What is a Phono Cartridge?
As beginners in the vinyl world, many of us initially had difficulties understanding technical terms such as phono cartridge and what it does. In this section, we will try tobreak down these technical terms and understand it in more lay man terms.
The phono cartridge is a mechanical device that converts vibrations from a stylus, playing on a record groove, into an electrical signal that is subsequently passed through amplification and then converted into sound by a loudspeaker system.
A cartridge consists of five key components: the stylus, cantilever, magnets, coils and body. The stylus is in contact with the surface of the record and tracks the modulations in the groove. It is typically made of a small polished diamond or an industrial gemstone. There are two main stylus shapes: elliptical and spherical. Elliptical needles pick up more information from the record groove while spherical needles sit higher in the groove and result in less record wear.
The stylus is mounted on the cantilever that transmits the vibrations to the coil or magnet assembly which generates the audio signal. The cantilever is usually made of boron or aluminium. The cartridge’s body is coupled to the tonearm and its function is to give the moving parts a stationary platform so that they can track the record with precision.
Moving Magnet Vs. Moving Coil Cartridges
Modern pick-ups have been replaced by magnetic cartridges, using either a Moving Magnet (MM) or a Moving Coil (MC) technology.
Moving Magnet (MM) Cartridges
Generally, the best value and lower cost cartridges have a moving magnet design. In a moving magnet cartridge, the cantilever carries a small permanent magnet, which is positioned between two sets of fixed copper coils, forming a tiny electromagnetic generator. As the magnet vibrates in response to the stylus following the record groove, it induces a tiny current in the coils.
Moving magnet cartridges tend to produce lush, mellow sound. Moving magnet cartridges are versatile as they are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and levels of quality. Cartridges are compatible with any phono input on a stereo component, which is convenient.
Most moving magnet cartridges have the added convenience of a replaceable stylus. Their high voltage output, variety, and the availability of stylus replacement make moving magnet cartridges an excellent choice for beginners and audiophiles alike.
Moving Coil (MC) Cartridges
Moving Coil (MC) cartridges work in a comparable way to MM cartridges. The primary difference being, as your stylus tracks it vibrates tiny wire coils around a magnet. Many audiophiles prefer moving coil setups. MC cartridges tend to display better tonality, transparency, imaging, and tend to create less distortion than their MM counterparts.
The moving coil is also a tiny electromagnetic generator, but the coils are attached to the cantilever, and move within the field of a permanent magnet. Since the coils are very small and made from a very fine wire, the output voltage level is correspondingly low which means they often require a high-gain phono stage to bring out the best performance.
Moving coil cartridges are generally more expensive, but most audiophiles prefer these cartridges for their subjectively superior performance. The internal parts of a moving magnet cartridge are heavier than those in a moving coil. Consequently, moving coil cartridges are the preferred choice as they are more sensitive to the higher frequencies in the record’s surface.
Moving coil cartridges are generally better suited for more experienced vinyl enthusiasts. A moving coil setup needs experienced users who are familiar with an audio component setup. Many moving magnet cartridges will also not work in pre-amps designed for moving magnet cartridges.
Replacing Your Phono Cartridge
The act of pulling the stylus though the groove generates contact between diamond stylus and plastic vinyl record. Over time, this contact will wear the stylus out. Beyond certain points of wear, the sound of the cartridge will start to degrade and there is a risk of damaging your records.
There are tell-tale signs that your cartridge needs to be replaced. Typically, a worn-down cartridge produces a duller or noisier sound as well as generate a degree of channel imbalance. There are also physical signs that your turntable needs a replacement stylus too. The stylus may have a habit of skipping or bouncing on records and no longer seems to fit properly in the grooves.
You can also check to see if the needle head looks bent or coated with a hardened residue. Using an old, worn stylus is a sure way to permanently damage your vinyl record collection. It’s strongly recommended to replace the stylus before playing any more vinyl records.
The lifespan of a stylus is dependent on the manufacturer and the materials used. Manufacturers also usually publish the lifespan of their cartridges. Lower quality cartridges are designed to last from 150 to 200 hours. In sharp comparison, higher quality cartridges have an impressively high lifespan such as 1,000 hours.
If you are using a moving magnet type cartridge, you can generally buy replacement styli for them and simply replace the front end of the cart and keep listening. In many cases, you can even choose the stylus from a more expensive model and give your turntable a performance boost. However, some moving magnet cartridges does not have a user-replaceable stylus and you would need to replace the whole cartridge.
