The small electro-mechanical component that is mounted at the front of a tonearm or turntable is a phono cartridge. It is often a dilemma when it comes to purchasing the cartridge of a record player, especially with all the options available. The sound, the installation, the cost together makes it all the more difficult to arrive on a decision.
Below I have painted a detailed picture of the two types of phono cartridges and what to consider before buying the P mount cartridge.
In this article, I have also discussed the difference between the most common type of cartridge which is also known as the standard mount cartridge and the P mount cartridge.
Lastly, I have concluded by elaborating the specifications of the three best P mount phono cartridge that comes under $100 price.
Difference between P Mount and Standard Mount Cartridge
The P mount cartridges are also sometimes called T4P cartridges. These cartridges are designed to plug into a specific type of tonearm. They are built in order to serve as a quick option for those who do not want to fine tune a precision instrument.
Standard mount cartridges, on the other hand, are the most common type and therefore are known as standard cartridges. The mounting holes of standard cartridges are separated by a ½ inch and hence standard mounts are also sometimes known as ½ inch mounts.
How to Choose a P Mount Cartridge
It should be no surprise that the quality of the cartridge has a big impact on sound quality. Choosing a P mount cartridge is a tricky task. It includes many factors in choosing the right cartridge for your turntable.
The options are many to choose from the cartridges that are offered by the various manufacturers. However, a budget needs to be set first as the P mount cartridges can vary in prices. If you are a beginner, you don’t want to end up spending a lot for your first turntable.
The rule of the thumb is to compare the cost of the cartridge to the rest of the equipment. It’s no point spending a fortune on your cartridge if your turntable is a basic model.
If you’re thinking about buying $100 p-mount cartridge, then you can choose from the below mentioned cartridges.
Choosing the right stylus shape is important as it has a direct impact on the sound. The common stylus shapes to encounter are: spherical (also known as conical), elliptical (also known as bi-radial), line (also known as fine line or linear contact), and Shibata.
The system’s overall audio performance and reproduction depend on the shape of the stylus. Better sound is produced as a result of more surface contact between the stylus tip and grooves of a record.
The most affordable is the spherical tips. They are the easiest to use. However, the performance is not as good as elliptical, line or Shibata. There are other stylus shapes that are expensive than the usual ones as they are difficult to manufacture. They guarantee better sonic performance. One thing to be made sure is that the stylus is properly aligned on the turntable for it to accurately track the grooves.
There are four slender pins in P Mount cartridges. These pins are plugged directly into tonearms specifically made for P mount cartridges. The cartridge is then secured with a tonearm with a single screw. One should double check before buying the cartridge if it is compatible with the turntable model it is bought for.
Moving Magnet vs. Moving Coil Phono Cartridges
Once the mount type is decided, it’s time now for you to decide on moving magnet or moving coil.
Moving magnet or MM is the most common cartridges that are found. A permanently attached magnet at the end of the cantilever is placed between two sets of fixed coils which creates a very tiny electromagnetic generator. The stylus tracks the groove of the record which makes the movement travel up the cantilever, thus making the magnet move between the coils, thereby generating a current.
These are the simpler type of cartridges and are inexpensive. All they require is a single phono preamp to get the proper sound output. These type of cartridges are a little heavier which lead to exerting more pressure on the record that wears the vinyl.
Moving Coil cartridges, on the other hand, have a more complicated design. The coils remain attached to the cantilever and the magnet while the magnet remains fixed. The movement travels up the cantilever as the surface of the stylus tracks the groove of the record, it moves the coils by the magnet and creates the current. This cartridge is lighter and therefore creates less wear on the vinyl. This is considered the most sonically accurate of them all.
Who Should Buy P Mount Cartridge?
P mount cartridges should be bought by beginners with starter tables. These cartridges were designed in a way that makes them easy to use and is known for their simplicity.
Cartridge installation is simplified and eliminates the need for cartridge alignment. People who are not looking for high-end cartridges but looking for good quality sound should definitely go for P mount. The P mount cartridges do not require much of adjusting.
So, if one is looking for turntables without the adjustment hassle, P mount is the answer. However, it can be a detriment for people who have gone past a certain point in their turntable experience. Therefore, it’s only suitable for beginners with a basic minimal budget.
Best P Mount Cartridges in 2019
Audio Technica AT3482P .7 mil Conical P-Mount Cartridge
It is a 0.7mm conical cartridge that fits P-mount turntables. This cartridge is designed to fit 0 .7mm only. The frequency response is 20-20,000 Hz. The Vertical Tracking Force is 1.0-1.5 grams. The stylus is shaped conically. The recommended Load Impedance: 47,000 ohms. And as the title already suggests, the mount is P-mount.
One cannot find a better value than this cartridge provides. This is a great cartridge for the price. The produced sound is well balanced with crisp highs and tight lows. Mid frequencies are one of its great strength. The most common form of vinyl single is 45 rpm record and this cartridge goes with it just as smooth as butter on bread.
If one is looking for a brand that is speaking for itself when it comes to audio, Audio Technica is the one. This is THE cartridge for all the audiophiles.
Audio-Technica Phonograph Cartridge with Elliptical Stylus P Mount AT85EP
This is a 0.3 x 0.7 mil cartridge designed specifically to fit linear format P-mount turntables. The stylus is elliptical. It features Audio-Technica’s unique dual moving magnet construction. An excellent sonic clarity is assured by the para-toroidal coil construction.
It is donned with features found in the more expensive Audio-Technica cartridges. The owners of Technics, Hitachi, Pioneer and similar linear tracking turntables with T4P plug-in connectors are enabled to enjoy a high-fidelity sound that only Audio-Technica can offer.
It is easy to assemble and sounds just great. It is a very reasonable catch. Being a product of Audio-Technica which is the leader in the manufacture and design of innovative audio products, this cartridge delivers what is expected of it.
Audio-Technica Phonograph Cartridge with Conical Stylus P-Mount AT81CP
It is a replacement model for the following cartridges: AT300P, AT3482, AT3482H/U, AT3482P, and AT90CD. This cartridge only fits P-mount Turntables. The stylus is shaped conically. It is constructed of a bonded round shank. This model too features Audio Technica’s unique dual moving magnet construction.
The installation is easy and is, therefore, a buyers’ choice. However, the sound could be produced a little muffled and might not produce the low as expected. The sound smoothens out with more hours of playing. Give it a rough 30 to 100hrs before you can indulge in the essence of it.
Phono cartridge decides the ultimate performance potential of a record playing system. The choice of cartridge is greatly responsible for the life of the records. As vinyl records are difficult to replace, to prevent them from wearing is an important point one should focus on.
There are a wide variety of cartridges one can choose from, from the ones that are exorbitantly high in prices to the inexpensive ones. However, if you are looking for quality p mount cartridge then I would suggest that AT85EP is your pick.
It produces great sound for a very reasonable price with a bright sound and crisp highs and tight lows. It stands true to the reputation of its brand name.