I always assumed that over-time, vinyl will die out completely… I am glad that prediction did not come true. Despite the prevalence and the majority of people streaming music via the internet, there still are many audiophiles out there with a passion for collecting music physically and owning a record player.
So, assuming you are one of those special people that have a vinyl or record player, whichever way you prefer saying it, you most likely understand the value that a high-quality phono cartridge plays. A premium phono cartridge can completely change the quality of sound and can make an old turntable sound better than a new one.
With that said, finding one that meets all your requirements and doesn’t break the bank can be quite a hassle. That is where I come into play. In this article, I will provide you guys with a list of the best phono cartridge under 200. Without further adieu, let us start the list:
8 BEST phono cartridge UNDER 200 review
1. ORTOFON 2M - BEST BUDGET PHONO CARTRIDGE
Even though this list is in no specific order, the Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge can be argued to be awarded the title of being the best phono cartridge under 200, and most people would agree with that. This phone cartridge is the cheapest model that Ortofon offers but the sound it offers is by no means cheap.
The sound it produces is warm and consistently good to listen to. The output of the echo is perfect, and the midrange is punchy and expressive, while the bass and treble are fairly decent. The bass is a bit lacking but, at the end of the day, you do need to make some sacrifices at this price point.
The Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge has a very appealing design. The design does more than make it look good though, it is simple and has a universal fit. Meaning if you have an old turntable laying around that you wish to upgrade as stock cartridges aren’t exactly the best, this is the perfect purchase.
At this inexpensive price point, the consistency and warmth of the sound are very impressive, and if you ever wish to up things up a notch, you can upgrade it with an Ortofon Stylus 2M Blue. At this price point, it is an incredible deal! Definitely worth the price!
2. AUDIO-TECHNICA VM520EB - BEST PHONO CARTRIDGE FOR THE MONEY
Audio-Technica has made quite a name for themselves, a brand recognized and respected by the general audience as well musicians. Admittedly, only musicians and audiophiles would call themselves true fans, but that is the case with most companies that specialize in music-related products.
Audio-Technica, in their early days, were focusing mostly on manufacturing high-end phono cartridges. The VM520EB is a new addition to their 500 series, part of the new VM cartridge line.
VM cartridges have been one of Audio-Technica’s most renowned products, and they have only been getting better with time as they incorporate newer technology to these products. The Audio-Technica VM520EB has, just like all the VM cartridges, two moving magnets inside that are positioned to match the left/right channels in the stereo record groove.
The advantage of this is that it allows for extended frequency response and superior channel separation. The center shield plate, placed between the left and the right channels, reduces crosstalk while the paratoroidal coils improve efficiency. The VM520EB is designed to fit a standard 1/2” mount and comes with an aluminum cantilever and mounting hardware, making it ideal for people that are new to this world record player as it is compatible with almost all kinds of turntables.
It comes equipped with a 0.3 x 0.7 mil elliptical bonded stylus which is capable of tracking the record groove with high accuracy and impressive audio reproduction. At this price point, this is one of the best phono cartridge under 200!
3. ORTOFON OM 5E - BEST CHEAP PHONO CARTRIDGE
Ortofon has been designing and manufacturing Moving Magnet cartridges for more than 50 years now. The OM 5 series, offered by Ortofon, has the lowest-mass range of moving magnet cartridges. These are designed to make the installation process a piece of cake. Mounting and alignment are super easy.
Not only that, the OM series is quite compatible and can be used with a wide variety of phono preamps and playback systems. As long as your tonearm has a standard headshell or a cartridge mount, you can upgrade your stock cartridge with the OM 5e and up your sound game. The Ortofon OM 5e Moving MagnetCartridge comes equipped with an Elliptical diamond stylus which provides distortion-free, accurate tracking and balanced playback.
Elliptical diamonds are much better than spherical diamonds as they are capable of following the groove oscillations more accurately thanks to their contoured shape.
A fantastic feature of the OM 5e is that it has a wide variety of replacement styli that matches your system and fits into your budget. It has a low-mass design which helps increase the life of your record by reducing record wear. This is one of the best phono cartridge under 200 and easily one of the most affordable ones on this list!
4. AUDIO-TECHNICA AT-VM95ML - BEST MOVING MAGNET PHONO CARTRIDGE
Audio-Technica has been around for over 50 years. Having worked alongside figures in sports and music broadcast, they have developed numerous products that are high quality to the point that they have been used to power the Grammys, World Cup, Super Bowl, Commonwealth Games, and more.
For home, studio, or the stage, products made by Audio-Technica are trusted time and time again by industry professionals, and myself included. Not because I am an industry professional but because I like my products to work well and not cost me a fortune. The AT-VM95 features a Nude Microlinear diamond which provides only extended frequency response, maximizes the resolution in the high to medium frequencies, and minimizes the inner groove distortion.
