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Top 10 Best Record Needles and Phono Cartridges [Complete Reviews with Comparisons]

Looking for the best record needles and phono cartridges to help make your vinyl sound better? Find your best options in this expert review and buyer’s guide!

Top Ten Best Record Needles and Phono Cartridges

It’s never been such a great time to be a music lover. You can easily stream any song online if you want to go modern, or you can go all-out old school and get yourself a turntable. After all, nothing beats the total immersive experience of going vinyl.

The problem is, turntables can come with problematic record needles and phono cartridges which can get worn out quickly depending on the frequency of use.

Fortunately these parts are readily available and easy to replace. Today, we’ll look at and review some of the best phono cartridge and vinyl stylus choices you can find to upgrade your audio experience!

We certainly hope you benefit from the information we provide in this article! Just so you know, we may receive compensation if you use the links on this page. If you do, thank you so much!

Top 10 Record Needles and Phono Cartridges Compared:

Product

Image

Features

Rating

Relative Price

Best Budget Vinyl Cartridges & Needles Under $100

#1

Audio-Technica ATN95E Replacement Stylus

Audio Technica AUD ATN95E Replacement StylusDurable metal alloy cantilever

Elliptical diamond tip

4.8 out of 5 stars

4.8 / 5

$

 

#2

Audio-Technica AT95EX Phonograph Cartridge

Audio-Technica AT95EX 1/2' Mount Elliptical Stylus Turntable CartridgeBonded round shank stylus

Durable dual-magnet construction

4.6 out of 5 stars

4.6 / 5

$$

 

#3

Ortofon 2M Red Phonograph Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet CartridgeOne size fits all

Brand-exclusive split pole pin design

4.7 out of 5 stars

4.7 / 5

$$

 

Best Turntable Cartridges Under $200

#4

Audio-Technica AT95E Phonograph Cartridge

Audio-Technica AT95E Phonograph Cartridge for 1/2' Mount TurntablesBonded round shank stylus

Elliptical diamond tip

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 / 5

$$

 

#5

Sumiko Pearl Phonograph Cartridge

Sumiko - Pearl MM CartridgeImproved channel separation

Durable moving-magnet construction

4.6 out of 5 stars

4.6 / 5

$$

 

#6

Nagaoka MP-110 Phonograph Cartridge

NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110Special elliptical diamond stylus

Easy mounting features

4.7 out of 5 stars

4.7 / 5

$$

 

Best Phono Cartridges Under $300

#7

Denon DL-103 Phonograph Cartridge

Denon DL-103 Moving Coil CartridgeConical aluminum cantilever

High-quality moving-coil design

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 / 5

$$$

 

#8

Ortofon 2M Blue Phonograph Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet CartridgeOne size fits all

User-replaceable elliptical diamond stylus

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 / 5

$$$

 

#9

Audio-Technica VM540ML Turntable Cartridge

Audio-Technica VM540ML MicroLine Dual Moving Magnet Stereo Turntable...Brand-exclusive MicroLine stylus

Durable dual-magnet construction

4.8 out of 5 stars

4.8 / 5

$$$

 

Best Phono Cartridge Under $500

#10

Ortofon 2M Bronze Phonograph Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Bronze Moving Magnet CartridgeOne size fits all

Nude fine-line stylus

4.6 out of 5 stars

4.6 / 5

$$$$

 

The Best Record Needles and Phono Cartridges In Review

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Best Budget Needles and Phono Cartridges

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1. Best Record Needle Replacement: Audio Technica ATN95E Replacement Stylus

Audio Technica AUD ATN95E Replacement Stylus

Audio-Technica ATN95E Replacement Stylus

The Audio Technica company is one of the biggest brands when it comes to audio equipment. They are known for their high-quality products like the ATN95E in particular.

What we love about this product, though, is that it is very affordable compared to other similar products of the same quality.

