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2M Black / AT440MLa / MP500 setting and comparison

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Lucabeer View Drop Down
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    Posted: 16 Feb 2019 at 11:29am
Remembering this old post by Graham on the Ortofon 2M Black, and having some time to waste today, I decided to make some experiments by tweaking and comparing my cartridges.

Originally posted by Graham Slee Graham Slee wrote:

At 1.5 grams the 2M black sounded like a bee on speed! This track should be easy for any cartridge worth its salt, but perhaps the 'Acos Lustre' arm the Technics uses - identical to what Rega used on the original Planar 2 and 3 - isn't all that good? Ermm

...

After a number of attempts position 1 on the height adjuster gave the best results - 'the bee flew out the window'.

Going back to 1.5 gram the bee returned. Setting the bias anywhere between 0.5 and 3 grams made no difference, so down force and bias were set at 2 grams.




Turntable: Technics SL-1210 Mk2, all stock except for the rubber mat (4 mm SFTG170-01 instead of original 6 mm SFTG172-01, so this must be taken into account for setting of VTA)

Catrtridges: Ortofon 2M Black / Audio Techica AT440MLa / Nagaoka MP-500, all mounted on a stock Technics headshell (all of them have between 250 an 300 hours of use on them, so they are well "burnt-in")

Test records: Hi-Fi News Test LP / Alanis Morissette "Jagged Little Pill" / Red Hot Chili Peppers "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" 180g red vinyl cut all analogue from master tapes (both records which are well mastered but which due to the voice of the singers tend to be at the edge of sibilance)

I did several tests, and in the end the best settings I have found are as follows. Antiskate was tuned to reduce as much as possible (or completely eliminate whenever possible) the "bee" that Graham so well describes above.


2M Black
-----------
VTF: 1.65 g
Antiskate: 2.2
VTA: 1 (but take into account the thinner mat: those with the 6mm mat will want to dial 3)
Comments: of the three cartridges, this is the one that came out as the worst tracker. With these settings, it doesn't skip on any of the torture tracks. BUT it exhibits the "bee" on the +16 and + 18 dB 300 Hz tracks, and the only thing one can do is to make it centered with the antiskate rather than have it only in the right or left channel. Upping VTF to 2 g offers no noticeable improvement.
With real LPs, this is the cartridge that exhibits the most sibilance in difficult vocals too. This cartridge has a very detailed, loud and lively signature (at times bordering on aggressive on cymbals), but it also is the one with the worst channel separation and the least silent backgrounds. It really picks up surface noise.


AT440 MLa
-------------
VTF: 1.6 g
Antiskate: 2.5
VTA: 0.5 (those with the 6mm mat will want to dial 2/2.5)
Comments: Probably the best tracker of the three. No "bee" at all on ANY of the torture tracks, if antiskate is set as above. Impressive. Detailed, slightly bright rendition (NOT fatiguing), lively and fun. Reduced sibilance compared to the Ortofon. Good channel separation, OK surface noise.

MP500
--------
VTF: 1.6 g
Antiskate: 2
VTA: 1 (those with the 6mm mat will want to dial 3)
Comments: Almost as good a tracker as the Audio Technica, just a momentary hint of "bee" on the +18 dB torture track, but completely forgivable. Again, impressive. A smooth cartridge, detailed but "rich" sounding. Lower output than the other two, but it just takes a notch more on the volume dial. Very relaxing and pleasing sound, although not as punchy as the other two, probably more natural and less forced. Best channel separation of the three cartridges, very low surface noise (the most silent of the three cartridges), sibilance almost absent. Curiosity: being the heaviest cartridge of the test, it requires the counterweight of the Technics arm to be positioned almost at the extreme back (but still no need for the additional optional counterweight), and this results in a lower natural resonance frequency of the cartridge/arm combination (circa 7 Hz vs the 9 Hz of the other two cartridges) which is almost borderline critical.


FINAL CONCLUSION: While I like the "aggressive" sound of the 2M Black on some duller recordings (it adds some liveliness), it definitely comes out as the worst tracker (probably due to the thick cantilever, which is HUGE compared to the other two, especially the ultra thin Nagaoka) and the fussiest cartridge in terms of surface noise. Between the othe two, the Nagaoka is more refined and laid back, but the cheaper Audio Technica stands out as a real bargain: great tracker, great sound. Now I would really be curious to try one of the new AT VM540/740ML cartridges, which seem to be just as good as the sadly discontinued 440MLa.


Edited by Lucabeer - 16 Feb 2019 at 12:08pm
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CageyH View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CageyH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Feb 2019 at 12:25pm
If you like the 440, try and get hold of an AT150mlx.
It is a great cartridge, and would probably be way cheaper than the newer version in the range.
Kevin

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lucabeer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Feb 2019 at 12:33pm
I had wanted to try a 150, yes... but now that it's discontinued, I don't like the idea of replacement syluses no longer being easy to get....

Oh, well... For some years I still have no need of new cartridges, anyway!

And now some relax with some real music: David Bowie!


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote patientot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Feb 2019 at 4:50pm
Interesting results. I'm not surprised at all that the AT was the best tracker. The Ortofon 2M series always struck me as overpriced and overrated, though I've never heard the 2 higher-end models in the range. I think it's funny that for the 2M series they basically just put a big hunk of plastic around the older OM series body internals. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatmangolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Feb 2019 at 9:09pm
"I think it's funny that for the 2M series they basically just put a big hunk of plastic around the older OM series body internals."

That's interesting, is that definite?
Jon

Open mind and ears, whilst owning GSP Genera, Accession, Elevator EXP, Solo ULDE, Proprius amps, Cusat50 cables, Lautus digital cable, Spatia cables and links, and a Majestic DAC.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote patientot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Feb 2019 at 9:24pm
Originally posted by Fatmangolf Fatmangolf wrote:

"I think it's funny that for the 2M series they basically just put a big hunk of plastic around the older OM series body internals."

That's interesting, is that definite?

The electrical measurements and some other things may be slightly different but the basic construction is the same when you take apart a 2M. You can even fit OM styli on a 2M body, though it will look funny. 


See pics in the link above. 

In Ortofon's defense they aren't the only company to do something like this. 


Edited by patientot - 18 Feb 2019 at 9:25pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatmangolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Feb 2019 at 9:34pm
Thank you, you've convinced me with that cutaway. I guess they'll have changed a couple of internal construction details features over time hence the spec has shifted but really it's a reboxing as you say.
Jon

Open mind and ears, whilst owning GSP Genera, Accession, Elevator EXP, Solo ULDE, Proprius amps, Cusat50 cables, Lautus digital cable, Spatia cables and links, and a Majestic DAC.
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