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i've had the new Ortofon MC A90 in my system for about three weeks. i've put about 25 hours on it. i think it may be overall as good a cartridge as i have heard in my system. it's what i would call a 'truth sayer'. it's not going to 'warm over' or 'round' anything, it's not going to 'bloom' where the pressing does not.....but it does have a huge soundstage and fills the room. it has wonderful tone, super clarity, it's both micro and macro dynamic, and it has this organic body and ease that is very involving. the top end is very open and extended but with no edge or etch. the bottom is full and meaty, but not dull or boomey. it's quick and can handle the most challenging passages without breaking a sweat.
some cartridges have that 'magical' ability to rise above the parts and convey the music in a special way; the A90 is one of those. but it does so while remaining very true, neutral and exciting to listen to. the music comes alive and you want to listen. it's very lively and my feet are tapping, my shoulders are relaxed and i'm smiling. it communicates.
right now it's playing thru my dart phono stage and it loves it.....a great combination. later i'll try it on the Allnic H3000. the A90 is mounted on my 'Dobbins' Plinth'd Garrard 301/Triplaner. once it gets a few more hours on it i will also try it on my Rockport as well as my Dobbins Technics SP-10 Mk3/Reed arm.
this is my first Ortofon, so i can't compare it others. there are a few design highlights which Ortofon touts as significant and have been previously used in the Winfield; (my quotes are from an Ortofon white paper).
"the Field Stabilising Element (FSE) can ensure that the force field remains stable regardless of movement of the armature. The FSE consists of a small cylinder of silver plated copper placed inside of the magnetic system."
"Wide Range Damping (WRD) system. In this system, a small, heavy platinum disc is sandwiched between two rubber absorbers, both with different properties."
"the A90’s boron cantilever – the unique Ortofon Replicant 100. This ultra-fine and now extra polished diamond first was introduced on the famous MC-3000 MkII and MC-5000 cartridges, and has also been used on the revered MC Windfeld."
my A90 is serial number #008, and there will only be 400 of these made.
i purchased mine from Jonathan Tinn of Chambers Audio.
the very big deal here is that it 'only' lists for $4200 retail. that's lots of money; but today the price of admission for the top level of cartridge performance is $10k+ list price.
it's built in a whole different way than any other cartridge.
"At the heart of the new A90 lies a revolutionary customized SLM (Selective Laser Melting) manufacturing procedure in which micro particles are laser-welded together, layer by layer."
it's made of solid stainless steel.
"all of the essential components are built directly into the onepiece
body, including the magnetic system (including the moving parts), the terminal block, and the silicone rubber wire guard."
i wonder if other smaller companies that now build cartridges will be able to take the same high tech approach to building a cartridge.
it weighs 8 grams, has .270mv output, and it's tracking force range is 2.0--2.5 grams.....i'm currently tracking it at 2.3 grams until i get more hours on it. i'm running it level but have not really played with VTA much.
i was at RMAF and attended Fremer's set-up seminar on the first day. Mikey has had the A90 and there is a review on it in the November Stereophile. i asked him what he thought about it and he called it a 'game-changer' and got excited when he said it. they were handing the Nov Stereophile out at RMAF so i did read the review. it's 'over-the-top' but i can understand why.
so far; based on my experience, i agree with him.
Gentelmen I have the A90 on a Tri Planar Ultimate version and it is a bsolutely a game changer as Fremer states.It tracks beautifully and handles the grooves better than my old Insider Gold cartridge which was my referance standard even when it was old and grey! Music simply flows through this cartridge with tremendous agility and ease.Analytical as it may be called it by no means sacrifices any emotional aspects of the music.Simply put it can sing with authority and ease.I love the black background although this could be the phono stage.My referance go to cartridge that has replaced a much more expensive rival.We love to showcase this bad boy in our show room.Although $4200 is not cheap it is well worth the price of admission if you can afford it.You would have to pay $8k and above to match its speed,accuracy and soundstage.I love it so much that we have a 1 year %100 MBG on this one.No other cartridge we are willing to offer the same MBG.Hurry and get yours.Last time I checked around 50 more were available worldwide.
with some of your other cartridges, like the Colibre? I've heard the PW in a friend's system and liked its sound, but, it struck me as being not quite as dynamic and punchy as some other cartridges. Certainly, the Colibre is in the very fast and dynamic camp.
