One of the best aspects of the vinyl revolution has been the astounding resurgence of affordable audiophile turntables and cartridges that offer a lot of performance for the money. You can spend thousands of dollars on a phono cartridge; I’ve listened to some of the best from Miyajima, Koetsu, and Dynavector on megabuck tables and while the sound quality was great in the context of those $50,000+ systems, 99% of vinyl listeners are shopping in the $150 to $500 range and the Goldring E3 is one of the best all-around affordable cartridges I’ve heard in many years.
Some cartridges fly under the radar because the brand doesn’t get them into the hands of enough members of the press or because the price doesn’t create enough buzz in comparison to rivals. Goldring have been in business almost as long as Danish rival, Ortofon, and that puts them in rather elite company.
The Goldring E Series are natural rivals to anything Audio-Technica and Ortofon have to offer below $180 and the E3 might best them all. I’ve been listening for the past three weeks (the E3 replaced both the Ortofon 2M Red on my NAD table) and it’s not even close.
The E3 has an aluminum cantilever with an elliptical tip (0.3 x 0.7mil) while the base E1 model swaps the aluminum for carbon reinforced ABS and the tip for a 0.6mil spherical design.
The 3.5mV output is not especially high for a MM cartridge; the Ortofon 2M Series averages 5 to 5.5mV and the Grado Labs Prestige Series are in the 5mV range.
I usually run a 2.5mV Dynavector 10×5 high output MC into my Croft Phono Integrated which offers 45dB of gain in the phono stage and the E3’s output was plenty.
I also ran the Goldring E3 into the phono section of the NAD C 316BEE V2 and Pro-Ject Phono Tube Box D2 and had zero issues.
The Goldring E3 is likely to be used with entry-level or vintage turntables like the Yamaha YP-701 and NAD C 588 and while I found the removable headshell on the Yamaha to be a better match, the E3 mounted quite easily on the Pro-Ject designed tonearm on the NAD turntable.
Listening to Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder, and Stanley Turrentine’s Hustlin’ made it rather clear that the E3 has verve and a quiet swagger with jazz recordings; nothing sounds exaggerated and horns have ample bite. The bass is tight and somewhat crisp sounding which is perfectly fine at $169. If you’re looking for some added low end weight which comes with less definition — the Grado Prestige Blue3 is a better option.
The Grado also swings with more color in the midrange which proved beneficial with the NAD that is slightly leaner in that regard. It does not offer the top end extension of the E3 and you can easily discern where it begins to roll-off. A another great option though below $160 and it is easy to mount.
The E3 is impressively clean sounding at the price, with excellent pace and just enough top end energy to keep things interesting. Unlike the 2M Red that can sound quite etched at the top, the Goldring E3 is far more balanced sounding and demonstrates better control within the grooves.
This is an affordable MM cartridge that sounds quite poised with all genres of music and one that has permanently replaced the Ortofon 2M Red on my table.
At $169, the Goldring E3 is quite the deal and one of the best budget cartridges currently available.
Where to buy: $169 at Amazon