Review Of The Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Phono Cartridge -
Well my newly
purchased Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge arrived by courier
this morning and I've wasted no time no time in getting it set up and
playing records. Straight out of the box, my initial
impressions are positive with one or two slightly quirky
anomalies. Firstly, the new mounting system makes mounting a
breeze. No more fiddling with tiny screws and nuts!
sound: Compared to my existing and much loved Ortofon
Super OM10, the general sound is quite different, as one might possibly
expect! With theOrtofon 2M Red cartridge, there appears to be
much more apparent bass energy. My active subwoofer was
getting much more of a workout compared to usual. Listening
to both well recorded classical discs and pop records, the words that
come to mind to describe the Ortofon 2M Red phono cartridge, compared
to the Ortofon Super OM series are 'warm, laid back, refined and
elegantly restrained'. My ears seemed to indicate that the
midrange was ever so slightly recessed, possibly adding to the 'laid
back' quality. The slightly recessed midrange reminded me of
my experiments many years ago playing around with my DIY graphic
equaliser and introducing a little 'cut' around the 2 kHz range.
my Ortofon Super OM10, listening to classical
material, the new Ortofon 2M Red cartridge seems closer to the sound of
a live performance in a 'well damped ' (anechoic) listening
environment. In all other respects the new Ortofon 2M Red
cartridge seems beyond reproach with excellent and stable stereo
imaging, high levels of recovered detail and good dynamics.
One quirk about the output level. I don't know if this will
be affected by 'break in', but I thought that the overall output
voltage from the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge was very slightly less than
the output from my Super OM10 despite the quoted figures on the Ortofon
2M Red cartridge documentation showing somewhat higher output (5.5 mV
compared to 4 mV for the Super OM series)! Interestingly
enough, as I've noted previously in the past the general 'hiss' level
seems to be (just) noticeably higher than I've noted with my Ortofon
Super OM10 cartridge, presumably due to higher cartridge coil
inductance. Based on my past observations this increased
'hiss' seems to be typical of high inductance moving magnet cartridges,
although the phono stage in use may also be a factor.
'straight out of the box' the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge is a
fine phono cartridge although given its smooth and slightly laid back
quality, I can see that 'depending' on my mood and the choice of
program material I might be swapping between my Super OM10 cartridge
with its somewhat more lively presentation, and this Ortofon 2M Red
cartridge! Choice is a wonderful thing, is it not?!
Thumbs up for the Ortofon 2M Red phono cartridge. I like
used for this initial
review: Dual CS 515 belt
drive turntable with ULM arm.
DIY Elliott Sounds
stage with input impedance set at
47 Kohms in parallel with around 250 picofarads of 'shunt' input
DIY Elliott Sound Products P88
DIY Elliott Sound Products P19
Richter 'Merlin' bookshelf
loudspeakers on stands and a B&W/
Solid active subwoofer.
Various works from Felix Mendelssohn,
Elgar and The Beatles.
As a long time 'vinyl-phile',
I've taken a long time interest in the
practical aspects of optimised vinyl playback, specifically, the
correct position of the stylus in the groove whilst actually playing a
record. The whole subject can be, well actually it is rather
complex but in this article we will concentrate on 'overhang' or the
actual position of the cartridge in the headshell. This is
important for minimal playback distortion. Getting it right
a very audible difference to the ultimate playback quality with
implications on so- called 'inner groove distortion', record wear and
other related playback issues.
I am aware that there are
quite a few different means of setting
optimum overhang commercially available, however I recommend the use of
a simple 'two point gauge' or cardboard protractor. In the
setting overhang is a 'fiddly' process and sadly it is easy to get it
wrong even when one thinks it is right! Indeed in my own case
took me the better part of twenty years before I properly 'worked it
I visit the popular online
vinyl forums often and I've come to the firm
opinion that incorrect overhang adjustment is the reason for most of
the tracking 'issues' reported. My 'two point' gauges follow
'Baerwald' alignment which results in the lowest tracking error across
the whole disc. There are other 'alignments' as well but the
results I've obtained using Baerwald alignment on three different
turntables and tonearm/ cartridge combinations has been first
class. The two point cardboard gauges are often supplied with
cartridges as an aid to cartridge set-up. I use the gauges
by Ortofon and Shure and were supplied with their respective
cartridges. They both conform to 'Baerwald' alignment.