ATN95E Overview:

  • Fits the ATN95E, AT93, and AT95 cartridges
  • Elliptical diamond tip
  • Diamond tip r/R radii 0.0004 x 0.0007 inches
  • Frequency Response: 15-50,000 Hz
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 1.88-2.2 grams
  • Channel Separation: 30 dB at 1 kHz
  • Recommended Load Impedance: Minimum of 100 ohms
  • Output: 0.4 mV at 1 kHz, 5 cm/sec
  • Metal alloy cantilever
  • Made in Japan

Audio Technica AUD ATN95E Replacement Stylus

Highlights

It is important to note that this product only contains a replacement stylus, and it will not come with its own cartridge. Don’t worry, though; its size is quite flexible, though admittedly, not as flexible as other products.

This unit will fit the ATN95E cartridge, which it is designed for, but it will also fit the AT93 and AT95 cartridges, both of which are already phased out.

As for this product’s premium features, they have to be the metal alloy cantilever and the elliptical diamond stylus tip. The cantilever is the tubular arm holding the stylus in place. Both parts are crucial to ensure sound quality and accuracy.

Audio-Technica logo

What We Like

Aside from the premium features we mentioned above, we also like the fact that it offers a high level of channel separation. 30 dB is the highest possible range, and it will allow the most “surround-sound” effect since the right and left channels get better separated.

Lastly, we believe that its output level is just right. After all, too low, such as 0.2 mV, can produce much noise, while going too high such as 0.7 mV can produce much distortion.

What We Don’t Like

It would have been nice if it came in a set, including the cartridge itself. In this way, you will only have to bother buying once, and you can already install it into your turntable. Anyway, to learn more about the product, please refer to the pros and cons below.

Pros and Cons

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Audio-Technica ATN95E Replacement Stylus Review

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      • Made by a well-known brand
      • Durable
      • Excellent tracing quality
      • High sound quality
      • Affordable

      • Doesn’t come with a cartridge
      • Fits only specific models

Audio Technica AUD ATN95E Replacement Stylus

What Are ATN95E Replacement Stylus Buyers Saying? >>

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2. Best Bargain Phono Cartridge: Audio-Technica AT95EX Phonograph Cartridge

Audio-Technica AT95EX 1/2' Mount Elliptical Stylus Turntable Cartridge

Audio-Technica AT95EX Phonograph Cartridge

Another fine Audio-Technica choice, the AT95EX phono cartridge is a little more expensive as a complete unit rather than the needle alone. But, it’s still mid-ranged compared to other phono cartridges.

AT95EX Overview

  • Fits any unit that uses a standard half-inch mount
  • Elliptical diamond tip
  • Diamond tip r/R radii 0.3 x 0.7 mm
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 1.5 to 2.5 grams
  • Frequency Response: 20-22,000 Hz
  • Channel Separation: 20 dB at 1 kHz
  • Aluminum pipe cantilever
  • Replacement stylus: ATN95EX

Audio-Technica AT95EX 1/2' Mount Elliptical Stylus Turntable Cartridge

Highlights

The premium feature of this product is its dual V magnet design that provides an impressive channel separation. This also results in a very minimal distortion for a more pleasurable listening experience.

Like the previous unit we have featured, this product has also been equipped with a bonded round shank stylus. Both features make this phonograph cartridge very durable, ensuring long hours of enjoying high-quality music.

Audio Technica logo

What We Like

We really love that this unit is like a more advanced version of the previous product we’ve featured, especially in terms of construction and design.

Not only is this product more elegant-looking, especially because of its wine red, maroon color, but the manufacturer also used more durable materials. It’s worth the additional price.

What We Don’t Like

The only thing that we don’t like, though, is the limited information on its product page. For instance, both the recommended load impedance and the output of this product were not mentioned.

Pros and Cons

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Audio-Technica AT95EX Phonograph Cartridge Review

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      • Made by a well-known brand
      • Excellent design
      • Durable
      • Excellent tracing quality
      • High sound quality

      • Only for half-inch standard mounts
      • Limited product information listed

Audio-Technica AT95EX 1/2' Mount Elliptical Stylus Turntable Cartridge

What Do Latest  AT95EX Cartridge Think? >>

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3. Best Budget Phono Cartridge Under $100: Ortofon 2M Red Phonograph Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Red Phonograph Cartridge

You are probably wondering at this point if we’re going to feature other units made by other brands. Well, this is it.

