Vinyl/TT Gurus Chime in! Cartridge Decision: Rework My old Sumiko or get a new cartridge?

My Quandary: I have an old Gyrodec MkI(I think) with a Zeta Tonearm and a Sumiko Talisman Virtuoso B cartridge (HOMC). I've been getting bilateral distortion usually about  the 1/3 mark way through my records. The cartridge is really old and either needs re-tipped and possibly a new cantilever or do I consider a new cartridge altogether. I've heard these carts are very highly regarded.

Get the Sumiko reworked at what I imagine is a pretty penny penny?


Get a new cartridge which will work with a MM phono preamp (suggestions please)

Associated Gear:
Lounge Audio LCR MKIII phono stage (MM only.. Not looking to change this)
Gyrodec Mk I
Zeta tonearm w/ a mass of 16g

Budget $500-$600 tops.

Thanks in Advance!!
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Thanks for the feedback @viridian!!! I think the cart was probably shot when I purchased it so I don't really know what it is capable of. 
Go with a retip.  As long as the cantilever and suspension are both in good shape and an actual retip is all that's needed, you should end up below $300 if you go with Soundsmith.  If it needs a full rebuild I would suggest going for the most expensive Boron/Contact Line option @ $450 + shipping.

I last had the same thing done less than a year ago and the result was simply superb. The re-built cartridge will likely sound a bit different, but certainly as good or better than anything you can pick up for $600 new.
I would try the retip process first Soundsmith does a fantastic job, if not try one of their MI cartridges.
The re-built cartridge will likely sound a bit different, but certainly as good or better than anything you can pick up for $600 new.

A retipped HOMC is still a HOMC.
High Output Moving Coil cartridges are inferior by default compared to LOMC (Low Output), but the problem is the OP's phono stage without MC input. 

What is really better with MM ONLY phono stage is MM or MI cartridge. 

@birdfan For under $600 there are many great MM or MI, mid compliance are ok for your arm. Instead of some hybrid you can get from retipper, i would recommend to look for a completely different MM cartridge, this is all you need for your phono stage (not a HOMC). Something like this. 
I have to disagree with the esteemed (sincerely) Chakster on a couple of points; not all. First, I completely agree that there are great vintage MM’s for under $600 that may be, if not necessarily “better”, better suited to your system’s tuning and your tastes; your call. What I don’t agree with is the suggestion that all HOMC’s are inferior to all LOMC’s. I have owned at least three HOMC’s that were decidedly better than at least three LO MC’s that I have also owned. Having said that, I agree that generally speaking most HOMC’s are inferior to GOOD (!) LOMC’s. However, the Sumiko Virtuoso B is a very good cartridge and one of the few exceptions to the rule. I have owned it and the even better Virtuoso DTI and they are very very good if you like what MC’s do well (the third was a VDH HOMC).  For a retip cost of under $500 it is definitely worth hanging on to. Very important to keep in mind that while it is HO, its output is still about half that of most MM’s at around 1.8 mv. Boron cantilever/VDH1 stylus, btw. Good luck.
I use to be a dealer for both Zeta & Sumiko and know those products well.

The first thing you should check is the arm. Some Zeta's had or developed sticky bearings - try a cheap new cartridge and verify that the the cartridge is the problem.

Secondly, if the arm is ok then what you should know is that the Talisman Virtuoso B is the only high output MC I would consider - I dont believe there are any cartidges for $500-600 retail that will better it. Therefore if you can get it rebuilt for up to $800 I would go for that option.

Otherwise I would look at a MI cartridge - Soundsmith cartridges are great vaue and good sounding across the board price wise. I prefer them to say the Ortofon Blue/Black MM range.

I would not recommend vintage cartridges - you cant get replacement styli in many instances and furthermore the damping rubber is unlikely to be in as new condition on a vintage cartridge.
I see your cart budget stops at 600 $ but why not add say 1400 $ ?
For me Talisman B is a mediocre performer but the Talisman TDi is the only HOMC I honestly could recommend and is worth of retipping.
Let Soundsmith do the job or get their new FC like Aida w/ very low 1.0-1.2 g VTF (high compliant alternative).
Gyrodeck is a mediocre performer, it just smears the sound so get rid of it.

Why not take a leap to today´s technology and go for an entirely new audio life with analog´s most ridiculous bargain, the new Trans-Fi Audio linear tracking airbearing tonearm. With its new very light & rigid carbon fiber wand this unique design is better than ever.

Best of luck.

