Best dj cartridge 2020

Best dj cartridge 2020 DEFAULT

DJ Needles - The Essential Buyers Guide

What Are Needles?

In the DJ industry, the word 'needles' is often used to describe the needle itself, the head-shell, the cartridge and the stylus. All together these pieces join together and are attached to the end of the tone arm of a vinyl turntable. DJs are often required to take their own 'needles' when playing at gigs with turntables, so this guide is essential reading for all vinyl DJs.

All of these parts work together to read your records and are part of the mechanism that helps the turntable reproduce the sounds on the records.

If you want to learn how to DJ on digital and vinyl players CLICK HERE to check out our DJ courses page!

How turntables work and the anatomy of a turntable

Click here to find out more about the Anatomy of the Turntable

Brief History of the Record Stylus

The invention of the stylus was was made in 1877 by Thomas Edison in Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta laboratories when he created his Phonograph, the first recording and playback device. The Phonograph device would use one needle to record the sounds by by etching its movements into a cylinder with tin foil called a ‘record’', then a second needle would be used for playback by tracing the groove causing a diaphragm to vibrate. The signal was very faint so to amplify this the diaphragm was attached to a horn, the same idea as putting your phone in a cup to make it seem louder. After a few of years of making improvements, along came the Gramophone, the refined version worked on by the team at Volta Laboratory. One of the biggest improvements was the use of wax instead of foil inside the recording cylinder increasing both the audio quality and durability dramatically. The flat disc format was introduced by inventor Emile Berliner in 1890, with a spiral groove running from the periphery to near the centre, coining the term gramophone for disc record players which is predominantly used in many languages. Emile went on to found The Gramophone Company Limited in London in 1897, the company that would go on to become His Masters Voice more popularly known as HMV. The flat disc format brought huge benefits to the manufacturing process as discs could be pressed for mass production while cylinders were unable to be duplicated with ease. Soon the technology become readily available with gramophones and phonographs then record players playing vinyl becoming common household items.

DJs often refer to vinyl records being superior in sound quality compared to digital formats, with many often talking about how 'warm' the sound is. It's difficult to compare analogue with digital formats but vinyl does generally have a great sound, and is still a DJ favourite to this day.

Edison and his Phonograph Invention

How Needles Work

A typical record player has a stylus similar to the one Edison used in his phonograph invention. The stylus is a very small and light weight tube of metal called the cantilever and a tiny crystal (diamond, ruby or sapphire) mounted at the end. The crystal sits in the grooves in the record and as the record rotates the crystal bounces around through the bumps in the groove causing the metal bar to vibrate and reproduce the sound.

The stylus is fitted to the cartridge which contains electrical coils and magnets, the tiny vibrations cause the metal bar to bounce and move the magnet up and down against the coils translating the vibrations into electrical energy. The electrical signal then travels down the cables through the tone arm and into the turntable, then out through the RCA connections and in to your amplifier or DJ mixer.

How DJ needles work

This video was made by the guy who made the super famous gif of a needle moving in the groove of a record while it’s playing. He goes into a lot of information about how he captured the image but also drops some interesting knowledge on how needles work!

DJ needles and how they work up close

For more information about how vinyl works click here.

Phono Cartridge

Phono Cartridge The phono cartridge is the part that contains the coils and/or magnets that the stylus connects to. This is the part that does the job of transferring the vibrations into electrical signal. There are two main types of phono cartridge: moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC). Every DJ cartridge we mention in this blog is a moving magnet type design.

DJ Stylus  

Not all styli can be used for DJing! The three main basic types are spherical (conical), biradial (elliptical) and hyper-elliptical (line contact, MicroLine, Shibata). Conical and Elliptical are both types that can be used by DJs as the design means you can move the record both forwards and backward to cue up your track, a technique used by DJs known as back-cueing to get your record started in time with the playing track.

Spherical, Elliptical and Hyperelliptical Stylus for DJing Needles

Conical or Spherical stylus tips are the simplest and most common type of stylus. They are very durable, can withstand high tracking forces as well as heavy amounts of back-cueing and scratching, as well as being cheap and easy to produce making them ideal for DJs and turntablists alike. The majority of needles branded for DJs will use a conical tips.

Biradial or elliptical tips can also be used for back cueing and scratching, they are designed to offer higher fidelity with the longer side of the needle covering more surface area in the groove resulting in more detail being extracted. These are a lesson common stylus type for DJs as they are more expensive to manufacture, but some DJs who are more about providing top audio quality over turntable tricks and scratching will use these.

Hyper-elliptical type styli are a much more sophisticated design providing huge sonic benefits and lower contact pressure resulting in lower noise and less wear and tear to the needle and your records. Due to the complex shapes of these needles they are much trickier to produce making them a lot more expensive. They are also less durable and shouldn’t be used for back cuing. These types will mainly be found on high end HiFi systems.


Some cartridges such as the Shure M44-7 need to be mounted on a tone arm head shell. Others like the Ortofon Concorde’s are fitted with the SME connection to attach directly to the tone arm.

What is a needles headshell

Different DJ Needle Brands


For decades the industry standard cartridge for DJs was the infamous Shure M44-7. Known for their impressive tracking, durability and decent sound quality the M44-7 cartridge  and N44-7 stylus, Shure have built a reputation within the industry for providing the best product on the market for DJs to work with. The N44-7’s are a conical shaped stylus offering great sound quality with plenty of durability and good performance under heavier tracking weights making them ideal for DJs. Many DJs would also the M44-G and WHLP/ Whitelabel series.

