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Best Phono Cartridge under 200 dollars!

Introduction – What is a turntable phono cartridge?

This little mechanical device is used to convert the vibrations sent turntable needle into a special, electrical signal. This transmission is later received and amplified before it reaches the final stage – sound.

What is a phono cartridge made of – parts and terminology

The cartridge is comprised of five basic components – the cantilever, some magnets, coils, the stylus, and body:

  • The cantilever is commonly made of aluminum (boron material is also quite regular), but manufacturers that boast the best turntable models often equip their cantilever with exotic gemstones;
  • The turntable needle (stylus) is one of the most important parts, and you can find turntable needles in two different shapes – they’re either elliptical or spherical. The Elliptical stylus models are able to pick up larger doses of information. The spherical stylus models are placed in the higher position, wearing down at a slower pace;
  • The magnets and coils combined generate the music signal made by the information gathered from the stylus;
  • The body of the turntable cartridge is affixed to the turntable tonearm, giving the mechanical bits and pieces a solid, stationary platform to operate with the highest precision;

How does a phono cartridge work?

There are a lot of types of magnets and coils that were implemented in the phono cartridges over the past century – in the early 1950’s the magnetic cartridges have replaced the usual ceramic pick-ups (crystal pick-ups were also popular, but they were really expensive). The less common types are Moving Micro Cross & Moving Iron turntable cartridges.

It would take forever to explain how each type works, so let’s get down to the point – how phono cartridges work. The best low-cost cartridges usually implement the use of the moving magnet design. With this design, the cantilever has a small magnet, located between the two sets of copper coils (fixed position), which form a small electromagnetic generator. The magnet then vibrates as it responds to the needle, inducing a small current between the coils.

Mainly because the small magnet has a small mass value (and because it’s not coupled with the generator itself – such was the case with ceramic cartridges), the turntable needle requires less force to follow the groove.

What’s the difference between a premium quality and a mediocre cartridge?

Knowing how a cartridge works and what’s it comprised of tells us the difference between a mediocre one and a premium quality one. It’s important to note that cartridge’s cost does not affect its longevity – they generally never wear.

Those turntable cartridges that are poorly designed produce less amount of electric friction which either burdens the turntable needle forcing it to wear down in a more rapid manner, or causing it to work with reduced accuracy when compared to the more expensive counterparts.

These differences sound grave when we put it down scientifically, but only people with sharp hearing might notice a crucial difference – these are small parts that act in the symbiosis with various other tiny fragments of the turntable, but they do affect the overall sound performance.

What can you expect of a turntable cartridge below $200?

First of all, $200 is a considerable sum of money when it comes to the turntable investment. Most record players that boast quite a value cost this much altogether, but you would be surprised at what an expensive turntable cartridge can give you.

It’s safe to say that $200 “today” isn’t that much when turntable cartridges are in question – most record players come equipped with standard models of cartridges that have only a considerable amount of impact on the overall performance. If you want to upgrade your cartridge, paying $200 or less is a necessity.

These cartridges can offer you more than what you get with your record player, but less when compared to the best cartridge models. It also varies from product to product – some manufacturers have their prices up with no actual reason for that while some genuinely have that value.

Top 5 Picks For Best Phono Cartridge Under 200 Dollars

Audio-Technica AT311EP Universal Mount Phono Turntable Cartridge

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If you remember the part when we mentioned the Moving magnets, Audio-Technica AT95E is the model which implements them in their use. Audio-Technica is well known for the quality they offer with each product, and AT95E is not an exception – it’s quite on the contrary. This model has a needle guard, it’s supplied with high specifications, and it boasts extreme reliability and durability.
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Pros

  • Precision engineering;
  • Frequency of response between 15 and 27000 Hz;
  • Bonded shank stylus construction;
  • Load impedance – 47000 ohms;
  • Channel Balance – 1.25 dB;

Cons

Shure M97xE High-Performance Magnetic Phono Cartridge

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Shure M97xE is a version of V15VxMR cartridge which was discontinued. The earlier version had higher specifications, but a much higher price as well (which was one of the reasons why it was discontinued). It does not put a lot of pressure on the turntable stylus and is able to track down virtually everything. It’s designed with a special side-guard turntable needle protection which limits the needle and cantilevers potential damage. Excellent value for a reasonable price.
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Pros

  • High-performance cartridge with diamond tip;
  • Accurately reproduces musical passages, even if they’re incredibly difficult compositions;
  • Side-guard system;
  • Viscous-damped stabilizer;

Cons

Ortofon – 2M Red MM Phono Cartridge

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Ortofon 2M Red is a product of collaboration between Ortofon and Moller Jensen Design – another perfect example of how moving magnets can change your musical experience. The 2M red offers an improvement in the engine, an elliptical stylus shape, and incredible separation.
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Pros

