Need advice for a replacement phono cartridge

So, the cleaners destroyed my phono cartridge yesterday while dusting even though I'd cautioned them against dusting my stereo. Absolutely sick about it. Anyway, I need to get a replacement cartridge so I need advice on one that is of equal quality or better. The destroyed cartridge is a Transformation Axia which is no longer made. Thanks in advance!

My system:

VPI Prime turntable, Sutherland Little Loco phono amp, Luxman L509X amp, Revel F208 speakers, two Sumiko S10 subs

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If the cantilever was bent by dusting there is a chance it can be replaced without further motor system ebuild. Any way, my opinion is have it rebuilt. No you can't have a factory job done so why worry just get the best rebuild you can find....

Man that sucks!!!!

A cover for your VPI would be a wise investment when you get a new cart.

solypsa, cantilever is gone, never to be seen again

rsf507, probably about $3,000

audphile1, yes, absolutely will get a cover


Anyone have any knowledge of Koetsu cartridges?

Can't comment on Koetsu. I'm a fan of Dynavector cartridges myself and they mate well with VPI. The XX-2 MkII is a great cart and probably the sweet spot in their line up. 

I specifically use Soundsmith catridges for this reason. They will rebuild their $4K cartridge for $650. I currently have a Sussuro and Paua and they are both absolutely fantastic.

Fragile Items, such as a Cart’, not understood by a Cleaner, or any other individual who expresses an interest in it are now quite precarious, and exposed to detriment.

Fortunately there are options available to consider when the worse case happens.

VAS NY Inc has successfully rebuilt non-working Transfiguration Cartridges.

One UK Based Cart’ Owner, who sent a donor 'no longer made',  Trans’n Proteus Cartridge to VAS was extremely impressed with the ’now working’ returned Cart’, they were very satisfied with the Overall Costs as well.

I have told a full story of this Cart’ Owners experience in another thread.

Investigating your options on a Third Party Service Rebuild, can’t do any harm, and the rebuild might just extend your experience with this Cart’ for a very fair outlay.

If you're buying a different cartridge like a Koetsu, checking compatibility with your Sutherland Little Loco phono preamp might be a good precaution.  As a "current input" phono preamp, the wrong combination could be a problem.  I hope there is a dealer nearby who will let you try out cartridges.

For the Little Loco you want as low an impedance cartridge as you can get.

My Sonic Lab, Lyra and Ortofon make cartridges that will work well with your phono stage. I think the Ortofon Windfeld Ti would be an excellent choice. If you have a VPI unipivot arm you will need to replace it with their gimbal arm for the best performance.

So, the cleaners destroyed my phono cartridge yesterday while dusting even though I’d cautioned them against dusting my stereo.

Same story pops up regularly. Telling them not to dust the table does nothing. Guys, the only way to protect your cartridge is to SECURE access to it (or the whole turntable) before cleaners come over. Arms with removable headshells or arm wands are handy since they can be locked in a drawer. Sorry for your loss :(

Herb from Stereophile loved the Benz SL (iron-cross, wood body) with Little Loco, so any of their iron-cross models should be a great match. I have Zebrawood L and Ebony L - they’re excellent, and regularly available new for a really good deal in the classifieds here. The higher end models (Ruby, Gullwing, LPS) use a less efficient ruby plate and may not be a good match for the Loco (they certainly don’t work well with a SUT).

I also love Koetsu; they’re a little sweeter than Benz but cost more too. Should also be a good match for LL. Ortofon is good too, though I find their MC models have a little more variance in sonic balance than other brands (Cadenza Bronze, A90, Windfeld Ti here). 

I would send it to Soundsmith or other cartridge rebuilder I had a Sumiko redone where the cantilever was completely broken off. There’s always hope.

There goes the cleaners Christmas tip.

Some of the better Benz cartridges have a fairly high internal resistance and are not well suited to a current driven phono, eg, the LPS (38 ohms). On the other hand the Ebony L would work (5 ohms). Check specs and try to stay below 10 ohms internal resistance, no matter what LOMC cartridge you choose. HOMCs need not apply. 

