Perfect Dj Cartridge!

good to your records + sounds great + sticks in the groove

There’s no ad-financed links or no other reason (as every other post on my site) but the one that I’m quite excited about the following I wanna share with you!


The  Nagaoka MP-110 is widely known as a budget top quality phono system for it’s neutral to warm sound and silky treble, plus the fact that it’s needle seems to be very generous to hide some slight scratches & worn vinylgrooves. This is why I bought one to digitize my records the best way my budget allowed me. As i found in another Shoot-out Video the tracking also is fantastic compared to other cartridges. It’s price is ca. €130.00 but check Ebay for €112,00 incl headshell at some Japanese sellers.

But on top of that, as I accidentally found out – and then purposely tested: This is a perfect choice for Dj-use, especially for those who play vintage and worthy records!

For decades now I was totally happy with the Stanton 890SA/FS model for it’s warm sound and most of all for being so protective to the records – and the extraordinary loud volume. I always appreciated the Shure Whitelabel for the warm and detailed sound and also to mention the Grado Dj-200 for the complexity. With Grado it is a question of taste (as every thing concerning the senses certainly are) as I never liked it’s treble too much, but – most important: the way it tortures records while back-cueing is brutal! Shure M44-7 >>> here are proper replacement  styli you can buy for them ! <<< sounds hard but is one league with Stanton for low record-wear, still the most important point for me! So they are all great …. for a dj cartridge. Ortofon Concordes may have developed over the years but apart from easy installation i never liked the thin and dead sound and especially the heavy record-wear. Generally all mentioned cartridges just cannot keep up with the lovely ad detailed sound Nagaoka MP-110 produces. It is simply a different level!

Although it’s an elliptical stylus, the record-wear is absolute minimum, so to say on one level with the Shure M44-7 and Stanton 890SA/FS or better.

It’s praised in most hifi forums for being such a great sounding thing for such little money. It actually seems to share this position meanwhile with the legendary Denon DL-110 (a great sounding system witch is in no way suitable for dj’ing). It’s always ridiculous to describe sound, but the best way to do so: Music sounds simply more lovely than before, no matter how long you listen. A good comparison between a Grado blue stylus (also very decent, not recommended for dj purposes!) and the Nagaoka MP-110. Listen to the cymbal-like sounds on the trashy pink pop 12″ !

With good internet connection & quality headphones you might get an impression (the details in the treble!)

When it comes to turntablism the Shure wins by far for it’s skipping resistance, no question. The MP-110 does all cueing, back-spinning and a little wicky-wicky-scratching thingy with ease. Remember it is a hifi system, so the metal that holds the diamond (cantilever) is less stiff as a dj-one would be and the recommended / ideal weight adjustment is 1,5 – 2 grams. But when you’re not scratching until the needle starts smoking the system behaves just fine. To put on some extra weight for heavily warped records works but don’t forget to get back to your 2 grams for the next record since the cantilever starts to sag down at heavier weights – not good for the record-wear (especially while back-spinning)

Club dj’s know the problem concerning vinyl (or better the turntables & dj booths) can produce bass feedback at loud volumes, especially since most sound engineers in clubs have lost their knowledge about turntable setup and maintenance. So, one of the most important: Nagaoka’s feedback behavior is better than all the mentioned cartridges! I claim that after months of experience now. Remember it is always depending on the material and built of the dj booth, the shape of the venue, where the sub-woofers are placed, how worn the tonearm fixation is … and lots of other details, so this cannot be a general result, but I have used them Nagaoka’s in maybe a dozen different situations by now and it is an über-positive impression so far.

Output volume is “average” (5mV) equal as the notorious in-house Ortofon OM Pro S (6mV) but not as loud as Shure M44 (9,5 mV), Ortofon Nightclub (9,5 mV), Ortofon Q-Bert (11mV)  or, the loudest, Stanton 890 (12mV). This can lead to quite different volume-levels when you combine Serato / CD or other media in your dj set but actually that does not matter at all as long as you know what a gain knob does, but actually sharing the booth along with other dj’s who set everything to the max: it might cause a problem.

Also not perfect is the fact that you don’t see the needle tip very good. This will take you maybe one or two extra revolutions of back-spinning while cueing each record.

Availability: you should get replacement forever since Nagaoka’s main business is replacement needles for all kinds of discontinued cartridges.

