10 Best DJ Cartridges | April 2017

10 Best DJ Cartridges
Best Mid-Range
Best High-End
Best Inexpensive
Get into the groove - literally - with one of these DJ cartridges. They will fit most modern turntables and produce sound qualities ranging from good to outstanding, at price points to suit aspiring and professional DJs. Skip to the best dj cartridge on Amazon.
For a budget model, the Gemini HDCN15 provides decent sound quality, comparable with more expensive options. It boasts a sturdy silver body with a tracking arm, and easily mounts to the standard 4-pin tone arms of most turntables.
  • rubber washer for a snug fit
  • stylus cover extends the lifespan
  • has a limited frequency range
Brand Gemini
Model HDCN15
Weight 0.8 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
The professional-grade Numark CC-1 boasts a sleek design that allows you to spin or scratch with consistent superior performance in any club or party situation. It has a fine circular diamond tip for smooth sound reproduction.
  • robust and easy to handle design
  • offers excellent tracking
  • produces some distortion on mid-ranges
Brand Numark
Model CC-1
Weight 1.6 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0
The dual magnet Audio-Technica AT95E is a great value for any beginning or mid-level enthusiast looking for outstanding overall performance on a budget. It includes mounting hardware, but doesn't look very flashy.
  • has a stylus guard
  • remarkably tight tolerances
  • not up to live performance quality
Brand Audio-Technica
Model AT95E
Weight 0.3 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0
The top of the line Sumiko Pearl is designed with audiophiles in mind, producing clarity and refinement from every vinyl that is free of grain and has low surface noise. It is best suited for rock music.
  • great for vintage turntables
  • handles a variety of music genres well
  • sound gets better after being broken in
Brand Sumiko
Model Sumiko Pearl High Outpu
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0
The innovative Reloop Concorde Green boasts a spherical design that reproduces time code signals in a precise way using high output voltage while reducing record wear. It also has excellent sound characteristics.
  • direct sme mounting
  • good choice for digital vinyl systems
  • not a great scratching needle
Brand Reloop
Weight 0.3 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0
The rugged and durable Shure M44-7 is engineered to perfection with ultra high skip resistance, making it perfect for DJ-ing in crowded areas. It can withstand even the most demanding circumstances or scratched records.
  • very natural sound reproduction
  • exceptionally resonant bass
  • doesn't come with a headshell
Brand Shure
Model M44-7
Weight 4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
The powerful Denon DL 103 has a low output of 0.3mV, with a warm overall tonal balance and excellent dynamics, which creates a powerful bottom end, rich midrange and a silky smooth top end for a satisfying listening experience.
  • 16.5 micron round tip stylus
  • independently moving coils
  • universal fit design
Brand Denon
Model DL-103
Weight 3.2 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0
The Stanton MP4 is a high-end club cartridge that is the same one professional DJs use. It features a one-piece integrated headshell design for high-level versatility and has a higher output and better cueing than the average needle.
  • includes a stylus brush and travel case
  • comes with 2 matched cartridges
  • 4-coil pickup for better stereo imaging
Brand Stanton
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
The elliptical Audio-Technica AT311EP offers superb performance and high accuracy at an affordable price point that's perfect for the struggling DJ. It has a 15,000-27,000 Hz range, and a convenient top P-mount design.
  • vertical tracking force 1.0-1.5 grams
  • bonded round shank construction
  • great stereo channel separation
Brand Audio-Technica AT311EP
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.9 / 5.0
The premium Ortofon 2M Blue reaches deep into the record's grooves with its polished nude-elliptical stylus, for optimal tracking. It creates ultra quiet reproduction without any hisses, pops, or crackles. This item is currently under review.
  • fits virtually any current turntable
  • designer moller jensen
  • modern moving magnet design
Brand Ortofon
Model 0560011
Weight 1.4 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

How DJ Cartridges Work

Phono cartridges, more commonly referred to as DJ cartridges or styluses, are electromechanical devices that can read the audio data on a record and translate it into a signal that your audio system understands. They can do this because they contain a transducer that converts one type of energy into another; in this case, variations in the groove walls of a record into electronic signals. This is not a new technology, and it was actually pioneered over 100 years ago by Thomas Edison.

