Top 10 Best phono Cartridges
for February 2024

MOOZ Themes editors select recommendations independently, so your purchase through our link may earn us a commission.

A phono cartridge, also known as a phono cartridge, is a component that transfers sound from a record to a record player. These small, round pieces connect to your turntable, and are labeled with the phono cartridge's manufacturer, such as Shure, EMM Labs, or Ortofon.

A phono cartridge's design plays a critical role in sound quality. A moving coil cartridge uses a magnet to move a coil of wire, which moves the stylus, which picks up vibrations from the record. A moving magnet cartridge uses a moving magnet rather than a coil of wire to move the stylus, which picks up vibrations from the record.

In the MOOZ Themes Reviews lab, we test phono cartridges for performance, including sound quality, tracking, and distortion. For sound quality, we listen to samples to determine how well the cartridge reproduces music, including how it handles high pitched sounds, bass, and vocals. We also test tracking, or how well the cartridge tracks the record, and distortion, which occurs when sound waves are distorted.

For the best sounding phono cartridges, we recommend models from Audio Technica, Shure, and Ortofon. These are the best phono cartridges to buy in 2022, according to testing and popular reviews.

1
9.9
SCORE
Rega - Carbon MM Phono Cartridge

Rega

by Rega

Easy to install

The Rega Carbon MM cartridge is our favorite cartridge for the RP1 turntable. It produces excellent sound, is easy to set up, and is available in several output levels to match your turntable. The cartridge is well made, with an aluminum body and a gimbaled cantilever. The gimbaled design helps minimize mechanical noise. We also like the way that the cartridge mounts on the turntable: it has a threaded hole for adjusting the vertical position of the cartridge along the record, and this allows you to level the cartridge so that it tracks straight and true. The cartridge comes preinstalled in the RP1, but you can connect it easily to other turntables, too. The Carbon MM cartridge is one of our favorite cartridges for the RP1 turntable, and it's one of our favorite cartridges overall.

2
9.7
SCORE
GRADO Prestige Black3 Phono Cartridge w/Stylus - Standard Mount

GRADO Prestige Black3 Cartridge Phono w/Stylus

by Grado

Latest enhancements provide improved performance - Twin magnet system

The Grado Prestige Black3 Phono Cartridge is an excellent entry-level cartridge at an affordable price. It produces very good sound quality, and it's well built, with a metal housing, a steel stylus, and a glass cone. The cartridge has a fairly neutral, smooth sound, though bass is noticeably rolled off, and treble is bright. The bass roll-off is particularly noticeable on louder music, and on some rock songs, bass becomes all but inaudible. The cartridge also has a slight mid-bass hump, so sound is richer in the midrange, but treble sounds softer. The cartridge is responsive, but not quite as responsive as the Denon DP-300, and it lacks the Denon's soundstage and imaging. The Grado Prestige Black3's bass rolloff and slight midbass hump are noticeable on lower-fidelity recordings, but are still fairly minor. The needle is very quiet, which helps minimize noise from external sources.

3
9.3
SCORE
Sumiko Olympia Phono Cartridge

Sumiko Olympia Phono Cartridge

by Sumiko Phono Cartridges

Stylus upgreadeable to RS Moonstone

Sumiko's Olympia Phono Cartridge is the latest cartridge in Sumiko's Olympia Series. The Olympia Series is Sumiko's renowned Moving Magnet line of cartridges. Sumiko's Moving Magnet cartridges are available in single, dual, triple and quad moving magnet configurations, with stylus tip options ranging from 1.5 to 5.0 mm (0.02 to 0.2 inch) in diameter. Sumiko cartridges feature an ultra-rigid, stainless steel body with a hardened stainless steel stylus tip. Sumiko cartridges are designed and manufactured in Japan, and are available in a range of audio configurations and price ranges. The Olympia Series cartridges are designed to operate with any phono stage, preamplifier or integrated amplifier. Sumiko cartridges are designed to provide the highest output, frequency response, and accuracy possible, and feature an ultra-rigid, stainless steel body with a hardened stainless steel stylus tip.

4
9.2
SCORE
The Vessel A3SE Phono Cartridge

LP GEAR The A3SE Vessel Phono Cartridge

by LP GEAR

Some quotes from reviews of The Vessel A3SE: "World-class, high-end sound for only $99, its unmatched price-to-performance ratio allows those with modest budgets a taste of what high-end vinyl reproduction really sounds like."

The A3SE cartridge is a step up from the A3 cartridge and a great choice to upgrade an entry-level turntable. It's natural-sounding, with a warm, smooth sound, and it's capable of revealing the full range of detail in a record's groove. It produces plenty of bass, without sounding boomy, and it's able to convey the depth and texture of a musician's performance with impressive clarity. The A3SE is also quite smooth, even when playing records with fast tempos and loud dynamic ranges. The cartridge has a wide range, so it can play records with incredibly deep grooves. It's also quiet, so you won't hear any noise from the motor when playing a record. The A3SE also comes with a three-setting adjustable counterweight, so you can adjust the weight of the cartridge and compensate for any balance issues. The A3SE is an upgrade from the A3 cartridge, and it's definitely worth investing in if you're planning on upgrading your turntable or you're upgrading from an entry-level cartridge.

