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Nagaoka MP-110 phono cartridge Review

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Nagaoka phono cartridges have received some rave reviews on the internet. In one video, the Nagaoka MP-150 ($350) was favored over the Hana EL and Ortofon Quintet Blue low output moving coils. To check out the brand, I decided to try the entry-level Nagaoka MP-110 ($169.95), which is in the value sweet spot for cartridges I like to play with.

I have a Thorens TD-147 turntable, which is effectively a Thorens TD-160 Super with a TP-16 Mark III tonearm and auto return.  In some ways this may be even better than my beloved AR turntable due to a heavier platter and beefier construction. The only drawback to the Thorens is its low-mass tonearm (7.5g), which limits my choice of phono cartridges to higher-compliance designs. Grados fit that bill and I’ve had a Grado Prestige Silver installed on the Thorens for years, only replacing the stylus. I also tried the inexpensive Grado Prestige Black, which also worked well. I decided to switch things up a bit and purchased a Nagaoka MP-110.

The Nagaoka phono cartridge was installed and aligned in my Thorens TD-147 turntable. I tracked the cartridge at a tad over 2 grams. (I usually like to track a little higher for a little tighter bass.) The specifications indicate this is a fairly low compliance cartridge, but this has not seemed to be an issue with the Thorens tonearm. The output is a healthy 5.0 millivolts. My records are cleaned regularly with a Nitty Gritty vacuum record cleaning machine. I oil both the turntable bearings and the turntable motor with sewing machine oil.

The Nagaoka MP-110 phono cartridge was reviewed at the same time I reviewed the Rotel A14MKII integrated amplifier and the Salk Sound SongTower speakers. I initially played the Nagaoka through an inexpensive phono stage and found it a little too detailed and harsh. Switching to the Rotel’s better phono stage yielded a more natural sound. It was a given that the Rotel would be superior to the home theater receiver it replaced, but I had no idea it would be better to this extent.

As usual, I played a variety of jazz, classical, and rock albums during my evaluation. The Rotel’s phono stage allowed the virtues of the Nagaoka MP-110 to shine. It was more forward and more detailed than the Grado Prestige Silver, but the sound was nice, natural and allowed the music to come through. Surface noise was kept to a minimum, which, as my records age, becomes very important to me. The Nagaoka has decent bass, a smooth midrange, and nice highs; it reminds me of my Sumiko Rainier cartridge. Compared to the more expensive moving coil cartridges in my collection, the MP-110 lacks richness, although it has a nice clarity that makes it easy to listen to with no fatigue. I consider this cartridge a decent value for $170.

I still prefer the Grado Prestige Silver (currently $240) on my Thorens turntable. I just prefer a more relaxed sound as opposed to the detail of the Nagaoka. This is my personal preference while others may prefer the Nagaoka detail. Comparing the Nagaoka to the much more expensive moving coil cartridges in my collection, there is no comparison in my mind. Both the $475 Hana and the $240 Ortofon are significantly superior to the Nagaoka MP-110. I would also say that my Talisman is superior, even installed on a lesser Goldring turntable. On the other hand, I did find the Nagaoka superior to all of my $100 phono cartridges. There are many ways to prioritize spending your audiophile dollars. In my opinion, spending a little extra on a better phono cartridge will provide you with a much better listening experience.

None of my local brick-and-mortar audio dealers carry Nagaoka, so I bought mine from The other place the Nagaokas were available at the time was, the U.S. distributor. Currently there are several other places you can purchase this phono cartridge online, including and through eBay or Amazon. However, I would not be comfortable purchasing any audio component from eBay or Amazon, especially a phono cartridge. Both and provide great telephone customer service with comparable prices to the other internet sources.

Overall I enjoy listening to the Nagaoka MP-110. It is a very good cartridge that I plan on continuing to use regularly with my Thorens turntable. It is very competitive with the Sumiko Rainier and has a similar sound. The Nagaoka does have certain traits and characteristics that are very pleasing and that provide a nice change of pace for me without breaking the bank.


Copy editor: Dan Rubin


U.S. Distributor’s Comment:

Thanks for the review. It is accurate and depicts the superb performance that the MP110 offers – above and beyond its peers and close competitors.

Nagaoka cartridges deliver performance beyond what’s expected.


LP Gear

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2 Responses to Nagaoka MP-110 phono cartridge Review

  1. hifitommy says:

    although i haven’t actually heard the Nag, i have been recommending them as others whom i trust have made quite positive remarks that convinced me that i would love one. i happen to be well supplied with phono carts to swap in and out of my SOTA Sapphire/MMT setup. i am currently using a Lounge LCR phono pre and have been listening to my AT ML170 which i love.

  2. Tom says:

    I have been steadily purchasing Nagoaka products via Ebay from Japanese sellers and have not been disappointed yet, The Cost(s) are much cheaper, for the price you get one Nagoaka MP-110, I bought a Full Cartridge + A Cartridge replacement. They arrive remarkably speedily from Japan, it is weird how fast they show, they seem genuine, not damaged as they come in plastic cases in Bubble wrap. My only naysay to your review is Ebay Japanese sellers are legit.

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