Whether you’re a newbie or a pro in the world of turntables, phono cartridges are a mechanism you have to get properly acquainted with.
Just as you might expect, it is quite risky to buy a phono cartridge without an expert guide by your side- and to eliminate the possibility of failure, we’ve put together our ultimate guide to buying the best phono cartridges under $1000.
In addition, we’ll add a guide at the end of our list to help you know just what exactly makes a good phono cartridge as well as how best to use one to ensure that you get your money’s worth from it.
Let’s dive right in.
12 BEST PHONO CARTRIDGES UNDER $1000
|Shure M97xE High-Performance Magnetic Phono Cartridge||Buy Now|
|Audio-Technica VM540ML MicroLine Dual Moving Magnet Stereo Turntable Cartridge Red||Buy Now|
|Ortofon 2M Bronze Moving Magnet Cartridge||Buy Now|
|Audio-Technica AT33PTG/2 Dual Moving Coil Turntable Cartridge||Buy Now|
|Denon DL-301MK2 Moving Coil Phono Cartridge||Buy Now|
|Audio-Technica AT-OC9XEB Dual Moving Coil Cartridge with Bonded Elliptical Stylus||Buy Now|
|Hana SL Series Moving Coil Cartridges||Buy Now|
|Clearaudio Concept MM Moving Magnet Phono Cartridge||Buy Now|
|Hana EH High-Output Hi-Performance MC Cartridge with Elliptical stylus - MADE IN JAPAN||Buy Now|
|Audio-Technica AT150Sa Dual Moving Magnet Cartridge||Buy Now|
|Clearaudio Performer V2 Ebony hi-output MM Phono Cartridge with Ebony Body||Buy Now|
|Sumiko Songbird Reference Series High Output MC Phono Cartridge||Buy Now|
Shure M97XE High-Performance Magnetic Phono Cartridge
- Very low stylus mass
- Elliptical diamond tip stylus
- Very high sound accuracy
- Very low record wear
- Dynamic Stabilizer Brush
- Dynamic Stabilizer
- The SHURE M97XE is one of the highest-rated phono-cartridges on the market. Not only does it emit high-quality sound, but it is also designed durably and doesn’t hurt the ears after long listening hours.
- It might be pricey, but it certainly packs the right features. It tracks with a wonderful accuracy and has a flat frequency response.
- The phono cartridge is paired with an aluminum alloy stylus cantilever and is finished with a smoothly polished and high-quality elliptical diamond tip.
- Due to its high quality, the cartridge reproduces even difficult and complex musical passages with ease and finesse.
Audio-Technica VM540ML Microline Dual Moving Magnet Stereo Turntable Cartridge Red
- VM dual magnet cartridge with MicroLine stylus
- Aluminum cantilever
- Paratoroidal coils that help improve the generating efficiency
- The center shield plate is located between the left and right channels. It helps reduce any crosstalk
- Cartridge housing is made of durable low-resonance polymer
- The Audio-Technica VM540ML is one of the few phono cartridges that has no hate. It is as perfect as perfect gets.
- It is equipped with dual magnets. These magnets perfectly match the right and left channels of the record. This gives it a superb channel separation and extends its frequency response. Its stylus is designed to very accurately trace the record grooves. This gives it a nuanced audio reproduction that is in a class of its own.
Ortofon 2M Bronze Moving Magnet Cartridge
- Designed to fit most turntables
- You can upgrade to the Ortofon 2M Blue and 2M Red with an Ortofon Stylus 2M Black
- Improved resolution and details
- Nude Fine Line diamond
- The ORTOFON 2M BRONZE is an MM cartridge that has a Nude Fine Line diamond stylus. Nude Fine Line diamond styluses are designed to be able to keep up with heavy work. It is designed to expertly track very high-frequency information.
- In simpler terms, it allows you to hear the sweetness of all the parts and instruments beautifully.
- Ortofon’s 2M series is simply amazing. The cartridges in the series feature split pole pins and the ORTOFON 2M BRONZE is no different. The split pole pins give the cartridges a flat frequency response.
Audio-Technica AT33PTG/2 Dual Moving Coil Turntable Cartridge
- Long-Life Microlinear Stylus
- Refined coil impedance
- 1000 hours lifetime
- Shortened cantilever that has also been thinned down
- Neodymium magnet
- The AUDIO-TECHNICA AT33PTG is a highly rated phono cartridge and this is for many deserving reasons. Its cantilever is made of advanced tapered boron. This, in addition to its coil weight which has been reduced, helps the record give out high-quality sounds. This feature is very noticeable and most appreciated when it comes to higher frequencies.