In May 2018, Shure caused pandemonium in the industry upon them announcing that they would be ceasing production of their cartridges and needles. DJs rushing to buy remaining stock from their local shops and online stores. Quickly the N44-7 stylus (just the replacement tip with the needle) was sold out in stores resulting in eBay listings rocketing to prices of £150 and up for just one stylus which would have previously cost just £25-£30.

It didn’t take long for other companies to realise there was a gap in the market and jump on the opportunity by producing a third party replacement stylus to go with the sure cartridges. Before Shure ceased production there were already a number of replica needles available on the market, but the vast majority of these were nasty knock offs made from super cheap components that would ruin the sound of your cartridges and potentially be damaging to your records. Since then far more serious products have arrived on the market.

The most renowned third party producers of stylus to fit Shure cartridges are Jico, an independent Japanese company who’s products are all hand assembled in their factory. These guys have been producing needles for audio since 1949, they manufacture over 2000 different models of styli and are internationally renowned in the hifi world for their superb quality and excellent fidelity, so you can trust that they know what they are doing!‍

The best needle for a DJ


The next go to brand for replacement stylus alongside Shure or Jico are Tonar, these guys are a German company who have been producing and distributing audio parts since the mid 1950’s. Their replacement stylus for the M44 series is apparently Jico manufactured then branded as Tonar for distribution. Most online reviewers who have had the chance to compare two have said that they hear no difference between the two. Click here to buy the Tonar N447 from Juno Records.

Click here to buy the Tonar N447 from Juno Records.

The Jico needle for DJs

As mentioned above in reference to their replacement stylus for the M44-7 cartridge, Tonar also supply a variety of equipment for turntables from tone arms to vinyl record cleaners! The popular cartridges from Tonar are the Tonar Banana Disco cartridges, these are the Tonar equivalent to the Ortofon Concordes. They are also very robust needles with that will withstand the wear and tear of DJing featuring a Conical diamond.

Tonar DJ Needle


Ortofon also have a long history of audio equipment production having been the company to pioneer the use of moving coil technology in phonograph equipment.

Their Concorde design cartridges are the second most popular cartridge and stylus for DJs to use. They have super a sleek design and make use of eye catching colours to tell apart the different editions within their series which show up well in night clubs. They are Conical tipped making them very robust and ideal for scratching and back-cueing. DJs make up for more than 75% of the customer base for Ortofon styli with the other 25% going to hifi and consumer audio use which has lead to them becoming quite a specialist company focusing on the DJ side of their products. Ortofon are a great company who make it easy to find information about their products on their website including the correct tracking weight that should be applied. They are a relatively inexpensive option starting from around £135 for a pair and replacement needles costing around £25. We recommend going for the DJ edition pair which are a big step up in sound quality from their basic Concorde stylus.

Click here to buy the Ortofon Concorde MK2

Click here to view Ortofon's full range of DJ needles.

Ortofon DJ needles, which one is best?

Audio Technica

World renowned for their audiophile and hi-fi grade products, Audio Technica are another legendary manufacturer with a long history in producing high quality cartridges and styli, alongside producing other professional and consumer grade audio products from headphones and microphones to turntables for use with hifi and ones specially designed for DJs. Their cartridges such as the AT-VM95E and AT-XP7 are tailored to be used by DJs both utilising the elliptical tipped type of stylus. DJs who choose Audio Technica cartridges and styli do so because they prefer the quality of sound.

Audio Technica DJ Neeldes, what one is better?

Maintaining your DJ Needles

Over time, your stylus will wear from use and will need replacing. DJs wear heavy on their needles as techniques such as back-cueing and scratching wear the stylus down faster in comparison to them just being used when for playing records at home. Most DJs will be working quickly to get their next record set up and in time. When you’re in a rush you often make mistakes like knocking the tone arm and not putting records away correctly, they are also likely to have a few scratches in their records and some beaten up old ones that get played. Worn or damaged stylus will loose definition, cause distortion and damage your records, and playing damaged records also damages your stylus, so it’s important to look after them well and regularly purchase replacements. Most manufacturers will offer advice on the lifetime of your needles, this is normally measured by the amount of playtime in hours, this is normally targeted towards hifi users not taking into consideration the ware that comes with DJing.

If you’re unsure of how long you have been using your needles for or what their expected lifespan is there are a few things you can look out for that would indicate you need to replace the stylus.

  • The first would be look out for a dip in sound quality. The best way to test this is to put on a record you are very familiar with the sound of and see if you notice a change. Listen out carefully to the high frequencies and pay attention for any sound of distortion or hiss. The change in sound from a damaged needle would result in the playback being muffled or distorted and lacking information in the high end.
  • If the needle isn’t tracking properly skipping and jumping over the grooves. Check that there are no obvious marks on your record that could be causing a problem. If it is a damaged stylus then stop using it immediately and get a replacement as this will definitely damage your records.
  • If you have a decent magnifying glass or a zooming camera lens you can take a look to see if there is any damage to the tip of the stylus.

Advice from the Audio Technica website:

Every cartridge diamond stylus becomes worn after a period of play. Around 500 hours for a conical stylus, 300 hours for an Elliptical stylus, 1000 hours for a Microlinear stylus, and 800 hours for a Shibata stylus.

