Best Phono Cartridge Under 200

You enjoy the more original vinyl sound of a record player over popping online virtually. You’ve just made the best setup of your recorder at the other end of the room on the shelf to avoid and minimize vinyl wear. And just when you place the needle on the groove, it gives out that horrible noise and hum even when you have a hum eliminator integrated.

Heads up! If you’re looking to stop flushing your money down the toilet, avoid the headaches of the Chinese knock-offs, and get the best phono cartridge under 200, you’re in the right place.

On this page, I have reviewed the 10 most quality models of vinyl for your money. Right here, you’ll find;

  • Both standard mount and P mount phono cartridges
  • Best phono cartridge for rock music
  • Best phono cartridge for jazz

All for your turntables. And you won’t have to go over your 200 dollars budget getting one of these. Let’s dive in.

Best Phono Cartridges For Rock Music And Classical

Are you looking to play more rock than pop or jazz? In this category, you find 4 powerful cartridges that have been engineered for the best sound all-round but perform exceptionally for rock sounds.

  1. Best For DJ; Audio Technica AT-XP7 DJ Cartridge

If you’re an audiophile DJ looking for a half-inch mounting vinyl to play rock smoothly for a large audience, this is for you. Audio Technica AT-XP7 is a VM dual-magnet needle design with a bounded round shank stylus construction designed ground-up for the aggressive DJ. It is much lighter in weight (6.2 gram) than most moving magnet cartridges out there. Therefore you can rest easy about a needle that won’t put pressure on your groove body to bring you back to the horrible humming and noise you’re trying to avoid. This is especially important for a DJ performing to a large audience where there’ll be a lot of vibration.

Another great thing about it is that the AT-XP7 DJ cartridge offers a quality tracking ability for all kinds of music but most significantly for rock music. Both the output level and output impedance of signals have been made to be adaptable to a DJ’s mixing board. On top of that, the unit integrates a stainless wire suspension that allows for clearer sounding of the high-frequency signals most common in rock and bass. The cantilever is designed with tapered aluminum and together with the elliptical stylus pin, you can expect high tracking accuracy for outstanding audio production. The only downside, however, is that this unit doesn’t come with a headshell.

Overall, if you’re looking for a highly responsive audio needle for a DJing environment for your that won’t cost you more than 160 bucks, you’re getting a great deal from this one. And about the headshell limitation, you can easily purchase a headshell for 20 or 15 bucks and you’ll still be below your 200 dollars budget.

Features

  • Type; VM dual-magnet
  • Mounting type; half inch
  • Vertical tracking force range; 2 to 4g
  • Output; balance channel
  • Cantilever material; aluminum tapered pipe
  • Vertical tracking angle; 20 degrees
  • Coil inductance; 1Khz
  • Stylus shape; elliptical
  • Frequency response; 20 to 20, 000Hz
  • Stylus construction; bonded round shank
  • Load impedance; 47, 000ohms
  • Load capacitance; 100 – 200 pF
  • Weight; 6.2g
  • Dynamic compliance; 8 ✕ 10cm/dyne
  • Cartridge installation screws; 11mm (2 pieces) and 8mm (2 pieces)
  • 2 pieces of washer
  • 2 pieces of round nut
  • 1 piece of non-magnet screwdriver
Pros
  • Easy installation
  • Comes with all needed installation accessories
  • A lot of frequency response
  • Lightweight unit
  • No humming device for noise-free vinyl
  • Best one for a gigging DJ
  • Durable robust construction
  • A highly visible stylus for easy positioning in a dark environment
  • Excellent tracking accuracy
  • High-quality sound

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a headshell
  1. Best For The Club; Ortofon Concorde Club Single DJ Cartridge With Elliptical Stylus

Do you want the perfect upgrade for an old club needle? Then this is for you if you answer yes. Ortofon Concorde Club is a single needle, professional DJ cartridge for your turntable in the club. A complete tracking unit that picks from 20Hz to 20, 000Hz frequency signal off your groove body without leaving a scratch behind. Though if you have the slightest dent on your groove, this needle will pick it up as it is highly sensitive. And that may make for a lot of horrible noise. Otherwise, with a smooth body groove, Ortofon Concorde is a great match for your DJing environment or for broadcasting purposes. And here’s why I think so.

