Using vinyl records to listen to music is going way back in time, around 1950s, but similar shellac records have appeared in the early twentieth century.
In the century of speed and smart-phones, vinyl is still popular for the hi-fidelity audiophile community and the DJ community to say the least.
But, you can’t listen to music on vinyl without building a stereo system out of individual components, beginning with a turntable, amplifier and speakers, all the way through the smallest accessories like wire and stylus.
Knowing how to choose the best cartridge for turntable is highly important. Getting the right phono cartridge helps you select the most appropriate component for your needs afterwards.
The basics on phono cartridges
The phono cartridge is a tool that transforms vibrations from a stylus riding in a record groove into an electrical signal. This signal is later on passed through amplification and converted into sound with the help of a loudspeaker system.
The phono cartridge contains 5 main components: the stylus, cantilever, magnets, coils and body. The stylus is in contact with the record surface and tracks the inflections in the groove. Most models of stylus are made of a small polished diamond or other industrial gemstone.
A stylus may be elliptically or spherically shaped. An elliptical needle picks up more information from the record groove, whereas a spherical needle is placed higher on the groove, which gives less record wear.
The stylus is placed on the cantilever that gives vibrations to the coil/magnet assembly, creating audio signal. A cantilever is made of aluminum, boron or even exotic gemstones.
The body of the cartridge gives a stationary platform to the moving parts, ensuring accuracy for the record tracking. The body is connected to the tonearm.
The moving coil is a small electromagnetic generator, with the magnet and coil reversed: the coils are attached to the cantilever and move through the field of a permanent magnet. Even though they are typically high priced, turntable cartridge reviews place the magnetic coils as the no.1 choice of the audiophiles, due to best performance.
The phone cartridge may attach in a standard mount or a P-mount to the tonearm. The standard mount uses two screws, half an inch apart. The threaded goes through the cartridge body for higher safety and then plugs into the tonearm.
There are four prongs at the back of the cartridge plug directly into the tone arm, in the case of P-mount.
How to choose your phono cartridge
It’s very important to know your budget before going shopping. As it’s part of a large stereo system, the price of the phone cartridge should reflect the total cost of the system. Any beginner audiophile could start with a 30$ phone cartridge and best vinyl cartridge might get over $3000.
The phone cartridge has to fit the tonearm’s mount. Apart from the “standard” mount and the P-mount, you may also have a convertible mount. This type is adjustable to fit either half-inch or “P” mount cartridges. There are also integrated mounts that cannot be swapped out for other models. DJ turntables have typically this kind of mount.
You also need to decide if you go for a “moving magnet” or a “moving coil” cartridge. Most modern phono-cartridges are magnetic, though.
Last, but not least, compare the stylus shapes of various cartridges. The stylus may be made of diamond and has various shapes and sizes. All styli wear over time and you need to replace it from time to time. All phono cartridge reviews state how any new cheap stylus may sound better than a worn-out, high priced stylus.
Phono cartridges don’t wear out that easily; it’s the cantilever and/or stylus that need to be replaced. You may get a magnet cartridge that features stylus-cantilever that is detachable. But, before you do that, you need to get the phono cartridge for your turntable in the first place.
Best P Mount Phono Cartridge
When you’re short on budget and want some good performance from your turntable, get the Shure M92E Hi-Fi Moving Magnet Cartridge. This light-tracking moving magnet cartridge does a good job for your home or for your DJ turntables.
The natural bi-radial diamond tip brings details for the sound and the aluminum-alloy stylus cantilever means less weight. This brings also more accuracy on tracing your records. There is a low 1.25 gram tracking force so that your records last longer. The frequency response is 20Hz to 18kHz.
The cartridge fits P-mount and standard mount tonearm types. The Shure M92E comes with a standard mount adapter, hardware and stylus guard. The cartridge is very easy to mount as it is the adjustment.
The sound is clear, nice with warm balance. It’s easy to listen and the dynamic is pretty good.
The cartridge gives natural sound reproduction, high track ability and low record wear.
Here is the short list of pros:
- The M92E is a light-tracking moving magnet cartridge
- It fits both P-mount and standard mount
- The M92E is compatible with many types of styli
- The sound is naturally balanced, warm and nice
As for the parts we don’t like that much, here are the cons:
- The sound is a bit too thin
- The cartridge doesn’t come with all mounting hardware
- The bass is not that great
But, for the money you pay, the M92E surely does a great job.
If you’re new to the audiophile environment and don’t know how to begin, get a good start with the Audio Technica AT3482P .7 mil Conical Cartridge Fits P-Mount Turntables. Apart from giving good quality for so little money, the cartridge satisfies any new beginners likings, at least for some time.
