Changing the Turntable cartridge of your turntable can have a huge sonic impact! The older phono cartridge will not give you the better performance as the new ones give. Why? By changing your needle to a brand-new cartridge, you’re pulling newer and clearer benefits out of your audio deck.
You’re allowing your vinyl music to breathe even more and moving air around tiny spaces that weren’t available before with an old phono cartridge in place, or no cartridge for that matter!
This blog will review the best phono cartridges under $200 that are best suited for improving the sound quality of your great but entry-level turntable. The most well-known tonearm and turntable designer, Frank Schöder, states that upgrading a phonograph cartridge is the perfect way to better any turntable’s sound quality.
Our Top 3 Recommendations
Features an Elliptical diamond
Delivers open, dynamic sound
Universal fit for most turntables
Upgrade to Ortofon 2M Red
Stylus is replaceable
Easy to set up
Provide you sonic performance
The turntable has been around for decades, and since its invention, it has been used to enjoy music. But nowadays, the turntable is used with many different technologies, including USB recording and Bluetooth streaming.
However, if you’re on a budget and own an entry-level turntable, upgrading the cartridge can make a world of difference in your sound quality. Your turntable is an essential piece of your vinyl collection. It’s a vital component that can enhance your listening experience and introduce you to new artists and music. If you last changed the needle a while ago, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and bring some new life into your turntable!
Read: How To Clean Record Needle
Our Recommendations For Best Phono Cartridge Under $200
|Best Budget Turntable Cartridge||Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|Top Moving Magnet Cartridge||Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|Best MM Cartridge Under $200||Clearaudio Concept MM Phono Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|Best One||Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|A Great Dual Moving Coil Turntable Cartridge||AT-F7Moving Coil Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|Top of the line cartridge||NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110||See on Amazon|
Included in this guide:
- Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge
- Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge
- Clearaudio Concept MM Phono Cartridge
- Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge
- AT-F7Moving Coil Cartridge
- NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110
The 6 Best Phono Cartridge Under $200 Reviews
Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge
Best Budget Turntable Cartridge
- Tracking force: 1.8 g
- Load resistance: 47 kOhm
- Output voltage: 1000 Hz
- Stylus type: Elliptical
- Frequency response: 20-20.000 Hz + 3 / - 1 dB
- Stylus tip radius: r/R 8/18 µm
- Tracking force range: 1.6-2.0 g (16-20 mN)
- Type: Moving Iron (MI)
- Stylus: Bonded Elliptical
- Compliance: Medium
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Expressive midrange
✓ Features an Elliptical diamond
✓ Delivers open, dynamic sound
✓ Slight touch of warmth
✓ Lots of insight
✓ Great resolution
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Needs a touch more power
The Ortofon 2m red cartridge bass has an extremely wide tonal range and, with its excellent clarity, dynamics, and balance is ideal for any style.
The 2m red treble is designed to give the best sense of air and space to the sound, and the cartridge mid-band is also open and transparent. The 2m red cartridge is recommended for use with the Ortofon MM cartridge, which is a low-mass arm. It has been known that many cartridges are liable to fall off the arm during playback of loud music due to heavy-duty flanges on the arms.
The Ortofon 2M Red has colour-coded pin terminals and has a maximum frequency of 20 Hz to 20000 Hz. The Ortofon 2m red cartridge bass is an excellent example of vintage Ortofon quality. It is punchy, textured, and well-balanced.
The Ortofon 2M Red cares about your stylus, gives you the best performance without lagging up to 1,000 hours, and sounds good. The Ortofon 2M Red cartridge is the latest addition to the famous Ortofon Red range, and it comes within the budget range of a maximum of $100.
The Ortofon 2M Red has been in production since 1961 and has earned a reputation for being one of the best cartridges out there. The self-resetting arm and coil system are also designed to provide a smooth, effortless, consistent experience. So overall, the Ortofon 2M Red is the best phono cartridge under $200 on amazon.
Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge
Top Moving Magnet Cartridge
- Output voltage: 5.5mV
- Frequency response: 20 ~ 20Hz
- Tracking force: 1.8g
- Tracking angle: 20 degrees
- Weight: 7.2g
- Replacement stylus: Ortofon 2M Blue
- Design: Moving Magnet Phono Cartridge
- Stylus type: Elliptical
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Universal fit for most turntables
✓ Upgrade to Ortofon 2M Red
✓ Stylus is replaceable
✓ For Long Time Use
✓ Decent dynamics
✓ Ease of installation
✓ Nude Elliptical diamond
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Surface noise is a little more apparent
The Blue series of 2m Ortofon features a nude elliptical diamond stylus and has a larger contact area with the groove compared to the 2M Red, which comes with a mounting block. The advantage of having no block is that it allows for a more accurate and forgiving output from the cartridge itself.
The 2m blue has a higher-than-average output of 5.5mV and ultra-lightweight (1.6kg), and has an affordable price tag (about $250). The cartridge is universal in both terms ( turntables and phono stages ) due to its downforce of typical 1.8g.
The 2M Blue is at least 90% plastic, but that’s not necessarily bad. It comes with a unique exterior design meant to enhance the entire turntable aesthetically. Unlike some other turntables, the 2M Blue has a weight and size intended to complement most of them. A lot of new cartridges have been introduced over the past few years. Most are notable because they’re very expensive, but the 2M Blue is not one of those cartridges. It’s an entry-level price point cartridge that would be suitable for anyone who needs to deliver a balance between the bass and treble.
With the tiny nuts to a thread, you can screw the fixing bolts straight, which makes Ortofon 2m Blue easy replacement. The Ortofon blue replacement is one of the most popular cartridges available today. Output is an important component of a turntable’s performance, which is why the 2M Blue records in both mono and stereo at 5.5mV and 1.8g, respectively. It features ultra-lightweight materials that are relatively easy to move and set up, making it a popular cartridge with turntable owners looking for a low-maintenance phono stage or turntable setup.
Clearaudio Concept MM Phono Cartridge
Best MM Cartridge Under $200
- Speeds: 33.33, 45, 78rpm
- Bearing: polished
- Platter: polyoxymethylene
- Offset angle: 23°
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Easy to set up
✓ Provide you sonic performance
✓ Great build
REASONS TO AVOID
A Clearaudio concept cartridge has a higher sound quality than regular cartridges, and it can be played on more turntables, making it a great option for those who want high-quality audio without spending a lot of money. It has a frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz and an output voltage of ~3.3mV.
A Clearaudio cartridge offers high-fidelity playback, reduces distortion, and has a channel separation of 20dB and a channel balance of 2dB, making it one of the most advanced moving magnet cartridges on the market.
Clearaudio concept phono cartridges have a tracking distance of 80 m and a tracking force of 2.2 g 0.3 g and are more accurate than traditional needle-based systems, giving deeper and more detailed sound reproduction.
The Clearaudio concept cartridge is a good choice for moving magnet cartridges since it doesn’t need the same coils and magnets that traditional designs do, so it can be smaller and more efficient. Furthermore, it has a coil impedance of 0.66 k and coil inductance of 0.42 mH. The Clearaudio concept cartridge design also includes an aluminium cantilever and a body, so the second generation MM version cartridge weighs a total of 8.6 grams * 0.2 grams and is frictionless.
In addition to making some of the phono cartridges on the market, Clearaudio has introduced a new concept magnet phono cartridge. Besides an all-new architecture that they claim to make the Concept MM up to 20% more efficient than traditional designs, it also includes their innovative Clear Voice system that allows you to adjust how much background noise is allowed to enter the cartridge to ensure the perfect playback experience. In summary, the Clearaudio concept cartridge provides top-quality sound without costing much. So, the Clearaudio concept is the best phono cartridge under $200.
Read More: How to connect turntable to amplifier
Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge
Color: violet| Stylus profile: Elliptical | Stylus tip radius: 0.3 × 0.7 mil | Frequency range: 20 Hz -20 kHz | Channel balance: 1.5 dB at 1 kHz | Tracking angle: 20° | Load resistance: 47 kΩ | Internal resistance: 410 Ω | Cartridge weight: 6.9 g | Mounting: 12.7 mm (0.5 in)
REASONS TO BUY
✓ A balanced and detailed performer
✓ Greatest Aluminum cantilever
✓ Refinement and clarity
✓ Expressive dynamics
✓ Unfussy nature
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Cantilever is unacceptably fragil
✗ Easily broken Cantilever
Goldring makes it one of the oldest cartridge manufacturers around. The Goldring E3 has a uniquely shaped elliptical stylus and is made of bonded aluminium and elliptically profiled to provide optimal musical reproduction. The dual magnet MM engine design of the E3 helps to deliver an added sense of realism and depth for music lovers seeking impeccable detail. The design of the E3 model cartridge is also shared with other model types, and they differ mainly in the colour of the bottom edge of both the body and the tone needle.
