Are you looking to unlock the untapped potential of your turntable? Are you consistently let down by the quality of your turntable cartridge and don’t know where to turn? What is the best turntable cartridge for you?
All this and more today as we explore 10 of the best turntable cartridges on the market today, comparing them side-by-side to help you find which is the best for you.
Table of Contents
- 1. Goldring E3
- 2. Goldring 1042
- 3. Goldring 2500
- 4. Sumiko Rainier
- 5. Ortofon Quintet Blue
- 6. Ortofon 2M Red
- 7. Ortofon 2M Blue
- 8. Pro-Ject Pick-it DS2
- 9. Audio-Technica AT-F7
- 10. Audio-Technica AT-VM95C
- Final Tones
- FAQs Best Turntable Cartridge
1. Goldring E3
For this price, you really aren’t going to find many phono cartridges that are better all-rounders than the Goldring E3. With a clean and precise tonal output that offers both clarity and power, this is among the best turntable cartridges on the market today, and all for a considerably low price point.
- Aimed at those with a more refined ear for these sorts of things, boasting an elliptical stylus.
- The sound response is incredibly expressive, well and truly getting its point across, especially when compared with other MM cartridges.
- This is a friendly piece of kit too, playing nicely with the other parts of the stereo setup without any worries.
- There aren’t really any complaints at this price point – everything checks out and, if you should choose to invest in it, you won’t likely be disappointed.
2. Goldring 1042
Let’s keep up the momentum and bring you another offering from those folks over at Goldring. This cartridge, though it takes a little more effort to fit into place than some others here arrayed, it is deemed well worth the extra effort, boasting a full and rich sound experience.
- The levels here are great and well worthy of note, offering great results in just about every frequency.
- Also, though this thing is a little more fiddly to install than some others here arrayed, it is surprisingly easy to replace, especially as you will know how to do it better the second time around.
- That being said, the installation can be quite a tricky process if you aren’t otherwise accustomed to this sort of thing – something could very easily go wrong and ruin everything for everybody.
3. Goldring 2500
What about the Goldring 2500, I hear you ask. Well, steady on, for we are just getting to it. Though less expensive than its higher-end brethren, the Goldring Ethos (pictured below), this is still a pretty expensive vessel that will set you back over $1000. Still, some would argue that, considering the ease of use and how easy it is to fit, this is a worthy investment.
- In terms of audio quality and strength of signal, there are scarcely any better cartridges on the market today.
- This is especially the case when you consider the ease of use on display here alongside how simply this thing is installed – it practically installs itself, fitting easily onto whatever tonearm you are already using.
- Despite the steep price tag, there are no other glaring issues with this cartridge.
4. Sumiko Rainier
Another fun and affordable phono cartridge is this offering from Sumiko. Founded in 1982, the company has continued all this time to build cartridges under the same management, building them all in Japan from then till now.
At the more affordable end of their range is the Rainier, a moving magnet cartridge that still holds up against some more expensive competitors.
- The sound quality here is full and lush, bound to entertain even the most skeptical listener.
- This sound is also powerful enough to woo even the most determined hater of audiophilia.
- This thing needs a keen eye and a steady hand to be installed, lest you do some serious damage to the nude elliptical stylus along the way.
- Likewise, this thing is not going to sound all that good if you don’t already have a pretty good record player.
5. Ortofon Quintet Blue
Those more partial to a moving coil cartridge might be interested in this offering from Ortofon. Where they have built a name manufacturing the Ortofon 2M Blue (pictured below) and Ortofon 2M Red, both of which are moving magnet cartridges, their moving coil cartridges are also incredibly worthy of note.
- The sound here is nuanced, rich, and precise, as you might already have come to expect from a moving coil cartridge.
- It is also easy to fit onto the turntable, even for those with little know-how on this subject.
- That being said, you are going to need the right tools to do so in the first place.
6. Ortofon 2M Red
Speaking of which, such a list would be remiss without mentioning this classic cartridge, so often found on modern turntables as standard. For an incredibly reasonable price, you can upgrade your cartridge to something worth believing in.
- Considering the price here, the resolution is simply sublime.
