As avid music lovers, we all know the importance of a good cartridge. It can make all the difference between excellent and poor audio.
However, with all the options on the market, it can be a little challenging to pick just one. So, if you’re interested in finding the best Sumiko cartridge, you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular models and what makes them special.
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:
Sumiko Wellfleet MM Cartridge
Sumiko Pearl MM Cartridge
Sumiko Oyster MM Cartridge
When looking at cartridges, it’s a good idea to be aware of a few factors. To make your life a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of all the key features.
This will help you compare the different products and choose which one is best for you. Let’s take a look at how we tested and reviewed the cartridges on our list.
The first aspect you should look at when dealing with cartridges is sound quality. To test this out, we simply listen to the different models as they play.
Some of them provide clearer audio than others. In addition, a few models can give you a seamless playback experience.
Our best overall finds a happy medium where you get the best of both worlds.
Related: Best cartridges under $500
Great sound quality doesn’t mean much if the cartridge doesn’t last long. That’s why it’s crucial that you inspect the product materials.
Here we’re looking for a durable shell that can handle a lot of wear and tear. Although, we also want to ensure it’s lightweight to avoid interfering with playback.
This tightrope walk is a little challenging, but there are a few models on the list that managed to hit the mark.
The stylus is the portion of the cartridge that’s in direct contact with vinyl records. That mean’s what the component looks like will affect playback.
There are four basic stylus shapes that you can use with a turntable:
Conical has a spherical cross-section that can play decent audio. However, this stylus has some issues capturing every detail of a record’s grooves.
The elliptical has an oval shape, which has an easier time passing through grooves on the vinyl.
Next, as you can guess by the name, the line stylus offers a flat cross-section. This provides excellent sound quality.
Finally, the Microline is a smaller version of the line. That means this shape can fit through every single nook and cranny on the record.
The Best Sumiko Cartridges
With hundreds of Sumiko products out there, choosing one can be a little tricky. So, let’s jump straight into our favorite models.
1. Best Overall: Sumiko Wellfleet Moving Magnet Cartridge
- One of the most reliable devices on our list
- Polished stylus that’s directly bonded to the cartridge to eliminate resonance
- Short stylus provides users with more accurate audio
- Mounting the cartridge can be slightly frustrating
- On the heavier side compared to other models, which may affect the acoustics
Our choice for the best overall Sumiko cartridge is the Wellfleet MM. This device combines excellent audio with reliable playback.
The design is reminiscent of the Moonstone cartridge, but with a few differences. Wellfleet has a polished elliptical stylus that’s bonded to the body of the gadget.
This will both cut down on resonance and the mass of the device. So, you get clearer audio and you’ll have an easier time balancing this cartridge.
Other than that, the tip of the stylus is a little short. That results in a faster and more accurate reading of the grooves in vinyl records.
On top of that, this model is relatively affordable and won’t break the bank.
The only downside to the Wellfleet is that installation is a bit challenging. You’ll need to place the cartridge in place perfectly to get it to work right.
Plus, to secure the device, you need to use a small wrench.
2. Runner-Up: Sumiko Pearl MM Cartridge
- Incredible performance for its price
- Durable build, so it can last for quite a while
- Comes with an alloy tube cantilever
- May take a while for the cantilever to break in
- Ideal tracking force is a little tricky to figure out
When looking for solid audio performance, the Sumiko Pearl may be the choice for you.
This device can provide exceptional sound. It plays deep tones with rich detail that makes for a pleasant listening experience.
Besides that, the device is also quite durable. The outer shell is resistant to scrapes and scratches and comes with an alloy cantilever.
This is to help balance the heavy cartridge over the vinyl record.
Sadly, the cantilever can be a little stiff straight out of the box. That means that it may take a while for the Pearl to even out.
The cartridge should fit most turntables on the market. However, it’s much better suited for vintage devices.
Another issue some people face is the tracking force. Depending on the tonearm you’re using, it’ll take a bit of trial and error to figure out the best weight to use.
Although, as a general rule, it’s a good idea to stay close to about 2 g of traction.
Check out this comparison between Sumiko Pearl vs. Ortofon 2M Red.
3. Best Budget: Sumiko Oyster MM Cartridge
- Vibration dampening out shell for improved audio
- Spherical stylus is perfect for playing older records
- One of the most affordable options on our list
- Stylus tip isn’t durable and may need frequent replacement
- Isn’t ideal for new vinyl records and may produce sharp audio
If you’re on a budget, look no further than the Sumiko Oyster cartridge. It can give you similar audio to other devices, but at a tiny fraction of the price.
Right out of the box, users get impeccable audio with clear edges. This is due to the vibration-dampening nature of the outer shell.
