29th February 2024

A new moving magnet cartridge in the company’s heralded ‘E’ range, Paul Rigby listens to the E4

Has it really been five years since I reviewed Goldring’s rather startling moving magnet cartridge, the E3? More, actually. It was at the end of July 2017 when I posted the review on this website and I loved that cartridge to bits, you might say. 

Well, Goldring has added a bit of extra quality to the E3 (one extra bit, you might say) by releasing the E4. The E4 doesn’t replace the E3, The E3 remains ‘as is’. The E4 is the next rung up the ladder, as the E-Series flagship offering. Well, that’s the intention, at any rate. We will see.

E4 Cartridge From Goldring

The E4 includes a super elliptical nude diamond stylus that sits at the end of a hollow aluminium cantilever. Hollow to reduce weight and to increase stylus response around the groove. The idea is also to improve tracking and to lower distortion. 


Magnetic Duplex Technology positions two magnets at the same angles as the internally fitted coils. Doing so the cartridge hopes to improve accuracy and channel separation. 

Goldring also stated that the higher price for this one has meant that the E4 has been given tweak time. That is, the company have spent time fine-tuning the E4 before kicking it out of the factory. That piece of news sounded interesting, all on its own.

E4 Cartridge From Goldring

Tracking weight is rated between 1.5g and 2.5g. So you would immediately sit this design at the medium, 2g figure. At least I would but no, Goldring recommend you lean towards the lighter figure of 1.75g which is on the lighter-ish side of many budget cartridges out there. Again, intriguing but the reason is down to the E4 bit softer sprung which again, looks to help the tracking and accuracy. 


To begin the tests, as Serge Gainsbourg’s 1975 release, Rock Around the Bunker was still on my turntable, I decided to run with that disc for now. This is Gainsbourg’s provocative – sometimes savage – satire on his traumatic times as a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied France during World War Two, presented as a 50s-era pop outing with lounge wrappings.

E4 Cartridge From Goldring

Incidentally, I’m sure he’d be cancelled for daring to release this LP today. So thank goodness for the 70s then, eh? Nazi Rock, the first track, features a Gainsbourg lead vocal, female harmony backing, electric guitar, bass, percussion an tambourine plus piano all played wonderfully by the cream of British session men of the time, unleashed and freaking out in the background. It’s a bizarre combination for a bizarre and fascinating album.


Now the 2M retails for around £100, depending where you shop, so the E4 should be superior but that’s not always the case, as we know. Even if the E4 is superior is it around £100 superior? Is it worth spending the extra, in other words?

Let’s go through the list then. Low noise on the E4? Absolutely. Lower noise allowed me to increase the gain by a couple of clicks to his the same volume on the 2M Red which, in itself provided more insight in detail terms. 

E4 Cartridge From Goldring

The superb work from the session guys was easier to pick out now as all of this information was pushed forward towards the ear. And is was more accurate. Alan Hawkshaw played his piano on this track like Jerry Lee Lewis with machine-gun key stabs a-plenty, so tracking was essential as was accuracy. Both were present in spades via the E4. Upper mid and treble detail were also finer and more delicate. For the first time, cymbal hits produced impressive reverb.


One of the things that hit me with the vocal on this Gainsbourg track was the warming texture of his voice. His exhausting delivery, pushing out lyric lines without taking a breath resulted in a rollercoaster of French complexity that rolled around the mouth like a Michelin-quality dish. That texture was reduced via the E3, lowering the emotion and nuance and thus the impact from the E4.

E4 Cartridge From Goldring

Surprisingly, that emotion was also present in the flying electric guitar from Alan Parker. The man channeled Hendrix in this axe man workout but the effort was carefully tracked by the E4. The E3 just didn’t have the same attention to detail while bass wasn’t quite as focused or precise. 

The E3 does everything the E4 does but with less style, less finesse, less substance. The E4 takes the bones of the E3 and enhances. It adds one or two to detail, clarity and realism. 


I then brought in Queen’s high-energy LP, Jazz and fitted the 1042, arguably the best moving magnet cartridge under £500. You may disagree of course but I do rate it highly so I wondered how the E4 compared to a cartridge priced around £125 or so more. 

E4 Cartridge From Goldring

Is the 1042 really an improvement over the E4? Well yes, yes it is actually. The 1042 reaches into the mix, takes each instrument, pulls it forward, gives it space, exposes more detail around each and combines the lot into a soundstage sparkling with detail. 

E4 Cartridge From Goldring

Like the E3 compared to the E4? The same can be said of the E4 compared to the 1042. The E4 does a superb job. The 1042 adds a +1 or +2 to all of the E4 highlights. For the price though, the E4 competes well with the 1042. I love the 1042 to bits but really? If someone took my 1042 away, I could easily live with the E4. It provides enough high-end highlights in terms of midrange insight and bass focus to put a smile on my face.


If I could encapsulate the Goldring E4 into a single sentence. If I was told to pigeon-hole it. To put it in some sort of sonic box? I would say that the E4 is the perfect ‘poor man’s 1042’. That is, it sounds head and shoulders above the E3. With the E4, you’re getting the first sense of true HiFi quality. The first notion that there’s a whole new level of sound quality out there that real budget cartridges haven’t got a hope of touching. The E4 gives you slice of that. 

E4 Cartridge From Goldring

And while the 1042 is a level above the E4, the E4 isn’t that far away. It puts you in touching distance with the 1042. So if your budget doesn’t stretch as far as the 1042 then I would certainly opt for an E4. 

And what about similarly-priced designs like the Ortofon 2M Blue, for example? The Blue is an excellent design. I approve of it, I like it and I have recommended it on this website but I think the E4 has the edge if you’re looking at a head-to-head shoot out. The E4 sounds mature in comparison. That is, the E4 is well rounded and tonally better balanced compared to the Blue’s rather direct and between the eyes presentation. If it was an amplifier, the E4 would be an Audiolab 6000A, I reckon.

So the bottom line is this. The E4 punches above its weight. It’s a cracking design. Easily recommended. To me? The E4 is everything a budget cartridge should be. 


Price: £199

Website: www.goldring.co.uk

GOOD: midrange detail, tonal balance, clarity, balanced bass 

BAD: nothing