Some cartridge recommendations






















I have recently acquired a Panasonic SP-10 TT with an Ortofon MC10 cartridge. I am using the phono section of my Modwright 225I for phono play back. I am thinking a more modern MC cart would be a better choice. The tone arm is a SME 3009 series II improved. I am new enough at vinyl playback that I am not sure what a good match for a cart would be. Any comments would be appreciated, thanks.








You are going to get countless suggestions on this platform, but everyone's setup is different and will sound different than yours. 

Not that cartridge specs will ultimately determine the sound, but my advice is to buy the best specs you can afford from a reputable brand and learn from there by listening yourself on YOUR system.  

This link has some great basic information for you: Phono cartridge guide (

I may not have worded my question as well as I could have.

From what I have read and assumed from that; I need to be sure the cartridge is a good match for the tone arm. The table and tone arm are not going to change. So, I am looking for recommendations for a combination that is known to work together. It will be up to me if I like the end result, but at least I will know that I have purchased something that has a chance of working together, thanks.  


To unleash the expected flood of bewildering recommendations, what is your budget?  Also, try to find out what is the effective mass of your tonearm plus headshell.  (If you're using the OEM SME headshell, then usually the mass of the headshell is included in the manufacturer's spec for "effective mass".)  Then add the weight of whatever cartridge (typically 5-6 gm to less than 15 gm).  And you can then select a cartridge with suitable compliance to keep the resonant frequency within the accepted range of 8-12Hz.  (There are automated calculators on line.) OR, ignore all that crap and get a cartridge you like and can afford. In actual practice, most cartridges work with most tonearms, unless one or the other is wildly different from the norm.

The mass of the tone arm is 9 grams w/the detachable headshell, which it does have. Budget is $1,000.00 plus or minus a smidge. Hopefully minus. 

Unfortunately there will be a few who will frown upon your TA, but it is the Improved Series II, so a wider range of MC's can be considered.

For an idea of what can occur, a friend and I were comparing same design > manufacturer Cart's, with slight differences to their designs due to one Cart' having been sent to a Third Party Service.

Both Cart's were mounted on the same Headshells Designs with a SME Bayonet connection.

Both Cart's were replayed initially on a SME 3009 Series II, which was substantially fettled.

Both Cart's sounded very very wanting.

On another occasion, a TA was used that was much more of a match to the Cart's being used, and it was without doubt, both Cart's had excelled in improvement of the presentation.

Caveat Emptor is the guidance when selecting an MC for your TA.

The Ortofon MC10 already selected is possibly one of the better matches, or even the MC 20 - 40.


Thank you for the response, that is the type of info I was hoping for. No reason to get a different cart if will not be a good match and hopefully give better performance, Allen. 

FYI, I inherited this set up from my 92-year-old uncle, it is very vintage and mostly unused. I was looking to see if a more modern cart would be a good idea. Sounds like possibly no. I also have all his vinyl (in very good condition) and was wanting to get playback a little closer to what I am used to. A bigger sound stage and frequency response at both ends. This set up has good tone just seems a little flat. 

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With being New to the use of Vinyl, there are a few things that can be considered, which are not too expensive and will improve the sound that is being produced from the Vinyl Set Up if all other ancillaries needed to replay vinyl are in a good condition.

There are also forums with dedicated Threads to the SP10, but usually found under the Technics Brand name, I'm sure there are Threads to be found for the 3009 as well. 


Have a look into the mounting of the TT, is it on a very rigid support structure, not influenced to move by movement of the rooms floor?

If the Support is seemingly very rigid, the TT, can be mounted on New Feet (Improve Isolation) or a Sub Plinth with different Foot Types to support Sub Plinth and TT (Additional Improvement for TT's Isolation).

If there is a Vinyl Collection Inherited, there is considerable improvement to found for the Sound Quality when cleaned Vinyl is used.

