One of the most common enquiries we receive is 'What cartridge should I use with this arm/deck? There are many options so we try and simplify matters by offering a "hot list" of tried and tested cartridges, particularly recommended by those with wide experience. However we do provide most makes of Hi-Fi cartridge should you wish for something else.
To help your selection process the following aspects need to be considered:
The overall sound of your system & cartridge brands tend to have distinctive sound balances which we outline below. This aspect should match your system and affect your choice more than almost anything else.
The effective mass of your arm and cartridge compliance? This really depends on what arm you have & in short there is much more to matching than compliance and it's quite rare that this has much serious influence on your cartridge performance so we do not advise on it. Origin Live arms seem completely impervious to this issue as outlined in the link Compliance
The quality of your phono-stage & Budget phono-stages (up to £600) tend to work best with moving magnet or high output moving coil cartridges. Most high end cartridges are moving coil or moving iron but due to their low output (0.5mV or less), you need a very good phono stage to realize their true performance. Poor phono-stages usually lead to disappointment with mc cartridges. It is worth adding that expensive phono stages are no guarantee of performance. There are a huge number of mediocre phono-stages with excellent reviews that fall far short of the real market leaders. For more on phono-stages see link Phono-Stages.
We suggest the phono-stage should be around 2 to 5 times the cost of your cartridge if you are to get the best return on investment and so you might want to consider where you place your budget. Having said this
- mm = moving magnet cartridge with high output and 47 Kohm impedance
- mc = moving coil cartridge with low output usually and 100 ohm impedance
A number of the high output moving coils use moving magnet input at 47 Kohms
There are sources that offer seemingly amazing prices on cartridges & we would urge caution on these purchases as you may not know what you are getting. For example some Kouetsu's are made specifically for the Far East market. These Kouetsu's have a suspension system suited for hot climates and will not give optimum performance in colder climates.
Hot List of Cartridges with Strong Recommendation
It is quite hard nowadays to purchase a "duff" cartridge so the choice boils down to personal taste, compatibility and system matching. For this reason we can only offer guidelines on which cartridge to choose..
Higher End Cartridges
High end cartridges such as Dynavector, Lyra, Transfiguration, Microbenz, Zyx etc all have their various strengths and reviews help to clarify your choice depending on your system and priorities. We particularly recommend the Dynavector and Lyra cartridge range but there are many other excellent cartridges which will work as well depending on your system and phono-stage balance.
Mid Market Cartridges
The Dynavector Karat 17d2 mkII is a moving coil cartridge and represents great value for money. The Lyra Dorian has also gained and excellent reputation and a safe choice.
Slightly lower in the range at £379 is the Dynavector 10X5 which is almost without peer at the price point.
If you do not have a reasonable moving coil phono-stage with adjustable gain settings (above £700) then the Music Maker cartridge at £575 by "The cartridge man" is almost legendary as a design for moving magnet inputs.
Cartridges Below £250
The Goldring 1000 Series starts at around £200 GBP & these have excellent tonal balance with warmth, good bass and a nice top end.
The Goldring 2000 Series was introduced because some listeners with more bass oriented systems wanted greater clarity and detail & the 2000 series brings this but at the expense of warmth. This series is not better than the 1000 series, just different.
The Low output Goldring Eroica cartridge at 130 GBP is excellent for a budget moving coil cartridge and in our view the low output Eroica LX is slightly preferable to the 1042 if you have a decent moving coil stage.
The Grado Prestige Range mm cartridges starting at £40 are also excellent & these cartridges have a slightly better bass than the Goldrings but not quite such a good treble performance.
Audio Technica have an exceptionally good range of budget cartridges that exhibit good tonal balance with punch and a lively performance.
Cartridges above £250
The high output moving coil Dynavector DV10x5 is a truly superb cartridge in any arm and is designed for most moving magnet inputs & this cartridge has consistently been reviewed as the best available at this price point.
Cartridges in purple are the ideal choice for Origin Live tonearms (that is not to say the other cartridges would not provide an excellent combination with our arms & this is only a rough guide as speakers, amps and phono-stage also play a part in the best choice of cartridge for your system.) The remarks below are by no means definitive and are only intended as a guide to help those in no position to audition the multitude of options available.
Audio Technica OC9 & noted for definition, speed, clarity and detail & can be a little lean in the bass in some arms & seems most suited on Linn LP12 / Ittock or Akito combinations.
Clearaudio & very clean sounding cartridge, highly detailed, not exactly warm or deep.
Dynavector & Excellent all round mc cartridges & high output versions are 10x5 and 20XH suitable for moving magnet inputs, low outputs are also available higher in the range. Dynavector 17D Karat is a favourite at its price point. The xx-2 seems rather system dependent.
Goldring & Rich sound with plenty of warmth and bass depth & a popular phono cartridge with Rega arm users & a very safe choice that sounds good on most systems.
London & Outstanding Cartridges that lead the entire field in terms of vivid realism, dynamics and lifelike sound. Unique in construction and performance these cartridges have developed a loyal following for good reason. Drawbacks are poor tracking on damaged records and slight crackle on very worn records due to the fact that they pick up every tiny detail. The sheer dynamics, of these cartridges can cause compression effects and show up failings in poorer systems. This manifests itself in brightness and lightweight bass. In spite of these things many reviewers give Londons the highest praise. The benefits are so great that once heard there is no going back for some.
Lyra - Great tacking cartridges that deliver an organic presentation & may not always go quite as deep as Koetsus but have the edge in most other aspects such as transparency and imaging.
Grado cartridges are excellent on bass and midband & in treble shy systems they can sound slightly dull.
Sumiko & A good choice for systems that are slightly bass heavy and need speed and agility adding & these cartridges have great resolution and are improved over previous models that tended to be lean in deep bass and low in warmth for some systems
Transfiguration & Good all round cartridge and a very safe choice, strong on subtlety with wonderful delicacy rather than an emphasis on punch and impact.
Zyx - Very good tonal balance with slight emphasis on dynamic and deep bass. One of the most natural sounding mid bands available, excellent clarity and separation of instruments, sweet top end without the explicitness or slight overemphasis of some high end contenders. Slight question on longevity of the suspension which may start to fade slowly after 3 years.
Please contact us to place an order or obtain a quote on the pick up cartridge of your choice.