If you’re in the market for affordable cartridges, you’ll undoubtedly hear about Nagaoka and Ortofon. As it happens, the MP-110 and the beginner-friendly 2M Red are two valid options to consider.
Yet, I can see how comparing the Nagaoka MP-110 vs. Ortofon 2M Red can be a challenging feat since they actually have a lot in common.
So, how do these two cartridges compare, and what are their drawbacks? That’s what I set out to find!
Nagaoka MP-110 vs. Ortofon 2M Red: Overview
The low-compliance MP-110’s audio performance is all about offering smoother midrange sounds and decent bass. Meanwhile, the 2M Red is made to cater to higher compliance and all-purpose playback with just a hint of warmth, but it might still sound analytical at times.
What Is the Nagaoka MP-110?
The MP-110 is a moving magnet cartridge made by the Japanese company Nagaoka.
This cartridge adds a new spin to the discontinued MP-11 with a lightweight body and a slightly reduced tracking force. All in all, it sounds quite balanced and natural.
What Is the Ortofon 2M Red?
The Ortofon 2M Red is an entry-level moving magnet cartridge that could possibly be upgraded using a replacement stylus made for the improved 2M Blue model.
However, it’s still considered a fit for beginners instead of seasoned audiophiles.
Nagaoka MP-110 vs. Ortofon 2M Red: How Are They Different?
Aside from the aesthetic difference, there are a couple of other aspects to consider when you’re comparing these two cartridges.
When we’re talking about channel separation, we refer to the cartridge’s ability to differentiate between the right and left output when needed. The higher that value is, the better the stereo performance.
The Nagaoka MP-110’s channel separation is classified as 23 dB at 1 kHz. Meanwhile, the Ortofon 2M Red is a 22 dB at 1 kHz. So, the MP-110 technically wins this round.
That said, both cartridges are already lower in channel separation than high-end options on the market, so don’t expect anything too fancy from either one.
Related: Sumiko Rainier Vs Ortofon 2M Blue
On the MP-110, you get a cartridge output of 5 mV, while the 2M Red is rated at 5.5 mV.
All in all, this isn’t really a winning point for either of them. It’s just something to keep in mind when you’re considering how the cartridge will fit with your phono input.
For instance, some people could find that switching to an integrated amplifier with a lower gain produces better results on the 2M Red.
Nagaoka MP-110 vs. Ortofon 2M Red: How Are They Similar?
Putting their differences aside, the MP-110 and 2M Red are similar in some ways. For instance, they’re both affordable options in their respective brands, but they also have technical aspects in common.
Let’s take a look at where those two cartilages meet.
Whether you decide to get the Nagaoka or the Ortofon, you’ll still be opting for a moving magnet or an MM cartridge.
This can be a bit confusing since the Nagaoka is clearly labeled as MP, but that’s just the series’ name. At the core, they both run on a small electromagnetic generator to induce currents.
Keep in mind that while MM cartridges can sound great for starter kits, they might stand pale in comparison to moving coils or MC designs. MCs are generally lighter, more accurate, and come with better responses, but they’re also pricier.
Stylus and Cantilever
Both the MP-110 and the 2M Red have an elliptical stylus. Compared to conical styli, this one can be better for tracking higher frequencies and phase response without creating a lot of distortion, even in the inner groves.
None of them is the nude diamond, so you can’t really expect a high-end level of accuracy and longevity. Instead, they’re both tipped or bonded, which translates to higher mass.
That said, the 2M Red’s stylus has a side radius of 0.3 mils, which can be easier on the gloves than the MP-110’s 0.4-mil radius.
While the cartridges show differences in their channel separation, they both have the same channel balance of 1.5 dB at 1 kHz.
This value indicates a variation in the playback levels between left and right output signals. Ideally, you’d want the value here to be as low as possible to be able to say that the transducer balances both channels equally.
At first glance, it may seem like the cartridges have different tracking force ranges. That’s because the MP-110 has a stylus pressure range of 1.5 to 2 g, while the 2M Red comes at 1.6 to 2 g.
However, you’ll most likely end up using the recommended 1.8 g, anyway. So, it’s a tie at this point.
What’s Better About the Nagaoka MP-110?
Here are the top three highlights that you can expect on the MP-110 cartridge:
- More natural sound ranges
- Higher channel separation
- Sleek design
Must read: Denon DL-110 Vs. DL-103
What’s Better About the Ortofon 2M Red?
Let’s take a look at what’s there to love about Ortofon’s 2M Red cartridge:
- Affordable price point
- The package includes accessories (screws, a screwdriver, and a mini stylus brush)
- Smaller side radius for accurate tracking over high frequencies
Who Should Get the Nagaoka MP-110 (and Why)?
The Nagaoka MP-110 might be a good fit for someone who’s not quite a beginner but is also not ready to splurge on something like the MP-500.
If you decide to get it, just remember to give it a break-in period of at least 30 hours!
Who Should Get the Ortofon 2M Red (and Why)?
I’d recommend the Ortofon 2M Red for someone looking to get an all-purpose cartridge at a bargain.
It’ll do fine in a starter’s setup as long as you don’t mind the analytical sound or the bright color choice. In fact, it might even float your boat if you tend to play a lot of rock music on your turntable!
However, if you have the budget for an upgrade and still want something from Ortofon, you might want to check out the 2M Blue.