To get the best sound from your cartridge, you have to match it with the appropriate tonearm and turntable. A mismatch of a cartridge and a tonearm/turntable will likely reduce the fidelity of your system. Therefore, you must know some basic facts about each part to make an informed purchase.
Not all cartridges will fit on all turntables. Each of the three primary cartridge mounting systems (P-mount, standard mount, and half-inch mount) requires adaptors or unique arms to use some cartridges. When shopping for a new cartridge, keep in mind what system your turntable uses before buying one.
What are the most common cartridge mounts?
The most common cartridge mounts are listed below.
P-mounts are most commonly found on consumer models of the Technics SL-1200 series turntables but can be found on other equipment. For example, your old Dual record player is likely to have a P-mount tonearm.
The standard mount is the most common cartridge system found in use today and can be found on virtually all turntables and tonearms. Your typical mid-fi record player’s headshell, arm wand, or finger lifts will have a standard mount.
Half-inch mounts are found on high-end audiophile turntables and tonearms. Your typical high-end record player’s headshell, arm wand, or finger lifts will use a half-inch mount.
How to know if a cartridge fits my tonearm?
To know which cartridge can fit your turntable, check the tonearm and platter sizes:
The tonearm size is always marked with numbers, units of inches. Usually, it’s between 9 and 12 inches, but the most common one is 10 inches. This number denotes the effective length in mm from the pivot point to the stylus tip when the cartridge is fully lowered.
The platter size is always marked with numbers, units of inches. Usually, it’s between 12 and 16 inches in diameter, but the most common one is 14 inches. This number denotes the diameter in inches from rim to rim when the turntable platter is fully covered.
One more way to measure cartridges you need a measuring device, something like this one. To check if your cartridge will fit your turntable, tape the cartridge on this ruler in its mounting holes, then place it against the arm. If there is enough space between the scale where the stylus tip is and the scale where the cartridge body begins, then it will fit, but you need to check if the pivot point (the hole in which the tonearm stem goes) of your cartridge is aligned with the pivot point on your turntable. If they don’t align, this means that your cartridge won’t fit because you can’t lower the tonearm enough to get the cartridge on it.
What type of record cartridge is better to choose?
It depends on your record player and cartridge setup. If you have a high-quality turntable and phono preamp, we suggest you go with an MC or ULM type of cartridge because they will give you the best sound quality. On the other hand, if your turntable is of a lower quality, then you should go for an MM type of cartridge.
We recommend ULM cartridges because they have the best sound quality, the lowest production costs, and they are the easiest to install. In addition, they don’t require any restoration work compared with MC types of cartridges, and they can be used with all turntables on the market.
ULM cartridges are more complex than MM or MC types of cartridges because they have up to 10 times more coils on them, making them very expensive. They consist of two main components – the cartridge body with the stylus attached to it and an interchangeable coil mechanism placed inside the cartridge body and connected to the phono preamp.