Ortofon's 2M Black LVB 250 Cartridge Delivers Smooth, Sweet and Well-Detailed Sound

When readers ask why “they” no longer manufacture a really high quality moving magnet cartridge, I respond “Ortofon 2M Black” ($695). Its nude Shibata stylus delivers great detail, it’s an effective tracker at 1.5 grams and it outputs a generous 5mVs. Plus, based on years of experience reviewing the company’s output up and down the product line, it’s safe to say Ortofon delivers build quality uniformity at every price point. Oh, and the 2M Black is a sweet sounding, spectrally well-balanced cartridge.

To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday Ortofon recently introduced the 2M Black LVB 250 MM. “Cartridge named after a deaf dude” jokes aside (Following Ortofon’s announcement I heard that from readers more than a few times), Ortofon has upgraded the 2M Black with a few useful features, the main one being using the low mass boron cantilever/nude Shibata assembly found on the $2879 Cadenza Black. In addition, Ortofon has developed a new rubber suspension compound based on Multi-Wall Carbon Nano Tube nano filler compound for which Ortofon claims “desirable mechanical properties” as well as greater environmentally friendly production characteristics. Obviously the lighter, stiffer Boron cantilever required an suspension change to maintain the standard 2M Black’s tracking capabilities, which based on the specs are the same.

These changes result in a price increase of approximately $300.00 to $999. The specifications remain close to identical but for a claimed 1dB greater channel separation at 1kHz and an increase in recommended tracking force from 1.5 to 1.6 grams.

Set Up

I installed the 2M Black LVB 250 on the SME 6 ‘table here for review in Stereophile and used it to drive two very different sounding phono preamps (reviews to follow): The hybrid vacuum tube Hagerman Audio Trumpet MC ($1099) and from Spain the solid state QHW The Vinyl (price dollar/Euro dependent but today $644.83+ $25 shipping). Both of these in my book are “super values”, but back to the cartridge review.

Firstly, the 2M Black LVB tracking at the recommended 1.6 grams meets the specified excellent tracking spec using the Ortofon test record.

First up was Neil Young’s new Young Shakespeare (Reprise 093624889519) a remarkable solo acoustic performance recorded January 22, 1971 at the Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford, CT three days after the Massey Hall 1971 recording (Christgau gave it a bomb, but I liked it). This one, originally a 16MM film shoot by a German television crew probably with synch to a Nagra or another field recorder and to make it work the Plangent process was applied after digitization at 192/24 . Plangent recovers and locks to the bias signal on the tape and removes transport artifacts like “scrape flutter” and other issues like “in and out of phase” producing speed drift. The result here is pleasingly smooth and considering the circumstances, solid imaging and transparency.

With either of these two phono preamps, the 2M Black LVB 250 delivered warmth, body, timbral honesty and especially transient “speed” I don’t usually associate with most moving magnet cartridges (though there are a few), though as you might imagine there was more lower- midbass warmth from the tube-based preamp. Even there though, the sound never got thick and slow. Not many listeners would think MM hearing this record through the 2M Black LVB. Neil’s strumming on “Helpless” was clean, though not shimmering (the recording isn’t an airy, open spacious affair), with pleasing attack, honest sustain and satisfying decay combined with instrumental body. Nicely pressed (I think at Record Industry): on 140gram vinyl.

For a speedy, fast play you can’t go wrong with the late Chick Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs ( B00 29363-01 an early “Tone Poet” reissue of a Solid State original). It displays the cartridge’s microdynamic authority, nimble tracking ability and transient clarity and “snap”. A grea snare drum sound from engineer Don Hahn at Phil Ramone’s A&R Studios adds to the record’s sonic pleasures that the 2M LVB delivers intact. The percussive piano produced sound effects and inside the sounding board “zings” on “ Now He Beats The Drum-Now He Stops” made me jump.

Unfortunately, I did not have a standard 2M Black here with which to compare the LVB edition. However, I did have a Cadenza 2M Black ($2879) sent by SME for the Model 6 review and no surprise, the approximately 3X the cost Cadenza was superior in every way, especially in terms of soundstage width, depth and image three-dimensionality. But this is a review of the $999 2M Black LVB 250 so what more fitting a way to end it than to describe how it performed decoding Sir Simon Rattle’s take on Beethoven’s 3rd symphony from the Berlin Philharmonic Beethoven Symphonies box set (BPHR 160092) recorded to 192/24 using a pair of M-S configured microphones. Through both the solid state and hybrid vacuum tube phono preamps the 2M Black 250 produced full bodied string textures, burnished brass and an overall richness not unexpected from a well-designed and built MM cartridge. The orchestra’s dynamic ebb and flow was well-presented through both phono preamplifiers with greater sense of hall “air” and woodwind clarity evident through the solid state until but there was no mistaking the 2M Black LVB’s generally warm, rich yet pleasingly open and smooth tonal balance and responsive rhythm’n’pacing that comes as close to a good moving coil design as I’ve heard from a MM. For the obstinate who stick with and prefer moving magnet to moving coil cartridges, the 2M Black LVB 250 makes the case as well if not better than any currently available MM at least that Ithat I know of.

