Music Maker II cartridge

I had the opportunity to audition the new Music Maker II cartridge, from The Cartridge Man - Len Gregory about 2 weeks ago. I used it in my system for about 20 hours. System is Teres 245/OL Silver(modded)/Shelter 501/Cotter Mk2/MFA Magus/Berning 45 SET ZOTL/Lowther Voigt Pipes.

I found this cartridge to be quite interesting. It is a MM type cartridge with a full MM output level, so it will work nicely in any phono stage. It has a higher compliance, so it will work best in medium mass or lighter tonearms best. It had a slight mismatch with my HiFi-modded OL Silver.

The basic design is a built on a blank Grado body, and all the guts are from the Cartridge Man. The construction and reliability/function were fine in my sample. Instructions were brief, but sufficient. No problems installing or setting up. It tracks at about 1.5 grams.

The sound of this cartridge varies from break-in fairly noticeably. The first impression is not what you will eventually get to after 20 hours. It improves nicely with a few hours on it. It has a full frequency response, and has good soundstage, imaging, and detail. Detail is not as fine or deep as the best MC cartridges, but quite good for MM. Sound is somewhat reminiscent of some of the better European cartridges.

The most interesting thing that I found about this cartridge is that it gives better performance than most high output cartridges, and has the full output level. I have noticed that many users of "high output MC cartridges" which have about 2mv output, have problems with not enough gain in their MM phono sections to properly play these cartridges. But also, the 2mv output is too high to plug into their MC phono stages, and so they fall "in-between" and may not give the best results in some systems like this.
This Music Maker II cartridge gives people a better option of having sound quality similar to the better high-output MC cartridges, but has enough output to use even in the weakest phono section. So a person who wants a good sounding cartridge, but doesn't have a specialized high gain phono stage, can get high-quality sound from the Music Maker II, and have an easy plug-in installation that will work with any phono stage. It betters the more well known MM cartridges easily.

So for the person who wants good analog sound with minimum fuss, and uses a built-in MM phono stage in their preamp that might not have much gain, then this cartridge is a perfect match for them. It matches well with most modern arms, especially unipivots, and gives better sound than many of the sub-$1k cartridges out there, including some MC types. It alleviates the need to spend additional money on a phono stage to handle a low output. So it could be a cost efficient way to get a good start in analog, because you save the price of that phono stage, and can just plug into your existing preamp phono section. A great idea for a person who has a full-function preamp and wants to get into analog.

This is not a cheap cartridge at over $900. It does not give "cheap" sound either. It gives very good sound, with the flexibility of use that I mentioned above.

Many of you may want to know if it bested my Shelter 501, and I would have to say no(IMO). But if I couldn't afford, or didn't want, an expensive step-up device, and needed to play a high output cartridge, I'd seriously consider this Music Maker II.

I'm always on the lookout for good ways to save money in a system. This would definitely be a better option than getting a $500 low output cartridge and buying a $500 phono stage or step-up device to go with it. As long as you have any MM phono input, you are good to go with this cartridge.

Of course, as with any cartridge, this Music Maker II will sound better in the better arms than it will in a cheap arm. At the price, it is not intended for a low budget system, but is aimed at a higher level system where the high output of MM is needed or desired.

One of the negatives I found, was the stylus protector cover. It was very secure, but it made me nervous taking it off and putting it on because it was kind of tight. But it sure as heck isn't going to fall off accidentally.

If you want to see a rave review of this cartridge, then go over to the 6moons audio review website, and they have a real nice review of it over there. Also you could go to the Cartridge Man website for information.
I have a Hadcock GH242 SE tonearm on a Spacedeck. Reportedly the Hadcock and Music Maker are incredibly synergistic together. I didn't get the Music Maker originally because I needed to save a little money and wanted to suport my local dealer, but it will definately be my next cartridge.

My phono stage is a Granite Audio 770, which will hopefully match up nicely and I can be a content vinylphile then.
I have a MM II in a VPI Aries/JMW arm combo. I have just ordered a Teres 265 and a Graham 2.2, but I am worried about it. On some records, there is a very audible bass resonance caused by an arm/cartridge mismatch. The MM II is very high compliance and requires a low mass arm. The JMW is about 10 grams effective mass and so is the Graham, so I may be letting myself in for the same problem. The Hadcock is about 6.5 grams effective mass; that might account for the reported good results with that arm. Anybody tried the Graham 2.2 with the MM II?
I heard the MM II with the Schroeder Model 2(12g) while at the dealer's shop through an ERA Gold phono and it sounded fabulous. More like an MC than an MM. Only a slight loss of detail and speed compared to some high end carts. I though it sounded a lot more musical than the AT OC9.
Thanks for another informative thread. I know you've always liked the Denon 103R + stepup for higher mass/gimballed arms. The MM II costs about the same, so now there's a solution for lower mass/unipivot arms. Cool.

Welcome to the Teres club. I haven't heard the MM II, so I'll offer the worst sort of advice: unsolicited and expensive. From personal experience I know that a Teres 265 with a good arm deserves a world class cartridge. As Tom mentioned, high output carts are a compromise and the MM II could not match his Shelter 501. If you can't handle a low output MC at the moment I urge you to think about doing so if possible. Your new TT and arm will thank you, as will your ears.