Another vote for repairing the cart.  Where ever it ends up you will need to wait. I had a Koetsu RSP get its cantilever removed by the same mechanism.  Peter Lederman at SoundSmith repaired it after a several month wait.  It has been working great (and still sounding like a Koetsu) ever since. 

Because of the wait, picking up a cheaper low internal resistance cartridge in the meantime makes sense.  Have fun exploring something new. 

+1 on Benz Ebony L. However, the Zyz 4D is what I upgraded too, and is better IME. It is 4 ohm

Sorasound used to have them for $3495. not sure about now

Another happy SoundSmith customer! I’m using Zephyr MIMC Star with their MCP-2MK2 phono. Michell Gyrodec SE, SME M2-9-R.

Personally I think it’s crazy to wait several months "or so" for a 3rd party retip - either going without, or buying a "cheap" interim cart in the meantime. There are lots of great options that take less time than creating a full human being.

Since Transfiguration is apparently out of business, I’d pick a new cartridge (like a Benz iron cross & wood body model, or any Koetsu) and sell the old one as-is for its new owner to decide on their favorite re-tipper. Unfortunately you won’t get "full value" for the busted cartridge unless you already have it at a re-tipper for a damage assessment. So consider that, as well. I’d look at VAS NY since he has good turnaround time and proudly posts pics & audio of his rebuild work (which is quite extensive) to Facebook.

And I’m sure SS does great work, but over the years I’ve also seen a lot of "just 5 hours since rebuilt by SS, sounds great!" cartridges for sale, too. I’m not waiting 7 months to find out why lol.

@michobr59 Last week I upgraded my Hana ML to an Aidas Durawood Multicolor. Output is 0.3mv

I’m going to post something over the weekend with a bit more detail but I can say I’m blown away - it’s like getting a whole new system. Erik at was awesome to work with and gave me a lot of set up support.

I think value for money is excellent. Erik sells direct to end-users.

Full disclosure I have no other experience with any other carts in this price range, but I’ve found my happy place.

Here is a pic of it mounted.

@michobr59 Someone just posted a very slightly used Audio Technica ART9XI on USAM for a decent price. It’s one of my favorite phono carts of any under $5K. I had it mounted when I had a 12” 3DR on my VPI. I preferred the tone even over the Dynavector XX-2 Mk2 and XV-1s.

There is a very healthy thread here from a few years back on the original ART9 you can find easily by searching for “ART9”.


I own a Koetsu Rosewood Signature. A fantastic cartridge, while detailed it is extremely natural and musical. My previous cartridge was a Van den Hull Frog. No comparison between the two. The Koetsu is magically musical, forgiving, and detailed. As opposed to some no holes barred detailed oriented that can make many albums sound bad. This cartridge perfectly fits my values for sound quality. I couldn’t recommend the company more.

@ghdprentice are you kidding me? A Koestsu? A Rosewood Signature? You couldn't possibly like that cartridge. It sounds like lacey swiss cheese😁

@mijostyn agree EVERYTHING sounds good with a Rosewood Signature. It's not supposed to be like that IMHO. Try a SoundSmith cartridge, yes not the most detailed but sounds like music to my ears


+1 on Sound Smith to see if they can repair. They did an amazing job with pa badly damaged Lyra Skala for me.



I will admit I do like Swiss cheese.  Do you think that is why I like Koetsu? Or maybe it was because I used to live in Japan… or maybe it is a spectacularly good sounding cartridge. 

Thanks for all the great advice and insights.

Anyone have experience with Koetsu Urushi and VPIs JMW-10 3D Tonearm? I have an opportunity to get this cartridge at a great price. 

Should I be concerned with the low mass tonearm pairing well with the low cartridge compliance (light tonearm with stiff cantilever)? 


Try a Sound-Smith cart. I have had 3 ss carts paired with 2 different VPI tables the last several years. 2 of those carts were re-built by Peter L. (I was told by Peter Green at SS that Peter does all SS rebuilds, hence the long wait time). A couple weeks ago I purchased a Paua and traded in my previous SS carts. I simply could not wait again with a back-up cart in use. The Paua is great in my system and I am happy with my decision. I need a backup cart now and will likely buy the Othello. SS and VPI mate well.


