MoFi UltraGold Cartridge Page 2

A feast of guitar sounds, I chose it for another reason: all the voices – Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and George Harrison – are almost embarrassingly familiar to me having savoured them over a half-century. While distinguishing between them isn't as tough as trying to hear the difference between Zildjian and Paiste cymbals (percussionists tell me that's because I'm not a drummer), and you'd have to be hearing-impaired not to identify Dylan vs. Orbison, the UltraGold proved its worth by revealing the distinctive textures, breathing and phrasing with a facility I can only define as 'vivid'.

No, I don't know what microphones were used at the sessions, or even if the vocals were laid down in separate studios. Whatever the case, the voices meshed with such mutual support, while maintaining each individual character, that I had to resist spinning more Everly Brothers, Beach Boys and Hollies albums just to test the repeatability of my experience. The UltraGold – whatever else may be said about its strengths, and they are numerous – is midband-dominant, in a good way. Like the BBC LS3/5A and Radford tube amps, the UltraGold adores and cossets the human voice. Is there a price to pay for this? I guess it comes down to preference. The upper registers match the midband for authority and there's plenty of good ol' MC warmth, but I'm sure some listeners will prefer more slam at the extreme bottom end.


A Shibata (fine line) diamond is cemented to the end of a boron pipe cantilever

Tubes And Trannies
I am not one of them, so this will have no influence on my verdict, but I must address it for you. Playing War's Greatest Hits 2.0 [Far Out/Rhino R1 655988], where the absolute weight of the sound is crucial, I was reminded that MoFi's MMs have a touch more kick. The contrast was even more evocative of valves vs. solid-state. To put this aspect of the sound to bed, and to not let it colour the impression, I have no choice but to defer to the tube/transistor analogy, as divisive as it is. That's kinda like saying that if you are enamoured of MoFi's MM models, you might be confused by their much dearer sibling.

Which is a nonsense: it's more about presentation or character than absolute accuracy, and turning to War's heavier tracks proved no less rewarding than listening to the vocals-centric Wilburys track. The lower registers are actually (to my ears) more extended than via the MMs, which may be an illusion if I'm comparing the MM's drier, snappier sound to the MC's lushness, but – as I will forever maintain – the ultimate deciding factor is your own personal preference.


The gold-plated output pins are clearly colour-coded and well spaced to assist with headshell wiring

I lied before: I couldn't stay away from The Beach Boys. The recent Feel Flows box [Capitol 02508 80212] provides one of the best-ever versions of Surf's Up, and here's where you can ignore any perplexity over UltraGold's vs. MoFi MMs' bottom octaves. That's because of the way the UltraGold handles the liquidity of the sonic effects which permeate the album. There's nothing punning about it, as the album is largely water-themed throughout. With 'Don't Go Near The Water' and 'Feel Flows', Brian Wilson uses this to remind us constantly that the LP has 'surf' in its title.

Pressing The Pedal
It's rare that the outré adjectives which we've adopted over the decades to describe sound resemble a musical equivalent of a poet using onomatopoeia. I suppose 'dry' music should have been the basis for, say, the soundtrack to Lawrence Of Arabia, while you can come up with your own playlist for 'chocolate', 'plummy', ad infinitum.

Whatever adjectives the entire canon of hi-fi begs to use, one stands proud for the UltraGold and that is 'fluid'. It's not just the smooth conveying of liquidity in The Beach Boys album. It's the consistency in the dynamic swings from soft to loud and back, the wholeness of the soundstage, the nature of the air around the instruments. Back to Beatle George and his world-changing solo, All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary [Capitol 3567012] and I was forced to think of a sound quality appropriate to the meaning of 'Wah-Wah', rich as it is with that specific guitar gizmo's effect.


Part of the exposed MC mech with its PC-OCC wiring is visible here. It's partially protected/damped by a layer of fibre tape adhering to the underside

George was sparing with it, but the cartridge tracked the fluidity with such grace and consistency that I was driven to pull a U-turn and listen to a Mobile Fidelity LP, if not quite a One-Step. Out came the most adventurous use of wah-wah pedal in my experience – easily the equal of Jimi Hendrix's mastery of it – on Jeff Beck's Truth [MFSL 2-502], a 45rpm pressing on thick vinyl, which stomps my first pressing.

'I Ain't Superstitious' does for wah-wah what actress Sue Lyon did for lollipops... So the UltraGold MC followed every one of Beck's sinewy moves, and I just had to play it three times in a row.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
As we've said, who better than a record label to develop a cartridge? This is a hyper-modern take on classic MCs, retaining the virtues of warmth and air, but with trackability that had me looking for a 'V15' designation somewhere. (Youngsters: look it up…) Prices seem irrelevant in high-end hi-fi, when top cartridges exceed £15k, so the UltraGold, at one-tenth of that? Chalk up another MoFi bargain.

MoFi Electronics
Chicago, USA
Supplied by: Karma-AV Ltd, York
01423 358846