Replacement needles are €59,00 street price (Nov 2018) that means more expensive as Shure and one third of Grado (€180,00). I don’t want to put this fact down but usually you do need to replace your stylus every 500 to 1000 hours. Calculate 2 turntables = 2 cartridges = each playing out half the time, plus the necessary cueing per record. That equals ca. 300-600 club sets of 2 hours each or 100-200 6-hour marathons. Think of your records and record-wear before you have a thought on saving some 40 bucks on styli.

Note: Nagaoka DJ-03HD MM and cannot recommend it. Quite surprisingly I did experience quite heavy cueburn and silly needle skip at 3 grams. Strangely enough since this is supposed to be a dj needle but  Nagaoka MP-110 has drmatically better specifications for dj purposes. Out of production now anyway and I’m not surprised really.

I haven’t tried the Taruya models yet (and I know I should soon do so! (Anybody with experience for that? Please let me know if so!) but overall until now the Nagaoka is the best choice i found in my 30+ years of quite intensive searching for a perfect DJ-cartridge so far.

[edit: after this long time without club life, it was at most possible to dj outdoors, a note: The Nagaoka is more sensitive to wind gusts at open-air gigs due to the low weight of max. 2 grams. The tonearm lifts off faster in storms than with a stylus which can tolerate 4 grams and more.]

– better sound than all existing DJ-cartridges i ever tried (and those were a lot)
– very low record-wear
– very good feedback insensibility

– not the loudest
– stylus tip not well visible
– costly replacement needles
– more delicate for wind at open air sets

46 thoughts on “Perfect Dj Cartridge!”

  1. Have you had the chance to try out the Nagaoka DJ-03HD MM? I’m super curious about these and now that Shure is out of the game, I’d love to get these, but haven’t seen much of anything on the internet about them. Cheers, Kevin

    1. Hi Kevin! Not so far but will do so. But actually I’m so happy with the 110 model that it might take a while. The DJ-03HD MM is $120.00 on Ebay right now

      1. Looking forward to the review IF you end up looking at the DJ-03HD 🙂 I was thinking of getting this, but not leaning towards the M44G with a Jico stylus.

      2. Hi

        I have the MP110 on a pur hifi vintage system and im totally agree with you – but about the 03hd i have a slight problem with the techniks MK2 cause the cartridge with headshell is too light for the counter weight of the platine …. so even with a nice dj booth built there is not enough weight and any slight vibration (mostly foot while dancing) can be transfert to the stylus…

        Do you have any tips to setup well the counter weight of the mk2 in this kind of problem?

        Do you know any solution (not to expensive) as anti vibration pads for MK2 ?

        1. Bonjour
          Il n’y a que les pieds isonoe qui sont vraiment efficaces.
          Les Technics on un petit contre poids qui se vise a l’extrémité du bras …appui minimum 4 gr …ce sont dès cellule professionnelles comme la sc35 c, denon dl103, 03hd…qui fonctionnent avec des bras lourds. Sinon ça sonne maigre.

        2. Hello There are only isonoe feet that are really effective. The Technics have a small counterweight which is screwed to the end of the arm in order to weigh it down…minimum support 4 gr…these are professional cartridges like the sc35 c, denon dl103, 03hd…which work with heavy arms. Otherwise it sounds lean and wears out the discs.

    2. Hello Kevin!
      Finally I made it to test the DJ-03HD, noe that thei’re discontinued.
      Sound it quite good but skips and -most important- que burn was really dissapointing!
      Nagaoka MP-110 much better in both disciplines !

      1. wow! awesome to hear you got to test them. you just confirmed my belief about them, nice to hear the MP110 are still on top. Thoughts on moving up to the MP150 or even MP200? Or is that just crazy talk. Just added another commented below about this. greets and cheers

        1. Hello Kevin,
          I found a shoot-out for you that might answer your questions. I totally agree the MP-150 sounds even better, but to be honest I’m afraid most records that I play out are not mastered so well that I personally would afford the extra cost for that upgrade.

  2. I bought the DJ-03HD’s, pair of them. I ended up returning them. While they sounded amazing, basic back-cueing was pretty much impossible.

    1. That is interesting! I assume you are aware that new cartridges need to be adjusted (geometry when they’re not pre-mounted, anti skating, tone arm height etc) and sometimes need a couple of hours to run smoothly. (sorry we’re on the internet and some questions sound totally stupid since we can’t talk eye-to-eye)

      Do you mean impossible for advanced turntabelism or impossible for simply finding the right place to start the record from?

  3. @ Florian Keller – Great article and very interesting inspiration to explore this upgrade path. Had one question popping up, though: How are you able to judge record-wear during playback and / or back-cueing?