For one, this vinyl packs an output voltage of 8mV that stages it for the reproduction of cleaner sounds even when you don’t want to add many gains from your preamp. The great thing to this is that your music is less susceptible to feedback which is occasionally impossible to avoid during a performance in the club. Also, the overall design has a larger cutout that enables you to position your needle more precisely, this is especially needed when performing under low light conditions. Talk about a firm, easy holding on groove, a crisp vinyl sound with DJ quality, and overall cartridge durability, Ortofon makes the cut in those areas.

My final verdict though. If you want to be in charge of the music in your bar and escape hiring a DJ, this is the unit for you. It is easy to connect to the tonearm, just plug the round end in. And did I mention the black and yellow painting that brings out the beauty in this elliptical stylus design cartridge? Both the grip and handle are replaceable whenever the need arises.

Features

  • Output voltage; 8mA
  • Frequency range; 20Hz to 20, 000Hz
  • Tracking force; 2 to 4.0g
  • Stylus type; special elliptical
  • Channel separation @ 15, 000Hz; 15dB
  • Channel separation @ 1, 000Hz; 25dB
  • Channel balance @ 1, 000Hz; 1dB
  • Recommended tracking force; 3.0g
  • Weight; 9.25g
Pros
  • Cleaner sound reproduction
  • Texture grip and handle are replaceable
  • Stylust tip is more robust for precise positioning
  • Best cartridge for the club
  • Fits perfectly on the groove body
  • Ideal for avoiding feedback

Cons

  • Picks up inconsistencies in the groove
  1. Best For Tighter Sound; Audio Technica AT-VM95SH Dual Moving Magnet

I am especially recommending this to every moving magnet cartridge lover. Most especially to you if you are looking for the perfect fit for your Rega P6 turntable and want the tightest rock or classical sound off of it. Technica AT-VM95SH is an upgrade on the former AT95, lighter, and offering an additional 5, 000 frequency range on top of the initial 20, 000Hz of its ancestor. Though it may be considered another half-inch mount design, AT-VM95SH brings more excellent channel separation to your preamp and a low distortion which accounts for the unique tonal quality that all Audio Technica units are known for.

Talk about construction body fitness. AT-VM95SH has a sturdier cartridge body, allowing the integrated Shibata stylus to fit in better. All of these result in a unit that runs faster on the feet while making the inconsistencies on your groove less obvious. Another great thing is, this new model has a much thinner cantilever that adapts to a busy environment without compromising on performance and reading accuracy. Finally, putting this together with the headshell is easier than ever. Unlike before when you’ll have to justle around multiple screws and nuts with a screwdriver, AT-VM95SH features a naked housing with a threaded insert that enables you to mount it to the headshell with just two screws. No nut is needed.

The only downside, however, is that there are no color-coded cartridge output pins at the connection end. This may make connectivity difficult for a total novice. Also, it has a lesser range of tracking force compared to most moving magnet models out there. Other than that, for a 200 dollars unit promising such tight sound, you can’t beat AT-VM95SH. See the complete specifications list below.

Features

  • Frequency response range; 20 to 25, 000Hz
  • The angle of vertical tracking; 23 degrees
  • DC resistance; 485 ohms
  • Channel separation; 23dB at 1, 000Hz
  • Nude square shank stylus construction
  • Coil impedance; 3.3, 000 ohms at 1, 000Hz
  • Coil inductance; 550mH at 1, 000Hz
  • Channel balance; 1.5dB
  • Aluminum pipe cantilever
  • Half-inch mount
  • Shibata stylus type; 2.7 ✕ 0.26mil
  • Overall weight; 6.1g
  • Vertical tracking force range; 1.8 to 2.2g
  • 2 pieces of 11mm installation screws
  • 2 pieces of 8mm installation screws
  • Nonmagnetic screwdrivers
  •  2 pieces of washers
Pros
  • Best for the tightest rock and classical sound
  • A lot of frequency range
  • Lightweight
  • It doesn’t pick up inconsistencies
  • Dual-magnet
  • Low-resonance
  • Low-distortion
  • The stylus can be replaced about any six interchangeable stylus

