Need help with MM cartridge choice

I've stumbled across a good deal on a Rega Planar 3 fitted with a Grace G-747 that looks to be an excellent choice for my second / MM table.  It has an old ADC on it that almost certainly needs a new stylus and I was never very fond of the ADC sound to begin with.  I've had good luck with B&O, Ortofon, Grace, Empire and Shure, but everything except Ortofon is ancient history now.

This table would be used for vinyl that can't really benefit from being spun on the Sota.  Think fair-to-good condition second-hand albums cleaned ultrasonically with minor visible scuffs that have seen a lot of play.  I prefer a neutral tone balance with flat frequency response.  Specs in the tonearm manual are pretty thin; 4 to 10 gram standard cartridge weight and nothing more.

Presuming the table & arm meet the mechanical, operating and geometry inspections when I go back tomorrow, I'd like some suggestions on an appropriate modern-era cartridge match.  I'd like to keep the investment ~$300 and definitely want something for which replacement styli are still made.  For those of you who haven't seen my posts before or checked my system page, I run a McIntosh C50 with a MC302 amp into Rogers Studio 1 speakers.  My primary table is a Sota Sapphire with a Graham Phantom Supreme and a DV XX2 MkII.

Thanks for your consideration and I look forward to your replies!

I’ve stumbled across a good deal on a Rega Planar 3 fitted with a Grace G-747 that looks to be an excellent choice for my second / MM table. It has an old ADC on it that almost certainly needs a new stylus and I was never very fond of the ADC sound to begin with. I’ve had good luck with B&O, Ortofon, Grace, Empire and Shure, but everything except Ortofon is ancient history now.

Replacement styli for Grace F9 are available from SoundSmith and all you need is a Grace cartridge body if you don’t have one.

I prefer original Grace styli and not even F9 cartridge body (I prefer F14 and LEVEL II), but Grace F9 is one of those inexpensive vintage MM cartridges anyone can buy today without a fear of unobtainable styli. SoundSmith styli always an option (when they are available).

I still have NOS (factory sealed) original Grace styli for F9, F14 and LEVEL II.

However, your $300 budget is too low for a good MM cartridge or even for a replacement stylus alone, you have to double your budget and then you can find really good MM cartridges with advanced styli.

Audio Technica VM540ML is your go to cartridge at $249. Even the Audio Technica AT-VM95E at $76 would suffice. You might add a little weight to the headshell.

You might try one of the cheaper Grado cartridges. Lots of bang for the buck. I had a Gold Note Vasari Gold MM cartridge that I liked very much. New, it was under $300.00. Really made my older Rock records sing.
AT VM540ML is a good choice and allows to upgrade the stylus in their VM line.

Nagaoka performs above its price point. MP-110 is below your budget or the
MP-150 can be found around $350.  The MP-150 stylus can be upgraded to the
MP-200 since they share the same body.
Personally, with a lower end Rega, I would just get a Rega Elys, bolt it in with the recommended 3-point mounting and enjoy.  The arm will not need any shims and you won't have to futz with the alignment or anything else. Yes, the other cartridges may sound better - maybe, but IMO with that turntable, there is something to be said for keeping it simple as possible and not obsessing of whether you have the right VTA, alignment, compatibility or anything else.  That's worth a lot in my book. 
agree with @noromance , at that price point the AT VM540 is pretty tough to beat. Very musical sounding cart. 
I too love my AT VM540 ML. It’s all about the stylus. No other micro lines are available at that price point.  It IS more musical than a recently acquired Vessel A3SV. There really is no other choice except to punch up to the 740, not necessary for a second spinner.
I vote for a replaceable advanced stylus profile and the work to properly clean old LP's. My batch of 10 manual cleaning makes a BIG difference.

I also think the AT540ML is a great choice, you may even prefer it for specific LP's in your favorite pile as well as the worn ones.

I use a MM for LP's that are 'not too special' sonically, ones I like and keep, (even fresh copies) or perhaps a farewell listen then sell. My old Shure V15VxMR body with new Jico SAS stylus has a brush for slight warps and dust pickup, an advantage for the rare warped keeper.

Primarily to reduce unnecessary wear on my more costly and non-replaceable MC stylus.

I found, the MM has to sound good enough that you like it's sound a lot, or you won't use it, thus you keep wearing the MC stylus. IOW, if tempted go up not down.

Removable Headshell/Mono Cartridge

That arm has a specific headshell, can you get spare headshells for it?

Do you have Mono LP's? Already have a true Mono Cartridge?

IOW, if you get that table/arm combo because it is a great 'deal', it's single headshell may prove to be limiting
Don't rule out the entry level Soundmith moving iron carts I've had good results with the ottelo on a second table. compliance check to be sure first. 

I believe you'll get better sound with a fix cantilever than a replaceable one.  When you can get the cart rebuilt for 20% (soundsmith's case)  of the new cost its worth considering for the improvement in sound over a replicable cantilever cart. 

Otello | Soundsmith (
only $100 to rebuild, 2 year warranty too. 

I use it instead of a Denon 103 MC, I find the Ottelo MI  better in most respects. Specially detail retrieval, excellent for a conical. 
My sincere thanks to everyone for all of the excellent input!  It proved very useful and enabled some more interesting reflections as I went through the evaluation process.

