Top 10 Turntable Cartridges

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While digital music and the Internet have made listening to music more affordable and convenient, many audiophiles have decried the loss of sound quality in many compressed files. They long for the richness and depth of old turntable stereos, and many of them prefer to listen to music through Hi-Fi systems. One important part of these systems is the turntable cartridge. The quality of the cartridge determines the quality of the music, no matter which make and model the record player is, which is why buying high-quality cartridges is vital.

When it comes to buying turntable cartridges, buyers should do the necessary research to help them determine which is the right one for them. They need to learn about turntable cartridges and the different terms associated with them. Next, they can read reviews from reputable sources to find out which are the top turntable cartridges on the market. It may even be the case that a replacement cartridge is needed for an existing turntable.

 

Definition of Turntable Cartridges

A turntable or phonograph is a device that plays and records music by reading waveforms carved into a rotating disc. In order to play recorded music, there are a few components to the process. First, the turntable must read the information engraved on a disc using a pickup system, in this case, the cartridge itself. The cartridge, which extends from the arm of the turntable, reads the information off the disc and translates it into something the rest of the stereo system can understand and play as music. The quality of the audio signal depends on the cartridge, which is why using a good cartridge is important: it ultimately determines the quality of the sound. For example, a high-quality, Crosley three-speed turntable is only as good as the condition of the cartridge. Most modern needles play all three speeds: 33, 45, and 78. Still, it is important to check to make sure that your turntable is compatible with the records you own. Note that if the record does not turn or another problem exists, it may be the turntable belt rather than the cartridge, even though the cartridge is what picks up the sound.

Turntable Cartridges Glossary

When researching turntable cartridges, it is important to learn all about the different technical terms manufacturers and other experts may use. These terms are more or less the same across the board, with some variation.

Term

Definition

Frequency Response

Uniformity and evenness of the sound being reproduced

Coil

The copper wire wrapped around the poles inside the cartridge

Tracking

Refers to the positioning of the stylus on the grooves of the disc

Tracking Force

The amount of pressure the stylus exerts as it presses into the record's grooves

Stylus Tip

The needle attached to cartridge that reads the grooves on a record

Mass

The weight of the cartridge

These are just some of the common terms buyers should learn. Newbies may find them helpful when reading reviews of cartridges. These may come in handy as some experts may use them without necessarily explaining what they mean.

1 Shure M97xE

TechRadar gives the  Shure M97xE a perfect five-star rating on its site. Despite lacking a refined treble line, this device features a wonderful midrange and bass line, as well as a great overall design. The carbon fiber dynamic stabilizer reduces the rumble from discs and tracks, even the most warped of records. The suspension is also top-notch, allowing for a lower frictional drag, which reduces wear and tear.



 

2 Grado Prestige Gold 1 Cartridge

Grado offers high-quality headphones and takes the same approach to good design and advanced technology in the Grado Prestige Gold 1 turntable cartridge. This cartridge has won many accolades, including the Editors' Choice Award from "The Absolute Sound" magazine, which praises its balanced sound with dynamic warmth and sweet, but not airy, treble. The cartridge itself features a lighter stylus, which makes it more responsive and produces a more accurate sound. The Gold 1 also has a four-piece OTL cantilever system and crystal oxygen-free copper wire coils. The design features less turns in the wire coils, which raises the speed of the signal and reduces the distortion.


3 Ortofon MC 20 Cartridge

The Ortofon MC 20 cartridge has actually been around since the late 1970s. Even then, this cartridge was the choice for high-end record players. The newer version features a light aluminum case with a gold cartridge housed in aluminum, an NOS universal headshell from Ortofon with azimuth, and overhang adjustments. "Tone" magazine highly recommends this piece and raves about its warm musicality. The sound is highly refined, the resolution is excellent, and the high price is well worth it.

 

4 Audio Technica AT110E

User reviews from various leading websites give high marks to the Audio Technica AT110E. It has great sound for its price range, as it is slightly warmer than other Audio Technica turntable cartridges and is not too sweet like other comparable cartridges. It is highly recommended for entry-level users, such as those who want to start buying their own turntable cartridges but do not want to invest a lot of money. It features linear crystal oxygen-free copper wire, which improves the signal's transfer efficiency, producing a linear and hi-fidelity sound even for very low signal levels.