If you are using a moving coil cartridge, a worn stylus is more ultimate. As the cantilever is a much more fixed part of the assembly, you will need to either submit the whole cartridge for re-tipping or find and break-in an entirely new cartridge.
Overall, you can adopt preventive measures to reduce the wear on your stylus. After a while, small pieces of dust will build up on your stylus which results in reduced audio quality. You can keep your stylus clean by using a stylus brush and optionally a cleaning solution. If you keep your records clean, avoid playing overly damaged records, and be careful when adjusting, you would not need to replace the stylus for many years of casual listening.
Buying Guide for Phono Cartridges
Choosing the right cartridge can almost be as complicated as choosing the right turntable, as there’s many different options to choose from. These are some of the basics that you should consider before purchasing your cartridge.
Elliptical vs. Spherical Stylus
The stylus accounts for about 90% of the cost of a cartridge. The shape of the stylus also has a direct effect on cost, alignment precision, and wear. For example, spherical tips are found to be the most affordable, most user-friendly, and longest-lasting over time. However, spherical tips do not exhibit the same level of performance as the elliptical, line, or Shibata stylus tip shapes.
There are two needle shapes: elliptical and spherical. Almost all styli have industrial diamond tips. Elliptical needles pick up more information from the record groove and are typically the choice of audiophiles. On the other hand, DJs choose spherical needles because they sit higher in the groove and result in less record wear.
Half-inch (Standard) mount vs. P-mount
The mounting type of a cartridge is dependent on your tonearm. It is generally recommended to go with standard mount so that you have a wider range of options and more control over the cartridge installation. If you have a standard mount cartridge, you will need to fasten it under the headshell using two tiny screws. Then using a small set of pliers, attach each of the four headshell wires to the corresponding posts on the back of the cartridge. New cartridges should have colour coded binding posts, along with instructions and diagrams.
P-mount cartridges are typically found on lower end turntables, and don’t offer any kind of alignment adjustments. There are adapters to let you use a P-mount cartridge on a standard mount headshell, but typically this requires more work. If your tonearm accepts P-mount cartridges, you only need to plug the cartridge in and fasten it with a single screw.
Buying within your Budget
When you buy a new cartridge, it usually arrives with a stylus attached. Since cartridges are quite small, I recommend buying online as shipping will not cost too much. You can either purchase from Amazon which has quite a large selection, or purchase your cartridge from specialty shops since they often have sales.
It certainly helps to scour their websites for the best reviews in the price range you want. You can pay as little as $25 or as much as much as $15,000. A very respectable entry level cartridge that is recommended quite often is the Shure M97xE for about $75. Alternatively, Audio-Technica also makes very good budget priced cartridges for $115.
If you are unsure about how much to spend, you can examine a cost-comparison to the rest of your equipment. For example, you might not want to pay more than a hundred dollars upgrading your turntable especially if it is an inexpensive or basic model.
If you have a higher-end turntable unit, however, you’ll probably want to spend more on a quality cartridge or stylus to match. If you already have top-notch gear, then spending more on a replacement cartridge or stylus for your turntable makes way more sense.
Our Top 12 Phono Cartridges Below $100
1. Shure M97xE
2. Audio Technica AT92ECD
3. Audio Technica AT95E
4. Ortofon 2M Red
5. Shure M92E
6. Shure M44-7
7. Grado Prestige Black 1
8. Shure WHLB Whitelabel
9. Audio Technica AT100E
10. Audio Technica AT3482P
11. Ortofon Omega
12. Shure M78S Monophonic
Top 12 Phono Cartridges
1. Shure M97xE: High Performance, Dynamic Stabilizer, Amazing Tracking Ability
- Excellent Sound Quality
- Dynamic Stabilizer
- Amazing Tracking Ability
- Side-guard Stylus Protection System
- Some users prefer a “warmer” sound
The Shure M97xE is a high-performance phono cartridge with a polished elliptical diamond tip. The phono cartridge is designed to provide long hours of undistorted listening. Part of the M97xE’s appeal is its ability to accurately reproduce difficult musical passages, particularly in the high-frequency range, where audio modulations are the smallest and most concentrated. The cartridge also produces a neutral sound that will appeal to many listeners.
The cartridge’s unique low-mass thin-wall aluminium alloy stylus cantilever is also coupled with an elliptical diamond tip. Thus, it has the great ability to track almost any record at a very low tracking weight. This can prolong the life of your records.
