Best Phono Cartridge Under $400

The Best Phono Cartridge Under $400 - Wooster Audio


Today we’re going to look at several best phono cartridges under $400 that can be a wonderful addition for almost any turntable out there in the market. Frank Schröder, a world-renowned designer of turntable and tonearm products, explains that in order to get better sound from your turntable, you should consider getting a new cartridge.

Our Top 3 Recommendations

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

Outstanding resolution

Expressive midrange

Lots of insight

Most Popular Audio-Technica At-F7 Turntable Cartridge Audio-Technica At-F7 Turntable Cartridge

The cartridge provides incredible richness of detail

Provides immersed midrange

Fine dynamic contrast

Budget Pick NAGAOKA Cartridge MP-110 NAGAOKA Cartridge MP-110

Light, breezy sound

Excellent detailing and insight

Easy to adjust

The cartridge on your turntable is extremely important to supersonic performance. By using a cartridge, you can totally change the sound rate of your record player, and it will elevate your listening experience. Basically, 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.

Best Phono Cartridge Under $400 Summary

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

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

Outstanding resolution

Expressive midrange

Lots of insight

Delivers open, dynamic sound

Features an Elliptical diamond

Best all-purpose cartridge

A slight touch of warmth

REASONS TO AVOID

A little touch of warmth

The Ortofon 2m red cartridge is a powerful, punchy bass cartridge. It has excellent resolution, harmonic clarity, low noise floor, and good dynamic range. In addition, the 2m Red cartridge is a special balanced and detailed bass cartridge that delivers minimal colouration across the entire frequency range.

The 2m Red trebles are very crisp and clear, giving the sound an excellent sense of air and space. The cartridge mid-band is also open and clear. 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 it can be used successfully on borderline low-mass arms. The 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 colour-coded pin terminal that has a maximum frequency of 20 Hz to 20000Hz. It cares about your stylus, gives you the best performance without lagging up to 1,000 hours, and sounds pretty good too!

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

The cartridge provides incredible richness of detail

Provides immersed midrange

Fine dynamic contrast

Elliptical stylus for exceptional clarity

Clearness of tone

0. 07 mm stainless suspension wire

Excellent expression

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 finer intricacies and nuances of vinyl records and compact disks.

The AT-F7 is a moving coil cartridge, which 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 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 very important role by providing the fulcrum point for audio signal transfer. In addition, the fulcrum position stabilizes due to the suspension wire so that it enables the auditory lateralization that will provide it better expressions of HFR (higher frequency range).

When you note that your cartridge pins are worn out, the entire cartridge needs to be replaced. However, pin replacement must also be handled with care, particularly as it relates to keeping tabs on the printer’s Pin Protection and making sure you’re replacing with a compatible Pin Pressure of 2 grams.

The Audio Technica AT-F7 has very crisp highs, a distinctly sculpted midrange, and a powerful bass response. It is an excellent option for drummers with studio monitors or average earphones and costs about $ 257. So overall the Audio Technica AT-F7 is 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 a great solution for blowing some life into your worn-out system, but it could use some supporting bass to give it the oomph that it lacks.

With the type of cartridge terrible, there are some changes 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 their 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 extremely 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, then you can’t go wrong with this cartridge!

Using the Nagaoka MP110 cartridge, it is fairly 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 good and polite, and more noticeable between 3 kHz and 5 kHz with a slight bump above even noticeable discrepancies when compared against the rest of the frequency range.

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

A balanced and detailed instrumentalist

Grace and clearness

Expressive dynamics

Easy to Install

Unfussy nature

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 that has been making phono cartridges in Canada since 1905. It’s especially famous for their moving iron cartridge models.

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 Audio-Technica cartridge gives it exceptional output levels and improved sound wave reproduction. This also allows you to experience superb quality sound, which is reminiscent to the acclaimed Audio-Technica AT95E series.

The E3 cartridge contains small 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 centre of the tonearm is acceptable for certain 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 who are using thicker headshells (in other words, more mass attached to their needle). They need longer screws, which they should try first before they do any final permanent-ins.

The E3 cartridge is powered by two AAA batteries and not the heaviest quartz, but it has been known to retain weight fairly well. Although always get a battery life test in your case as some clients have had problems with this specific model.

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

Honorable dynamics

Good timing

Ease of installation

Universal fit for most turntables

Upgrade to Ortofon 2M Red

Stylus is replaceable

Features Nude Elliptical diamond

REASONS TO AVOID

Lacks some insight

Exterior noise is a little more apparent

​The Ortofon 0.2m Blue record player cartridge provides a purer sound with a wider 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 leads to a better tracking and sound quality in general.

The 2m blue cartridge Output is higher than that of other cartridges at 5.5mV and a typical downforce at 1.8g. Laser turntables, as well as many other turntables and phono stages, will enjoy the results of this stellar cartridge, namely 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.

The majority 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 colouring is visually pleasing and functional since it contrasts nicely with other equipment in your setup. In addition, its size and weight are convenient enough that it will work easily with most turntables.

An established company designs the 2M Blue with a huge and long-standing reputation in the professional audio industry. As a result, the 2M Blue is one of the most popular cartridges currently 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.

What exactly is an Audiophile Turntable and Phono Cartridge?

It’s a record player that’s 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 habit of old of listening to music while relaxing with friends or simply spending time by yourself. Upgrading your sound quality, putting more money on a kick speaker and a mixer, choosing the right needle was never made easier. 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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