5 Dynavector 10X5

Another entry-level cartridge, the Dynavector 10X5 features the company's signature flux dampening and softened magnetism technology, which reduces distortions by adding small strips of permeable iron and a shorted coil. In its tests, "Stereophile" magazine notes that the Dynavector 10X5 was quite resilient even when playing intense pieces like the Beethoven's "Egmont" by George Szell and the Vienna Philharmonic, and displays refined rhythmic qualities without any delays or lags.


6 Stanton 520v3

DJ news and technology website DJWORX, formerly SKRATCHWORX, reviewed the Stanton 520v3 and called it one of the best turntable cartridges in its price range. With a tight suspension, it can take on a lot of tracking weight. This makes the cartridge ideal for scratching and back spinning, and thus popular with scratch and hip-hop DJs. The housing itself is especially designed to improve groove holding to enhance tracking.


7 Denon DL 103

Reviewers from TNT Audio and the high-end stereo website Fair Audio give high praise to the Denon DL 103 cartridge. Designers first created this cartridge for studio and broadcast use in the 1960s. However, the DL 103 soon found its way into many homes. Despite its low price point, reviewers and users agree that the DL 103 produces a great sound and is quite dynamic and robust. TNT Audio notes that instrumentals in the midrange have a simple and beautiful timbre, while the drums are sharp and explosive.


8 Ortofon 2M Red

Perhaps the first thing buyers notice about the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge is its case, which is made to resemble the facets of gemstones. However, the body itself is plastic, and a metal top plate with holes makes it easy to mount the cartridge. Leading technology review site TechRadar gives this Ortofon cartridge a rating of four and a half stars, citing the confident tracking and a dependable bass line. While the bass is not as robust as some people may like, it does produce a clean, yet full, treble.


9 Grado Prestige Black

While the Grado Prestige Black occupies the lower end of Grado's spectrum of cartridges, that does not mean it sacrifices sound quality. "Best Turntables" calls this Grado turntable cartridge a "great option" for those who want some warmth to their music without paying a high price. As with other Grado cartridges, the Prestige Black offers an excellent midrange tone. The vocals also sound clear and bright and the warm sound is ideal for listening to pop, jazz, and classical music.


10 Goldring 1042GX

Although not quite as famous as the other brands, Goldring makes excellent cartridges that users love. Buyers rave about the warm sound, brilliant highs, and outstanding tracking, as well as the full, clear sound. This Goldring cartridge is a good, all-around piece that is suitable to all types of music and with a low price point. The 1042GX certainly gives buyers value for their money.

 

Buying Turntable Cartridges on eBay

Although some people may think of collectibles and sports memorabilia when they hear eBay, this site is actually a good source of new and vintage turntable cartridges. Buyers can find good deals and a wide range of choices when they shop on this site, and with its global reach, there are likely more options available than at a local music store. Finding the right cartridge is easy when you use the search engine, accessible on every page. Simply type in related words and phrases into the box, such as "Denon cartridge" or "magnetic cartridge," and hit enter. The search results page shows all the listings on eBay related to those words.

Saving Searches on eBay

One feature you may find useful is the ability to save searches. To do this, first sign in to your account. If you do not have one, you can register for a free account. Perform the search and on the search results page, click on the save button. You can access the saved searches on your My eBay page.

Conclusion

Despite the advancements in audio technology, many music enthusiasts still prefer the high-quality sound produced by turntable record systems. Turntables have warmth, depth, and resolution that cannot compare to portable music players. One crucial part of the turntable is the cartridge. This part contains the stylus tip or needle, which reads the information on the record and sends it to the entire system. Buying a good cartridge is important in order to produce a high-quality sound housed in the recording.
 
Buyers who have a turntable should purchase a cartridge if their system's sound is not to their liking or they need to replace a worn-out piece. Remember, a turntable is only as good as its cartridge. I may even be impossible to hear some complexities and nuances of records with a more basic cartridge, or if a needle or stylus is not in good condition. If a consumer is pleased with his or her cartridge and simply needs to order a replacement, it is best to search by the make and model number to ensure that the exact same cartridge is bought again. When searching for such a new cartridge, buyers should only consider the top ones on the market, because sound quality very much depends on it. This is especially the case for music enthusiasts. Whichever one they choose; savvy buyers know that they can find the best deals on eBay.

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