Hey, Last week I was asked to share my personal opinion on the best phono cartridge. It took a little bit of time to come up with the right product. But only when I started to surf about phono cartridge, I realize that millions of people have doubts about the best phone cartridge and features, price, etc. So, I decided to write an article listing the best phono cartridge to help those planning to purchase one.

If you're a new user of turntables, you might be thinking, what's the purpose of a phono cartridge. Briefly, a phono cartridge is nothing but a device that allows you to play records on your turntable. They come in two forms: Moving magnet and moving coil. Both cartridge types convert mechanical energy to electrical.

The difference lies in how they perform this conversion. There are more exciting features in a phono cartridge. However, to get detailed information about them, you need to go through this article.

Product Image
Amazon's choice
Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge
Budget Pick
Gemini Sound Professional DJ Audio...
Editor's Choice
Audio-Technica AT-VM95E/H Turntable...
Classic Pick
NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110
Product Name
Ortofon
Gemini
Audio-Technica
NAGAOKA
Model
2M RED
HDCN-15
AT-VM95E/H
MP-110
Stylus
Elliptical
Elliptical
Elliptical
Elliptical
Generator Type
Moving Magnet
Moving Magnet
Moving Magnet
Moving Magnet
Frequency Response
20-20,000 Hz
20 Hz-20 kHz
20-22,000 Hz
20Hz-20kHz
Output voltage
5.5 mV
5mV
4.0 mV
5mV
Amazon's choice
Product Image
Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge
Product Name
Ortofon
Model
2M RED
Stylus
Elliptical
Generator Type
Moving Magnet
Frequency Response
20-20,000 Hz
Output voltage
5.5 mV
Budget Pick
Product Image
Gemini Sound Professional DJ Audio...
Product Name
Gemini
Model
HDCN-15
Stylus
Elliptical
Generator Type
Moving Magnet
Frequency Response
20 Hz-20 kHz
Output voltage
5mV
Editor's Choice
Product Image
Audio-Technica AT-VM95E/H Turntable...
Product Name
Audio-Technica
Model
AT-VM95E/H
Stylus
Elliptical
Generator Type
Moving Magnet
Frequency Response
20-22,000 Hz
Output voltage
4.0 mV
Classic Pick
Product Image
NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110
Product Name
NAGAOKA
Model
MP-110
Stylus
Elliptical
Generator Type
Moving Magnet
Frequency Response
20Hz-20kHz
Output voltage
5mV

BEST PHONO CARTRIDGE REVIEW

1. ORTOFON 2M RED - BEST MOVING MAGNET PHONO CARTRIDGE

ortofon 2M red- best phono cartridge

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Elliptical stylus
  • Delivers open, dynamic sound
  • Output: 5.5 mv
  • Frequency range : 20-22,000 Hz
  • Stylus life: up to 2000 hours
  • Excellent resolution

Are you in the plan of purchasing a new turntable to improve the sound quality? You don't need to do that. Replace your existing phono cartridge with Ortofon helps to enjoy the music with high-quality sounds.

The shape of the cartridges' stylus is a vital criterion to achieve good quality sound. If you ask me how, the narrower contact radius, the better stylus gives better tracking of groove modulations. This cartridge comes with an elliptical diamond-shaped stylus to extract musical information accurately to ensure super performance.

Next comes the generator type of the cartridge; this belongs to a moving magnet type - a tiny magnet is attached to the stylus tip to trace the music signals from the record grooves. As this magnet moves along the coil, it produces small electrical signals amplified using the phono circuit. Adding to it, Ortofon's split pole pins are used to achieve a flat frequency response.

Speaking about the cartridge's build quality, its material is manufactured from Hopelex to ensure high rigidity while eliminating unwanted resonances. Its 2M series from Ortoforon features threaded holes for easy mounting and provides excellent compatibility with many phono preamps, including classic phono tube preamp. Hence it is highly recommended!