  • Trademark split pole pins;
  • Elliptical stylus shape;
  • Improved engine – 5.5mV output;
  • Moderate price;

Cons

Sumiko – Pearl MM Phono Cartridge

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Pearl is definitely the best model in Sumiko’s Oyster Series which offers incredible performance at a bargain price. Some of the best features Pearl MM can offer you are the exquisite tracking ability, high-power generating system, and reduced sonic interference.
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Pros

  • Frequency of response between 12hz and 30KHz;
  • Channel Separation – 30 decibels;
  • Elliptical stylus shape;

Cons

Grado Prestige Black 1.5 Mount Turntable Cartridge

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This is one of the six Grado products of the Prestige Series – each model is paired in colors, and each pair gradually increases in performance specs and price. The Black1 is the least expensive (and offers the lowest specifications), but it’s still able to give quite a lot while demanding but a speck of what it can offer you.
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Pros

  • Elliptical Diamond which is mounted in the brass bushing;
  • Frequency of response ranges between 10 and 50;
  • Reconfigured coil;

Cons

Best Turntable Preamp reviews 2016 – 2017

Introduction – What is a turntable preamp?

The Turntable preamp is commonly called the turntable phono stage (or turntable preamplifier), and it’s an electronic form of a circuit that applies amplification to the signals which are coming from the cartridge, sending it further to the power amplifier input (or an audio system).

The signal which comes from the turntable needle is actually extremely low so it needs to be amplified for more than a dozen hundred times before it reaches a standard level (commonly known as AUX). Plainly speaking, the preamp is used to connect your record player to the amp, converting the phono levels to line levels.

How does it work?

Basically, the turntable preamp serves a purpose of amplifying the signal which comes from the needle. Some needles (turntable stylus) can be adjusted, some are heavy while some are light and send signals of the lowest frequencies, but all these signals are so low that they need proper amplification before they can become music.

The preamp is the bridge between your turntable and the amp – if we would observe a theoretical viewpoint where the turntable plays music through the amp alone, we could easily note that the music output would be raw, and maybe even unpleasant for human ears.

The signals sent from the turntable stylus may be somewhat accurate, but the amplification without a preamp is too vehement – preamp can finely and accurately redefine that signal and boost it to the point where it can become a note, a chord, or a song.

Here’s a visual of how to connect a turntable preamp to an amp and turntable:

What to look out for when you search for your Turntable Preamp

Looking for the best record player built in preamp is extremely hard, even if you have some knowledge of turntable tech. There are various models that offer similar features, and most attributes and benefits are not visible by naked eye – each record player built in preamp features tiny parts which work on a micro-scale towards the improvement of performance of your turntable.

By saying this, there are a couple of things you ought to look out for:

  • The first thing you should consider should be compatibility

Some models can only be paired with similar types while some turntable preamp models can be attached to any speakers or turntable models, but with reduced efficiency. Inquire about the type of magnets and coils of your turntable and search for similar preamp;

  • RIAA equalization is extremely important

RIAA equalization determines the sound output at different frequencies, ranging from the lowest to the highest possible. Some models excel in balancing this scale while some are not so proficient.

  • Adding a couple $ more could mean a lot

Record player built in preamp models are usually cheap, but there are some very expensive models. If you are in a dilemma between two models that cost nearly the same, always opt for the one that costs more. These little contraptions will last for quite a while, so by investing a couple of dollars more you will benefit greatly.

Best Turntable Preamps reviews

ART Pro Audio DJPRE II Phono Turntable Amplifier

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ART Pro DJ PRE-II gives you means to boost your turntable performance for a bargain price. It’s exceptionally affordable, and it’s meant for both professional and home usage. It comes supplied with low noise phono (preamplification) circuitry which is very accurate and conforms to all RIAA standards.

Anyhow, one of the most useful features is the low-cut filter. It helps you remove a decent amount of rumble and background noise in your turntable performance, and it’s a great combination with the gain control knob – you can customize your sound with ease.

There’s one small problem, however – DJ PRE-II does not feature a power switch, so you can’t just shut it down or power it up. It will constantly drain energy unless unplugged. This downfall, however, can be avoided if you use it rationally, only when you intend to use your turntable or to tinker with it.

One of the best record player built in preamp models on the market, definitely.
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Pros

  • Very affordable;
  • RCA input and output;
  • Ground terminal;
  • Adapter included;

Cons

Behringer MICROPHONO PP400 Ultra-Compact Phono Preamp

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A small Behringer preamp which purpose is to boost the signal input from your turntable up to the point when it reaches the line level. One of its most important features is simplicity – it serves a single function and it’s doing it great.