You were looking for ways to spend more money, weren't you? ;)

Thanks for your impressions of the MM II MM cart. I thought that Grados had the highest compliance but I was wrong when I looked at many of the Van den Hul & MM II cartridges! Cartridges from these 2 companies seem to follow the same philosophy of ULM tonearms that were the rage in the early 1980s. Most of the tonearms today appear to be too heavy for this cartridges & is a possible reason why I don't see too many people using the MM II cart. I think that it might have been an even better seller if the compliance was no more than 20um/mN.
here's another review of this cart.
Seeing as how this thread popped up again, I'll give a follow up.

It has come to my attention that this cartridge is prone to giving the problems that Throwback has encountered with his JMW arm. The JMW appears to be a bit too heavy for this cartridge. My OL Silver was also a bit of a mismatch.

I'd recommend using a lighter arm with this cartridge, and it sounds like Soliver and the reviewers are getting nice results from the Hadcock and the MM2.
I've been using the mm3 in the oOL Encounter and have had constant problems on quiet passages with the fundamental resonance frequency of this combination.Either the arm mass is slightly too high at 14.5gr or the cartr. compliance is too high. Interesting thread.
Dear Twl: It is nice to read that like you there are several people that are testing/trying/running the MM/MI alternative .

I owned the MMII and heard the III and I find what you posted:

+++++ " This Music Maker II cartridge gives people a better option of having sound quality similar to the better high-output MC cartridges..."+++++

and that's why I sold it, its sound is nearest to the MC than to a fine top MM/MI cartridge.

Nothing wrong with the MC ( low or high output ) sound but the MM/MI " signature " sound IMHO is near the live music experience, more real, neutral, transparent, less distortion and more emotional.

Certainly in your opinion the MMII can't even your 501 but this fact does not means that other more " humble " ( very low price ) MM/MI can't do it because in fact they do/did it.

IMHO the MMII/III as good it is I think that is not the best example of the MM/MI alternative, this alternative is way better than that aand this opinion is not only my single " word " but several ones that you can read on the MM thread with owners of top ( not high output MCs. ) LOMC like the Ortofon Windfeld or Allaerts Finish Gold or ZYX Universe.

Through the last months I learn that if any one want to be and " feel " the live experience ( nearer ) in our home systems the MM/MI alternative is something to hear ( of course we have to know which cartridges has that " magic " at the top. ).

Your statement ( that I respect ): +++++ " Detail is not as fine or deep as the best MC cartridges, but quite good for MM. " +++++

is something that has " cure " with MM/MI cartridges through changes on load impedance ( just like in a LOMCs. ).
I can add that that " quite good for MM " is a little lightly comment because IMHO ( too ) the MM/MI alternative is really a lot better of what you already experienced on the MMII, I think that the MM/MI cartridges has nothing to envy from the MC ones ( just an opinion. )

Anyway, your experience is very enlighted and promote an " open mind " aspect taht we have to cultivate on almost any audio subject.

The MM/MI alternative was ( till few months ago ) an almost " lost audio link " for no know reasons but everyone ( like you ) that is trying now are discovering this very well " keep secret ".

Like Alunstylus say: interesting thread.

Regards and enjoy the music,
This is a very smooth sounding cartridge but no better than my old Grado 8MZ and MCZ. Most frustrating are the plastic mounting lugs that deform with even a modicum of torque applied - IMO acceptable for cheap Grados but definitely not OK at this price level. You would think they could make them thicker for not much more money. Even entry level cartridges have better mounting arrangements; think Shure M97XE or Audio Technica ATF7 with their alloy mounting brackets.
I dunno about the guys having trouble with this cart in their OL arms, but I am getting spectacular results with my Music Maker MkIII in both arms I tried: Rega RB300 (rewired by BritAudio) and an OL Encounter Mk3C. It tracks like a champ and sounds sublimely musical and complete. I never detect any unsteadiness or resonance issues.

I have 2 versions of the cart: stock and a Soundsmith level 2 retip. Both are great in both arms.

Highish compliance, yes....but the Cartridge Man website says it should work in arms up to 13 grams. All Regas (and their variants like OL) are in this neighborhood. Strange others have had problems. Setup issues maybe?

My table is Townshend Rock Mk3. I guess it’s possible the Rock’s front end silicone trough may be dampening out any resonances that may be occurring?

Phono Stages used:  Tavish Vintage 6SL7,  JuicyMusic Tercel V2

For reference, I own / have owned: Dynavector XX-2 MkII, Dyna 20X-HO and LO, CA Virtuoso Wood, CA Maestro, Denon 103R, Benz Glider, Benz H20, SAE 1000, Shure V15, etc
PS: I also own the Hadcock 242 unipivot arm. Despite all accounts saying it’s a hugely synergistic match, and both the arm and cart being developed by Len Gregory, I much prefer the MusicMaker3 in my fixed bearing medium mass arms. As do all my friends who have heard all the various combinations.

Don’t think it’s a matter of better cart setup in the Rega based arms. I futzed quite a bit with the Hadcock / MM pairing, trying to achieve the great synergy I had read so much about.  While it sounded good, it did not reach the lofty heights the reviews had prepared me for.