Best Phono Cartridge Under $500


Today’s blog is about Audio Technica Phono Cartridge. It is a fantastic sounding phono cartridge that will upgrade your turntable and get it sounding like you want it to. Audio expert and record label owner Frank Schröder suggests that investing in a best phono cartridge under $500 will noticeably improve the sound of your turntable.

Phono cartridges for turntables hugely impact sound quality during playback. The use of a phono cartridge can completely change the sonic proceedings of your aged turntable and can satisfactorily improve the listening experience from your senior turntable that is compared to that of a new one. Usually, a phono cartridge needs to read the mechanical grooves of any record player and then later transfer them into electrical audio signals.

In the market for an inexpensive turntable or replacement cartridge, it’s easy to get confused looking through the hundreds of cheap phono cartridges that are available. However, if your current TURNTABLE cartridge is not functioning correctly or you have bought the newest turntable, but the cartridge that arrives with that turntable is not functioning properly, and you don’t care much for the sound of that pre-installed cartridge, then these alternatives are well worth consideration when updating your TURNTABLE cartridge.

When it comes down to buying new gear for your vinyl turntable, the task of finding the best cartridge is no easy feat. Don’t worry, though, because you’ve found the right place - as our top ten cartridge reviews give an insider’s perspective on what real DJs think about each model!

There could be nothing worse than going around Amazon or eBay and spending your hard-earned money on a product that simply doesn’t work. The review guide has been created with both the DJ crowd and shoppers in mind who are interested in this particular piece of equipment. This way, everyone involved can make an educated decision before using their money on a product that really delivers results when used by a true professional!

Award Model Price
Best MM Phono Cartridge Under $300 NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110 CHECK PRICE Read Customer Reviews
Best MC Cartridge Under $300 Audio Technica AT-F7 Moving Coil Cartridge CHECK PRICE Read Customer Reviews
Best Ortofon Turntable Cartridge Under $500 Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge CHECK PRICE Read Customer Reviews
Best Turntable Cartridge Under $500 Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge CHECK PRICE Read Customer Reviews
Best Phono Moving Magnet Cartridge Under $500 Goldring E3 The Blue Cartridge MM CHECK PRICE Read Customer Reviews

Best Phono Cartridge Under $500 Reviews

NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110 (Image credit: Amazon)

NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110

Best MM Phono Cartridge Under $500

SPECIFICATIONS

Frequency range: 20 kHz| Channel balance: 1.5 dB | Separation: Greater than 23 dB | Impedance: 47 kOhm |  Tracking force:  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 for hours

Rounded and dry sound

REASONS TO AVOID

Sensitive to VTA

Lacks some dynamics

Edgy treble

The cartridge Nagaoka MP-110, being lightweight and with a bright character, brings out the midrange qualities of your audio sources. If you prefer a cartridge with added bass support to back up the light-weighted sound quality produced, a slower tracking speed MM like the Sumiko Bluebird or the ZYX Airy 3 might be more appealing to you.

The Nagaoka MP110 is a budget-friendly and supremely cheerful cartridge. The cartridge competes well with other mid-range products like Ortofon and has good quality sound at a relatively low cost. The cartridge has a warm high-end sound, perfect for listening to rock or jazz; however, it can also handle classical music, and sound effect tracks quite well. Since the cartridge replacement is fairly simple, it means that users are not compelled to send the entire device in for maintenance just be careful not to apply excessive pressure if you decide to change the needle yourself!

The Nagaoka MP-110 is a fantastic value K&M cartridge, and surprisingly, it holds up well against its silver competition. The price tag is even comparable to that of the famous Ortofon’s, making the Nagaoka an excellent choice for consumers looking for a lower-priced alternative that still brings a high level of quality. Besides the good sound performance, one aspect that really stands out in this product is how quickly you can replace the needle since it’s detachable - further bolstering its appeal.

The way the Nagaoka MP110 cartridge is constructed, it prevents you from changing the stylus. This works in its favor because this cartridge features a top and a body that are separate, and you can easily change them. Unlike some records which are played on other cartridges, these ones won’t wear out as quickly.

