Zephyr MIMC vs Hana ML

Mounting on a Shure DME 3009 S2 improved with a Thorens TD125 Mk2.

presently using Ortofon 2M black through Musical surroundings Nova III phono stage and linear power supply. This was s major step up from the Grace F7 ruby that came with the TT/TA.

considering a step up and for various reasons I’m leaning towards one of those two cartridges.

Tonearm effective mass, compliance, resonance all check out.

Anyone with enough experience with either/both cartridges to offer sn informed opinion?  I’m all ears.



I bought an Umami and really like it, and auditioned the ML for fun, I really liked it specially at that price point.

I have a ML on a modified Sumiko FT-3 on a SOTA Sapphire TT, i don’t think it’s much of an upgrade from the highly neutral Ortofon Black. I would save for a Lyra Delos or the above mentioned top line Hana.


I have the SL and the Umami as well as the ART-9xa. The Hanas are lush and gorgeous and the Umami is stunning. but the the ART is also a fantastic cartridge. I was looking at the Zephyr as well but I loved the Hana sound and their trade-up policy.

@normb I've been considering exact same two cartridges for upgrade, after much research seems the Audio Technica ART-9xa and Lyra Delos are two more of the favorites around this price level. These have become my top two contenders at this point.

@sns Yes the ART-9xa is that good. I have my Hana SL off my turntable and my Umami on deck but I can't seem to let go of the ART which is the keeper for now.

The AT does seem to be a rare bird in that I don't recall a single negative or even lukewarm review over a couple months searching. And this even in comparison to much more expensive cartridges.

Funny, I’d started out thinking about saving a few more dollars and looking for a Umami Red. 
Hadn’t given any thought at all to AT.

a brief online search is steering me in that direction. No hurry.  

US made is a factor but most of my system isn’t.


the response to my question has been overwhelming, reassuring is some of the similarities in responses.

my birthday is next month, i start social security in February, VA-disabled at 90% - kinda looking for an upscale upgrade to my system, like one and done, so long as my hearing holds out.

like the chalice selection scene in Indians Jones’ Last crusade, I hope to choose wisely for a lifetime.

Audio-Technica, hmm?

@normb Not sure I'm understanding you correctly, but Umani is nearly $4k, AT $1.3K. AT is the great deal out of all cartridges mentioned here, and simply great deal in comparison with all cartridges based on my research.

I have the MIMC, and really like it. Plus, with the retip cost for Soundsmith carts, even better. Soundsmith will repair most everything necessary at the ‘retip’ cost. I also have the hi Zephyr III as a back-up. Also a great cart for the money, but….The MIMC is more refined, detailed, great separation, airy but also full, and can dig deep. Dynamic. Some say they tend towards the warm side, but I feel the MIMC is pretty neutral. If you can deal with their quirky sales practices, Hi-Fi Heaven has some very good deals on Soundsmith, and other, carts. I got my MIMC (latest model new) for $1,300. Quite a deal, but alas, it wasn’t in stock as was listed following my purchase, so had to wait. I did, as that was a nice discount for a $2,000 Cart.

Im a big Soundsmith fan, so I will always recommend them.

@tomic601 (as one) has experience with the Hana, I do not.

I don't have those two exact cartridges, I have the Hana SL and the Soundsmith Aida II, both of which are close to the two you're considering.  I have heard the ML at Jim's house and found it to be similar to the SL, just a little more refinement.

I found the description of the Hana sound as "lush" by another poster interesting.  I find them to be very neutral "truth tellers" with little embellishment.  

The Aida II has more detail and has a wide soundstage but can sound a little "thin".  It doesn't have that fullness that most MC carts have.  Or maybe I need to work on my setup a little more. 

There are a number of threads in the Steve Hoffman forums about Soundsmith cartridges.

I would listen to @tomic601 and consider standing pat on the cartridge.  You might consider upgrading your phono stage instead of the cartridge.

I had switched from 2M Black to Hana ML and noticed quite a difference. Ortofon sounded harsh and sometimes annoying to my ears. Hana is, as some described, LUSH, very relaxed and still detailed. Much more pleasant to listen to in my book.

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To the OP - thank you for your service and I hope you are well :-) my father in law was in similar situation with disabilities and yet found ways to enjoy his passions. Would love to send you an LP care package and please consider joining us on the Whats on your turntable thread in the music section of Audiogon. Finally I never comment on gear I have not personally heard, hence my silence on Soundsmith specific model you cited. I do have experience with higher levels of SS and think the world of Peter Lederman. His sponsorship of Direct Grace speaks volumes about his character. On the AT, I have heard various ART models, they are excellent and if to your taste and system synergy a super value. Best to you


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The Soundsmith is a better cartridge in every way than the Hana. But, the Lyra Delos is better. It tests better than many $6000 and up cartridges. There are very few companies that can keep up with Lyra. Ortofon and MSL come to mind. At that price point the Delos reigns supreme. 