Which turned out to be far longer than anticipated.  Did the geometry check and everything was fine.  VTF was fine as was overhang, alignment & azimuth (elliottbnewcombjr the headshell is integral, so that was an easy check).  Then came the speed check.  Sloooooow.  Needed an oil change - very sticky.  New oil and an hour of spinning by hand to seat the assembly.  Looking good, replace belt, platter on, strobe disc on, power on.  Still slow.

Scratching heads.  Poke at the motor suspension, make sure it's got reasonable torque, watch the action on start.  Nothing unusual.  Two other belts making sure they're properly seated due to the rectangular cross-section (hint), re-level the table, same result.

Put a drop of lube on the top motor bushing, let the whole thing spin for another 15 minutes.  Still slow, motor presumed going south.  Very bummed as this table is a nearly perfect Planar 3, maybe 1985 or so.  Not a blemish anywhere and the dust cover has nary a scratch.  The arm is pristine and if it hasn't been recently restored, it was kept in a nitrogen filled box.  Zero oxidation anywhere, tight bearings, no scuffs, nothing.

I tell the tech I just can't spring for second table that will immediately eat a $225 motor kit, he says talk to the boss man.  Tell him the deal, he's not willing to move that far, so looking dim.  Suddenly the tech says "check this out."  It's running spot-on 33.3!  Turns out the wrong belt had been installed.  My last rebuild on a Rega was back in 1983 and had forgotten the belts are O-rings.  The tech had found a genuine Rega belt and tried it.  That little bit of difference in circumference from rectangle to round...  Note to self and those of us in a certain age bracket - don't trust your recall!

Play a part of a track, definitely stereo, in-phase, stylus not damaged or mis-tracking.  Take a closer look at it with the bench mag.  Not an ADC, it's an Audio Technica AT440ML.  Another note to self and others:  Use a magnifying glass when looking at small print.

Which turned out to be a good thing because the 540ML can't readily be had at the moment - supply chain SNAFU.  Not expected until Q1 2022.  A new stylus is still needed, but I can take my time on evaluation.  The Nagaoka tksteingraber and jerryg123 suggest is an interesting alternative as is Grado idea from @yogiboy .  

Fortunately, I have time to consider this in more depth because I spent a lot of time I didn't intend on due diligence. There's a lesson there!

Thanks again everyone!   
On a Rega Planar 3, you're not going to get good performance.  Sow's ear / silk purse.  Better to just get a cheap cartridge and start looking for a better table / arm.  
On a Rega Planar 3, you're not going to get good performance. Sow's ear / silk purse. Better to just get a cheap cartridge and start looking for a better table / arm
I thought that the OP already said he had a good TT in the opening post?

@effischer I would be interested in your comparison between the two TTs as I have a similar TT and my daughter is looking for something that would be along the lines of your new addition.
I’ve stumbled across a good deal on a Rega Planar 3 fitted with a Grace G-747 that looks to be an excellent choice for my second / MM table.

If you have Grace tonearm the best inexpensive cartridge for this arm is Grace F9 (or F8 Custom), think about it. They are made for each other.
Consider the Soundsmith Otello. 

It's $100 over your budget but what you're getting is a cart that performs above it's price point, and rebuild cost is $200.

I use one as a backup. Excellent performer.
People recommended SoundSmith cartridges made by Peter Ledermann (aka retipper on this forum). I asked Peter (SoundSmith) about vintage cartridges in this thread (quote below). You will see Grace in his list.


I’m curious, what is a well designed MM/MI or MC from the past (not new) in your opinion ?

Peter Ledermann:

Obviously Strain Gauge designs, although none have survived well, which is why I don’t work on them. Early Fairchild Stereo units. Some still are fantastic. Stax, for its cleverness, Dynavector 23 and similar, due to low mass (but terribly fragile), some Ortofon MI designs, Grace, and of course the B&O, upon which my line has evolved from. I have to say that as a person, VDH has befriended me from the beginning, and upon meeting and seeing my work, asked me "Are we competitors, or colleagues?"

I said it would be an honor to be considered a colleague; so he said "GOOT!" and shook my hand heartily and said - "What ever you need - always call me!" I have never taken him up on that, but I am always warmly welcomed by him whenever we happen to meet. The generous invitation was more than I needed or deserved. Indeed a gentleman and innovator, at a minimum. There is much to the man.

Peter Ledermann

Update on this:  Did some final tweaks on VTA and VTF and am very satisfied with the results.  Substantially better sound quality and tracking ability than the Pioneer PL-15 II I had been using as a second table.  The ATC 440 does indeed perform well, especially now that the VTA is more correct (the arm had been set ~2 mm or so too high).

Longer term, I may either replace the stylus with the current 540 version or install an Ortofon OM with a new OM30 stylus I found scrounging through my stuff.  The ATC has one serious design drawback for me:  It is very hard to see the stylus during alignment.  I recently developed a permanent visual impairment that makes cartridge alignment a special torture.  The ATC design is one I could never align for myself now while Ortofon, vintage Grace and Grado remain feasible.  Fortunately that's a decision I don't need to make anytime soon.
congrats - bet it sounds great ! enjoy. sorry to hear of the vision struggles. Rock on !
Have a look at the Garrott bros line of Phono cartridges. You will find one in your budget and won't be disappointed. Also with the current exchange rate, you will save 0.25$ on the dollar!