P mount cartridges, otherwise known as T4P cartridges, were designed for ease of use and simplicity, a goal which was achieved. Changing cartridges on a standard mount tonearm can be a laborious process depending on the cartridge. The P mount system sought to eliminate this by presetting the tonearm tracking weight and antiskate at the factory and having the cartridges standardised to fit the specifications of the tonearm.
P mount cartridges insert in to the tonearm using four terminals and are secured by one screw. This is opposed to standard (1/2 inch) mount cartridges which connect to the tonearm via for visible wires and are secured by two screws. It should be fairly easy to assess as to which cartridge type your turntable suits by assessing the tonearm using the above criteria, and buy the correct cartridge accordingly. P mount cartridges are rarer: as a piece of technology, they never caught on as a replacement to the standard 1/2 inch mounts in the world of vinyl, but certainly hung around longer than some other innovations.
P mount cartridges can also be mounted to a universal mount tonearm, which accepts both 1/2″ mount cartridges and P mount cartridges. Practically though, there is more availability and a wider variety of options with 1/2″ mount cartridges so there’s little reason to buy a P mount cartridge if you only have the one system. If you have a P mount system and a universal mount system, the P mount cartridges could be swapped between the two systems easily. P mount cartridges occasionally come with an adapter that makes them compatible with 1/2″ mount tonearms, which makes them a ‘universal cartridge’.
The great thing about P mount cartridges is that basically any cartridge will drop straight in to your tonearm, since that was what they were intended for in the first place. Ortofon, Grado and Audio Technica have a variety of options available. The popular OM series all have respective P mount cartridges, similarly denoted as OMP (for example, OMP-10 is the P-mount version of the OM-10). Simiarly, the Grado range have P mount cartridges that match the names of their standard ‘colour series’ cartridges: black, green, blue, red, silver and gold. Conveniently, the styli for the standard versions of these cartridges can be placed in the P mount cartridges, so if you have any Ortofons or Grados lying around the stylus can be changed over without hassle. Since the OM series cartridges are the same body anyway, you could buy the base level OMP-10 and chuck in an OM-20 or OM-30 stylus. The Ortofon 3xx series styli are also compatible with the OM cartridges and vice versa. Grado employ a similar but slightly different concept: their colour cartridges are divided in to tiers that share the same cartridge body: black shares with green, blue shares with red and silver shares with gold.
Audio Technica provide a wonderful variety of P mount cartridges. As with their standard cartridges, cheaper P mount cartridges sound a little too bright.
A top of the line option that results in one of the best P mount cartrige solutions is to use an Audio Technica cartridge with an aftermarket Shiabata stylus. Audio Technica also create a nice micro line turntable needle that fits in to Audio technica P mount cartridges.
Shure and Stanton each have one P mount cartridge option available, though neither provides the flexibility that the Ortofon, Grado and Audio Technica cartridges provide. Those familiar with the Shure sound may prefer it to the sound of the other brands, however.
There are a number of options available, and some will find the selection less daunting compared to the 1/2″ mount cartridges. P mount cartridges were a neat little invention that have a place in the market to this day due to the popularity of vintage turntables.
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