Phono Cartridge for $1,000.

Currently have Clearaudio Virtuoso MM cartridge . Wanting to go to MC. Found a Hana ML and a Sumiko Blackbird on sale for $1000. I am using a Musical Fidelity M6 phonostage so it will handle all. Is it worth it to change? If so, which one? I live in the sticks in Alabama so listening is almost impossible. 
If you like the Virtuoso you can't go wrong moving up the Clearaudio line 
I'm very happy with the Talismann even if I broke off the @#$% cantilever and will replace it with the same
The Hana ML is a great sounding cartridge. I listened to it extensively on an AMG Giro TT at my dealer, the Audio Connection in Verona, NJ. It punches way above its price point and is supposed to work well on a wide variety of turntables and arms.
Agree, I have heard the Hana at three dealers I trust greatly and it sang at each place on widely different systems...
And its sibling, the Hana SL (Shibata low-output mc) for $750 is a contender for "best sound under $1K"!
You may want to consider the Gold Note Donatello Gold in this price range. Review by Michael Fremer on Analog Planet. Another review.

I'm pretty close to Alabama. Feel free to give me a call.


Gold Note dealer in Nashville, TN
FWIW, I think the virtuoso is a great cartridge. Currently I switch between that, a "Heed (actually a benz), & a clearaudio concept MC. All have their merits. The Virtuoso is the best overall with the concept MC being the fastest, & the Heed having the most "liquid" midrange. Will probably be trying the ART 9 or clearaudio essence next. 
If I'm not mistaken, the Clearaudio cartridges are made by Audio Technica. Whether or not the Clearaudio cartridges are better than the AT, I don't know.
Hana is made by Excel Sound
ClearAudio MM motor is Audio-Technica

Go for Audio-Technica ART-9 LOMC via official distributor only if you want something better than your Clear Audio with the ability to service your Audio-Technica cartridge at the manufacturer in Japan (not by some third party vendor). When the needle is worn you can send your AT back to get new one for special price (instead of retipping).

Instead of those new cartridges you can always look for a NOS Dynavector KARAT 23RS with Ruby cantilever and MicroReach diamond and it will be amazing cartridge for about $600-800 max.
The Hana SL is fantastic and a definite step up from the Virtuoso.  I haven't heard the ML yet, but would expect it to be better.  If you can stretch your budget a little, The Kiseki Blue is even better than the Hana SL or the Virtuoso (which I also own).

I bought my Kiseki Blue from Kron, excellent transaction.
Had the virtuoso ebony and now have the Hana SL. No contest, the Hana is much, much better to me in every way.
previously had Ortofon bronze, black and some Grados. Hana is producing carts on a another level.
Also, heard the ML and not sure it’s any better than the SL, which is saying a lot. About as good as it gets for vinyl.
Using a Cronus magnum 3 and Martin Logan 11a speakers. As detailed and real as I have ever heard in an analog set up. 
Any MM cartridge can be loaded at 100k Ohm (instead of 47k Ohm) and it will be a huge upgrade, much "more airy" presentation and noticeable high frequency extension. At least worth to try as an alternative to 47k Ohm standard. 

Also MM cartridge can sound bad if the cable capacitance is not what was recommended by the manufacturer. Pay attention to the cables used for MM. 

Fremer's video tour at Excel Sound wasn't impressive for me, anyone can watch here

Anybody know something about Hana’s mono cartridge? I’m somewhat considering replacing my AT33 Mono Anniversary.

If your arm leans toward medium-low mass the ART 9 is very hard to beat at that price. Maybe the one component I most regret selling. 
Another vote for the Hana SL. Can’t put to words the improvement over my Sumiko. Has about 25 hours and sounds lovely - and its party trick is how it reduces pops and clicks. Still playing with impedance - it calls for >400 ohms and flipping between 330 and 1k with my Tavish.

Note; compliance is 10 @100hz. Excel has explained this might be 17 @10hz :) typical Japanese ambiguity.  
@chakster  How many Hrs. would you get out of art-9 lo? Is that a match for vpi prime sig table. Or what is for that price range.
@fruitloopsr expect at least 1200 hours, the stylus type is AT's MicroLine (Special Line Contact) and dynamic compliance at 10Hz is about 30cu, weight is 8.5g so you can calculate everything here if you know VPI tonearm mass (i don't have this tonearm or this turntable). 
You can find authorized US dealers here

"Audio-Technica products are sold through our carefully selected authorized dealers. Verify before you buy. Only purchase A-T products online when you see this symbol, indicating an authorized dealer"

This is ART-9 with US one-year limited-end user warranty

*Make sure to ask a dealer regarding retipping,refurbishing or exchange program.
@chakster Yeah I like the exchange program vs. retip If i like it for 1000 hrs. Thats alot of lp"s
Recently, I faced a similar situation and was tried to decide among the A-T ART-9, Hana ML and Sumiko Blackbird. I went with Hana ML and I am very happy with its sound quality. I definitely think this is worth upgrading to either one of these three.  
I faced a similar situation and was tried to decide among the A-T ART-9, Hana ML and Sumiko Blackbird.