Ortofon advise that:

Concerning DJ systems used for "scratching" and "back cuing", we have experienced stylus lifetime to be substantially less because of their unique application. As a consequence DJ`s will have to consider about 500 hours at the most.

A video showing the wear of a record after 50 plays:

Cleaning your Stylus

Your stylus will pick up bits of dirt and dust from your records, some of which can cling to the tip and affect the quality of the sound and cause a small amount of damage to your records. You can clean the tip of your stylus using a small anti static brush such as this one from Ortofon. You should always use a brush to clean your stylus by moving in a forward direction from the cartridge towards the tip of the stylus and never in the other direction or from side to side.

Click here for the Ortofon Stylus Brush

How to clean your record needles etc

You can also find a variety of stylus cleaning solutions available on the market. There are a lot of opinions for and against using alcohol based solutions or even just deionised water for cleaning your stylus with no definitive evidence, some people speculate that the use of solutions can weaken the glue used to place the diamond on the tip of the cantilever on the stylus. On this subject the Ortofon website quotes that ‘Ortofon does not recommend the use of solvents of any kind for cleaning of either the record surface or stylus.’

Ortofon tips come with stylus protection guards in the packaging when you purchase both the full set or just the replacement stylus, you can also order spares from their website.

Click here for the Ortofon Stylus Guard

The best way to clean your stylus by removing the use of any solutions and minimising the risk of damage from any motion is the innovative Zero Dust Stylus Cleaner from Onzow. This Japanese designed cleaner consists of a space-age polymer bubble allows you to simply lower your stylus onto its surface, then quickly lift the arm lever leaving any dirt behind stuck to the bubble. These aren’t cheap at around £40, but they will last forever and protect your kit! You can clean them off with a quick rinse under the tap and they’re good as new.

Click here for the Onzow Zero Dust Stylus Cleaner

Cool stuff for Djs

There are a few things you can put into practice to make sure you get a long life out of your equipment and avoid damaging your needles and records.

  • Never use household cleaning products or strong isopropyl alcohol to clean your stylus! You should also avoid using your fingers, cotton buds or tissue paper to remove dirt. Your fingers can actually make things worse by adding oils to the crystal making it easier for dirt to stick, so although it’s tempting you should try to use a correct cleaning device at all times.
  • Clean your records before and after playing them using a fibre brush for record cleaning.
  • Clean your stylus's before and after playing records.
  • Set your tone arm up correctly using the proper tracking force and anti-skate settings. To make sure you are setting your tone arm up correctly check out our other blog post that goes into this in detail.


When purchasing your first set or upgrading your head-shells you should consider which ones will be the best suited to your style as a DJ. If your main reason to play records is the sound and you’re all about the quality of your audio you should go for a set that offers a higher audio fidelity, the compromise you often make is that the stylus will be less robust. For DJs who align with this I suggest the Audio Technica VM95E or the pricier but worth the pennies Audio Technica ATXP7.

Turntablists and scratch style DJs should go for the more robust stylus. Ortofon tend to be the most popular choice at the moment, they even have specialist scratch edition cartridges in their range designed specifically for turntablists to withstand heavy use and still offer good quality audio.

If you’re a scratch DJ or more of an all-round DJ I suggest the Ortofon Concorde MkII DJ or Concorde MkII Scratch.

If you’re starting out I recommend buying a set-up that you can purchase cheap (£25-£35 for a replacement styli) as you are likely to damage or break them when your practising and getting used to mixing. At the same time, you don’t want to go for the cheapest ones available as they won’t sound good at all, will be far less durable and more likely to damage your records!

Learn How to Mix on Vinyl (properly)

If you would like to learn how to mix on vinyl properly, beat-matching by ear get in touch! Our 1-2-1 DJ courses are perfect to teach you the fine art of DJing on turntables! You don't need your own records or turntables to enrol, simply use the decks in the studio! We also have turntables for hire in our DJ practice rooms. Click here for more information about our 1-2-1 DJ courses.

View our coursesView MORE postsSours:

The Best DJ Turntable Cartridges

Our guide on the best DJ cartridges for turntables

As we survey all of the major DJ gear and equipment in the market, we continue look through the cracks and crannies when it comes to fine-tuning your setup with the smaller details: the best DJ turntable cartridges. Only for serious scratchers, many of us know that the stock needles and cartridges won’t cut it if we’re serious about actually DJ’ing (considering a lot of DJ’s nowadays don’t even use a turntable!). Even if you’re just learning how to DJ, it’s important you’re here in order to get started on the right foot.

Actually, we’d like you to comment below if you do still scratch, and share some of your stuff if you have it online! It’s becoming more and more a rarity, but still a very sacred art (especially to us). Whether you have your DJ turntable and want to upgrade it’s inner-workings or are starting from scratch, let’s get those DJ cartridges upgraded — we found some of the best for you down below.

The best DJ turntable cartridges

Audio-Technica AT95E

The best DJ turntable cartridge

Up first as our favorite pick as the best DJ cartridge for turntables, we have a valuable brand in Audio Technica who has presented a very unique and good all-rounder product for all artists alike. With its recommended use at tracking weight two grams, the AT95E provides excellent tracking mobility and a good performance with many turntable you may already have at hand. It’s made of high-quality material (dual magnets) and not cheaply made it all, even the smaller parts that make up the whole. It should be compatible with any table out there.

