This Grace Level II cartridge might be the best MM cartridge ever made. I have two styli for it: the MR/BR orange one, which I bought new and used for maybe 50 hours, and a brand new NOS grey one, which I believe is aluminum. I didn’t even break the seal of the package on that one. It’s brand new, as you can see.
Please note that these styli are the correct 80s models for the Grace Level II, not the earlier, more common, cheaper, rounded profile ones that go with the Grace F-8, a predecessor to the Level II cartridges. It’s very rare to find a Grace Level II, it’s even more rare to have the appropriate, better, stylus, let alone two of them! The MR/BR stylus is also supposed to be extremely long lasting.
You're buying only the cartridge with two styli, the headshell is not included. You can audition the cartridge in Brooklyn. I don’t have a microscope but here are some videos of the cartridge playing with the MR/BR stylus (on a FR-64S, not even an ideal match theoretically in terms of mass) and a Garrard 401:
Sonny Rollins, I’m an Old Cowhand, from “Way Out West” (Doug Sax remaster, Analogue Productions):
https://youtu.be/JaCmzjomkvI (please copy and paste the links)
Kirsten Edkins, Dedicated to You, from “Shapes & Sounds” (recorded by Kevin Gray, all analog):
Mozart: Rondo in A minor played by Arthur Rubinstein (RCA Living Stereo, original pressing):
The cartridge sounds amazing. I used it on two polar opposite arms, a period correct Magnepan Unitrac (light, great arm, and great bang for the buck, also for sale) and the Fidelity Research FR 64-S (very heavy) used in the videos linked above. It sounded great on both. It’s clean, but not sterile. It’s detailed, but musical. You hear layers of information but it’s smooth, not etched in the least. Revealing but easy to listen to. It’s pretty much the best of both worlds.
I wish I could keep this cartridge but I need the money to help pay for a very special vintage tube console that I am hoping to use to record. I wouldn’t part with this otherwise, but, as a working musician, I can’t pass up the console (and it’s very expensive).
I copied a fair amount of text below from someone else’s ad from a few years ago, as there was a ton of good information there. I am happy to answer any and all questions.
This is a holy grail of Grace cartridges. Extremely rare LEVEL II model from the late 80's. Comes with the best stylus profile in the universe (MicroRidge) mounted through a tiny laser etched hole in the Hollow Pipe Boron cantilever. Moving system has extremely low mass. This is a high compliance cartridge (42cu @10Hz) with amazing trackability and extended frequency response.
In my opinion LEVEL II surpass F14 in everything. This is state-of-the-art design (gold/black body and orange stylus holder). The MicroRidge stylus tip has the longest life span (up to 2000 hrs max), also very low record wear factor guaranteed with recommended tracking force.
This is probably the best Grace MM, at least this is the model with the best stylus profile, best cantilever material. Grace LEVEL II BR/MR (Boron/MicroRidge) is night and day compared to conventional F-9. This is something special, the next level, a killer high-end MM from Grace.
The advantage of the Micro Ridge stylus tip
MicroRidge stylus profile is the most advanced profile in the world today, modern cartridges with MicroRidge stylus cost many thousand dollars. Micro Ridge is very unique stylus which is polished into the unusual shape. It has microscopic curvature of contact surface with records. This makes Micro Ridge Stylus does not change the contact radius by the wear after long playing time. You can always listen to music by the new stylus. At the same time this curvature has the radius of only 2 microns. Due to this small figure, the reproduction sounds have very high definition, wide dynamic range and low distortion. Low equivalent moving mass and the very new stylus will show the new aspects in the reproduction sounds. Micro Ridge Stylus is the newest one that was born by the most advanced technology for video disc player systems. Grace LEVEL II BR/MR has the most advanced square nude crystal oriented MicroRidge diamond.
The advantage of the Pure Boron Pipe Cantilever:
Somewhere in the high frequencies, every cartridge has an undesirable resonance point. Undesirable because there the frequency response curve climbs a sudden peak. If that peak is in the audible range, your records sound not as intended. That resonance frequency is determined by the total effective moving mass of the vibrating system - the summed masses of the diamond stylus and, most importantly, the cantilever and magnet, etc. To shift that harmful resonance frequency up into the high supersonics, the effective moving mass must be reduced to the lowest possible minimum. Also, too much effective moving mass increases the mechanical impedance, thereby negatively affecting the cartridge's tracing ability. This is why GRACE LEVEL II, in its top grade cartridge (BR/MR), uses a Pure Boron Pipe cantilever. Pure Boron, because among all feasible materials Boron has the optimum combination of hardness (close to diamond's), lightness and rigidity. Grace LEVEL II BR/MR achieves the ultra-low mass that you need for flat, extended frequency response up into the highest range. Flat response for natural, unadulterated, warm and thoroughly listenable music. The extreme difficulties of machining Boron to the tightest tolerances have been solved. Mounting holes for the stylus, for example, must be drilled not by machines but by laser beams.
● Hollow Pipe Boron cantilever is not available in the world today, this is superior technology from the golden age on analog (lightweight and rigid construction). Grace LEVEL II BR/MR is made of growed crystals of pure boron into a pipe configuration.
● High compliance cartridges is the trend from the past (the best tracking ability even on warped records and on the most complicated groove modulations).
● Moving Magnet cartridges like Grace LEVEL II BR/MR is so much better than many overpriced MC and much better than ALL Moving Magnet cartridges made today (imo).
There was an interesting MI cartridges designed by former Grace engineer, released a few years ago under new brand called the TopWing, the price starts from $14k !!! As you can see the prices for some nice brand new cartridges are absolutely insane nowadays.
Even extremely rare vintage high-end MM cartridges made with the best cantilevers, best styli are 10 times cheaper compared to the brand new high-end cartridges. Before they are all gone it is a much better investment, Grace LEVEL II BR/MR is a serious contender if you will compare it to modern high-end cartridges up to $5k including LOMC models (i did that and Grace was better to my ears). I still have a NOS sample to keep, so you can buy my gently used spare unit. If you have specific questions don't hesitate to ask, before that you must read Grace LEVEL II thread on audiogon forum
Specification of the Grace LEVEL II (BR/MR):
■ Power generation method MM type
■ Output voltage 3mV (5cm / sec 1kHz 45 °)
■ Needle point Nude Micro Ridge diamond (laser mounted)
■ Needle pressure optimum 1.3g
■ Hollow Pipe Boron cantilever!
■ Reproduction frequency band 10 - 40,000 Hz
■ Channel separation 30dB / 1kHz
■ Channel balance 0.5dB / 1kHz
■ High Compliance: 25cu @100Hz *(please note that dynamic compliance at 10Hz will be around 42cu )
■ Load resistance 20k to 100kΩ (optimum 47kΩ)
■ Internal impedance 2.4kΩ
■ Weight 5.4g
■ Exchange needle RS-8BR/MR
■ Sales 1984 - 1988
Please refer to the images, what you see is what you get! No returns, no refunds.
Headshell is not included in the deal, i will send you the cartridge and the two styli (without headshell).