It’s pretty easy to jump in, buy a turntable and happily spin your records! But the moment that first needle drops, you are on a countdown to replacing that shiny needle on the end of your tonearm. Here are 4 needles that you can easily pick up to replace whatever one you currently have.
You can’t go wrong with any of these needles/cartridges. Make sure to check Youtube for installation help and to make sure you feel comfortable with changing them out on your own.
The Best Basic Needle
Audio-Technica AT-VMN95EBK Elliptical Replacement - Known by many as “The Green Needle”, the AT-VMN95E is the always there, solid replacement needle for 90% of the turntable owners out there. An elliptical needle mounted on a dual moving magnet cartridge, this needle has a solid sound and excellent durability. It also has a great price point, running around $40-$50 mounted on the cartridge. This is a solid needle and one that everyone should have on hand.
The Next Step Up
Ortofon OM 5e - If you want to upgrade to a better needle, the Ortofon family and the OM 5e in particular is a good first step on that journey. Another elliptical stylus mounted on a moving magnet cartridge offers a step up, sound wise from the AT-VMN95E needle. This was my first needle upgrade and I felt like it provided me with a bit warmer sound. It still sits in the sub $100 range, coming in at around $60-$70. It's easy to install and sounds good on any turntable.
Breaking the $100 Barrier
Ortofon 2M Red/Blue - Coming in at $125 for the Red and $239 for the Blue, the Ortofon 2M needles are a leap ahead of the needles previously mentioned here. The Red is the needle I currently have on my Uturn Orbit Plus and it delivers a warm sound with good dynamic range. It’s a noticeable difference to the sub $100 needles and fits nicely on a good turntable upgrade when you’re ready to move up to that next record player. The Blue is a quantum leap up from the sub $100 cartridges and a nice upgrade from the Red. It has a Nude Elliptical stylus that allows for more resolution and dynamics, with greater detail throughout your albums of choice. Yes, it’s as much as some turntables, but when you’re ready to truly jump into that next level of vinyl collection, this is the needle to go for.
A Different Direction
GRADO Prestige Black3 - Moving in another direction from the Ortofon family, Grado Labs is a Brooklyn based Needle and Headphone manufacturer. Founded in 1953, Grado provides a quality alternative needle/cartridge that would find a good home on any turntable. The Prestige Black3 is another $100 moving magnet cartridge, much like the Ortofon 2M Red. It has a warm sound and can sound a bit richer than the Ortofon under some circumstances and with the right turntable. I’ve been spinning with the 2M Red for about a year, but the Prestige Black3 is my next needle.