The Goldring E3 model cartridges have a nice, big violet tint on them which is aesthetically pleasing. As far as construction materials go, the bodies and needles of these cartridge models are built robustly to withstand many playing hours while still delivering quality sound.
On the E3 cartridge, captive nuts fasten to the front of your turntable, where you will find a straight edge. This allows you to align and mount the cartridge accordingly quickly. As per some Turntable experts, those mounting a Goldring E3 with Rega Planar 2 may take less time than it would if they didn’t have access to the straight edge included with the cartridge. The only caveat is that those people who plan on using a thicker headshell might need longer screws (not provided by Soundsmith).
The E3-weighted cartridge both tracks and weighs accurately at the 2.0g mark, which is impressive considering how much strain it undergoes when an individual uses it daily. So overall, the Goldring E3 is the best phono cartridge under $200.
AT-F7Moving Coil Cartridge
A Great Dual Moving Coil Turntable Cartridge
Frequency Response: 15-50,000 Hz | Channel Separation: 27 dB (1 kHz) | Vertical Tracking Force: 1.8 – 2.2 g (standard: 2.0 g) | Stylus Construction: Nude Square Shank | Coil Inductance: 25µH (1kHz) | Output Voltage: Voltage: 0.35 mV (1 kHz, 5 cm/sec.) | Stylus Shape: Elliptical | Cantilever: Aluminum | Body Material: Aluminum/Synthetic Resin | Mounting Feature: Half-inch mount | Terminal Pins: Brass | Type: Dual Moving Coil | Weight: 5g
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Beautifully focused midrange
✓ Good dynamic contrast
✓ Elliptical stylus for outstanding clarity and transparency of tone
✓ 0. 07 mm stainless suspension wire for perfect expression
✓ Neodymium magnet for increased magnetic energy
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Slimmer bass than the competition
✗ Doesn't time as well
The Audio-Technica is a high-quality and affordable cartridge that is designed for vocalists. It delivers a smooth and rich sound with clarity, transparency, and frequency response from vocals. And it offers acoustic instruments.
The Audio-Technica AT-F7 is best for those who prefer to immerse themselves in their music and music alone. The Audio-Technica AT-F7 is geared towards those looking for precision, accuracy, and class-leading sound with a nude elliptical stylus and aluminium cantilever. The mid-range turntable cartridge is excellent and provides high clarity, transparency, and frequency response from vocals, sounding just like you’re in person with your favourite artists. And it offers acoustic instruments a layered experience of both style and substance for a very rich listening experience.
The AT-F7 cartridge comes with a stainless suspension wire of 0.07 mm thickness that is carefully designed to be used in a high-quality moving coil phono cartridge, which transfers sound at higher frequencies. A hi-fi cartridge may have to be replaced when the pins are worn out. However, ensure to keep the pin protection and apply pressure of 2 grams.
When you note down that your cartridge pins are worn out, you need to replace the entry-level cartridge and consider replacing the complete toner. Make sure to remove the Pin protection and adjust the pressure accordingly. Audio Technica is one of the most well-known brands for people who aren’t necessarily audiophiles but still want to enjoy good-quality sound.
NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110
Top of the line cartridge
Cantilever: Aluminum cantilever| Needle: superfine polished diamond needle| Weight: 6.5 grams of weight| Output voltage: 5mV output voltage| Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz| Channel balance: 1.5 dB | Separation: Greater than 23 dB | Impedance: 47 kOhm | Tracking force: 1.5 to 2.0 grams
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Rounded and dry sound
✓ Easy to adjust
✓ Light, breezy sound
✓ Let your ears enjoy the sound and listen for hours
REASONS TO AVOID
✗ Edgy treble
✗ Sensitive to VTA
✗ Lacks some dynamics and finesse
The Nagaoka MP110 is a budget-friendly and supremely cheerful cartridge that’s under the budget like the Ortofon series. The Ortofon series is a line of phonograph cartridges specifically designed for DJs and turntablists. It’s also good for quality sound and gets easier replacements than the Ortofon series, specifically in America, where most record players are more popular anyway.