Specs

Output voltage at 1000 Hz, 5cm/sec.: 5 mV
Channel balance at 1 kHz: < 1 dB
Channel separation at 1 kHz: > 27 dB
Channel separation at 15 kHz: 15 dB
Frequency response: 20-20.000 + 2 / - 1 dB
Tracking ability at 315Hz at recommended tracking force: 80 µm
Compliance, dynamic, lateral: 22 µm/mN
Stylus type: Nude Shibata
Stylus tip radius: r/R 6/50 µm
Cantilever material - Boron
Tracking force range: 1.5-1.7 g (15-17 mN)
Tracking force, recommended: 1.6 g (16 mN)
Tracking angle: 20°
Internal impedance, DC resistance: 1.2 kOhm
Internal inductance: 630 mH
Recommended load resistance: 47 kOhm
Recommended load capacitance: 150-300 pF
Cartridge color, body/stylus: Black/Black
Cartridge weight: 7.2 g

COMMENTS
volvic's picture

So should I swap my trusty Shure V15 MK V MR with JICO SAS stylus for one of these?

Michael Fremer's picture
But if you are happy with the Shure why change? LVB is probably more lively. I didn’t compare because one’s not in production.
volvic's picture

Love the JICO/Shure too much to swap, offers everything I need. Besides it's mounted on three tables so too pricey to start changing. I'll stick with what I got.

Ortofan's picture

... phono preamp are you using?
Is $1,000 the upper limit of your budget for a new cartridge?
Would you consider a MC type instead of a MM/MI cartridge?

volvic's picture

I have the AT-OC9XSL on one of the tables, it is very good and in some cases better than the Shure, but it’s not night and and not like I’ve found the holy grail of MC cartridges. Been using the Shure since 1990 and have mounted it on all three tables and very happy, it is quiet, tracks brilliantly, gives depth and detail but yes lacks the natural clarity that a good MC gives, but I love the idea of swapping styli and not having to remove a cartridge after 500-700 hours of play.

tnargs's picture

Churn is good business.

Don’t forget to ‘experience’ (code for “spend on”) MC cartridges while you are at it. Surely you have noticed all the advertising?

And don’t get me started on phone preamps and the ads for them! So much fun lies in wait for churnists who know how to click on a link.

Oh wait. Did you think this article is just for information? Did you notice how it arrived in your email inbox as a link? Now look around this page. Those links work the same way. Enticement.

BTW the key irreplaceable feature of my Shure V15 V MR was its original, unique, hollow beryllium cantilever. Replacing that was an interesting choice by you — perhaps motivated by some opinion articles and forum ‘advice’? Oh well, all good fun.

volvic's picture

The Jico stylus is sonically superior to the original cantilever, side by side comparisons confirmed when pitted against the original stylus. No one had to convince me of that.

rich d's picture

and I'm inclined to agree. If your preamp or phono stage will accommodate MC cartridges you have a lot of options (Benz Micro and Hana leap to mind) starting around this price. If your electronics won't work with an MC then the LVB250 sure looks nice and Mr. Fremer's recommendation can usually be relied upon. One caveat - if you can't adjust your tonearm to the correct tracking angle, or pretty darn close, you will not get the best out of a Shibata profile.

Michael Fremer's picture
Two things: in my Ortofon experience, their manufacturing tolerances are so good odds are great the parallel to the record surface will produce the correct tracking angle. On another note. In some circumstances and with some people having a replaceable stylus can be important. Speaking of which at this point Ortofon hasn't set the stylus replacement cost for the LVB.
cundare's picture

Mikey said: "[I]n my Ortofon experience, their manufacturing tolerances are so good odds are great the parallel to the record surface will produce the correct tracking angle."

Respectfully, I beg to differ. When WallyTools analyzed my 2M Black under its microscope, it found a native SRA of about 89 degrees -- as well as a significant zenith error and a bit of an azimuth error.

The WT guys mentioned that this cartridge was indeed closer to spec than more than half of what they'd measured, but an SRA this far off required the fabrication of a cartridge-specific shim. I get the impression that a rake/VTA error of this magnitude is not uncommon, even for Ortofon. Merely setting the tonearm parallel to the platter surface would have produced a pretty big rake-angle error.

I'm not criticizing Ortofon or the 2M Black line or disagreeing with anything else Michael says in this review. The whole 2M MM line is outstanding at each product's price point. But I spent what some people would consider too much money (for a $700 cartridge) having my unit professionally analyzed before installing, and I'm glad I did.

Miner42's picture

I must assume the Cadenza Black mentioned n the article is not the 2M (moving magnet) variant. :)

I will proofread for free records.

scottsol's picture

An Ortofon can no more be a 2M and a Cadenza than a Porsche can be both a 911 and a Taycan.

Neward Thelman's picture

"...woodwind clarity evident through the solid state until but..."

Mr. Fremer, is there any possibility you could correct and complete that sentence? I'm sure readers would like to know the conclusion you were trying to express.

unionista's picture

To me, the big unasked question is this: LVB or the Quintet Black S for equal money?

jenspp's picture

Mike,
Greetings from Denmark and thx for your stimulating reviews, comments, videos ++
I am super confused over Paul Miller's measurements of cartridges in hi-fi news and on their sister site here.
Latest, PM's measurements on the Ortofon 2M black LVB are completely different from Ortofon's own measurements, particularly the massive high-end roll-off. This is not isolated to the 2M/LVB review, actually most of PM's measurements show the same results.
The result do not match my own experience with cartridge measurements (test record with frequency sweep).
I may have completely missed something, but can you explain why the results are so different and/or could you invite PM to explain his methodology?
I have not been able to find a way to post comments to articles on HFRR's site.
Best regards, Jens

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