If we get all technical, we mention that this is a .7mm conical cartridge that fits P-mount turntables. The frequency response is 20-20,00Hz and the channel separation is 24/15(dB at 1KHz/10kHz). The vertical tracking force is 1.0-1.5 grams. The stylus is bonded round shank which gives pretty good details on sound. The recommended load impedance is 47,000ohms. The output is 5.0 (mV at 1kHz, 5cm/sec). The cantilever is made of carbon fiber.
The cartridge addresses for sure to the entry level audiophiles.
The performances are pretty good. The cartridge does well with noise level and the sound is crisp and clean. There is also good balance and the cartridge is better for the mid frequencies.
Here are the pros for the cartridge:
- The AT3482P is a P-mount cartridge
- The price is amazing for the quality of sound
- The performance is pretty good, especially for the mid frequencies
- The noise reduction is pretty efficient
- It’s very easy to mount it
As for the cons, there are some also:
- The lows are a bit tight
- This is no long lasting cartridge as it’s easily pulled out after removing the side screw
- There is no tonearm adjustment
- The cartridge is too lightweight
One thing is obvious for the AT3482P- for the money you pay, it gives pretty good sound quality.
Best MM (Moving Magnet) Phono Cartridge Reviews
If you consider yourself to be an avid listener, then you know you can get the best sound when using a Mm phono cartridge like the Rega – Exact Mk2 Mm Phono Cartridge. Using hand wound coils, the Rega Exact 2 features a vital fine line stylus and a rigid one-piece body, eliminating unwanted resonance.
The Rega Exact 2 Mm has great dynamic and rhythmic drive and the cartridge articulates drums, bass and cymbals extremely clean and nuanced.
The Rega Exact 2Mm is hand assembled and the craftsmanship is amazing. The output is 6.8-7.2 mV and there is complex fine line micro-ground from a rectangular diamond billet. The coils are High Spec parallel-wound coils and the fixing is a three-point one.
There is no energy loosing between the stylus mounting and head shell contact face since the Rega Exact 2Mm features a one-piece body. The body is made of Pocan, a polymer tougher than industrial aluminum. With no joints between the stylus mounting and the cartridge/head shell face, there is no loose of high frequency on the Rega Exact 2Mm. There is a reasonable gap of 0.25mm between the moving magnet and the pole pieces.
The high priced, non-removable cantilever is fitted with a “Vital” diamond tip. There is maximum contact between the cartridge and head shell since the face is perfectly flat. The tip fits into groove more accurately and brings more information from the record.
Rega has developed its own coil-winding machine therefore there is one third less wire used on Rega Exact 2Mn. This means more efficiency and lower mass cartridge.
It’s important to know that each cartridge is hand-made and adjusted and tested twice during a 24-hour period.
The moving-magnet cartridge is fast and it gives amazing extension at both frequency extremes. The cartridge is a great upgrade for any turntable.
The cartridge tightens up the low end and makes the bass and is really impressive.
The Rega Exact Mk2 comes beautifully, yet simply, packaged. It has a nice, elegant yellow color.
For a clearer image, here are the pros:
- The sound is incredibly natural thanks to the Rega Exact Mk2
- The Rega Exact Mk2 features a one-piece body, with less wire for the coil
- The cartridge is hand-made
- The accuracy is impeccable and there is great extension on both frequency extremes
As all products out there, we need to mention the cons on the Rega Exact Mk2. As in all high-end products, we only need to mention the price, but the performances perfectly fit the bill.
For the entry level cartridge, the Ortofon – 2M Red MM Phono Cartridge is a full replacement option. The Ortofon MM Phono Cartridge features Ortofon’s trademark split pole pins. The 2M series is developed by the Danish designer Moller Jensen Design, a well know and awarded designer.
Nice looking and very popular, the Ortofon -2M Red is upgradable and fairly priced.
The Ortofon MM Phono Cartridge is not only a best seller, but also an award winner.
There is improved engine used on the Ortofon 2MM Phono Cartridge which gives an increased output of 5.5V. The 2M body, generator and stylus profile are improved and the price is amazing for the quality you get.
The Ortofon MM is versatile, but not addressed to bidirectional play. It comes with the recommended tracking force and it’s very easy to mount.
Even though the phono cartridge needs more than 20 hours to break in, the Ortofon gives you very balanced and precise sound, with not too much base or table. The accuracy is amazing, after you get over the break in period. The soundstage is wider and sibilance issues are slow.
You may use the Ortofon 2 M Red MM for modern and vintage turntables also. The Stylus is elliptical and the tip radius is r/R: 8/18 µm.
In order to mount the Ortofon 2M, you only need a vise with soft jaws to hold the head, a small flat-head screwdriver and a small pair of pliers for the wires. This is easy and quickly to do.
The Ortofon 2M comes in a beautiful and impeccable package and may be offered as a gift.
