Today’s blog is about budget-friendly cartridges that can purchase for under $500. Our Listed are fantastic-sounding phono cartridges that will upgrade your turntable and make it sound like you want it to.
Audio expert and record label owner Frank Schröder suggests investing in the best phono cartridge under $500 will improve your turntable’s sound. Phono cartridges for turntables hugely impact sound quality during playback.
Using a phono cartridge can completely change the sonic proceedings of your aged turntable. It can satisfactorily improve the listening experience from your senior turntable 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 available. However, if your current Turntable cartridge is not functioning correctly or you have bought the newest turntable, the cartridge that arrives with that turntable needs to be fixed. If you care little for the sound of that pre-installed cartridge, then these alternatives are well worth consideration when updating your turntable cartridge.
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Our Top 3 Recommendations
Light, breezy sound
Excellent detailing and insight
Easy to adjust
Provides immersed midrange
Fine dynamic contrast
Elliptical stylus for exceptional clarity
Provides Suitable timing
Ease of installation
Finding the best cartridge is challenging when it comes down to buying new gear for your vinyl turntable. Don’t worry, though, because you’ve found the right place - as our top five Phono cartridge reviews give an insider’s perspective on what real DJs think about each model.
Nothing could be worse than going around Amazon or eBay and spending your hard-earned money on a Phono cartridge that 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 delivers results when used by a true professional!
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Our Recommendations For Best Phono Cartridge Under $500
|Best MM Phono Cartridge Under $500||Nagaoka MP-110 MM Phono Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|Best MC Cartridge Under $500||Audio Technica AT-F7 Moving Coil Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|Best Ortofon Turntable Cartridge Under $500||Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|Best Elliptical stylus Under $500||Audio-Technica At-F2 MC (Moving Coil) Phono Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|Best TT Cartridge Under $500||Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge||See on Amazon|
|Best Phono Moving Magnet Cartridge Under $500||Goldring E3 The Blue MM Cartridge||See on Amazon|
Include in this guide:
- Nagaoka MP-110 MM Phono Cartridge
- Audio Technica AT-F7 Moving Coil Cartridge
- Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge
- Audio-Technica At-F2 MC (Moving Coil) Phono Cartridge
- Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge
- Goldring E3 The Blue MM Cartridge
Best Phono Cartridge Under $500 Reviews
Nagaoka MP-110 MM Phono Cartridge
Best MM Phono Cartridge Under $500
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, a slower tracking speed MM like the Sumiko Bluebird or the ZYX Airy 3 might appeal more.
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 relatively simple, users are not compelled to send the entire device in for maintenance; be careful not to apply excessive pressure if you decide to change the needle yourself!
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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 comparable to that of the famous Ortofon, making the Nagaoka an excellent choice for consumers looking for a lower-priced alternative that still brings high quality. Besides the excellent sound performance, one aspect that stands out in this product is how quickly you can replace the needle since it’s detachable - further bolstering its appeal.
How the Nagaoka MP110 cartridge is constructed prevents you from changing the stylus. This works in its favor because this cartridge features a separate top and body, and you can easily change them. Unlike some records played on other cartridges, these won’t wear out as quickly.
The Nagaoka MP110 cartridge features solid and polite bass performance. 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 the best phono cartridge under $500.
Audio Technica AT-F7 Moving Coil Cartridge
Best MC Cartridge Under $500
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
✓ 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 who want to immerse themselves 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 less popular than moving magnet MM cartridges when compared side by side, there’s no doubt the AT-F7 has 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 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 than 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 cartridge with a compact, lightweight design that’s easy to replace, and in its price range, it provides excellent tracking, sound quality, and good bass response. The Audio Technica AT-F7 provides excellent tracking in the price range, so, overall, Audio Technica AT-F7 is the best phono cartridge under $500.
Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge
Best Ortofon Turntable Cartridge Under $500
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 broader 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 comprehensive, direct, and natural sound from any vinyl source.
The 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 most design preferences for modern homes and offices.
The Ortofon 2m Blue exterior includes a solid aluminum sheet with machined aluminum 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 Ortofon 2m Blue phono cartridge 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.
Audio-Technica At-F2 MC (Moving Coil) Phono Cartridge
Best Elliptical stylus Under $500
- Frequency Response: 15 - 30,000Hz
- Channel Separation: 25dB (1kHz)
- Vertical Tracking Angle: 23°
- Stylus Construction: Bonded Round Shank
- Load Impedance: Min 100Ω
REASONS TO BUY
✓ Provides purer transmission
✓ Offers outstandingly high separation
✓ Amazing sound for little money
REASONS TO AVOID
The Japanese electronics company Audio-Technica manufactures many products, including turntables, headphones, and audio equipment. Among Audio-Technica’s best-known products is its AT-F2 moving coil phono cartridge. It features an elliptical stylus with a radius of 0.3 mils and provides sound quality that is fully dimensional.
