An audiophile friend of yours comes over and you decide to play some records. “Are you using a moving magnet cartridge?” he asks. You nod your head in response. “You’re better off using a moving coil, trust me.”
After that friend leaves, you’re now wondering, “Are moving coil cartridges better?” Well, in most cases, they can be for a few reasons. From the low mass to the longer shelf-life, you can benefit a lot more from a moving coil cartridge.
Stick around to learn more about moving coil cartridges and why they are relatively better than other options like moving magnet cartridges.
Moving coil cartridges are a top choice for audiophiles. Due to their lighter mass, the cartridge provides you with nuanced sound quality. Additionally, it gives off little wear on your records since there’s less pressure exerted on them.
To begin, cartridges are the electro-mechanical devices located at the end of every record player’s tonearm. Its key function is to render the grooves in the record into a readable electric signal. This signal is then amplified into music.
Moving coil cartridges are, more often than not, compared to moving magnet cartridges. This could be because they take up most of the market share in the cartridge industry.
Aside from that, both differ in their structure. Let’s first examine how moving magnet cartridges work.
In the moving magnet cartridge, the cantilever guides two ends. One end of the cantilever has a stylus or needlepoint attached to it that moves through the grooves of the record.
The other end is fitted with pieces of magnets that are surrounded by coils. This magnet moves back and forth to generate the electrical signals that produce music.
The moving coil cartridge’s job is to create electric signals that eventually translate into music.
The coil piece is attached to the cartridge’s cantilever and has a couple of magnet poles surrounding it that allow it to move back and forth. That’s where the electric current comes from.
After understanding the mechanics of each cartridge, it’s time to get into the differences. From the description, you can say that both cartridges are structurally opposite.
In the moving coil cartridge, the coil’s movements power the electric current. Meanwhile, in the moving magnet cartridge, the magnets’ vibrations are the main power source.
That being said, both cartridges have coils and magnets. Another difference worth pointing out is the mass. It’s much lighter to move coil than a heavy magnet metal, making moving coil cartridges the lightest option.
Overall, the main difference between the two is their structure and weight. These variations affect each cartridge’s performance and sound quality, which begs the question, which is better?
Moving coil and moving magnet cartridges both have winning and losing features. Let’s look at each one below to decide which option is better.
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Most audiophiles reach for moving coil cartridges for a reason. Here’s why:
Since the coils are the ones doing the work, they’re made lighter. With a lightweight cartridge, the needle wouldn’t be exerting as much pressure on the record as it moves. In turn, your records won’t wear out as easily and last longer.
The moving coil cartridge notably produces a more nuanced and detailed sound compared to the moving magnet cartridge. Due to their lighter mass, they can translate finer high and low sound details and grooves from the record.
In addition to this, the tracking ability of the cartridge is much better since the cartridge moves more freely with the suspension. Plus, the magnet in the moving coil cartridge tends to be sturdier, providing heightened sound quality.
Apart from that, the moving coil cartridge does have its downsides that include:
Moving coil cartridges are more complex in their build, which tends to make them a pricier choice on the market.
In addition to this, the coils and high-quality materials of the cartridge add more to its production costs. One of these high-end materials includes titanium.
Moving coil cartridges generally produce less output. For this reason, you may need to buy an additional phono preamp to gain a better signal.
Luckily, these days, some moving coil cartridges produce high output and won’t require the phono preamp.
Moving magnet cartridges are widely used by multiple record and turntable hobbyists. Here’s why.
Unlike some moving coil cartridges, moving magnet options produce a much higher output, giving you a louder volume. You wouldn’t need to purchase any phono preamps.
Moving magnet cartridges are compatible with most stereo settings. That’s why you’ll find it easier to install these kinds of cartridges.
Aside from these pros, the moving magnet cartridge comes short when it comes to its:
Since moving magnet cartridges are typically heavier, they may push too much pressure on your records. This is especially true if you haven’t set them at the correct angle.
The good news is that you may be able to avoid this con if you fit a thinner stylus in the cartridge.
Moving magnet cartridges tend to produce less hi-fi sound since they’re less intricate in their mechanism. Contrastingly, coils moving back and forth can more effectively pick up sound frequencies.
Both moving coil and moving magnet cartridges are great choices to consider. Nonetheless, we’d recommend moving coil cartridges for advanced audiophiles and record players since they would better appreciate the more refined sound production.
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Meanwhile, moving magnet cartridges are a well-suited choice for beginners and hobbyists who wouldn’t want to spend too much on this device. Plus, it’s a lot more user-friendly and versatile when installing it.