When it comes down to it, some pros are good to notice:
- The phono cartridge is versatile and has a dynamic range
- It gives clean and nuanced sound
- It’s very easy to mount and use the phono cartridge
- The phono cartridge addresses both to vintage and modern turntables
As for the cons, there are only minor issues:
- You need to give the phono cartridge more than 20 hours to break in
- The screwdriver that comes along is not that good
- The phono cartridge is not for the bidirectional play
All in all, for the sound stage it gives and the performances on sound, the Ortofon 2M is a great MM phono cartridge.
Best DJ Cartridge
Any DJ needs his special tools when he wants to bring out the best sound in the house. The Ortofon Concorde Gold Twin Pack includes two cartridges with attached styli and a locking-clasp flight case.
If we go technical, we need to specify the output voltage at 1000Hz, 5cm/sec 6 mV and the channel balance at 1kHz 1,5 dB The channel separation is at 1kHz 23dB. The tracking ability of Ortofon Concorde Gold Twin is at 315Hz at recommended tracking force 80 μm. The stylus is elliptical and the tip radius is r/R 13/25 µm. There is a 200 tracking angle and the recommended load resistance is 47kOhm.
First thing that strikes you at Ortofon Concorde Gold Twin is the nice, elegant gold look. But this is not only about the look, as the Ortofon Concord brings a great sound. The loud signal output and rugged construction meet the high expectations of any DJ.
The Ortofon Concorde is highly sensitive and lets any DJ compensate for mixers, no matter the quality of the headphone amplifier. You may use it with an amazing range of equipment, even with portable music players. The included gold plated 3.5/6.3 mm jack adaptor make the twin pack compatible with any audio device.
The 114dB SPL ensures any DJ that he/she can get any volume they want, no matter the environment: home/club/studio.
The Ortofon Concorde Gold is compatible to a very wide range of turntables.
Shortly, these are the pros for the Ortofon Concorde Gold Twin:
- The Ortofon includes two cartridges
- There is a locking-clasp flight case
- The looks are impressive
- The cartridges give great quality on sound
- The Ortofon works for most turntables
As for the parts we like less, here is the main con:
- The Ortofon comes only with elliptical stylus
For the club use, the Ortofon Concorde Gold Twin is a great and reliable set of cartridges anytime.
Especially created for scratch DJ’s and turntablists, the Shure M44-7 Standard DJ Turntable Cartridge doesn’t skip under even the most challenging circumstances. The one-of-a-kind diameter Type S cantilever has a tracking force of 1.5 to 3.0 grams and the skip resistance is very high.
The M44-7 has a rugged construction, is long lasting and protects your vinyl for a very long time. It has a 9.5mV output and gives a powerful, resonant sound.
When it comes to sound, the M44-7 manages to create clear, nuanced and powerful sound. The M44-7 never jumps and its tracking force ranges from 1.5 to 3 grams. It fits a standard head shell and comes with its own mounting screws.
The spacers are built into cartridge body and the needle never scratches your classic LP’s. The stylus is a 0.7 mil spherical one and it’s interchangeable.
The cartridge gives high track ability, warm and natural sound reproduction and low record wear. The sound is very detailed in high frequencies and strong for big bass.
The M44-7 comes also with a little, useful screwdriver. It has a reliable, sturdy built and its low noise.
Let’s sum it up and state the main pros:
- The M44-7 is designed for the scratch DJ’s and turntablists
- The cartridge gives good, clean and powerful sound and detailed for the high frequencies also
- The needles don’t scratch your LP’s
- The stylus is a spherical, interchangeable one
Some things need to be improved and here’s the list of cons:
- The needle may get off centered
- The wires in the mount are not the best quality
- The sonic resolution needs to be better
- There is no head shell
But, for the money you pay, you get an efficient, reliable and pretty good phono cartridge for your DJ’ing nights.
Best Turntable/Phono Cartridge under $100
When your budget is limited and you still want a good quality phono cartridge for your turntable, the Shure M97xE High-Performance Magnetic Phono Cartridge is a nice and reliable option. The M97xE is great for tracking, neutral and is a smooth-sounding magnetic cartridge. The listening is easier and clean and the ear doesn’t get tired. The Shure M97xE reproduces even very complicated musical passages, in high-frequency range and this is why is a great choice for the classical music listeners. This ability is possible thanks to the finely polished elliptical diamond tip.
The Shure M97xE has a low-mass thin-wall aluminum alloy styles cantilever that works amazing with the precision-crafted diamond tip. The cartridge features a damped Dynamic Stabilizer which keeps a uniform distance between the cartridge and the record in difficult playing conditions (warped records, mismatched tonearm mass). If such a stabilization is not needed, the stabilizer brush may be locked up into its detent position, providing better sound in good playing situations.
The die cast aluminum mounting block provides safer, vibration-free attachment to the tonearm. When it comes to safety, the Shure M97xE features also a stylus protection system, which protects the stylus in case the cartridge accidentally slides across a record. This feature responds to side thrusts on the stylus by forcing the stylus cantilever and tip upward so that the cantilever doesn’t go sideways.