I recommend reading this excellent article as an introduction to the
practical use of the 'two point' gauge.
visiting the various vinyl websites I've been able to assist a number
of listeners to vinyl with optimum overhang set-up. As I
to earlier, it is easy to get it wrong despite thinking that it is
'right'. I was rather saddened a while back by reading an
otherwise excellent online review of a particular phono cartridge that
I completely agreed with, but sadly the tutorial section on setting up
overhang was largely in error, in my opinion. The really
important thing about using the 'two point' gauge is to get the
cartridge body properly 'parallel' and 'centred' within the series of
parallel lines at each stylus reference point at each null
The idea of properly 'centering' the cartridge is the really important
part of the process and is completely missed by most instructions I've
seen regarding the use of a typical 'two point' gauge, apart from the
article I've mentioned earlier. When using the 'two point'
extreme care needs to be taken to avoid damage to the stylus from
'accidents'. It is best to place to gauge on top of an old
unwanted record to get as close as possible to actual playing
conditions, and of course the platter needs to be stationary and the
platter manually rotated slightly in order to allow the stylus to sit
at each reference point at the inner and outer 'null points'.
It is probably best to
'loosely' position the cartridge in the middlle
of the headshell for initial evaluation and then move the cartridge
slightly forward or backward in the headshell until optimum overhang is
found as confirmed by proper centreing and parallel cartridge positions
on the gauge. To properly judge cartridge position it is
important to sight the cartridge from directly in front of the
cartridge to avoid parallax error. As my close view eyesight
poor, I find it necessary to use one of those helmet magnifiers that
make the job much easier! I also use the same helmet
for my electronic project assembly work for the same reasons (seeing
properly with close up work).
In my experience if the position of the cartridge looks correct as
viewed 'by eye', that is close enough! I have read others
that optimal position requires even greater positional accuracy but my
listening observations do not agree. Certainly if overhang is
up as I've just described one can be assured of excellent playback
performance. All of my three turntables are set up in the way
described and tracking performance is excellent with each right across
the disc! 'Inner groove distortion' is a total non- issue!
Apart from 'overhang' other parameters need to be set up properly such
as correct tracking weight (a proper stylus gauge is highly
recommended, as the often suggested method of calibration to 'float'
the tonearm at zero grams, is notoriously unreliable speaking from
personal experience! Bias compensation or 'anti-skating' also
needs to be set, but in general terms correct 'overhang' is the most
important parameter that needs to be correctly set-up.
Happy record playing!
Felix Scerri (vk4fuq)
Further thoughts on optimised cartridge overhang set up
Recent 'adventures' with an old Akai turntable have forced a rethink on
aspects of cartridge overhang which make a definite improvement in
playback quality. My general approach still applies, however
there is now a second step which takes into account the vagaries of the
'real world'. By this I refer to the unfortunately common
tendency of phono cartridge cantilevers to be a little 'off centre'.
This actually has quite potentially serious consequences on playback
quality and ultimate cartridge performance. My general approach
to setting cartridge overhang 'assumes' that the stylus and cantilever
are properly centred, something that I now realise cannot be
assumed. In addition, the 'offset' angle may need to be altered
slightly and this is done by slightly twisting the cartridge in the
headshell through slot adjustment in the headshell. Many factory
fitted phono cartridges are adjusted to propriety overhang alignments
and regrettably it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that 'factory
fitting' cannot always be relied upon for optimum results.
I favour the use of Baerwald overhang alignment which gives low
tracking error across the whole playing area of the record. My
modified overhang procedure follows. Step one: 'Rough in' the
overhang as per my general approach using a Baerwald two point
protractor (central and parallel between the grid lines at each null
point). Step two: Then by close visual inspection of the
stylus and cantilever (use a helmet magnifier if your eyesight is as
bad as mine), check to see if the cantilever is properly 'parallel' to
the line at the null points. More than likely it will be slightly
off. Too correct this, loosen one of the mounting screws in the
headshell and twist the cartridge in the correct direction as
appropriate to correct for this error.
Only slight cartridge twisting should be necessary (in most
cases). All of my cartridges were visibly off 'parallel' when
checked and correcting this by appropriate cartridge twisting has
resulted in lowered surface noise and improved channel balance.
Definitely worthwhile improved performance! As the stylus and
cantilever are at the 'business end' of things so to speak, it makes
sense to adjust for 'parallel', at the cantilever. It really
makes a difference!
Happy record playing. Felix (vk4fuq). 29/09/2011.