The Shure’s exclusive viscous-damped Dynamic Stabilizer maintains a uniform distance between the cartridge and the record especially under difficult playing conditions such as warped records or mismatched tonearm mass. The Dynamic Stabilizer also reduces static and collects dust, resulting in less build-up on the stylus. When such stabilization is not required, the stabilizer brush can be disengaged and produce even better sound quality.
The Shure M97xE’s side-guard stylus protection system is another hard-to-come-by feature. The innovative protection system helps to limit stylus damage if the cartridge accidentally slides across a record. The cartridge is also accompanied with additional features such as a headshell screwdriver, stylus cleaning brush, mounting hardware and a stylus guard. All in all, it’s a great, smooth-sounding starter cartridge. It produces a well-balanced sound and offers multiple vital features at an amazingly affordable price.
2. Audio Technica AT92ECD: Dynamic Sound, Very Affordable, Superb Tracking
- Full and Balanced Sound
- Reliable Performance
- Very Affordable
- Superb Tracking
- More suited for Home Listeners
The Audio Technica AT92ECD Universal Cartridge is an excellent all-round performer. When compared to a Shure 92E, this Audio Technica 92ECD is a superb performer that stands above the Shure in terms of high frequency response. Some users attribute this to the narrower elliptical stylus.
Although the Audio Technica AT92ECD cartridge is not as “neutral” sounding as the Shure, the much “brighter” sound is still very balanced. This cartridge is a good basic upgrade cartridge. The half-inch regular mount and double-magnet AT-92ECD cartridge also sounds dynamic, clear and richly balanced. Although it is not an “audiophile” contender, it certainly reproduces music nicely, which is well beyond the capabilities of the most basic cartridges. While the very low price for the AT92ECD is attractive, the quality still attracts customers back to this cartridge.
This cartridge also has adequate tracking ability, natural tonal balance and is fuller sounding. However, the cartridge’s sound is not as open at the top, nor is it as full or articulated in the bass guitar. However, this piece of equipment is still exceptional and a best budget merchandise. It is not a high-end cartridge, but this will not bother many early stage collectors.
While there are better and more expensive cartridges out there, the AT92ECD Universal Cartridge is perfect for any listener who wants to enjoy their old records. With this cartridge, music lovers can achieve a prominent level of listening and discernment enjoyment with no fiscal burden. Users on an extremely tight budget need look no farther in relation to the Audio Technica AT92ECD.
3. Audio Technica AT95E: Stunning Sound Clarity, Minimum Wear, High Accuracy
- Precise and Powerful Bass Tones
- High Accuracy in Audio Reproduction
- Meticulously hand-assembled
- Fantastic Value-for-Money
- Cannot be used on a P-Mount Tonearm
The Audio Technica AT95E has for a long time been a favourite among serious vinyl fans. The Audio-Technica AT95E dual magnet phono cartridge is also a popular budget choice for those who are buying a turntable that arrives without a cartridge or those who want to upgrade from a basic cartridge. It has been used by manufacturing companies like Thorens on their high-end turntables as the AT95E cartridge is manufactured to Audio-Technica’s renowned quality standards and is meticulously hand assembled.
The Audio Technica AT95E’s double magnet layout and elliptical diamond stylus produce excellent sound quality. The half-inch standard mount AT95E phonograph cartridge offers outstanding clarity and detail as the cartridge uses an elliptical shaped diamond stylus which can track parts of the groove that a typical spherical stylus cannot reach. The elliptical diamond stylus is designed to track record grooves with high accuracy for outstanding audio reproduction.
High frequencies come through with stunning clarity, and the bass tones are precise and powerful. Also, this elliptical shaped diamond stylus wears remarkably evenly which extends the lives of both the record and the stylus itself. Music lovers claim that the AT95E can last for at least 1,000 hours.
This cartridge also comes with mounting hardware and a stylus guard. This cartridge is also offered in half-inch normal mount and may be utilized on a wide selection of turntables. Over the years, reviewers from many audiophile forums have rated this affordable, high-performance cartridge as a best buy.
4. Ortofon 2M Red: Excellent Sonic Reproduction, Easy Mounting, Clear and Warm Sound
- Excellent Sonic Reproduction
- Clear and Warm Sound
- Solid Headshell Construction
- Direct and Easy Mounting
- More expensive than other budget cartridges
Ortofon is a long-established, Danish cartridge manufacturer with more than 60 years in the field. The Ortofon 2M Red cartridge is a solid performer and comes at an affordable price. It is favoured by many audiophiles and costs $100 if bought separately. Within the first few uses; the cartridge can produce a clear and warm sound.
