Search this Blog


Monday, January 4, 2010

Ortofon SPU A: better choosing a brand-new or a vintage one?

I always loved those dinosaurs: the old, bakelite bodied, Ortofon's SPU A... I owned a couple of SPU Type G, a Shindo long body and a GM, both using conical diamond and a SL15 with JS built-in transformers (great cartridge...), BUT the SPU A only has "the magic", to my ears.

Look at the very informative, well-done mr. Bruil's drawings (thanks a lot, Rudolf: your site is a true goldmine...) they're built in a completely different way!

The extra long coil, the HUGE magnets, the extra short cantilever, leaf-like shaped to avoid resonances, the nude conical diamond... also the weight isn't a fake -i.e. some lead plate to add mass... it's sheer power, with its little "rare earths" - like they called Alnico and the like in the hey days - i.e. little bullions as mighty, impressive magnets.

The sound of an original "green label", genuinely Made in Denmark, SPU A is nothing short of awesome... it's dynamic like my Lumiere DST, airy like ALLNIC's Verito and dramatic like a Decca London...

It's a very special cartridge which needs a 13 inches arm, like Ortofon RF-297 "à la Shindo", or a Thomas Schick's Type A "long version" or an Ortofon RMA 309 (any vintage) and it will mandatorily need an iron hand in velvet glove - i.e. a VTF of 3,5 grams to properly track grooves.

The sound is its hidden treasure, under the humble, unassuming, yet classy vintage looking bakelite cubic body.

The most recent "SPU's" are a different breed... nicely, sometimes superb sounding cartidges, it's my opinion they simply lack that "see-through notes/I'm here at the performance" only the very best carts own.

When you listen to them, you understand... no way to be fooled.


Devon said...

Hi Stefano,

You have agreat blog and I check it often.

I'm an avid Ortofon user, and I just wanted to clarify that most of the photos in your post here are not actually SPUs, but the earlier mono A or C carts. SPU stands for Stereo Pick Up, and while there are modified SPUs intended for mono use, these are the true mono units. They can be identified by the silver bottom plate covering the cartridge (or under the cover a clear plastic body covering a huge magnet), and usually cave an A or C stamped in the front, like the C version pictured here. They're actually a totally different cart. While these mono carts have the "leaf" shaped cantilever, the SPU actually does not.

You may be totally aware of this minute detail, but I just thought I'd point it out.

I've managed to collect quite a few of these carts: the true mono C, and a few different vintages of A and G SPUs. While a lot of purists will tell you the the vintage carts are the only way to go, I can vouch for the current production as a quality cart as well. If you'd like to continue the conversation I'd be glad to partake, as I'm always trying to learn more about how to identify different vintages, their qualities and values.

Hope this helps your research,

Romy the Cat said...

It is hard to talk about the old Ortofon vs. the new Ortofon as there is no stable definition of the new Ortofon. The quality control of the new Ortofon production is horrible and you can get a brand new Ortofon cartridge that would perform from a “phenomenally” to “garbage”. Recently I have bought two pairs of Ortofon Jubilee and Classic Mono. Each Jubilee and each Mono sound VERY different very said and very difficult to predict anything….

twogoodears said...

Hi Devon and thanks for yr. interesting & informed point of view... I'll soon post some extracts from a Stereo Sound magazine I recently bought in Japan (September issue) and devoted to these sought-after carts...

Will also scan some superb pixes.

Let's keep in touch and and thanks again for yr. interest.

twogoodears said...

Hi Roman...

yes, cartridges consistency seems to be a BIG PITA...

More than some recent Ortofon's, I'm DEEPLY into the weirdness of some obscure artisans... my beloved Lumiere DST, the Neumann DST-62 replicas, are - indeed - ALL different sounding!!!

A nightmare...

I absolutely understand some who gave a listen to these and hated it...

The bad samplers are screaming and could not be tamed...

... but, otherwise, I also hate giving up when I find a problem... much more prefere solving it and enjoying.

Sometimes it happens... cables, VTA7VTF, arms, MC-irons and the like.

It's something I (almost) look for... the satisfaction - if/when winning is HUGE!