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Somewhat Long Review: Ortofon 2M Blue MM Cartridge

I’m not a pro reviewer, but just someone who loves good sounding music without all the tweaky stuff. I just want to convey my impressions of this product and maybe get some feedback as to what I might be missing or just general comments if you want to throw those out there.

Up for review is one of the newest additions to the Ortofon line, the 2M Blue. This cart is one tier up from the entry level Red and three down from the flagship Black. It retails for about $199 USD most places, but I’ve seen it for $189 USD in a few places. As a comparison the 2M Black retails for about $599 USD

The particulars of the cartridge include:

• Output voltage at 1000 Hz, 5cm/sec: 5.5 mV
• Channel balance at 1 kHz: 1.5 dB
• Channel separation at 1 kHz: 25 dB
• Channel separation at 15 kHz: 15 dB
• Frequency range at - 3dB: 20-25.000 Hz
• Frequency response: 20-20.000 Hz + 2 / - 1 dB
• Tracking ability at 315Hz at recommended tracking force: 80 µm
• Compliance, dynamic, lateral: 20 µm/mN
• Stylus type: Nude Elliptical
• Stylus tip radius: r/R 8/18 µm
• Tracking force range: 1,6-2,0g (16-20 mN)
• Tracking force, recommended: 1,8 g (18 mN)
• Tracking angle: 20°
• Internal impedance, DC resistance: 1,3 kOhm
• Internal inductance: 700 mH
• Recommended load resistance: 47 kOhm
• Recommended load capacitance: 150-300 pF
• Cartridge weight: 7.2 g

The cart being replaced is an NOS Audio Technica AT14S. There is nothing wrong with this cart or the way it sounds in my system. I just felt like hearing something different. I can’t remember the particulars on it, except that it’s a nude shibata stylus, tracking force 1.5g and has an output voltage of 4.5 mV. (I think) The capacitance, resistance, etc. are the usual MM specs. The two carts are of a similar price point.

The system:

TT: Dual 1218
Preamp: Audible Illusions Modulus 2D Tube with onboard phono pre
Phono Pre: Audible Ilusions onboard
Amp: Solid State Carver TFM-35
Speakers: Alon IV Full range with 12” woofer and dipole Midrange/Tweeter module on top- Woofers modded by Bill Legrane at Millersound. Tri-wire connection
Speaker cables” Blue Jeans cable
Interconnects: AudioQuest

As you can see, the system is a fairly vintage hi/mid fi rig. In general, it tends to sound better (to me) than most of the rigs I’ve heard that cost significantly more, probably due to the good synergy between components. It can easily pressurerize my listening room which has 11 foot ceilings. My tastes in sound runs toward realism, impact, slam and pace, so I’ve kept the Dual TT because those are its chief attributes. It’s detailed enough, but you might not be hearing the 4th chair violinist scraping his chair on the floor during the quiet passages, but I can hear Bill Evans humming along with his solos on “Everybody Digs Bill Evans” from the AP 45 RPM offering, so that’s good enough for me. Bill is typically a very quiet musician.

Let’s get to it:

Installation was easy. The 2M cart body fit snugly between the flanges of the Duals detachable headshell, so no side to side adjustment was possible. I set the overhang all the way forward, which made the stylus arc trace follow the Lofgren arc pretty much perfectly. It didn’t fit the Baerwald arc as well, but it was close. So I assume the Dual tonearm which has few possible adjustments was engineered to the Lofgren model. So far, so good.

I set the tracking force to 1.8 grams. Anti skate for a Dual is typically set to the same value as the tracking force and this is the case when setting the AT cart, but the Ortofon needed a higher value (2.5) in order to get a neutral drift using the controversial blank-space- on the record test.

No hum or noise on powerup. Cool. I tested general tracking ability using a Sure test record I had on hand. It passed all 4 levels on all bands very well. I think I may heard detected some breakup on the high level test of one band, but it also could have been just groove noise. I didn’t sweat it.

Notes: I noticed the Ortofon has a generally higher surface noise level than the AT. The Ortofon rides lower than the AT, but the cart body was in no danger of contacting the record surface.
I also did some pre-break in using the “bounce” method where you raise the tone arm a bit then drop it gently on a junk record about 50-60 times to loosen the suspension.

I checked for inner groove distortion using the last track from Ricky Lee Jones’ debut, “Last Chance Texaco”. It has a very open, fairly high level recording of her voice and, of course, it’s the last track of one side. Sounded pretty much perfect, vocally " no sonic breakup. Her voice seemed more forward than I remember, but bass response was full and rich which made this particular track seem fairly 3 dimensional.

Next up was the title track, “Aja”, from the Cisco 30th anniversary reissue. The chief attribute of this record over the original is the tighter bass, not so forward mid range and better drum impact. I’ve never been that thrilled with the recording of Fagen’s voice, which to me could have been fuller, but there you go.

The results here were mixed. There is a significant high end rolloff with this cart, so with my somewhat tube heavy front end, there is a lot of sparkle missing. The bass was still full, and sounded rounder than usual, which to me made it sound diffuse. Steve Gadd’s drums seemed to lose some impact. Basically, I couldn’t hear any particular improvement in sound over the Audio Technica 14S.

Next up was “The Big Beat” from Music Matters 45 RPM Blue Note series. I mainly played “It’s Only a Paper Moon” because I like the song, the trumpet has a few half valve and slurs going on which changes the timber of the horn and one of Blakey’s solos has impact that you can feel in your chest.

Here, things get a bit less exciting… The surface noise was much higher. With the AT, this record is CD quiet. With the Ortofon, I know it’s a record on the table. There seems to be a midband peak that spotlights the trumpet significantly and the horns in general, making it more strident. It lost the round, open sound I’m used to hearing and with the high end rolloff, seemed to lose some air around the horn and flattened out the presentation. Blakey’s solo lost almost all of its impact. It was so flat that I didn’t even notice it. So it failed the “hair standing on the arm” test. I played it through a couple of times, but found it tough to listen to. The impression I was left with was that I was listening to a recording rather than a performance.

Next up was Art Pepper + 11 from the Analogue Production 45 RPM series. This is a very dynamic recording, with great 3 dimensionality and a huge soundstage. If you like big band music at all, you need to get this record.

The Ortofon did this recording no justice. The soundstage was meek, the 3-D was now very 2-D, but the bass was still full but without bloat. Overall, I was not impressed at all with this presentation. The midband peak brought the horns very far forward, making the presentation not so much of a piece.

I played through a couple of other records with similar results, at which point I reinstalled the Audio Technica with some relief that “all is, as it was” to paraphrase a Star Trek episode.

Conclusion:

I really wanted to like this cart, but in my system, it didn’t work so well. I wasn’t looking for “better” so much as “different in a good way”, but this was not my personal experience Granted, the Ortofon wasn’t properly broken in so that might be a significant factor concerning the soundstage and a few other factors, but with the high end roll off, I can’t see it getting that much better. It seemed to negate the advantages of my system.

In my opinion, the 2M Blue is more suited for an all solid state system that needs some taming and increased bass. I’ll probably just sell it as a package with another TT I’m offloading, or I may give it another chance down the road after I buy a replacement Dual headshell so I can easily swap the carts.

As was mentioned, I’m no stereo guru so you can take these comments with that in mind, but I have owned turntables and listened to records for over 30 years, and played trumpet and piano (mainly jazz) for over 40, so I have a fair idea of what music should sound like.

Thanks for your time. If you have comments, of course, feel free to chime in.





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Topic - Somewhat Long Review: Ortofon 2M Blue MM Cartridge - FrankieLuvsVinyl 05:28:30 05/30/08 (16)

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