We’ve chosen this relatively inexpensive phono cartridge from Ortofon in particular since it won The Absolute Sound Product of the Year and Editors’ Choice Award for entry-level, high-end, phono cartridges.

The Ortofon company was founded way back in 1918 and can definitely match Audio-Technica in experience and quality.

Ortofon logo

Overview

  • Universal fit
  • Elliptical diamond tip
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 1.8 grams
  • Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Channel Separation: 22 dB at 1 kHz
  • Recommended Load Impedance: 1.3 kOhm
  • Output: 5.5 mV at 1 kHz, 5 cm/sec
  • Replacement stylus: 2M Red

Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge

Highlights

The best thing about this product has got to be its universal fit. There’s nothing more frustrating than buying a cartridge and later finding out that it doesn’t match your turntable.

Another premium feature is its split pole pins. It’s a feature unique to Ortofon that allows their moving-magnet cartridges to have a flat frequency response that’s supposed to be only possible in moving-coil cartridges.

What We Like

This unit also boasts its warm yet dynamic sound. This is due to Ortofon’s cartridge design and elliptical diamond-tipped stylus. Speaking of design, Ortofon 2m Red was done in collaboration with Danish designer, Moller Jensen.

What We Don’t Like

The only thing that we don’t like about this product is that the manufacturer offered limited information about it on its product page.

We’re guessing that’s due to the product’s one size fits all design. It would have been nice if the specs were all included, though.

That’s why we believe you’ll enjoy watching this short review video to learn more about this product:

Pros and Cons

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Ortofon 2M Red Phonograph Cartridge Review

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      • Well-known brand
      • Excellent design
      • Universal fit
      • High sound quality
      • Brand-exclusive features

      • Limited product information

Audio-Technica AT95EX 1/2' Mount Elliptical Stylus Turntable Cartridge

Check The Latest Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge Price >>

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Best Turntable Cartridges Under $200

4. Audio-Technica AT95E Phonograph Cartridge

Audio-Technica AT95E Phonograph Cartridge for 1/2' Mount Turntables

Audio-Technica AT95E Phonograph Cartridge

As the complete assembly for one of our favorite inexpensive vinyl needles, the Audio-Technica AT95E phonograph cartridge takes your musical experience one step further since it has both the cartridge and the stylus, unlike the previous product.

Even so, again, this is a very affordable unit compared to other cartridges out there.

AT95E Cartridge Overview

  • Fits any unit that uses a standard half-inch mount
  • Elliptical diamond tip
  • Diamond tip r/R radii 0.4 x 0.7 mm
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 1.5 to 2.5 grams
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz -20 kHz
  • Channel Separation: >20 dB at 1 kHz
  • Recommended Load Impedance: 47,000 ohms
  • Output: 3.5 mV at 1 kHz, 5 cm/sec
  • Alloy tube cantilever
  • Replacement stylus: ATN95E

Audio-Technica AT95E Phonograph Cartridge for 1/2' Mount Turntables

Highlights

The main features of this product are two. First, it has a bonded round shank stylus, which means the stylus is glued on a metal shank that is then glued to the cantilever.

That increases the mass of the tip that then improves the transient response of your unit. This makes sounds coming from percussive instruments better.

Second, like the previous product, which is actually this unit’s recommended replacement stylus, this one has an elliptical diamond tip for better sound accuracy.

What We Like

Aside from the features we mentioned above, we also like that this unit was designed with the user in mind. It comes with its own mounting hardware for ease of installation.

AAA battery power this unit, but since it will come with its own adapter, you won’t have to worry about the sound stopping mid-way once the battery runs out of juice. It will still continue working.

What We Don’t Like

It is important to note that this product won’t fit units with a P-mount tonearm and that it can only play 33 and 45 RPM records.

