When you own a record player, there are parts of the turntable that you will need to know so that you can easily replace them if required. The phono cartridge mount serves as a connector between the stylus and the tonearm. The type of turntable cartridge that your player has will affect the sound quality of the playback of your vinyl records. However, whether you’re using a moving coil cartridge (mc) or a moving magnet cartridge (mm), the way your phonograph cartridge is mounted will make all the difference when you need to keep the cantilever steady.
Let’s take a look at the different types of mounting systems that are available. We will discuss what they are, why you may want a specific type, and why you may want to avoid some types.
What is a P-Mount Cartridge?
A p-mount or T4Pis designed so that the cartridge attaches directly to the tonearm, which is then screwed tight with a single screw so that the cartridge does not move during playback. This will require a p-mount turntables or at least an option that has a p-mount tonearm so that there is already a screw hole in the side of the tonearm.
T4P cartridges tend to be popular with turntable owners who want a simple plug and play mounting system that is easily replaced. In fact, some of the best p-mount cartridges are available on sites like Amazon, so getting your hands on one will not even require you to travel to a store.
- Doesn’t need to be adjusted
- Very simple to install
- Weighted according to manufacturer’s specs
- Limited supply available
- Less options for upgrading your stylus
What is a Standard Mount Cartridge?
A standard mount, which is also known as a half-inch mount, is the most common type of mounting system. This is especially true amongst audiophiles and anyone who uses amplifiers to create a hi-fi sound with their audio system.
With this type of mounting system, you will easily be able to see the two screw holes on the top of the headshell, which as the name implies, are positioned exactly half an inch apart. The cartridge is secured to the headshell at this location, and there are four wires that are located on the headshell that need to connect to the cartridge that is being used. These wires tend to break easily, so make sure to use caution when you are attaching them.
If you want this type of mounting system for your LP gear, Sumiko’s reference series has a great selection of cartridges to consider. They also have an Oyster Series that will sound great with any analog audio system, regardless of the amp and the preamp that you use.
- Most retailers sell this type of mounting system
- Most work well with a wide range of preamps
- Weighting can be adjusted as needed
- Needs to be aligned after installation
- Setup can be difficult to manage since you have to connect screws and wires
What is a Universal Mount?
Simply put, a universal mount is a p-mount cartridge that also has a standard mount adapter. The adapter plugs right into the p-mount cartridge, and the universal mount attaches to the tone arm just like a standard mount. This makes it easy to switch between cartridge types if you decide to do so, which is why many people select this option when they are relatively new to vinyl. It allows them to have a plug and play system at first, with the ability to switch to using the standard mount option whenever they feel comfortable enough to do so.
Common Stylus Types
It’s easy to look at a few styli and think that all are the same, but the fact is, the type of stylus you use will greatly affect the audio quality of vinyl playback. The stylus itself is very complex; there are multiple tip types that can have conical, elliptical, or hyperelliptical (Shibata) designs. Let’s take a look at how each performs and their advantages/disadvantages.
The Conical stylus is the most popular option for a stylus because it has the simplest design and it’s relatively inexpensive. The tip is designed like a sphere, so it only touches the walls of the grooves, not the center. The large radius of this tip means that there is less overall wear on the stylus, though the two points of contact do tend to wear if used a lot.
This is the best option for DJs to use because they can withstand significant tracking force, which means that scratching and back-cueing records will not wear the tips. Also, since these are relatively inexpensive, a damaged stylus is easily replaceable.
Elliptical Styli are typically magnetic with tips that are polished and have miniscule diameters. This rounded tip means that there will not be a lot of pressure on the vinyl that you are playing. The reason that this type is so unique is because there are two radii with each stylus tip. The front radius is smaller than the one from the side, so the stylus can ride in the center of the grooves while still picking up the higher frequencies that only fine-line styli allow.
The smaller the size radius of this type of stylus, the better the sound quality will be. Even though the tracking force required for this type of stylus will be less, it tends to wear a bit faster than a Conical stylus.
A Shibata stylus is a specific type of fine-line stylus that has a diamond tip with a sharp shape. This means the needle tends to tread deeper in the grooves than with other styli. Because of this snug fit, high frequencies are easier to pick up during playback. In addition, the wear on the stylus is minimized.
There is also very little pressure on the vinyl from this type of stylus, which means that you will have to replace the stylus less frequently. This is ideal because a Shibata stylus tends to be a bit on the expensive side when it comes to price.
Align your Cartridge for High-Fidelity Sound
Channel separation can easily be downgraded if you are a bit off in your installation. A cartridge with a separation of 10kHz or more will help to achieve a higher frequency response, which is difficult without the right equipment. To help control the tracking force of the stylus on the vinyl after installation, cartridge alignment is vital. Having the right alignment will not only give you a hi-fi sound, it will also prevent distortion and keep you records and stylus from wearing out prematurely.
Finding the ideal turntable cartridge ensures perfect playback every time.