I've been listening to the new low output version of the Transfiguration Orpheus in my system. I really like its sound a lot, but, it is very noticeably less dynamic on very hard sharp attack transients (e.g., snare drum strikes) than my Lyra Titan. Hard to say which is more natural (i.e., "correct"), but, it this is a noticeable difference.
I am curious about other top cartridges so your impression will be informative to me.
here is a link that will answer some of your questions.
Your comparison to the Colibri is interesting. I too, think that the Colibri sounds like it is right on the edge -- exciting, yes, but perhaps not the cartridge for just getting "comfy" with the music. If the Ortofon is fast and detailed as well as musically relaxed, that is indeed a nice combination.
MM's are the best according to our friend Raul and his audiogon thread.
Have you tried any yet on your system?
Now that my Dyna XV-1 is almost worn I may need to think seriously about the new ortofon - I was thinking Windfeld. Will it be too neutral for me thou ??
the A90 has lots of meat on the bones, but it does not have the lushness of the XV-1s. my opinion is that it will be at home in systems and to ears that like a bit of fullness as it has great texture and substance. it's not lean but it's not lush.
short answer; buy the A90.
below i linked some related comments you might want to read.
i've not heard the Winfield myself; Fremer's review does describe the differences between the Winfield and A90.....he likes the A90 quite a bit better.
I actually prefer the XV-1 over the XV-1s. I found the XV-1s a bit thin in the upper frequencies and a little bit hifi sounding. That was with my VPI HRX thou, which was thing sounding in the upper frequencies.
Is the A90 forgiving of not so great recordings at all, or does the purity make it somewhat easier to listen ??
I assume your 301/Triplaner is a little warmer/lush compared to your Rockport?
I will have to enquire with the local Distr thou.
yes; the 301/Triplaner/dartzeel does have that 'roundness', punch, and slight fullness. it is interesting how when you combine the Garrard with the Triplaner (which is slightly on the lean-neutral side) and the darTZeel phono stage (which is very low noise and neutral with a touch of sweetness) that you still have the Garrard 'sound' come thru.
the A90 (1) has absolutely no high frequency leanness or brightness, and (2) does not punish less than perfect pressings.
at RMAF i was in the Soundsmith room listening to the new Sussaro MM cartridge from Soundsmith. it was mounted both on an TNT HRX with a VPI arm and a Teres Certus with Illius arm. it was 'just another cartridge' on the HRX but was quite special on the Teres. i've heard the Raven, the A90 would be very happy there.
Mike, you are getting me very tempted.
Yea, Raven/Phantom should be nice. I would also try it on the Exclusive P10 which has wonderful stability and bass dynamics
That's definitely a cool looking cartridge. Most of us can't afford to spend that kind of money, though. It would be great if you could test some affordable cartridges like Denon and Audio Technica.
I just bought a Denon DL-S1 and I am impressed with its sonic character as well as its build quality. It's internal generator is housed in a ceramic body and it has a very nice line-contact stylus mounted in a hollow tapered aluminum cantilever. I think it would be very interesting to find out how some of the more common cartridges like the DL-S1, DL-103SA, and Audio Technica OC9ML/II sound in your system compared to the ultra expensive cartridges. Now that you have several turntables, it would be great if you would let us all know what you think of some of the less expensive cartridges.
ya know, i composed a long serious answer to your comment trying to explain my perspective. then i thought better of it.
this thread is not about me, it's about the A90.
i agree the Ortofon A90 is a cool looking cartridge.
you are welcome to start your own thread about what cartridges you think i should purchase and comment on. if it's ok with the moderators then fine.
Great review of the MC A90.
I've got no doubt that it is a superb cartridge, I can't see Ortofon releasing a dud component at this level.
I'm using a Windfeld currently, which replaced an MC 7500(an utterly gorgeous cartridge) and I'm very happy with it.
Over the years I've had a couple of Rohmanns, an MC 5000 on loan as well as MCs 3000 II and MC 2000 in my system. I like Ortofons - everything you need and nothing you don't - and they seem ideally suited to the SME V/Pink Triangle Anniversary combo and so I'll continue to use them.
Only 400 though, time to start a fund.
There are two more entry level MC carts on the way coming fall, called MC-09A and MC-09B(as shown). Their prices will be set against competitors on the market like Denon DL-103 and DL-103R.
They are low output MC cart(around 0.3 mV), internal impedance ard 5 ohms, with elliptical stylus(r/R/8/18um), recommended VTF 1.8 gm, cart net weight ard 7 gm, etc....
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