I finally broke down and after 20 years of digital music, I finally got my self a turntable. For initial experiment, I had Blue Note Piccolo turntable/arm, Shelter M201 cartridge for a little while then got a second hand Ortofon Jubilee cartridge from a friend of mine. The rest of the system is ASR Emitter II Exclusive, ASR Mini Basis phono, Ortofon SPU-T100. I tried a few phonos including EAR 324 but really prefer to use SPU with MM input so far and Usher BE-20
Anyhow, eventually I thought of upgrading my Piccolo to VPI Classic, currently with ring clamp but no SDS yet.
In comparison to Piccolo, VPI was much more quiet, more laid back, may be a tad too polite. With Ortofon Jubilee, Piccolo was punchier, more excited but the bass is a bit more bloated and it does not have the clean, smooth, easy to listen to mid range and treble. However, I also feel that VPI/Ortofon was too lean and a tad sterile for my taste. So I burrow my friend's Koetsu Rosewood Signature and tried it out. On small scale vocal music and solo piano, it was all I could ever asked for. However, it was a bit dull on large symphonic or operatic work, may be due to its more laid back and mellow sound. Pop/rock was also a tad too polite.
Two other cartrides I heard with VPI table (Superscout Master/rim drive) were MY Sonic Hyper Eminent which I love very much but way out of my budget right now. The other was Dynavector XV-1s which has incredible speed and slam but somewhat less refine mid-high than MY Sonic but a lot of fun on large symphonic work.
So I am looking a new cartridge that is more versatile than Koetsu Rosewood, something with rich tonal palette, warm wtih decent bass drive, a bit more upfront and intimate in the price range that I could afford. Unfortunatley now it gets into the territory of cartridges that I cannot demo or do a home trial easily due to no local dealers or special order item kind of thing. I quite like Shelter 201 which has excellent bass and slam, smooth midrange but a tad too thick and think that Shelter 7000 might be a good match. My VPI dealer suggests Lyra Helikon as a possible alternative but they don't have one in stock right now (they also carry MY Sonic and Dynavector). Other brands that are available locally are Clear Audio and Benz but I cannot audit them with familiar equipments unfortunately.
So what's your opinion on Lyra Helikon vs Shelter 7000 for VPI Classic. Anything else in that price range that I should look at?
As for the rest of the system, I eventually will think about getting SDS, and may upgrade my Mini Basis phono to ASR Basis Exclusive Phono.
Thanks for your advice.