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Goldring E3 MM Phono Cartridge: Review

Does your budget for a phono cartridge top out around $180? The Goldring E3 needs to be on your audition list.

Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge

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.

Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge Box

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.

Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge Side on Turntable

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.

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Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge Flipped
Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge Angle
Goldring E3 Phono Cartridge Attached to Tonearm

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



  1. Jay B Tappen

    December 21, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    I’d give a slight edge to the Audio-Technica AT-VM95ML cartridge as it extracts just a little more detail out of the groove.

    • Ian White

      December 21, 2021 at 6:40 pm

      Another very good cart that made our Holiday Buying Guide and Best Affordable Cartridge list this year.

      AT is making some great cartridges right now. We have some coming for review in Q1.

      For the review, I was really comparing the E3 to the 2M Red and it wasn’t even close. The Goldring is a much better cartridge.

      Ian White

      • Frank

        September 17, 2022 at 4:53 pm

        Good for you, keep with your 95

  2. Gordon Price

    December 21, 2021 at 10:59 pm

    Hi, Would this be a good match for an SME 3009 mk 2 improved arm on a Thorens TD150 mk 2?

    I am mid fixing my Thorens that I brought as a teenager back in the late 80s and am looking to either buy a new one or find a replacement stylus for what I have now
    Audio Technica AT110E
    Ortofon Concord Pro

    Been a long time since I used any of them and no idea if replacement are available or not…

    Hopefully you can offer me a little bit of advice 🙂


    • Ian White

      December 21, 2021 at 11:07 pm


      I own a TD-145 and TD-160 Super so I guess we’re related.

      I would have to check the compliance on the E3 but it should be okay on the SME’s removable headshell.

      The E3 or Ortofon 2M Blue would be good choices below $250 on that table. The Nagaoka MP-110 is also a good option.

      Ian White

      • Joseph Gomez

        July 20, 2022 at 1:41 am

        I have used a Goldring Elan for the last 8 years.
        How is the E3 vs Elan?

    • Chris Kurak

      January 4, 2022 at 7:02 pm

      I’ve compared the Goldring E3 to an AT110E, ADC Integra with VLM III stylus, and a 2M Black. The E3 easily bested the AT110E, the ADC faired well but couldn’t match the E3 in overall performance. As you would expect the 2M Black outclassed the E3 in terms of detail and definition, but at the cost of a more fatiguing top end. I could listen to the E3 all day long.

  3. vincent mchale

    December 22, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    Have you or can you compare the Goldring to the Sumiko Rainier. Thanks.

  4. Zach Navarro

    November 4, 2022 at 1:47 pm

    I am running a vintage setup of a Technics SL1700 into a Technics SA600 receiver driving Wharfedale Linton speakers. It’s a great setup but I’m thinking about upgrading the cartridge at this point. A solid review of the E3 makes me think it would be a good fit. From a specs standpoint would you agree?

    • Ian White

      November 4, 2022 at 2:37 pm


      What is the tonal balance of the Technics SA600? The Linton are fairly warm sounding speakers. The E3 is a rather linear sounding cartridge.


      Ian White

      • Zachary Navarro

        November 4, 2022 at 9:40 pm

        I’d say pretty balanced. A little warm but the combination with the Lintons is fairly detailed. I’m fairly pleased. But the old Stanton cart is probably pretty entry level.

        • Ian White

          November 5, 2022 at 3:21 pm


          As long as the system isn’t tiled too far into the neutral camp, the E3 will work rather well.


          Ian White

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