Turntable Cartridge upgrade question.

Hi guys


I currently run Ortofon 2M Black cartridge that is MM type. 

what would be step up to MC type cartridges in price range $1200 that would be way better than 2M Black ?


Thank you for input ahead!


1200.00 would be a big improvement. Nothing against  MM, I had them for many years and they sounded fine. But mc just pulled more music from my vinyl. 

A warning, the sound difference between mc and mm is different, some like it, some don’t. So “better” is a very personal word.


Ok, can you describe the difference ? I run fairly advanced phono stage (Schiid Mani 2) that can service  pretty much any cartridge, but my main concern is the bass and how much I get, do I get more of it and more details im mid and high?

How can you describe the difference between high end 2M MM cartridge and mid range MC cartridge, is it worth expense ?

Not too many years past I attended a event where both enthusiasts and commercial entities are able to demonstrate their systems under one roof.

It is an interesting event as the commercial interaction is very very different to the interaction with an enthusiast showing their home system.

I specifically went to experience Vinyl Sources and was keen to pick up on new Cart's.

The MC's were the objective, after a few demo's in the commercial rooms I dropped into a few enthusiasts spaces, one such room allured me back on a few occasions during the day, no matter how I tried to undo what was happening the reality was the enthusiast Ceramic Cart' costing approx' £30, well that what I paid for my one following the show. The Cart' was the most attractive Cart' heard by myself on the day. 

I also now have a Spare Styli, these Cart's today and Styli are as rare as Rocking Horse DoDo. I will preserve this as my final Cart' to be used, even though the Spare Styli is already agreed with a rebuild service to put a Beryllium or Boron Cantilever with New Ogura Styli on it.  Vintage does do well with a little injection of the new world.

Why not upgrade from the 2M Black to an Ortofon Quintet Black S? You'll get refinement across the board, including greater detail retrieval, and can have confidence you're getting a quality cartridge that is backed with reliable and high-quality construction and support.

I'm not interested to just change the cartridge, I'm interested to improve sound quality. I have cheap ($7K) table with $600 cartridge so the question is does $1200 cartridge makes big enough difference to bother.

Your problem is the Ortofon Black is really a fantastic cartridge for $$$$ i would echo @nekoaudio excellent input to move up the Ortofon line into the moving coils. i’ve never heard a Mani 2, so i can’t comment on its ability to resolve differences between the two very different cartridges….

Best to you on your journey ! enjoy the music

@ssg308 yes, moving from the MM 2M Black to the MC Quintet Black S will provide a noticeable improvement in sound quality. I expect you will be able to immediately hear the improvement through your Mani 2.

There is a Hana ML for sale here which is a $1200.00 moving coil cartridge for $400.00.  The seller is well known in the forums and it is an excellent buy at 66% off.  It’s a great way to see if you like the moving coil sound without going into debt. 

I had and really enjoyed the 2M black.  I upgraded to an Audio Technica ART9 and was blown away how clean, colorful, bassy and dynamic it was compared to the 2M.

At the time it was $1100 but now the prices are higher.  If you can stretch your budget a little the ART9XI is a big winner.  

secretguy yes it is not 30k so sub 10K are just entry level audiophile TT 

I know you can get Riga for 2k and it is excellent TT but honestly it does not look like much 

@ssg308 ,

I can’t figure out how to post the link with this iPad. It is in the “ new today” listings in bold print.  It was near the top of the page earlier but may be further down now.  You can’t miss it. 

Since you asked, yes; The Hana ML is an excellent cartridge, pair that w Hangerman Trumpet and you will definitely hear  a big positive difference 

Another vote for the Hana ML great cart I paid $500f 

for mine last year. You will love this cart. 

I agree with @theflattire 

You are going through all of this research using a Schiit Mani phono preamp? You have to be kidding. I have one as a back up. And when I auditioned it my system just to see how it sounded it was really lacking in presence, percussive articulation and lack of low end. Keep your cartridge and up the anty for a phono stage. Trying to audition a good cartridge through a Mani is like trying to look at a museum painting through sun glasses. Just saying. Good luck.


my TT isn’t $7000 but my phono stage costs around $5k.

IMO, the phono stage the most important component in your vinyl chain.  The signal has to go through it.

If your budget is the same as above, the new Darlington Labs MP8B looks good.

Upgrade the phono stage and you will probably like that 2M Black a lot more.

Buy the Denon DH-103 and get the wood body made for it.  That way you will be done with this and allow you to focus on a phono stage.

We have a Gold Bug cartridge which is also made by Denon.  The 103 is so close for so much less.

Happy Listening.

@theflattire valid point phono stage as like DAC are key components. let me explore your suggestion.

"sub 10K are just entry level audiophile TT"

As an experienced audiophile, it is my opinion that this statement is potentially misleading to anyone who is new to the hobby.  (I sifted through many less neutral, more pejorative adjectives before settling on "misleading".)  This was in response to the previous statement that $7K is "cheap".  Actually, in the price range of $5K to $7K you can buy many superb turntables for which you would never have to apologize, and if you open your mind to buying a second hand turntable, the ceiling is much higher.  I agree with the notion that the phono stage in this system can easily be bettered, and I disagree that MC cartridges are categorically superior to MM types or MI types, which haven't yet been mentioned.  Like the Nagaoka MP500.