Pros

  • High level of sonic accuracy.
  • Simple to fit and align
  • Excellent resolution is ensured
  • Lightweight(7.2gms)
  • Massive bass effects

Cons

  • It might produce a slight hissing sound(sibilance)

2. GEMINI HDCN-15 - BEST BUDGET PHONO CARTRIDGE

Gemini HDCN - best phono cartridge

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Compatible with 4-Pin Turntable Cartridges
  • Rubber washer for super-fit into the arm
  • Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
  • Tracking arm
  • Aluminum headshell for rigidity

Let me tell you a few things about this brand. Since 1974, Gemini has been producing innovative products for DJ, Pro audio, and consumer electronic markets at an affordable price without compromising the quality.

So do you want to possess a moderately-priced yet the best phono cartridge for your turntables? Then, think about this Gemini HDCN cartridge. This DJ phono cartridge comes in a silver body with a stylus cover for giving enhanced protection and an extended life span.

Like the Ortofon 2M Red, this phono cartridge also has an elliptical stylus for maximum pattern reproduction. For your information, this stylus(AT-3600) is made by the famous Audio-Technica known for its audio components. Not only that, it comes with the most preferred aluminum headshell, which provides better damping and support when compared to plastic headshells.

If you're planning to host DJ parties, you can very well get that done using this cartridge in your DJ turntables. You can play songs of any genre and still get the best sound effects. So, the next time you host a DJ party, make sure you install this phono cartridge onto your turntable to amaze your audience.

Pros

  • Compatible with 4-Pin Turntable Cartridges
  • Rubber washer for super-fit into the arm
  • Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
  • Tracking arm
  • Aluminum headshell for rigidity

Cons

  • Relatively heavy as Aluminium headshell is used

3. AUDIO-TECHNICA AT-VM95E/H - BEST VALUE PHONO CARTRIDGE

AT-VM95E - best phono cartridge

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Output : 4.0mV
  • Frequency response of 20Hz to 22kHz
  • 300 hours of playing time
  • Aluminum cantilever for rigidity
  • Dual moving magnet generator type
  • Pre-installed screw mountings
  • Channel separation: 20db at 1kHz

99% of people, including me, prefer to purchase from top brands. Isn't it? We do so because of the trust we have in that Company's reputation. I hope you would be familiar with Audio Technica's brand, which is known for its best quality audio products. Interestingly, this best phono cartridge (AT-VM95E/H) was manufactured by Audio Technica.

The company has given improved features to this cartridge, including higher frequency response, output voltage, and strong build quality. The VM95E, measuring 17.2x18.9x28.3mm, is sturdy and comes with an elliptical stylus for better modulation tracking.

As this is a moving magnet cartridge, you can expect the best performance. A cantilever's material and size play an important role in achieving the maximum range of frequencies. Surprisingly, an aluminum alloy is desired in the cantilever's construction.

I mentioned earlier that this cartridge provides increased output voltage, especially the presence of specially wound coils. Another exciting feature of this cartridge is that you can upgrade it to a range of other styles. It also offers excellent channel separation of 20 (dB at 1 kHz) and low distortion.

If your cartridges' stylus gets worn out, you can replace it with a matching stylus without purchasing a brand new cartridge. As all six models of VM95 Series have the same engine body, the interchangeable styli are easily compatible.

Isn't it marvelous to notice all these fantastic features in a single product? Well, if you loved this best phono cartridge, then get one soon!

Pros

  • Easy mounting
  • Compatible with any AT-VMN95 replacement stylus
  • Good and strong bass
  • Reduced sibilant vocals

Cons

  • The treble effects could be even louder

4. MP-110 - BEST NAGAOKA PHONO CARTRIDGE

Nagaoka - best phono cartridge

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Anti-Ferro shield casing
  • Frequency range:20Hz - 20kHz
  • Output voltage: 5mV
  • Aluminum cantilever beam
  • Elliptical diamond stylus
  • Offers a spare needle for all cartridges

Some of you might be using your turntable for quite a long time. If that's the case, it's pretty natural for the cartridge to give dull performances. Don't worry. You can instantly cheer up its mood by using this Nagaoka MP-110 cartridge. I heard many people praising this product, and as I was reviewing this cartridge, I was taken aback by its unique features. Let me elaborate on them for you.

You won't believe that this moderately-priced cartridge could give such a tremendous dynamic experience. That's why I've listed this in the "best phono cartridge" list.

