I will admit that around ten or so years ago, jazz was a style of music that was not on my radar. However, I have come to love and appreciate it and have built up a pretty respectable collection of jazz records and CDs. I have even talked about jazz a few times here on the site with articles such as OUR 5 BEST SOUNDING JAZZ ALBUMS ON VINYL and 4 BEST SPEAKERS FOR JAZZ & CLASSICAL MUSIC IN 2022. Collecting jazz records is something I have had a lot of fun with and it seems to be a genre of music where I can walk into a thrift store and still find records priced at a resorbable rate!
Today, we are looking at some awesome cartridges as we try to figure out what the best phono cartridge for jazz is. To be honest with you, the cartridges I have selected today will make any music sound great, but I have been on a real jazz listening kick lately so I thought I would tie it into the other jazz articles we have here on the site.
So, no matter if your cartridge needs to be replaced or even if you just fancy an upgrade, I am certain you will find the perfect cartridge for your setup down below!
Listening To Jazz On Vinyl Matters!
Look, if you have a setup where you have a CD player and a record player, by all means, dabble and collect both a little while back I looked at OUR 5 BEST STEREO SYSTEM FOR JAZZ IN 2022 which offered some great and affordable systems that allow you to do both. For me, jazz is one genre of music that I feel just sounds so much better on vinyl. Sure you can have fun and listen to Duke Ellington – Copenhagen – 1965 on YouTube and that is awesome. However, nothing for me feels quite as real and raw as listening to jazz on vinyl.
The 5 Best Phono Cartridge For Jazz Reviews
Here are my handpicked cartridges for what I consider to be well worth taking into consideration when it comes to making sure you are listening to your jazz records in the finest quality possible. I decided to make this as easy for you as possible and all of the phono cartridges we are looking at today are available on Amazon.
1: Audio-Technica AT-VM95E
2: NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110
3: Grado Timbre Series Opus3 High Output Stereo Phono Cartridge
4: Ortofon 2M Black Moving Magnet Cartridge
5: Audio-Technica AT-ART9XA
We are starting with the Audio-Technica AT-VM95E which is one of the better quality more affordable phono cartridges from Audio Technica. I have looked at many of their products over the years from the lower priced to the crazy priced! I had the pleasure of getting the chance to have some fun with this and for around 70 bucks there is not a doubt in my mind that this is the best value phono cartridge on this list. It has a cool green and black design which granted, may not be to everyone’s personal taste. However, it does have that Audio Technica quality, even though it is more modestly priced. I think that they have made this as easy as possible to connect to your tonearm and in all, if you are on a budget, but still want quality, this is going to be hard to beat.
While it looks neat and the build quality is great, what about the sound? Well, if you have read any of the other articles that relate to jazz music I have written, you will know that this Duke Ellington and John Coltrane album is my absolute favorite! I have listened to this with a much “higher-end” Audio Technica phono cartridge and I can hand on heart say that the AT-VM95E more than holds its own. If you are coming from a rather basic turntable like the under 50 bucks ByronStatics Vinyl Record Player, 3 Speed Turntable Bluetooth Record Player, for example, you will 100 percent notice a difference with this.
I will admit that I already knew that the Audio-Technica AT-VM95E was probably going to be a phono cartridge that I liked. However, it surpassed my expectations and I have even recommended this to a few friends who are into vinyl, but who do not want to be spending hundreds of dollars when it comes to upgrading their phono cartridge. If you want to be in the 50 to 80 bucks range, this is hard to beat.
- I love the style of this cartridge
- It has the same kind of build quality as more expensive cartridges
- Your music is going to sound great!
- I could listen to jazz all day via this thing!