Here’s a helpful video review on the product, and feel free to scroll down for its pros and cons below:

Pros and Cons

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Audio-Technica AT95E Phonograph Cartridge Review

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      • User-friendly
      • Easy to install
      • Excellent tracing quality
      • High sound quality
      • Affordable

      • Only for half-inch standard mounts
      • Only plays 33 to 45 RPM records

Audio-Technica AT95E Phonograph Cartridge for 1/2' Mount Turntables

What Are AT95E Phonograph Cartridge Users Saying? >>

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5. Sumiko Pearl Phonograph Cartridge

Sumiko - Pearl MM Cartridge

Sumiko Pearl Phonograph Cartridge

The Pearl phono cartridge by Sumiko might be classified as “high-end,” but its price is at entry-level. Given the quality of the product, it makes an excellent upgrade for many entry-level turntables.

Sumiko Pearl Cartridge Overview

  • Fits any unit that uses a standard half-inch mount
  • Bonded elliptical stylus
  • Diamond tip r/R radii 0.2 x 0.8 mm
  • Frequency Response: 12 Hz – 30 kHz
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 1.5 to 2.0 grams
  • Channel Separation: 30 dB
  • Recommended Load Impedance: 47,000 ohms
  • Output: 4.0 mV

Highlights

So what makes this cartridge, high-end? Honestly, you will need to experience it for yourself to understand. Pearl takes pride in its improved channel separation, reduced surface noise, and durable moving-magnet construction.

Sumiko logo

What We Like

Speaking of construction, we also love the elegant black and gold design of this product. As for the sound, this cartridge is known for delivering depth, smooth rhythms, and bass.

What We Don’t Like

The product page of this unit contained very little information about it. In fact, we had to carefully discover the specs of this product just to give you some info.

Pros and Cons

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Sumiko Pearl Phonograph Cartridge Review

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      • Affordable (compared to other high-end cartridges)
      • Durable
      • Excellent design
      • Improved features
      • High sound quality

      • Only for half-inch standard mounts
      • Limited product information listed

Sumiko - Pearl MM Cartridge

Are Sumiko Pearl Phonograph Cartridge Owners Happy? >>

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6. Best Phono Cartridge For The Money: Nagaoka MP-110 Phonograph Cartridge

NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110

Nagaoka MP-110 Phonograph Cartridge

Granted the Nagaoka company name might not be as big or as renowned as the other companies we’ve featured here so far, and the price may be a bit higher, but it certainly deserves attention.

We can even categorize it as a high-end cartridge already, albeit being at the lower end of the spectrum. However, since the brand is starting to gain some traction in terms of sound quality, we have decided to add it here.

Nagaoka MP-110 Cartridge Overview

  • Fits any unit that uses a standard half-inch mount
  • Elliptical diamond tip
  • Diamond tip r/R radii 0.4 x 0.7 mm
  • Channel Separation: >23 dB at 1 kHz
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz -20 kHz
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 1.5 to 2.0 grams
  • Recommended Load Impedance: 47,000 ohms
  • Output: 5 mV at 1 kHz, 5 cm/sec
  • Aluminum alloy cantilever
  • Replacement stylus: Nagaoka JN-P 110

Nagaoka logo

Highlights

The two features that stand out in this product is its “superfine polished elliptical bonded diamond stylus”. It is a couple of levels higher than the usual elliptical diamond-tipped stylus and can definitely produce a much better sound.

Another feature that we really appreciate is the inclusion of all the necessary mounting tools and accessories. This includes the rods, nuts, and even a tiny screwdriver!

What We Like

The problem with other higher-resolution phonograph cartridges is that they can sometimes highlight the nuances of the music that you’re listening to too well.

This can either make or break the listening experience. You won’t have to worry about that with the MP-110. It highlights the good, but tones down the bad at the same time.