A phono cartridge is considered supreme when loaded with a moving magnetic-type generator, elliptical-shaped stylus, aluminum cantilever, and an anti-Ferro shield casing. To your surprise, all these unique features are included in this model.

Anti-Ferro casing is unique to this product as no one will like their turntable cartridges to look rusted. The ultimate reason for this cartridge being loaded with these excellent features to make zero compromises on the sound quality. It means you can expect wonderful sounds with zero harshnesses.

Nagaoka is best known for its affordable Moving Magnet cartridges so that you can purchase this product blindfold. Great one!

Pros

  • Enhanced tracking of groove modulations
  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy to fit
  • Lightweight (6.5g)
  • Ultimate sound quality

Cons

  • Does not sound the best at low and high frequencies when compared to mid frequencies.

5. ATN3600LX OEM - BEST PHONO CARTRIDGE for sony turntable

ATN3600LX - best phono cartridge

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Stylus replacement for Sony PS-LX250H PS-LX300USB turntable
  • Conical diamond stylus for improved fidelity
  • Narrow contact radius(0.0006 inch)
  • Carbon fiber cantilever beam
  • Moving Magnet generator

What if I suggest a less-pricey yet quality phono cartridge for your high-end Sony turntables? I know you read this twice. Yes, this ATN3600LX OEM LP Gear is the best alternative to expensive cartridges.

This cartridge model from Audio-Technica is exclusive to Sony turntables like Sony PS-LX250H, PS-LX300USB because its stylus is made by OEM, the original manufacturer of Sony stylus.

The cartridge comes with a conical diamond tip such that it rides more quietly in the groove giving fuller sounds. To ensure firm contact with the groove, a carbon fiber cantilever is used. It also makes the cantilever stiff and lightweight.

By this time, you must be aware of the advantages of using a moving magnet cartridge. Well, this best phono cartridge also gives you this advantage as it uses the same MM generator to generate electrical signals.

As said, the narrower the contact radius, the better will be the tracking accuracy. With that in mind, this conical stylus tip measures only a .0006 inch radius. This best phono cartridge is a steal for the price. So get one soon!

Pros

  • The sound quality is incredible
  • Long playing life
  • High accuracy
  • Lightweight (0.125 pounds)
  • The conical stylus picks up only fewer imperfections from the record's groove

Cons

  • Not much

6. THE VESSEL A3SE TURNTABLE CARTRIDGE

Vessel A3SE

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Frequency Range: 20-25,000 Hz
  • Output Voltage @ 1kHz: 3.0 mV
  • Equipped with Moving Magnet generator
  • Stylus Replacement: A3SE Stylus
  • Aluminum cantilever

Imagine a Reva car performing like an Audi. Unbelievable right! But such is the performance of this Vessel A3SE Phono Cartridge. I gave such a comparison because this cartridge, though moderately priced, is a tough competitor to high-end phono cartridges available in the market.

If you want to experience high-end vinyl cartridges' super performance and sound quality, you can get that done using this Phono cartridge. Adding to it, this cartridge from Vessel will help to bring your old turntables back to life by delivering rich and vibrant sound.

The best part I felt about this phono cartridge, it allows you to enjoy even the finest details of the song or music you're playing with no distortion.

Like most common cartridges, this also features a Moving Magnet generator and a super elliptical stylus guaranteeing great outputs. Not only that, an aluminum pipe cantilever known for its fidelity and a narrow stylus tip measuring (7.6 x 15.5 μm)is used in this cartridge design to provide full reproduction of the groove patterns.

Keeping all these great features in mind, I've listed the Vessel A3SE Phono Cartridge in the list of best phono cartridges.

Pros

  • No sibilant distortion observed
  • Tonal balance is smoother
  • Impressive dynamics
  • Not very heavy(6.0gms)
  • Ideal for playing your favorite vintage albums

Cons

  • Initially, it might take some time for set-up

7. AUDIO-TECHNICA AT33 - BEST MOVING COIL PHONO CARTRIDGE

AT33MONO

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz
  • Moving-coil cartridge
  • In-built with a PCOCC (Pure Copper by Ohno Continuous Casting) coil for pure signal transfer
  • Output @ 1 kHz : 0.35 mV
  • Duralumin cantilever

This is a wow product and ideal for playing mono-vinyl records as it is a moving coil cartridge. The reason behind listing only one MC-type cartridge is that generally, MC-type cartridges are costly compared to MM cartridges.