The Behringer PP400 is a catalyst that balances the power of the signals which come from turntable stylus, amplifying it just enough so that it can be made audible when received by your turntable’s speakers. It comes supplied with RCA, RCA inputs, and a handy power indicator. This set also includes the DC adapter.
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Pros

  • One of the best record player built in preamp models on the market;
  • Low-noise audio amp;
  • Dedicated RCA;
  • DC adapter included in the set;

Cons

Rolls VP29 Phono Preamp

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Rolls VP29 provides a simple way to effectively boost the signal from your turntable. It’s very compact and reliable, and it comes at a satisfactory price. The circuitry of VP29 provides the RIAA balanced equalization curve, and it operates smoothly and quietly. It comes supplied with two RCA inputs, a ground terminal type of connection, and two RCA stereo outputs.

This model also features increased flexibility due to the separate stereo output (0.125-inch). It’s corded and powered by electricity, but it’s extremely portable and doesn’t take up any space wherever you place it. It definitely deserves the place among the best record player built in preamp models that money can buy.
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Pros

  • RIAA equalization;
  • Noiseless operation;
  • Separate 0.125-inch stereo output;
  • AC adapter comes with the set;

Cons

TCC Tc-750LC Black Professional Moving Magnet Preamp

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The TC-750LC is an improvement of the older model (TC-750) by TCC with more balanced RIAA curve, higher performance, and at a bit higher price. Anyhow, it sounds exceptionally great, and this upgraded added an adjustable output – the overall performance of records raised the bar because it allows calculated setting of the recorded levels.

This improved version also included the 1%-tolerance resistors which give a precise RIAA equalization curve. It’s versatile enough to be useful for PCs, sound cards, audio systems, and turntable models, but the possible field of use for this model stretches even further.
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Pros

  • Remarkably versatile;
  • Pinpoint precision of RIAA Equalization;
  • Ideal for both recording and music listening;

Cons

Music Hall Mini MM Phono Pre-Amplifier

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There’s a couple of things you need to know before we even begin – Music Hall Mini represents a moving magnet preamp that should be used with moving magnet (or moving coil) cartridges. The results could be different if the overall settings were any different.

Anyhow, this magnet preamp amplifies the RIAA equalized signal to the line-level signal in the blink of the eye, and it comes supplied with a 3.5-inch mini-jack output and the usual RCA jacks. The 3.5-inch output lets you connect this preamp to any analog input speakers. Very durable and reliable, but still far from perfect – it’s not too versatile and it costs top dollar.
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Pros

  • Exceptional performance;
  • Great RIAA equalization;
  • Phenomenal when used with high-end technology;

Cons

The Best All in One Turntable Models!

Introduction – What is All in One Turntable?

Let’s get right into the meaty bit: all-in-one turntables are regular turntable models that were either modified or specifically manufactured with highly versatile settings. Some are equipped with Digital Radio tuners, a hell of a good pair of speakers, others are compatible with modern electronic devices while some have a vast array of special features.

It’s important to note that these turntable models are primarily turntables – standalone MP3 players are more likely to perform better on their field, for example.

What are the benefits of owning an All in One turntable?

The benefits you can take advantage of by owning an All in One turntable are great and numerous. First of all, you don’t need to purchase a lot of different devices that serve similar purposes when you can have them All in One.

Secondly, they’re more cost-effective – Having a machine that will do all of these jobs will also help you save money.

Lastly, you can consider these turntables as an improvement over the regular models. They still look fashionable and retro, but they’re more capable and reliable.

The best all in one turntable reviews

 

Jensen All-In-One Hi-Fi Stereo CD Player Turntable & Digital AM/FM Radio Tuner Tape Reflex Stereo Sound System

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This fella is the senior model of Jensen’s All-In-One turntable series. It’s equipped with various features such as CD playback, AM/FM tuner, Stereo, and more. It can do pretty much whatever you please – record your CD-R or CD-RW discs, deliver the goods via built-in Stereo Tuner, play your old cassettes… It also comes equipped with a nifty auxiliary input.

But wait, it gets even better – this Jensen is not just one of the most versatile turntable models on the market, it’s also one of the most attractive retro record players for sale. We are looking at an old-fashioned record player with a vintage look that will light up your room with some classy vibes.

The only problem is the Radio – the signal is not too powerful, so it might take a while before you can get a clear reception. This is not such a terrible flaw if you consider that the radio is replaceable, so if you don’t feel like tinkering and peddling with the radio that’s supplied with this model, simply install a new one.