The head shell screwdriver, the stylus cleaning brush, mounting hardware and stylus guard are efficient and useful accessories that come with the cartridge.
You need to allow 10 hours to the cartridge to break in but it’s totally worth it.
The Shure M97xE is easy to mount and the screwdriver that comes along is a great help. It’s also very easy to clean the M97xE.
The cartridge comes in a brushed aluminum box that may be used for storing a spare stylus or other cartridge.
Let’s try make a list of pros on the Shure M97xE:
- The cartridge is great for the difficult musical passages, especially in high-frequency range
- The M97xE is a good option for the classical music listeners
- The finely polished elliptical diamond tip makes the sound clear and nice
- The Side-Guard system protects stylus in case of accidental sliding across LP
As for the parts we like less, there aren’t many to mention. Here are the cons:
- The sound doesn’t feel natural at some point
- The rock listeners might want to go with another cartridge
- The cartridge needs at least 10 hours to break in
The high track ability, warm sound reproduction and low record wear make the M97xE a good cartridge that doesn’t go over $100.
The Audio Technica AT100E Phonograph Cartridge has a structure that improves performance of the vibration system and gives the stylus perfect contact to the record surface.
The AT2100E VM adopts a lossless Paratoroidal generator coil system to the body which gives peak efficiency. On a plus, the right-and-left channels are separated from the center shield place, which minimizes electrical cross talk.
The dual magnet vibration and generation system are efficient and help the sound be clear and natural.
If we get purely technical, we need the specify the frequency response (20-20,000Hz), the channel separation of 27 (dB at 1kHz) and the vertical tracking force of 1.0-1.8 grams. The optimal is 1.4 grams.
The recommended load impedance is of 47k and the output is 4.5 (mV at 1kHz, 5cm/sec).
The stylus is jointed elliptical .03X0.7 mil and the AT100E gives you the chance to change the styli once they get worn out. The cantilever is aluminum pipe and the vertical tracking angle is 23 degrees.
When we talk about performances, the AT100E gives great sound, depth and great details also. It’s for the entry level listeners, but it gets the job done even for the more experienced audiophile. The low frequency is strong and clear also, but we can’t say less about the mid-range and the crisp high which are great also.
The phono cartridge might not be the most forgiving one to the old, scratched records, but it gets the best of them for sure.
There is good built to the cartridge and it’s easy to mount it. It comes with a screwdriver, brush, screws and clear instructions.
The price is amazing and the AT100E lives more than the stated 300 hours. A short list of pros:
- The cartridge gives great sound, depth and detail
- The AT100E is for the entry level listeners
- It gets the best out of the old records, even if it’s not very forgiving with them
- The styli are interchangeable
- It’s easy to mount the cartridge
Some parts we like less about the At100E, but they are not deal breakers:
- The AT100E is not merciful to the old records
- The output is a bit low
- It may need more than 20 hours to break in
But for the money you pay, the AT100E definitely exceeds any listener’s expectations.
Best Phono/Turntable Cartridge under $200
When we talk about classics, we need to mention the Denon DL 103 Moving Coil Cartridge. The DL103 was designed for professional broadcast in the 60’s, using the arms and turntables of the day. There are several upgraded versions of this classical model by other companies and the Denon DL103 remains a one-of-a-kind cartridge, no matter what.
The Denon DL-103 addresses to the heavy tonearms and is a low-output phono cartridge. The output of 0.3mV needs at least 60dB of gain. This is why it needs a step up transformer for a standard MM phono preamp or phono preamp with built-in MC input.
This is a moving coil cartridge with a tracking force of 2.5g+/- 0.2g (2.3-2.7g). The microsound round tip of the stylus is great, giving amazing details for the highs and lows. The cantilever is made of aluminum and the frequency response is 20-45 kHz. The channel separation is over 25dB at 1kHz and the cartridge is only 8.5 grams.
As it’s one of the audiophile’s favorites, the Denon DL-103 combines smoothness and power, giving great sound. The cartridge gives powerful bottom end, rich midrange and silky smooth top. The tonal balance is closer to the warm side, with amazing dynamics for any kind of music or system.
The depth, mids and highs are crisp and detailed and make the Denon DL-103 a reliable choice for all kinds of audiophiles.
Our short list of pros:
- The Denon 103 is a moving coil cartridge
- The Denon 103 is an iconic cartridge and should exist in each audiophile’s collection
- The sound is great, clear, crisp and detailed
- There is huge sound stage
No matter how much we like the Denon DL-103, we still need to mention its flaws. There aren’t many, though:
- You need to be very carefully when you set it up. Its performances depend on the setup
- The cartridge needs a heavy tracking weight
- The output is very low
But, for the money you pay, you not only get a classical moving coil cartridge, but also a reliable tool for your hobby.