    1. Thanks Daniel! I know it gets really high octane nerdy now, but what I do to test recordwear is to adjust that stylus on the maximum suggested weight, grab a mint styrene 45 and rub (backward-forward) 250 times at the same place of the groove. I will post about that in the near future. Cheers!

      1. Wahoo…! That actually sounds rather extreme, indeed! 😉 But would actually be interesting to know more about this if you get to post on the topic. I believe it is a topic to be taken seriously, especially if one plays more rare stuff…
        Besides this kind of “home lab” test setup, is there any way to derive record wear from pure product specs / general knowledge? Background here is that had been toying with the idea to bring my Ortofon 2M Bronze HiFi cart out to play in clubs (one specifically that has a soundsystem good enough to warrant such an effort – I usually bring Ortofon NCE Mk2). I am not scratching at all and go rather easy on my records but am worried about damage to records and needle from cueing / back-cueing. Would you have any thoughts on this?

        1. I have no info about the mentionned cartridge, but usually dj’ing without backspinning makes no sense and you had to try if the mentioned cartridge causes damage while backspinning. Unfortunately you can only tell after you ruined your 1st styrene 45 (or your cartridge, hifi needles cantelivers are not made to stand backcueing), so you had to try yourself.
          That is why i made this post: I accdentially done it with Nagaoka and it came out that it perfectly works, both for the record as for the cartridge.

  4. I have the Nagaoka DJ-03HD , it came with a technics sl 1200 i got from Japan, its the best DJ cartridge i ever used. SO far i had Shure, most of the Ortofons and the Stanton 500, etc. The Nagaoka is in a totally other league, there is no comparison on sound quality with the others….it smokes the Ortofon Arkiv E, the back cueing is perfect, no skipping, the cartridge was already used, so probably they need burn in time, on thing is for sure : i will order a new one so i can have a pair. The most impressive is the sound : so much more punch, clarity, juice and details compared to the other DJ carts, its like i have upgraded my DJ mixer xone 92 to some high end 4000$ mixer. Go for it and get one, you will love it, im shocked nobody knows about it, because there is no marketing done.

  5. I have a pair of the DJ-03D carts and they rock. I also have a mint pair of Shure-m441’s and they’re just as loud, they don’t track quite as well, which doesn’t bother me too much as I don’t scratch.

    The Nagaoka’s sound better in the top end than any other dj cart I’ve ever used. I would describe it as sounding present but not harsh or over the top in any way.

    They take heaps of weight (from memory the recommended tracking weight is between 3 – 4.5g) so I never have issues with warped records and I haven’t had any issues ever with feedback in clubs with them over the last two years that I’ve been using them.

    Also of note is the fact that I have used them a lot over the last two years and I still don’t feel the need for a replacement stylus.

    1. Hello. Are you using the Original headshell that comes with the cart? I plan to mount it on a Technics headshell. Do you think it will fit? Thanks

  6. this is a great post thanks ! I have used the jico cartridges for some time now to replace the shure n44-7 and am looking to switch to another brand as I am pretty disappointed. Sound wise they are at par with the shure n 44-7, but in terms of stability or record wear it does not stand the comparison.
    I was wondering if anyone here had tried the taruya cartdriges ?
    I am looking at cartridges that have decent sound and minimum record wear as I like to scratch and rock double copies of records.

    1. Yes, the taruya are very good but still nothing beats 44-7, but the closest thing I used till now.

  7. Hello!

    Does anyone know, where to order DJ-03D from, preferably if someone in Europe or UK stocks them?
    Otherwise, will probably have to look into MP-110

    Thanks in advance!

  8. Have you tested Taruya, the DJ-03 or the Pioneer PC-X10 from Nagaoka in the meantime?
    Taruya sounds distorted here:
    Probably powerful in the club, but maybe not the best choice for recording. However, thats just three audio examples of the cheapest red one …
    Maybe not for DJing, but the Ortofon 2M Blue seems to be a very interesting alternative to digitize records. You know this one?

  9. Hey Florian, nice Article. Looks like we have kind of the same taste fog cartridges. My „Portfolio“ is Stanton 680HP , Shure Whitlabel/44G/44-7, Ortofon Nightclub (but only for Serato use and pre-listen flea market records because I don‘t want to mess up the last original needles 😉 ) and a Nagaoka MP-100 for Living Room non-dj use. My Favorit overall for Disco/Boogie/House Records is still the 44G and in Rap Music the 44-7. Taruya & 680 second place. 680 just sounds a little more transparent and warmer but in back cueing taruya has the better tracking. The whitelabel is a little to clean and sharp for my taste, compared to the other. But I‘m in love with the Sound of the Nagaoka, so but not sure 100/110 or DJ03d, tried the 100 was really „skippy“ for me while backueing to beatmatch. Do you think there is a difference to the 110?