- Also boasts an impressive spectrum of mid-range frequencies, something that so many other cartridges have come to neglect over the years.
- This accurate sound is likely to incite some serious epiphanies about the music in question and music in general.
- Perhaps the only gripe with this cartridge would be that it could thrive with a bit more power but, for this price, you can scarcely complain.
7. Ortofon 2M Blue
Heck, while we are at it, why not review the whole family altogether? With such a steady mode of play and stylish good looks, it clearly puts so many other MC cartridges to shame, making anyone who had otherwise pledged allegiance to the coil at least seriously rethink their indoctrination. This cartridge is very similar to the 2M Red, so if you already have one of those and are looking to upgrade, perhaps consider trying something new instead.
- In terms of dynamics, this is surely unmatched, at least in this price range.
- Also, considering how dynamic the sound is after installation, it is actually really easy to install.
- There is a little too much background noise, something that will no doubt annoy some people more than others. Those, for example, with a bit more of a penchant for experimental sound and textures, especially those dedicated to readjusting the wax in your ears.
8. Pro-Ject Pick-it DS2
Indeed, who should be snuffling about in the dirt for their next fix but Pro-Ject, the audiophile manufacturer always keen to spread their wings into another sector of audiophilia. The Pro-Ject Pick-it DS2 (pictured below attached to one of their PRO S turntables) is their flagship cartridge, hence why it can so often be found on their high-end turntables.
- The sound here is really great, though this should be no surprise considering the brand.
- The fitting process is incredibly simple (impossibly easy if you have opted also to use a Pro-Ject turntable).
- There are no cons at this price range except that they are best suited to Pro-Ject turntables which doesn’t seem very fair.
9. Audio-Technica AT-F7
Unlike the popular AT-VM95E (pictured below), the AT-F7 from Audio-Technica is a little more expensive in budget and also features a moving coil system, another of the few dotted here and there throughout this list. Audio-Technica is constantly fighting on the side of good, of bringing the best to those who can’t necessarily afford to splash out the cash, and this is no exception!
- The sound here is incredibly rich, especially well-suited to communicating acoustic music from the grooves to the speakers without a hitch.
- The build quality and the quality of the sound overall could easily lead you to believe that this was a far more expensive cartridge.
- Fitting this cartridge is a little difficult, especially when compared with the ease which so many others here arrayed can boast in this regard (hence why we have included a video below demonstrating a sound example of this cartridge so you can ascertain whether it is worth the effort).
10. Audio-Technica AT-VM95C
Let’s bring things back down to earth with this highly affordable cartridge from those wizards over at Audio-Technica. Though it is enticing to entertain notions of grandeur such as have been indulged in this list, the likelihood is that most of you will only be able to afford something like this, and that’s okay. Audio-Technica has got you covered.
- Considering the low price tag, the sound quality here is pretty exemplary – it’s no wonder this thing is installed as standard on so many modern turntables.
- This low price tag is coupled with an installation process that, much like some of the other cartridges listed above, is incredibly painless, practically doing itself.
- For all its perks, the sound here is a little bright, at least to some tastes.
- Conversely, though, these high notes sound a bit meek – you are likely to find yourself adjusting the equalizer on the stereo.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, through this long and winding road, you have been able to find the best turntable cartridge that is befitting of your tastes and desires in sound, allowing you to fulfill the untapped potential of your turntable once and for all.
FAQs Best Turntable Cartridge
What should I look for in a turntable cartridge?
Something that is befitting of your own personal tastes in sound as well as your own penchant for handiwork – some cartridges are harder to install than others.
How important is the turntable cartridge?
The cartridge is practically the only part of a turntable that actually comes into contact with a record, translating the information in the grooves into a phono signal that can actually be heard instead of merely understood.
What are the two types of turntable cartridges?
The two main types of turntable cartridges are moving magnet cartridges and moving coil cartridges, both of which are made up of different inner workings, as hinted at by the different names.
Do turntable cartridges make a difference?
This will remain to be seen – some are more likely to hear a difference from cartridge to cartridge than others, though they do objectively make a difference, yes. How much of a difference they make will be dependent on how sensitive your ears are.