The 4 Best Phono Cartridges under 200 Bucks – Turntable Reviews 2016

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No matter how expensive it is or what kind of quality components it comes with, a turntable is only as good as the cartridge it comes with. One thing about phono cartridges, especially modern ones, is that they come in so many different shapes and forms. On top of that, you have them classified by their application and principle of operation. With so many variations and choices, things can become a bit confusing.

What we have for you today is a list of 4 of the best phono cartridges under 200 bucks. They should give you a good idea of what is generally available on the market. We have chosen to stick with the listening/audiophile class of cartridges for the most part, but there is one DJ cartridge on the list as well.

Our criteria for this list was the frequency response and overall sound these models offer. On top of that, we were looking for cartridges that cost less than $200. With that said, let’s get started.

Ortofon 2M

The Ortophon Company was founded by Danish engineers almost a hundred years ago as the Electrical Phono Film Company, with the goal of expanding the world of high-quality audio recording and developing the world’s first synchronized sound film systems. After a century of development and innovation, their HiFi products remain some of the most sought after on the market.

Features and Performance

The 2M series is designed to give listeners faithful reproduction of their music regardless of their budget. The 2M red gives you an exceptionally warm and balanced tone with a full mid-range. The improved engine gives it a higher output than other models in its price range and its sensitivity makes it especially great for vocal music of all genres.

Though the sound is your main concern, this cartridge is also easy to align and installs simply and snugly on standard tonearms. It’s a versatile cartridge, good all-purpose use and giving you an open, spacious sound that will fill your listening room. It’s among the best phono cartridge not only $200 but under $100 as well.

Denon DL 103

If there is one household brand in this industry, it is Denon. Their DL line has been the bread and butter of vinyl listening for a while now—and for good reason. The way this company combines quality performance with reasonable pricing made them a favorite to many audiophiles and turntable enthusiasts. The model we are looking at here is one of the most popular ones they have to offer.

Features and Performance

The Denon DL 103 (see full specs) is a moving coil cartridge that features a conical aluminum cantilever. What really defines this particular cartridge is the frequency response.

When you start rolling your favorite record under this bad boy, you will experience bass that is natural and deep, while the rest of the sound stage offering the same amount of definition. The Denon DL 103 perfectly reproduces the depth and range of any vinyl and will give you a whole new listening experience. This is a true audiophile’s cartridge that won’t break the bank.

Sumiko Pearl MM Cartridge

Sumiko’s company policy is defined by their motto: “by the audiophiles, for the audiophiles.” For the most part, this is exactly what you can expect from their products. Their Pearl cartridge is truly an awesome gem that brings a very impressive performance to the budget crowd. It’s not the best model on the market, nor in their top line of cartridges, but it is definitely capable enough to give you a great listening experience.

Features and Performance

When you install Sumiko Pearl MM Cartridge on your turntable, you can look forward to a great frequency response range that uses a standard elliptical stylus to read the grooves. In all honesty, the performance of this particular cartridge punches way above its price range. However, it’s one of the more crude models on the market. In order for you to experience its full potential, you will have run it in for a bit. The cantilever is a bit stiff out of the box, so it needs some work before it starts delivering. Once that happens, you will hear a very well balanced sound stage. If you can keep that limitation in mind, this remains one of the best phono cartridges under $200 you can buy.

Shure M44-7

Shure is a household name in the audio industry no matter which branch you look at. Their presence in turntable segment is extensive. Shure offers a wide array of cartridges designed for all types of applications. The Shure M44-7 is a DJ cartridge that won’t quite give you an audiophile level of sound but is perfect for scratching.

Features and Performance

What defines Shure M44-7 is the wide diameter of its cantilever. It’s a Type S model that features a tracking force range of 1.5 to 3.0 grams. What this means in practical terms is high skip resistance. You can scratch away without having to worry whether or not the cartridge will start to jump or skip at any moment. The Shure M44-7 will stay on the grooves no matter how aggressive you get. The level of ruggedness they have implemented in this model makes the stylus last for a long time. It will be years before you are forced to get a new one.

Conclusion – What Makes the Best Phono Cartridge under 200 Bucks?

Phono cartridges can definitely make or break the performance of a turntable. The price of these devices can range wildly. There are some that cost as much as new compact car. However, you don’t need to go that far just to have a great listening experience.

The ones we have listed in this short article are more than enough for an audiophile level of performance. We have included some more conventional models and some which are not so ordinary. That one DJ cartridge made by Shure (see full specs) stands out from the rest, but we felt it’s important to include something for our DJs as well.

All of the cartridges were selected because of their frequency response range, great build quality, and proven track record. These are the models you can trust to deliver great performance under $200. Just make sure to know which type of cartridge your turntable requires before you go shopping for a replacement. Good luck!

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