Ortofon MC Cadenza Red Phono Cartridge

This sub $1300 moving coil from Denmark's Ortofon is the entry level model of the 'Cadenza' colour series. Ortofon also offers a very popular colour series for its moving magnet cartridges.

I had a chance to listen to the Cadenza Red at length on two different turntables, the Bergmann Audio Magne Turntable and the Rega RP8. Both wonderful turntables handled the benign cartridge with ease, but more importantly, the relatively inexpensive cartridge managed the two wildly different tonearms with a maturity of a product costing far more. 

Ortofon describes its cartridge as 'Built to incredibly high standards, the Red receives the Cadenza series body, a sandwich of stainless steel with an aluminum main structure in the centre. This high-mass design eliminates vibration and resonance, improves tracking and provides an incredibly stable platform for the generating mechanism. Ultra-pure 6N silver coils are used for maximum resolution and outstanding dynamic shading; an improved winding process improves channel balance and imaging. The Fine-Line stylus rides lower in the grooves than other designs, allowing the Cadenza Red to retrieve previously obscured information.’

The Cadenza Red is a looker and is said to be an easy setup <cough>. So, I heard. The cartridge was happily setup on both arms during the review period. I'm not complaining. If you need setup, your dealer will help. A detailed setup guide is downloadable. And you can always rely on our most read article

Just as the level in sound quality is raised in each step of the Ortofon moving magnet line (entry Red to Blue was instructive), I was quite surprised at the detail and sophistication of the first in line Ortofon Cadenza moving coil. I have used Clearaudio moving coil cartridges almost exclusively over the past twenty years - Concerto and Titanium. They remain my favourites. 

The Red can't quite convey the extraordinary colouring of the Clearaudio Concerto or the musical ecstasy of one of the world's great moving coils in the mighty Titanium, but it does extract a ton of detail and shades the detail with expression and accurate dynamics. 

A tough nut to crack is the original Decca/Israel Philharmonic/Martinon Les Patineurs and Le Cid. Some quality Massenet played with indifference but recorded beautifully. The Cadenza Red allowed me to hear well behind the band where the horn section were having a few kittens in the more technical sections. Well, maybe not kittens, but enough information for me to suggest they check their parts before the gig. 

As audiophiles we're always looking for the proverbial veil lifting in front of the stage. The Red did just that. More importantly, the cartridge has a very sweet disposition. All carts add their own voices, and some, too many. The sweetness here is tactile. Massed violins had weight and sheen, and a presence that only well designed analogue allows.

Bass was emphatic. Deep and with the resonances that make it such a satisfying musical component. Reiner/Also Sprach, the low C benchmark, sounded just as I love it. Grumble, no rumble, with Reiner's superb 8 basses rock solid waiting on Herseth's famous trumpet. Strauss' world riddle gets solved.

The midrange is always the most elusive to capture, especially voices. Ortofon's design guys get it. The balance is right on so many of their carts. The Red is wonderfully in balance, nothing jars, nothing compresses. You'll get the air and the musical presence.

I really like this cartridge. For the price, a favourite moving coil. I'm looking forward to listening further up the colour series line. Interestingly, the Ortofon cartridges change the palate, not just a bump in quality. I'm sure we'll get character and improvement. But in the here and now, lucky analogue fans can get into superior moving coil sound for a relatively inexpensive sum with the Cadenza Red. Very highly recommended. 

Further information: Ortofon