Happy New Year Norm ! Father in law Army also, Intel in Nam. His brother a FAC. Service runs deep. My Dad on the Army pistol team a bit. Again thanks and I will look out for you on the TT thread :-)



Jumped the gun on prior post. Cartridge not available after all.

gonna wait, play Ortofon more, think about Lyra Delos, Hana Umami, something in between.

interested in Soundsmith’s ctges, just that they’re all so low compliance.


 Thanks again.


interested in Soundsmith’s ctges, just that they’re all so low compliance.

Yes and no. Many of Soundsmith carts are available in low, medium, and high compliance. But, you are correct, and for those that are available with three compliance options, the highest end cart is The Voice. Most all their highest end carts are low compliance only (including the Zephyr and Zephyr MIMC Star). Works for me as I have a Jelco 850 arm with about 13.5g effective mass. Lower mass arms of 5-8 or similar may not be a good match. That said, if you call Peter, I’m sure he could guide you further. The chart does state you can use their low compliance carts with arms that have an effective mass of 7-29....so...

Soundsmith has a complete table of all their carts (on their web site) which provides all the info of their carts on one chart.

Sharing some thread relevant cartridge experiences-

Had an original ART9, loved it to death.  huge value. 

Ortofon Cadenza Blue was a significant upgrade in most, but not all areas.  Bigger sound and dynamics but the ART9 was more colorful and refined. 

Recently tried the ART9XA (ultra low output).  Loved the sound but it really needs a SUT to shine dynamically.  

Also tried a Zephyr MIMC star ES.  Dynamics were very good but a letdown considering the low mass of the fixed coil deign.  Not very refined or a big soundstage.  The value comes with the rebuild cost but the sound is not competitive at its price as it had the least appealing sound of the bunch.  

Bought a Lyra Delos and was underwhelmed at first but after ~ 120 hrs. holy toledo what a big dynamic sound!  Smooth and refined with instant speed and dynamics, huge sound stage, detailed with no edge.  

By far the best cartridge in my stable.  I have tried to swap others back in but they do not last long.  

Recommendation would be the Delos, then the Ortofon Cadenza Blue followed closely by the high value AudioTechnica ART9XI.  .  

Thanks again one and all.

still considering the Delos vs. Zephyr.

several YouTube channels demoing those give me some sense of the sound I’m looking for. It’s the price and rebuild cost I’m vacillating on at this point.

here’s a twist.

Had Covid19 last December- January. Worst illness ever  and I’ve had Dengue and Malaria (Fun, Travel, Adventure with the Army). There were days I slept upwards of 16-18 hours, much of it opioid-induced for the headache and body pain, then pneumonia.  My wife had it to , hospitalized briefly for dehydration. Kids (24,27) had it for 3-4 days, all done. We found Christmas (which we slept through) presents from them far into the  spring, not remembering what was given or where we’d put them.

which brings me to my current situation.

Apparently just before I got sick I’d bought a Benz Micro Glider SL and put it somewhere I wouldn’t forget. Which I did.

well, until yesterday.


so far, since getting the Thorens TT I’ve used a Grace F9 ( not 7) ruby that came with the TT, ortofon om40 (now used for mono records with a different stylus ona Reloop TT), Ortofon 2M, and I was looking for a line-contact stylus when I came across a reference to Benz Micro cartridges’ micro-ridge styli and a little light went off.

so I’m going to play with that a little and still consider one of the other two aforementioned cartridges.

So I can remember it a year from now.

 Thanks again.

Wonderful! Benz is an excellent cartridge, you can see pictures of the Ebony on my Rega / Basis in my vintage system page. Glad you made it thru Covid ! 

happy new year



Fantastic you found the Benz Micro Glider SL. Just to try out more carts, Benz has recently been high on my ‘interest list’. I’m constantly looking for a good deal for a used one on-line. Would love one in my collection, just to have and check-out.

Heck, enjoy the Glider before making another decision. From a cart builder at Soundsmith I chat with occasionally, he is quite high on the Glider, and thinks it is a great deal for the money. He is not easily impressed, as he has built and repaired so many carts (including Soundsmith Strain Gauge carts), but Benz does impress him for their quality.


@thetakeout I believe it is half the value. I wound up just selling my SL and purchased the Umami from a great dealer who sold me my turntable in Alabama engulfaudio. Robert Meeks is wonderful to work with and will not overcharge you. He just loves people that love music.

@audiosaurusrex thanks for the reply.  I have a buddy that recently got the Umami. I haven’t heard it yet but I know he is very happy with it.  

hana seems like they make products that are easy to love.  

thanks again for the reply on the trade in they do.