEM as they can get it. Maybe somebody else could chime in here and say what their Jico D81 is tracking at, if it is tracking close to 1g then it is possibly pretty close to OEM. A shibata is also apart of line contact family alongside stereohedron so that should not be a problem but yes most say the sterohedron is a little smoother. Cheers


For everyone who is still following this post, I purchased an AT VM540 moving magnet cartridge pre mounted on a headshell. This way I can still use the ZU cartridge as well. I received it on Saturday and have been thoroughly enjoying my Rock records. I was leaning heavily on the AT VM760 cartridge until I read TAS review comparing it to the one I bought. The reviewer did say the 760 cartridge was tipped up in the treble compared to the 540 and also said the 540 was the sweet spot in the line up. I received many PM’s telling me to look at the AT line of cartridges for Rock music. I had never owned an AT in the past and hadn’t ever considered them.

I did have one member here trying to get me to purchase one of his used MM cartridges, and when I declined, he took it quite bad. He started off nice enough and sent me a list of around 10 used MM cartridges. I quickly realized I didn’t want any of them as it wasn’t what I wanted. He resorted to insulting me saying that “did I ever hear of the internet?”He tried to goad me into buying from him. I explained he didn’t have anything I was interested in yet he kept hounding me trying to sell me one of his Signet cartridges. He sent me quite a few messages. Keep in mind he contacted me via PM, I did not initiate anything. Also I do not like going outside of Audiogon. It was only after I told him I would block him and report him to Audiogon administration did he leave me alone.

At $300 including the headshell purchased right from AT, I am ecstatic. Thank you to everyone for your help and tips, very appreciated.  Now, if I can find a used Shure VM35 body, I will snap it up and get the Jico stylus for it.  It would be nice to have a third cartridge in the rotation. 

Glad you enjoy the AT!

I have both a Clearaudio Maestro V2 (mm) and a Hana SL (mc) cartridge which I switch out every now and then for variety's sake and to save wear and tear. The Hana is better at imaging while the Maestro casts a wider soundstage. 

People like @lewm , rauliruegas and myself have owned tens if not hundreds of cartridges over the years. We go all the way back to ESL and have had Shures, Stantons, Pickerings, ADCs, B+Os, Astatics, Empires, even GE and ElectroVoice. IMHO all of them pale in comparison to modern MI cartridges mostly due to modern cantilevers and styluses. Styluses in particular have a much better finish/polish than in the old days. A lot of the diamond was so contaminated they looked black under the microscope. Modern advanced stylus profiles have much larger contact areas creating slower wear on both the stylus and the record not to mention they are much quieter.  Soundsmith, Grado and Nagaoka are representative brands. I have not used a Grado for a while so I can not comment about the new models. The Soundsmith Voice is the best high output cartridge I have ever used by a country mile easily competing with $10K MC cartridges. I have a Friend who is using a Sussurro Gold who thinks it is better than any other cartridge he has had in his system and this fellow runs a CS Port turntable. We both have ordered the new Hyperion MR. I gave my Voice to another friend who has an older Basis Debut/Graham table. His first comment after 30 seconds was, "Boy, it's quiet!" These cartridges are neutral, incredible trackers and very well made. @lewm has a new Nagaoka MP500, their best cartridge and he seems thrilled with it. Perhaps he can compare it to other cartridges. Some Grado owners have chimed in. I would love to hear an Epoch, maybe the next cartridge? That will cost me a new kitchen.

I hope that it will be possible again in the future to include the London Reference in the list of superlative MI cartridges. A descendant of the Decca design, there are very few cartridges at any price that can come close to its speed, transient response and naturalness. Since John Wright (an ex-Decca engineer) retired over a year ago, there have been no new ones for sale, but have taken over servicing them, and did briefly mention on their website that a new version was planned, but that has now disappeared. I expect there is some difficulty about sourcing the stamped, thin, iron armature that holds the stylus. I believe Peter Ledermann offered to make them at one point, but was turned down by John.

It is often said that grounding can be awkward, but that more an issue for the older three-pin designs: I have no hum with it. It is also claimed that they are not the best trackers, but I have had no issues with either the Jubilee or the Reference, using them on SME IV and V arms, only the latter of which has a damping trough. I have the Reference back in play at the moment, on a IV. It still sounds like the most honest and neutral of all my cartridges, with a wonderful ability to make me tap my feet. The LP-S is warmer and richer, but that is perhaps an added colouration rather than honesty. The Sussurro, MP-500 and Grado Statement 3 come close, but none of them beat the Reference to my ear. Here are a couple of representative reviews:

Absolute Sound



And a splendid PS, from Stewart at today:

Yes we will manufacture  the current Reference as well as a new version as well. hoping it will be ready in August.

Start saving!

Yes, I am a big fan of MI cartridges both vintage and current versions. I don’t necessarily agree that the current crop are categorically superior to the very best of the vintage ones, like the B&O MMC1 or the Acutex 320 (two versions) and probably some others I don’t know about. The MP500 is a great bargain but I’m not ready to say it’s my favorite. Raul has evaluated more cartridges in a systematic way than anyone I know of.

My experience using a Hyperion (the original) for the last few years (for stereo) and an Ortofon 2M Mono SE, puts me in general alignment with what seems to be the nucleus of a forming consensus among many of us here.  Although I also like and still listen to a few favorite MC as well.  It is interesting, though, that so many of us seem to be going in the same general direction with respect to cartridges.  Either we are right or are a bad influence on each other.

For what it is worth Soundsmith rebuilt one of my Stanton OEM stylus with a Ruby cantilever and a nude contact line diamond that I use on a 981 HZS, I am very pleased with the results and have no plans on going back to a MC.

yes for what it’s worth…. the Grace F9 body coupled w new production Soundsmith Ruby OCL is quite a formidable transducer IF your arm, table, isolation and phono are UP to it….

An ancient but well cared for Signet TK-9 aint to bad either……


@billstevenson …well maybe but my Kuzma and Dynavector Diamond get regular use……. and at the end of the day…. extract more music…. for a $

OP, since you devoted a fair amount of space to describing the behavior of 1 nasty member, I think that you should finish the deal and name him. He will probably be upset but it would be of benefit to others here, and what the heck the two of you don’t have a relationship worth endangering at this juncture.

Analog is a secondary source for me, but after I busted the stylus off of a MC that became a $500 XMass ornament I’ve stuck with MM carts that are easier to replace. Luckily I haven’t had to. My priority is the midrange, where most of my music lives, and imho MMs can do quite well there


If the person contacts me again which I doubt, I will post the info.  I do not want to start anything, I am getting too old for that amount of drama.  Believe it or not, the drama really takes a toll on me and I would rather avoid.  

The 540 is a fantastic cartridge. Probably the best value out there. Plus, you can just replace the stylus. Enjoy your new 540


Thank you, it sounds better than any $280.00 has the right to sound.   I have about 25 hours on it and it is more than I hoped it would be.