Best Phono Cartridge Under $400

The Best Phono Cartridge Under $400 - Wooster Audio

Best Phono Cartridge Under $400
Best Phono Cartridge Under $400 (Image: © Wooster Audio | Best Audio Reviews & New)

Today we’re going to look at several best phono cartridges under $400 that can be an excellent addition to almost any turntable out there in the market. Frank Schröder, a world-renowned turntable and tonearm designer, explains that you should consider getting a new cartridge to get better sound from your turntable. The phono cartridge on your turntable is essential to supersonic performance.

Using a cartridge, you can change the sound rate of your record player, and it will elevate your listening experience. A cartridge needs to read mechanical grooves and convert them into electrical signals, which are then used as the recording source for your audio equipment.

Read: How to clean your turntable’s stylus

Our Top 3 Recommendations

Best Pick  Ortofon 2M Red MM Turntable Cartridge Ortofon 2M Red MM Turntable Cartridge

up to 1000 hours life time

Great resolution

Supreme midrange

Most Popular Goldring E3 MM Phono Cartridge Goldring E3 MM Phono Cartridge

Aluminum cantilever

Genuine Goldring cartridge

Balanced and detailed instrumentalist

Budget Pick Audio-Technica At-F7 Turntable Cartridge Audio-Technica At-F7 Turntable Cartridge

Audio-Technica’s dual coil design

Outstanding transparency of tone

High-rigidity VC mold

Our Recommendations For Best Phono Cartridge Under $400

Award Image Model Price
Best Turntable Cartridge Under $400  Ortofon 2M Red MM Turntable Cartridge Ortofon 2M Red MM Turntable Cartridge See on Amazon
Best Pre-threaded Phono Cartridge Under $400 Goldring E3 MM Phono Cartridge Goldring E3 MM Phono Cartridge See on Amazon
Best Moving Coil Cartridge Under $400 Audio-Technica At-F7 Turntable Cartridge Audio-Technica At-F7 Turntable Cartridge See on Amazon
Best Ortofon Replacement Stylus Ortofon 2M Blue Turntable Cartridge Ortofon 2M Blue Turntable Cartridge See on Amazon
Best Phono Stereo Cartridge Under $400 NAGAOKA Cartridge MP-110 NAGAOKA Cartridge MP-110 See on Amazon

Included in this guide:

Best Phono Cartridge Under $400 Reviews

Ortofon 2M Red MM Turntable Cartridge (Image credit: Amazon)

Ortofon 2M Red MM Turntable Cartridge

Best Turntable Cartridge Under $400

SPECIFICATIONS

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 | Tracking force: 1.8 g | Load resistance: 47 kOhm | Output voltage: 1000 Hz

REASONS TO BUY

up to 1000 hours life time

Great resolution

Supreme midrange

Having lots of insight

Delivers open and dynamic sound

REASONS TO AVOID

A little touch of warmth

The Ortofon 2m red cartridge is a powerful, punchy bass cartridge with excellent resolution, harmonic clarity, low noise, and good dynamic range. The 2m Red cartridge is a unique, balanced, and detailed bass cartridge that delivers minimal coloration across the entire frequency range.

The 2m Red trebles are crisp and clear, giving the sound an excellent sense of air and space. The Ortofon cartridge mid-band is also open and transparent, so you can enjoy music from the front to the back without any distortion or loss of clarity in terms of performance.

The Ortofon 2m red cartridge weight is 7.2g. It is slightly heavier than the average MM cartridges but can be used successfully on borderline low-mass arms. The Ortofon 2m red cartridge recommended range is not too far off the target weight of a MM cartridge, which will always be right under 7g (7.1g for 2m 30s cartridges).

The 2M Red is a color-coded pin terminal with a maximum frequency of 20 Hz to 20000 Hz. It cares about your stylus, gives you the best performance without lagging up to 1,000 hours, and sounds pretty good too!

