REVIEW: ORTOFON MC20 SUPER PHONO CARTRIDGE
In these days of Compact Disc, why should anyone become excited over a phono cartridge? Well, I don’t know about you, but I intend to keep my records (and the equipment to play them on) for a good few years yet. There is just so much good music available on LP that it seems foolish to give it all away.
Ortofon have been making moving coil cartridges for more years than I have been alive, so presumably they know what they are doing. Their profile in moving coils has been a little low in recent years – which is rather curious since coils have enjoyed a very wide popularity in the same period. With the intro-duction of first the MC10 Super, and now the 20 Super, Ortofon’s profile has been raised.
The Ortofon MC20 Super costs around $350, and features a van den Hul type 2 stylus tip. This cartridge needs a m/c stage in an amplifier, or an outboard step-up device. The instruction sheet that comes with the cartridge does not give a recommended impedence load, but another Ortofon booklet I have recommends ten ohms. Trying a few different loads made little difference to the sound.
Listening to the Ortofon was carried out in two systems. The cartridge was mounted in a Grace 707 tonearm and fed through a McLaren 602 preamp, a Mega 205 integrated and a Mission Cyrus Two integrated amp in the first system. A new AR turntable and arm was used for the second system, with an HFA preamp (a Wellington built amplifier), an older Craft and a McLaren 602 preamp.
Overseas reviews have suggested that this cartridge is something special, and as a result I was greatly looking forward to the listening sessions. I’m glad to say that I was not disappointed. The MC20 Super is the type of cartridge that encourages one to play every vinyl disc owned.
Sonic characteristics were as follows: the bass was just a little lacking in the “oomph” factor – which robbed the sound of the sense of scale found in live music. The bass was, on the whole, rather good; very articulate, good definition of instru- ments.
Treble was very sweet and relaxing to listen to, which contributes to the “play it again, Sam” quality mentioned earlier. This cartridge conforms to Ortofon’s “orthophase” theories, which means that the cartridge should have a rising amplitude response, but with a flat phase response. The rising top end was confirmed by measurements in Stereophile magazine, but fortunately the rising treble is not audible.
Good treble and good bass. What about the midrange? It was in this area that we found a major difference between the two systems. In the Grace tonearm, male voices sounded a little processed (as if a recording engineer had equalized the sound). In the AR, there was no trace of this, which left a magnificent sound. As with most cartridges, the performance is tonearm dependent. The MC20 Super will give it’s best in medium to high mass tonearms.
This is a cartridge that needs no special requirements, save a little care taken in the set-up. The results are superb. This is a great cartridge, with the fact that it sells for only around $350 is a wonderful bonus. I would imagine many people would take a great deal of convincing to buy a more expensive cartridge. I’ll leave the last word to a fellow audiophile who had it for a few days “I don’t want to give it back.”
Ortofon MC20 Super. $350
For more information visit the Ortofon brand page.
(From the print magazine Zounds, December 1986)
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