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Ortofon: Analog Heritage, Timeless Sound Quality
By Bes Nievera

For as far back as I can remember, virtually every turntable I've heard has featured an Ortofon needle. From the company's price-to-performance-leading OM Series installed on Dual turntables in the early 80s to the latest runs of Mark Levinson 515s with factory-mounted Ortofon Cadenza Reds, the Ortofon sound has remained etched in my consciousness and ranks among one of our favorite brands to suggest to customers when selecting a cartridge for their turntable.

As chronicled in the recently published A Century of Accuracy in Sound, now available at Music Direct, Ortofon's rise to prominence began with the world's first cutting head in 1946. Two years later, it became the first company in the world to introduce a moving-coil cartridge. Decades of innovations later (including one of my all-time favorites, the MC20, in the 1970s), Ortofon's heritage remains intact with superb designs.

Which explains why, in today's post, I thought I'd share some suggestions on selecting a cartridge for your setup. As with any phono cartridge, compatibility is a must. Your Music Direct Audio Consultant can steer you in the right direction, but here's some extra advise from my experiences.

Ortofon's current lineup of 2M Series cartridges is doubtlessly what to use for older analog rigs – or as an excellent upgrade from the lesser-priced ‘Brand X' MM cartridges many of today's manufacturers include with your 'table purchase. VPI and Pro-Ject are just a few of the names that employ these now-iconic needles on their turntables. With user-installable stylus replacements and upgrade paths, 2M Series easily brings more fidelity into your setup. Listen for smoother bass presentation, a sharper and more focused midrange, and a detailed top end with each model.

If you're looking to graduate with a degree in high-end audio happiness, Quintet Series steps up the analog game (and keeps the entry-level high-end pricing) in the moving-coil category. While not of the same sonic breadth as their more expensive siblings, Quintet models prove an easy decision for budget-minded audiophiles as well as music lovers who've recently updated their analog rigs. Quintet cartridges offer excellent channel separation as well as a trifecta of audible riches: accurate bass, mids, and top end reproduction, all the while touting cartridge mounting that makes installation a snap. Just make sure your system and 'table will make friends with it; they need a gain boost (moving-coil preamplifier) and lower impedance to do their job.

Cadenza Series provides a big jump from Quintet and stands as one of Ortofon's most popular options. With sonic attributes taken from Kontrapunkt and Jubilee, the Cadenza family increases your awareness of the music and really attacks the grooves during complex passages. Expect a warmer, more fluid bottom end, while the mids and top end will sound more expressive and three-dimensional in scope. Again, an MC phono preamplifier and good turntable are prerequisites.

Finally, the Winfeld and Anna cartridges. Each stems from countless inquires on record reproduction and represent the state-of-the-art by using the highest-quality materials that go above and beyond typical cartridge construction. A Wide Range Damping (WRD) system, bespoke Replicant 100 diamond, and strong neodymium magnet system with a Field Stabilizing Element (FSE) located within the magnet system count among the Windfeld's assets. Sound is supremely centered, musical, and articulate. Anna (in particular, the Anna Diamond) is the mic-drop reference in our lineup. Its magnet system combines with neodymium and iron cobalt – one of the most exciting pairings in a cartridge I've ever heard, while the diamond cantilever AND Repilcant 100 Stylus profile set the stage for jaw-dropping listening. Timbral accuracy, eye-popping extension, and some of the finest bass possible also help make Anna a standard-setting product.

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November 22, 2019

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