None of these incur too much cost, but will be very advantageous to ones experiencing Vinyl being used, especially when the time comes that purchases are being made of replacement ancillaries           

The old cartridge is more than likely past it's prime and also I would worry about stylus wear. It would be a good idea to have it examined and possibly rebuilt. HOWEVER, the MC 10 has a stupidly low output and you are certain to have a poor signal to noise ratio with it. You will be much better off with a modern cartridge with a higher output. I would suggest a Soundsmith Zephyr. It will match your tonearm nicely, It has 4 times the output of the MC 10 and company support is second to none.

The Ortofon MC Super Cart's come in at 9 Grammes in weight have 0.25-0.3mv output, but more importantly have the Wide Range Damper in use, the WRD, has an impact on Sound, that is extremely impressive.

The Super series are Cart's in need of a MC Input or alternatively a SUT - Head Amp used in conjunction with a MM Input. 

The Soundsmith Zephyr is a MI design, weighs 11 Grammes and will only need a MM Input. 

I have 'no one must have preference', in my Cart' collection I own LOMC's,  HOMC's and MM's and Ceramics. At present the preference is for the use of LOMC's, which has been such for quite some time, especially when learning about the designs that can be put in place for a Cart' to be rebuilt.

As I age further, I don't quite see the need for the expense of LOMC's, as my overall hearing range will most likely not be getting the best from investments made, when that day appears is yet to be encountered.

The Ego and Forum Talk to be had, might be the area that is most beneficial from owning very expensive LOMC Cart's, when a certain period of being alive leaves one with age related hearing deficiencies. I don't need to be asked at present numerous times if a I would like a Tea or Coffee, but I do have a wife who swears I am hard of hearing. I prefer to call it hard of listening 😏. 

In general many systems can't reproduce the frequency range that a Source Material can generate, either via a Cart', CD Player or Streaming Service. Most systems will have a cap to the frequency range and Roll Off some where before the extremes.

If one has invested in a system that can reproduce such a wide range of frequency, measuring frequencies that are present in an environment between 17hz - 20Khz is not hearing 17Hz to 20Khz frequencies, as ones hearing will need to be without impairment to get to hear such frequencies.   

Fortunately for myself, replaying recorded music is viewed as merely being one method of listening to music, where listening to music in conjunction with my interest in audio, is viewed merely as a form means to create a form of entertainment.

Even though equipment can impact on the sound being produced, and this is an area of the interest I have made much time to increase experiences through encountering different equipment, the end product for myself is strictly viewed as a means to be entertained only.

For the OP, suggestions of uber expensive Tools to enable music to be replayed are best of taken as a reference to a product, but not necessarily the required purchase route, to what is going to create, what is most suitable to your learning, which is most suitable to attain what is perceived by yourself, as your own unique listening preferences.

'Experiencing Equipment' and learning through these 'in front of experiences' is the key, listening to equipment owned by others is a very prudent way to strike items  of the 'interested in list', placing them on the 'unwanted list'. 

If the SP10 was purchased new by your grandfather and if it’s never been serviced and/or was in storage for many years, you might want to consider having it evaluated for speed constancy and etc. Check speed with any inexpensive strobe device. If it appears to work fine, you might get away with doing nothing. Electrolytic capacitors die with age and especially when left uncharged for long periods of time. Replacement is cheap because lytics are cheap. I’d go with a low or mid price MM or MI cartridge. Contrary to what was written above, you don’t need to buy an expensive LOMC in order to enjoy flat response out to and beyond 20kHz.

Dear @backwash : You own an integrated unit that seems a good one.

For the posts I can see that no one owned the original Ortofon MC10. I owned and after the Denonn 103 the MC10 was my true " first " LOMC cartridge with really high quality level performance, so you don’t need to change it due that you said that your uncle almost not used.

Your manufacturer says that the phono stage can handled MM and HO MC cartridges and your Ortofon MC10 is a LOMC cartridge so you will need an external SUT as the Denon AU-340 that you can buy through ebay. This step up transformer is of very high quality even that the model is a vintage one, I still own this Denon 340 and comes with the needed rigth gain for the MC10.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


My Integrated can handle MM or MC carts it is full adjustable by dip switches inside on the phono card. It is however fixed at 50 db of gain.  This is the newest Modwright integrated, KWH 225i.