What We Don’t Like

The sound quality is excellent, but the price can be a bit hefty for some. So, is the price going to be worth it? Here’s a video of a short review to tell you more about the product:

Pros and Cons

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Nagaoka MP-110 Phonograph Cartridge Review

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      • Brand-exclusive stylus
      • High sound quality
      • User-friendly
      • Easy to install

      • Expensive
      • Only for half-inch standard mounts

NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110

Check The Latest Nagaoka MP-110 Cartridge Price >>

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Best Phono Cartridges Under $300

7. Denon DL-103 Phonograph Cartridge

Denon DL-103 Moving Coil Cartridge

Denon DL-103 Phonograph Cartridge

No list of our favorite phono cartridges will ever be complete without the iconic DL-103 by Denon. This model first came out in 1963 when the Denon company collaborated with Japan Broadcasting Corporation Technical Research Laboratories.

Overview

  • Fits any unit that uses a standard half-inch mount
  • Tracking tip: 16.5 microns special round solid diamond
  • Channel Separation: 25 dB at 1 kHz
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 45,000 Hz
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 2.3 to 2.7 grams
  • Recommended Load Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Output: 3 mV at 1 kHz, 50 mm/sec
  • Conical aluminum cantilever

Denon DL-103 Moving Coil Cartridge

Denon DL-103 Cartridge Highlights

The absolute highlight of this phonograph cartridge is its classic design that has endured all these years. It was the first moving-coil cartridge ever created and still manages to be the industry standard.

Denon logo

What We Like

So what sets it apart? It must be Denon’s exclusive conical aluminum cantilever and armature that’s wittingly shaped like a cross.

Another great feature is its nude, square shank. Being “nude” means that the stylus was shaped from an uncut diamond. This allows it to track your records more accurately.

Meanwhile, the square shank also allows the tip to be completely aligned with your record’s grooves as precisely as possible.

What We Don’t Like

We love this product, but if you think the previous unit was expensive, the price tag of this one may surprise you even more. That’s not a totally bad thing, though. This piece is worth every cent.

Pros and Cons

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Denon DL-103 Phonograph Cartridge Review

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      • Tried-and-tested model
      • Excellent sound quality
      • Very durable stylus
      • Brand-exclusive features
      • Excellent overall unit design

      • Expensive
      • Only for half-inch standard mounts

Denon DL-103 Moving Coil Cartridge

Read The Latest Denon DL-103 Cartridge Reviews >>

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8. Ortofon 2M Blue Phonograph Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Blue Phonograph Cartridge

It’s hard to top the previous unit, so we’ll try our best with our last three remaining picks. If you were able to check out the 2M Red, then you should definitely check out the 2M Blue Cartridge by Ortofon as well – the more high-end version.

Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge Overview

  • Universal fit
  • Nude elliptical stylus
  • Stylus tip radius: r/R 8/18 µm
  • Channel Separation: 25 dB at 1 kHz
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz -20,000 Hz
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 1.8 grams
  • Output: 5.5 mV at 1 kHz, 5 cm/sec
  • Replacement stylus: 2m Blue, 2m Red, and 2m silver replacement styli

Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge

Highlights

Just like the 2m red, the main feature of this unit is its universal fit. But what sets it apart from it is its nude elliptical stylus. As we’ve already explained above, it is way better than just the usual bonded elliptical stylus.

Ortofon logo

What We Like

It also has all the features we loved about 2m Red like the split pole pins and the collaborative design by Danish designer, Moller Jensen Design. You might recognize the same crystal-like look.

What We Don’t Like

Fortunately, while the information on the product page is still terribly lacking than what we’d want, which is a complete list of specs, it has still improved a bit, providing more information than 2m Red. The price point, though, has significantly risen.

Pros and Cons

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Ortofon 2M Blue Phonograph Cartridge Review

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      • Well-known brand
      • Universal fit
      • Excellent design
      • Excellent sound quality
      • Brand-exclusive features

      • Relatively expensive

Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge

Check The Latest Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge Price >>

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9. Best Phono Cartridge Under $300: Audio-Technica VM540ML Turntable Cartridge

Audio-Technica VM540ML MicroLine Dual Moving Magnet Stereo Turntable...