From an Ugly Duckling to an
Elegant Swan - The Shure M97xE
Phono cartridges are a very
important part of any phono playback system
and particular models are either loved or hated by passioinate vinyl
people. The Shure M97xE is one of those cartridges with the
ability to polarise opinion. Some people love that cartridge
some, well......hate that cartridge. I find myself in the
possibly unique position of being in both camps at various
At the present time I have three M97xE's (all operational) and I've
come to regard that cartridge very highly, however that wasn't always
My first M97xE was purchased around 2004 and I was initially quite
impressed by it, however within a short time I became a little
dissatisfied with it, as a dull almost mediocre sounding
cartridge. Over the years I've slowly realised that the M97xE
one of those cartridges that 'demands' optimal set up. If
done one is rewarded with superb performance, if not the results are
indeed mediocre! I actually owe a debt of gratitude to the
for teaching me a number of important lessons such as mastering the
mysteries of optimal 'overhang' set up and optimised electrical
The dynamic stabiliser 'brush' on the M97xE serves a highly important
purpose in dampening cartridge / tonearm resonances not to mention
'cleaning' duties, but it is important to remember that the stylus
tracking weight needs to be increased by 0.5g when the stabiliser is in
use. This was my first mistake with the M97xE. It
quite a while to work out why the stylus would go skating across the
record for no apparent reason. The reason was, of course, too
light a tracking weight!
Lesson two: The M97xE is a beautiful 'tracker' (at 1.25g-
with the dynamic stabiliser in use), however cartridge 'overhang' needs
to be set up correctly. I use the 'two point' Baerwald
as supplied by Shure with the cartridge using the approach I have
With optimal overhang adjustment, the M97xE mounted on any good tonearm
will track records like a true champion!
Lesson three: This
part gets interesting as the frequency
response of the cartridge is determined to a marked extent by the
electrical load 'seen' by the cartridge. For many years 47
kilo-ohms has been the 'standard' resistive phono preamp impedance for
moving magnets cartridges such as the M97xE. However various other
observers have experimented with other impedance loading values for
various moving magnet cartridges including the M97xE.
I've experimented with 62k Ohms with the M97xE,
which changes the high frequency response and I have modified my
DIY phono preamps (the excellent Elliott Sound Products P06 design) for
62k Ohms. Sadly this is essentially impossible to do with most commercially made
phono preamps as resistors need to be physically changed in value, and
the only other option is to ensure correct 'shunt' capacitance
loading. Around 250 picofarads may be considered optimal, including
tonearm wiring, interconnect cable and phono preamp input
capacitance. This is important!
If using 47kOhms then
optimising the shunt loading capacitance makes a real difference to the
ultimate high frequency response. If the load capacitance is
either too low or too high (more likely) then the high frequency
response will be rather rolled off and this is the main reason for the
often reported 'dull' comments re the M97xE. Obtaining a good
capacitance meter (and learning how to properly use it) is highly
recommended as a means of optimising the shunt capacitance.
Even under optimal
electrical loading, the M97xE is never a 'bright'
cartridge, however I find it utterly smooth, non fatiguing and natural
sounding, and I really like that! I have previously
the Ortofon 2M and earlier Super OM cartridge series and whilst they
are fine cartridges I find the Super OM's a little fatiguing with long
term listening. To my ears the M97xE is never
Some may find the the M97xE a little too 'staid' and conservative,
however I find it highly reminiscent of the real
Update February 2013:
In the past I have mentioned that 62k Ohm loading may be tried as a
means of altering the upper treble of the ‘standard stylus’ M97xE and
yes this does work, however, just recently inspired by ‘other things’, I
decided to try my M97xE at the official Shure loading recommendation of
47 k Ohms and 200 to 300 picofarads.
Actually this part is interesting as although I had one of my DIY P06’s
pre-amplifiers set up for 47k Ohms, the ‘overall’ input capacitance was
substantially less than 200 picofarads and I added capacitors in
parallel across the input to bring it up to about 270 picofarads
overall, with tonearm wiring and interconnect cable capacitance
included. This was actually done some months ago, but I did no
real listening evaluations although earlier I did consider slightly less
than 200 picofarads at 47k Ohms ‘slightly dull sounding’ after a quick
Then, some time later, I started playing a Classical music record, with
phono stage set at 47 k/270 picofarads, whilst pottering around in the
Ham Radio shack one evening. It sounded ‘very different’ and as I
listened further I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing from this
very familiar cartridge.
I detected no lacking of treble at all, just luscious and very lifelike
music which was a joy to listen to. I’ve never enjoyed listening
to the ‘1812 Overture’ so much before! The ‘x’ in the M97xE
denotes the ‘Shure Audiophile Response’ curve with that slight but
deliberate upper treble roll off, and I now think those who came up with
this as being rather clever!
