Are you tired of the endless Google crawling?
At times it just gets too hard to make a purchase decision that you won’t ever look back to regret. This is especially for your turntable cartridge.
And things can be far worse when you have to wrap your head around the tons of two-sided reviews on Amazon.
Luckily, I have done the research work for you.
In this review post, you will find the best phono cartridge under 500 dollars for your turntable.
And to make things easy for you, I have split up my 5 recommendations into 2 distinct groups.
The first group with the headline best phono cartridge under 500 for audiophiles, revolves around the review of 3 turntable cartridges that are the most ideal for an audiophile.
Same way, in the last group of 2, you’ll find the best phono cartridge under 500 for heavy-duty vinyl playing such as in the club or during a stage performance as a DJ.
Let’s get started.
5 Best Phono Cartridge Under 500 Dollars
Best 3 For Audiophiles
If you have an ear for sound details as an audiophile, a studio producer, or a home studio manager, this category is for you.
Best Overall; Audio-Technica AT440MLB Phonograph Cartridge
Coming from yours truly, the Audio Technica AT440MLB phonograph cartridge is the first on the list. The AT440MLB is one of Audio Technica’s first VM series moving magnet cartridges. This series is basically a response to the detailed sound demand of audiophiles in the studio. Thus, the AT440MLB is a specially engineered groove reader for deeper penetration into the groove of every sound.
To achieve this one goal, the AT440MLB is built as a dual-magnet cartridge that is able to track the two channels of your groove, producing a fuller range of frequency response. On top of that, the par toroidal material choice of the in-built static coil is super-sensitive, opening the doors to more signal generating power, and ultimately, putting AT440MLB on the high-performance category of groove readers.
Finally, the design is completed with a much smaller micro-linear needle, giving AT440MLB a spot in the arsenal of a DJ.
- Type; Moving magnet
- Needle type; micro-linear stylus
- Per toroidal coil
- Frequency response range; 20Hz to 25, 000Hz
- Cantilever material; aluminum tube
- Vertical tracking angle; 20-degrees
- Vertical tracking force range; 1.0g to 1.8g
- Channel balance; 1dB @ 1, 000Hz
- Channe; separation; 28dB @ 1, 000Hz
- Weight; 6.5g
- Accessories included; non-magnetic screwdriver, 2 pieces of mounting screws, and washers
- No self-talk between channels
- Best deal for all 10xx and 12xx series turntables
- Dynamic punch and inner details clarity
- Easy installation and affordable at $250
- Low stylus wear, great for DJing
- The plastic body may not be all too strong
Best Moving Coil; Denon DL-103R Moving Coil Cartridge
There is a whole of perks to opting for a moving coil cartridge. For one, they are reasonable of lightweight and won’t put a load on your groove, which would otherwise cause scratching. Finally, moving coils are more accurate in their tracking, depending on the needle they come with. But on the downside, moving coils cost a fortune. With an exception to the very few moving coils like the DL-103R model of Denon’s DL series.
I’m rooting for this one for all studio producers out there and to all obsessed audiophiles with keen ears. Right from start, the Denon DL-103R is a killer, classic moving coil for pure vinyl music listening. And for the fact that there’s been an update on the former coil with a 6N coil replacement in the cantilever shaft, you can expect a lot of value for your money. It offers smooth sound and excellent details of both bass and low-end frequencies. The only downside to this setup, however, is that if you have scratches or dirt on your record, you’ll be able to hear it more than with any other cartridge. But as much as you keep your groove clean and new, nothing beats this baby in your turntable setup in the studio.
- Type; moving coil
- Coil type; 6N copper coil
- Frequency response; 20Hz to 45, 000Hz
- Output voltage; 0.25mV
- Tracking force; 25mN
- Needle; 0.2mm square solid diamond
- Load impedance; 100ohms @ 1000Hz
- Channel balance; 1dB @ 1000Hz
- Channel separation; 25dB @ 1000Hz
- Electrical impedance; 14ohms
- Weight; 8.5g
- Smooth bass sound
- Excellent mid and low-end details
- Massive frequency response range
- High tracking accuracy
- Durable body design made to last
- Best thing for your Linn LP12 turntable and your TEAC 550 turntable
- It picks up inconsistencies in a rough disc
Best For Low-budget; Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge
Being on a low budget shouldn’t essentially translate to claiming all the low-quality things that life has to offer. So to speak, if you’re looking for a non-picky, highly dynamic cartridge with a solid arm construction for your turntable, this baby is yours at the steal price of $237. And the great thing is that this is from Ortofon, so you can rest easy and expect that you’re not wasting money on a Chinese knock-off from a fly-by-night manufacturer.