Audio-Technica VM540ML Turntable Cartridge

Our last Audio-Technica entry, is also the most high-end one on the list. Hence, you can also expect a price that requires a little investment.

On the upside, the VM540ML Turntable Cartridge offers brand-exclusive features that make it one of our favorite picks.

Audio-Technica VM540ML Cartridge Overview

  • Fits any unit that uses a standard half-inch mount
  • MicroLine nude diamond-tipped stylus
  • Diamond tip r/R radii 2.2 x 0.12 mil
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 1.8 to 2.2 grams
  • Frequency Response: 20 – 27,000 Hz
  • Channel Separation: 28 dB at 1 kHz
  • Recommended Load Impedance: 47,000 ohms
  • Output: 4.0 mV at 1 kHz, 5 cm/sec
  • Aluminum tapered pipe cantilever
  • Replacement stylus: VMN40ML

Audio-Technica VM540ML MicroLine Dual Moving Magnet Stereo Turntable...

Highlights

Honestly, there is not enough space in this section to talk about all the brand-exclusive features that this piece has, so let’s start with the most important, which is the MicroLine stylus

What makes this tip so unique is that it was designed after the cutting tip used for creating records. This allows this stylus to reach into even the most delicate grooves that other styli simply can’t.

What We Like

Another essential feature is its dual magnet design that, again, replicates the shape of the cutter head used on records. This works in tandem with the MicroLine tip that produces the best sound possible.

In order to stabilize the magnetic mechanism of this cartridge, it is also equipped with paratoroidal coils ensuring that this head works efficiently for a very long time.

What We Don’t Like

We can’t really say anything bad about this unit except the fact that it’s quite expensive and it’s a shame that it can only fit standard half-inch mounts.

Other than that, we’re even happy to pay the price for all the features that we can enjoy. Here’s an unboxing video for more information:

Audio-Technica logo

Pros and Cons

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Audio-Technica VM540ML Turntable Cartridge Review

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      • Well-known brand
      • Brand-exclusive features
      • Unique MicroLine stylus
      • Excellent design
      • Excellent sound quality

      • Expensive
      • Only for half-inch standard mounts

Audio-Technica VM540ML MicroLine Dual Moving Magnet Stereo Turntable...

What Do Audio-Technica VM540ML Cartridge Users Think? >>

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Best Phono Cartridge Under $500

10. Ortofon 2M Bronze Phonograph Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Bronze Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Bronze Phonograph Cartridge

Finally, the Ortofon 2M Bronze Phono Cartridge may be the last unit in this article, but it’s definitely not the least.

As one of the best turntable cartridges for audiophiles, it’s eclipsed only by the 2M Black. Thus, you can expect a price tag that’s in step the the Ortofon offerings.

Ortofon 2M Bronze Phono Cartridge Overview

  • Universal fit
  • Nude Fine Line diamond-tipped
  • Stylus tip radius – r/R 8/40 µm
  • Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Channel Separation: 26 dB at 1 kHz
  • Vertical Tracking Force: 1.5 grams
  • Recommended Load Impedance: 47,000 ohms
  • Output: 5.0 mV at 1 kHz, 5 cm/sec
  • Replacement stylus: 2m Bronze or 2m Black

Ortofon 2M Bronze Moving Magnet Cartridge

Highlights

The best feature of this cartridge is its fine line diamond-tipped stylus. We feel that it is Ortofon’s response to Audio-Technica’s MicroLine. It’s a stylus tip that’s carved to be slimmer, which allows it to reach into the grooves of records better.

What We Like

The best part is, Ortofon left all of the features that we love about it alone. It still fits most turntables. It is still brilliantly designed with Moller Jensen. Most of all, the split pole pins are still there.

What We Don’t Like

The price increase is indeed, drastic. It’s even more expensive than the previous cartridge we’ve listed. It’s not surprising given that this fits into more units, but still.