- The AUDIO-TECHNICA AT33PTG also features a permendur yoke as well as a neodymium magnet which greatly increases the magnetic energy. The Pure Copper by Ohno Continuous Casting coil allows the signal to be transferred undiluted.
Denon DL-301MK2 Moving Coil Phono Cartridge
- Stylus: special Elliptical tip
- Output Impedance: 33 ohms
- Output: 0.4 mV
- Frequency range: 20 Hz – 60 kHz
- Tracking force: 1.2-1.6 G
Although Denon is not so popular a brand, their phono cartridges are amazing. The Denon dl-301 II MC phono cartridge is a revised version of the dl-301. The dl-301 was such a hit that improving on it seemed like a great idea- and it was.
The body style is different. It has been designed with a lighter frame to improve sound accuracy. It delivers clean, clear, and precise audio.
Audio-Technica AT-OC9XEB Dual Moving Coil Cartridge with Bonded Elliptical Stylus
- Type: Dual Moving Coil
- Body Material: Aluminum
- Channel Separation: 25 dB (1 kHz)
- Stylus Type: Bonded round shank
- Stylus Shape: Elliptical bonded
- Frequency Response: 20-30,000 Hz
- The AUDIO-TECHNICA AT-OC9XEB is made of independent coils, each belonging to the left and right channels. This allows the channels to be easily separated, thus improving sound quality. The coils are arranged in a reverse V-shaped formation. This means that less pressure is placed on the stylus, thus reducing distortion.
- The cartridge is pre-threaded and this allows users to mount it onto the integral tonearm. You can mount it on the integral tonearm or the headshell with only two screws.
Hana SL Series Moving Coil Cartridges
- Stylus Nude Diamond Shibata
- Aluminum Cantilever
- Output Level: 0.5mv/1kHz
- Output Balance: <1.5dB/1 KHz
- Vertical Tracking Force: 2g
- Trackability: 70 µm/2g
- The HANA SL is the most talked about and reviewed phono cartridge from Hana. Not only does it look good, but it also gets the job done. It features a Shibata stylus that is mounted beautifully on an aluminum cantilever.
- This phono cartridge is designed to offer tighter channel balance, an improved handing of high-frequencies, and a greater separation of channels.
- The HANA SL has nothing but absolutely good reviews. It also needs to be broken in. usually, knowing that a cartridge needs to be broken in to be enjoyed isn’t good news. However, with the HANA SL, it is. When you start using this cartridge, it would be hard to think that the sound can get better. However, it does indeed.
Clearaudio Concept MM Moving Magnet Phono Cartridge
- Output voltage: 3.3 mv
- Body material: aluminum
- Total mass: 8.6g (± 0.2g)
- Frequency response: 20hz – 20khz
- Channel separation (1khz)- 20db
- Channel balance (1khz) 2db
- Tracking ability: 80μm
- Recommended tracking force: 2.2g ± 0.3g
- The Concept v2 MM is not your average phono cartridge. It is a high output phono cartridge designed to combine elegance and clarity.
- This cartridge is made of an aluminum body. This cartridge features a frictionless magnetic bearing design. It features an elliptical cantilever and is a top-mount cartridge.
- One thing you will notice with this cartridge is its superb sound quality. Bass, mid, and high-frequency audios are delivered with a precise finish.
Hana EH High-Output Hi-Performance MC Cartridge with Elliptical Stylus – Made in Japan
- Stylus: Synthetic Elliptical
- Aluminum Cantilever
- Output Level: 2mv/1kHz
- Output Balance: <2dB/1KHz
- Vertical Tracking Force: 2g
- Trackability: 70 µm/2g
- Quality-wise, the HANA EH and the HANA SL are quite similar. If you’re looking to take a step above beginner-grade phono cartridges, you’re in the right place.
- This cartridge is lightweight at 5 pounds and has a special cross-coil generator. This helps it give out quality bass sounds especially. It has really good tracking abilities, just like the HANA SL.
- The HANA EH sports a unique shade of green that makes it memorable to the sight. It features excellent sound dynamics as well. It also features an elliptical stylus that can be easily mounted on its aluminum cantilever. The cantilever is very rigid as is coupled with crossed armatures.
