Turntable Cartridge Guide 2023

turntable cartridge guideDiamonds are dragged through the grooves of the records by the turntable. As described above, an LP cartridge is responsible for translating sound vibrations into analog sound. Record records contain a lot of information, making a good cartridge is critical for getting the best sound.

On our best turntable under 300, we offer five cartridges, and we are often asked what the differences are. The purpose of this post is to explain the reason for this. First, let me explain the basics of cartridges. In the near future, a technical discussion will take place.

How do phono cartridges work?

In order to produce sound, an amplifier amplifies the electrical signal created by the cartridge when it reads the grooves in a record. Moving coil cartridges follow many of the same principles as moving magnet cartridges (many of the principles apply to them, as well).

Diamond stylus tips are the only components within the cartridge to come in direct contact with records. With the stylus tracing the grooves, a vibration occurs in the cantilever. With a cantilever, a stylus and magnet are attached to one end of a rigid tube. Due to the cantilever’s ability to pivot, the stylus can track grooves accurately thanks to rubber suspension.

Vibrations are transmitted from the stylus tip to the magnet via the cantilever. Vibrating magnets have a varying magnetic fields. These coils produce slight voltages in response to variations in the magnetic field (by means of Lenz’s Law). After it has been converted to sound by an amplifier (for RIAA equalization), the electrical signal is converted to sound.

(TIP: To get a stereo signal, you have to double this arrangement (both left and right channels). A 90° angle is provided between each magnet and its corresponding coils.

Cartridges: What to Look for

In turn, the shape of the stylus affects the way it contacts the record groove. A small contact radius makes it easier for the styli to track the modulation in grooves. An elliptical stylus will trace grooves more effectively and can extract more music information than a conical stylus (especially for high-frequency recordings).

Stylus tip to a magnet (or another generator) transfer: The cantilever must be stiff and light in order to effectively transfer vibrational energy. Cantilever material, size, and construction affect the accuracy of the reproduction of a particular audio frequency range. A common material in the construction of cantilevers is aluminum alloy, although some copper alloys and carbon alloys are also used.

Trackability is the ability to track modulated grooves along with a record. When the stylus traces a signal, the maximum amplitude it can achieve before it becomes distorted is used to measure trackability. There are a number of factors impacting trackability, such as stylus shape, cartridge alignment, and tonearm compatibility. Micrometers (*m) are often used to describe trackability specifications – the higher the spec, the better.

Types of generators: The two main types of generators are moving magnets (MM) and moving coils (MC). The most common cartridge is the MM cartridge. Preamps with special MC settings are needed for MC cartridges since they have lower output. The cost of MC cartridges is usually higher. We offer MM cartridges on our website, but if you want to maximize your Orbit’s capabilities, you might want to consider installing an MC cartridge, such as the Denon DL-110.

Our cartridges are all standard mounts (as are most others). The standard mount cartridges have two screws for attaching to the tonearm spaced 1/2″ apart. P-mounts have four pins that plug directly into styli specially made for P-mount cartridges (our tonearms were not made for this purpose).

Comparison of cartridges

Since we know how cartridges work, let’s take a closer look at some of them:

AT91B by Audio-Technica

Moving magnet cartridges are excellent entry-level components. There’s a good deal of musical detail in this guitar, with a bright edge. Trackability and playback resolution are somewhat limited by the AT91B’s conical stylus.

  • Conical diamond: The stylus
  • A moving magnet generator is described as follows:
  • Aluminum for cantilever
  • Tracking distance: 60 m

OM5E by Ortofon

Denmark-built Ortofon OM5E headphones are loved for their neutral sound and balanced profile. A wide range of genres is worth listening to if you enjoy a wide variety of music. Due to the diamond stylus on the OM5E, this cartridge provides better tracking and clarity than the CN5625AL. With its replacement stylus, OM5E owners have access to the full range of Ortofon Super OM styli.

  • Diamond-shaped stylus
  • A moving magnet generator is described as follows:
  • The cantilever is made of aluminum
  • The track is 65 meters long
  • The grade is Black3

Brooklyn, NY has been making Grade cartridges since 1953. There are three separate cantilevers on the Black3 and a Flux-Bridger generator that produces a higher resolution than a standard moving magnet generator. The warm tone and impactful bass characteristic of Grado cartridges are due to these distinctive elements.

  • Diamond-shaped stylus
  • The generator type is a flux bridger (moving magnet).
  • Cantilever made of aluminum in three pieces
  • Trackability: 70 µm

The Ortofon Red 2M

Reviewers and everyday listeners alike have praised the versatility of the 2M Red cartridge. In comparison to the OM5E, it has a more advanced generator and higher output level. With the 2M Red, your music will sound open and dynamic, and the split pole pin design means there will be less coloration.

  • Generator: Moving magnet
  • Stylus: Elliptical diamond
  • Cantilever: Aluminum
  • Trackability: 70 µm

Ortofon 2M Blue

There is virtually no distortion with the 2M Blue. Unlike most cartridges, it uses a diamond-shaped nude-elliptical stylus that is pressed directly into its cantilever (rather than using a rod-like most cartridges). With this single-piece construction, tip mass is significantly reduced, which impacts resolution and dynamics. This cartridge is for those who demand the best possible sound quality.

The stylus is a nude elliptical diamond. The generator is an aluminum cantilever that has an 80-meter trackability.

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