Cons

  • The absence of color-coded output pins
  1. Best Low Price; Numark CC-1 Multiple Style Cartridge

Being low on a budget doesn’t essentially translate to claiming all the low-quality things that life has to offer. So to speak, if you consider spending 200 bucks on a turntable-part a splash-out, and you want a lot of value for your 80 bucks, get in here. Numark CC-1 is a multiple style cartridge recognized for high-versatility among every other circular diamond stylus design. It beats many of the expensive models to the dust in the league of tracking force, output voltage, and frequency response range. The only downside to this unit is that it is quite bulky and may stand too much on your groove. Well, that’s just the secret behind the increased tracking force.

Numark CC-1 boosts your signal to the very edge with a maximum frequency response of 22, 000Hz. For this alone, it’s reasonable to make it your DJing cartridge whether for your home DJing or for the club stereo play. It offers the most reasonable output and tracking value for either of the aforementioned purposes. And is quite easy to handle when compared to most of the so-called best phono cartridges for beginners. Also, the fine circular diamond stylus tip integrated with this unit enables it to pick signals more accurately whilst boasting a superior DJ performance. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t recommend this for consistent general mixing. If you enjoy scratching, blending, or juggling, you may just want to change the needle that comes with this as it might break off easily.

Other than that, for a cartridge under that price, you won’t get a better cartridge for your home studio turntable over Numark CC-1. The body is quite robust and the sleek body design just adds to the overall boldness and ease of handling. My verdict is if you want something to practice DJing at home, this is a great offer. Otherwise, get something better from those reviewed above or check the next category of the best phone cartridges for jazz.

Features

  • Range of frequency response; 20 to 20, 000Hz
  • Voltage output; 6mV
  • Tracking fore range; 3g to 6g
  • DC resistance; 430 ohms at 1, 000Hz
  • DC inductance; 400mH at 1, 000Hz
  • Channel dB; 1.5dB
  • Nominal channel separation; 28dB
  • Stylus tip type; fine circular diamond
  • Weight; 18.0g
Pros
  • Best lowest price unit
  • Most ideal for home studio
  • Great for practicing DJ
  • Clean sounding
  • Doesn’t eat power
  • It packs a lot of tracking force
  • Reads both low and high signals accurately
  • Easy to set up
  • Highly versatile
  • Bold and durable body design
  • Built to last
  • Worths more than the price

Cons

  • Portable but packs weight
  • Not for gigging; weak needle
  • May pick up inconsistencies

Moving on to the next category…

Best Phono Cartridge For Jazz And Classical

In this section, I have handpicked the top 4 best phono cartridges under 200 bucks for jazz and classical. (Spoilers alert; number one is the best.)

  1. Best For Scratching; Ortofon Concorde Scratch Single Professional DJ Cartridge

For all professional DJs out there looking to scratch limitlessly and get a DJ quality vinyl performance from their turntable without spending too much, this is the real deal. Ortofon Concorde Scratch is the DVS-ready single stylus cartridge for the aggressive DJs. The unit is engineered specifically for scratching by offering a high output on a feedback-wise portable device. Sitting lightly on your groove is a spherical tip endowed with massive tracking ability, high stability, and pointiness. It allows you to easily and accurately position your reader to the precise point on your disk, and thus, allowing for a turntablism performance plus an aggressive scratching. Talk about a crispy clean low-end for your jazz and pop. or a clean, pounding classical that is not tainted in any way.

Unfortunately, Ortofon Concorde offers less when it comes to the frequency range. And well, that’s why I am recommending it for jazz DJs. But again, you can always add more gains on your signals right from the surface of your preamp box. Right? With that out of the way, you can get more of this gadget. Especially for your digital vinyl systems such as the Tracktor models or any of the members on the Serato series, this is the most fitting signal reader. The output is reasonably impressive and you can always count on it to make signals perceivable to you PAs with zero distortion.

Finally, I’d pick Ortofon Concorde scratch over any other for my digital vinyl system whether for a home studio or for live performances. See below for some of the features along with why I think it’s great and why I think otherwise.