Regarding audiophile turntables, the Nagaoka MP-110 is a very popular cartridge that is lightweight and versatile and offers a great range of music reproduction. But in order for this cartridge to work properly, you would need a low-to-mid frequency analogue amplification that is light on bass.
With the cartridge terrible, there is some room for improvement, such as Nagaoka MP-110 needs more refinement, and because of its touch edge, it could be more refined if compared with some closely priced rivals.
Using a Nagaoka MP110 cartridge is easier to install than regular gramophone needles. Plus, if you want an easier way to mount them with the headshell, this type of needle is the better option, as you’ll often find in many systems.
The MP110 is good for those seeking a bass-emphasized sound or those who enjoy eastern instruments very much. The Nagaoka MP110 has an interesting bump in the mid-high frequency area (around 3kHz) and can also get bright depending on how well it is isolated from other components like speakers or your DAP. So, overall the Nagaoka MP110 is the best turntable phono cartridge under the $200 budget.
In A Nutshell - Best Phono Cartridge Under $200
In a vinyl record player, the needle sits on the record surface and vibrates in time with the music being played. As it does this, it moves air and creates sound waves that are picked up by a microphone and converted into electrical signals sent to your speakers.
It can be risky to buy one of these phonograph cartridges without an expert guide because it could cause problems when setting them up.
Suppose you’re interested in buying a new turntable cartridge. In that case, you can browse our selection of the best phono cartridge under $200 list to find it right, and they are compatible with every turntable type. Our selection includes Ortofon 2M Blue, Ortofon 2M Red, Clearaudio Concept, AT-F7Moving and NAGAOKA MP-110 phono cartridges.
Wooster Audio also offer high-quality audio products that will work exceptionally well with any pre-existing audio system setup, so whether you want to install one magnetic cartridge in place of another or are entirely replacing your turntable setup, we’ve got you covered!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do You Need a Good Phono Cartridge?
It is impossible to beat a good phono cartridge when it comes to playing your vinyl collection. A good cartridge will ensure you get the most out of your vinyl collection by providing accurate playback of your music collection. The Wooster Audio team will show you why a good phono cartridge is crucial to getting the most out of your vinyl collection.
You Will Be Satisfied With Your Phono Cartridge
If you have expensive vinyl records or just starting with vinyl, you need a phono cartridge that provides accurate playback of your collection, ensuring you get the most out of them. It would help if you had an accurate phono cartridge to get the best sound from your vinyl records.
Last Longer Phono Cartridge
As an added benefit, phono cartridges tend to last longer than other cartridges. If you are careful and take care of your equipment, good phono cartridges should last for years.
Phono Cartridge For Sound quality
One of the benefits of investing in a good phono cartridge is that it can improve your sound quality. A good cartridge can reproduce the highs and lows accurately, resulting in improved sound quality when playing your music collection on vinyl.
What are Standard mount phono cartridges?
Standard mount cartridges are those that feature small posts ( connecting tonearm leads), and by two vertical screws (spaced 1/2"), these types of cartridges are secured to the tonearm.
What are P-mount phono cartridges?
Often referred to as T4P cartridges, the P mount cartridge is used in turntables and is also the most popular type of cartridge for audiophiles because it produces high-quality sound. For P-mount cartridges to work, turntables must at least have a p-mount tonearm attached directly to the turntable, and its screw tightened so that it does not move during vinyl playback.
Can you mix and match the Ortofon stylus?
Ortofon’s standard stylus for use with LP records is best suited to flat-surface records. A few different types of Ortofon stylus heads can be used with different turntables. Consider using the high-compliance stylus (HI- compliance) if you have a modern turntable or scratch DJ. It is designed to work with wax and synthetic records well. You should use a cantilever stylus if you own classical or jazz vinyl records. A cantilever stylus is made from a heavier metal and has a longer barrel than a standard Ortofon stylus. The cantilever stylus picks up less sound information than the other styluses when using CDs or MP3 recordings. As a result of Ortofon, these combinations will never be supported; each stylus series will fit on an alternative cartridge body.