Ortofon's 2M Mono Special Edition First Listen——World Exclusive!
I set it up yesterday on a Music Hall MMF 11.1 turntable, which comes with a Pro-Ject 10cc tonearm and ran it into a Graham Slee Era Gold. Given the cartridge's price of around $700 I didn't see the point of using it to drive a high cost phono preamp or, for that matter, mount it in the Kuzma 4 Point on the Continuum Caliburn but based on what I heard, I will eventually do that!
The 2M MONO Special Edition has an output of 3.5mV and an alloy cantilever fitted with a nude Shibata stylus (r/R 6/50µm). Connected in "stereo" the recommended load is the standard 47kOhms with total capacitive load of between 150-300 pF. Recommended optimal tracking force is 1.5 grams.
Though the 2M mono series uses stereo coils, designer Leif Johannsen told me "In the MM we cannot turn the armature or anything else. So the mechanical geometry is the same as in the stereo 2M’s. But we can couple the two coils in a clever way (NOT simply parallel between L and R)) and thereby making it work as one coil. The point is to have a design not sensitive to vertical movements and that has been achieved."
He also cautioned me to pay particular attention to azimuth when using any mono cartridge in a stereo system because even a small amount of skew can make the cartridge sensitive to vertical movements that can shift the mono image somewhat from center. A mono switch or "Y" connector should eliminate that issue and even though my preamp has a "mono" switch I did optimize azimuth. And I set SRA to 92 degrees though on laterally cut records that used mono cutter heads this shouldn't be an issue.
So how does the 2M Mono Special Edition sound on the new mono Beatles box? Sorry, I don't have it. But I do have the mono UK Beatles EP box and so I first played "The Beatles Hits" EP containing "From Me to You", "Please Please Me," "Thank You Girl" and "Love Me Do" and forget about $$$ this cartridge is amazing. It's big, bold, incredibly detailed, yet natural sounding and its ambient retrieval and front to back spatiality mesmerized.
If you are at all skeptical about mono's ability to hold your attention or worried about a "wind tunnel" effect, forget about it! I played half of the box and then moved on to mono Parlophone LPs. On the Please, Please Me album the cartridge effectively separated the vocals while producing outstanding vocal timbre and a solid drum sound. The bass line was also texturally solid, rhythmically nimble and fully extended.
The mono image on all of the tracks I played hovered magically between the speakers deep, tall and holographically three dimensional. You will almost certainly hear more detail in mono than in stereo on these upcoming Beatles albums judging by last evening's listening session the ended (for Beatles) with side 1 of an original Apple UK "top loader" of The Beatles. Ringo's work was especially great in mono through this cartridge.
Then I moved on to Tennessee Ernie Ford's "16 Tons" then to some mono Decca Stones albums and to Louis Prima's "Just and Gigolo"/"I Ain't Got Nobody", from an original green label Capitol mono the WILDEST! (T755).
I finished with a beat up original Surrealistic Pillow and an even more beat Philles Records Presents Today's Hits (Philles LP4004). I bought these are 50 cents each at a church rummage sale more for the covers and scarcity. They look unplayable but a mono cartridge playing a mono record is so forgiving. It suppresses and ignores so much of what looks like a certain sonic disaster and the Shibata stylus here does an amazing job of reaching nooks and crannies probably not previously visited by the spherical stylus that did the original wear damage. On The Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron" there's a familiar drum hit that's never sounded so impactful and the hand claps were especially three-dimensional and well separated in space.
Once you get hooked on this sound you'll start paying attention to cast off cheap monos that look awful because more often than not they will sound near mint—especially when played with a severe stylus profile.
I stayed up last night until very late playing mono records and had a complete BLAST using (in the context of my system) a very reasonably priced "front end". A great mono cartridge from Ortofon that's easy to recommend highly and a fitting "tribute" to the upcoming Beatles box. I can't wait to use it to play the new mono box!