Are you in the market for a new turntable? Keep your wits about you. By just replacing the cartridge in your present record player, you may be able to increase the sound quality. It’s the hi-fi equivalent of “don’t move, improve.”
There are two types of turntable cartridges: moving magnet and moving coil. Cartridges with a moving magnet (commonly shortened to MM) contain a cantilever that transmits mechanical vibrations from the record groove directly into the cartridge’s magnet. Its ever-changing magnetic field provides a magnetic flow that generates an electromotive force proportional to the vibrations. The speakers then amplify the signal and convert it back to sound.
In order to enhance the low voltage and drive the speakers with a moving magnet cartridge, your amplifier must have an MM phono input.
A moving coil cartridge, on the other hand, contains a stationary magnet and a moving coil. This coil generates an electromotive force by moving inside the magnetic field formed by the stationary magnet. Because the moving mass is closer to the pivot point, inertia is reduced, resulting in a higher-fidelity sound. What’s the drawback? Models with moving coils are more costly.
Both sorts of cartridges are featured in our list of the best cartridges, which ranges from affordable to high-end. Take a look and see which cartridge would be the best fit for you.
It’s only a matter of time before you have higher-quality audio…
1 – Goldring E3
This amazing Goldring cartridge is simple to install and compatible with a wide range of turntables, making it a really flexible cartridge. The sound is crisp and clear, with plenty of power and clarity when it’s needed. It also has a good sense of rhythm and a lot of attack. The ideal companion to many a midrange deck, and without a doubt one of the greatest cartridges we’ve ever heard for the money.
2 – Goldring 1042
This model from Britain’s oldest cartridge manufacturer does not disappoint. The 1042 is a cartridge that has been around since the 1990s and is still one of the finest in its class. It’s composed of Pocan, a high-rigidity glass-reinforced plastic substance, so it’ll endure a long time. It may be difficult to install, but once it is, you will be rewarded handsomely: the sound is highly detailed, allowing you to immerse yourself in the recording with virtually no background noise. The work was well worth it.
3 – Ortofon Quintet Blue
Ortofon has been making turntable cartridges since 1948, and it seems like all its expertise went into this one. The Blue is a true five-star product: simple to fit, not too heavy, so easy to balance out, and capable of a sound that’s worth every penny of its asking price. It’s an agile sound, with a high level of sonic precision that’s brimming with detail. Plenty of refinement is evident too, and it’s rhythmically surefooted with a good sense of attack. Just make sure you partner it with the right kit. Otherwise it’ll be like fitting pram wheels to a Ferrari.
4 – Ortofon 2M Red
Another Ortofon, another excellent purchase. This one is a lot less expensive than the Blue, yet it still delivers excellent value for money. Vocals, in particular, sound rich and expressive in the midrange. The bass and treble are likewise good, but the former could need a little more presence. That, though, is a minor issue. It’s easy to put together and align, and it gives you a great listening experience. Proof that the greatest cartridges don’t have to be expensive.
5 – Nagaoka MP110
This inexpensive and cheery cartridge is simple to install and align, and it produces a bright, breezy sound that will instantly liven up a drab system. It also has a nice middle. Downsides? The bass could need a little more punch, and the treble is a little harsher than similarly priced competitors. However, this cartridge punches much above its weight in terms of dynamics, sounding like a much more expensive model. It’s certainly worth looking at if you’re on a tight budget.