Ortofon's 2M Mono Special Edition First Listen——World Exclusive!

Analogplanet received one of the first Ortofon 2M MONO Special Edition cartridges developed by the company in cooperation with Universal Music Group as a tribute to the upcoming Beatles "Back to Mono" box set.

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!

Jim Tavegia's picture

that hard work pays off. You get to play with so many new toys. I had been thinking about turning one of my tables into a mono table and now I may have to do just that. It is nice that no MC transformer is needed to enjoy some great vinyl.

I will be that AD is going to want to try one of these out for himself. I can also almost see a package deal of the Beatles' set with this new Ortofon cart from some dealers. THAT would make sense to me.

erik's picture

I have a stereo cartridge.

So, how do I properly hook up a "Y" connector? And what is it exactly?

Do I need to purchase something to connect between my phono pre-amp and pre-amp to make this type of mono connection to improve the fidelity for my mono LP playback?

Will the "phase" switch on my preamp achieve the same/desired result?

Thanks from a first time poster!

Hide in the Sound's picture

This thread fully explains how and why this works.


Michael Fremer's picture
However, definitely do this between phono preamp and preamp not between turntable and phono preamp--unless you don't have a separate phono preamp. In that case because the voltage is so low, buy a higher quality "Y" connector assembly specifically made for this purpose that is hardwired between the two sets of "Y" connectors and that uses higher quality plugs, jacks and low capacitance and resistance cable rather than going the Radio Shack route...
Paulo Batista Gomes's picture

Apologies for interfering.
while I do not decide which best geometric type for needle I'll buy to play the mono LPs, I bought a mono needle Shure N-44.1, and made the connections in mono on own cartridge Shure M44, this way: conect pin white and green together; and blue pin plug in blue and green pin (separately) at the other end; and red pin plug in the red and white pin (separately) at the other end; so I have the MONO sound without "Y" connector and without changes in the preamp.

jack65's picture

Any truth in this?

"I have 2 mono carts and they make a world of difference on pre-1957 albums. Later mono albums (usually say "mono" on them as there was no choice before 1957), were cut on a stereo lathe, hence they are a stereo groove with the same information on both sides of the groove wall, thus sound excellent with a stereo cart and should NOT be played with the larger mono cart as the larger needle will damage the narrower groove."

Michael Fremer's picture
That is one confused puppy.

Even if a mono album is cut using a stereo cutter head (not stereo lathe), since the information sent to both cutting coils is identical, the cutter head will cut a lateral groove just as it would for the information common to both channels of a stereo recording (the phantom center channel).

That individual's assertion that the result would be a "stereo groove with the same information on both sides of the groove wall" is 100% erroneous other than that the groove width would be the same as a stereo groove since the cutter head is fitted with a stereo cutting stylus designed to produce a groove optimized for a .7mil playback stylus.

Which brings up the issue of playback styli: original mono LPs were cut for playback using a 1 mil, not .7 mil stylus and thus have wider grooves. Playing those back with a modern stylus will not damage them. In fact I don't think you'll damage a modern mono LP using a 1 mil stylus to play back modern mono LPs. The stylus won't go as far down in the groove yes, but is that audible for a lateral cut? Perhaps but no damage will occur.

In an ideal world you'd play back original mono LPs with a 1 mil stylus and monos cut with a .7 mil stereo cutter head with a modern stylus profile, though even there some claim the modern styli get into more "nooks and crannies" even on the older records.

Count me among the "some".

jack65's picture

great, thanks!

Ortofan's picture

Given that the two coils are said to be coupled in such a way as to reduce sensitivity to vertical stylus movement, is that reduction complete – or do you hear any difference when engaging the mono button on the preamp?

As your late into the night listening session would suggest, listening in mono isn’t a limitation when the music itself is truly involving.

Michael Fremer's picture
I didn't hear a difference since the cartridge summed the channels going in.
soundman45's picture

Michael: In your estimation is this a finicky cartridge to set up or is it that you just have to be careful of azimuth?

Michael Fremer's picture
Not finicky. But the Shibata stylus does mean you should pay attention to SRA particularly for records cut with a stereo cutter head so it should be correctly set to 92 degrees IMO.