- That green may not fit in with the rest of your record player
- At the end of the day, this is great, but it is a more budget friendly phono cartridge
NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110
Currently priced at $134 on Amazon the NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110 is a phono cartridge that I felt had to make this list. I know that at first glance it may have a bit of a “plastic” look to it. However, I can tell you that in hand, this feels very solid and I got a real kick out of the way the yellow pops against the black. It is an interesting design and something that I feel is great if you love the various parts of your turntable to stick out. Being a fan of Japanese products, I am always willing to give them a fair try and like most other Japanese audio equipment I have been very impressed with this, especially given the asking price.
You cannot have a jazz collection without Louis Armstrong being part of it and the album that is my go to is All Time Greatest Hits. He does have other greatest hits collections, but for me, this one here is the best. What I love about this cartridge is that once you have it fully broken in and it finds its groove, you get such a real and warm kind of sound thanks to it. The kind of sound that has you bobbing your head and saying “yeah” the whole time you are listening to your record. I have listened to all kinds of music with this and it all sounds great; I think it really shines if you like to crank that volume dial up and feel like you were actually there when the song was being performed.
I was very impressed with this phono cartridge and it actually made me take these guys way more seriously. While I have only had the pleasure of looking at a few of their products, I knew that the NAGAOKA MM (MP) Cartridge MP-110 had to make a special appearance on this list that is looking for the best phono cartridge for jazz. If you want great sound at a more than fair price, you have to seriously consider this one.
- The asking price is more than fair
- It will be a great upgrade for a more modestly priced record player
- I think that jazz records sound great with this
- It offers a nice and crisp sound, especially regarding the vocals
- You will need to break it in just right
- Some have said that you need to have it loud to really hear it at its best
Grado Timbre Series Opus3 High Output Stereo Phono Cartridge
Priced currently at 275 bucks on Amazon, the Grado Timbre Series Opus3 High Output Stereo Phono Cartridge is jumping up a wee bit in price, but I do think when we take all things into consideration, this is still a very reasonably priced phono cartridge. It was actually this Grado Labs Opus 3 Phono Cartridge Introduction video that I saw a few years back that made me want to check this thing out! Well, that and the amazing wooden design that this thing has. It comes in a very nice little wooden box and the whole thing just has this immense premium presentation to it that made me say wow the moment I saw it. I have handled a few wooden phono cartridges over the years and I would put this one close to the top in terms of its design, even higher than some that cost considerably more!
I will admit that I was a little bit nervous about testing out the Grado Timbre Series Opus3 High Output Stereo Phono Cartridge as I so wanted it to sound as good as it looked. Well, I fired up some Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and right away I was very, very happy with what I was hearing. At the mid-range, this thing just hit a sweet spot that I am struggling to put into words. I feel that this is a near perfect kind of phono cartridge for jazz music. The instruments and the vocals all just sound so sweet that it is the kind of thing you have to experience for yourself. I have heard that it is very similar to the other cartridges in this line from Grado, but I cannot speak for that. What I can say is that this thing is awesome!
As you can tell, I was very, very impressed with the Grado Timbre Series Opus3 High Output Stereo Phono Cartridge. In all honesty, this could have been priced at 100 bucks more and I still would consider it to be excellent value for money. I know that the whole wooden design may not be everyone’s cup of tea and the fact of the matter is I would have to have something that looks like this on a very particular looking turntable, but still, this is amazing and I was very impressed.
- I really dig the whole wooden design of this phono cartridge
- For a cartridge of this quality, the asking price is very fair
- It hits the mid-range perfectly
- Vocals sound so crisp and real with this
- The wooden design may make it stick out like a sore thumb
- You will want to dedicate a fair bit of time to breaking it in properly
Ortofon 2M Black Moving Magnet Cartridge
We have actually talked about the Ortofon 2M Blue and the Ortofon 2M Red a few times and I always say that they are damn fine phono cartridges. For this best phono cartridge for jazz cartridge, I have gone for the more expensive Ortofon 2M Black Moving Magnet Cartridge. As of me writing this, Amazon has this listed at $695 and like the other Ortofon cartridges, this one has a somewhat universal design, making it very versatile in the number of turntables it is compatible with. The first thing I have to talk about is the overall design, I love it! Ortofon I feel makes some of the most stylish phono cartridges out there and this one here is no different. The all-black design is something that I love and I would probably go as far as to say this is the best looking cartridge that the good folks at Ortofon offer in my opinion. It also has a very solid and premium feel to it.