The Sumiko – Pearl MM Cartridge might need more than 30 hours to break in, but once it’s done, it gives you great sound, bright and you are able to hear bass you never knew your record has. The Sumiko Pearl MM has a magnetic cartridge and gives great refinement.
The resolution on the cartridge is very good and this is why it smooths and extends top frequencies, free of grain and with low surface noise. The midrange is warm and the rhythmic drive with solid bass and good propulsion of the lower frequencies.
As for the technical information, we notice the MM cartridge, the elliptical stylus with a 0.2µx0.8µ and a frequency response of 12Hz-30KHz. The stylus is perfectly cut and it’s interchangeable. The channel separation is 30dB.
The elliptical grind stylus gives low noise and high tracking ability. There are fewer windings on the Pearl MM so there is higher output without sonic penalty. There is very good front and back imaging. The details are very well reproduced also.
The Pearl MM comes with a screwdriver, screw, bolts and brush and it’s easy to set it up. The cartridge is long lasting and well-priced.
Let’s sum it up and list the pros:
- The Pearl MM is a magnetic cartridge
- The sound is great, clear and you hear more bass than usual
- There is good front and back imaging
- The stylus is replaceable
- The cartridge tracks well and is long lasting
As it happens in most cases, there are also some parts that count as cons so here’s ours:
- The design gives mixed feelings. Some like it, some don’t as the edgy etching of details are not very common
- The cartridge is very sensitive to the VTA (rake) of the stylus
- The standard mat gives a lower angle so you might need to add a second mat
All in all, the Sumiko Pearl MM is an efficient magnetic cartridge that gives great, clear and bright sound.
Best Turntable/Phono Cartridge under $300
When we talk about the Rega – Elys Mk2 Mm Phono Cartridge we don’t know what to point out more: the hand assembled magnets or the great sound you get with the Rega-Elys.
So, the Rega Elys 2 is a moving magnet phono cartridge and the magnets are precisely assembled, by the most trained technicians. Each cartridge uses a pair of parallel wound coils, assembled on custom jigs to create a working stereo generator. You get in the end the very best as each cartridge is tested for two days so that all high standards of the manufacturer are achieved.
Rega has won many awards with its products and this is why you get clarity, great stereo imaging and natural dynamic performance so that you get the best out of your vinyl records.
The stylus is elliptical and the output is a high 6.8-7.2 mV and the cartridge has a three-point fixing. The tip of the stylus has a specific cut in order to give more surface area contact with the groove.
As it’s handmade, you don’t have to worry about the layers of wire as they are carefully wrapped around the coil, evenly placed so there’s a smooth distribution of the coil wires. There is 1/3 less coil wire than in common cartridges and this brings more smoothness to the sound.
There is a .25mm gap between the pole piece and the moving magnet structure, which is better than the regular .7mm gap.
The body of the Rega Elys is made of Pocan PBT which is in fact a polyester based thermoplastic that is glass reinforced. This polymer perfectly molds and fits flat when mounted against the Rega tone arm. Imagine that this polymer is actually tougher than industrial aluminum. On a plus, the body is a one-piece body so this means durability and higher performances.
The Rega Elys fits better the low to medium mass tone arms. The tracking force is 1.75 grams.
The cartridge is easy to mount and install and you need to give it around 10 hours to break in. Once it’s done with that, the sound you get is amazing, as the Rega Elys gives great amount of details. It’s efficient when it comes to the extremes of the audible scales and the treble shows a more extension with more, ultra fine detail. The bass on the low end is also better as it’s more defined and more controlled. The soundstage is also improved.
Let’s sum it all up and point out the most important good things:
- The cartridge is carefully hand-made and tested several times before getting to you
- There is 1/3 less wire around the coils thus getting a lighter cartridge, with less noise
- The soundstage is wide and deep
- The sound is nice, clear, very detailed
- The highs are smooth and clear
As for the parts we’re not fond of, here they are:
- The price might seem a bit high
- The output is kind of high also which makes surface noise noticeable
You need to see between the lines though, and realize that you pay for a hand-made cartridge that gives great sound, detailed and clear.
The LP GEAR BIN 215 High Output Moving Coil Cartridge makes the listening experience better and the cartridge is not pretentiously musical.
The LP Gear Bin 215 is a moving coil with a high output of 1.7mV. The craftsmanship is great and the cartridge combines new parts, old techniques and it manages to be a vintage cartridge.
The output voltage is at 1kHz, 3.54 cm/sec: 1.7mV and the tracking force range is 2.0-2.3 g (the recommended is 2.0 g). The frequency response is 15-30,000 Hz. The cantilever is made of special aluminum alloy. The cartridge needs a ½ inch mount. The vertical tracking angle is of 23 degrees.
The stylus is an elliptical diamond and it’s highly polished. This helps with the detailed sound and the 0.3×0.7 mil size means more accuracy for the sound reproduction.
The cartridge comes with a stylus protector, brass screws (two), brass nuts (2) and an alignment protractor.