You can set the azimuth "by eye", and listen for stable, centered image.

tparker14's picture

Your thoughts on this Ortofon as compared to the lower-end mono versions that Miyajima produces? I believe I read a review of your on the Miyajima premium mono cartridge, and you were quite taken with it.

Michael Fremer's picture
Here's the issue: as of April 23, 2014 production was changed from a .7 mil to a 1 mil conical stylus on the Zero MONO and Premium BE II MONO. So the older one would be optimal for modern monos and the newer one for original monos.

The ZERO was not ideal playing back the test pressing of The Beatles mono reissue. It was installed when Steve Berkowitz arrived and we played it back. It didn't sound so great. I could see his look of shock because it really wasn't good.

Switching to a more modern profiled mono cartridge made the record sound great…. I am going to have to re-visit this when I have more time after the new box arrives...

BillK's picture

What is the audible damage of playing mono records using a stereo cartridge in "mono" mode on a preamp? Is it the introduction of distortion and phase error that simply should not be there if the groove was read by a proper mono cartridge? How audible is it?

Michael Fremer's picture
If you have a mono switch or use "Y" connectors you have cancelled all of the vertical unwanted information but probably haven't 100% optimized the sound. I hope to compare a stereo Titan with a mono Titan once the Beatles box arrives.
otaku2's picture


Michael Fremer's picture
For noticing. Once I got it off the camera and saw it, I was really happy with it.
tparker14's picture

Differences in cutting heads necessitating a more extreme stylus shape and size, eh? I'd like to see Ortofon develop this in a moving coil version, perhaps with a boron cantilever. It sounds like a winner as is, though.

Phovshu's picture

Very interesting about the Miyajima cartridges. Was about to buy one but this information has me rethinking.

Great, informative website.


howardk's picture

I've always wondered whether the preamp mono switch should be used when playing original mono records with a modern stereo cartridge. From the above discussion, it appears that the mono switch should be used if available. Is that correct?

ttb's picture

This 1 mil, .7 mil mono cartridge discussion's got me really confused. I own a Miyajima Zero MONO that shows in its specs to be .7 mil sylus. It sounds amazing with original monos, of which I've got a ton of espeacially classical (London/Deccas, Mercurys, RCAs) and with new audiophile reissue monos.

Am I missing the boat here? Will original monos sound better with a 1 mil? Hard to imagine.

Also- to Mikey- do you know what the diamond is on your Zero MONO? If its a .7 mil then I'm really, really confused.

Michael Fremer's picture
First of all, while Miyajima announced on its website that as of April, 2014 he was switching to a 1 mil stylus, Robin Wyatt, the American importer says that all of his current stock has .7 mil styli as does my sample. Why the Beatles mono that I heard--one test pressing, one time--didn't sound great, I don't yet know. I have been speaking with a number of people in the meantime, all of whom say that a .7 mil stylus is fine for older monos. Most prefer the .7mil because it goes further into the groove and often hits areas that have not at all been worn. And of course the .7 would theoretically be better for newer monos cut with a stereo cutter head....sorry to have produced confusion...
Listener's picture

Thanks a lot for this review!

Up to now no one did test the "standard" version of this cartridge, the 2M Mono. It would be interesting to compare both versions, to figure out their differences when playing old and new mono microgrooves! And how about the MC Quintet Mono?

I just bought an old but restored Thorens TD 160B MKII with Origin Live Silver tonearm and Ortofon MM Mono cartridge: I'm impressed about the direct, dynamic sound I get from this combination when playing old and even reissued mono LP's - much better, than with my fine MC and a better turntable, even if I activate the mono switch on the amplifier...