Read: How to reset turtle beach stealth 600

Goldring E3 MM Phono Cartridge (Image credit: Amazon)

Goldring E3 MM Phono Cartridge

Best Pre-threaded Phono Cartridge Under $400

SPECIFICATIONS

Color: Violet | Stylus profile: Elliptical | Stylus tip radius: 0.3 × 0.7 mil | Tracking angle: 20° | Load resistance: 47 kΩ | Internal resistance: 410 Ω | Cartridge weight: 6.9 g | Mounting: 12.7 mm | Frequency range: 20 Hz -20 kHz | Channel balance: 1.5 dB at 1 kHz

REASONS TO BUY

Aluminum cantilever

Genuine Goldring cartridge

Balanced and detailed instrumentalist

Grace and clearness

Easy to Install

Suitable Aluminum cantilever

REASONS TO AVOID

A cantilever is unacceptably weak (Easily broken Cantilever)

In 1906 the Goldring Company was founded; it’s a family business making phono cartridges in Canada since 1905. It’s especially famous for its moving iron cartridge models. The Goldring E3 comes with a lightweight aluminum cantilever (a type of suspension for a vehicle that keeps the wheel and springs separated from critical sub-systems for better performance, such as safety) and an elliptical tip (in geometry, an ellipse is a closed plane curve that has two distinct endpoints called foci) with a spherical tip design.

The dual magnet structure of this Goldring E3 cartridge gives it exceptional output levels and improved sound wave reproduction. This also allows you to experience superb sound reminiscent of the acclaimed Audio-Technica AT95E series. The E3 cartridge contains a small one on the rear that can be screwed on with Allen bolts. The E3 is a two-speed. It works best if you align it in parallel to either side for the slower speed, as this will avoid resonance. The experts at Roksan say that even aligning the cartridge to the center of the tonearm is acceptable for specific Rega turntables, though only if a piece of high-quality cork is glued to the surface where the headshell holder attaches. This doesn’t take long and will make your upgrades sound much better! However, we have one tip for those using thicker headshells (in other words, more mass attached to their needle). They need longer screws, which they should try before making any final permanent-ins.

The E3 cartridge is not the heaviest quartz, but it has been known to retain weight reasonably well. Although always get a battery life test in your case, as some clients have had problems with this specific model. So overall, the E3 is the best phono cartridge under $400.

Audio-Technica At-F7 Turntable Cartridge (Image credit: Amazon)

Audio-Technica At-F7 Turntable Cartridge

Best Moving Coil Cartridge Under $400

SPECIFICATIONS

Frequency Response: 15-50,000 Hz | Stylus Construction: Nude Square Shank | Vertical Tracking Force: 1.8 – 2.2 g | Output Voltage: Voltage: 0.35 mV | Stylus Shape: Elliptical | Cantilever: Aluminum | Terminal Pins: Brass | Mounting Feature: Half-inch mount | Body Material: Aluminum | Weight: 5g | Type: Dual Moving Coil

REASONS TO BUY

Audio-Technica’s dual coil design

Outstanding transparency of tone

High-rigidity VC mold

Elliptical stylus for exceptional clarity

Durable construction (improved signal-to-noise ratio)

0. 07 mm stainless suspension wire

Neodymium magnet (Increased magnetic energy)

REASONS TO AVOID

Doesn't time as well

The Audio-Technica AT-F7 is ideal for those who want a more dynamic listening experience to appreciate the more delicate intricacies and nuances of vinyl records and compact disks.

The AT-F7 is a moving coil cartridge that uses an elliptical needle tip that lightly grips the groove in the vinyl. Unfortunately, the needle has to be readjusted every 100 hours of use, and it doesn’t work with certain phono preamps made before 1995. The phono cartridge provides excellent and high clarity sound quality, perfect for recording vocals, more accurate frequency response for crisp acoustic recordings, and better stereo imaging so you know exactly where your instruments are in relation to each other in the room.

The AT-F7 comes with 0.07mm stainless suspension wire, typically used in higher-quality moving coil cartridges. This suspension wire plays a significant role by providing the fulcrum point for audio signal transfer. In addition, the fulcrum position stabilizes due to the suspension wire, enabling the auditory lateralization that will provide it with better expressions of HFR (higher frequency range).

The Audio Technica AT-F7 has crisp highs, a distinctly sculpted midrange, and a robust bass response, and overall, the Audio Technica AT-F7 is the best phono cartridge under $400.

Read: Best bookshelf speakers for vinyl record player.