The LP Bin 215 gives a full, rich sound, with timbral accuracy. There is natural sound quality and eloquence just as well.
The cartridge has freedom from any table distortions. The tracking is great and there is low groove noise, whereas the signal strength is very good.
The tone is balanced in a natural way and the staging is ample. The LP Bin 215 is great for fine details also.
So, to make it easier, here are some of the pros:
- The cartridge combines the old craftsmanship techniques with the new parts
- The stylus is an elliptical one, giving more refined and detailed sounds
- The sound is accurate and the tracking is great
- The stylus comes with a protector
As for the cons, we only need to mention the fact the cartridge isn’t the best when it comes to a silky sound.
Best Phono/Turntable Cartridges under $500
If you want a standard-mount cartridge, the Audio Technica AT33EV Phonograph Cartridge stands out with its square-body in a titanium finish.
The cartridge comes with no predrilled holes so you need to use some screws with nuts and washers. As the AT33EV comes with a clear instruction manual, you’re good to go.
The body of the cartridge is made of precision-cast aluminum with synthetic resin covering the structure top and bottom, so there is no vibration.
The AT33EV features a 0.3×0.7 mil nude elliptical stylus on a tapered pipe cantilever of Duralumin and comes with a protective stylus guard also. You can find inside a neodymium magnet and dual, wire-wound, PCOCC moving coils.
The frequency response is 15-50,000Hz and the output is 0.3mV at 1kHz. This is why it’s better that your phono stage should be a low-noise model in order to handle low-output cartridges like this one.
The channel separation is 30dB and the tracking force should go around 1.8 to 2.2 grams (2.0 grams standard). The loading resistance should be 100ohms, but it’s better to try several resistance settings until you get the sound you like.
As the cartridge weighs around 6.9gm, it should work with most tonearms.
The AT33EV gives a good sound that improves with time. When it comes to performance on sound, the AT33EV sits in the middle: it’s not too heavily and not too smooth. It performs great with the bass and the lower frequencies. The sound is clear and never gets clogged or slowed by the cartridge. The AT33EV is also amazing for the details and the midrange sounds, not only the lows and the bass. The cartridge makes the classical music listening very nice as it’s able to give very accurately the tones, the dynamics, rightly spaced.
Enough said, let’s put down the main pros:
- The moving-coil cartridge gives a rich, nice, detailed sound
- The cartridge is great for the lows, the bass and for the classical music also
- The AT33EV has a good, strong built
- The cartridge is for the avid audiophiles who left the entry level zone
As for the cons, we need to mention only the following:
- The cartridge might bump up against some chunky record clamps
- Some had to turn up the volume more than expected
All in all, once you’ve decided to step up your game when it comes to turntables, the At33EV is a good choice to begin with.
Especially made by Ortofon, the Music Hall Magic 3 MM Phono Cartridge has an elegant appearance and has the high qualities of every Ortofon cartridge. This is a moving magnet cartridge that needs a ½ inch tonearm mount.
Some technical information might give you a hint on the performances of the Music Hall Magic 3. It has a frequency response of 20-23.000Hz and a tracking ability at 315Hz at recommended tracking force of 70 µm.
The stylus is a nude elliptical one and the tip radius is r/R 8/18 µm. This means a detailed, nicer sound with less noise. The stylus is replaceable.
The tracking angle is 20 degrees and the output is 3mV. The tracking force range is 1,25-1,75 g and the recommended force is 1,5g (15mN).
The cartridge is easy to mount and needs some time to break in.
The sound you get with the cartridge is full, natural and with a good range. The highs, the mediums and even the lows are clear and the cartridge gets the job done.
The short list of pros:
- The Magic 3MM is a reliable moving magnet
- The elliptical stylus is finely made so the cartridge reproduces nice details
- The stylus is replaceable
- The black color gives it an elegant, classical look
When it comes to the cons, we have none specifically.
Best Turntable/Phono Cartridge under $1000
When you want a cartridge that gives elegance and style to your turntable, go with the Clearaudio Virtuoso V2 Ebony-body MM. The Clearaudio Virtuoso V2 is a moving magnet cartridge that has an amazing resonance thanks to its ebony housing. The magnet is strong, giving great dynamic range and the output voltage keeps noise levels down.
As for the technical info, here are some numbers: the output voltage is 4.0mV, the channel separation is > 30 dB, whereas the channel balance is lower than 0.4dB. The tracking ability is 90 µm and the recommended tracking is 2.4g. The cantilever is made of aluminum.
The Clearaudio Virtuoso is measured, analyzed and hand-selected so that is best channel matching. The cartridge gives minimum phase error and distortion, flat frequency response and high dynamic range at each price point.
The sound is nicely detailed, vivid with bass that doesn’t wallow and not harsh treble. Natural and clear, the sound the cartridge gives has a nice dynamic to it.