The 2M cartridge is a moving magnet cartridge. The 2M also features Ortofon’s trademark split pole pin technology which enables moving magnet cartridges to have a flat frequency response, like the more expensive moving coil models. The 2M Red is an entry-level cartridge, but it manages to work brilliantly with a wide variety of musical styles.
It comes with a tipped elliptical diamond stylus, which provides optimized sound reproduction and excellent sonic accuracy. Ortofon optimized the design of the cartridge for ease of mounting as the cartridge’s weight and size to fit the most common turntables on the market today. The new 2M headshell is a practical choice for those who want direct and easy mounting and replacement on their tonearm.
The headshell body is also manufactured from a special compound used for medical industry, which ensures high rigidity while reducing unwanted vibrations. Overall, the combination of the 2M Headshell and 2M series cartridge makes this model as easy as plug-and-play. Any music lover on a budget would enjoy this superb-sounding piece.
5. Shure M92E: Low Tracking Force, Accurate Sound Reproduction and Versatile
- Low Tracking Force
- Versatile and Compatible with most turntables
- Neutral Sound
- Flat frequency response of 20 Hz to 18 kHz
- Upper frequencies-cymbals lacked some depth and clarity
A less expensive option from Shure is the M92E which is a light-tracking moving magnet cartridge that fits both P-mount and standard mount tonearm types with the help of the included standard mount adapter. It features a natural bi-radial diamond tip coupled with a tubular aluminium alloy stylus cantilever which accurately traces the grooves of your records for smooth sound throughout the frequency range.
The versatile M92E fits both major types of tone-arm mounts in use today, making it compatible with over 85% of turntables. In addition, the model’s low 1.25-gram tracking force helps prolong the life of your vinyl which is an important consideration for collectors and serious music fans. The cartridge produces a very “neutral” and uncoloured sound which is a real bonus for music lovers.
However, some users pointed out that the cartridge’s upper frequencies-cymbals lacked a certain level of depth and clarity. However, this should not deter you as this cartridge will track almost anything when mounted on a good straight arm P-mount.
Overall, the model has excellent value especially given that it’s a “universal” mounting system. Audio-wise, the M92E boasts an essentially flat frequency response of 20 Hz to 18 kHz and a stereo balance within 2 dB. Your favourite tunes will sound very rich and nuanced through the average speaker set.
6. Shure M44-7: Easy to Set-up, Loud Output, Perfect for Scratching
- Light Tracking Force
- Pronounced and Clear Sound
- Great for DJs
- Easy to set-up
- May be too expensive for Home Listening
The Shure M44-7 are a hugely popular model of cartridges intended for use by DJs and battle DJs. The Shure M44-7 is one of the most reliable and skip-resistant scratch cartridges in the market. The Shure M44-7 is a great cartridge for people learning the art of turntablism as it sticks to the groove well. It also takes little skill to set up and is very close to being completely “plug and play”.
When properly set-up and broken in for 2 weeks, it will better follow the grooves of any record. The M44-7 can easily track any warped record and remain in the groove during any cutting and scratching. The M44-7 also boasts a very low tracking force, at 1.5 to 3 grams, which translates into minimum record wear. This is especially important for the longevity of your music records.
The sound generated from the M44-7 features a great bass and a loud 9.5mV output. However, some users remarked that the sound of the Shure M44-7 can leave a little to be desired. The highs tend to be rather shrill while the bass is extremely pronounced. Also, if you are just interested in home listening, you may prefer buying other cheaper options for a pleasant experience home-listening experience. However, hip-hop DJs tend do not mind these features from the Shure M44-7. Overall, this is an ideal and highly recommended cartridge for DJing purposes.
7. Grado Prestige Black 2: High Sensitivity, Clear and Detailed Sound, Excellent Value-for-Money
- High Sensitivity
- Good Tracking Ability
- Clear and Detailed Midrange
- Excellent Value-for-Money
- More challenging to install
The Prestige range of cartridges comprises six models which have the same basic design but progress higher in performance, and price, in three linked pairs. The Black model is the least expensive version. This cartridge comes with a fixed magnet and coil assembly and relies on the changes in magnetic field distribution caused by motion of a lightweight soft-iron element at the end of the cantilever remote from the stylus.
