Record Player Cartridges: What Are They and Why Do I Need Them?

Record Player Cartridges What Are They and Why Do I Need Them

While digital music and the internet have taken listening to a completely new level of affordability and convenience, many lovers of music have long decried the loss of sound quality in many compressed music files. They have for so long yearned for the great richness and depth of old turntable stereos, but they have been forced to enjoy such luxury by listening to their jams through Hi-Fi systems.

One crucial part of the turntables that have long made these music beasts great are the cartridges. Their status in terms of quality and proper maintenance will ultimately define or rather determine the quality of music. This makes buying of turntable cartridges an integral affair.

When buying turntables, it is imperative to choose the best ones on the market and to do this one must be well armed with enough information related to turntable cartridges. There are a number of top turntables cartridges available in the market.

Cartridges are available in different shapes and sizes. However, these great devices are powered by two principle technologies: Moving Coil (MC) or Moving Magnet (MM). In simple terms, the former is more advanced than the latter, which makes it more expensive to purchase. In terms of sound quality, the two cartridge designs are excellent. However, the MC variant takes it a notch higher to audiophile heights.

So what is a turntable and a cartridge? 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, the turntable must read the information engraved on a disc using a pickup system, in this case, the cartridge itself.

A cartridge is the part containing the stylus tip or needle, which reads the information on the record and sends it to the entire system. It is at the cartridge where the sound vibration from the vinyl record is converted into electric signals ready for amplification by the amplifiers.

A Selection of Record Cartridges

Ortofon MC 20 cartridge

The Ortofon MC 20 cartridge is a 1970s model. It has undergone numerous upgrades up until today. Its latest model has very nicely built features including a light aluminum casing,  NOS head shell and overhang adjustments. Its sound mechanism is highly refined, with resolution ability excellently crafted. Its price is worth the buy. This cartridge is pricey, but it is worth every penny as it delivers without fail.

Dynavector 10X5

This is an entry-level cartridge and has several features. The flux dampening and magnetic technology reduces distortions by adding small iron strips that are permeable in design. Several ratings state that this cartridge is quite resilient when playing intense musical pieces. It also displays rhythmic qualities without delays.

Shure M97xE

The Shure M97xE cartridge has received five-star ratings on many sites. This device has a magnificent mid-range and bass, but lacks a well-designed treble line. Its overall design is no doubt a masterpiece. To reduce rumbling of discs, the device is fitted with a carbon fiber dynamic stabilizer. The suspension is also well designed to lower what is known as frictional drag, thus minimizing the wear and tear effect.

Rega Carbon

This cartridge does not sacrifice anything. It has excellent sound quality, with quality bass and upper midranges. Its set up is quite easy and relaxed compared to other expensive cartridges. It also comes at a fairly inexpensive and affordable price.

Grado prestige black

Although not the best cartridge on the market, this Grado model does not sacrifice sound quality for anything. If you desire a great music sound experience at a low price, then this is the best option. Similar to other Grado cartridge models, the prestige black offers excellent midrange tone. Its vocals are clear and warm, and can play pop, jazz and classical music.

Audio Technica AT110E

It has received great remarks on various leading tech websites. It is not that excellent compared other cartridges, but it surely has something to bring to the table. Its sound abilities are great and the price is affordable especially for those who do not wish to invest a lot but would still like to experience a great musical time. It features linear crystal oxygen-free copper wire, which is designed to improve the signal’s transfer efficiency, thus producing a linear and hi-fidelity sound even for very low signal levels.

Goldring 1042GX

This may not be the sharpest cartridge on the market it surely the best in its own right. It has had positive reviews for its good, clear sound abilities, excellent highs and an outstanding tracking ability. Furthermore, it is suitable for playing all types of music: jazz, classical and pop among others. The good thing about this cartridge is that it comes at a very affordable price that anyone can afford. The Goldring 1042GX will definitely give you value for your money.

Grado Prestige Gold 1 Cartridge

This cartridge has won a number of accolades owing to its excellent features. Users have given it 4-star ratings due to its dynamic, smooth and warmth sound output. It also features a light stylus that is more responsive, which makes it produce great and accurate sound. This Gold 1 cartridge has copper wire coils that are oxygen free and a 4-piece OTL cantilever system. The copper wire coils do not have many turns and this allows for faster signal transfer, which also reduces sound distortions.


Despite the numerous advancements made in the audio technology world, many music enthusiasts still prefer the high quality sound produced by record players. The depth, quality and resolutions associated with turntables cannot be compared to portable music players of the modern era.

At the heart of this great machine, is the cartridge that performs a very crucial function of reading information on records. To achieve great music quality, the quality of the cartridge you choose to use should be nothing less than top notch. Purchase your cartridge from recognized dealers and electronic outlets so that your choice may not be compromised.

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