Cartridge and Stylus

This part of discussing cartridge and the stylus is only a brief introduction of the accessories for the vinyl turntable.  For people, who are new to the vinyl is the starting point.  If you want your own turntable to be good, you still need to work hard to try to get the sound acceptable.  First of all, we will introduce you to different types of cartridges and styluses, and then what you need to pay attention to when using them.


Cartridge Categories

The most critical factor on sound quality from vinyl is how you play your vinyl record.  First of all, the stylus will directly touch the groove of the concave and convex surface of the record causing the needle bar to vibrate and finally pass to the cartridge for the sound signal.  The magneto-electric conversion through the cartridge turns into a current, which becomes the signal output to loudspeaker.

Although the function of the cartridge is “magnetoelectric conversion”, the cartridges can be divided into different types. There are three main types:

  1. MC – Moving-Coil Cartridge
  2. MI – Moving-Iron Cartridge
  3. MM – Moving-Maganetic Cartridge

Moving-Coil Cartridge

Its naming is mainly based on its sound making method.  The MC-type phono is wrapped with a coil at the back of the needle bar.  Whenever the needle bar vibrates, it will drive the coil to produce sound as recorded.  The main application of the MC cartridge is replaying classical music.

Moving-Iron Cartridge

Its sound is being generated by the iron core driven a needle bar housing with fixed magnets and coils in order to change the distribution of magnetic lines of forcing to generate signals.

Moving-Maganetic Cartridge

The MM cartridge is a small iron strip with magnets behind the needle bar, which is obtained by vibrating iron bars for replaying sound.

In summary, MM and MI cartridge output will be higher (no need to magnify signal or MC dedicated pre-amp), its manufacturing cost is much lower, the stylus can generally be replaced by a new one easily.  MC cartridge output is very low (requires magnify signal or MC Dedicated pre-stage), the manufacturing cost is relatively high and because the coil is wrapped around the needle bar. The stylus cannot be replaced directly and the maintenance cost is also much higher.  Beginners will usually choose MM or MI cartridges, and enthusiasts (or HiFi retailers) will use the MC header to show their identity.  (Note: The webmaster is quite poor to buy high-end MC cartridge)

Cartridge Type and Sound Characteristics

When listening different cartridges for music playback, there are significant differences in various types of cartridges. For instance, the MM (MI) cartridge with higher voltage is providing relatively poor in fineness and texture on high frequency but reflecting the middle and low frequency as thicker & more magnificent. MC cartridge is always playing sound in more detailed and the webmaster is using MC cartridge for playing classical music.  For high-end product, SHURE V-15 is one of the best MM cartridge and basically the only one not MC cartridge for this price range. To be honest, the details reflection is now much improved by the advance technology nowadays. So, there is no “rough”MM cartridge nowadays. Personally, I would use a cheap MM cartridge to play poor condition vinyl.