Moving Coil Cartridges
For the finest sound from your turntable and record collection, we always recommend a moving coil (MC) phono cartridge. These are generally a little more expensive than moving magnet (MM) models, and the stylus cannot be replaced, but for absolute sound quality, a moving coil cartridge is the purists choice. Please note, the output level of an MC cartridge is lower than an MM cartridge, so you must use a phono stage that has an MC cartridge input. If you need help with cartridge and turntable matching, please call or e-mail for advice.
Unlike Moving Magnet (MM) cartridges, Moving Coil (MC) cartridges do not feature replaceable styli, meaning that if your stylus becomes worn or broken then the entire cartridge needs to be replaced. Moving Magnet cartridges are therefore more cost-effective. However, while it may seem scary to have to replace the entire cartridge, particularly as some models can be quite expensive, it is not as bad as it seems! Most manufacturers offer an exchange program, allowing you to buy a replacement Moving Coil cartridge at a significantly reduced rate when exchanging your old or broken stylus. It is also worth remembering that phono cartridge styli are made out of diamond, as this is one of the hardest materials available, meaning a well looked after and maintained stylus can last for a long time.
The output of Moving Coil (MC) cartridges is typically much lower than their Moving Magnet counterparts, and so having a phono stage which is able to offer sufficient gain is key in getting the most performance out of your cartridge possible.
Some cartridges are described as High Output Moving Coil, which means their output levels are much higher and closer to those of a Moving Magnet cartridge. High Output cartridges can be used with a wider range of phono stages, and some are suitable for use with Moving Magnet phono inputs, allowing you to use these cartridges with a much wider range of equipment.
The technology employed in Moving Coil (MC) is different to that used in Moving Magnet designs. Two coils within the shell of the cartridge are connected to the cantilever and end of the stylus. The coils are much lighter and smaller than magnets, and so can track and trace the grooves of the record better, which results in greater detail and ultimately sound quality.
Phono cartridges are available with two different types of stylus – tipped or nude. A tipped stylus is a diamond tip on a metal shank which is in turn connected to the cantilever. This is the design typically found on most budget Moving Magnet cartridges. However, this can add weight to the stylus and its tracking, so nude styli are preferred, and virtually always used in Moving Coil cartridges. A nude stylus is a whole diamond attached to the cantilever, offering greater stability and less weight, therefore improving transient reproduction.
Spherical diamond styli are typically found on most budget Moving Magnet cartridges and are the most simple and cost efficient styli to produce. They are arguably the most robust, and make maintaining your cartridge a little easier. However, from a purely sonic perspective, and for the enthusiast, the elliptical stylus found in higher end Moving Magnet and virtually all Moving Coil cartridges is certainly preferred. This stylus shape is much more similar to the cutting stylus used to create grooves in master discs, and is therefore much better suited to tracking the record’s grooves, and offering extra detail, soundstage and insight, particularly towards the inner portions of the record itself.