A turntable is an essential piece of equipment for any DJ. It allows the operator to play music from vinyl records, which has a much better sound than CDs or digital files. Of course, there are many different types of turntables and each one will have its own cartridge, stylus and needle that it needs in order to operate properly. Let’s take a look at how these three parts work together so you can choose the right one for your needs.
1. What is a turntable cartridge and what does it do?
A cartridge is a device that attaches to the tonearm of a turntable and houses the stylus and needle. It is responsible for translating the vibrations of the record into electrical signals that can be read by the turntable’s amplifier.
2. How do you choose the right turntable cartridge?
There are two different types of cartridges available today, which can be used to play records with a steel or lead needle or for playing 78s that use a ceramic needle. You must also consider how it will be mounted to your turntable—some are designed to be mounted permanently, others can be mounted temporarily with special equipment. You should choose the option that best suits your needs.
The first type of cartridge is needed for playing records with a steel or lead needle . The stylus tip on this kind of cartridge is made to vibrate along the contours of the record’s groove while having enough mass to keep from bouncing out of the groove. Record players that use a steel needle or a lead needle will play all records, old and new.
The second kind of cartridge is needed for playing 78s, which have a much wider record groove than 33s and 45s. The stylus tip on this type of cartridge is designed to ride in the very center of the record groove, as it is much narrower than the stylus for playing 33s and 45s. The cartridge can also be made to vibrate along the contours of the 78’s wide groove, which helps produce a high-fidelity sound.
Both cartridges offer different sonic benefits, so you should choose one that suits your needs.
3. Mounting the turntable cartridge
There are two ways to mount a cartridge to your tonearm—Standard/Half-inch mount or P-mount. Both will work for DJ use, but you should choose the option that is best suited to your needs and your tonearm type.
The Standard/Half-inch mount is designed for standard tone arms found on most DJ turntables. This mount has a set screw, which holds the stylus in place when it’s not being used, and can be mounted in a number of ways with the use of special equipment. The stylus can be removed from the cartridge by gently pulling on it, which is useful for DJs who change out their needles frequently.
The P-mount is designed to be mounted permanently in place . It has a slot that runs across the bottom or side of the cartridge housing, where it clamps onto the tonearm. The stylus can be mounted in the cartridge by simply sliding it into place, which is useful for DJs who perform with one set of needles and don’t need to change them often.
4. Stylus Maintenance
Proper cleaning, handling and storage are all necessary when your cartridge and stylus are not in use in order to keep them in good working order.
Cleaning your stylus is easy—all you need is a stylus brush, typically included with your cartridge. You will want to brush toward you, not against the slope of the needle. A few brushes and the stylus should be good as new.
You should not use harsh chemicals such as rubbing alcohol to wipe the shiny needles clean. Never use any kind of liquid or solvents on your stylus or they could be permanently damaged.
Make sure to always handle your cartridge with care , as the stylus can be damaged simply by brushing up against it or dropping the cartridge. Always hold the cartridge by its sides, not on top of the needle when removing or replacing it in your turntable.
For proper storage, you should always put your stylus back into its protective plastic sleeve when not in use to avoid damage and dust build-up.
Note that over time your stylus will wear. When the stylus is no longer capable of producing high-quality sound, it will require replacement.
5. Choosing the perfect cartridge for your turntable
To choose the right cartridge for your needs, you have to determine which kinds of needles it can handle, as well as which kinds of cartridges it accepts. Here are some tips for doing that.
To play records with a steel or lead needle , your turntable will need to have one of these cartridge mounts: Standard mount, P-mount or half-inch mount. Your tonearm must also be able to fit the cartridge’s physical dimensions.
If you want to play 78 rpm records, you’ll need to make sure your turntable is capable of playing this speed, as well as having one of these mounts: Standard mount, P-mount or half-inch mount. Your tonearm must also be able to fit the cartridge’s physical dimensions. Note that we have focused on DJ turntable cartridges, if you are looking for additional information on audiophile cartridges, checkout a guide such as how to choose the best turntable cartridge by a publication that focuses on listening versus producing music.
To play 33 and 45 rpm records , you will need a standard mount cartridge with a diamond stylus. Your tonearm must also be able to fit the cartridge’s physical dimensions.
Using the right kind of stylus for your records is another important consideration when choosing a cartridge. You can choose from spherical or elliptical options, which respectively have a conical or line-contact stylus tip.
Spherical styli are fine for playing all types of records, but they won’t last as long as elliptical ones. The combination of conical and line-contact stylus tips can be used to get the best sound possible for both 33s, 45s and 78s.
To get the most out of your vinyl collection, be sure to keep these factors in mind when choosing a cartridge.
What Is The Best Stylus Type for a DJ?
Most styli have conical or spherical tips, which are the simplest and most often used. DJs and turntablists alike will find them excellent because they are extremely resilient, can handle strong back-cueing and scratching as well as being cheap and quick to make.
5. Final tips on choosing the right turntable cartridge for you
First and foremost, if you can, bring your records with you to the store so the sales associates can show you which cartridges work best with them. I know this is often not the case in the age of Internet stores but if you are lucky enough to have a local audio store it really helps to hear your specific music played on various cartridges.
Don’t hesitate to ask for advice from an expert before buying a cartridge. They should be able to help you decide which features are important and which ones aren’t as necessary.
Remember that you don’t have to break the bank to get a great turntable cartridge. This is an investment in your music, not just another piece of equipment.
When choosing a cartridge for your turntable, it’s important to consider the kind of records you want to play, as well as the type of stylus you need. There are many different cartridges and styluses available on the market, so it’s important to do your research before making a purchase. Be sure to ask an expert for advice if you’re unsure about which option is best for you. Remember that you don’t have to break the bank to get a great cartridge – this is an investment in your music!