Best Phono Cartridges Under 500

A Phono Cartridge commonly called a Phonograph or Magnetic cartridge is typically a small electromechanical component attached at the front of the tonearm on the turntable in order to produce good and groovy sounds.

It is designed for the cantilever and stylus tip which vibrate as it traces the record grooves in the vinyl records.  The stylus tip is a needle-shaped material situated at the front end of the cantilever. This phono cartridge usually converts the vibration into audio signals which are further amplified up the electronic chain to convert into sound by a loudspeaker. 

BEST PHONO CARTRIDGES UNDER 500

Most of these phono cartridges are designed with a stylus that is end-user replaceable and universal headshell tonearms. The active performance potential of a vinyl record playing is outlined by the abilities of the phono cartridge. The tonal balance, clarity on musical peaks, response range, stereo separation and imaging, and freedom from noise and distortion are generally influenced at the beginning.

The phono cartridges that are fitted to common turntables from the 60s and 70s are basically the models that are capable of giving great sound quality by installing a good cartridge. Before purchasing a good and affordable phono cartridge, you should get yourself familiar with phono cartridges and different parts of the phonographs.

TYPES OF PHONO CARTRIDGES

There are thousands of different types and styles of phono cartridges, but all these different types must be in accordance with the three major types which are the Moving Magnet Cartridge, Moving Iron Cartridge, and the Moving Coil Cartridge.

The Moving Magnet Cartridges

They can also be called MMC and are designed to contain a small magnet that creates an electrical current between the coils each time the stylus moves. Basically, the MMC is very simple in design than the other types of phono cartridges.

The Moving Iron Cartridges

These types are designed with a small piece of iron that is lighter than the cartridge’s magnet and it reduces the overall force exerted by the stylus when it comes in contact with the disk. Also, the MICs are utilized to push up the overall accuracy of the sound production and quality.

The Moving Coil Cartridges

These types are different from the other two cartridges because they consist of electricity-conducting coils within the stylus’s arm through a magnetic force. The Moving Coil Cartridge is designed in a way that it is smaller and finer than the other cartridges and can achieve low voltage outputs, catching noises and vibrations.

Each of these phono cartridges has its own merits and demerits that vary from one to another. Therefore when making a choice, it is advisable to pick the quality ones which is conducive to the sound listening needs and the most affordable ones.

PARTS OF PHONO CARTRIDGES

The Cartridge Mount

Generally, a phono cartridge is typically designed to be mounted or placed on the turntable’s tonearm.  The majority of these tonearms make use of universal or standard headshells while others use a P-mount.

The P Mount

The P Mount is the simplest and easiest choice because it performs well with the turntable and is easy to assess in a way that you just plug it in and start using. This cartridge is plugged into the tonearm and then secured to the tonearm by just a single screw.

Universal or standard Mount

The universal mount is the most common choice of vinyl records lovers and the most popular ones you will ever come across. Although it is a bit difficult to tinker or can be experimental in most cases to properly make sure it is well-aligned or set up.

It is designed in a way that two screws located at half of each part are threaded through the cartridge body and secured to the headshell. Also, four wires in which each of a different color are attached to the male plugs at the rear of the cartridge body, and the other end of the wires are then attached to the headshell plugs with a standard adapter.

The Headshell

The headshell is plugged into a record player’s tonearm at the front of the cartridge. Some of them have weights and are also removable in order to make the installation easier. Generally, they do not come with cartridges so they are bought differently.

The Cartridge

The cartridge is a rectangular instrument that connects to the record’s player through the color-coated screws and wires. The record player’s stylus or needle is attached to this cartridge in order to perform well, bringing a good record groove. The turntable purchased might not also include the turntable cartridges, whereas they can be bought differently.

BEST PHONO CARTRIDGES UNDER 500

 

The Stylus

The stylus is a record player’s most important part that is used to tune a vinyl piece’s grooves to exact suitable music. It is a diamond tip part, sometimes called a needle and it should be replaced constantly because a stylus can wear down with many years of use which is not good for the cartridge and the turntable.