The Grado Prestige Black 1 is known in the market as an affordable replacement cartridge for use in modestly priced systems. It has a relatively high sensitivity rating of 5mV which makes it an excellent choice for less ambitious amplifiers. This cartridge comes with a recommended tracking force range of 1-2 grams makes it suitable for even quite basic pick-up arms. The cartridge is also supplied with the standard two-hole mounting arrangement to suit any headshell.
The stylus is user-replaceable and a special tool is supplied to facilitate removal, along with a plastic cover to protect the stylus when not in use. In terms of sound quality, heavy musical climaxes were handled well and quiet passages remained clear and interference-free. Furthermore, the Grado Black 1 cartridge has a clear and detailed midrange while its high frequencies are unwavering.
However, you should note that the cartridges are not fitted with a threaded body. Thus, you cannot simply screw bolts into the cartridge itself, but need to fasten it with nuts which is a little more difficult than threaded models. Nevertheless, the Grado Black 1 exhibits quality that is usually only found in cartridges costing about 10 times the price. At a mere 9 pounds, this Grado cartridge has an excellent tracker and is easy on the ear.
8. Shure WHLB Whitelabel: Excellent Skip-Resistance, Perfect for DJs, Detailed Sound
- Excellent Skip-Resistance
- Accentuated Highs and Solid Bass
- Minimum Wear
- Perfect for DJs
- Some poor connection issues
The Shure Whitelabel cartridge is a robust and versatile piece of equipment that is specifically tailored for the club environment. The Whitelabel cartridge is engineered for today’s club DJs, as it delivers outstanding performance when mixing between analog records and timecode vinyl with DVS setups. Club environments demand high quality sound at high output levels. That’s why the Whitelabel cartridge boasts a 6mV output with solid bass, flat midrange and accented highs.
DJs will also appreciate the Whitelabel’s ability to withstand heavy usage, its excellent tracking, good skip resistance and detailed sound reproduction. The Whitelabel’s spherical stylus sticks to the grooves and uses a low tracking force which prevents your cartridge from significant wearing down your favourite vinyl records. Whitelabel features sonic characteristics including solid drop bass, flat midrange, and accented highs.
It also includes an adjustable stylus overhang, reliable electrical contact, and improved stylus visibility. This cartridge allows you to adjust the stylus overhang which is useful when setting up your cartridge on different turntable. The Whitelabel also makes several new improvements over other Concorde-style cartridges. The reliable electrical connection should eliminate the eventual poor connection that may occurs with other Concorde-style cartridges.
However, in terms of straight scratching, the M44-7 is still the best in terms of skip resistance. Nevertheless, the Whitelabel is an excellent combination of club sound quality and scratch ability. If you are a house DJ mixing sets or scratching and beat juggling, this robust cartridge is up to the challenge.
9. Audio Technica AT100E: Well-balanced Sound, Excellent Tracking, Perfect for Home Listening
- Strong and clear low frequencies
- Crisp highs and unwavering midrange
- Excellent Tracking
- Perfect for Home Listening
- Fast Set-up
- Some muddiness in the higher high frequencies
- Tonearm needs to be rebalanced
The AT100E is a fine cartridge that comes at an amazing value. The VM type AT100-series’ dual magnet vibration and generation systems have been highly praised all over the world and have become a long-selling series. Audio-Technica’s AT100E VM stereo cartridge features a structure that improves performance of the vibration system, allowing perfect contact between the stylus and the record surface. The sound produced by the AT100E is well balanced, strong and clear low frequencies, an unwavering midrange and crisp highs.
Audio-Technica’s AT100E VM stereo cartridge also adopts a lossless Paratoroidal generator coil system to their cartridge bodies that results in peak generating efficiency. The stacking of the two cores makes further improvements to high frequency characteristics while reducing electrical cross talk. The cartridge comes with a screwdriver, a brush, the screws and nuts and very clear instructions.
You should note that the tone arm needs to be re-balanced to get the proper 1.4 grams of recommended tracking force. This makes setting up a breeze. However, in terms of sound quality, this cartridge is not without fault as there is some muddiness in the higher high frequencies. Also, a user that is used to a fully high-end signal chain may find themselves a bit disappointed.
This cartridge is more suited for home listeners who just want to enjoy their records in a non-fussy way. Overall, this absurdly affordable cartridge is a definite upgrade from your current cartridge.
