Cartridges & Head Shells

Choosing a cartridge

Your phono cartridge is a major component that can make your system sound awesome, or sound flat. Choosing a good phono cartridge is a major key to making your vinyl records sound great. What phono cartridge you choose is entirely up to you, but before you can choose one, you need to have some basic knowledge.

Moving Magnet In a stereo moving-magnet cartridge (MMC), a miniscule permanent magnet rests on the end of the stylus cantilever suspended between two coils—one for the left and one for the right audio channels. As the name suggests, the magnet moves (vibrates) between the two coils and, in so doing, induces a small current in them. Since the magnet is extremely small it weighs very little, requiring a lower downward (tracking) force to accurately travel the record grooves.

Moving Coil A moving-coil cartridge (MCC) uses an inverted moving magnet design. The coils attach to the stylus cantilever, and the permanent magnet resides near the coils. Since space is beyond extremely limited, the coils are tiny, using extremely fine wire. This limitation on coil size results in an extremely low output, i.e., in the microvolt range. A moving-coil cartridge basically reverses the moving-magnet design by attaching the coils to the stylus cantilever while the permanent magnet is positioned in close proximity to the coils.

With an output of around 100 µV to 300 µV, MCCs are very susceptible to noise and hum. In addition to a phono stage preamp, these cartridges require an additional amplifier stage or step-up transformer prior to the RIAA frequency-compensating preamp.

Both types of phono cartridges will provide good performance, but if you want the best, select a moving coil cartridge.

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