Pros and Cons

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Ortofon 2M Bronze Phonograph Cartridge Review

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      • Universal fit
      • Well-known brand
      • Excellent design
      • Excellent style quality
      • Brand-exclusive features

      • Price may be beyond reach for some

Ortofon 2M Bronze Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2M Bronze Phonograph Cartridge

Choosing The Best Phono Cartridge For The Money: A Buyer’s Guide

Now that we’ve completed our line-up, we can move on to talk about the different features that you should definitely consider.

With help from our expert buying guide, choosing a good record needle or a phonograph cartridge that fits your needs should be much easier.

Choosing A Phono Cartridge

1. Cartridge Shape

Different cartridge models and brands are created in different shapes. Make sure to choose one that best allows the connection between the tip of your stylus and the record’s grooves. A smaller contact radius is key.

2. Mount Type

As you might have learned during our line-up already, there are two common types of mounts: the standard mount, sometimes called the 1/2″ mount, and the P-mount, also referred to as a T4P cartridge. This determines what type of cartridge your tonearm is compatible with.

Buying a cartridge that doesn’t fit your turntable’s mount will render it useless, so be sure to double-check before buying.

3. Generator Type

There are two types of generators: moving magnet and moving coil. Moving magnet cartridges are more common, but moving coils produce the better sound. They also tend to cost more too.

4. Price

Speaking of price, there are a lot of different phono cartridges to choose from belonging to various price ranges. You’ve probably noticed that in our line-up above.

We recommend getting a piece that’s equipped with a replaceable stylus, though, to get the best value for your money.

Record Needle and Phono Cartridge FAQs

Aside from the features, allow us to answer the most frequently asked questions about record needles and phono cartridges. This will give you more insight into these audio devices.

Record Needle and Phono Cartridge FAQs

1. Do Phono Cartridges Wear Out?

Yes, they do. They are definitely more durable compared to the stylus that needs to be replaced regularly.

Some cartridges can last for up to fifty years, but if you don’t take care about yours, then we’re sure that you will need to replace it eventually.

2. How Long Does a Phono Cartridge Last?

As we have mentioned above, it can last for up to five decades if you’re really careful.

3. Can a Worn Stylus Damage Records?

Yes, they can. Vinyl is sensitive material, and it can get easily scratched by bent or broken styli. If you suspect that your stylus is damaged, then don’t use it until you get a replacement, just to be safe.

4. How Long Should a Diamond Stylus Last?

The basic rule of thumb is a thousand hours. That’s once every couple of years, but this depends on the quality of your stylus and the frequency of use.

If you use your turntable for more than an hour each day, then you would definitely need to replace your stylus sooner than that.


For more answers, check out our complete Turntable and Record Player FAQ Guide.

Wrapping Up: Which Turntable Needle Or Phono Cartridge Should You Buy?

After looking at all the best phono cartridges and record needles on the market, we believe that the smartest option is to go for any of the three Ortofon phono cartridges we’ve reviewed. The specific model you should get will depend on your budget of course.

As excellent alternatives, the same could very much be said for Audio-Technica phono cartridges depending on your specific needs.

For most enthusiasts, the best phono cartridge for the money would have to go to the Nagaoka MP-110 as an exceptional buy in the sweet spot between $100 and $200. Reviews consistently point out its excellent features regarding tracking, sound reproduction, and overall value.

If you have the extra resources to spare, then we suggest getting the Ortofon 2M Bronze. That’s because these cartridges have a universal fit. Not to mention that their sound quality is excellent as well.

Enjoy listening to your favorite tracks!

Editor’s Top 3 Phono Cartridge Picks!

Best Budget Phono Cartridge Under $100

Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge

Ortofon 2m Red Phonograph Cartridge

Best Phono Cartridge For The Money

NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110

Nagaoka MP-110 Phonograph Cartridge

Best Phono Cartridge Under $300

Audio-Technica VM540ML MicroLine Dual Moving Magnet Stereo Turntable...

Audio-Technica VM540ML Turntable Cartridge

Top Ten Record Needles and Phono Cartridges
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