So here’s the catch. The Ortofon 2M Blue moving magnet cartridge is a universal fit for all turntables. As an update of the 2M Red of late, this new blue version does not only retain the tracking stability of its predecessor but it equally adds more resolution and dynamics to an open vinyl sound. In the same light, it zooms in completely to the groove, picking all of the signals that come its way for a more profound and detailed sound. You can easily replace the nude elliptical diamond stylus when it wears out as it is widely available on the market. See the complete features below.
- Type; moving magnet
- Needle type; nude elliptical diamond
- Frequency response; 20Hz to 20, 000Hz
- Output voltage; 5.5mV @ 1, 000Hz
- Tracking force range; 1.8g to 2.2g
- Weight; 7.2g
- Stylus mileage for DJing; 1000hrs
- Stylus mileage for home listening; 2000hrs
- Ease of use
- A lot of stylus mileage
- Highly dynamic and versatile
- Clean, full sound playback
- Beautiful design
Moving on to the next group of 2…
Best 2 For Stage DJing And Home Listening
In this section, I have reviewed 2 of the best phono cartridges under 500 for stage performance, house party, and home listening. Let’s dive in.
- Best High-performance; Shure M97XE High-Performance Magnetic Phono Cartridge
Whether you are an aggressive DJ looking for a cartridge to scratch with or you want the best turntable phono cartridge for bass and jazz, this is for you. Though you’ll be adding 100 bucks to your 500 bucks budget to get this one, Shure has never disappointed in with their products. And with the M97XE of the M series of Shure, you sure (pun intended) are getting value for your money. And here’s the catch.
The Shure M97XE is a high-performance MM phono cartridge for all purposes. It is engineered to perfectly reduce the difficulty of signal passage from your groove. This is especially for high frequencies that may otherwise end building up and mudding your music with horrible hums. And you don’t need to spend the extra bucks on a PAD. Meanwhile, the elliptical diamond stylus is finely polished for tracking accuracy, complementing the viscous-damped stabilizer that keeps the distance between your record and the cartridge.
The overall body design is ground-solid and with the side-guard system integrated into this unit, M97XE can take all the knocks you throw at it and withstand stylus damages in a reasonable way.
- Type; moving magnet
- Needle type; polished elliptical diamond
- Channel balance; 2dB
- Channel separation; 25dB @1, 000Hz
- DC resistance; 1550ohms
- Stereo output; 4.0mV
- Frequency response range; 20Hz to 20, 000H
- Weight; 6.6gram
- Stylus mileage; 1, 000hrs
- Accessories included; cleaning brush, mounting hardware, screwdriver, screws, and washers
- Solid drop bass
- Accented highs and flat mids
- Low record wear
- Best choice for Philips AF777 turntable, Technics SL12000 turntable, and dual 1219 TT
- Great for all tonearms
- Easy to install
- Great for mixing and spinning
- Costs an additional $100 but it’s worth it
- Best Lightweight; Grado Reference Platinum 1 Moving Magnet Cartridge
Finally, last on the list is Grado Reference Platinum 1. A super lightweight cartridge with a lot of mileage to offer on its durable needle. This cartridge was designed for aggressive mixing, spinning, and scratching.
But if you’re looking to crank this up with your home stereo, you’re not losing a dime. The ultra-high purity long crystal oxygen-free copper coil in the 4-piece cantilever keeps the design 10% less heavy and 50% pure and clear in frequency broadcasting.
See the complete features below.
- Needle type; half-mount elliptical diamond
- Coil type; UHPLC copper coil
- Channel separation; 30dB @ 1, 000Hz
- Wood housing
- Frequency response range; 15Hz to 55, 000Hz
- Output; 4.8mV @ 1, 000Hz
- Tracking force; 1.5g to 1.9g
- Resistance; 600ohms
- Weight; 10g
- Advanced coil
- A lot of stylus mileage
- Durable unit
- Low price-point
- Quality vinyl sound
- Not aesthetic
So far so good. I have reviewed 5 distinct cartridges for your turntable. Let me know whichever of my recommendation you’re going for in the comment section below.