Judging by the discussions on the Web, the most painful question for vinyl lovers is: which is best phono cartridge – MM or MC?

MM type

MM stands for moving magnet. In cartridges of this type, the pickup needle is mechanically connected to a magnet. The vibrations of the needle are transmitted to the magnet, the magnet moves near the stationary coils and creates an alternating current in them. In some cartridges, the magnet is stationary, and the needle is connected to a small ferromagnet washer that moves between the magnet and the coils and thus plays the role of a variable magnetic shunt.

MC type

MC stands for moving coil. As you might guess, in these heads the opposite is true: the magnet is stationary, but the coils are part of the moving system.

MM and MC cartridges have their advantages and disadvantages. MM cartridges are generally cheaper and come with interchangeable needles. If the needle is worn out, it can be changed (the cost of the needle usually ranges from 25 to 50% of the total cartridge cost). In MC-cartridges, the needle is usually non-removable, so when you wear it, you have to change the entire cartridge.

It is generally accepted that MC cartridges sound better: more vibrant, natural and detailed. Although this is all conditional, the top-end MM cartridge is likely to outperform the budget MC.

MM heads usually have an output level of at least 2.5 mV. MC heads can have a high (like MM) or low (less than 0.5 mV) output level. High-output MC heads can be used with equalizers designed for MM cartridges. For MC cartridges with a low output level, a special corrector with a higher gain or a step-up transformer is required.