Ortofon 2M Blue Turntable Cartridge (Image credit: Amazon)

Ortofon 2M Blue Turntable Cartridge

Best Ortofon Replacement Stylus

SPECIFICATIONS

Stylus type: Elliptical | 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

REASONS TO BUY

Has Split pole pins (With copper wire)

Has Hopelex designed body which ensures high rigidity

Easily interchangeable with Ortofon Stylus 2M Red

Color coded pin terminals

REASONS TO AVOID

Exterior noise is a little more apparent

​The Ortofon 0.2m Blue record player cartridge provides a purer sound with a broader groove radius than the more popular model, the 2m Red. In addition, Blue’s nude spherical diamond stylus sits directly over the cantilever with no mounting block or shank, which generally leads to better tracking and sound quality.

The 2m blue cartridge output is higher than other cartridges at 5.5 mV and a typical downforce at 1.8g. Laser turntables and many other turntables and phono stages will enjoy the results of this stellar cartridge because they work well with either high or low-output inputs while still performing exceptionally well no matter what any signal source has to offer you.

Most of the 2M Blue’s body might be plastic, but it has a mounting plate with captive nuts to provide the anchor for mounting hardware. Its blue coloring is visually pleasing and functional since it contrasts nicely with other equipment in your setup. In addition, its size and weight are convenient enough to work efficiently with most turntables.

An established company designs the 2M Blue with a vast and long-standing reputation in the professional audio industry. As a result, the 2M Blue is one of the most popular cartridges on the market. In addition, this cartridge has proven to be a good match for many different amplifiers, such as tube amps, solid-state amps, and more.

The Ortofon 2m blue replacement is easy and means you can screw the fixing bolts straight into the top and not have to deal with tiny nuts to thread on. The Ortofon 2m blue replacement is perfect for replacing the original one in old-school stereos. It makes it easy to get the stereo running again. So overall, you will find Ortofon 2m blue as the best phono cartridge under $400.

NAGAOKA Cartridge MP-110 (Image credit: Amazon)

NAGAOKA Cartridge MP-110

Best Phono Stereo Cartridge Under $400

SPECIFICATIONS

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 | Cantilever: Aluminum cantilever| Needle: superfine polished diamond needle| Weight: 6.5 grams of weight| Output voltage: 5mV output voltage

REASONS TO BUY

Light, breezy sound

Excellent detailing and insight

Easy to adjust

Enjoy the sound and listen for hours

Rounded and dry sound

REASONS TO AVOID

Sensitive to VTA

Lacks some dynamics and finesse

Edgy treble

The Nagaoka MP-110 cartridge is an excellent solution for blowing some life into your worn-out system, but it could use some supporting bass to give it the oomph it lacks. With the type of cartridge terrible, some changes are required; for example, the company that makes it, named Nagaoka MP-110, why it is necessary to improve the product. Unfortunately, one of these changes is just not lacking in any refinement, and due to its touch edge, it is not quite as refined when comparing them with its close-priced rivals.

The Nagao MP110 is a relatively inexpensive, cheerful phono cartridge with an easy-to-learn standard mount design. It’s perfect for beginners, thanks to its highly affordable price point, and it competes with the Ortofon series in terms of sound quality. Despite being one of the most affordable options on today’s market, it still provides users with high-quality audio, so if you’re a newcomer to this scene, you can’t go wrong with this cartridge! Using the Nagaoka MP110 cartridge, it is pretty simple to replace the needle, and as opposed to old-style cartridges, one can fit it together with the headshell.

Bass performance was observed within a musical performance to be excellent and polite and more noticeable between 3 kHz and 5 kHz, with a slight bump above noticeable discrepancies compared to the rest of the frequency range.

Read: Best Audiophile Turntable Under $2000

What exactly is an Audiophile Turntable and Phono Cartridge?

It’s a record player specially built to be “musical.” An audiophile turntable will give you better quality sound. A phono cartridge is what transfers the movement of the needle in your record into electrical energy. You should use these to play your vinyl records; they create a clear, warm, and even sound- and they cost less than most people think!

Are you planning to buy a vinyl record player?

Great choice! This is the perfect way to get back into that old habit of listening to music while relaxing with friends or simply spending time alone. Upgrading your sound quality, putting more money on a kick speaker and a mixer, and choosing the right needle were never made more accessible. With all this superior equipment, you don’t have to worry about buying the wrong cartridge since our ultimate cartridge guide will help you choose exactly what type and brand suits your needs.

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William
Hi! I'm William and I've done graduation in Information Technology, and I love music. I buy lots of audio equipment, the latest audio interfaces, and hardware and use them to get proper knowledge, and after excellent judgment, I write blogs on them.
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