The Nagaoka MP110 cartridge features solid and polite bass performance, and between the frequencies of 3k up to 5kHz, there is a bump in overall volume that adds a nice bit of clarity to vocals, specifically sibilance. So, overall the Nagaoka MP-110 is best phono cartridge under $500

Audio Technica AT-F7 Moving Coil Cartridge (Image credit: Amazon)

Audio Technica AT-F7 Moving Coil Cartridge

Best MC Cartridge Under $500

SPECIFICATIONS

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

REASONS TO BUY

Audio Technica AT-F7 Provides an incredible richness of detail

Audio Technica AT-F7 Provides immersed midrange

Fine dynamic contrast

Elliptical stylus for exceptional clarity

Neodymium magnet

0. 07 mm stainless suspension wire

Excellent expression

Clearness of tone

REASONS TO AVOID

Doesn't time as well

The Audio-Technica AT-F7 is an excellent option for those of you who want to immerse yourself in the rich listening experience that vinyl offers, but with none of the issues such as crackling and popping associated with it.

The AT-F7 is a moving coil cartridge, and while it’s not as popular as moving magnet MM cartridges when compared side by side, there’s no doubt the AT-F7 has its own excellent features that should be explored too.

The cartridge provides an excellent and rich sound. The formulation’s transparency and frequency response are second-to-none. As a result, it really delivers on the vocals, offers excellent acoustic performance, and provides precise stereo imaging.

The AT-F7 cartridge comes with 0.07 mm stainless immersion wire which translates to a higher quality as compared to cheaper products because of its use in moving coil audio cartridges. Moving coil cartridges use the suspension wire as a pivot point and measure its exact length so that the playback is of higher quality than most other stylus options.

The Audio Technica AT-F7 model is an affordable professional cassette player/recorder with a compact, lightweight design that’s easy to transport from location to location (which is perfect for recording on the go!). In its price range, it provides excellent tracking along with excellent sound quality and good bass response.

The Audio Technica AT-F7 provides excellent tracking in the price range, and it belongs to Audio-Technica’s affordable motorcycle series.So, overall Audio Technica AT-F7 is best phono cartridge under $500.

Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge (Image credit: Amazon)

Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge

Best Ortofon Turntable Cartridge Under $500

SPECIFICATIONS

Tracking force: 1.8g | Tracking angle: 20 degrees | Weight: 7.2g | Replacement stylus: Ortofon 2M Blue | Design: Moving Magnet Phono Cartridge | Stylus type: Elliptical | Output voltage: 5.5mV | Frequency response: 20 ~ 20Hz

REASONS TO BUY

Honorable dynamics

Provides Suitable 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

The Ortofon 2m Blue Featuring a Nude Elliptical stylus creates a wider contact with the groove than the 2M Red model; the diamond stylus is directly attached to the cantilever with no mounting block or shank, resulting in a more accurate and forgiving output. The Ortofon 2m Blue is the latest addition to the legendary Ortofon range of professional turntables. This exclusive 2m stylus features a highly sensitive and responsive elliptical diamond stylus that delivers a wide, direct, and natural sound from any vinyl source.

Pfanstiehl’s 2m Blue phono cartridge is a 5.5 millivolt output and offers 1.8 grams of tracking force, making it relatively universal in terms of turntables and tonearms available on the market today. The 2M Blue has a unique design that will fit into the majority of design preferences for modern homes and offices.

The 2M’s exterior includes a solid aluminium sheet with machined aluminium caps that form the ends. Unfortunately, the stainless steel bolts and the brass nuts are not included in the package; for this reason, it works only with turntables having an M3 mounting pattern.

The 2M Blue is a very competent cartridge that can give you a satisfying and well-balanced sound. In addition, it offers good dynamics, transparency, and superb resolution.

Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge (Image credit: Amazon)

Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge

Best TT Cartridge Under $500

SPECIFICATIONS

Tracking force range: 1.6-2.0 g | Type: Moving Iron (MI) | Stylus: Bonded Elliptical | Compliance: Medium | Stylus type: Elliptical | Frequency response: 20-20.000 Hz + 3 / - 1 dB | Stylus tip radius: r/R 8/18 µm | Tracking force: 1.8 g | Load resistance: 47 k Ohm | Output voltage: 1000 Hz

REASONS TO BUY

Amazing resolution

Demonstrative midrange

Tons 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

I love the 2m red cartridges in the Ortofon 2m and use them for my basses. It’s a great-sounding cartridge with a lovely textured bass with plenty of punch and clarity. In addition, 2m red treble is very crisp and clear, giving an excellent sense of air and space to the sound and the cartridge mid-band is also open and transparent.

The 2m Red treble is a 2m driver with a wide, open mid-band. This makes the sound very crisp and clear, giving a perfect sense of air and space to the sound. In the last few years, many people have started to use the 2m Red cartridge in cartridges with low mass. This low-mass arm is mainly used in high-quality audio recordings such as dubbing and even vinyl record production. The Ortofon 2m red cartridge weight is At 7.2g it is a little heavier than the average MM cartridge, but it can be used successfully.

The 2M Red is a Proprietary System with a maximum frequency of 20 Hz to 20000 Hz. It can read your stylus and gives you the best performance without lagging up to 1,000 hours, but if you break it, it will not rust. The Ortofon 2M Red cartridge is the highest quality cartridge in the world. This is an exceptional value for an outstanding product. It’s a great successor to the Ortofon 2M and comes at a very affordable price, making this one of the best value cartridges in existence.

Goldring E3 The Blue Cartridge MM (Image credit: Amazon)

Goldring E3 The Blue Cartridge MM

Best Phono Moving Magnet Cartridge Under $500

SPECIFICATIONS

Color: Violet | Stylus profile: Elliptical | Stylus tip radius: 0.3 × 0.7 mil | Cartridge weight: 6.9 g | Mounting: 12.7 mm | 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

REASONS TO BUY

Top quality Aluminum cantilever

Real Goldring cartridge

A proportional and precise instrumentalist

Grace and clearness

Definitive dynamics

Easy to Installation

Unfussy nature

Suitable Aluminum cantilever

REASONS TO AVOID

The Goldring E3 cantilever is unacceptably weak

Every one of the E3 cartridge body designs has a beautiful violet color that accompanies it, and the design for this cartridge is shared with different model types, which were differentiated through the bottom edge color. The body is made through a massive stocky form which is well crafted in plastic molding. It is shaped similar to M2 / OM series cartridges by Ortofon.

The Goldring company was founded in 1906 and is the oldest cartridge manufacturer around. It is best known for its moving iron models.

This phono cartridge is made with an aluminum cantilever, an elliptical tip of 0.3 x 0.7 mil, and its tip has a 0.6 mil circular profile bonded to the stylus. The dual magnet MM engine provides excellent stereo performance, which replicates almost like that of Audio Technica’s AT95E series.

On the E3 cartridge, you will find captive nuts that make it simple to attach mounting Allen-key bolts onto its front side. A straight edge there assists in making the actual alignment of the cartridge simple. According to Turntable Expert users, once you’ve aligned the E3 cartridge onto your Rega Planar 2 turntable, installation takes less than ten minutes. The only caution is for those who use a thicker headshell because longer screws may be needed for assembly for some users.

The E3 cartridge is accompanied by a set of nuts and bolts used to attach its many mounting accessories. You’ll find a straight-edged guide, which helps you to align your cart effortlessly to the headshell. The mounting process is simple, but it’s important to note Rega Planar II owners may need longer screws because the headshell is particularly thick under its platter!

The E3 weight is incredibly light. In fact, it’s an easy-going 6.9 grams, which we absolutely love. It sits at a typical 2.0g, which may surprise you given how wildly light it is compared to most other digital calligraphy pens.