Did you compare all 3 in your system before you made a choice ? 
I listened to Hana ML and Sumiko Blackbird before I made the decision to go with the Hana. I listen to classical music mostly and felt Hana is a bit more detailed with excellent resolution in higher frequency range.  The A-T ART-9 wasn't available at the time.  
After talking with too many people. I pulled the trigger on the Sumiko Blackbird. I think it will pair well with my system. It is a big system in a big room. I was able to get it for less than a thousand.

I was supposed to say that Sumiko should not be in this list at all. 
ART9 cost $990 from US dealers
The Art9 has been discontinued and is no longer for sale on the AT site. A newer version should go on sale soon. Might be $150 to $250 more.
+1 for the AT ART-9. have not heard the new 9XA, but do have the ART-9  and ART-1000, both great carts.
I think the ART-9XA is the replacement for the ART-7, it has an output of 0.2mv. Looks like the ART-9XI is the replacement for the ART-9, it has an output of 0.5mv.
What is an "Air Core Coil" chakster? I’ve never heard that term.

The term is old
It's the opposite to an Iron Core

"Compared to the iron core type, which is the mainstream of MC cartridges, the air core type is not affected by magnetic distortion, so a natural tone color and precise sound field expression are possible" .

Another Air Core Coil type is an old Fidelity-Research FR-7fz for example 
I am a huge fan of Audio Technica cartridges.  I have not owned any of their MC designs as I have been a long time user of their very excellent top of the line MM, the AT20ss and it's still one of the best sounding carts out there.  I recently picked up an Ortofon A90 MC which of course is way more money than any of the items being discussed here, but this is a truly outstanding piece.   If I had to send my A90 out for service, I'd be very pleased with swapping back in my AT20ss!   The bottom line here is that if you go for an AT MC design, I am sure that you would be very pleased with the outcome.
It is the former the coil is wound around. That can be plastic, paper, aluminum, iron ...
That new ART9 looks interesting with it's .2mv output, every cart I have ever been able to try that offers different outputs, I have always favored the lower output version, such as the Dynavector 20 series, LYRA Helikon SL, plus the threaded body to attach to the arm is a plus. Can't wait on the feedback on this cart. Enjoy the music
Recently purchased the AT ART9 from Upscale Audio. Best sounding cartridge I’ve had so far, and have had 3 pricier ones. Strengths are detail, bass, imaging and timbral accuracy. It just sounds live.
Also have a low end Hana EL, also from Upscale. The Hana has excellent SQ for the price, so I can only imagine the improvement with an SL or ML.
Just received my Sumiko Blackbird from Upscale. Sounds fantastic. Had Clearaudio Virtuoso V2. The difference in the moving coil from the moving magnet is huge. Linda Ronstadt my favorite. She sounded good on the Virtuoso but really sounds fantastic on the Blackbird.
The Blackbird is a great cartridge, as long as your system leans on the warm side. I used one years ago.

Enjoy it. The Bird can get a little hot on the upper end-system dependent.

Be mindful not to have a unbuttoned long sleeve shirts or have a rag anywhere near the cartridge. It's a disaster waiting to happen.
"Air core" refers to a coil wound around nothing but air.  So far as I know, the ART7, which I own and like very much, has an "amorphous core" Amorphous metal is an alloy with a non crystalline structure produced by ultra-rapid quenching (about 1 million ℃ per second) of molten alloy.  The penalty for using an amorphous core or an air core coil is reduced efficiency compared to using a coil with the same number of turns of wire around an iron core.  This is why the ART7 has much lower output than does the ART9.  I don't know about these two new models that bear the "ART9" prefix, but it makes sense that the low output version of the new ART9 would be the one with an air core coil.
I use an Ortofon Quintet Red and it's so good I might try a Black when it wears out...there's yer 1000 bucks right there...
what did you end up doing?

i have a hana ml myself and was actually curious about sidegrading over to maestro. they're in the same price range and while the average mc beats the average mm, ive never compared two that are in roughly the same value proposition. i love moving magnets and i would love to hear a truly great one. but i dont want to feel like im downgrading from what i have. :)
I had a Holborne cartridge for about $900. I thought it was spectacular. I believe EMT makes a pickup at that price range as well and you cannot go wrong with EMT.