The ZYX R50 Bloom3 on here @$995 or if you stretch to the latest model the Bloom Exceed at $1400. Read the reviews.


it is important to understand that Rome was not built in one day.

The Mani2 is your weakest link. The Hana ML cart is excellent. You won’t regret it. But you will need a better phonostage to really enjoy it. Think you will need to spend at least double the cartridge.

But again, Rome wasn’t built in one day…


What table and arm are you using? You never did mention what that cheap $7000 is!

I answered that question several years ago, before covid: Benz Micro Glider SL (with a Musical Surroundings Nova III phono stage that developed a hiss several months prior to the warranty going out and Musical Surroundings refused to take it for examination/repair - mind blown. I could have shipped it but no guarantee they’d return it… I found a dealer who bought it for a YUGE loss), deciding on a Quadratic MC-1 SUT to match it.


SUT is “the way” for me at least, one less complex electronic noise box in the audio chain (YMMV all the snarksters here in Audiogonland).

I have other cartridges now (Ortofon Cadenza Black, Ortofon Verismo) I’ve played with, and I’ll admit the Verismo needs better resolving equipment than I’ve got right now but I’m awed by its performance compared to the others mentioned (and got a smoking hot deal on it like it fell off the truck).


For starters I can’t recommend the Benz highly enough.


TT: Thorens 125TD Mk II with Pat Pruitt electronics, ceramic ball bearing spindle (no rumble)

TA: SME V rebuilt by SME Canada (smooth. 1 M 33 awg Cardas Litz wire to SUT)

Preamp: APT Holman (recapped, “tuned” by Peter at Quirk Audio). One word on the APT: Transparent.

Amp: Tektron TK2 2A3/50-IS with EML 300b PT and 1944 vintage Tung-Sol 6F8G drivers, sometimes an ADCOM 545II (“rebuilt” with the help and guidance of Chris Hoppe of Hoppes Brain) when I want to shake the house with something like RAMMSTEIN or King Crimson’s RED.

Speakers: Klipsch Heresy IV’s (I’ve been a Klipsch fan since the early 1970’s, but auditioning others now)

Just a thought..

If you’re interested in getting more bass from your system you might try a tone control like the schiit lokius. They can make a significant improvement in tailoring the sound of your system to your liking and for a lot less than $1200. Best of luck in your quest. 👍

I went from a 2m black to quintet black. There was much improvement but didn’t leave me with that wow factor until I switched to the Hana ML. I would recommend you listen to the Hana if you can. You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised and it’s within your budget. My other table has the Linn Kandid, which may be 5x more expensive. I feel the Hana does very well relative to that cart too.

Specs, related to IMAGING.

I like everything about your existing cartridge’s specs (never heard one), including it’s low tracking weight.

EXCEPT, It has only 26db channel separation, and 1.0 db center channel balance.

Not everyone can hear subtle differences, and those differences come down to ’preferences’, not ’better’.

Everyone can hear/experience ’better’ imaging, not just the sense of overall width, but the distinction of individual instruments/voices anywhere l/c/r.

Excellent engineering is revealed to a greater extent.

All imaging is phantom, a tighter center balance 0.5 db and a wider separation say 30 db produces a far more involving experience.

The stiffness of the cantilever material is also an issue, prices go up along with stiffer material. Buying these days, I stop at BORON. Many 'better' cartridges are mounted on aluminum cantilevers these days. In the past I have had beryllium, crystals. I still have a Sumiko Talisman Sapphire Cantilever/Line Contact that I have convinced myself yields a speck more bass, the difference very very slight.

My choice for my 1st MC cartridge was/is AT-33PTG/II

This one, with Shibata on Boron fits your budget




always check the relationship of signal strength to coil impedance. some need individual settings for signal boost and impedance loading, requiring a more sophisticated/expensive phono stage.

regarding phono stage: buy from a source allowing return/full refund, it is the ultimate ’preferred’ not ’better’ device IMO.

I also recommend the Hana ML. It’s very balanced & does everything well if not quite state of the art at any one thing. It’s quite low output will necessitate a good phono amp which can get pricey so maybe their higher output version might be a better choice. I use the Hana on an older but still very good Basis arm / table combo w/ excellent results. 

@lewm VPI Classic Signature Turntable is in question so it is great product for the money, opinions are it would take 15k TT to notice significant improvement, not sure if it is true but that's what I read.

I have referred to the following on previous occasion to the Copy/Paste that follows of my most recent reference to an experience I had. 


I once demo’d at a public attended event, where approx’ 500 paying visitors were in attendance.

A very conspicuous visitor to my demonstration space came back for numerous visits, as did quite a few other visitors.