But if you want to take your turntable's performance to the next level, you can opt for this AT33 MC cartridge. This cartridge has a fixed magnet with a moving coil that moves along the field, generating an electrical signal.

Speaking about the stylus and cantilever, this cartridge comes with a conical stylus with a radius of 0.65mil and a duralumin cantilever. To make the cartridge vibration-proof, high-damping rubber is used in the cartridges' interior housing. 

Pros

  • Strong and rigid body as Hanenite rubber is used in the interior 
  • Compatible with stereo playback systems
  • Small and precise as moving-coils are used

Cons

  • Not compatible with SP (standard play) shellac records
  • The low range seems a bit overpowering

8. ORTOFON OMEGA 1E TURNTABLE CARTRIDGE

Ortofon Omega 1e

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Moving magnet cartridge
  • Output voltage : 4mv @1000hz 
  • Frequency response : 20-21.000 Hz
  • Elliptical diamond stylus
  • Compatible with USB turntables

Can a dynamic sound performance be achieved in both modern and vintage turntables using the same cartridge? Of course, yes! That's why this Ortofon Omega takes place in the list of best phono cartridge list.

Another unique feature of this phono cartridge is that it's compatible with most turntables, including USB-enabled vinyl turntables.

This design's technology uses the standard elliptical stylus tip with a small contact radius to trace the groove modulations more accurately. As this is a moving magnet cartridge, it makes the design robust and compatible with most household stereo equipment.

Pros

  • Remarkable sound quality
  • Cost-effective
  • Offers distortion-free playback
  • Huge bass is guaranteed

Cons

  • Not recommended for DJ turntables

9. GRADO PRESTIGE PHONO CARTRIDGE

GRADO - best phono catridge

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Twin magnet system
  • Fits into most standard turntables
  • Elliptical stylus
  • Channel Separation at 1KHz: 30db
  • Output : 4mv

This phono cartridge from Grado comes with a dual magnet system to optimize the balance between stereo channels and provide improved performance. It comes with an Optimized Transmission Line (OTL) Cantilever/Stylus Assembly for point-to-point signal transfer, unlike the other cartridges. This has been given for quiet and more detailed record playback.

The Grado super performance cartridge is great for low and mid-range frequencies when compared to High-frequencies. It uses an elliptical-type stylus. Four high-purity copper wire coils to ensure zero vibration and sound damping.

Bass is dynamic and punchy, so isn't this Grado Black3 phono the best phono cartridge? 

Pros

  • Offers excellent tonal balance and harmonics
  • Less susceptible to "hum"
  • No inner groove distortion
  • Lightweight  (6g)

Cons

  • Not a Pmount cartridge
  • Soft bass and treble at high-frequencies

10. REGA - CARBON PHONO CARTRIDGE

Rega - best phono catridger

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Plastic stylus guard for safe mounting
  • Output @1kHz : 2.5mV
  • Conical stylus
  • Carbon cantilever
  • User-replaceable stylus

Yet a humble cartridge(only £26), this cartridge from Rega ensures a good performance when installed on your turntables. The common features include a moving magnet generator, a carbon cantilever and a conical-shaped stylus. 

A simple note on carbon cantilevers: They don't require high weight for tracking, so you needn't worry about your records' safety and not only that, using a carbon cantilever makes the cartridge light in terms of mass.

I wouldn't say that this cartridge will deliver the best bass and harmonics as that of other high-end cartridges, but still, you can expect decent quality sound for this price range.

Pros

  • The stylus can be easily replaced
  • Simple to set up
  • Accurate sound production
  • Resonant free because of the carbon cantilever

Cons

  • Bass and treble effects could be even better

WHAT MUST YOU LOOK FOR IN A CARTRIDGE?