  10. You may shoot me down in flames, but would recommend the elliptical stylus Tonar Diabolic “E” cartridge & stylus combo. It has a LOUD output (8.0mv) and a good frequency range (20-24khz) and an optimum tracking weight of 4-4.5g, but I have used it at home set at 3.0g and it still tracks like a demon. It also has a very decent “S” (spherical) stylus option at a very reasonable price which won’t damage your records whilst back-cueing. I have used it for live sets without any issues at all, and also on my home hi-fi turntable / phono preamp setup directly connected to my PC for digitizing my record library. A Mantra Audio or Thakker replacement EPS-270-ED stylus fits it perfectly for more audiophile listening as basically the Tonar cartridge is a copy of the Technics EPS-270 cartridge with a higher output level. With the Mantra stylus fitted it still has an output of between 3 and 4mv so it is perfect for home recording. You can get the “E” combo for just over £45 GBP at Juno Records, and at that price it’s an absolute steal. Replacement styli are £25-30 GBP so they won’t break the bank.
    Give one a go and prepare to be surprised. I was!

    1. The Tonar Diabolic looks exactly the same as the Nagaoka DJ 03 HD, the Technics EPS looks similar, but not the same, so i believe they rebranded the DJ 03 HD into Tonar Diabolic and mounted the E needle, so it is not possible to compare the specs. Now the questions is, did anyone compare the Nagaoka with the Tonar Diabolic if they sound the same ?

  11. Hi all,
    Thanks Florian for your article! Could you and others confirm slight backcueing (playing house , so just classic backceuing to cue and let then let go , etc.) is ok with the 110?
    I have it at home on a more hifi setup but thought it wasn’t meant for backcuing at all! So this comes as a big surprise to me..
    Beofre trying and breaking it, I wanted to have a final confirmation on your side,


    1. Hi Jim!
      Can confirm, no worries! I’m working with them for quite a while now (well not too much in 2020) and no problems at all with que-burning or other record wear at 1,5 grams, no damage or extra wear for the cartridge or stylus, give it a go! 🙂

  12. I keep coming back to this review and trial. Thanks again for doing this. Dare I say, have you tried a dj/performance test with the MP-200? I know that uses a different cantilever, but who knows. Since that model seems to be quite superior than then, MP150 for example, I thought maybe that would be the ultimate DJ/hi-fi cart. What do you think? Was curious of your thoughts and understand I may be speaking blasphemy here haha

  13. Hey I got the blue taruyas after being in such a desperate situation since shure left the game (I loved the 447’s) and they are not great. Very loud but very harsh and unkind with album tracks. Not a warm sound at all really just a very sharp and aggressive mid and treble. So disappointing. Will try the 110’s ASAP. Thanks.

  14. So happy to find this thread (and to see that it’s still kicking). Thank you for the reviews, especially the Taruya comments! At first glance these are said to be louder and clearer — but after some digging, most people say that they’re only good for the club aka. huge PA systems. That they wear your records quite a bit, and the build isn’t as sturdy. I’ve been digging around a hifi cart for at home DJ’ing to replace Shure since they’re out of business and the MP110 seems like a solid choice.

  15. Another great cartridge would be any of the Shure M44 or M55 bodies fitted with an aftermarket N44-C stylus. The output is around 9.5mv and the sound is clear at the top and heavy at the bottom.
    Shure M44-7 carts are really expensive to obtain but any M44 or M55 variant will do as the internals are identical.
    I have M44E, M44C and M44MB bodies and they will accept all aftermarket Shure N44 and N55 styli. Well worth a shot IMHO.

