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Ortofon VMS 20E Mk II

the thin end of the wedge

Ortofon VMS 20E Mk II

Postby Ste_S » 27 Oct 2005 21:49

Does anyone own this cartridge ? I obtained one on a second hand Planar 2 and the cartridge body seems to be running very close to the vinyl.

Image

Is this normal, or does it look as though it's on the way out ? I was going to replace it before I heard, but I'm a bit loathe to do so now as it plays fine and sounds lovely.
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Postby stefanl » 27 Oct 2005 22:00

I have just been aligning one! Yes it's a pretty good cartridge and I think by the look of yours you had better replace the stylus.The replacement is still available from Ortofon or you can try Mantra Audio for a non-Ortofon replacement at about half the price.I would go for the Ortofon replacement if you really like the cartridge.
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Postby Ste_S » 27 Oct 2005 22:23

Thanks. I've emailed Henley Designs for a quote on a replacement stylus.
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Postby Dick Schneiders » 28 Oct 2005 00:29

I recently bought a VMS 30 MKII cartridge/stylus that had never been out of the box. It, too, rode very low but not as low as the picture of your VMS 20. Mine is a lot lower than any other cartridge I have ever owned. I asked about this on the Vinyl Asylum forum, and several others that have used these VMS cartridges agreed that they all do sit very low and close to the record. The only difference between the VMS 30 and VMS 20 is the shape of the stylus.

A wonderful sounding cartridge that is better than the Shure V15V-MR I had been using.

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VMS

Postby bauzace50 » 28 Oct 2005 01:25

Never heard these models, but VMS stands for Variable Magnetic Shunt, meaning that they are "moving iron" design...like the Grados the Stanton 680 series, ADCs, some Garrots, etc. Oh, and in a totally different way of doing it, the Deccas.
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VMS versus V15V-MR

Postby bauzace50 » 28 Oct 2005 01:34

@Dick Schneiders,
Thankyou for sharing your observations comparing the VMS with the V15V-MR.
I own one of those Shures, the original model, as you write the model number. It has a brand new Shure stylus also.
Would you try to benefit an enthusiast by describing in what ways you perceive the Ortofon's superiority? That is, in a descriptive way, instead of a digested judgement?
Your descripion would benefit me, adding to my perceptions of the Super OMs I also own (20 & 30). Thankyou!
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Postby stefanl » 28 Oct 2005 02:41

First of all I must say my VMS 20E Mk11 is not low.It is not new either and it looks like a normal MM cartridge.I think cartridge suspensions can go bad and they will ride too low.I had another Ortofon cartridge and it did this also,an Ortofon X5-MC and it wasn't the only one of this type either.So that's 2 Ortofon's I've seen do this....mmm.It is a good idea to replace it though,my low X5-MC could also play as well,but the risk is too great.
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Postby stefanl » 28 Oct 2005 03:03

The cartridge for some reason seems to match the Rega arm(7Hz).I did a search on the Ortofon VMS 20 E Mk11 and a lot of people remember it fondly.It is believed to be better than the current MM's Ortofon produces.Yes it is actually a moving-iron type with the pole piece that comes directly back from the cantilever creating a voltage output by altering a stationary magnetic field i.e Variable Magnetic Shunt(VMS).Thus I believe it is less susceptible to spurious resonance than more traditional designs which rely directly on moving mass to create a voltage output.It seems to have an ease with creating a sound-stage that is 3 dimensional and detailed as opposed to the "clean" and more 2 dimensional,and rolled-off character of the OM series cartridges.I have thought it actually has an extended high-end as well as this seems to be actually typical of moving-iron cartridges generally-even though Ortofon don't report this.I was quite frankly blown away by this cartridge and it has responded to the TWL weight mod(Audiogon) which it is not supposed to do.
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Postby Dick Schneiders » 28 Oct 2005 03:34

Yes, I will try to give you a description of what I hear is the difference between my Ortofon VMS 30MKII and the Shure V15V-MR.

I have been using the V15V-MR for more than 15 years. This one I am currently using it not the same one I purchased originally, as that one lost a channel earlier this year. My V-MR also has a brand new stylus in it that I installed only two or three weeks ago. I have been very satisfied with it, obviously, since this has been my regular cartridge for so long.

I had heard a lot about the Super OM Ortofons, but had seen on several occasions mention that the older VMS cartridges were a better sounding cartridge. I don't know about that, as I have never listened to any of the OM's. Anyway, a few weeks ago a NOS VMS 30MKII was closing on eBay and the price seemed reasonable. I placed my usual last second bid and won it for $71. The VM# 30 uses a line-contact stylus similar to the micro-ridge of the Shure, and I like that stylus shape.

After only listening to a couple of songs, I thought that the VMS had a fuller sound than the V15-VMR. I really didn't think I was going to try to make any comparisons right away, as I figured that the VMS needed to be used a bit before it would open up. However, since it had a wonderful sound right away, to my ears, I started to listen more closely.

