Vinyl is something that everyone loves at heart. It’s warm and deliciously refined and really shows the studio mix in an entertaining light – don’t we just love it?
We have already created an article for the Hifi Gear blog entitled ‘Sit and Listen as the Record goes around’. The article looks at ideal hi-Fi turntables for rediscovering all of those vinyl record classics. We have mentioned cartridge choice, but we’re back to look in greater detail as to what you should consider when investing money into a very delicate and specific piece of vital equipment to make your turntable perform at its best. The vinyl record is a very delicate piece of format history. Although the plastic may be durable compared to the shellac counterparts of old; it can still suffer scratches, warping and be prone to static. On top of this, vinyl records are prone to wear when in playback due to incorrect needle pressure or due to being exposed to dust and other harmful elements. A suitable Phono cartridge will ensure a record’s playing lifetime to be one of pure quality and high reliability, regardless of quantity of usage.
So, here is the small list with explanations as what to do to choose a suitable cartridge for your Hi-Fi’s turntable:
1. Weigh-up the price of your existing turntable and asses the quality of the current cartridge that it has fitted. How much did you pay for the turntable when it was new? The idea is to match a cartridge that is within a price-band of the turntable itself. For example, if you had an Audio Technica AT-LP120 priced at £255, you should try and get a suitable cartridge priced at anywhere from £100 - £199. A suitable match might just be the Audio Technica AT-120E at £119, or the Ortofon 2M Blue at £155.
2. Check to see if your cartridge is Moving Magnet (MM) or Moving Cartridge (MC). These make a huge difference in overall quality. Moving Magnet is more common and a simple design which has been perfected by many manufacturers, making it an ideal choice. Moving Coil cartridges are usually more costly as they require more detail in manufacturing and design processes. Also, Moving Coil is not as widely accepted as its Moving Magnet counterpart because it requires a higher voltage in order to drive it at a usable audio level. Additional amplification from an external phono box may just be required for upgrading to this cartridge type.
3. Research is essential in order to see how different cartridges within your price band perform and how they provide different tonal qualities. Some will make your vinyl sound brighter and will flourish with detail in the high-end, whilst other might make tremendously smooth detail in the lower-end for a lovely warm feel, associated with traditional vinyl.
4. Finally, make sure that your chosen cartridge is not too heavy. Having a heavy cartridge, or too much pressure from the arm, can lead to excessive needle and rapid record life reduction. On top of this, sound dynamics can be hampered if the weight is set wrongly. A suitable cartridge weight is between 5.5 grams and an ideal maximum (when using the original tone arm) of 7.5 grams.
Practise makes perfect and it takes a good while to get your cartridge set-up at its best. A cartridge will take its time to run-in to get to its peak performance during the first 50 plays at least. Van den Hul manufactures a Cartridge Mounting Kit to help you get the cartridge fitted just correctly. If you feel you need further help please give us a call or drop us an email and we can explain in greater detail as to what to consider when looking into cartridges.