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Thread: New arrival - budget Ortofon SPU #1

  1. #1
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,094
    I'm Tom.

    Default New arrival - budget Ortofon SPU #1

    I was running a 1960s vintage SPU GE on my Garrard 401 recently, till Adam (Westlower) borrowed it for this own 401/SME 3012 project .. unsurprisingly it was such a nice fit in his setup that it ended up not coming home again.

    The question for me was what to replace it with ... I've been intrigued by the SPU #1 since it was announced about 18 months ago. There are spherical and eliptical versions, using bonded styli rather than the nude styli of the higher up models at getting on for twice the price, but as far as I can make out, there are few other significant differences, possibly in the coils though the specs are pretty mainstream for SPU.

    Of course it's not that long since the GM MkII models (formerly entry level but now intermediate between the #1 and the fancy top end SPUs) were down in this sort of price range, but they have been steadily drifting up to the 1000 Euro mark. Vintage SPU prices have been heading steadily upwards as well, but not yet as such a steep rate - to my thinking the GM MkII are being priced out of contention, why pay this sort of money when a vintage Alnico model probably sounds better and can still be had for less? In this context the SPU#1 would seem to be a sensible move by Ortofon, while the repositioning of the GM range looks more than a bit cynical.

    Anyway, I took the plunge ... Deco Audio had one in stock and it arrived this morning in time for some New Year fun. I went for the spherical as the other SPU I have at the moment - a Royal N - has the Replicant stylus which as I understand it is a fancy eliptical, while the Miyajima Madake is a Shibata. I do like spherical styli generally as often you gain musicality in return for often what is only quite a modest loss of detail compared to fancier profiles, while they are also pretty kind to the groove even at high VTF settings, but although I have several spherical MMs, I didn't have one on an MC until this arrived.

    First impressions - bit stiff out of the box (as you'd expect) but took only 3-4 sides to improve considerably. By now, a few more sides in, it sounds just like an SPU should - big and bold and musical, free and easy at the high frequencies, punchy and dimensional in the mids, and although the bass is still a tad stiff, I would expect that to continue to improve. It tracks like a train (as you'd expect from a propely set up low compliance cartrige at 4g in a heavy arm).

    Seems to be a good match with the high mass AT1503 I'm running on the Garrard, though it does seem to ride a lot lower in the groove at the recommended 4g compared to the Royal N, so there may possibly be some suspension differences between it and the higher up models. Compliance is slighly higher at 10um vs 8 for the Royal N but that may well suit many arms out there, certainly I would expect this to work nicely on a Jelco 750D so long as it had the heavy counterweight.

    Proper critical listening and comparison to the Royal N (which lists at between three and four times the price) to follow once it's got a few more sides under its belt. But right at the moment with Louis Armstrong from the 60s playing it's sounding rather promising, tonally spot on with a nice 3D soundstage.



    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 5,706
    I'm Oliver.

    Default

    Looks fab, Tom. Your Bobs device should be with you Tuesday. It's RM guaranteed delivery. I'll send you the tracking if needed.

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Analogue: Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 MK5 tonearm > Ortofon Kontrapunkt b > Wizard Jfet MC Valve Phonostage (Telefunken Valves)
    Digital: Firebottle modded Xiang Sheng DAC (Telefunken Valve)
    Amplification: Nelson Pass DCB1 & Firebottle Monoblocks (Telefunken Valves) & Monarchy Audio SM-70 Class A Amplifier
    Cables: Fisual S-Flex Speaker Cable & SPOTFIRE IC Cables & NEW SPOTFIRE Tonearm cable
    Speakers: Pioneer CS-77A

  3. #3
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,094
    I'm Tom.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigman80 View Post
    Looks fab, Tom. Your Bobs device should be with you Tuesday. It's RM guaranteed delivery. I'll send you the tracking if needed.

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Arrived this morning Oliver I was about to message you and let you know.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  4. #4
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 5,706
    I'm Oliver.

    Default

    Sweet!!!!

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Analogue: Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 MK5 tonearm > Ortofon Kontrapunkt b > Wizard Jfet MC Valve Phonostage (Telefunken Valves)
    Digital: Firebottle modded Xiang Sheng DAC (Telefunken Valve)
    Amplification: Nelson Pass DCB1 & Firebottle Monoblocks (Telefunken Valves) & Monarchy Audio SM-70 Class A Amplifier
    Cables: Fisual S-Flex Speaker Cable & SPOTFIRE IC Cables & NEW SPOTFIRE Tonearm cable
    Speakers: Pioneer CS-77A

  5. #5
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,094
    I'm Tom.

    Default

    Couple of SUT experiments ...

    Output on the #1 is 2 ohm and it sounds pretty fab on the input labelled 3 ohm on the EAR912 (which I gather is x30).