The Virtuoso fits and gives amazing performance on all common tonearms.
Here are the pros, shortly:
- The Virtuoso V2 is a moving magnet cartridge
- The cartridge has a hand-made ebony casing
- The sound is nice, natural, detailed
- The output is high, keeping noise level at minimum
As for the parts we like less, we can only think of one: the price. But, for the audiophiles, there’s no price too high for their no.1 hobby.
For the heavy duty in an institution, the SoundSmith – IROX Blue X – High-Output Phono Cartridge is sure one thing to get. The Irox Blue is an unbreakable cartridge that goes great in the harsh repetitive use.
The Irox Blue features an elliptical stylus and this is why is a great choice for the parties, DJing, public institutions as it’s ready to take any accidentally damaging use.
Let’s speak of the numbers a bit. The Irox Blue has an elliptical titanium bonded stylus and a cantilever made of aluminum alloy. The recommended tracking force is 2.0 to 2.5 grams and the frequency response is 20-20,000Hz +/- 2.5dB. The channel separation (stereo only) is 1000 Hz >26 dB, 50-15,000 >20 dB, while the channel difference is <1.6 dB.
The Irox Blue is a high output cartridge as it needs a 2.12 mV output.
The fixed coil design, rebuild-able for 20% of MSRP, the cartridge is available in true dual channel mono.
The cantilever and stylus do not bend, dent, damage broke or torn off that easily. The internal suspension of the Irox Blue is one-of-a-kind as it doesn’t rotate or get bent out of shape in case of an accident.
When it comes to sound, the Irox Blue stands out as it’s a good hifi performer. The midband and low end are also amazingly reproduced. The instrumentation is sweet and the voicing is clear. There is high definition for the bass just as well.
So, the short list of pros would be:
- The Irox Blue is a fixed coil cartridge
- The Irox Blue is a heavy duty cartridge, ready to use in institutions, DJ parties
- The cartridge is durable and resistant to any accidental damages
- The sound is warm, clear due to its elliptical stylus
If we need to state the cons, we can only mention that, due to the heavy duty design, there is a slight increase in sibilance, comparing to other Sound Smith models.
But, when you get to the end of it, you realize this is a small price considering the endurance and life span the Irox Blue gives.
Best MM (moving magnet) Phono Cartridge under $1000
Goldring 1042 – Moving Magnet turntable cartridge is part of a series that uses modern phono-cartridge technology, giving more tracking ability and user-replacement stylus so that the stylus is removed the second it wears out or gets damaged.
The cartridge has a one-piece body made of Pocan, the ultra-rigid glass-reinforced polyester. All fixed parts are hold safely in one place and the body is tightly bolted to the head shell. The high efficient magnetic circuit gives a smooth and extended frequency response.
The Goldring 1042, as the any other Goldring cartridge is tested with microscopes and shadow projectors to check the optimum standards pf performance and reliability.
Here is some info on the technical aspects of the Goldring 1042. The output is 6.5mV which makes it work well with Phono-stages with various Valve Phono Section. The frequency response is 20-20.000Hz and the channel separation is 25dB. The channel sensitivity difference is 2dB or less and the tracking force is 1.5-2.5grams (recommended is 1.7 g). The vertical tracking angle is 24degrees and the stylus is a Gyger S type. The mounting is 1/2inch.
When we get to the performances of the Goldring 1042, we need to underline the details. The whole tonal balance is great and instrumental tones are very well reproduced.
The sound staging is excellent and the classical music gets the best of it. The tones are vibrant, full of life. The cartridge does an amazing job even for the rock/techno/trance music and it tracks it great. The bass is clear and the high speed of the sequenced drum-lines from a trance track is not minimized. So, kudos for the sonic sounds also.
Let’s make a short list of pros:
- The Goldring 1042 is a moving magnet cartridge
- The stylus is replaceable
- The soundstage is amazing
- The cartridge gives great sound on classical, and modern music just as well
Some things do count as cons, though:
- The cartridge is very sensitive to capacitive loading
- The Goldring 1042 doesn’t handle very well VTA (vertical tracking angle) adjustments
- The cartridge doesn’t mix very well with a warm phono-stage.
But, as it gives reliability and versatility, the Goldring 1042 might surprise even the moving coil fans with its performances.
All Clearaudio V2 moving magnet cartridges are made with great meticulosity, analyzed and hand-selected into 4 performance levels. The Clearaudio Artist V2 MM Phono Cartridge is one of them and gives very little space for phase error and distortion. The cartridge gives the flattest frequency response and highest dynamic range for the money you pay.
When we talk about numbers, here are the info you might need. The frequency response is 23Hz to 20 kHz and the output voltage is 3.6mV. The channel separation is 1kHz, whereas the channel balance goes from 1kHz to 0.8dB. The tracking ability is 80 μm and the tracking force is 2.2grams with a recommended force of 1.8. The cantilever is made of aluminum and the cartridge is 8.4grams.