I took my Koetsu Rosewood Sig Platinum over to a friend’s VPI HR-X with 3D Reference arm and it sounded wonderful - exactly like it should. I was wary about the effective mass too, but it didn’t matter. Note though, he had the dual pivot so that might be a good idea to get. Koetsus seem to like the stability.

If it fits your budget, Koetsu is a wonderful choice! 


Should I be concerned with the low mass tonearm pairing well with the low cartridge compliance (light tonearm with stiff cantilever)? 
A cartridge and tonearm work together. A stiff tonearm requires a high compliance cartridge. 
It’s not the mass of the tonearm alone that determines the type of cartridge.

Probably tired of hearing it by now but SoundSmith has a ton of information on their website linked to YouTube. Peter Lederman will tell you what to do!



I have the Ortofon Cadenza Black on my VPI HW-40. Simply incredible paired together in my opinion.

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I have an Urushi. It’s excellent. A little more bass and treble than a Rosewood. Less “warmth”, more detailed. I just had it retipped by Expert Stylus with a Paratrace, still with OEM boron cantilever. I think it’s better than ever but my system is also better than it was 12 years ago when I bought the Urushi.

@ghdprentice , you have to be kidding me. Do you know what the Japanese listen to for music? Just throw a handful of spoons into the air. They have no idea what good sounding is. Make great cameras though. 

@michobr59 , Koetsus are very stiff. It is not a good idea to put a stiff cartridge in a unipivot arm. You should lean towards more compliant designs or get rid of the arm.


That's why I mentioned the dual-pivot option. It seems to be a key component of getting Koetsus to work well on VPI's 3D arm. It's not really a "unipivot" anymore. I lent another friend a Jade; he reported mixed results on the stock 3D 10" and later added the dual-pivot to good effect. Now he has a Fatboy gimbal (40th Anniversary table) that's even better, but maintains the dual-pivot was quite good. I wasn't there to hear these options, though. 

I heard my RSP on another friend's 12" 3D Reference + dual-pivot, and it sounded like it should - did pretty much all the Koetsu "stuff" like back home on my FR64fx. 


Good one. Yes, I really enjoy Japanese and for that matter Chinese music. But in particular the Japanese esthetic and incredible commitment to iterative improvement on a design committed to musical fidelity. I wish I could have a second Japanese high end audio system. 

@mulveling , I have a real hard time buying anything from a guy who said antiskating was not important. 

@ghdprentice , I have a Japanese drumming disc that is sort of fun. I have a bunch of wonderful hand made Japanese woodworking tools (samurai sword tradition)  and yes, a camera or two, but Koetsus remind me of bricks. I feel like making a doll house out of them🤣

@lewm , the Japanese believe that workmanship endows items with a spirit as they believe different stones endow items with a particular spirit. So you have Urushi and stone Koetsus. Apparently the Japanese believe stone spirits are better than lacquer spirits and so command a higher price. They do the same thing with their woodworking blades. How can such a sensitive and aesthetically cultured society get so brutal? If the Chinese keep pushing they are going to find out... again. 

I love my Namiki Urushi fountain pens. So typical of Japanese workmanship. Take a classic design and iterate over and over again improving it to be world class. Meticulous commitment to perfection.  Like my Koetsu cartridge.


+1 on Koetsu cartridges. They're lovely! I got the "seven year itch" to try other cartridge brands, which I enjoy too, but now 12 years since my first Koetsu I always end up coming back to them as my longtime favorite, and remember why they were so intoxicating in the first place. 

Dear @michobr59  : I agree with  @solypsa , rebuilt your Axia.

Transfiguration motor is a better cartridge motor that any Koetsu and that other top cartridges.

You can take contact with Joseph Long to make the rebuilt:


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


I have the Little Loco and am currently using a Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum and am thrilled with the combination.