New MM cartridge advice

Hello,
I’m looking for some advice on which MM cartridges to put on my shortlist to put on my SL1200GR.
For the moment I have an AT540ML and a Grado Gold 3, and my phono pre is a Project Phono Box S2 Ultra.
I find the Grado to be too laid-back sounding, except for some really bright recordings, and the AT to be too forward sounding, so I’m looking for something with a more balanced sound in the price range of €250 to €350 that’ll also play nice with my Uniti Atom and Aria 906’s.
All help is greatly appreciated.

Goldring E3, Goldring 1042

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I can highly recommend the Ortofon 2M Bronze.

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I have an E3 as a back up. For the money it is remarkable. Midrange and bass really impressive. Top end a bit lacking compared to my MC but my system is quite laid back.

Spoilt for choice I’d say. It is very hard to demo any part of a turntable fairly and cartridges more so.

AudioTechica,
Ortofon
Denon
Sumiko
Linn

All make superb MM cartridges. I’m partial to the Sumiko’s but honestly, I can’t say I’ve tested similarly priced offerings from the others on the same deck and arm so meh.

I will say that I don’t think you can go wrong with any of those.

Another option, there’s some superb classic cartridges around second-hand and budget for a new stylus. I have Shure V15’s and Stanton 6800 with high-quality JICO stylus and they sound sound fantastic - the JICO styli are as good as, and often better than the originals.

Seconded on the 1042. I felt the major differences in presentation when I auditioned a DG-1 against my Systemdek was down to the cartridge. The Vertere Magneto fitted to the DG-1 bears family resemblance to the AT cartridges IIRC, and my Goldring was smoother, and had better stage width. I can’t say if it is too smooth for the OP though!

Here in europe the 1042 is around €450, which puts it a bit over budget.
That €130 pricetag makes the E3 really attractive, but how’s the tracking? The one thing I loved most about my AT was its tracking ability. IGD is non-existant with that cart.
The Ortofon 2M Bronze seems to be well regarded and I’ve already put that one on my list.
Hadn’t really considered the Denon’s, I always thought they were too low-compliance for the Technics tonearm and standard headshell.
I have seen Sumiko Moonstone and Olympia in some online shops, but never gave them much thought up until now to be honest.

Although I’m not really a fan of doing so, I might order some of the carts on my shortlist and send keep the one I like most, and return the others.
Listening on your own setup in your own room is the best way to judge the sound, but with phono cartridges it seems more difficult then with electronics.

Ah, sorry in that case. The 1022 and 1012 come in cheaper and share the same body, different styli. I used to run the 1012 and found it great too.

Nagaoka mp200, a perfect combo with 1200 tonearm

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Technics themselves demo this deck with the 2M Black since launch. Get the 2M Bronze as it is in budget and upgrade the stylus to black when funds permit as they use the same body.

I have the 1210GR with the 2M Black and can recommend it.