Cartridge Reviews

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Ken Micallef  |  Apr 12, 2023  |  16 comments

The Kuzma family of moving coil cartridges is such a fine sight to see. To wit: Meet the Slovenian company’s CAR-30, which dependably revealed the peculiarities and personalities of individual records during the course of our review period. Read on to see Ken Micallef’s expert take on all the Kuzma CAR-30 has to offer, and how well it stacks up with its MC cart competition. . .

Ken Micallef  |  Dec 13, 2022  |  7 comments

When is a DJ cartridge not a DJ cartridge? Danish manufacturer Ortofon seeks to bridge the DJ and hi-fi worlds with their top-of-the-line Concorde Elite moving-magnet cartridge ($439 SRP), one with a clear nod to audiophile listening. Does it hold up as a hi-fi cartridge? Read Ken Micallef’s review to see if the Elite is indeed worthy of Ortofon’s storied pedigree. . .

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 06, 2022  |  30 comments
The extensive Hana moving coil cartridge lineup manufactured in Japan by the half-century old Excel Sound Corporation (“controversial” factory tour embedded below) is a high value, performance, and quality, logically progressing array that until the release of the $3950 Umami Red was priced from a $475 low to a $1200 high. Remarkably moderate prices in today’s cartridge market.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 18, 2021  |  11 comments
Sumiko, celebrating its 40th year, recently introduced to its extensive lineup three new cartridges. Two are in the company’s Oyster line: the Blue Point 3—low and high output versions priced at $499 clams, and a new Reference Line Celebration 40 priced at $2799.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 05, 2021  |  24 comments
When readers ask why “they” no longer manufacture a really high quality moving magnet cartridge, I respond “Ortofon 2M Black” ($695). Its nude Shibata stylus delivers great detail, it’s an effective tracker at 1.5 grams and it outputs a generous 5mVs. Plus, based on years of experience reviewing the company’s output up and down the product line, it’s safe to say Ortofon delivers build quality uniformity at every price point. Oh, and the 2M Black is a sweet sounding, spectrally well-balanced cartridge.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 01, 2020  |  63 comments
Though AnalogPlanet reviewed the low output $750 Hana SL cartridge back in 2017 in a “shootout” with the $999 Ortofon Quintet Black S, we’re kind of “late to the fair” on these two newer Hana models, in part because they’ve been reviewed by others in Stereophile (and of course elsewhere), where I mostly (but not exclusively!) cover the top end of the high performance market.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 06, 2020  |  63 comments
More than a few emails have arrived over the last few weeks touting the sonic excellence of Audio-Technica's $169 AT-VM95ML moving magnet cartridge. The $236 Ortofon 2M Blue equipped Fluance RT85 was here for review so why not procure a VM95ML and do a direct comparison?


Michael Fremer  |  Jul 05, 2019  |  28 comments
The first item up for bids today on “The Price is Right” is Gold Note’s Donatello Gold moving coil cartridge! Vacuous bimbette hostess, tell us all about it!

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 20, 2019  |  20 comments
Any resemblance between Sumiko’s $899 “Songbird” high output moving coil cartridge and the rest of the Reference line’s “bird” cartridges—the $1249 Blackbird (available in both low and high output versions) and the new $1899 “open architecture” flagship Starling is strictly intentional. Sumiko has been in the cartridge business for decades and these are all made in the same reliably high-quality factory that I visited a few years ago.

Malachi Lui  |  Jun 17, 2019  |  19 comments
Though my initial February review of Ortofon’s $999 MC Quintet Black S cartridge was quite favorable, one part of my system wasn’t best optimized for the cartridge: the Rega RB330 tonearm’s lack of adjustability meant that my VTA was off by two degrees (90 degrees instead of the preferred 92-93). To combat this issue, AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer and I installed Acoustic Signature shims underneath the back of the Rega tonearm. However, with sufficient shims installed to increase the VTA to 92 degrees, unless the tonearm was raised from the record surface, the dust cover wouldn’t close. Since in my house a dust cover is absolutely necessary, I sacrificed having ideal VTA and we only ended up installing a set of 1mm shims to increase the VTA by half a degree.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 28, 2019  |  29 comments
The cartridge featured "blind" in the recent post titled "How Much Would You Pay for This Cartridge?" pictured above is "The Vessel" A3SE, which sells for $99.00.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 26, 2019  |  35 comments
The picture purposely obscures this moving magnet cartridge installed in the Rega Planar 8 tonearm plugged into the Graham Slee Accession. That's because I don't want you to know its identity. Rather, please listen to the file and tell everyone how much you'd be willing to pay for it and how you think it sounds.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 22, 2019  |  44 comments
Denon's 103 cartridge originally introduced in the 1960s for radio station vinyl playback is still in production and now has achieved near-mythical status. A few body upgrades are available, most of which require the motor to be removed from the less than rigid body. However, this one costing $85 with the not particularly clever name Aluminum Body Cap is one you can easily add yourself to your existing 103.

Malachi Lui  |  Feb 04, 2019  |  45 comments
“The next piece you need to upgrade is your cartridge,” my editor repeatedly reminded me for months. After receiving my Rega Planar 3 from a generous AnalogPlanet reader, I felt perfectly content with the pre-mounted Rega Elys 2 MM cartridge, as my new system (complete with AudioQuest speaker cables) was already a large improvement from my Audio-Technica LP120 turntable connected to a Panasonic home theater system. However, I researched cartridge upgrades nonetheless and came up with three potential moving coil choices ranging from $524 to $795, but I eventually settled on the $999 Ortofon Quintet Black S.