  16. GREAT post and thread, thanks! I’ve got a pair of Nagaoka DJ-03HD/2 that I’m very happy with. I was just browsing for replacement styli and general thoughts for fun but when I found this, and now I’m ocnfused! I’ve never had issues with tracking or back-cueing with them, BUT as I wrote, mine have a “/2” in the name, so I’m guessing these are version 2, with better tracking ability? They still seem hard to come by so my confusion remains. Also now curious about the tonar diabolics…

  17. Hello everyone.

    I would like to share my experiences with you.
    So, first of all, i started my djing with the old ortofon dj-s. It was a good start, but that was nothing special.
    After several years i upgraded my MKII to (what i thought it was best) Ortofon Nightclub MKII.
    It was the worst System i ever had. Worst in every belongings but the most thing was, after max 30 hours of playing, the needle started to make distorsions.
    Ok, after another few years i found the Grado DJ-200i which sounds best, but i was also unhappy with this, because the tracking was not existent 🙄.
    So i was looking for an another new cartrige. At this time ortofon put his new dj stuff on the market.
    After some research ich found out, its allways the same shit in different color, so i was looking forward and found the Nagaoka DJ-03 HD.
    What i can say now is, this one is like an angry woman. Give her candy and she plays fine. But what is the right candy for the Nagaokas?
    And here we have several things that are important and you should follow.

    1. Its a very light cartridge and you need a new headshell.
    Take the original one from Technics or a new one from Nagaoka, dont take the original the Nagaokas are mounted on.
    They are not heavy enough to put the right weight on your needle. You need also some spacers and weight on your headshell to bring the cartrige in the right position.
    Its nessesary to let the Nagaokas play in the right parameters!!

    2. And this might be the hardest to make…. I think the most of you guys do not have an external phono preamp with selectable input capacitance an resistance on it….
    I know, normaly we use the phono input on our Dj mixers. But…. This is not enough for the Nagaokas. Your mixer (xone, Pioneer or others) will have an input capacitance something around 330pf.
    This is the worst you can give to the DJ-03 HD and also other cartridges (except Ortofon) that need special input capacitance. Your Nagaokas needs exactly 100pf input capacitance and an extremly low capacitance Phonocable!!!
    Thats the most important thing when you have the sound problems like other guys here. You give your Nagaokas not the right candy…..
    I run my MKII on an silver xone92 and i changed the input smd capacitors on the first and fourth chanel from 330pf to 100pf from panasonic with 2% tolerance.
    The difference between the chanel 2 and 3 with 330pf original and the both new 1 and 4 with the 100pf is like you ride an old and a new car.
    But….. You need also an very low capacitance cable on your turntable. Its also nessesary!!
    A short description what will happen if you dont have the right candy:
    Your cartridge loose the ability to produce the right sound you would like to have. That means, the wrong input or cable capacitance is like an eq filter for the soundwave your catridge produce.
    This is the most important thing you should know if you use turntables and phono preamps and so on….

    And the next important thing is, you cannot judge the sound of an cartridge when you dont have the right candy for it.
    It means you need the right phono input capacitance and the right phono cables on your turntable, to not change the sound wave the cartridge produce.
    After this is done, you can say, this cartridge sounds great or even not. The right weight and adjustment for the cartridge are also nessesary!

    Thank you for reading my long story, it was a simple description of a big problem we all have. I hope i could help you a little with the phono problems on every turntable or cartrige system.
    Send questions if you have some…

    Kind regards


    1. I use the original head shells with 3.5 gram needle pressure antiskating at 3, I still have skips even at 4 gram, very annoying.. I have two brand new technics mk7s. Since the height is 17mm, technics says height should be zero, which is fine for one of my turntables, arm is flat (I have measured) Strangely enough the other player is slightly off at zero (1 mm difference in height) from back of the arm to the front (upwards!) So, yeah I can set it higher at 5 it runs flat, but I find this very strange since both player are identical.. Any tips/suggestions would be highly appreciated.

  18. Hey Florian, many thanks for sharing your detailed test! Do I understand right, that you can recommend the MP110 for DJing including backspinning, even if it is eliptic? Right now I‘m using the Ortofon DJ S, playing Soul, Funk, Jazz, Boogie, House… and I assume it could sound warmer… many thanks and regards, Pascal

    1. Hello Pascal, yes you can use the MP110 for all of it with the right weight etc. less recoredwear than the typical Ortofon styli.

  19. do you use these for dj’ing with the nagaoka headshell that the cartridge can come mounted on, or a different headshell? wondering if that makes any difference – thanks

    1. hello abaxai, i use the original headshells but i’m sure to actuall hear the differende of headshells exceeds my share of hifi esotericism. maybe some extreme light or heavy ones could make a difference in tracking / skipping but the one the cartridge comes with is absolutely fine.

  20. Also needle skipping with the DJ-03 HD with weight at 3/4 gram.
    I love the sound but unable to dj with them, did anyone found a solution for this?

    1. I have exactly the same problem … it’s very annoying especially since the sound is very good … I put a spacer that I had on an old pair of shure m44g to be able to put more weight but back cueing is just impossible and it’s very annoying! did you find a solution?

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