The component in a phonograph turntable that holds the stylus, which is a needle attached to a cantilever arm. The vibrations of the stylus are transferred into electrical energy by a magnet inducing current into coils; one coil for the left side and one for the right. "Moving magnet" cartridges have the magnet attached to the end of the cantilever, while "moving coil" cartridges place two tiny coils on the end. In either case, the arm acts like a vibrating magnet.
Earlier phono cartridges were ceramic and used the piezoelectric effect to create the electrical signal. The cantilever end of the stylus arm actually contacted the ceramic base, which picked up the vibrations (see piezoelectric
). See stylus
Moving Magnet vs. Moving Coil Cartridges
Moving magnet (MM) cartridges employ a tiny magnet on the stylus armature that induces a current into two coils as the stylus moves in the groove. In a moving coil (MC) cartridge, the coils are attached to the moving armature and induce a current in the magnetic field. Hotly debated as to which method sounds better, high-end phono cartridges tend to be moving coil (MC).
The Phono Cartridge
The cartridge is attached to the end of the tone arm on a phonograph turntable. A legacy system for sure, but there are thousands of people with huge vinyl record collections, and turntables and cartridges are still made.
Moving Magnet vs. Moving Coil
An Optical Phono Cartridge
The advantage to the moving coil is less mass at the end of the cantilever because the coil is smaller than the magnet. There is also less electrical charge (capacitance). However, the moving coil voltage is also smaller and requires a phono preamp that steps up the voltage. See phono preamp
For the audiophile, DS Audio offers optical cartridges that use infrared LEDs and photo cells to detect brightness changes in the vinyl grooves. Optical cartridges eliminate the magnetic resistance created in MM and MC cartridges. Ranging in price from a couple thousand to an E-Class Mercedes, the cartridges output an analog voltage and require their own phono equalizers, not the common electrical preamp circuits. See phono preamp
. (Image courtesy of Digital Stream Corporation, www.ds-audio-w.biz)