With its particularly moderate price point, the AT95E has a great reputation for being a great all-rounder. Reasonable fixes could be given to resolution and detailing of the stylus profile – however its good to note that this is overlooked even in high-end cartridges (you’ll see a few more below). Given the decent cost and just overall solid quality, the Audio-Technica AT95E has a reputable name for being a general go-to product for DJ artists who seek the best, moderately priced turntable cartridge.

Numark CC-1

The second pick as the best DJ cartridge for turntables

The CC-1 is Numark’s presentation of a newly formatted range of devices form its previous models, and this particular pick is one of our favorites as the best DJ turntable cartridge if you can spend a few more bucks as compared to the previous A-T pick. The device offers a rotor design, LED lights, pitch specification, inversion operation and the newly programmed start and break functions on the exterior. The device has an easy installation and adjustable tone arm for maximum effect, which suits its durable frame. It also provides responsive and timely programming which is something that jumps ahead of its competitors.

The CC-1 model shows a lasting bass performance and a moderate treble sound although falling behind on the mid-range slightly. The tracking force and circular diamond stylus give for a unique style of sound, high versatility and resistance to tip skipping. The combinations of high output and greater tracking allows for a constant quality and reliable sound. The CC-1 DJ cartridge also provides a highly versatile and distinctive experience for all skill levels. Customers will be drawn to the relatively low price on this product considering it reasonable performance ability that caters for many low-end operations. For the price, the Numark CC-1 presents the best cartridge for turntables with a very high-quality upgrade to your rig here.

Ortofon OM Pro S

Ortofon's high-end turntable cartridge for DJ's

The Omega (OM) Pro S is Ortofon’s best cartridge designs in their range of turntable equipment for DJ´s that offers a great sound, durability and affordability in their product range. The design features a broad spherical needle, which creates less wear and tear on records, something that is overlooked by its competition, giving the OM Pro S a nice selling point here. This cartridge covers a broad spectrum of functions, which is great for all types of DJ’ing whether beginning for professional.

The OM Pro S offers a spherical stylus, high 5.0mV output, great 5g tracking force and a large frequency response giving a great balance of sound and receptive tracking ability – a good all-arounder turntable cartridge. It has a flat and seamless sound and is rather easy to handle with a light design having one of the longest running standards in DJ equipment. Also, it has retained most of its qualities from previous models including sonic properties but now provides a wider stylus and low wears in timely conditions. The Ortofon OM Pro S offers a balanced price point in the low-end cartridge market, which is great for entry level DJ and advancing DJ´s alike. Although rather inexpensive, the cartridge offers a great performance besting many other cartridges and other DJ turntable equipment. If it’s cheaper than our previous Audio-Technica pick, we say grab it.

Shure M44-7

Shure's best turntable cartridge

The Shure M44-7 is a newly revised edition to its original version, produced for the new generation of DJ equipment. This model is a relatively light design catering for the high-end market with enhanced tracking capabilities that rival its top competitors in its turn-tabling ability. It’s a bit more rare to find in the market and the price is a bit higher than the previous two picks, but if you can find it somewhere decently priced (around the one-hundred dollar price-tag), we’d say grab it. This device one of the best cartridges for DJ turntables with a great aptitude to play on even warped records despite any cuts or scratches.

This cartridge is catered to DJ´s specializing in turntablism and different techniques with it particular design outlay. The ultra high output allows for loud bass sounds widely used for EDM or hip-hop beats and DJ´s that work towards sticking beats to the turntable. The tracking force reaches three grams allowing for a light treble that is compatible with even low-end systems good for both listening and mixing. The sound still has a little to be desired that can be quite shrilling in the highs – the system relies more on DJ using low sounds. this device will power through all frequencies with clear and defined sounds with any system. For its price, the Shure M44-7 is worth the effort to purchase and definitely one of the best DJ turntable cartridges around right now.

Stanton 750

Stanton's higher-end model to buy

The Stanton 750 is a great DJ cartridge marketed to high-end customers heading into professional DJ settings. It can deliver a large range of dynamic audio and vinyl recording grades and allow us to smoothly preform digital mixing, scratching, and recordings through vinyl with constant pure sound with ease, compiling its many functions at the same time. The design is catered to optimizing professional techniques with a handy turntable giving the best sounding system with cartridges for DJ´s.

The Stylus type is a .7-millimeter polished diamond tip with a frequency response of 20 – 22 kHz allowing for a great response time for functions used. The device also has a large output capability of 5.5 mV giving a moderate bass sound and great treble sounding; this couples well with the wide channel balance and moderate tracking force giving a unique set of functions. The lightweight DJ turntable cartridge also has a fast response time which couples with the 27dB separation and high resistance, a good addition to mixes in professional settings. The Stanton M44-7 has specs that are specially designed accordingly to be one of the best of its competition – it does not disappoint in terms of sound quality and usability. It’s Stanton, after all.

Ortofon Q.Bert

The last pick as our favorite DJ turntable cartridge

The Q.Bert design is made specifically for hip-hop style music and scratching techniques for DJ’s looking for the best cartridge equipment for the turntable to stay under the groove. If you’re unaware of who DJ Q Bert is, he’s literally one of the best scratchers of all time. He paired up with Ortofon for this, and even though it’s just a title, shows that he had at least some say in what goes into a cartridge meant for scratching some records. This one has offers great handling, a high output and low record wear that is easy to install with the one-piece Concord design allowing DJ’s to see how the needle will sit in the groove. The build quality of the design is very durable and is able to withstand a lot of work when under pressure.