Stylus shape: 

The stylus shape influences how it makes contact with the record groove. So the narrower the contact radius, the better the stylus will track modulations in the groove. There are two most common stylus shapes, conical and elliptical. Elliptical stylus shapes have a small radius than the conical styli. So this allows it to trace the grooves more accurately and thus exact more accurate music.

Trackability: 

How well the stylus or the needle can track a modulated record groove is what trackability means. You can measure the trackability by recording the maximum amplitude a stylus can trace before the signal gets distorted.

Cantilever: 

To effectively transfer the vibrational energy from the tip of the stylus to the magnet, the cantilever needs to be stiff. The cantilever can influence the wide range of audio frequencies produced by the cartridge.

Mount type: 

There are two types of mounts for cartridges, standard cartridges, and P-mounts. Standard mount cartridges are fixed to the tonearm by two vertical screws spaced 1/2 apart, and they feature four small posts, which helps in connecting the tonearm leads. The P-mounts have four slender pins that help in direct plugging into the tonearms that use P-mount cartridges.

Generator type:

Two main types of generators are moving coil (MC) and moving magnet(MM). Moving coil cartridge gives lower output and requires a preamp with special MC setting, and they are expensive as well. But the moving magnet can orbit to the next level easily and gives considerably high input.

Safety & Precaution :

  • A dirty stylus can jump out of the groove, cause damage to records. The fact is every time you play a record, the stylus wears it down a little - Dirt and debris can accelerate this process and leads to a lack of clarity. Hence it is recommended to use proper tools to clean vinyl records and stylus before and after every play.
  • Avoid dropping the cartridge on your platter mat, as it might cause damage to your stylus diamond,
  • Upgrade your turntable slip mat. For instance, fret slip mats are more prone to dirt and dust. Your records will regularly cling to the mat, which in turn increases the risk of damaging the record and stylus. 

CONCLUSION

It’s a wrap. I hope you found this article on the “best phono cartridge” useful and informatory. Only after an in-depth study about these cartridges have I listed these cartridges here. So, you can rely on these turntable cartridges completely. Please do share your valuable feedback in the comments section below. Great day!

FAQ

What are the types of cartridge?

The cartridge also called as cell is the part that comes into contact with the front of the arm and the disc. It is located on the front of the tone arm, represented by a very small case and with a diamond at the needle. Its role is to retrieve the signal to send it to the amplifier. This is one of the key criteria for the acoustic rendering of the turntable. There are types of cells,

  • The MM cartridge is a moving magnet cartridge that works with all models of phono preamplifiers. It is the one that is present on the majority of devices.
  • The MC cartridge is a moving coil cartridge suitable for high-end models with excellent sound reproduction.

How often should I upgrade my cartridge?

The stylus or the needle usually lasts for about 1000 hours before you get the need to replace it. And this lifespan can vary from one cartridge to another. If it is a moving magnet(MM) cartridge, you need not replace the entire cartridge but just the stylus or needle. But if it is a moving coil (MC) cartridge, you must either replace the whole cartridge or change the stylus with the help of a professional.


Wearing out stylus needles is inevitable. For the regular listener, it is suggested to clean your stylus about twice or thrice a week. Ultimately, the rate of dust accumulation on the record and stylus depends on how often you play records and how often you clean those records. Cleaning records before and after each play regularly is the first line of defense against a dusty stylus. If you have older records with layers of dust in the grooves, use record cleaning solution and microfiber cloth to clean the record.

Why is a cartridge upgrade so effective?

If you have bought a turntable and after a long use if you consider upgrading then, buying the best cartridge is crucial. Because a cartridge upgrade is seen as a good place to start when you want to improve the sound, tracking, or increase signal levels of the turntable setup.

What is a phono cartridge? It is a small electro-mechanical component that is mounted at the front of a tonearm on a turntable. So how does a cartridge work. A cartridge converts the tiny physical grooves in the record into an electrical task. This is a highly complex task, and it requires an extreme level of accuracy to represent the physical grooves into an electrical signal that produces the music.

Based on the quality of the cartridge, the working differs. For example, if you are investing in a high-quality cartridge, then transforming the physical format into an electric format is done with high precision easily.