Please write more about mono playback! Most likely you are the one and only person on this planet who's able to do this properly.

rakalm's picture

I don't have a Mono switch on my Marantz preamp. So, I could either go with the Y adapter or buy a Mono cartridge to replace my Grado Gold. The Mono cartridge would be no good stereo playback, right? And the Y adapter (if used instead) would have to be removed each time I play back stereo? If this is all true, I think this is correct, I am glad I have two turntable inputs on my Jasmine phono preamp, maybe a 2nd turntable down the line just for Mono. Might be simpler.
thanks for any responses for clarification.

rakalm's picture

Won't you please, please Help me? The more I learn the less I know. I want to try the Y adapter and my Marantz AV550 has a tape in and out BUT not a tape monitor button. Does the tape button on the front function as a tape monitor? I am trying to use a setup described using the tape in and outs so I don't have to manually remove cables prior to switching between Mono and Stereo playback. It has been suggested on another forum that I can use the tape in and outs to achieve my goal BUT I don't have that tape monitor switch. Does pressing the tape button on achieve the same goal? The Marantz manual is no help in this regard. A stereo/mono box switch is tempting but introduces a possible source of interference.
I am thinking about this box set everyday. "Perfect is good enough." My own motto.

Michael Fremer's picture
So you are going to put a "Y" connector in the tape loop?" How was it suggested? The "tape" button is the "tape monitor".
rakalm's picture


This is the link. Not sure it would work for me, my Jasmine phono preamp goes into my Marantz preamp CD input (no phono input on the AV-550) but it does have a tape in and out.


It's gotten a bit confusing for my but I can't easily access the cables behind my system to switch cables for Mono versus Stereo playback, BUT yes I would love to be able to optimize my setup prior to receiving this Box Set.

Thanks as always,
Richard Kalm
You will have to scroll down the page to see the setup suggested

dauphine's picture

Although I have many mono records and have until now used 'faux'mono buttons on my amplifiers for these records. Many years ago, I also fitted a mono button to the plinth of one of my Garrard 301's. It's a bit over the top mechanically so please don't laugh...

I have a clean power supply built into this 301's plinth and when pressing the mono button, a solenoid activates a reed switch which bridges the left and righthand channels.

Anyway, the above is not what this post is about. I have a sizeable collection of 78rpm shellac records and have played them for years with a modified Shure SC35C moving magnet cartridge and the results were quite satisfactory.

However, I have always had the thought of how a mono moving coil cartridge would sound on 78rpm playback.

Reading MF's mono Ortofon review, I decided to try making an mc cartridge for this purpose for myself.

"It" is a naked beast, weighing 10g and its spine was milled from african blackwood and fitted with an anodised aluminium mounting plate with standard 1/2" spaced M2.5 threaded holes.

The magnet is a neodymium square of 8.5x8.5x3mm and its flux is transmitted by pure nickel plates to the sides of twin horizontal, parallel-arranged coil former rods from soft permeable iron.

The coils are copper and coil impedance is 17 ohms as I used very thin coil wire.

Several features have been incorporated in this design to minimise 78rpm shellac noise. The coil former rods are inserted to a zellamid plastic disc (as is the cantilever) and an extra thick damper has been used, together with a compliant multifilament cable for its suspension.

I have not as yet had a chance to measure output but I estimate this to be around 0,6mV - quite adequate for the 28X gain step up device I'm using.

The 'beast' is presently fitted to a Grace arm fitted to a Garrard 301 and I'm using my recently re-built Dynaco SC35 tube amplifier for playback.

For now, I am happy with the results.


dauphine's picture

Apologies. I forgot to mention the mc cartridge described above tracks at 4.5 to 5.0g and for now as I had one available, I have fitted the cantilever with a new (nos) sapphire stylus.


Mudfoot's picture

Thanks for the review. Mike, I'm curious how you set the azimuth of this cart when the output is mono. Also I assume that the standard 2M mono stylus with a conical will fit this cart so I can use it on Styrene 45rpms. Thanks for your time.


AnalogJ's picture

I'm curious as to whether it would be better to use the separate armtube and buy a relative budget level mono cartridge (with my limited budget), or would I get better sound using my higher end Benz M2 stereo with a Y-cable? I could, for example, have Grado make a mono Platinum or Sonata in a true mono. Or I could look at the less expensive Ortofon 2M mono. I know that the Benz is in another SQ quality, in of itself.

DirectDrivenCrazy's picture

I'm late in the game here, but have been trying to find out for some time just what the groove size of these reissues are. Are they true Microgroove (1 mil) or .7 cut as mono?
I'd like to know rather than make the experiment. Cheers!

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Matteo's picture

I tryed to put a Y connector in the tape loop, but now the signal is always mono, even if I don’t press tape monitor button. Anyone knows why ?