After looking at the Soundsmith website it appears all their carts like more gain than I have available.  They say 58-64 bd for gain. 

I have had the TT checked by a competent local tech and it is in perfect spec and near perfect cosmetic condition. I have it setting on its own steel table with a 1.75" maple top. (made from a piece of industrial equipment extremely heavy on a concrete floor) It is level and not moving short of an earthquake. 

Thanks again for all your comments. 


Then as Raul explained,.  you will either have to get a step up transformer or go to a high output cartridge. Soundsmith makes a high output version of The Zephyr called the Voice. I owned one and it is an excellent cartridge, but on the more expensive side. It will run perfectly with 50 dB of gain. You can get excellent transformers for less, but then you have the possibility of having a cartridge past it's due date. IMHO, unless you want to go all in on a phono stage with over 60 dB of gain you will be better off with a high output cartridge. There are several decent ones in the 550 to 1000 dollar price range. the Goldring 1042 and the Nagaoka MP500 come to mind as well as the Ortofon 2M Black LVB. Grado also makes a fine cartridge.  


I read that the MC10 had an output of 0.07 mv. @rauliruegas is sure to know the answer. I was referring to the Zephyr MIMC, I should have specified. The OP does not have enough gain anyway.




I already have a Step-Up Transformer, I should have mentioned that sooner sorry. It is from Ortofon, says STM 83 on it. Small round unit about the size of an inline fuel filter. I was thinking it would be good to get this out of the system just due to its age, along with the MC10. Maybe I should use what I have. Sounds like it's all reasonably good stuff. Again, I felt like the sound stage width and height was lacking with this compared to streaming Qbuz through my Lumin T2. Tonally it seems mostly ok.  Slightly less upper midrange low treble. I know I will not listen to it very much unless I can get more out of it. I am 65 years old and grew up on vinyl but never had a very good TT just cheap DD Kenwood with an Empire MM cart and later an Onkio with a very inexpensive Ortofon. The SAE tone arm on this unit cost more than anything I had back then. Since then I have upgraded everything several times to what I think is a very good sounding system. I Would like to play some vinyl for old time's sake but it just seems a little dead to my ears.

To recap system Modwright KWH 225i, Lumin T2, Oppo 105D, Tyler Acoustics Woodmere II speakers, stereo Rythmik F12 subs. The mentioned Panasonic Sp10/Ortofon analogue rig, All with Synergistic Reasearch Tesla cabling, DHL sub cables.

Dear @backwash  : Your SUT it's just not up to the task for quality. You need at least the Ortofon T-20 por the Denon AU-340, any of these will makes a quality way differences for the better.

Other thing that could improve your analog quality level is to make a check up to the cartridge/tonearm set up in parameters as: offset angle, overhang, etc that need to stay spot-on according the protractor you use. You can too fine tunning the sound " playing " alittle with the cartridge VTA


mijostyn, nominal output of the MC-10 is 0.1mv.



Dear @backwash  : "  compared to streaming Qbuz  ". Today not only digital beats ecven top analog alternative that you should not make comparisons in between due that the signal sound that you listen is proccessed in two way different ways that are not comparable in between: apples vs bananas..

Now you can improve your analog quality level response if you change the cartridge ( MC10 ) for a MM/MI new cartridge that does not needs SUT and today MM are really good. This one can do for you:


Backwash, just to revisit the question of phono gain, you say your Modwright has MM and MC inputs. Then you go on to say gain is fixed at 50 db. That is not enough gain far an average LOMC cartridge, and it is way short of adequate for the MC10, which is among the lowest of LOMCs. If you move forward with this cartridge you are correct in thinking you need a SUT or some other way of supplementing total gain (e.g., a head amp or a current driven gain stage). If a SUT, you need at least a 1:20 turns ratio. Make sure you have enough gain before proceeding to conclude that vinyl is not worth the effort.