Now, the big question we have to ask about the Ortofon 2M Black Moving Magnet Cartridge is if it is better than the others. I would have to say that it is, not only do I prefer the design of this one slightly more than the red or the blue version, I feel the build quality of this is that extra bit better which is represented in the sound quality. I ended up putting on The Platinum Collection by Billie Holiday and listening to a few of her biggest hits. The clarity that this phono cartridge provides is amazing, perhaps it is that Shibata diamond tip or the fancy tech inside it? To be honest, I am not 100 percent sure, but I can tell you that this is certainly an upgrade from the already impressive red and blue Ortofon cartridges that are very popular.
I will admit that I came into this thinking that it would not actually be all that much of a substantial upgrade over the other Ortofon phono cartridges. However, I have to say that this thing impressed me way more than I thought it would and I already had pretty high expectations for it! The sound is just impeccable, truly one of the best sounding phono cartridges that I have had the pleasure of testing out! I know the asking price is high, but I do feel if you want a high-end phono cartridge and want to be under the 1,000 bucks’ range, this is perfect.
- I love the all-black design
- That special Shibata diamond tip does make a big difference
- The vocal clarity blew me away
- It is like each individual instrument is in the room with you
- It does cost over 700 bucks
- While I think it is better, it may not be enough of an upgrade from the blue or red version
The last phono cartridge we are looking at today is another one from Audio Technica, but this one is at the other end of the pricing spectrum compared to the other one we looked at just before. The Audio-Technica AT-ART9XA is currently priced at $1,334 on Amazon! Making this by a very wide margin the most expensive phono cartridge we have looked at today. I have a friend with a music store and he speaks very highly of this and he did put on this Jazz Legends record that he had in his store for me to listen to. It sounded awesome when pumped through the sound system in the store. This is a truly remarkable phono cartridge and clearly, it is aimed at those who already have a very expensive setup and want the best of the best.
With as impressed as I was with the sound that I was experiencing with this, I will be honest and say that in my humble opinion, it was not worth the better part of double the price of the Ortofon one we just looked at. I recently picked up an original pressing of Duke Ellington Live In Paris and I would love to have seen how this thing handled older vinyl records. My buddy with the store did say that everything he has tried with this sounded great and I do trust his judgment, I just wish I had the chance to play around with this at home so I could truly get in there and see what this thing can do.
It is easy to see why the Audio-Technica AT-ART9XA is held in such high regard. It truly is a next generation and premium product that truth be told is out of reach for most music fans. Look, even if I had the money, I am not sure I would want to spend this much on just a phono cartridge, but that is just me! I can fully understand why real deal audiophiles who have very sensitive ears and can tell you all the ins and outs of each piece of sound they are hearing would want something like this.
- The black and gold design of this thing looks so cool!
- It is one of the most high-end phono cartridges I have seen
- The sound this produces is next level in every way!
- I have not read a single negative review about this!
- It costs over 1300 bucks!
- For your general music lover, something this extravagant is not needed at all
Which Is The Best Phono Cartridge For Jazz?
I have had a lot of fun putting together this, which is the best phono cartridge for jazz article today. As someone that loves to listen to jazz records, I can hand on heart say that all of the ones we looked at today will not disappoint you. However, I do have to pick my favorite and I am picking the Grado Timbre Series Opus3 High Output Stereo Phono Cartridge. I was blown away by the sound this thing offered and the wooden design was something that I really did love. I will admit that I kind of wanted to pick the Ortofon 2M Black Moving Magnet Cartridge as my winner as it was awesome! However, at over double the price, I just did not see much difference in the sound quality at all! So yeah, I am giving this win to dudes and dudettes at Grado!