Ortofon cartridges and Lehmann Audio phono preamps –
Excellence made in Europe
I won’t attempt to list and describe the full lineup of Ortofon cartridges, as I just counted 37 models on my list. I have had much success with Ortofon’s 2M cartridges, which are the standard for performance at reasonable prices. Now Ortofon has new Quintet series of moving coil cartridges that is becoming the same thing in the moving coil world.
The USA importer also has Lehmann phono preamps. The Lehmann Black Cube series has been a solid recommendation for quality and value for several years.
I have decided to try a cartridge/phono preamp, an Ortofon Quintet Bronze moving coil with a Lehmann Black Cube SE MkII. I haven’t set this rig up yet but based on the great reviews for both, and consultation with Ortofon USA’s representative I have high expectations.
Early word on the new Music Hall turntables
MMF 2.3 – Someone took advantage of my special first-buyer price, so I set one up for him. It’s a really good table, upgraded from the 2.2 with a carbon fiber tonearm, better bearings, detachable RCA cables and a vibration isolated DC motor. The cartridge is a Music Hall Spirit, made by Audio Technica. The 2.3 retails for $499 with a black plinth; red or white plinths are an option at a $50 upcharge. (There’s also an SE version with a wood veneer plinth for $750, which sort of amazes me, but I checked and that’s really the price.). I believe that the 2.3 is good enough to take upgraded cartridges and perform with bigger boys.
MMF 7.3 – One person took advantage of my special offer, so I have set one up for him. The DC motor now has built-in electronic speed control, the tonearm is an upper level carbon fiber arm, the platter bearing assembly is upgraded, and it is available with or without an Ortofon Bronze cartridge. Since the Bronze is a $440 cartridge, but Music Hall adds only $200 to the $1395 price of the 7.3, this is a great option.The one I set up sounded comparable in comparison to my VPI HW19/SME 309/Grado Ref Sonata. The Grado has a softer warmer sound than the Ortofon, as would be expected, so I was presented with the choice of a warmer sound or a more dynamic accurate sound, but both at a high level of performance. As you can guess I vacillated depending on the LP. Now I know why some guys get two-tonearm tables.
MMF 5.3 Lemonade from lemons
No, the 5.3 is a not lemon. The story is that Music Hall has found a way to turn a mistake into good news for the customers. Among the improvements that turned the new tables to the .3 series was a carbon fiber arm for each table, but when the 5.3s were unpacked the arm they found was the previous 5.2 alloy arm. All the other upgrades were there, but not the arm. Sending the tables back to Pro-Ject factory in Europe was not an option so they cut the price of the 5.3 to the price of the 5.1 – $875. That includes an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. There is an SE version that has a 2M Bronze for $100 more.
This makes the 5.3 a real bargain. Nobody asked for the special first-buyer price for the 5.3 or 5.3SE, so it is still available. Once this reduced price shipment is sold out Music Hall will bring in the fully upgraded 5.3 table at the original higher price.
MMF 9.3 Priced at $2395 with Goldring Eroica LX cartridge or $2195 without cartridge. The 9.3 follows the 9.1 was just announced. Sadly I have no explanation of the upgrades, but I have asked for one.
Musical Design – aptly named
While waiting for a customer to pick up a serviced Musical Design D-75 power amplifier I put it in my system. WOW!
I wish I could write like a reviewer so I could sing its praises. I have had Parasound Halo, Pass Labs, Vincent Audio and Bel Canto amps in my system so I think I have been exposed to quality, and this amp just got it as right as I have heard. ( OK, it’s been a few years since the Pass Labs, but I judge on the enjoyment scale and I have a decenrt memory for that). As this one is several years old I am hoping to borrow a more recent version from John Hillig.