At the end of the day the conspicuous visitor came to my room with one other person, they made it known they are owners of a Company producing TT’s with a starting price of £50K and have customers with systems costing £000 000’s.

They wanted to tell me my system had them mesmerised and was a real credit to the show, especially in how I had shown that a system can be produced on a budget that impresses in a very similar way to one of their uber expensive clients system.

I’ll take that as Win 😎


As @lewm has said, there is misleading info, the reality is there is substantial value to be had from a TT coming in at under £10K, as both a used or new purchase. What really matters in my view, is the next step, which is, what one is willing to do with it, to take it to the optimised performance it can offer.

It is easy to get of the Bus at the 'enough is done stop', the reward of staying on the bus and pulling in at a few 'what can be done stops', well that is quite some ride, maybe one not wanted to be alighted.

@jimmyblues1959 there is tons of bass and mid and top just not as smooth as I would imagine, details getting blurry and when I'm verifying sound with my streamer I can tell there is some kind of distortions from time to time 

@zb672 I'm getting close to buy it, as many guys suggested it, just like you,  as a good choice for significant improvement 

@pindac yes I agree, not everything is gold just because it is shiny. I'm big fan of Nelson Pass and his work at Threshold, most of my amps are Pass design. and yes it does sound impressive for old gear, so you don't need big $$ to get big sound 

Hana ML- sounds like a $5000 cartridge. Great MC cartridge and can find at discount sometimes

  1. The Hana 1200 cartridges are outstanding for the money. I'd also say that while the Schiit mani 2 is a great phono stage for the money, you’re going to want to upgrade that at some point as well. I ran a Hana ml1200 with a music surroundings nova iii for some time and thought that was a stellar combo for the price. My point is really that at some level, your limiting factor is going to be the phono stage. And I like Schiit a lot. Have a dac from them as well as a headphone amp. And for what you’re currently running, the mani is great, but you’ll definitely want to make a change there at some point

We love the MC Cartridges from Skyanalog. This company has been in the cartridge making business for 25 years and make some well known cartridges for other brands as an OEM supplier. Their prices range from $600 USD to $2800 Here's a new review for their G-3MC but the G-1 and G-2 are in the price bracket.


I recently went thru the phonostage research and purchase process, it can be a blur!  In the end I purchased the black ice audio F159 tube phonostage.  Totally transformed my vinyl playback and then I upgraded to an old school Grace F9 cart with Ruby OTL stylus and wow….(I’ve a vintage Grace tonearm hence the Grace cart was a great match).  I concur that your weak link is definitely that phono stage. 
I honestly never seriously considered the mani.

Another vote for the HANA ML.  Wonderful through the whole spectrum and great bass.  Please follow the other suggestions for upgrading your phone stage as you will reap HUGE benefits from an upgrade.  I've used Pro-ject, the same Schitt you have and settled on the PS Audio Stellar Phono Preamplifier.

@ssg308 In relation to Pass.

I encouraged a very adept EE friend to look at the Pass Korg B1.

In the end they built a basic model and the demo’ given to the local HiFi Group was quite impressive. Shortly after a 3 Box Version ( VC - Circuit - PS) was produced using Black Gate Cap’s and a improved Volume Control, this was extremely impressive but also timely.

A member of the HiFi Group had invested heavily in the Vinyl Front End and New EAR Power Amp’s.

A Pre Amp was required, in a line of Pre Amps where approx’ £15K of Pre’s were present and one was approx’ £5K in value, which the EAR Pre.

After all the toing and throwing between Amp's, the KB1 was put on in both build guises, the system owner today has the KB1 in use for a few years with today a Khozmo VC and carefully introduced Boutique Cap's, the original and few upgrades are still close to £600 as the overall build cost.

This Pre is working extremely well and is not wanted to be changed, it sits in the Company of other ancillaries costing close to £50K in total. 

Within the Local HiFi Group there are now Five versions of KB1's in use, and I am having a Balanced design produced as well.

Another vote for the Hana ML I think it is a lot of cart for the money.

I've moved on from the Hana (sold it for $700 in a couple of days after 18 mths use) but what has remained constant is the GoldNote PS-10 and PSU-10. I'm using the balanced output which is great if your amp supports it.

I've asked a couple of reputable high-end dealers (both carry Nagra as an example) about upgrading the GoldNote and the consensus was I'd need to spend double the money for a relatively small gain in SQ, and of course you could start with just the PS and add the LPS later. 

Just my 2 cents. 

PS. I have a Black Ice DAC which I'm very happy with, no experience with their phono stages but I'd be tempted to try one if I were you, especially with their 45 day return policy and the direct to consumer model usually means more bang for the buck. 

I run a Hana ML with a Sutherland Insight phono preamp (and VPI table) with very good results.  Not terribly expensive…may be worth a listen. 

+1 on the Darlington Labs.

I owned the Mani and went  to the Darlington Labs MP 7. 

Always felt it was a major upgrade from the Mani.

So much info guys I need to do my home work now, honestly now I'm dumber that I was before I started asking questions :)  Thank you all for input !