Which MM, MI, or Hi output...Nagaoka 300/500, Clearaudio Maestro, Soundsmith Carmen

Which one has the most organic and natural tonal qualities. I’m looking for something with a minimum of 2.0 mv to play in to a Naim XS and Harbeths. As much as I’m intrigued by the idea of going vintage, I’m now looking for a currently produced cartridge. I’d like to stay between $600-$1,500. While spending $1,500 should buy better performance, there are some dark horses like the Nag 300 and Sumiko Amethyst, both of which seem to have ardent fans. I’m an MC guy, and this is my first foray in to the world of higher output carts.


The best high output cartridge I have ever used in my system is the Soundsmith Voice but it is above your budget. I think the best cartridge in your price range is the Goldring 1042 followed buy the Clearaudio. 

The Carmen is a new entry to my list of considerations. In reading a couple of reviews, it apparently has a warmer character. As good as the Goldring is supposed to be, the reviews and forum feedback do not portray it as being on the warmer side. Otherwise, I'm sure it's a very nice sounding cart. 

The Nag 500 holds a special place for me, because at least on my system, it sounds like I’ve wanted all my other carts to sound. It’s full, dynamic, musical with natural sounding detail, and a pretty amazing sound stage. How it plays with your system is always an unknown until you try it. I also have the SAE 1000LT HOMC that’s really nice, but the Nag is my go to cart, and will replace the stylus with another when it wears out....something I can’t do with an MC.

Dear @fjn04  : " do not portray it as being on the warmer side. "

Neither the live MUSIC. If you like warmer then you don't like real MUSIC to much but each one of us have our specific priorities. I'm not against what you like it and I respect it.

@mijostyn  , I think that you never " touched " de Nagaoka MP-500 that's my best advise for the OP . The issue is not about $$$$ but knowledge levels of each one of us in this subject.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


Peter Ledermann (Soundsmith) is a really good dude.  
Everything I’ve seen/heard/read from him tells me he really knows what he’s talking about and is just a good human.  
This is an opinion to take or leave, YMMV.  
The Clearaudio Maestro MM V2 absolutely paled in comparison to my LOMC (CA Concerto V2 - which retails for $3,000, so, again, take that with a grain of salt) Can’t say I’d recommend it for what it costs (in terms of accuracy, tonal balance, the degree to which it plumbed the full breadth of information in the grooves and rendered a rich sonic picture, it really didn’t get enough out of those grooves, IMO, for what it costs).  
Wish I could speak to your other options, but I ain’t heard ‘em.