Danish manufacturer Ortofon, highly regarded by audiophiles for fair value, wonderful sounding cartridges, has produced a ‘colour coded’ set called the Ortofon 2M magnetic cartridge system. Entry level Red is followed by the subject of this mini review, the Blue and up through Bronze, and finally Black. The Blue retails for a very reasonable $225.
The Blue was mounted under a Rega-sourced Basis 300 arm which was attached to a Basis 1400 turntable and its signal fed the the Moving Magnet section of the Zesto Audio Andros PS1 Vacuum Tube Phonostage Preamp. A 7K system with a $225 cart. Interesting match, but one that the Blue took completely in stride. It was not fazed at all.
In fact, after a few adjustments for the VTA of the Rega arm (Basis provides an adjustable ring rather than having to shim), the Blue was singing merrily and, most importantly, sweetly.
We dialed in the VTA via a Ricci/Decca LP — his violin sounded detailed and became more focused as the VTA became more to the Blue’s liking. We had the cartridge tracking at an easy 1.8 grams.
If you have only a few dollars to spend on a cartridge, always go for a moving magnet (MM) rather than moving coil (MC). Cheap and cheerful MCs come with all sorts of problems that rarely get sorted out by equipment upstream. But, be wary, inexpensive MMs, too, often sound harsh and a bit rough. Happily, the Ortofon had none of these problems. It was an easy load, tracked like a champ and gave an honest account of the vinyl.
‘Honesty’ is one of the descriptors I use with entry level analogue. The Rega ‘tables with good quality carts are honest. The same cost/quality digital fibs a little. There is no shame in saying this particular Blue was ‘maxed out’ by the Basis table and Zesto phono stage, especially. Yet, it was a good match that I could live with easily. The Blue was certainly enjoying its associated kit.
The sound had the immediacy that I associate with good carts but it also had a sweetness that I’ve experienced with good MCs like a Benz Glider. It had a little Sumiko Blue Point edginess in the upper strings and a stridency from trumpets that may not stand the test of time, but for two and a quarter, there is no arguing the Blue is a cartridge performing well above its price point. When I first heard it, I’d have guessed it was in the $7/800 range.
The midrange was dynamic, with a really fine separation of instruments — another tenet of more expensive MC carts. Bass, too, was dynamic, but more ‘homogeneous’ than defined. You can’t expect a layer cake of deep bass at this level.
If you match the Blue with a cheaper setup, it may retain the sweetness but not highlight the top end as much. But, you’ll lose detail. Your choice.
Ortofon’s colour series offers a frugal audiophile a glimpse into a higher domain. Not the penthouse like Koetsu or Clearaudio MCs, but a floor with a good view. Very highly recommended.
Further information: Ortofon
Source: Distributor loan