10. Audio Technica AT3482P: Crisp Highs, Versatile, Easy-to-use
- Natural vocals
- Crisp highs and well-balanced tonal sound
- Superb Tracking
- Easy to Use
- Some users may prefer a “brighter” sound
Audio-Technica offers a wide range of models to match a variety of turntables and tonearms, desired performance levels and budget considerations. The AT3482P cartridge is a prime example of a versatile entry-level cartridge that delivers outstanding performance. Audio-Technica offers 0.7 mil conical cartridges in two available mounts. The AT3482P fits P-mount turntables. A P-mount cartridge has four terminals at the back that simply plug in to the end of the tone arm. The cartridge is then secured to the tone arm with a single screw.
The carbon fibre cantilever handles warps and other flaws in your records quite well. Users have also never experienced issues with the cartridge hanging onto a groove. In terms of sound quality, this is an excellent cartridge replacement for any P-mount turntable. The sound that it produces is very well-balanced as the highs are crisp and not too bright, the lows are tight and the mid frequencies are sublime.
When it comes to musical instruments, jazz recordings sound fantastic and “alive”. Instrument sounds such as from the cymbal will sound clean and clear while the vocals sound very natural. This Audio-Technica cartridge picks up so much more of the nuances of the vinyl without sounding harsh.
However, users would not necessarily recommend this cartridge for complex rock or orchestral music. Nevertheless, for smaller-scale music, you certainly would not go wrong with choosing this cartridge.
11. Ortofon Omega: Decent Midrange and Bass, Minimum Wear, Easy Set-up
- Decent Midrange and Bass
- Minimum Wear
- Little Break-in Time
- Easy to Set-up
- Highs may be lacking and not very well-defined
Ortofon’s Omega cartridge is a universal half-inch mount cartridge designed to fit hundreds of consumer turntables, including many of the most popular modern USB turntable models. The Omega is not a DJ cartridge, but instead a light, low-wear elliptical turntable cartridge designed to provide a remarkable, yet cost effective upgrade in sound quality. Music lovers who enjoy home listening to vinyl records will have no problem with using the Omega cartridge.
After a break-in period of 5 to 25 hours, performance and dynamic range becomes excellent. Users can also look forward to the cartridge’s very light tracking force which captures all the sound and creates minimum wear. The sound produced is smooth and the music has a pleasant, forward quality and presence that allows effortless listening for hours.
While the cartridge has very few faults, some users were slightly disappointed with the sound. When it comes to setting up, mounting this cartridge on your turntable is a breeze. A few users noticed that the highs were lacking and not very well-defined. Nevertheless, many users still praised the good sound in the midrange as well as the decent bass.
With vinyl and consumer turntables making a comeback outside of the DJ market, Ortofon created the Omega to satisfy customers looking to revive their vintage turntables. The Omega cartridge certainly lives up to expectations at an extremely affordable price.
12. Shure M78S Monophonic: Specialises in 78 RPM Records, High Output, Very Affordable
- Specialised for 78 RPM Records
- Minimum noise and hissing
- High Output
- Very Affordable
- Not suited for playing records at other speeds
The Shure M78S monophonic cartridge is a rarity as it is specifically designed for playing wide groove records and 78 RPM records. The gemstone stylus is designed to preserve the life of hard-to-replace vinyl records and high output brings old recordings to life. This cartridge allows for a rapid and trouble-free change of needle.
This cartridge also has the added convenience of being compatible with the Shure N78S replacement needle. This cartridge is also popular in nightclubs because of its high output voltage and light tracking force. The Shure M78s cartridge allows you to wire the stylus in both mono and stereo modes, although the former is preferred for 78 RPM records as most of these records are mono recordings.
The Shure M78S also uses a spherical stylus, which tracks the groove along its walls. This helps reduce surface noise as well as minimise hissing. You can expect a well-balanced and full sound from this cartridge. The accessories included with this cartridge is a user guide, mounting hardware and a stylus guard. If you are a vinyl enthusiast with 78 RPM records, you cannot go wrong with giving this cartridge a try. It’s not only of excellent quality, but also available at a fantastic price.
Overall, finding the “perfect” phono cartridge right off the bat is no easy feat. Based on this review, you may consider the Shure M44-7 an attractive buy especially if you are a DJ with scratching needs. Whereas, another music lover would prefer the Shure M78S as it is designed for old-school, vintage home listening. Your choice of cartridge truly depends on your needs and preferences. At least with this guide, you can start to narrow down your options and pick out the phono cartridge most suited for your turntable needs. If you have slightly higher budget, do check out those below $200 here.