The sound the cartridge gives is spatially detailed with vividly textured. The bass is right where it should be and the treble is not harsh. The cartridge gives great sound quality on all current tonearms.
The housing of the cartridge is hand-polished ebony which means so much when it comes weight. The stylus is double polished elliptical type, giving more sensitivity for the sound. There is reduced distortion and vivid reproducing of musical performance.
The sound is natural and the higher output voltage brings down the noise levels.
Here’s our short list of pros:
- The Clearaudio Artist is a moving magnet cartridge
- The stylus is elliptical
- The housing is hand-polished ebony
- The sound is great, clear and detailed
When it comes to the parts we like less, we only need to mention the high output and the bass that needs some improvement.
Best MC (Moving Coil) Cartridge under $1000
For the true audiophile the Goldring Eroica H High Output Moving Coil Phono Cartridge is the moving coil cartridge that brings out the very best of any vinyl record.
The advanced pole shoe design, using a powerful rare earth Neodymium magnet, the cartridge allows a shortened magnetic path, thus reducing the amount of iron in the cartridge and the weight of 5.5gms. The Pocan body of the cartridge is rigid so you may solidly clamp it to the head shell, with very low energy losses.
The Goldring Eroica uses a Gyger I line contact stylus, “H” shaped which is a high output moving coil cartridge. The cartridge is compatible with all GSP audio phono preamps. The Eroica becomes a high performant and reliable cartridge.
Let’s talk a bit about the technical features. The frequency response is 20Hz-22Hz and the tracking force is 3dB. The channel balance is 1dB maximum at 1kHz, whereas the channel separation is 25 dB at 1kHz. The vertical tracking angle is 20 degrees and the load resistance is 47kOhms.
The stylus is Radius Gyger II and it’s not replaceable. The cantilever is made of aluminum.
The Goldring Eroica is ultra lightweight and the body is made of reinforced Pocan. The transformer impedance matches the coil resistance so this makes better sound. The dynamic of the sound wins, at the cost of the little mid0high frequency rise.
The Goldring Eroica gives great performance when reproducing vocals, old female jazz or forever lasting Sinatra.
Another great thing about Eroica is that the support wire seems to be fully broken in and even at 1.0 grams the sound of Eroica is great with only with a few very over-modulated passages. The best is 1.2 to 1.5grams force.
The Goldring Eroica is great for tracking and doesn’t get edgy when dynamic is strong.
Here’s a short list of pros:
- The Goldring Eroica is a moving coil cartridge
- The cartridge is great for vocals, jazz
- The Eroica is lightweight
- The cartridge gives a good, clean sound
- There’s no need to break it in
As for the parts that count as cons, here they are:
- The cartridge seems a bit dull in the beginning
- The mids and highs registers could be cleaner
- The stylus is not replaceable
Once you consider yourself to be an audiophile and willing to pay the extra cash for the tools on your turntable, the Goldring Eroica is good buy.
When you want some Swiss design for your turntable cartridge, the Benz Micro Gold Low Output Moving Coil Stereo Phono Cartridge is a great option. The Benz Micro Gold is a moving coil cartridge and is a real smooth performer, giving natural tonal balance and high precision on the reproducing.
The cartridge uses a low output of 0.4mV and performs great when used with MC capable phono preamps. This is, after all, a Stereophile Recommended component.
When we talk about the technical, we specify the cantilever which is made of aluminum alloy tube and the elliptical diamond stylus. The stylus radius is 0.3×0.7 mil and the vertical tracking angle is 23 degrees.
The frequency response is 20Hz-25kHz and the channel balance is at 1kHz up to 1.2 dB The channel separation is at 1kHz to 30dB. The tracking force range is 1.8-2.2g and the recommended tracking force is 2g (20mN).
There is 1/3 less mass thanks to the Swiss hand coil so the response time is faster and the tracking is better. There’s less wire on coils, so the Benz Micro Gold is more accurate on high frequencies phase response and has lower internal impedance.
As we talk about its performances, we need to mention the attention for details and the amazing instrumental separation. The soundstage depth and width are excellent and the cartridge gives great natural voices and solo instruments.
The cartridge is also very fast. The same goes for the bass that is both quick and powerful.
The cartridge gives amazing full range from low to high, tracks well and quiet.
Let’s outline the pros:
- The cartridge brings out the Swiss Benz design and quality
- The Benz Micro Gold is compatible with various turntables and tonearms
- The cartridge is great when used with MC capable phono pre amps
- The sound is clear, detailed and there is amazing instrumental separation
When it comes to the cons, there are few to mention:
- The cartridge needs around 30 hours to break in
- The adjustment is a bit difficult
- The cartridge is bright for the high frequencies
But, if you think that Swiss Benz design fits your likings, the Benz Micro Gold clearly makes the cut as it’s reliable, fast and gives great sound.