Ortofon 2m Black (£460)

Ortofon's flagship moving magnet design offers superior spacial performance

No strangers to the pages of HFN, Denmark’s Ortofon company remains one of the world’s foremost manufacturers of cartridges both for hi-fi and DJ use.
   Its best moving-magnets currently are the 2Ms, a four-strong series with interchangeable styli topped by this 2M Black, sporting a Nude Shibata stylus. It might appear that they all use the same body shell, with distinctive angular contours and internal generators with neodymium magnets, however the two best – the £280 2M Bronze with a Nude Fine Line stylus and this 2M Black model – are formed from a more rigid Noryl plastic/glass compound as well as employing better ‘engines’ featuring split pole pins with silver-plated copper wire.
   The 5mm-deep tapped fixing holes in the top of the body allow rigid bonding to an arm’s headshell. It’s only the stylus guard that’s something of a let-down, the angular shape at the front of the cartridge making it awkward to slide on and off. So you’ll need steady hands if you’re going to bother with it.

For auditioning we employed a Clearaudio Compact turntable fitted with SME’s Series IV tonearm. Phono stage was the excellent Sensor Prelude made by RCM Audio, connected via its balanced outputs to a Levinson No.383 amplifier. When set up, the Ortofon 2M Black was immediately engaging, sounding powerful and vivid. The sizzle and snap of the hi-hat cymbal and thump of the kick drum that opens ‘Happiness Is Easy’ on Talk Talk’s The Colour Of Spring [EMI, EMC 3506] sounded most explicit – crisp and clear with fast leading edges – set against an inky black background. Further listening showed it to be highly revealing, with fabulous clarity and openness, its reproduction of high frequencies sweet and refined.
   The schoolchildren’s vocal interlude later in this track almost jumped out from the threedimensional soundstage produced by the 2M Black, while the regal piano chords sounded full-bodied and startlingly real.
   Johnny Guitar Watson’s classic A Real Mother [DJM, DJF 2050], with its extraordinarily deep bass and delicious guitar breakcut, was again tight and solid. Deep bass might not have been hugely extended, but it was textured, detailed and extraordinarily clear. Moreover the parping brass and sublime guitarpicking sounded sensational, instruments described explicitly in their individual acoustic settings. But it was natural recordings of full orchestra that confirmed that the 2M Black is a stellar moving-magnet cartridge. Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances with the Dallas Orchestra [Athena ALSW-10001] was reproduced in truly holographic fashion and the description of instrumental timbres – cellos, oboes, strings – was wonderfully lifelike. Just like that delivered by the finest movingcoils. The clarity and speed of the 2M Black led to a spectacular performance of Varèse’s ‘difficult’ Arcana with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta [Decca SXL6550] with its dissonant percussive elements, the acoustic space of the hall reproduced in three dimensions.

The 2M Black has a three dimensional imagery worthy of the most sophisticated vinyl replay systems. Its remarkable portrayal of air and spaciousness brings you one step closer to the auditorium and to sharing space with the musicians.

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Originally published in the Yearbook 2011