Choosing a phono cartridge

Choosing a phono cartridge

The cartridge is very important and one of the key elements of every turntable. It is she who, with the help of a needle placed in it, reads the wavy grooves on the vinyl record and converts them into an audio signal. And it is the type of cartridge and the needle used in it that will determine the quality of the sound we get. Of course, in addition to the cartridge, the final quality of the obtained sound is influenced by several important elements of our entire musical set, including loudspeakers or a preamplifier, but it is the cartridge that is on the first line of direct contact with the board, and it is it that mainly influences the signal that is passed on.

Two types of insoles

As standard, we have two types of inserts to choose from: electromagnetic and magnetoelectric. The former include MM cartridges and the latter MC cartridges. They differ in their structure and the way of converting the forces acting on the needle into electrical impulses. The MM cartridge has a stationary coil and is one of the most common in modern turntables, mainly due to the affordable price and, if necessary, trouble-free needle replacement. MC cartridges are constructed differently compared to MM cartridges. They have a moving coil and are much lighter, thanks to which they provide better damping of any vibrations. The downside is that MC cartridges are much more expensive than MM cartridges and require cooperation with an amplifier adapted to handle the MC signal. We should rather forget about replacing the needle on our own.

There are still MI inserts on the market with a moving anchor, in terms of electrical parameters it is very similar to the MM inserts and the latest technological invention of the VMS (variable magnetic shunt) insert. The VMS insert is characterized by low weight and very good linearity. The VMS can work with a wide range of tonearms and a standard phono input

From the above mentioned cartridges and from a more practical and budgetary point of view, the MM cartridge seems to be the most balanced option.

What should you remember when choosing an inlay?

The type of insert must be properly adapted to the system in which the disc is saved. Of course, the vast majority of the discs were and are still in the stereo system, but we can meet historical copies in mono. Remember also that the cartridge and the needle are elements that require regular replacement from time to time. The needle is the element that works intensively all the time. The quality of the reproduced signal depends on the quality of these elements. A worn out needle will not only read the recorded signal much worse, but also may lead to the destruction of the disc. The needles also differ in structure and shape. And so we can list a few basic types, incl. needles with spherical cut, elliptical cut, shibata cut and MicroLine cut. The most popular are spherical needles, which are easy and cheap to manufacture and are most often used in budget inserts.

Choosing a phono cartridge

Take care of equipment and plates

If we want to enjoy high-quality music for a long time, we must properly take care of our turntable with an cartridge and a needle, which should be regularly cleaned from time to time. You can buy complete cosmetic kits for the proper maintenance of the turntable. The boards should also have their appropriate place, preferably on a dedicated stand or in a special binder. Unlike CDs, vinyls should be stored upright. The basic procedure that should be performed practically before each playing a gramophone record is wiping its surface with a special carbon fiber brush. This treatment is not only to get rid of unnecessary dust, but also to remove electric charges.


A turntable and vinyl records can become a real life passion. It is a completely different music world from the digital one. Vinyl discs, unlike the most popular CDs, have something extraordinary about them. Even such self-configuration of the set can bring us a lot of joy and satisfaction. Which turntable to choose, with which drive and with which cartridge, etc. etc .. All this is extremely important for the quality of the played CDs. When completing our music equipment, of course, before making a purchase, you should carefully read the specification of the device, so that the whole is optimally configured.

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