It is also apparent that there was quite a midrange droop at 62 k which
has been restored at 47 k loading, and I suspect that this midrange is a
vital component of music and musical enjoyment. Certainly I am
hearing more musical detail that I’ve ever heard before. One
interesting thing is that I believe that the Shure capacitance
recommendation of 200 to 300 picofarads is too broad. I
think that it should be 250 to 300 picofarads based on my own listening
observations. Getting a good capacitance meter is I think
mandatory when setting up a Shure M97xE, not to mention correct
cartridge overhang/cantilever alignment. Enjoy!
The ultimate upgrade for the Shure
M97xE cartridge....The Jico SAS stylus
The Jico stylus company in Japan must be doing very well at the moment
having developed a very nice 'niche' market in supplying absolutely
premium quality 'after market' styli using the 'SAS' tip configuration
along with top notch general stylus assembly construction for many
phono cartridges. They make premium styli for many older Shure
cartridges including the Shure M97xE.
It is an easy and incredible sonic upgrade as those who have gone this
way (including myself) can testify! My experience with the Jico
SAS stylus for the Shure M97xE seems to confirm that the inherent
limiting point with the Shure M97xE has been the supplied Shure
stylus. It's not 'bad', but the Jico SAS stylus raises the sonic
performance of the M97xE to incredible new levels. The best thing
is that this stylus gives superlative results at the standard 47 k
input impedance of most (if not all) moving magnet phono
preamplifiers. It is a highly recommended upgrade for the Shure
M97xE! Those who have gone this way praise the Shure M97xE for
it's superb sound quality and yes I'm one of them!.
Some useful links:
(and read the reviews).
the link to the 'shootout').
Felix Scerri (vk4fuq)
16/05/2009 - updated 11/07/2010
In recent times, thanks to this very interesting thread at the Vinyl
Engine website, my eyes have been opened to the possibilities afforded
by altered resistive as well as capacitive loading to the frequency
response of a typical moving magnet cartridge.
Practically all moving magnet cartridges are specified for connection
to the so called standard '47 k' input impedance, which is in most
cases defined by a simple 47 k resistor in the phono preamp circuit. In
many cases the load 'shunt' capacitance range is also specified for
that particular cartridge, eg 200 to 400 picofarads. However the thread
on the 'VE' shows very clearly that through circuit simulation that
there are indeed ways and possibilities to change the general
frequency response, at least, of a given moving magnet cartridge.
I have experimented with two cartridges, the Shure M97xE And the Orfofon Super OM series. Both are
pretty good cartridges, however the M97xE has a reputation for sounding
a little 'dull' due to a fairly pronounced high frequency roll off. In
the past, careful capacitive loading has been used to keep that high
frequency roll off to acceptable levels, as described in this 'VE' thread. The load resistor
serves to dampen the resonant peak of the moving magnet cartridge
between the coil inductance and shunt capacitance, and 'tweaking' this
value has direct implications on the upper frequency response!
However, we now hit a snag! The load resistance in this case can only
be altered to a higher value by physically changing it (a resistor) to
a higher value. Sadly, in most cases this is impossible however it is
easy for DIY builders of their own phono stages such as my beloved ESP
P06 design to do, or perhaps even incorporate switching to allow
different resistor values to be selected. That's another excellent
reason to build a P06 phono stage!
The more or less opposite thing applies to the Ortofon Super OM series.
Although an excellent cartridge into 47 k, it can sound a little too
forward or bright on occasions. As a result, my tweaking has found that
a slightly altered resistive value of 39 k works well, in just slightly
taming down this 'forward' characteristic tendency of the Super OM
cartridge into 47 k. Once again, I have modified one of my phono
preamps to this value exclusively for use with the Super OM cartridge.
In this case however as the new value is a smaller value, another
resistor can be used in parallel with the existing 47 k to obtain this
new value. Time to resort to your resistors in parallel formulas!
the end, ideally, moving magnet cartridges should be optimised for 47k
Ohms, however it would appear that some are not! Some are
thankfully. My Ortofon 2M Red certainly sounds superb into 47 k!
However with some moving magnet cartridges a little 'tweaking' is
definitely required. It is certainly a fascinating area of
Felix Scerri, vk4fuq.