Many features and configurations are available for this AT-F2 cartridge that are ideal for anyone who wants to upgrade their turntable system. It has channel separation of 25dB (1kHz), a vertical tracking angle of 23°, a PCCOC coil (purer transmission), a hybrid body, a dual moving coil system, and a frequency response of 15 - 30,000Hz.
The Audio-Technica At-F2 Moving Coil Phono Cartridge is a moving coil cartridge produced by Audio-Technica in the early to mid-1990s. It uses a metal cantilever with a diamond stylus and produces high-quality sound.
In addition, the At-F2 is one of the earliest moving coil cartridges to use an elliptical stylus design, which reduces distortion and produces better sound quality than other styli designs. It has a bonded round shank and a recommended load impedance of 100Ω.
Features Of The Audio-Technica At-f2 Moving Coil Phono Cartridge
The Audio-Technica At-F2 Dual Moving Coil features a moving coil design that delivers high-fidelity audio reproduction and has a coil Impedance of 12Ω (1kHz) and DC resistance of 12Ω and the coil Inductance of 25µH (1kHz), which is great. The At-F2 Moving Coil Phono Cartridge is compatible with any standard vinyl player and produces an output voltage of 0.32mV (1kHz and 5cm/sec.) and output channel balance of 1.5dB (1kHz), and has brass terminal pins and a weight of 5g.
Designed for turntables with built-in phono inputs, the Audio-Technica At-F2 cartridges are made to fit these types of turntables. It has a high quality, low distortion, the best stylus tip, and extended frequency response with conformity of 35×10-6cm/dyne and dynamic compliance of 9×10-6cm/dyne (100Hz).
A non-rotating carbon fiber arm tube and helical tracking force range are featured in the Audio-Technica At-F2, as well as an aluminum/synthetic resin body and stylus curvature radius of 0.3 x 0.7 mil. It’s time to enjoy your music once you’ve set up your Audio-Technica At-F2 moving coil phono cartridge and tonearm!
Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge
Best TT Cartridge Under $500
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 Ortofon 2M Red cartridges in the Ortofon 2m series 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, the Ortofon 2M Red treble is 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 the sound a perfect sense of air and space. In the last few years, many people have used 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 vinyl record production.
The Ortofon 2m Red cartridge weight is 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.
Goldring E3 The Blue MM Cartridge
Best Phono Moving Magnet Cartridge Under $500
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 Goldring E3 cartridge body designs has a beautiful violet color that accompanies it. 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 well crafted in plastic molding. It is shaped similarly to M2 / OM series cartridges by Ortofon.
The Goldring company was founded in 1906 and is the oldest cartridge manufacturer. It is best known for its moving iron models. This Goldring E3 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, replicating almost Audio Technica’s AT95E series.
On the E3 cartridge, captive nuts 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 Goldring E3 cartridge is accompanied by nuts and bolts 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 Goldring E3 weight is incredibly light. It’s an easy-going 6.9 grams, which we 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. So, overall the E3 cartridge is the best phono cartridge under $500.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Does moving coil cartridges sound better than moving magnets?
In response to the question of which type of cartridge sounds better (Moving coil or moving magnet), many audiophiles believe that moving coil cartridges are more realistic and full-bodied than moving magnet cartridges, perhaps because moving coil cartridges are lighter and better at transferring vibrations (Into electrical signal) and in the record groove, providing a precise and high-quality natural sound. Moving coil technology is also becoming more popular since it is capable of reproducing higher frequencies more accurately than moving magnet technology.
Do phono cartridges make a difference?
A turntable’s phono cartridge can significantly affect the quality of its sound. While they are less visible than other parts, they can make a huge difference in the quality of your system’s sound. Many audiophiles consider phono cartridges to be a significant contributor to the sound quality of a turntable because they convert the movement of the stylus into an electrical signal, which is then amplified by speakers and produces beautiful, crystal-clear sound.
How long do phono cartridges last?
Based on how often you listen to music and how careful you are with your cartridges, phono cartridges can last between a few months and a few years. Because phono cartridges are made from stones like diamonds or sapphire, they usually last between six and twelve months (150 to 200 hours). Your cartridge may last longer if you use it regularly, but read the manufacturer’s instructions for specifics. To keep it running smoothly, you should also regularly clean and inspect the cartridge and turntable.
How much should I spend on a turntable cartridge?
When it comes to buying a brand-new turntable cartridge then under $200 to $500, you can get a good quality phono cartridge if you have a normal quality turntable and if you have a high-quality turntable then using a cheap cartridge that is not an ideal option so with high-quality turntable you can purchase phono cartridge under $500 to $1000. For a normal turntable, you can buy a cartridge between the range of 200 to 500. Besides buying quality cartridges, you also have to consider other things like cartridge fits your specific turntable, type of sound quality, cartridge type (MM or MC), plus more.