What’s the better: moving magnet or moving coil?

How much have you got to spend? If your limit is $150, moving magnet is all you’ve got baby!

There’s a bit to this but simply, almost all the best cartridges are moving coil designs. That isn’t to say there aren’t some fantastic moving magnet cartridges, especially some vintage models. Rather, the best solution technically, is the moving coil design, because of its reduced moving mass. Lower mass means lower inertia and therefore better transient response and high-frequency performance. All of that translates to better dynamics, more of that elusive ‘air’.

Marketing has tried to convince people that lower cost magnets are as good, but they still have these inherent design limitations. Because coils are technically better, manufacturers also tend to spend more on these designs, using better diamonds, more expensive boron or even diamond cantilevers and better coil wire. This means you can spend a ton on a good MC cartridge, but remember that a really good moving magnet cartridge will be better than a cheap moving coil. You get what you pay for.

The caveat here is that because moving coil designs generally have much lower outputs, you need very high-quality electronics or a step-up transformer to get the most from them. Don’t expect a really good moving coil cartridge to sound its best using a built-in or cheap external phono preamp.