22/ 01/10 - updated 14/02/2013
G’day all, lest this sounds like I’ve gone ga-ga and ventured into the
boutique component/ subjectivist camp, the other day following on from
recent cartridge loading experiments, I’ll come to the conclusion that
some capacitors are better than certain others and not putting too fine a
point on it, ordinary ceramic capacitors have no place in a high
When I had ‘discovered’ the sonic pleasures of 47 k/270 picofarad
loading with the Shure M97xE, I had actually used a different P06 and I
had used WIMA plastic film (polypropylene dielectric) 68 picofarad
capacitors to make up the required shunt capacitance loading value (as I
had a few on hand), and the audio quality as I reported sounded
beautifully musical and gorgeous.
Since then in further experiments I’ve been using another P06 for
testing, but this time I was using the same value ordinary ceramic
capacitors for loading testing (in shunt, across the cartridge signal
input line), thinking that there would be no difference. Things
admittedly did not sound as nice as with the earlier phono stage but I
had put this down to ‘imagination’. However in pondering this
further I decided to try the effect of using WIMA capacitors in lieu of
ceramic loading capacitors, and lo and behold the musical quality
I’ll re-state that I am not a believer in ‘boutique’ components
especially capacitors, but at least in this application the WIMA
capacitors are clearly superior and ‘sound’ wonderful. I have done
some research since this ‘discovery’ and the general consensus is the
ceramic capacitors should never be used at audio, apart from supply
bypass applications (where they are excellent), but never in any signal
line/coupling applications. The WIMA polypropylene film capacitors
although not too expensive, and highly regarded for audio work and I
agree. It is all really ‘interesting’, to say the least, but quite
real! I’m going to stock up on few more of these WIMA’s.
They are very good sounding film capacitors. http://www.wima.com/en_index.php
Felix Scerri, vk4fuq
I’ve been having some fun of late with moving
magnet cartridges phono stages, and I even bought a rather interesting
one recently with a rather unique approach to RIAA equalisation. To
balance that, I have also ‘built’ another op amp based phono stage that
sounds very nice indeed.
admit to having quite a large collection of phono stages these days.
Why? I guess that I have a thing about phono stages. I’ve been a long-
time fan of the ESP P06/P99 for many years. All these phono stage
experiments and evaluations have taught me one thing, that they all
sound a little ‘different’.
My newest phono stage is this one, http://www.loungeaudio.com/#!products/cxf6
the ‘Lounge Audio LCR MKIII’. It uses the LCR (inductance,
capacitance, resistance) approach to RIAA equalisation, an approach
rarely seen with all ‘solid state’ gear nowadays, but is sometimes seen
with (expensive) valve gear. This phono stage has a ‘warm’, but
endearingly musical sound. I wouldn’t say that it is overly
‘valvelike’, but there is just a ‘hint’ of this. It is almost the
opposite of most op amp based phono states that seem to be ‘crisp/dry’
sounding as a general rule, regardless of the circuit used!
My most recent construction project is an adaptation of this project, using an OPA2134 dual op amp http://diyaudioprojects.com/Chip/Opamp-Phono-Preamp/
What really impresses me about this phono stage is how ‘nice/musical’
it sounds. I have built this one for moving magnet cartridges only and
omitted all the additional components for moving coil cartridges. I
also used my existing ESP P05B power supply to power it. In the past I
have not been a fan of the simple and common one dual op amp ‘full
feedback’ circuit, but for reasons that escape me this circuit has
rapidly become a favourite. My Shure M97xE phono cartridge has never
actually built mine on a piece of copper clad board with point to point
wiring, and it looks a mess, but sounds fantastic and no additional
shielding is needed. I have built quite a few similar circuits, but
none has sounded as good as this circuit, even when using the OPA2134!
Why? I haven’t a clue, but the OPA2134 seems ideal in this circuit. I
have had email correspondence with its designer Bruce Heran, who has
been most helpful and is extremely knowledgeable at audio design. His
designs are mainly valve based equipment, and this website is well
worth looking at: http://www.oddwattaudio.com/owabout.html
I think that I like the sound of this circuit design more than my ESP
P06, and that is saying quite a lot! The OPA2134 is often touted as a
‘good sounding’ dual op amp, however as I said before it sounds
particularly nice in this circuit for some reason.
Best wishes, 73
Felix 17th June 2014
Felix Scerri's phono stage
Radio Pages >
Once you have a
such as the Technics SL-1200 MK2, a great phono cartridge and a superb
quality RIAA phono pre-amplifier - Don't forget to keep your records
clean with a KAB EV-1 Record Cleaning Machine!
Read more about Record Care and Cleaning HERE....
The KAB EV-1 Record Cleaning Machine