Basically, a record player’s stylus is a very important part of any phono cartridge especially the diamond tip stylus. The diamond stylus’s material contributes greatly to the stylus’s durability and impacts the record player playback. So, therefore, there are different types of stylus also called the needle which are:

TYPES OF STYLUS

Spherical stylus

This type is also commonly called a conical stylus. It is one of the most produced styli which is designed to produce a low-quality sound than other styluses. It is cheap and affordable thereby making it the most sort for and requested choice.

Though this spherical stylus may not conceal as much surface area as other styluses will but it is also durable and does not cause any damage to the record for a long period of time. This type of stylus is most commonly used on all ceramic and most magnetic styli. They are typically about 0.7mil in diameter for microgroove records such as normal LPS and 45s.

Elliptical Stylus

This type of stylus is triangular which enables it to follow the record’s grooves accurately. It can also produce a quality sound to the conical stylus and is useful for dissecting musical quality. It is quite able to cover a lot of surface area of the record that is why it is often called a bi radial stylus.

Shibata Stylus

This type has a range of different shapes and has a high contact area vertically than elliptical and spherical styluses. Shibata-style styluses can be designed to be bi elliptical, quadrupedal, hyperbolic, or a fine stylus. This stylus is responsible for the issuance of precise sounds, causing less or moderated wear and tear on the vinyl disks while coming in contact with lots of surface area.

BEST PHONO CARTRIDGES UNDER 500

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Here are the lists of affordable Best Phono Cartridges under 500

ORTOFON 2M BLUE MM

Model’s Specification

  • Cartridge Type: Moving Magnet
  • Cartridge Price: US $239 
  • Cartridge weight: 7.2 grams
  • Nominal Tracking weight: 1.8 grams
  • Tracking weight: 1.6 – 2.2 grams
  • Stylus Type: Nude elliptical diamond
  • Output Voltage: 5.5mV at 1000kHz
  • Frequency Response: 20kHz to 20,000kHz

Ortofon 2M Black Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Blue is designed by a famous designer called Moller Jensen who is popular in the music world. The cartridge is beautifully designed in a way that it inhabits the same angular body with a removable, replaceable stylus that makes the turntable setup looks good.

Its outputs which are higher than an average 5.5mV and downforce a typical 1.8 grams make the 2M Blue a much quality and good choice universal cartridge that is compatible with most turntables and phono stages. 

The cartridge is stable in tracking the groove with more resolution and dynamics to an open vinyl sound. It delves completely into the record groove and quickly picks all the signals that come its way for a well-detailed sound. With all these qualities and abilities, the 2M cartridge costs only $239 which makes it an affordable and reasonable choice to buy.

It is an excellent and capable cartridge that delivers a real sense of the essence of music recording and also brings a good sense of timing to proceedings. 


Pros

  • Easy to use and install
  • Quite cheap and affordable
  • It is universal and compatible with most turntables
  • Beautifully designed
  • Clean, full great sound quality playback
  • It is highly dynamic and versatile
  • It is lightweight
  • It makes older vinyl records sounds good


Cons

  • The bass is not that solid
  • Too much background noise
  • It could use more insight

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AUDIO TECHNICA AT440MLB 

Model’s Specification

  • Cartridge type: Moving magnet
  • Stylus type: micro linear stylus
  • Frequency response range: 20kHz to 25000 kHz
  • Cantilever material: an aluminum tube
  • Weight: 6.5 grams
  • Per toroidal coil
  • 2 pieces of mounting screws and washers.
  • Vertical tracking force range: 1.0 gram to 1.8 grams
  • Channel balance:  1dB at 1000kHz
  • Channel separation: 28dB at 1000kHz

Audio Technica AT440MLB is a moving magnet cartridge that is one of Audio Tecnica’s first VM series MMC. It is typically cheap and affordable to buy, with a response to the well-detailed sound demand of audiophiles that is it usually penetrates into the inner groove of every sound. 

Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable (USB & Analog), Black

This dual magnetic cartridge is able to track the two channels of the vinyl record grooves thereby producing a fuller range of frequency responses. Also, the toroidal material choice of the inbuilt static coil is very sensitive thereby generating more signal power to produce quality sounds.