While many people use all of the terms for DJ cartridges interchangeably, they are actually different components of the same device. A DJ cartridge can be separated into two or three parts, depending on the design of the manufacturer; a headshell, a cartridge, and a stylus. Sometimes, the headshell and cartridge are combined into a single unit. If separate, the headshell is the part that plugs into a turntable's tonearm and has a little arm for lifting the entire unit when placing it onto a record.

The cartridge screws into the headshell and is connected to it via four electrical wires, which are used to conduct the sound from the stylus. The stylus plugs into the front of the cartridge and is the actual needle that runs along the groove of a record. Most often all three components will come as a package, but it is possible to buy replacement needles as they wear out over time. It is rare to find a cartridge that doesn't come with at least one needle, but cartridges can be bought without a headshell and vice versa.

When a record is in motion, the stylus moves vertically and horizontally along its groove. Inside of the needle is a small magnet and a coil of wire. These two components are what generate the audio signal. DJ cartridges come in two types: moving magnet and moving coil.

In an MM cartridge, there are two coils with a magnet, which is attached to the needle shank, suspended between them. As the needle runs along the record, the magnet vibrates and induces a small current in the coils. In an MC cartridge, the coils are attached to the needle shank instead of the magnet.

Choosing A DJ Cartridge

The first step in picking a DJ cartridge is determining what kind your turntable's tone arm can accept. DJ cartridges come in two types: the standard mount and the P-mount. A standard mount cartridge has two screws that are a half an inch apart. These screws thread through the body of the cartridge and secure it to the headshell. Then, the entire unit plugs into the tone arm. A P-mount cartridge has four prongs on the back which are plugged directly into the tone arm. A setscrew is then used to hold it securely in place on the tonearm.

The next consideration should be choosing between an MC and an MM cartridge. MM cartridges are available in a range of prices, are compatible with all stereo phono inputs, and allow for stylus replacements as needed. MC cartridges are preferred by many audiophiles, but are not the best choice for DJs. This is because the stylus cannot be replaced without replacing the entire unit.

DJs who scratch and perform other turntable tricks will wear down their needle more quickly than the average user who just listens to records. It can be costly to replace the entire cartridge instead of just the needle, especially since MC cartridges are much more expensive than MM cartridges. They also require stereo amplifiers which have a specialized MC input.

The final consideration is the stylus shape. Currently, nearly every stylus has an industrial diamond tip, but they are available in either a spherical or an elliptical shape. DJs are better off with a spherical needle as they sit higher in the groove, resulting in less wear on a record. It is also necessary for scratching and back-cuing. Audiophiles prefer elliptical needles because they can pick up more information, resulting in a fuller sound.

The Art Of DJing

The term DJ, which is short for disc jockey, was coined sometime in the 1930s. In 1943, Jimmy Saville threw the world's first DJ dance party and played jazz records. Just a few short years later, he also become the first person to use turntables for continuous music play in a dance party. In the 1960s new audio equipment hit the market, which had a huge impact on how DJs played music. The mixer allowed Francis Grasso to begin beat matching in 1969, creating seamless transitions from one song to another.

Another revolution in DJing was born in New York City during the 1970s. DJ Kool Herc, who would later come to be known as the father of hip hop, made a name for himself in 1973 by DJing huge block parties in the Bronx. He is the first artist known to simultaneously mix two identical records together to create a new sound. He also extended what he considered to be the best parts of the songs. This technique was eventually termed breaking and led to the huge break dancing craze in the 80s.

This was the era when turntablism grew into an art form on its own and DJs started to earn respect as musicians. They were no longer just playing back songs, but instead were blending beats and manipulating songs to create a sound and style of their own.

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Last updated on April 03, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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