If you're looking for a good quality mid-level phono cartridge to enable your dreams of vinyl nirvana (on a budget), then the Shure M97xE is definitely worth your consideration. While perhaps not the most revealing cartridge in the world, the Shure M97xE does provide a few notable features and has a sound signature that many should find to be smooth and fatigue-free. It has a particular knack for taming brighter recordings and, overall seems to be an excellent value and a solid, engaging performer.
Each year the RIAA releases sales figures to try to show that their industry is dying and then points to a wide variety of causes. Dig into the numbers and you will find one bright spot for the music sales: vinyl. Not only are turntables back in a big way, you can get them in designer colors, like the red Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable reviewed here.
Recently in reviews, I've talked about the Loudness Wars that have infected many modern recordings and how music that I enjoy is rendered almost unlistenable by a bad recording. I imagine it might surprise many people to learn that most releases on vinyl require a different mastering technique than the digital release of the same album, and so many of the flaws of the digital master won't be present on the vinyl release. I tested the Clearaudio Concept Turntable with some modern albums recorded digitally and released on CD as well as Vinyl to prove my point.