Are you looking for help to decide between MM vs MC cartridge? You are at the right blog post. Being a hardcore person in the field of turntables and record players, I have over a decade of experience in this niche.
Meanwhile, I have dealt with dozens of people who ask what's the difference between various cartridges. To make it clear, I will compare the two famous cartridges in detail. Let's settle for the best!
When it comes to vinyl, one of the most critical components is the phono cartridge. There are two main types of phono cartridges – MM (moving magnet) and MC (moving coil). Before we move to the detailed comparison, let me establish a quick weighing up between both types:
- MM cartridge has a magnet, while the moving coil cartridge has coils attached to the cantilever.
- MM cartridges typically have a higher output voltage (around 5mV) than MC cartridges (around 0.2mV).
- On the other hand, MM cartridges also have a lower output impedance than MC cartridges.
- MM cartridges need an MM-compatible phono preamp, while MC cartridges need an MC-compatible one.
- Lastly, MM cartridges are more common and affordable, while audiophiles prefer MC cartridges for their smoother, more detailed sound.
However, the above comparison just highlights the basics. Continue reading below, where I'll dwell in a detailed guide based on a contrast. On top of that, I'll also guide you on how to check the cartridge of your tonearm. Let's get into it.
Comparison Chart of MM Vs MC Phono Cartridge
The following table highlights the salient features of MM vs MC cartridges. Let's have a look:
Moving Magnet Cartridge
Moving Coil Cartridge
High (5 mV)
Low (0.2 mV)
200 - 500 ohms
5 - 30 ohms
Non-replaceable stylus (Entire cartridge change)
0.5 - 2 grams
No need for preamp
Phono preamp required
What are MM and MC Cartridges: Which One Do You Have?
Last month, my friend Evan called me. He wanted to replace the cartridge of his turntable Rega Planar 2 and didn't know how to identify the right model.
I found that many people struggled to spot the correct variety of cartridges when it came to MM vs. MC cartridges. Therefore, I have prepared a 3 factors guide that can help you decide on cartridge identification. Let's have a look:
- Examine the stylus: MM cartridges usually have a sharp diamond tip 0.001 inches wide; on the other hand, MC cartridges have a long tip with 0.001 – 0.004 tips. Moreover, you can also spot the text printed like MM or MC.
- Easy replacement: If the turntable allows cartridge replacement, it's probably an MM cartridge. Because MC cartridges are difficult to replace.
- Check the pins: MM may have 4 pins, while MC has 5. That's another way to differentiate between both types.
MM (Moving Magnet) Phono Cartridges
The moving magnet cartridge has been around since the early days of the phonograph. As vinyl playback technology evolved, MM designs represented an affordable, easy-to-use option accessible to the masses.
They have moving magnets that are fixed between coils. I have used MM cartridges for a long period. Let's learn why many enthusiasts prefer mm cartridges.
Working of MM Cartridge Explained
A high-quality MM cartridge works by attaching a tiny magnet to the cantilever (center) and suspending fixed coils around it. As the stylus traces the record's grooves, vibrations cause the cantilever and magnet to move up and down within this fixed coil.
The magnet's movement within the coil generates a small electrical current, becoming the audio signal. Let's have a look at the pros and cons of this cartridge!
MC (Moving Coil) Phono Cartridges
Moving coil cartridge plays a reverse card to the MM cartridges. They have moving coils around fixed magnets. Since MC coils are expensive, they are usually used in higher-end turntables and mostly are hard to replace.
These cartridges capture more detail and nuance from records by using lightweight coil assemblies rather than magnets.
How Does Moving Coils Work?
Instead of a fixed coil and moving magnet, MCs have tiny wire coils affixed to the cantilever that move within a permanent magnet. The stylus traces the grooves, vibrating the cantilever and coils to induce an alternating current.
However, the small coils have a low output voltage of around 0.2-0.5mV. Since the audio signal generated by these coils has low power, a step-up transformer is needed to boost the electrical signal for amplification.
Let's quickly have a look at the perks and cons of this cartridge:
MM and MC Cartridges: 4 Parameter Detailed Comparison
When setting up your turntable or upgrading its phono cartridge, one key decision is whether to go with a moving magnet (MM) or moving coil (MC) model. Last week, my brother, Yuhana, had to get a new cartridge and he was quite confused.
While helping him, I feel many people suffer from the dilemma of choosing the right – MM or MC cartridge. That's why I have prepared a 4 factors guide that can help you in this regard. Let's have a look:
1. Sound Quality
Probably, the sound quality is one of the most important factors. You should consider buying MC cartridges if you are an audiophile and want a cartridge with less moving mass and more responsive.
On the other hand, the MM cartridge is a suitable option for those who want a smooth, dynamic sound, yet with a wide frequency response.
Winner: The MC cartridge takes the lead due to its less moving mass, quick response, and better audio quality.
If you are deciding between cartridges, you have to carefully consider compatibility as not all of the instruments get in sync with every device.
Depending on the type of your turntable or record player, you can go with MM cartridges as they have greater compatibility than MC ones, but they require a high tone arm mass. On the other hand, MC cartridges have a lower inductance, which means they have less noise retention in phono amp.
Winner: I'll rate MM cartridges as the winner of this category as they are widely accessible and can be used with most of the turntables, requiring no additional hardware.
For vinyl lovers, especially those who are beginners, the cost can largely impact their buying decision related to the cartridges. If you are among the group of people who have a restrained budget, you should go for MM cartridges. They are less expensive and can also work with a large range of preamps and receivers.