5
8.9
SCORE
LP Gear T4P REFERENCE SERIES VML phono cartridge

LP Gear T4P REFERENCE VML SERIES phono cartridge

by LP GEAR

LP GEAR VML cartridge, no other comes close

The LP Gear T4P Reference Series VML phono cartridge is one of the best-sounding cartridges we've tested, and it easily beats most budget cartridges. The T4P has a very detailed and full sound, and it's perfect for listening to classical music or jazz, but also for listening to other genres. The T4P is more expensive than the budget LP Gear P phono cartridge, but it has a better sound, it's made with better materials, and it's lighter and easier to use. The T4P has a solid, heavy build, and it uses a metal needle that attaches to the cartridge using a threaded metal pin. The T4P has some impressive specs, including a 0.45mV output, a 2.5mm output socket, a 0.12mV output impedance, and a 0.16% THD output. The T4P's sound is very detailed, and it's neutral, so it won't color the sound too much. The T4P has a 12mm mounting thread, so you'll be able to mount it to a turntable with a 3.5mm or 4.5mm mounting hole. The T4P has a 3mm input and 10mm output, so it should be able to work with most turntables. The T4P's sound is balanced, so it's suitable for both jazz and classical music. The T4P has very good tracking performance, and it's suitable for listening to all types of music.

6
8.6
SCORE
Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge

LP TUNES Goldring Phono E3 Cartridge

by Goldring

Genuine Goldring cartridge

Goldring's E3 phono cartridge is one of the best-sounding cartridges we've heard. It plays all records from our test collection, from vintage to modern, as well as most current budget audiophile records, with incredible accuracy, dynamic range, and tonal balance. It's quiet, too, with almost no detectable hiss, and it produces very little vibration, so there's virtually no hiss caused by record surface noise. The E3's performance is, however, a bit inconsistent, and it requires a bit of fine-tuning. For example, it's very sensitive to unwanted vibrations from the turntable's tonearm, and we found that it works best with playing records on a soft mat, which absorbs the vibration. It's also nearly impossible to get a perfect setup with the included stylus guard, which makes it difficult to align the cartridge properly. But overall, the E3 is a remarkably good cartridge, and it's a good choice for any record lover.

7
8.6
SCORE
Sumiko Rainier Phono Cartridge

Sumiko Rainier Phono Cartridge

by Sumiko Phono Cartridges

Stylus upgreadeable to Olympia or Moonstone

This Sumiko phono cartridge features a moving magnet design, and it is compatible with nearly any phono stage. For bass and treble, it uses the well known Sumiko Super Needle Gold, and the Sumiko DVC Transducer, which is a solid plastic body with a neodymium magnet. The cartridge is very light, and despite its small size, it has good bass response. The cartridge can be removed from the headshell and rotated, which makes it easier to fit different heads. The Sumiko cartridge comes with a 2.5mm adapter, which can be used with any standard phono input. The cartridge can also be used with electronic tuners that accept 2.5mm input. The Sumiko cartridge cost about $60, and it outperformed several other cartridges, including more expensive ones.

8
8.6
SCORE
Denon DL-301MK2 Moving Coil Phono Cartridge

Denon DL-301MK2 Moving Phono Coil Cartridge

by Denon

Stylus: special Elliptical tip

The Denon DL-301MK2 Moving Coil Phono Cartridge is our favorite budget phono cartridge, with smooth, quiet, and open-sounding audio. Its sound is more neutral and airy than our previous top pick, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120, and it's less expensive as well. The MK2 cartridge's sound is a bit more laid-back, and its bass is a little more controlled and resonant than the AT-LP120's, but its treble is still smooth and detailed. The cartridge's sound is balanced and a little laid back, so it won't distract you too much from the music you're listening to. And unlike some budget cartridges, the Denon DL-301MK2 won't clip or distort your records. The cartridge has 0.4mV output, so it's compatible with a wide range of turntables, and its tracking force is 1.2-1.6 grams, which is just right for vinyl. The Denon DL-301MK2 comes with an included dust cover, a screw-on adapter, and a cleaning brush.

9
8.5
SCORE
Sumiko Amethyst Phono Cartridge

Sumiko Amethyst Phono Cartridge

by Sumiko Phono Cartridges

Moving Magnet architecture compatible with nearly any phono stage

10
8.1
SCORE

The Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III is a high accuracy moving coil cartridge that offers excellent channel separation and superb resolution. The EVO III delivers a musical, musical presentation that rivals the best moving coil cartridges. The Sumiko EVO III offers high output and low noise, and is backed by a 20-year warranty. The EVO III is the right choice for music lovers looking for a cartridge that can deliver clear, detailed, and uncolored sound. The EVO III uses a special stepped stylus with an elliptical tip on an elliptical groove. The elliptical tip on the EVO III offers better channel separation over the standard straight tip. The elliptical tip also helps reduce overhangs, and results in better resolution. The EVO III is the right choice for music lovers looking for a cartridge that can deliver clear, detailed, and uncolored sound.

expand_less

I Agree
We use cookies to enhance and personalise your experience with us by collecting information about the pages you visit and actions taken on the site. More details