    That got me thinking so I dug out the little Ortofon 2-15k step-up 'dongle' type I got from Barry a while back (also 1:30 I believe), designed for 2 ohm cartridges from the original SPU/SL15 era. It sounds superb with it - not quite as detailed, spatious or refined as the EAR but very lively, tonally accurate and really quite 'right' (indeed it gives it something of a vintage SPU feel). Very enjoyable. This is what I'll be running it into once the Garrard goes back in the study. So all doubt removed - the #1 is a proper SPU!

    Interestingly I tried it with the Bob's Devices Cinemag SUT I got from from Jake Recently, this offers 1:10 and 1:20 .. even on 1:20 (which is the ratio on this ideally suited for a Denon 103) it sounded a bit flat and lifeless .. I guess for all its qualities with other cartridges, 2 ohm is somewhat out of its comfort zone.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Aug 2010

    Location: Germany

    Posts: 29
    I'm Knut.

    Default

    Hi Tom,
    good choice with your SPU #1. All my SPU's with 2 Ohms show very good results with step ups with 1:40 ore more. The Hashimoto HM-3 and the Fidelity research XF-1L are the best for me.
    Regards

    Knut
    Knut.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Bridgend, Wales

    Posts: 116
    I'm James.

    Default

    Nice review Tom!

    I'm using my #1E into an Ortofon ST-7 SUT into a Croft RIAA phono stage. After about 20 hours of use it really opened up and now sounds very full and generous, clear and open at the top and the bass just improves with every side. Very impressed with it, my Spacedeck / Decca combo is getting notably less use these days!
    Nottingham Analogue Spacedeck / Kuzma Stogi S / Benz Micro Ace S L
    Lenco L-75 / Carl Ellis Plinth / Ortofon AS-212 / Ortofon SPU Classic GM E MkII
    Ortofon ST-7 SUT / Croft RIAA

    Cambridge Audio CXU / Theta DS Pro Prime

    Classé Model 30 / Luxman M-383

    Usher Compass X-719


    May contain opinions that others find disturbing.

  8. #8
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Norwich

    Posts: 2,428
    I'm Hugo.

    Default

    I may have to try one of these myself! My Paul Hynes MC2 head amp is as quiet as a tomb and has variable loading so I'm sure it will be possible to zoom in on the optimum settings.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,094
    I'm Tom.

    Default

    I think you probably do need to try this Hugo, it's rather good. I wouldn't quite put it up there with a good Alnico vintage SPU but it's not as far off as you'd expect and I suspect the audible difference to the current production GM and GE models (both of which I've owned in the past) is minimal, though being bonded I guess stylus life might be shorter.

    About 25 or so sides - maybe 10 hours so still a bit of running in to go - it's sweenend out nicely, the bass has loosened up well and its way with ambience and timbre has further improved too. The differences with the Royal N remain quite apparent in its way with detail and texture but you'd expect that from something a third of the price of what is quite a 'special' cartridge with its replicant tip and gold coils. I suspect if it's detail you want though the eliptical version (SPU #1E rather than the #1S that I've been playing with) might be a better bet, yet the #1S has a lovely character.

    It seems to me this cartridge is really worthy of consideration, especially when you consider what the competition is at sub-£500. For example it certainly sounds more accomplished and well rounded to me than any Denon 103 that I've heard, even the fancy or modded ones, to say nothing of some of the other 'budget' MCs from the likes of Goldring or Sumiko.

    You need a the right arm of course and phono input capable of handling 2 ohms / 0.2 mv but put that in place and it opens up the world of the SPU with lots of upgrade potential in future.

    As you can gather, it's a hit!
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Mar 2016

    Location: Barnet, london UK

    Posts: 869
    I'm Adam.

    Default

    Very well written SPU posts Tom.
    "lack of passion is fatal"
    Gerrard 401, classic hifi hammertone, Russ Collinson plinth / Tenuto Gun Metal Turntable Mat / SME 3012 J7 Rewired / audio-technica ATP-12T - phonomac modified / Ortofon Vintage SPU GE /Shure M3D /DV XX2Mk2 / The Cartridge Man Music Master with isolator / Miyajima Zero B 0.7mil Mono / Vintage GE VRII Mono / WAD 300b Power modded, TJ Mesh Plate Valves / David Coe AD Audio 'Satchmo' Pre & Phono / Hashimoto HM-7 SUT / Tannoy 12" MGs in RFC Custom Rutland Cabinets with RFC Custom Crossovers / Speaker Cables: Duelund DCA16GA Tinned Copper / SW1X Audio Design USB-SPdif / SW1X Audio Design DAC 1 Signature / Interconnects: Duelund DCA20GA home brew /SW1X Audio SPDIF AERO 6 / Synology NAS Drive / Roon / Tidal HiFi / Mains Power Conditioner

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