The Q.Bert DJ cartridge has a high output range, high frequency range and a spherical stylus type that allows for a quality sound. The ability for the device to find a groove and stay there sets it apart from other competitors and gives the product its distinct features. The spherical diamond was especially designed for scratching and backs cueing, which is essential for most specific styles of sound. The reliability and robust design of this device is what gives it a good selling point never allowing it to be damaged too much with its high durability. The Bert tends to be a bit on the expensive side due to the low competition of products in the specific DJ sound style area. It is however quite worth the investment for DJ that wants to get into scratching and back cueing that takes this seriously, especially if you’ll be doing so on stage in front of others. The Ortofon Q.Bert does have a reputation among DJ’s for being one of the best DJ cartridges used for hip-hop turntabling styles.

More gear reviews and guides in the realm...

Filed Under: DJ Equipment, GuidesTagged With: dj equipment, guide, turntable

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This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in September of 2015. 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 prices to suit aspiring and professional performers, we've included models engineered for scratching and others that are ideal for clubs that require long sets. Some may even make old records playable again. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

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This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in September of 2015. 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 prices to suit aspiring and professional performers, we've included models engineered for scratching and others that are ideal for clubs that require long sets. Some may even make old records playable again. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

Editor's Notes

July 17, 2020:

Just like a musician needs a good instrument, a DJ needs high-quality equipment. This includes not just the turntable, headphones, and mixer, but needles too. Any DJ worth their salt will tell you that a good cartridge and stylus make a serious difference in how your vinyl sounds. They also boast different designs that make them better suited for certain applications. For example, the Shure M44-7 and Ortofon OM Q.Bert are built with a focus on scratching, while the Numark CS-1 is specifically engineered with a high output and wide frequency response range for electronic music.

As we mentioned in the editor's note during our last update, Shure is no longer producing their DJ cartridges and, as predicted, they are becoming harder to find. While we expected the Shure M44-7 to become scarce first, as it is a favorite among experienced turntablists and has been for a long time, it seems the Shure SC35C is actually disappearing from the market quicker, most likely due to the lower price tag. It is because of this that we decided it is finally time to remove the SC35C from our list. We did still retain it as a special honor, though we will be the first to admit, you may have trouble finding one for sale anywhere. For now, the Shure M44-7 still retains its place, and as before, we recommend that you scoop a few up quickly if you want them, since we fully expect them to be almost impossible to find by the next time we update this list.

With Shure mostly out of the market, the next best DJ cartridges are going to be from Ortofon and we wanted to include one of their models to suit each type of need. With that in mind, we have the Ortofon Concorde MK2 as our all-purpose club choice. It works well for most music genres, won't cause excessive record wear from backcueing or scratching, and offers accurate sound reproduction. For the turntable wizards who have decided it is time to finally say goodbye to the M44-7, there are few better replacements than the Ortofon OM Q.Bert.

Recently Audio-Technica has been gaining ground in the DJ cartridge market and is one of the few companies still releasing new models. One of the new additions to their lineup is the AT-VM95E, which is a successor to the Audio-Technica AT95E. That being said, newer isn't always better and we feel most beginner DJs and hobbyists will prefer the overall performance-to-price of the AT95E, so we haven't yet replaced it on our list. However, that will change once the AT95E becomes hard to find. Another new addition from them is the Audio-Technica AT-XP5, which we do think worthy of inclusion. It is their middle-tier model in the line, between the XP3 andXP7, and we think represents the best value of the three.

June 05, 2019:

Anybody who has spent some time behind a turntable knows that not all needles perform the same. Some are better for scratching, while others get deeper into the groove to pick up more nuances of the music. On this list you'll find both varieties to ensure there is something for everyone. Shure has dominated the DJ cartridge market for decades, but recently they announced they will no longer be manufacturing them, which is a serious blow to turntablists who have been using them religiously for years. If you fall into this category of people, or even if you have never used one before, we recommend you pick up a few now because soon you may no longer have the chance. When it comes to scratching, you can do no better than the Shure M44-7. The Shure SC35C is the essentially the budget version of the M44-7, but doesn't have the same level of skip resistance and will produce slightly more record wear. The Shure Whitelabel is better for mixing and recording analog tracks to digital files.

With Shure leaving the market, the next best option are generally Ortofon models, and in fact many experienced DJs actually prefer Ortofon over Shure. Currently the best all-around cartridge from this brand is the Ortofon MKII DJ. It is just as suitable for scratching as mixing and has a high output voltage to pull maximum sound from your vinyls. True turntable warriors that want the best scratching cartridge from this brand should look to the Ortofon Q.Bert, though the Ortofon OM Pro S runs a close second.

Of the last few models on our list the Numark CS-1 has been specially designed for EDM music, making it a good choice for dubstep DJs, and the Stanton 500.V3 and Audio-Technica AT95E are decent budget options best suited to beginners and casual hobbyists.

Special Honors

Shure SC35C The Shure SC35C requires a little more tracking force than many other models, which will cause increased record wear, but considering its impressive sound quality, it's a sacrifice many are prepared to make. It is suitable for both scratching and mixing, and is extremely durable too, making it a smart choice for beginners who might not yet know how to handle their needles.

How DJ Cartridges Work

While many people use all of the terms for DJ cartridges interchangeably, they are actually different components of the same device.

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.

Audiophiles prefer elliptical needles because they can pick up more information, resulting in a fuller sound.

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.

Brett Dvoretz
Last updated on July 22, 2020 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously 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 has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.