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Pros

  • CD playback – you can enjoy your CDs, CD-R, CD-RW, and MP3 discs easily and conveniently.
  • Cassette playback – You can either enjoy your mix tapes or record a new batch by using the cassette deck;
  • The superior belt-drive mechanism – This feature gives a clear and accurate sound so that your listening experience is complete and exquisite;
  • Auxiliary input – Compatible with most modern devices (such as PCs, iPhone models, and such);
  • Various speed settings – the Jensen All-in-One turntable can play music at 33, 45, or 75 RPM;

Cons

  • The only flaw of this turntable is the AM/FM Tuner. It’s frequency and reception are quite sluggish, so you need to either be patient or install a new one.
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Teac All-In-One 20 Watt Bluetooth Hi-Fi Stereo Turntable

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An All-In-One turntable that is engineered to be the best – Teac All-In-One turntable was made to be the best. It’s extremely versatile and highly durable and reliable, and it has all the features you could possibly want out of your turntable – The CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, Digital AM/FM tuner, and the stereo system.

Want to know the best part?

It’s quite affordable for a turntable model that is capable of replacing all of your outdated hardware (CD players, Radio tuners, and similar). It’s a very valuable vintage record player that deserves to grace your home with the sweet melodies.

The downfall is that the screen is quite small – you could barely see what is written, and some functions are only spelled partially. Anyhow, a very valuable piece of musical equipment. Overall, this is good stuff, so a thumbs up from us!

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Pros

  • Very versatile – Equipped with various modern technologies such as the CD player and AM/FM tuner;
  • Bluetooth connectivity – with as much as the push of the button, you can connect your all in one turntable with any Bluetooth compatible device.
  • Auxiliary & USB input – this device can easily connect to the external devices such as MP3 and CD players.

Cons

  • The screen is very small – people who wear glasses might find it very hard to read the info.
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Teac All-In-One Hi-Fi Stereo Turntable CD Player/Recorder/Cassette/Digital Reflex Stereo Sound System

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Another great product from Teac, this model belongs to the same generation as the model we have previously mentioned. It’s designed in retro fashion – the old-school outlook is combined with the vintage record player style and settings.

The needle is very durable and adds to the accuracy of sound output while the entire construction is made from high-quality wood.

What’s the bottom line?

If you happen to be between a rock and a hard place (this and the previous Teac turntable model), you could easily decide whether you like the outlook or performance better. This model looks older but has a greater overall performance rating while the Teac All-In-One 20 Watt Bluetooth Hi-Fi Stereo Turntable looks newer and less retro.

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  • High-quality material – Extremely durable construction;
  • Fashionable outlook – This old-fashioned record player looks extremely retro;
  • Very versatile – It’s able to play CD’s, CD-R, CD-RW discs, MP3 files, and a lot more;
  • Auxiliary & USB input – Teac All-in-One turntable is compatible with iPhones, iPods, MP3 and CD players via these inputs;

Cons

  • The cover is not as durable as the entire construction
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Jensen All-In-One Hi-Fi Stereo CD Player Turntable & Digital AM/FM Radio Tuner Second Gen

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I bet you would never say that this model is actually is a turntable. The design of Jensen All-In-One Second Gen turntable resembles that of a pair of speakers – this is only natural because it comes supplied with enormous Stereo Speakers which provide the phenomenal sound output.

The entire concept of this turntable is directly opposite of the first generation of Jensen All-In-One speakers – it looks modern, where the previous series of models looked retro and vintage. It has enormous speakers while the first models had built-in woofers. This does not mean at all that earlier models are bad – the newer models are simply superior.

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Pros

  • Exceptionally powerful Stereo Speakers – goosebumps inbound;
  • Manifold of settings – Versatile options and various equalizer settings are supplied with this model;
  • Remote controls – Ideal for parties when you can’t reach it otherwise;
  • Easy to use – Simply read the instruction manual;

Cons

  • When people search for a turntable, they want it to look vintage and retro. This model looks very modern, but this is not necessarily a flaw – it’s a completely subjective matter.
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Boytone BT-17DJM-C All-In-One Turntable

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The last piece on our review is Boytone BT-17DJM-C. At first sight, it appears quite straightforward and plain. However, you would be wrong if you think that it’s a regular turntable device. What if we say that it can easily replace most of your electronic devices? Radio, MP3 and CD players, Cassette players, and such?

It’s supplied with built-in speakers that are very powerful, but accurate – no sound will be lost when you pump the volume up. It’s also equipped with USB, SD, and Auxiliary inputs so that you can connect your turntable to your PC, iPad, or iPhone.

But wait, there’s more.

The feature which makes this All-In-One turntable absolutely phenomenal and exquisite is the MP3 Conversion Setting. You don’t need to use your PC to convert your vinyl and cassette files to MP3.

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Pros

  • Plain design and simple to use – Classic appearance and design make it look very good;
  • Highly compatible with modern technology – USB, SD, and Auxiliary inputs;
  • Phenomenal sound output – strong built-in speakers make sure that you enjoy your music on a whole new level;

Cons

  • It’s incredibly small in size and it’s amazing that all these features actually fit.
Check out on Amazon
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