In contrast, if you want the best bang for your buck, MC cartridges can be your next choice. Further, the requirements like specialized phono preamp can put even more dent in your budget.
Winner: Again, MM cartridges are the ones who win this round due to their affordability and budget-centric approach.
Durability is a factor that is as important as others. Since these cartridges are delicate instruments, they need to be treated carefully.
If you have children in your house or your turntable is more accessible, you should choose MM as they are more robust. And if they get broken, you can easily replace them. However, MC cartridges are inaccessible, non-replaceable, and more prone to breaking.
Winner: You can consider the MM cartridge as the winner of this round because of its sturdiness and easy availability.
4 Factors to Choose the Perfect Replacement Cartridge
When it's time to replace your turntable's worn-out or low-quality factory cartridge, how do you select the ideal model to improve performance? With so many cartridge options, it can be tricky to find the right match for your turntable and listening preferences.
I have compiled these 4 factors that you should keep in mind while buying a replacement cartridge:
1. Check Cartridge Compatibility
The new cartridge must physically fit your tonearm and electrically match your phono preamp. Confirm the cartridge has the correct mounting style and matches your tonearm's mass range. Also, verify the output and impedance match the required MM or MC input.
2. Consider Your Turntable Quality
Entry-level turntables don't require expensive cartridges to sound their best. For midrange and audiophile tables, you can maximize performance with a high-end cartridge. But avoid overkill – an extremely pricey cartridge on a basic plastic turntable is probably overkill.
3. Determine Your Listening Priorities
Casual listeners will be happy with easy-to-use MM cartridges that provide very good audio quality. Audiophiles wanting to extract every detail may prefer MC models. Also, consider the music genres you spin most.
4. Set Your Budget
Cartridges range from less than $50 to over $1000. Have a budget in mind and look for options that balance price with performance gains. With some smart shopping, you can significantly upgrade your turntable's sound without breaking the bank.
Top-Rated Moving Magnet Cartridges
The following are some top-notch MM cartridges:
- Audio-Technica AT440MLB: An MM cartridge that is known for its exceptional tracking force. It presents a clear sound without any distortion and has a micro-linear design.
- Ortofon 2M Red: Another MM cartridge that is known for its balanced sound and performance. It has an elliptical diamond stylus that tracks the record and gives a detailed sound.
- Nagaoka MP-10: It is a cartridge that is famous for its warm and engaging sound. MP-10 comes with an enhanced bass response.
Last update on 2024-02-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Top-rated Moving Coil Phono Cartridges
Let's have a look at some of the top-of-the-line MC cartridges:
- Dynavector 10×5 Mk2: A cartridge that is specifically made for expensive tables and tonearms. It can offer an impressive bass and bass.
- Hana EL: This MC cartridge comes with a characteristic lush sound. It can be used with a variety of sound systems and can work at a low output like 0.5 mV.
- Denon DL-103: DL-103 is another MC cartridge that delivers promising sound. Requiring a 60 dB gain, this cartridge can bring your performance to life.
Last update on 2024-02-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How to Keep Your MM And MC Cartridges in a Good Shape?
To keep your turntable sounding its best, the phono cartridge needs proper ongoing maintenance and care. Whether you have a moving magnet (MM) or moving coil (MC) cartridge, following some simple habits will help it last.
- Wear and tear: The cartridge contains delicate components that can wear out or damage over time. With quality care, you can maximize its lifespan and performance.
- Clean the stylus: Keep the stylus clear of dust and debris by using a soft brush to gently brush it off. An old toothbrush works well.
- Use alcohol or cleaning fluid: Use a stylus cleaning fluid and a special brush to regularly remove stubborn debris or oily residues. Apply the fluid sparingly. You can simply use alcohol to clean the stylus.
- Replacement: Replace the stylus once it shows significant wear, usually after 1,000 hours or less of playtime. This will prevent record damage.
- Don't Touch Cartridge: Avoid touching the cartridge during play. Oils from the skin can accumulate on its surfaces over time.
Yes, you can replace an MM cartridge with an MC one, depending on your turntable. But you may need a different phono preamp to match the MC's lower output.
MM-type cartridges have a moving magnet that is fixed between two coils. When the magnet moves between the coils, it produces voltage, which is converted into sound.
MC cartridges are considered better for sound quality and less moving mass. While MM coils are more affordable and offer high-frequency coverage.
MM cartridges have a moving magnet that is fixed between two fixed coils. In contrast, MC cartridges have a moving coil and fixed magnet.
Yes, a preamp is required to boost the lower output electrical signal level from MC phono cartridges. Because these cartridges have a low output, an amplifier will enhance the audio signals.
The frequency of replacing the stylus for MM and MC cartridges depends on the intensity of usage. However, an average stylus lasts for 1,000 hours of playtime.
MC cartridges are better than MM ones because they produce refined sound. Meanwhile, MM is more robust and affordable.
MM Turntable uses a magnet cartridge to convert vibrations into an electrical signal. This signal is then amplified and played through speakers.
Summing up, when it comes to making a decision between MM vs MC cartridge, you can choose one depending upon your needs.
MM cartridges have moving magnets and these are good for a wide frequency response. Moreover, these are easily replaceable. On the other hand, MC cartridges have moving coils and these are best for a good sound response. On top of that, they are good for precise audio production.
Finally, when going to buy a cartridge, consider factors like compatibility, durability, sound quality, and cost. Moreover, by taking proper care of the cartridge, you can the most out of your device.