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Best cartridges 2021: budget and premium options for your turntable

Best cartridges Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best cartridges you can buy in 2021.

Looking for a new turntable? Hold your horses. You might be able to improve the sound of your current record player just by switching in a new cartridge. It's the 'don't move, improve' of the hi-fi world.

Turntable cartridges come in two types: moving magnet and moving coil. Moving magnet (often abbreviated to MM) cartridges have a cantilever which transfers the mechanical vibrations picked up from the record groove directly into the cartridge's magnet. Its constantly changing magnetic field creates a magnetic flow which generates an electromotive force in direct proportion to the vibrations. This signal is then amplified and turned back into sound by the speakers.

In order to use a moving magnet cartridge, your amplifier will need to have an MM phono input in order to boost the low voltage and drive the speakers.

A moving coil cartridge, however, has a fixed magnet and mobile coil. This coil moves within the magnetic field created by the fixed magnet, generating an electromotive force. Because its moving mass is much closer to the pivot point, it reduces inertia, creating a more hi-fidelity sound. The downside? Moving coil models tend to be more expensive.

We've included both types in our list of the best cartridges, which runs from budget to break-the-bank. Take a look, and consider which could be the best cartridge for you. Higher-quality audio is just a step away...


These are the best record players for every budget

1. Goldring E3

One of the best cartridges we've heard at the money – a fine all-rounder.


Moving Magnet: Yes

Moving Coil: No

Cartridge weight: 6.9g

Nominal tracking weight: 2.0g

Tracking weight: 1.5–2.5g

Reasons to buy

+A refined performer+Expressive+Plays nice with other kit

Reasons to avoid

-Nada at this price

This impressive Goldring is a cinch to fit and is compatible with plenty of turntables, making it a very versatile cartridge indeed. The sound is clean and precise, with plenty of clarity and power where required. It also handles rhythm well, and has attack in spades. The perfect accompaniment to many a midrange deck and easily one of the best cartridges we've heard at the money.

Read the full Goldring E3 review

2. Goldring 1042

This Goldring takes a bit of effort to get in place, but the sound is worth it.


Moving Magnet: Yes

Moving Coil: No

Cartridge weight: 7.6g

Nominal tracking weight: 1.70g

Tracking weight: 1.5–2.0g

Reasons to buy

+Great sense of timing+Good levels+Easy to replace

Reasons to avoid

-Tricky installation-Sensitive to set-up

Britain's oldest cartridge company doesn't disappoint with this model. The 1042 has been around since the 90s, and is still one of the best cartridges of its type. It's made of Pocan, a glass-reinforced plastic material that’s high in rigidity, so it's definitely built to last. It might be tricky to fit, but once in place it will reward you handsomely: the sound is incredibly detailed, letting you deep into the recording, with next to no noise in the background. Well worth the effort.

Read the full Goldring 1042 review

3. Ortofon Quintet Blue

An excellent moving coil cartridge that's very modestly priced.


Moving Magnet: No

Moving Coil: Yes

Cartridge weight: 9g

Nominal tracking weight: 2.3g

Tracking weight: 2.1–2.5g

Reasons to buy

+Detailed, precise+Plenty of expression+Simple to fit

Reasons to avoid

-Demands the right kit

Ortofon has been making turntable cartridges since 1948, and it seems like all its expertise went into this one. The Blue is a true five-star product: simple to fit, not too heavy, so easy to balance out, and capable of a sound that's worth every penny of its asking price. It's an agile sound, with a high level of sonic precision that's brimming with detail. Plenty of refinement is evident too, and it's rhythmically surefooted with a good sense of attack. Just make sure you partner it with the right kit. Otherwise it'll be like fitting pram wheels to a Ferrari.

Read the full Ortofon Quintet Blue review

4. Ortofon 2M Red

A great upgrade or first stage cartridge for your turntable.


Moving Magnet: Yes

Moving Coil: No

Cartridge weight: 7.2g

Nominal tracking weight: 1.8g

Tracking weight: 1.6–2.0g

Reasons to buy

+Excellent resolution+Decent midrange+Bags of insight

Reasons to avoid

-Could use more power

Another Ortofon, another great buy. This one is a lot more wallet-friendly than the Blue, but still puts in a great performance for the money. The midrange sounds full and expressive, especially vocals. Bass and treble also score well, though the former could do with a bit more presence. But that's a minor quibble. It's simple to fit and align, and provides a more than enjoyable listening experience. Proof that the best cartridges needn't cost the earth.

Read the full review: Ortofon 2M Red

5. Nagaoka MP110

An affordable but very capable cartridge.


Moving Magnet: Yes

Moving Coil: No

Cartridge weight: 6.5g

Nominal tracking weight: 1.8g

Tracking weight: 1.5–2.0g

Reasons to buy

+Light, breezy sound+Good detail and insight

Reasons to avoid

-Could use more dynamics-Iffy treble

Easy to fit and align, this cheap and cheerful cartridge gives a bright, breezy listen that will immediately brighten up a dull system. It has a sweet midrange too. Downsides? The bass could do with a bit more authority, and the treble is a touch edgier than similarly priced rivals. But in terms of dynamics, this cartridge punches way above its weight, sounding like a much pricier model. If you're on a budget, it's well worth investigating.

Read the full Nagaoka MP110 review

6. Ortofon 2m Blue MM

A steady hand that lets music shine through.