Oyster also comes with a conical stylus, which is perfect for older records. The spherical cross-section can accurately read worn-out vinyl grooves.
Unfortunately, that means that this cartridge isn’t ideal for newer records. The resulting audio is a little sharp and may create spotty acoustics.
Aside from that, the stylus tip isn’t all that durable. After a few months of use, you may notice degrading and a drop in audio quality.
For that reason, you’ll need to replace the Oyster quite often to ensure you get the best playback.
Luckily, the cartridge is on the more affordable side and shouldn’t be an issue.
4. Best for Low Frequencies: Sumiko Amethyst Phono Cartridge
- Warm, clear sounds with reduced noise
- Easy to mount and detach quickly
- Excellent for playing records with low frequencies
- Has a distinct airiness, which can distort the audio quality
- Struggles with high-frequency audio
Straight out of the box, the Sumiko Amethyst produces a clear, warm sound with defined edges. This is likely because of the low output levels.
Using 2.5 mV, the cartridge can reduce excessive vibrations or noise.
On top of that, the stylus is a nude line-contact diamond. That means it has an elliptical shape, but with an incredibly thin cross-section.
This will make it easier for the stylus to navigate through the grooves on vinyl records. While this ensures you hear every note off the record, it can affect the audio quality.
The Amethyst has a distinct airiness that can distort the sound. That’s especially noticeable when playing high frequencies.
On the other hand, low frequencies are smooth, extended, and controlled.
Finally, due to its shape, the Amethyst is easy to mount and detach at a moment’s notice.
5. Best Value: Sumiko Olympia Phono Cartridge
- Well-balanced and provides a seamless listening experience
- Excellent tracker means the audio won’t skip
- Incredible features and performances relative to the price
- Struggles with higher notes, which may lead to a ringing noise
- Isn’t ideal for long playback sessions
The next cartridge on our list is the Sumiko Olympia. This is one of the most popular models for a few different reasons.
For starters, its elliptical stylus can read vinyl grooves pretty accurately. This gives you an incredibly pleasant sound quality.
Other than that, it’s lightweight and easy to detach and replace. It also has impeccable tracking, which means the tonearm won’t skip notes as the record turns.
On top of that, the Olympia is relatively affordable. It can provide a similar playback to high-end products at a reasonable price.
Although, this product can sometimes struggle with high notes. They may sound a little pitchy and can cause unwanted resonance.
6. Best for Durability: Sumiko Rainier Phono Cartridge
- Incredibly durable outer shell
- Great traction, which allows seamless playback
- Quick to fit and remove
- Audio starts out coarse and takes a while to smooth out
- Needs a high-quality tonearm to function
The Rainier cartridge is one of the first models to come out in the Oyster series. It boasts many incredible features, but one of the most impressive is its design.
For starters, the cartridge comes with a hard, solid shell that can handle a lot of wear and tear. In addition, this outer layer holds onto the internal structures rigidly.
This will cut down on unwanted resonance.
Other than that, the Rainer comes with easy-fit inset nuts. These are joints that allow users to secure the cartridge to the tonearm quickly.
The gadget also has squared edges to help with stability and weight distribution.
When you first use the Rainier, you may notice that the sound is a little coarse and slightly scratchy. However, this will quickly change after a few uses.
Over time, the cartridge will even out and the audio will get smoother and more fluid.
Check out this comparison between the Sumiko Rainer and the Ortofon 2M Blue.
7. Best Upgrade: Sumiko Songbird Reference Series Phono Cartridge
- Smooth sound with plenty of detail
- Impressive low-frequency performance
- Impeccable weight balance for seamless playback
- Slightly finicky to install and remove
- More expensive than most of the other models on the list
If you’ve been using Sumiko cartridges for a while and are looking for an upgrade, the Songbird may be the way to go.
As you can tell, this is one of the smallest cartridges on our list, but it packs quite a punch. To start off, this device has an open shell design.
This makes the Songbird incredibly nimble, which improves the overall sound quality.
In addition, the shell consists of a resonance-absorbing material. That allows the cartridge to reduce the vibrations that may affect the audio.
Even though it’s compact, the Songbird has a bit of heft to it. This extra weight comes in handy when it comes to balancing the cartridge.
To top it all off, this cartridge has an amazing electric blue finish.
Where Are Sumiko Cartridges Made?
Sumiko manufactures most of its cartridges in Japan. Expert hands craft the devices to ensure that every product is perfect and also unique.
Which Is Better: A moving Magnet Or a Moving Coil?
Typically, a moving coil will produce clearer audio than the magnet variety. However, this will depend on the brand and the condition of your cartridge.