Great tip 😉 from Dover re the possibility of sticky bearings; definitely worth looking into.   Re the Virtuoso: if memory serves the only difference between the Virtuoso B and the Virtuoso DTI was the cantilever material.  B (boron), DTI (diamond coated titanium).  Sumiko had earlier “Talisman” models (Talisman S, Talisman Alchemist)  that were entirely different cartridges and which were indeed mediocre as Harold points out.  Harold, coincidentally, I pm’ed you yesterday re an unrelated subject.  If you have a moment, I would appreciate your thoughts.  Best to all.
Peter at SoundSmith is not recommending not only a HOMC, but even a LOMC because of the high moving mass, his lecture is here. He clearly prefer an MI cartridges. You can imagine how many different cartridges have been cracked and fixed at SoundSmith. But Peter vote for MI technology. 
Thanks to one and all. I truly appreciate your feedback. I've decided to retip/rebuild the cart with Soundsmith. 

Just one thing I've noted as a general trend in responses to this and many other threads here on this forum(and others): There are many of you who have the pocket books for highly regarded and expensive gear, which is fantastic. BUT when your responses are dismissive, and rude it drives drives people new to the world of hifi away. It's this type attitude that gives hifi a bad name and reputation. Most people new to the love of hifi are turned off by this and may feel alienated. No one likes snobbery and dismissive sarcastic attitudes. The entire field of hifi is dying as enthusiasts become and older with fewer and fewer younger folks interested, in part because of the attitudes so evident in forums like this. To the rest of you with thoughtful helpful responses THANK YOU for a spirit of collaboration and support.  


Frogman, your memory is better than mine (well I was talking about things I came across 33 yrs ago). I meant Alchemist I A, III S and Talisman A (latter worst of them all). 
 Talisman B stands for Boron cantilever and is a great HOMC cartridge indeed, and DTi means Diamond coated cantilever. If my memory serves right this time Dgarretson owns one.

OP, I wasn´t rude just giving free advice as an experienced audiophile. Nothing more, nothing less.

 Talisman Virtuoso B is worth to retip. I´m sure Soundsmith will guide you.

Frogman, coincidentally I´m quite busy at the moment. You see I´m experimenting with a new T3Pro and lower pressure levels due to lighter carbon fiber wand ...

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Dear @birdfan :  "  I've decided to retip/rebuild the cart with Soundsmith. "

I agree with @dover  and @frogman  , the Talisman Virtuoso B is  an excellent quality performer and not easy to beat it, I owned.

The best is exactly what you will do: re-tip. Great cartridge motor, worth to keep that cartridge.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,

Hey @birdfan, were you able to get your Virtuoso re-tipped by Soundsmith? I have one too and for a minute thought it was worn out but it turns out that the overhang on my tonearm was massively incorrect. Once I fixed that I am in Satori! I just wanted to add my 2 cents here and confirm the positive feelings that many others here have about this most excellent cart. I have had a small array of MC carts over the years (including a very fine Soundsmith Bohem that is no longer in production) and I can say that mated to my Graham 1.5t on my SOTA Star Sapphire, this golden talisman is a knock-out. It is clean and clear, airy and precise, and never shrill, bright, or hard. Despite its age (mine is from '91) it performs wonderfully. My system is on the euphonic side with vintage Tannoy's and an Audio Note OTO SE and this cart ensures that I'm not sacrificing detail retrieval at the expense of the warm pleasure of the other components. I find it to be a great compliment to my very neutral turntable but warmer downstream components. I certainly recommend it to anyone who is lucky enough to come across one. They're quite rare and looking at hifi-shark only a handful have come up on the used market over the last decade. I see one for sale currently for $1,350 which I think is a testament to its quality despite its age (since I wouldn't call this a collector's item whose price is contingent on being sought-after than as being competitive with similarly priced cartridges). The only reason I would ever replace it is if I bought an Audio Note IO (although that's unlikely since that would require I also purchase a costly step-up transformer). The virtuoso being a high-output MC is an advantage NOT a disadvantage because it makes it more useful without compromising sound quality. 

Cheers from Los Angeles!

Hey Esteborino


sad story.. I decided to get a new Sumiko and send the virtuoso to soundsmiyh for service. Not only did the shop I hired put on the wrong (but “equivalent” ) new cartridge the threw away my virtuoso. Beyond angry… not much I can do about it. The new Sumiko no 3 blue point sounds fine, a very middle of the road sound but nothing objectionable either.


thanks for your thoughts, though they only confirm what I knew, namely that the old cart was worth the rework.