Moving Magnet: Yes

Moving Coil: No

Cartridge weight: 7.2g

Nominal tracking weight: 1.8g

Tracking weight: 1.6–2.0g

Reasons to buy

+Great timing+Dynamically surefooted+Easy to install

Reasons to avoid

-Could use more insight-Too much background noise

This is a step up from the 2M Red in the number four slot in this list, and as such it's a little more pricey. It has the same angular body of the Red, and has a removable stylus that's easy to replace should it break or wear out. The unit feels well built, despite its largely plastic construction, while getting it set up isn't too tricky if you know what you're doing. So, sound? The Blue delivers a real sense of vitality to recordings, and brings a good sense of timing to proceedings. If you can put up with a little more background noise than some rivals, this is a very capable little cartridge indeed.

Read the full Ortofon 2m Blue MM review

7. Audio Technica AT-F7

It might be a bit fiddly, but once installed you'll reap the rewards.


Moving Magnet: No

Moving Coil: Yes

Cartridge weight: 5g

Nominal tracking weight: 2.0g

Tracking weight: 1.8–2.2g

Reasons to buy

+Refined sound+Brilliant for acoustic music+Solid build quality

Reasons to avoid

-Timing could be better-Fitting it is difficult

Audio Technica has been making turntable cartridges since the vinyl heyday of the 1970s, and its models come in all shapes and sizes, to suit all budgets. This is one step up from entry-level, but you could be mistaken for thinking it's a lot pricier: the build quality is superb, feeling satisfyingly hefty in the hand. And it sounds beautifully refined, while still managing to pack plenty of impact. It's more suited to music that's on the more delicate side, rather than exploding with energy. As many would agree, that's no bad thing.

Read the full Audio Technica AT-F7 review

8. Goldring 2500

One of the best cartridges in terms of fitting, and well worth a listen.


Moving Magnet: Yes

Moving Coil: No

Cartridge weight: 8.6g

Nominal tracking weight: 1.7g

Tracking weight: 1.5–2.0g

Reasons to buy

+Full-throated audio +Fits easily +Great tonal balance and detail

Reasons to avoid

-Nothing of note

Despite its lack of straight sides, the 2500 is easy to set up, thanks to its easy-to-align shell and use of captive nuts. And once set up it sounds assured and silky smooth, with a nicely handled tonal balance providing crisp treble, clear midrange and bass that's tighter than a worm's belt. There's plenty of warmth to the vocals too, giving songs a good deal of emotional punch. These sonic skills mean tunes are packed full of detail too, with impressive dynamics. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

Read the full Goldring 2500 review

9. Pro-ject Pick-it DS2

This moving coil cartridge bursting with talent and musicality.


Moving Magnet: No

Moving Coil: Yes

Cartridge weight: 9g

Nominal tracking weight: 2.2g

Tracking weight: 2.0–2.5g

Reasons to buy

+Entertaining sound+Simple to fit+Gets the best out of any genre

The DS2's body is made of a synthetic polymer and shaped by laser, in a bid to create a low-resonance base and help performance. And it works. The sound is thoroughly robust and dynamically expressive, with plenty of punch and bags of bass. The presentation is composed, and there's a ton of detail to get your teeth into. It's a doddle to fit and align too, thanks to its square-shaped body. A truly capable and musical performer.

Read the full Pro-ject Pick-it DS2 review

10. Roksan Corus2

A capable cartridge, but it could do with a touch more verve.


Moving Magnet: Yes

Moving Coil: No

Cartridge weight: 8g

Nominal tracking weight: 2.0g

Tracking weight: 1.8–2.2g

Reasons to buy

+Measured presentation+Accurate sound+Tons of detail

Reasons to avoid

-Could be more thrilling-Awkward to set up

This generation of Roksan cartridge has been 30 years in the making, so to say anticipation is high is something of an understatement. It's a pretty heavy unit, and is a little fiddly to fit. But the sound is more than worth it. It's a refined, precise presentation, with tunes sounding crisp and detailed. The soundstage is wide and expansive – the sonic equivalent of a rolling vista – and there's a great level of insight. It treads a fine line tonally too, with plenty of body and authority. At times it lacks a little verve, but overall it's at home playing host to a wide range of musical styles and genres.

Read the full Roksan Corus2 review


2020 cartridge best dj

Reading Time: 6minutes

Top 10 DJ Scratch Needles in 2021

Are you looking for the best Dj scratch needles which are available in the market? The Dj scratch needles have high performance that makes it best for use. Some of the needles have a spherical end to reduce wear and tear and increase usage. Their durability depends on the material used to make it. Most of these scratch needles have a removable headshell that ensures it functions appropriately during wheel jogging. Here are some of the best 10 Dj scratch needles in the year 2021.

Check out this awesome: Turntable Needles

10. Ortofon Concorde MK2 Scratch Single Cartridge

Ortofon Concorde MK2 Scratch Single Cartridge

This Dj scratch needle has tailored specifications that increase the performance of the needle. The shell is removable that makes the make it fit on the turntable.

This Dj scratch needle has a maximum performance that makes it best for use. The single-cartridge has a design that makes it have a turntable. This cartridge is easy to mount and use because of its quality.


  • It is durable
  • The needle is easy to mount
  • It offers excellent performance.

Check Out: Turntable Styluses

9. Ortofon Omega Turntable Cartridges – Twin Set

Ortofon Omega Turntable Cartridges - Twin Set - DJ Scratch Needles

This Dj scratch needle has a high output that makes it best for use at any place. The material used is durable because of its quality.