Features

  • Output voltage; 10mV
  • Frequency range; 20Hz to 18, 000Hz
  • Stylus tip type; spherical
  • Connectivity; 4 pins
  • Tracking angle; 20 degrees
  • Maximum tracking force; 4g
  • Internal impedance; 750 ohms
  • Internal inductance; 450mH
Pros
  • It has a larger cutout for easy handling
  • Precise needle positioning
  • Easy connection to the tonearm
  • Does the heavy lifting for your PAs
  • Excellent low end
  • Maximized output voltage
  • Best for aggressive scratching
  • Low power consumption
  • Strong needle

Cons

  • Lesser range of frequencies
  1. Best For Home Audio; Audio Technica AT-XP5 DJ Cartridge

Though it is considered a DJ cartridge, for me I wouldn’t recommend this for gigging but for home studio alone with either your conventional stereo or your digital turntable. The one reason I’d say otherwise is for the strength of its needle that allows for scratching. Take that away and Audio Technica AT-XP5 would be relegated to light-duty audio production alone. For one, it doesn’t have the wider frequency range shared between the heavy-duty types of vinyl. Also, the stylus tip is quite short. This may make it forgiving to scratching, but at the same time, it opens your mixes to feedback. Well, that was just to debunk the DJing myth thrown around this unit. Now, to the great part.

Audio Technica AT-XP5 is one of the best cartridges you can ever get for your entertainment stereo at home. Also ideal for professional studio production, AT-XP5 doesn’t throw its weight upon your disk, thanks to a light needle. It has the same groove tracking capacity of those moving coils you’d spend 450 bucks on. Compare its tracking capacity to that of AT-MONO3/LP which is 200 bucks higher in price. And to say that our 80 bucks guy here is far lighter in weight and robust compared to AT-MONO3/LP gives our low-price guy another edge. But well, the latter rocks your DJ performance in a large audience show.

In my opinion, AT-XP5 is a great way to spend your money when choosing a cartridge for your home turntable or for your professional studio production. Keep it in your cartridge bag when not in use and you’re sure to bounce a lot of years of usage off of it.

Features

  • Cartridge type; VM dual-magnet
  • Frequency response range; 18 to 20, 000Hz
  • Output voltage; 5.5mV
  • Cantilever; carbon fiber reinforced ABS
  • Vertical tracking force; 2 to 4g
  • Mounting type; half-inch
  • Channel separation; 20dB at 1, 000Hz
  • Stylus size; 0.3 ✕ 0.7mil
  • Vertical tracking angle; 20 degree
  • Stylus shape; elliptical
  • Coil inductance; 1, 000Hz
  • Overall weight; 6.2g
Pros
  • Excellent tracking ability for digital stereo
  • Lit stylus for great visibility
  • Uncompromised sound superiority
  • Durable body design
  • Lightweight for a noise-free and feedback-free production
  • Offers a unique audiophile experience
  • Ready to use right out of the box
  • Vibration-free fiber body
  • Strong cantilever

Cons

  • Not so great for DJing
  1. Best For The Studio; Audio Technica AT-VM95ML (Combo kit)

Here is another model from Audio Technica and it falls under the VM series recognized for both high needle strength and quality tracking. AT-VM95ML comes in a transparent construction body emphasizing its purpose as giving the micro tracking needle a solid grip. On one side, the micro linear needle increases stylus durability. On the flip side, it also helps to avoid the inescapable inner groove distortion on a scratchy groove with imperfection. In the same light, this lets AT-VM95ML claim more frequency response to itself whether for your mid, lows, or highs. And those alone are enough reasons to get this for audible studio production.

Meanwhile, the maximum time it takes the stylus to wear out is unbeatable. Compare it to any of the Shibata styluses and you’ll have 200hrs more left on our guy here after Shibata wears out. Compare it to an elliptical stylus and you’ll be bouncing 700hrs of tracking from the AT-VM95ML needle after an elliptical stylus wears out. Basically, micro linear needles pack more mileage than any other type of stylus alive. But AT-VM95ML appears to promise even more than the 1000hrs wearing out period of a conventional micro linear. And did I mention the part that all you have to install it and get it up and running are 2 screws which are included in your pack?

