Choosing a turntable cartridge: Important decisions

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Ortofon Rohmann Low Output Moving Coil Phono CartridgeThe part of a turntable that wears out the fastest is of course the cartridge. The diamond-tipped stylus runs through those waxy grooves, and eventually wear and tear take their toll. Or maybe you’re buying a new turntable and need a cartridge. Either way, choosing a turntable cartridge is an important decision.

There are a number of factors to be assessed. There are a very wide array of prices for cartridges. Also, depending on your setup, you may be choosing between a moving coil (MC) and a moving magnet (MM) cartridge. But the real reason it’s a key decision is because your choice of cartridge can directly determine the amount of enjoyment you get out of your records.

A cartridge poorly matched with your table and tonearm can result in dull sounds emanating from your sound system. That is, the amount of enjoyment you experience in playing records can be significantly influenced by the cartridge.

It bears noting that expensive is not necessarily better and can be worse. It pays to do research and find a cartridge that matches your setup.

I can speak from personal experience. I had a Music Hall MMF-5 with an included Goldring cartridge. It was a subtle thing, but after I acquired that turntable my enjoyment of my records greatly diminished. The sound from the cartridge just wasn’t satisfying or very musical even. I found myself playing my records less and less. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I simply ceased spinning the vinyl.

But I took out an ad in the newspaper and sold the Music Hall and went in a different direction. It was a great decision. My enjoyment of vinyl and the vinyl experience returned to what it had been. I got really interested in records again, and started talking about them every chance I could get.

So what cartridge you put on that turntable can make a big difference in how much you enjoy playing records. When I had an inferior sounding cartridge, it pretty much stopped me. It can be a hard thing to audition cartridges, so doing some Google research beforehand can help you make the right choice.