The tracking force of the needle range is high that makes it to have an excellent performance. The cartridge used has five games making it easy to carry and move with it.


  • It has a high output
  • The cartridge is lightweight
  • It is easy to mount

8. Ortofon Concorde MK2 Scratch Twin Cartridge

Ortofon Concorde MK2 Scratch Twin Cartridge - DJ Scratch Needles

These twins’ Dj scratch needle has a tailored specification that scratch with the maximum focus on the performance of the scratch. The needle fits all the Dj turntables with a shell that is easy to remove.

It has an improved tracking ability that makes it produce maximum output. The material used to make the cartridge is durable aluminum. It is unique and combines with the demands of the modern turntable.


  • It is durable
  • The performance is the best.
  • It fits all the cases.

7. Numark CS-1 | Professional DJ Cartridge Optimized for Dance Music

Numark CS-1 | Professional DJ Cartridge Optimized for Dance Music - DJ Scratch Needles

This Dj scratch needle has a professional cartridge for Djs that makes it best for music dance. It has a professional output that makes it best for both indoor and outdoor use.

The frequency response of the needle is high, making it best for use. It is light because it weighs 80 grams, making it easy for someone to carry. It has various applications that make it best for one to have it.


  • It is portable
  • The needle is easy to mount
  • It has various applications

6. Numark PT01 Scratch | DJ Turntable

Numark PT01 Scratch | DJ Turntable - DJ Scratch Needles

This Dj scratch needles have an ultra-portable design that makes it easy to move with it. The needle is reliable and has an adjustable, which is easy to replace when sliding.

This Dj scratch needle has a dynamic sound that makes it easy to use by any person. The needle has a private connection that makes the headphone easy to use. The needle is portable and easy to change a place with it.


  • It has a removable slip.
  • The needle is portable.
  • It has a twin cartridge.

5. Ortofon OM Q.Bert

Ortofon OM Q.Bert - DJ Scratch Needles

This Dj scratch is easy to mount on the head-shell. The design for the cartridge makes it easy for back-cueing. The high-quality material used to make the Dj scratch needle that makes it durable.

The needle is portable and easy to move with it from one disc to the other. It has a handle that makes it best for a person to hold when placing setting it. The output of the needle is high, making it best for use.



  • It is durable
  • The needle contains the handle
  • It has a high output.

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4. Numark CC-1 | Premium

Numark CC-1 | Premium - DJ Scratch Needles

This scratch needle is ready for use because of its professional cartridge and value. It has a full range value for a frequency response that makes it extensive use.

This Dj scratch needle has a reliable connection, which makes it has a circular diamond tip. The design is slim, which makes it easy to carry and handle it. The needle is durable and long-lasting


  • It is long-lasting
  • The needle is style-driven
  • It is professional

3. Ortofon OM Pro S Single Pack – DJ Scratch Needles

Ortofon OM Pro S Single Pack - DJ Scratch Needles

This Dj scratch needle is for general purpose that makes it best for use. The diamond material used to make it is durable and long-lasting to enhance high performance.

The needle has a holder that makes it easy for someone to carry. It is durable with very minimal wear and tears that ensures the jog wheel is also long-lasting. It survives under hectic activities that make it the best for any jog wheel.


  • Made of durable diamond material
  • It is portable
  • It has a consistent performance

2. Ortofon OM Q.Bert premounted on the headshell – DJ Scratch Needles

Ortofon OM Q.Bert premounted on the headshell - DJ Scratch Needles

The Dj scratching needles have a high output that makes it best for any use. This Ortofon needle has a high tracking ability that makes it best for any purpose.

The high tracking ability makes it the best for us. The needle is easy to mount on the arm that has an S-shaped. This needle has a design that makes it easy to back-cueing and scratch.


  • It is durable
  • The needle has a large output
  • Easy to use and mount

1. Ortofon OM Pro S premounted on the headshell – DJ Scratch Needles

Ortofon OM Pro S premounted on the headshell - DJ Scratch Needles

This Dj scratch needle has a cartridge that makes it best for general use. The spherical end on one side makes it easy to reduce the wear and tear during jogging.

The Dj scratch needle is secure mount because of its S-shape. The performer of the needle is high that makes it durable. It survives hectic activities on the turntable.


  • It is easy to mount
  • The material used is durable
  • It has a consistent performance

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DJ Scratch Mixer

The materials used in most of the Dj scratch need are either aluminum or diamond with high durability. Most of the scratch needles weigh between five and ten, making it easy for someone to move with them the whole day. The design of the stylus makes it easy to mount at any place on the jog wheel. The S-shape makes it easy to move from one room to the other. Most of the turntable cartridge comes in twin to make easy usage. The Dj scratch needles are rust-resistant.

Best Songs of DJ Snake 2020 - DJ Snake Greatest Hits Full Album 2020

Well, let them show her how children are made. At first they served themselves, they even made a hole in the log, stuffed it with moss. She again blushed deeply and fell silent, but coped with herself and continued: Well, then they said, we, they say, showed you, now you show us.

Now discussing:

Now, not even 5 minutes passed, another letter: after 20 minutes I was already collected and left the house to go to visit a stranger. The ride was not long and after 40 minutes, I was near the indicated house. After a little hesitation, I entered the entrance and went up to the required floor, rang the doorbell: - Who is there. - This, Sasha. - Great, come in: We drank a bottle of beer, after which Aleksey (that was the name of the landlord) said that he.

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