Audio-Technica AT150SA Dual Moving Magnet Cartridge
- Frequency Response: 20-27,000 Hz
- Channel Separation: 28 dB (1 kHz)
- Vertical Tracking Angle: 23°
- Vertical Tracking Force: 1.8-2.2 g (2.0 g standard)
- Stylus Construction: Nude square shank
- The VM740ML features dual magnets. They are placed to fit the right and left channels. This helps the record with channel separation. It also gives the record an extended frequency response.
- The stylus on the AUDIO-TECHNICA AT150SA is a MicroLine® stylus. This enables the cartridge to track with a beautiful accuracy. The stylus has a multilevel shape which gives it more durability, much to our delight. This means that your records will last longer.
Clearaudio Performer V2 Ebony Hi-Output MM Phono Cartridge with Ebony Body
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Output Voltage:(1kHz, 5 cm/s): 3.3mV
- Channel Separation:(1 kHz): >20 dB
- Channel Balance:(1kHz) 1.5dB
- Tracking Ability: 80 um.
- The CLEARAUDIO PERFORMER V2 is a moving magnet cartridge. Each cartridge is carefully analyzed, measured, and hand-picked into four different performance levels.
- This cartridge gives out tip-quality channel matching with the littlest phase errors and distortions. It gives a really good flat frequency response as well as an impressive dynamic range.
- The bass is firm and direct. The treble, on its part, is not harsh and hits its mark. All in all, the CLEARAUDIO PERFORMER V2 provides amazing audio quality.
Sumiko SongBird Reference Series High Output MC Phono Cartridge
- Cantilever Material: coated aluminum pipe
- Wire Material: pure copper
- Load Impedance: 47kΩ
- Frequency Response: 12Hz – 40kHz
- Output Voltage: 2.5mV
- Channel Balance: <0.5dB @ 1kHz
- Recommended load capacitance: 100pF – 200pF
- Vertical tracking angle: 20°
- Tracking Force: 1.8g – 2.2g
- Recommended Force: 2.0g
- The SUMIKO SONGBIRD is one of the best cartridges in Sumiko’s Reference Series. The design is pretty simple; it has an open-architecture moving coil cartridge. This means that the cartridge can work harder to provide rich audio that represents the bass, treble, and mids well.
- It features a long 7-Micron stylus face. This allows it to adequately handle different cutting angles. The cartridge weighs 8.5 grams and has a recommended force of 2.0 g. The SUMIKO SONGBIRD has a vertical tracking angle of twenty degrees.
WHAT IS A PHONO CARTRIDGE?
A phono cartridge is one of the important parts of your turntable. In order for your turntable to work, a tiny diamond is driven through the grooves on a record. Due to the driving, vibrational energy is created. This is where the phono cartridge comes in.
It converts that vibrational energy to sound in the analog version. The quality of that sound largely depends on how good the phono cartridge is.
How to choose the right cartridge for your turntable
TYPES OF PHONO CARTRIDGES
Phono cartridges are classified according to their generator types which gives us two main types.
- Moving coil: MC cartridges usually offer a lower output. To use an MC cartridge, you would adjust the preamp to an MC setting, specially made for MC cartridges. They are more expensive than MM cartridges
- Moving magnet: They are also the most common. They do not require any special preamp settings and are more affordable.
HOW TO PICK A GOOD PHONO CARTRIDGE
Here are some of the things you should look for in a potential buy:
- The shape of the stylus: The shape of your cartridge’s stylus will affect how it touches the groove. A narrow contact radius will ensure that the stylus tracks modulations better.
- Trackability: This simply has to do with how the stylus tracks a modulated groove. The trackability is affected by the shape of the stylus, tonearm compatibility, and cartridge alignment. The higher the trackability, the better for your record.
- Cantilever: A stiff and light cantilever will help ensure that the vibrational energy is transferred as effectively as possible. The cantilever is usually made of aluminium alloy, carbon, some copper alloys, and boron. The size and construction of the cantilever are also important.
- Mount type: A good phono cartridge should be a standard mount. This means that they are secured to the record’s tonearm with the use of 2 vertical screws. The screws have exactly half on an inch between them. The screws have four little posts that connect the tonearm leads.
Picking the right phono-cartridge is no easy job. It can make or break your record’s audio quality. Be sure to go with recommended brands as they are safer and less likely to give you problems.
Feel free to pick any of our 12 options. You can’t go wrong with them.