The VMS has a smoother, less boomy bass. The bass can be a problem for me as I use Mirage M5 speakers in a smallish room, and there is a tendency towards a larger than life bass sound. While the V15-MR is very easy to listen to, and not fatiguing in my system, the VMS seemed even more so - it has a very musical and open sound in comparison to the V15-MR. This is especially noticeable on small group acoustic jazz or classical music. This difference is not as obvious on rock or massive groups like symphonic music. I was surprised to also find that the VMS has better imaging than the V15-MR. Significantly so on recordings that have a wide soundstage from whatever microphone positions were used. For instance, RCA Living Stereo or Mercury Living Presence recordings play back with a wider and more precise imaging with the VMS. This I was not expecting, as I had never heard such a difference between cartridges in the past. Pinpoint imaging is another area where my system set-up is not strong. I think this is a result of the bipolar style Mirage M5 speakers and the fact that I am not able to place them as far from the rear and side walls as is recommended. I had never been too concerned with this, as I never used to think pin-point imaging was all that important to me. The Mirages do create a wide and tall soundstage, with no holes, and a full sound, that I like very much. However, when I realized that the VMS was imaging so much better than the V-15, I started pulling out some of my favorite Living Stereo and Living Presence records to test this with. One of my favorites of these is a Perez Prado lp titled "Prez". This Living Stereo record is fantastic for testing a system, with the complex percussion and big band sound with a lot of wailing trumpets. I heard things in this record I had never heard before - mostly in the accurate placement of instruments. As you can tell, I was surprised and pleased at this difference in imaging. I might simply have been rationalizing, in the past, about not caring about the lack of this from my system.

The turntable I was using is a Thorens TD125MKII with SME 3009 series 2 arm. Since this arm has a removeable headshell, and I have extra headshells, I was swapping the cartridges back and forth a few times and replaying some tracks, to be certain I was hearing these differences. I am fairly certain that both cartridges are aligned correctly, as I did spend a lot of time with this. The V15-MR certainly sounded as good as what I have been hearing from them for many years.

Sorry for the length of this, but I am not experienced in relating differences in the sound of equipment, so I wanted to be certain what I am hearing came across in the words.

Hopefully this will give you some idea of what I am hearing between these two cartridges.

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Postby Dick Schneiders » 28 Oct 2005 03:46

Stefani,

Thanks for mentioning the 3-D soundstage. This is what I am also hearing from my VMS30, and was not from the Shure V15-MR. At first I thought that I must have been hearing it wrong, but after trying several albums where the imaging is very detailed, I was convinced.

I might be heading towards using different cartridges for different types of music or records.

Certainly not something I would have considered a few weeks ago.

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Postby stefanl » 28 Oct 2005 04:27

That's the secret behind knowing that one turntable is not enough.I remember someone also referring to a "Koetsu" type quality these top line VMS's seem to posess.
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VMS 20 MkII

Postby BenC » 28 Oct 2005 04:53

Hi,

Am new to this forum. May I ask what tracking force you use for the VMS 20. Thanks in advance.

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Postby chipman » 28 Oct 2005 05:26

I had a VMS20 mounted on a Rotel RP850 that I bought from Comet (UK electrical store) when they used to deal with real Hifi (they even had the LS3/5a !!) back in my student days.

For that money at the time, the VMS20/30 were just about the best available at the time along with the Nagaoka MP11 family.

If I remember correctly, the stylus of the VMS20 was elliptical and the VMS30 was fine line.
I must dig out my old HIFI CHOICE magazine that I kept. This was a cartridge / tonearm edition with detailed technical tests giving all sorts of info such as compliance, tracking weights, loading etc and subjective review.
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Postby stefanl » 28 Oct 2005 05:36

VMS-20 E Mk II Type
Moving Iron Output (1Khz 50 mm/sec)
5 mv Freq Response
20Hz - 20kHz Output Impedance
800 ohms Load Impedance
47k ohms L/R Separation 1kHz
> 25db
L/R Balance 1kHz
< 2db Stylus Tip
Nude Elliptical Cantilever
25 Dynamic Compliance x 10-6cm/Dyne Static Compliance
30 x 10-6 cm/Dyne VTF 0.8-1.2gm
Mass 5gm
VMS stands for Variable Magnetic Shunt.
A ring magnet surrounds the iron armature at the end of the cantilever. The magnetic field does not go across the gap, but runs fore and aft, parallel to the axis of the structure, in a doughnut shape surrounding the magnet. The iron armature is therefore parallel to the lines of magnetic flux. As the armature moves closer to the inner surface of the magnet, a progressively greater proportion of magnetic flux lines are shunted, which changes the flux linking the coils and produces an output. The ring magnet is arranged on the ends of a U-type structure, which carries also the coils on its legs.
There is more info in the Library here under Ortofon.
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Postby bastlnut » 28 Oct 2005 08:28

not to change the subject......dick, i have a question.

does this intise you to find better placement for your speakers now?

what you all are describing in character of the vms ortofon, is also what grado's excell in.

another question: do the ortofon vms carts also have a humm problem on certain decks?

i agree with Dick in what he says about the shure cartridge, they seem bloated to me too. the sound seeming heavy and slow to me, with a tizzy high end. from memory, i had a ortofon vms 30, and i loved the sound staging and musicality of it. it just seemed to empfisize the frequency range like a loundness button. hense my moving on to grado's that is more even, and adds a good dollop of warmth on top. the detail retrieval of the grado is i think superior to the ortofon, and the ortofon over the shure as well.

with a bit of tweaking (there is that nasty word again) all the above mentioned cartridges can sound very good, and pretty equal as far as sound quality is concerned. there are still the house sound that will always be heard.
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