Time for a new MM cartridge

My Grado The Reference cartridge is up to almost 500 hours and is beginning to sound a bit tired. I used a restored Thorens TD-125mkII table fitted with a SME 3009 II Improved w/ removable headshell. I used the onboard MM phono stage of my Yamaha A-S2200 integrated.

Have previously run a Grado Ref Platinum and Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood cartridge. I'm considering Nagaoka MP-200 or MP-300, AT VM760SLC, Ortofon 2M Bronze. Anyone here have experience with those cartridges and the SME arm? Any other recommendations?


I listen to classic rock, blues, jazz, metal and a bit of outlaw country.


First, the Grado Reference and the Reference Platinum are moving iron (MI) type cartridges, not MM.  So if you really like those two, you might consider specifically hunting for another MI type, maybe move up the Grado line.  Otherwise, from what I have been able to tell, the Nagaoka's get better as you move up their product line, so you might consider the best Nag you can afford.  And finally, your other choices are excellent too.  The AT has gotten many favorable comments on line.  You will likely get dozens of different advisories here, but you won't go wrong with any on your existing list, either.

I’m guilty as charged on lumping MI in with MM.😉 The current version Grado Reference is more than I care to spend at today’s pricing. I like the sound of the Grados, but looking to branch out a bit.

On another note; I received my Flux Hifi ultrasonic stylus cleaner last night. Used it for first time this morning (after my post), and it breathed a bit of life back into the Reference. I thought my regimen of Onzow and stylus brush was adequate, but the Flux seems to improve on that significantly. I'll still add a second/new cartridge.

I mentioned the MI type, because I personally have a predilection for that type, although I own and enjoy cartridges of all 3 major types.  On the other hand, the last Grado I owned was a TLZ, back in the 80s, which I enjoyed for many years as my only cartridge.

The AT VM760sLC is an excellent choice for your arm. The Goldring 1042 would be another. The Nags are on the stiff side for the SME. My favorite MM is the Clearaudio Charisma. I do not like the Grados and Soundsmiths until you get to the more expensive versions. IMHO the stylus is king. The AT and the Goldring have top shelf styluses you do not see in other cartridges.

Thanks, mijostyn, arm compatibility is something I wanted to address. 

I will probably have The Reference retipped once I have a replacement. It was at or near the top of their line at the time. 

500 hours doesn't seem like too long a time, how can the stylus be worn enough to replace with such low hours?

If you want to stick with MI, Soundsmith Carmen mk II ES is a nice option.

Stereo5, the ultrasonic cleaning worked a bit of magic apparently. Doesn’t sound new, but definitely revitalized to an extent. 

I think you would be really pleased with the new Nagaoka JT-80BK MM cartridge



You can listen to it here:



SoundSmith is another good option. They only charge 20% of retail when it comes time to rebuild.

I listen to mostly rock and reggae, and I've been using a Clearaudio Charisma MM cartridge - it ain't cheap at 2 grand, but it sure does rock my vinyl!!! 

The specs on the Charisma are impressive, and reviews seem to be quite good. It is pricey, however.

Regards hedgehog:


Other suggestions?

The AT22 and 24 cartridges are both well reviewed as are their running mates, the Signet TK9ea and the TK9LCA. The TK9LCA was at the time the top of the AT/Signet line. There are also the AT-23 and 25 integrated headshell designs, not quite as well received.


2.2mv output, inductance 85m, fr response 5 to 30k Hz. Nude .2 x .7 elliptical stylus on beryllium cantilever. The LCA response is .5 to 35k Hz. True toroidal coils, hand wound and separated by a mu-metal shield.


Stylus availability ranges from the initial TKN-29 available at DaCapo Audio to the TKN9LCA from Thakker. Fitment is compatible between the above AT and Signet cartridges. All are nude mount on beryllium cantilever. The LCA cantilever is tapered.


Also to be considered are the later TK10 upgrade with a ML stylus on BE cantilever or the elusive TK100, ML stylus on hollow ruby rod and silver wound coils.


If you’re not enamored with the classic AT "house" sound, for a slightly warmer response consider the final offering from Signet, the (Analog Master) AM 40, nude LC stylus on BE or the AM 50, ML on BE.


A favorite is the TK7LCA, nude LC stylus on BE cantilever. Although slightly slower in transient response the TK7 presents delicate Hf’s and a presence rich midrange providing hours of listener fatigue free enjoyment.


(Edit): A mention of the SoundSmith application of "Optimized LC stylus" on ruby cantilever for either the Grace F-9e or AT ML160 OCC cartridges.




Thank you everybody for taking the time to respond. I ended up ordering the AT VM760SLC. I should have it by this weekend, and I'll have it up and running on my day off Tuesday at the latest.