Need some Cart recommendations, $300 - $700 (New/Used) range…warm, full, yet great def.

As always…all thoughts welcomed…but actual experience is preferred.



Background: I want my records to sound like records (full, organic, etc.) not cds (I say this because I’ve had and heard several hi end turntable/cart combos that sounded sterile and analytical… I hate that). I don’t care if it’s coloration I’m seeking or not. If you have a problem with this notion…that’s ok but please don’t debate it here.

Right now I’m very satisfied with all aspects of my system…just want to have an extra cart to rotate in.



I have the following

-Turntable is Vintage Kyocera p701 (think old HK, AR suspended design…uses ceramics to dampen) it’s an awesome table worthy of even very high end carts.

-cart is a Hana SL …which I really really like after wasting a lot of time and money on other carts. (And no, not ruling out the ML…but wouldn’t mind a bit of a different sound signature)

-Phono pre- PS Audio Stellar- love this too…landed on after many disappointments and wasted $. My pre should accommodate most suggestions and it’s not going to change.


I am open to MM, MI, or MC…but seems like we are moving toward MC?


As mentioned/implied above…I like FULL/LUSH sound


Carts I’ve liked: Shelter 201 (awesome for the money!), Shure Vintage Carts (M95ED?), Hanna SL

Carts I think I’d like: Nagoka, Grado

Carts I haven’t liked: dynavectors, ortofon red, blue, bronze, and, omg, Rega Exact (yuk!) 😉


re. Grado…sounds like these may be my exact cup of tea…but, possibly foolishly, from what I’ve heard, I worry about hum and weight… Definitely would love some input from folks with actual experience here! I am intrigued by Grado.


I’ll try to find some specs in mean time.


Thanks in advance.





@ml8764ag I nudge you not to be so closed minded about the use of a SUT,

I have a Phon’ with a Built in Phonostage that is quite impressive and a Group of individuals that have been demonstrated it and loaned it really like it, but it is preferred with a SUT and Head Amp as a partner, and I agree to this as well, and will say the SUT is the preference for myself.

I also have a MM Only Phon’ that is used with a SUT as the main ancillary and a Head Amp is attached occasionally when I want to have a different flavour to the moment.

My experiences of being auditioned a Hybrid Design Phonostage, is that the built in MC Section, is usually produced from parts that have a similar sonic characteristic and most present with a similar sonic character, albeit a designer may choose where the frequencies are most prominent as a presentation.

A SUT or Head Amp can offer an alternative to a typical presentation.

I have been involved in many comparison demonstrations between SUT’s and Head Amps and have reasonable understanding of how the differences from each during a demonstration are perceived.

From my own experiences undertaken in my listening room, I have deducted that the SUT’s used, will inject a little colour to the presentation, add a hue of tone of richness, to the point with certain SUT's there is undoubtedly a Rich Tone presented.

The Head Amp does not create this perception, the Head Amp's I have been able to use, are more anchored to a Transparent presentation, but can be a tad forceful with a certain frequency.

In a very recent listening demonstration on a system I am quite familiar with, a SUT was brought along by an attendee, from a Brand that was unknown to myself, the impression made was quite a surprise, as it was not expected to stand out for its qualities being presented over the resident SUT used on the system.

If the OP could be successful in arranging a loan of a SUT or Head Amp, to experience the contribution these can make to their replays, there might be enough detected to from the added richness, to extend the trials of using ancillaries with the Phonostage of choice.

I researched, for my first MC cartridge I chose AT33PTG/II

. Microline on Boron cantilever.


got lucky, love it. my system provides excellent imaging, so I wanted advanced stylus shape for better groove contact; boron cantilever; wide channel separation and tight channel balance. I won’t go stiffer than boron, too easy to break more brittle stuff. not just me, everyone loves it. I/we compare it to my MM Shure V15Vxmr body with new Jico SAS on boron;

MM AT440ml microline on aluminum; my friends MC Goldring Eroica LX gyger II stylus; MC Denon 103 elliptical

It sounds so good I wore it out. Didn't even consider another. One advantage of buying AT: they sold me a replacement cartridge for trade-in price of $249.

Charisma Denon 103...EMT HSD006 (may be a bit out of $ range), but discounts are generally possible. You could consider an EMT Tsd series used. Have you tried the Dynavector 20X. It's a much different sound than the 17D for instance...Of the above, I have a TSD 75, and have lived with the 15 it replaced. Full body sound with plenty of meat on the bone...not warm/colored, but certainly not cool/dry or thin. Paints with a broad brush...Same with the Charisma (Denon), but much lower output, and maybe the EMT is a bit more refined. Splitting hairs...the Charisma is a gift for the money. I believe the retail was $700 US when I bought mine. I believe you are on to something with Grado...and perhaps the Nagaoka. BTW- the Charisma tracks a bit lighter than a standard 103, for which it shares nearly identical specs. It worked fine on a Well Tempered arm for me. It also played nicely on my Kuzma arm. Have fun. 

Thanks for the wonderful suggestions.  

re. Dynavector 20x…yes tried that one….liked it but didn’t love it (been a while, but ifI recall…it may have been pleasant but didn’t grab me)it wasn’t until I got the Cheap Shelter that I knew I was onto something I really liked. Then the Hana SL …and here we are.

ohh…and unfortunately I have to admit…unfortunately, this whole SUT thing does sound VERY interesting….however, after my budget…I’d still have only one cart.

 Tried to find more mass info for my tonearm…having difficulty.  Makes me kinda fear going Down the Grado path (I’m going to try to post a picture link or update my profile with my tonearm…I think it’s an early Jelco…configured specifically for the table…seems medium mass at best.  Maybe some can I’d it..etc.   I don’t usually worry about such things  (frankly, I think we throw pennies around like manhole covers when it comes to vinyl) but do want to ensure within spec for my arm…for best results.

Re. Grado…any thoughts on the Sonata 3 vs. platinum 3 …I think retail is $600/$400 respectively?