This special miroclinera diamond stylus, aside from the benefits I just listed, also reduces wear and tear when compared to an elliptical or conventional linear contact stylus. A diamond stylus, eventually, becomes worn and unusable over a period of time. Audio-Technica thought of this and designed their VM95 Series dual moving magnet cartridges, which an interchangeable stylus that is a very simple yet effective solution to a common problem. Good job on that.
The M Series Dual Magnet cartridge with 2.2 x 0.12 mil micro-linear stylus fits half-inch mount turntables; this makes it quite compatible. This cartridge has durable and low-resource, which does not require any nuts to install rather comes with threaded inserts that enable you to mount the cartridge to the headshell with just two screws. It is a tad bit on the expensive side, but it is still not near the 200$ mark. That is why I didn’t hesitate twice before adding this to the list of the best phono cartridge under 200.
5. SUMIKO RAINIER PHONO CARTRIDGE
Sumiko has provided the industry, for over 40 years, with the finest tools in analog reproduction. Their products have a different sort of artistic appeal to them and are so accessible that most audiophiles and analog enthusiasts have this company on their radar. They have never stopped manufacturing phono cartridges; rather, they have worked on making it better.
The company has entered the ever-growing budget market with their Sumiko Rainier Phono Cartridge, and I truly believe it is one of the best phono cartridge under 200 and a great decision by the company to enter this price segment. The Rainier is the first cartridge that comes from Sumiko’s new Oyster lineup. The Rainier boasts an all-new integrated body and generator system that improves the overall performance of this cartridge.
The integrated body is an upgrade from their best-selling Pearl phono cartridge, so I was taken aback by that. What truly takes the cake, according to me, is the fact that the Sumiko Rainier’s Moving Magnet architecture makes it compatible with almost any phono stage. Along with that, you can upgrade its stock stylus with an Olympia or Moonstone.
These two features paired with each other make this phono cartridge future-proof. It boasts an impressive 15-25,000 Hz range of frequency response, meaning you will hear everything with detail and not miss a note. One of the best entry-level choices out there. Worth consideration!
6. AUDIO-TECHNICA AT-VM95SP/H TURNTABLE HEADSHELL/CARTRIDGE COMBO KIT GRAY
I feel like I have already made you guys fairly informed about Audio-Technica, so I will not take up more of your time doing that. The AT-VM95SP/H combo kit comes with the AT-VM95SP dual moving magnet cartridge, which is premounted on the AT-HS6BK headshell.
It comes equipped with a 3.0 mil conical stylus, which is compatible with half-inch mount turntables, making it a cartridge a ton of people would consider as half-inch mount turntables sell a lot.
Despite the fact that this cartridge is designed to play 78 RPM mono records, it is a stereo cartridge. This is quite advantageous as it allows you to choose between the left and right channels, which, in return, minimizes distortion and unwanted noise. It comes in a durable low-resonance polymer housing along with an Aluminum cantilever.
It can easily be mounted on the headshell with just two screws; thanks to the threaded inserts in the cartridge body, no nuts are required. Get your mind out of the gutter. Definitely give this best phono cartridge under 200 a look!
7. ORTOFON CONCORDE MK2 SCRATCH SINGLE CARTRIDGE
If you want high-level tracking abilities alongside high output for your turntable and scratching DJ, the Ortofon Concorde MK2 is the way to go. This professional-grade turntable cartridge is designed whilst keeping in mind the needs and desires of the modern turntable DJs.
It uses spherical styli for they are much better at scratching and preserve the grooves over back-cueing for longer life. It is tailored specifically for maximizing its scratching performance. Sounds like I am describing a cat.
Ortofon Concorde MK2 Scratch Single Cartridge has a very high output, ten mV if you want to know the number. It is perfect for music with deep bass frequencies.
It specializes in reproducing bass and highs, making it perfect for almost all styles of music, but it is recommended for more energetic or “pumping” sounds. This is a single cartridge with a pre mounted stylus that will fit all DJ turntables with a removable headshell. Maybe not for everyone but the target audience; you will love it!
8. REGA - BIAS 2 MM PHONO CARTRIDGE
Rega doesn’t disclose much information about their phono cartridge, which is...odd, but no fear, I am here to tell you all you really need to know about the Rega Bias 2. It comes equipped with an elliptical-stylus model and has parallel wound coils which explain its high output of about 7mV and rather low resistance of 170 ohms.
It has a very unusual form factor but aces when it comes down to the music. It offers amazing bass and a very impressive mid-range. The treble does seem a bit off, but for the most part, it is passable and not a major hindrance. It is incredibly slight and probably one of the quietest phono cartridges out there that I have tested thus far. The stylus isn’t replaceable, but other than that one issue, I truly believe this is one of the best phono cartridge under 200!
The above were eight of the best phono cartridge under 200 that you can get right now. True audiophiles know just how much difference a decent phono cartridge can make, and invest in one is truly worth the money if you listen to music often.
If you have an old turntable laying around, or perhaps you wish to give you a cheap one a nice upgrade, consider any of the above, and you will have yourself a turntable that sounds as good as new. Hope this article helped, and thank you for reading!