Grado has a whole line of affordable cartridges and from what I heard and read, you can’t go too wrong with them. I have never personally tried any Grado cartridges, but I hope to someday. I have to wait until another cartridge wears out and I don’t like futzing with setting up a new one too often.
One note I have run across just FYI:”Please note that Grado phono cartridges do not have shielded generator systems. If your turntable is designed with an unshielded motor that sits beneath the platter, then you may encounter hum caused by electro-magnetic interference in your system”.
Here’s the Grado website:http://www.gradolabs.com/cartridges
Affordable Grado cartridges:
Grado Prestige Black
Grado Prestige Green
Grado Prestige Blue
Grado Prestige Red
Grado Prestige Silver
Grado Prestige Gold
All of the above cartridges are MI (Moving Iron) and have an E (Elliptical) stylus. The stylus is also user replaceable. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they have the same stylus or even look the same in the detailed specs. There are subtle differences as you move through the line such as the generator design or the way the coils are wound, etc. These things do make a notable impact on the way a cartridge will sound. You may not note a difference between say the Prestige Black and Green or the Silver and Gold, but you will note a difference jumping from say the Black to the Red or Silver. A good dealer will have played with many cartridges and have further info on them to help you decide which might be right for you.
Here’s one place you can get them (NOT an affiliate link):http://www.osageaudio.com/Grado.html#cartridges Also available at Needle Dr and other fine retailers.
Grado also has some affordable upscale Moving Coil phono cartridges if you want to extend to that and why not if you have a decent turntable? Remember you can not replace the stylus on Moving Coil cartridges.
Grado Platinum V2 Reference wood body cartridge
Grado Platinum V2 Statement wood body cartridge
Grado Sonata V2 Statement wood body cartridge
Grado Sonata V2 Reference wood body cartridge
After these we fall out of the parameters I set for affordable high-end audio.
Here’s a small review of the Grado Prestige Gold from Michael Fremer at Analog Planet (used with kind permission):http://www.analogplanet.com/content/nine-cartridges-compared-reviewed-and-voting-results#L6u2rUXjwclK18YS.97 (Just scroll down until you see the Grado Prestige Gold. *note: the price has gone up about $40 since 2013). There are other fine cartridges in there as well and I will probably post this link again as I get to them.