A phono cartridge is the record player’s part where sound is developed. While thousands of cartridge styles exist—and while numerous designs are available—several basic types are used more often than others. To be an informed record player user, you should understand the different types of styli before purchasing a phono cartridge. You should also understand the different parts of the phono cartridge.
The headshell plugs, or fits, into a record player’s tonearm just before the cartridge. Some headshells include weights, and each is removable which facilitates easy cartridge installation. Generally, headshell parts are purchased separately.
The cartridge, itself, is a rectangular instrument where the record player’s needle or stylus is attached. It might not be included with a turntable purchase, either, meaning record player buyers may have to purchase it separately. The cartridge connects to the record player’s headshell via color-coated wires and screws.
A record player’s stylus is the needle which is used to pick up a vinyl piece’s grooves to exact music. A stylus is a diamond tip which is sometimes called a “needle.” It’s a good idea to replace a record player’s stylus often, as the stylus can wear down with years of use.
A record player’s stylus, made from industrial-grade materials, is available in different types. The diamond stylus’s material contributes to the stylus’s long-term durability, and the very shape of a stylus can impact record player playback.
The Spherical Stylus
The spherical stylus, often called a conical stylus, is one of the most produced styli around. Its design might produce lower-quality sound than other styluses, but its inexpensive nature makes it a common purchase. A spherical stylus might not cover as much surface area as other styluses, but it’ll also cause less damage to a record over time.
The Elliptical Stylus
The elliptical stylus is triangular, allowing it to follow a record’s grooves accurately. Thus, it can produce a superior sound to the conical stylus. Sometimes called a bi-radial stylus, the elliptical stylus is useful for dissecting musical quality—as it’s able to cover quite a lot of surface area.
The Shibata Stylus
The Shibata stylus has a number of shapes available. It has a high contact area, vertically, than both elliptical and spherical styluses. Shibata-style styluses can come as bi-elliptical, hyperbolic, quadrahedral or fine stylus design. The Shibata stylus can issue precise sounds, causing less wear-and-tear on vinyl disks while making contact with a lot of surface area.
Thousands of cartridge styles and designs exist, but most adhere to three “types,” being the Moving Magnet Cartridge, the Moving Iron Cartridge and the Moving Coil Cartridge.
The Moving Magnet Cartridge contains a small magnet within its design. The magnet creates an electrical current between the coils whenever the stylus moves. Typically, Moving Magnet Cartridges are simpler in design than other cartridges.
The Moving Iron Cartridge, meanwhile, is designed with a small iron piece. The iron is lighter than the cartridges magnet, reducing the overall force exerted by the stylus when it contacts the disk. Normally, Moving Iron Cartridges are utilized to boost the overall accuracy of sound production.
The Moving Coil Cartridge is different from both Moving Magnet and Moving Iron Cartridges in that the electricity-conducting coils contained within it “sandwich” the stylus’s arm via magnetic force. A Moving Coil Cartridge is a lot smaller, and finer, than the other cartridge types. It can achieve low voltage outputs, catching sensitive vibrations and noises.
Each cartridge has its own advantages and disadvantages, of course. When picking your record player’s parts, it’s a good idea to pick a product which is conducive to your sound-listening needs.