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Vinyl Asylum: REVIEW: Ortofon Cadenza Black Phono Cartridge by Paul Tobin

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REVIEW: Ortofon Cadenza Black Phono Cartridge

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Model: Cadenza Black
Category: Phono Cartridge
Suggested Retail Price: $2600
Description: Low output moving coil
Manufacturer URL: Ortofon

Review by Paul Tobin on November 01, 2013 at 19:06:39
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for the Cadenza Black

The Cadenza Black is my 3rd Ortofon, having owned a Jubilee for many years (which I used alongside the Denon 103R) before upgrading to the A90 in 2010- see review here . I loved that A90 cartridge for its amazing clarity and insight into recordings but when a domestic expense unexpectedly came up, I sold the A90 and went back to the wood bodied Denon without any great pains of regret. The Denon was still thoroughly enjoyable though I knew it was a far more 'colored' cartridge than the Jubilee or A90. As I changed various components in my system (entire amplifier chain and speakers changed since the A90) this started to bug me more. So I began a series of mods - aluminium body, Soundsmith ruby cantilever/line contact, epoxy potting - in an effort to reduce coloration while retaining the Denon's musical engagement. I thought I'd finally reached satisfaction with my final modded 103R.....then on whim I installed my aging Jubilee in the system and played a piano recording. The Jubilee simply killed the 103R for tonal balance and realistic reproduction. So I bought the Cadenza Black.

The Black is Ortofon's replacement for the Jubilee and the two cartridges appear physically very similar. The external body, boron cantilever and Shibata stylus appear to be the same. From what I can gather, the changes with the Black involve the cartridge motor, specifically the armature and coils. While the Jubilee had silver coils the wire used in the Black is Ortofon's gold plated copper. Output for the Black is 0.33mV vs 0.34 for the Jubilee. Compliance for both cartridges is specced the same at 16 Ám/mN.

I've got the Black installed in a Graham Phantom II tonearm on my upgraded VPI TNT ( see system link ). I'm using the Choir Audio/Hashimoto SUT which gives a reflected load of about 52 ohms to the cartridge. At the recommended 2.3g tracking force, the Black has superb tracking performance. Surface noise is very low. Like the Jubilee, I think the Black is somewhat less fussy with exact setup compared to the A90 - though its probably best to have a arm adjustable in all parameters to properly optimize its sound. I didn't find it difficult to dial in and in fact it sounded excellent from the start without micro adjustment (though of course I was as precise as possible with initial setup).

The Black allows a wide soundstage with fine placement in depth and very good image focus. Its neutrality and detail don't undermine lesser quality records - but reveal them in their best light. If memory serves me correctly, the A90 had a similar disposition.

Compared to the Jubilee the Black sounds more transparent overall and especially in the highs. The Black is more like my memory of the A90, more 'see into' clarity and liveliness. The Jubilee, depending on material, could sound reticent making me want to crank the volume to boost liveliness.

Probably the first dozen records I played were classical music as I was enamoured with the Black's natural and even tonal balance. Despite it's openness and clarity, there is no tendency to brightness - closely miked violin sounds superb and massed strings are wonderful. Piano, so difficult to get right, sounds spot on. If you are a piano fan this is a great cartridge.

From there I mined my jazz, pop and rock records - and the Black sounds superb and insightful on everything. Bass is solid and taut with great touch and detail. Voices, both male and female sound natural with realistic 'body', expressiveness and 'thereness' - but with no edge, hype or tendency to sibilance. Difficult instruments like trumpet and other brass sound wonderfully real. Cymbals and chimes have natural presence and realism without hype or forwardness. The overall sound is satisfying to both the heart and the head - it gives you the music with finesse, flow and expression but with neutrality and precision.

I really haven't got anything bad to say about this cartridge, it sounds fantastic on all types of music, tracks superbly and is not overly fussy or difficult to accommodate. The price, while not cheap, has not lost touch with reality. I do wonder how the A90 would sound in my current system though.

Product Weakness: Nothing really. Low output requires suitable step-up/gain. Shibata stylus requires reasonable care in setup but not overly fussy.
Product Strengths: Tonal evenness and neutrality give very natural reproduction. Very good clarity and transparency. Superb tracking.

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Cary PH302 Phono/Audio Research SP16
Sources (CDP/Turntable): VPI TNT/Graham Phantom
Speakers: Harbeth M30.1
Cables/Interconnects: Silver Audio/Chris VH DIY silver/Goertz
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classical, jazz, pop, rock
Room Size (LxWxH): 6m x 4.3m x 2.7m
Room Comments/Treatments: Jon Risch DIY panels/bass traps
Time Period/Length of Audition: About 50hrs
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Audience AR2P-TO
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Ortofon Cadenza Black Phono Cartridge - Paul Tobin 19:06:39 11/1/13 ( 21)