This cartridge will take a lot of knocks from mishandling, in my opinion. Every part of it is easy to replace without raising an extra charge. See the complete specifications, pros, and the few cons of it below.

Features

  • Cartridge type; VM stereo dual magnet
  • Mounting type; half-inch
  • Frequency response range; 20 to 25, 000Hz
  • Tracking force range; 1.8g to 2.2g
  • The angle of vertical tracking force; 20 degrees
  • Stylus shape; micro linear
  • Cantilever type; aluminum pipe
  • Output voltage; 3.5mV
  • Recommended load impedance; 47, 000 ohms
  • Coil impedance; 3, 300 ohms
  • Coil inductance; 550mH
  • Chanel separation; 23dB
  • 2 Pieces of washers
  • 2 pieces of 11mm screws
  • 2 pieces of 8mm screws
  • Non-magnetic screwdriver
Pros
  • Sturdy electro-magnetic body build
  • Packs a lot of mileage ( up to 1000hrs before wearing)
  • Reduces inner groove distortion on dented grooves
  • Easy replacement of parts
  • Extended frequency response range
  • Best for quality studio production
  • Less work needed to set it up on your turntable
  • Hassle-free cartridge upgrade
  • Comes with the needed headshell

Cons

  • Not a very bold body
  1. Another Home Stereo Option; Audio Technica AT-VM95EN

Finally, last here on my list is another front-liner in the VM95 series. And this time, this one is going right in your home turntable. Audio Technica AT-VM95EN is a nude elliptical diamond stylus design that packs its entire tracking prowess in a single needle for a more rigid transmission compared to a diamond tip that is held in a titanium shank. In the fidelity of transmission quality, most especially for high frequencies, the nude diamond design of this unit makes a whole lot of difference. Nevertheless, this is just another half-inch mount cartridge for your home vinyl audio entertainment. See the complete specks below.

Features

  • Cartridge type; VM Stereo dual magnet
  • Mounting type; half inch
  • Frequency response; 20 to 23, 000Hz
  • Channel separation; 23dB @ 1, 000Hz
  • Output channel balance; 2.0dB @ 1, 000Hz
  • Output voltage; 3.5mV
  • Cantilever; aluminum pipe
  • Vertical tracking angle; 23 degrees
  • Vertical tracking force range; 1.8 to 2.2g
  • Coil inductance; 550mH
  • Coil impedance; 3, 300 ohms
  • Coil material; T.P copper
  • Non-magnetic screwdriver
  • 2 pieces of 11mm screws
  • 2 pieces of 8mm screws
  • Stylus construction type; nude round shank
  • Stylus shape; elliptical
Pros
  • A rigid transmission system
  • Lightweight unit
  • Quality transient response
  • A great option for your home turntable
  • Easy stylus replacement
  • Great unit at a steal price

Cons

  • Not for heavy-duty audio reproduction

Ultimate Buying Guide

When shopping for your next turntable cartridge, here are a few things to put under consideration.

  • Frequency response range; depending on where your turntable is going, the frequency range of an ideal cartridge should be such that makes clean vinyl audio audible enough to the audience. If you’re performing in a club as a DJ, you want more than the frequency response that’d be great for home listening.
  • Stylus; here is a good rule of thumb. A short stylus lasts longer than the extended ones. Nevertheless, the material of your stylus also determines stylus durability. Overall, the size, the shape, and the material of a cartridge’s stylus must be checked really.
  • Easy installation; setting up your cartridge with your stereo should be a breeze.
  • Tracking force and angle; high tracking force equals to accurate tracking and an accurate give-out. Nevertheless, cartridges with high tracking force are unforgiving to groove body inconsistency. So, it’s more ideal to go for a tracking force not higher than 1.8g in my opinion.

Conclusion

It’s almost difficult to get the best phono cartridge under 200 for the fact that the market is teeming in packs of their lot. But you can always get what you need with the right guidance. Right? So far, I have recommended some of the best models for your 200 bucks budget. And I have been specific enough throughout my specifications by pointing out where each reviewed model performs the most. But should you be looking for a more specific recommendation, reach out to me below.

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