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 exited 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. It’s price is ca. €130.00 but check Ebay for €112,00 incl headshell at some Japanese sellers like this gentleman.

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 with another reliable cartridge, the Stanton 680 (very similar to the mentioned Stanton 890) is here

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 €79,00 street price (Nov 2018) that means twice as expensive as Shure and nearly halfway to the 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.

I haven’t tried the Taruya models yet (and I know I should soon do so!) as well as Nagaoka’s special dj cartridges called DJ-03HD MM (they seem to be very exotic nowadays at least outside of Japan, Anybody with experience for that? Please let me know if so!) but overall the Nagaoka is the best choice i found in my 30+ years of quite intensive searching for a perfect DJ-cartridge so far.

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

MINUS
– not the loudest
– stylus tip not well visible
– costly replacement needles

12 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 ?

  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 s.th. 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.

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