I may not be saying the right thing. It defiantly has fixed gain at 50 db. The cartridge loading in Ohms is very adjustable. I think have come to realize that with the gain fixed at 50db I need to look for high or medium output MC carts or stick with MM. The feedback I get is the Ortofon SUT I have is pretty obsolete and likely holding things back. It says STM 83 on the side. 

AT-OC9XML.  Best bang for the buck.  Hard to find anything better for less than three times its cost.  Should work quite well with your arm.  Fairly easy to set up.

Very good tracking.  A little fussy with VTA.  Stylus has a good life span with normal care and VTF.


Backwash, There are many MI cartridges that will work well with 50db gain or even a bit less.  IMO, after many decades in this hobby and after many many cartridges have passed through my hands, you are much better off with an affordable MM or MI cartridge than with an HOMC (High Output Moving Coil). Be cognizant, though, that some MIs are low output and some are high output.  Soundsmith and Grado make both types; you want an output of 2mV or higher.

I’m not making a recommendation other than i sure as S admire you for taking this turntable on from a 92 year old obvious music lover….i wish the same…. bless you and stick with it…..

If I were to decide to purchase a newer, modern SUT. What ones should I be looking at. Let's say < $1,000.00, thanks. 

@bpoletti +1 on AT-OC9XML

I also have AT-OC9XSL, which is also under $1k, and sounds amazing! ART-9 series are superb, particularly air-core with SUT!

@backwash  : The Denon AU 340 beats almost all  today SUTs under 3K-4K and you can find out for less than 1K and this is just an example what I'm talking about. Is up to you:



@rauliruegas Phasemation T500/T500 featured with XLR balanced inputs, which benefit low output MCs. Have you tried Phasemation SUT yet? It has huge “special winding + permalloy” transformers, which stays linear in the range between 10Hz at low freq. and 50kHz. I verified it in my Lab! 

I have an SUT over $1k in cost, and MC cartridges costing many times more than that. I'd say a Nagaoka MP-500 is the best and cheapest way to get where you want to go.

Dea @westcoastaudiophile  : Obviously you don't know the very high quality transformers in the vintage AU-340 where this SUT beats with out doubt the ones you mentioned. 


Been a vintage SUT this Denon can even be up-graded with internal rewiring ( no rocket science. ) and new top input/output connectors even if you want it XLR you can do it. If you can find out just buy it .


Btw, here some of its specs: 

Denon AU-340 Audio Step Up Transformer Manual | Vinyl Engine



@rauliruegas my question was if you have tried Phasemation SUTs, 300/500/100 series, to get your (respectful) opinion! I never said Denon oldie SUT is not good, but there is advantage to use balanced interconnects between MC and SUT. 

Dear @westcoastaudiophile :No, I never listened and I never do in my system due that around 16-18 years ago we designed and builded an active high gain phonolinepreamp that was the Essential 3150 and today is the 3180.


Even that I still own some SUT’s coming from Denon, Audiocraft and Entré but several years ago I used maybe almost " all " the vintage top japanese SUT’s and no one came wired balanced. The today units still own all are upgraded/updated for me and in the Entré I tested it balanced vs unbalanced and at least in my room/ system I did not listen any advantage in the balanced way and I have to say that the MM stage in the Essential is second to none.

I posted and post about SUT’s when some audiophiles ask for..

Of my SUT’s I have connected in my system the Denon AU-1000 that I’m almost sure is the best SUT ever and today almost imposible to beats it.

The name of the game in SUT’s is the quality level design, build and excecution to that design. Denon transformers were made by Tamura-San where the ones in the 1000 are superior to the ones in the 340. Those kind of transformers does not exist any more.


Here you can read about the Denon AU-1000 that I own:


Btw, I have nothing against the Phasemation.



@rauliruegas well, in the last 40y electronics materials engineering delivered much better wire, magnetics, isolation, magnetics etc., and I think phasemation is one of “analog dinosaur” companies on the top of the list today. Vintage stuff is vcasino game, where you play with you money against unknown aging factors accelerated by usage/storage moisture, dielectric aging, temperature etc.