Audio technica is designed with qualities such as VM type dual magnet system, adopted PCOCC for the coil, a micro linear stylus mounted VM cartridge, and so much more. It is easy to set up and install, you just have to plug and play it and it will surely produce a quality sound.

Audio technica has a great low frequency and incredible sound articulation soundstage accurately tracking the inner groove of the record. The stylus is solid on the low end and sensitive on the mids and highs, it also tracks better than the 2M Red because its treble is well refined and the vocals and bass are a little lighter in balance but tight and quite extended


Pros

  • Very cheap and affordable at $250
  • Dynamic punchy sounds and well-refined inner details
  • Low stylus wear
  • The sound quality is hum-free
  • Easy to install and use
  • It is sturdily designed
  • It is the best deal for all 10xx and 12xx series turntables
  • The best choice for vinyl users
  • Absent of self-talk between the channels


Cons

  • A newer and better version is about to be released
  • The sound is not really the greatest
  • The plastic part is not really strong

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DENON DL-103R MCC

Model’s Specification

  • Cartridge Type: Moving Coil
  • Stylus type: 6 n copper coil
  • Tracking force: 25mN
  • Output voltage: 0.25mV
  • Stylus: 0.2mm square solid diamond
  • Frequency response: 20kHz to 45,000kHz
  • Load impedance: 100 Ohms at 1000kHz
  • Electrical impedance: 140 Ohms
  • Channel balance: 1dB at 1000kHz
  • Weight: 8.5 grams

Denon DL-103 Moving Coil cartridge are affordable higher end phono cartridges that cost over $400. It is a uniquely and beautifully designed cartridge that its coils are wound properly to allow proper gliding of the record. 

Denon AVR-S540BT Receiver, 5.2 channel, 4K Ultra HD Audio and Video, Home Theater System, built-in Bluetooth and USB port, Compatible with HEOS Link for Wireless Music Streaming

It is a classic MC for pure vinyl record lovers that has been updated to 6N coil replacement in the cantilever shaft. It gives a soothing and quality sound with excellent details of bass and low-end frequencies. These Moving Coil cartridges are also compatible and can be used for any older and newer vinyl records and turntable to produce a great sound.


Pros

  • Smooth bass audio sound quality
  • Wonderful mid and low-end details
  • Massive frequency response range
  • It accurately tracks the inner groove
  • Beautifully designed
  • The durable and sturdy design prevents the cartridge wear
  • Compatible with older and newer vinyl records


Cons

  • It picks up the inconsistencies in a rough disc
  • The price may be a little higher for those on budget
  • It is not really easy to setup 

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SHURE M97XE MMC

Model’s Specification

  • Cartridge type: Moving magnet
  • Stylus type: polished elliptical diamond
  • Stylus mileage: 1000hrs
  • Channel separation: 25dB at 1000kHz
  • Channel balance: 2dB
  • DC resistance: 1550 Ohms
  • Stereo output: 4.0mv
  • Frequency response range: 20kHz to 20, 000kHz
  • Weight: 6.6 grams

Shure M97XE are MM cartridges which are one of the affordable cartridges that are under $500. It is a high-performing phonograph that is designed perfectly to reduce the difficulty of signal passage from the record groove.

Shure MV7 XLR/USB Dynamic Podcasting Microphone (Black)

Its elliptical diamond stylus is finely polished for good tracking accuracy to complement the viscously damped stabilizer that keeps the distance between the record and the cartridge.

It is also sturdily built with an overall body design that is ground solid with the side guard system integrated into the unit. Shure M97XE is typically durable and can withstand stylus damages for some time before replacing it.


Pros

  • Durable and sturdily built
  • Excellent for all tonearms
  • Great for mixing and spinning
  •  Good accented high and flat mids
  • Solid drop bass and vocals


Cons

  • It is relatively higher in price than other cartridges
  • It is a bit scarce.

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Lucas Carrolhttps://www.themodernrecord.com
Being in love with music his whole life, Lucas started this blog as the “go-to” place for the most accurate and detailed information about the world of music, and especially pianos! Having worked in a music store for over 10 years, Lucas has found passion in helping others choose the most suitable instrument for them. He is now happy to share his knowledge of the industry here, at themodernrecord.

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