One of the most cost-effective and audibly discernible ways of improving your vinyl listening experience, is to upgrade your TT cartridge/needle. So several years ago, I decided to go on the hunt for a new cartridge to see if the grass was really greener than the stock AT95E cartridge that came with my Audio Technica LP-120 turntable.
Since my turntable retailed for about $350, I figured a reasonable cartridge price range to shoot for was around the $100-$150 range. I narrowed my choices down to a few different brands, and did an A/B shoot-out in my home listening environment. In the end, the hands-down choice for me was the Nagaoka MP-110H model, which is essentially the MP-110 pre-mounted on a Nagaoka headshell. This option saves you the hassle of having to calibrate the cartridge and needle on your turntable during installation.
The clear winner
End the end, the MP-110 won me over. Mostly due to its pleasing mid-range, and detailed frequency spectrum that preserved the transients of my vinyl, without being too strident in the upper range – which is what I experienced from some of the other cartridges I A/B’ed it with. This trait was especially noticeable on newer records that had been recently remastered in the digital domain. The Nagaoka retained all of the detail and depth of the recording while obfuscating any harsh transients that sometimes poke out in the top end on over-EQed digital masters. The MP-110 had a musically balanced sound, great midrange, and was able to track dynamics really well – especially for it’s price range . And it clearly exhibited a more three-dimensional sound stage than the stock AT95E cartridge that came with the LP-120.
How does it sound?
For those of you who can’t A/B cartridges in person, I would recommend you watch the video below. This is a good sonic comparison of cartridges in this price range.
Your mileage may vary, and I encourage you to test things out in your listening environment. However, I’ve been incredibly happy with my MP-110, and since then, I’ve encountered several others who have had similar experiences with this cartridge.
The Nagaoka MP-110 represents a great value for the price, and is an audibly noticeable and worthwhile upgrade from the stock cartridge that comes with the Audio Technica LP-120 turntable. Highly recommended!