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Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

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Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby undergroundhero » 04 Feb 2014 11:27

Hi, I have owned an Ortophon 2M Red cartridge for about 3 years, and the performance has been quite good. However, the one thing I cannot seem to get past on my Technics SL-1200 MK2 turntable is the audible IGD towards the end of each side of every record I would play. Fine tuning my TT has never been a problem, and always has been properly calibrated. For some reason, though, no matter how perfectly aligned my cartridge was, I just could not get rid of the some of my IGD problems.

Until......

I heard that the AT 440 MLA cartridge was excellent for eliminating the IGD issue, and so it was at that point I decided to upgrade to the AT 400 MLA cartridge. Now, the only problem is, as good as an AT 440 MLA microline stylus sounds, it not only is very revealing in terms of detail regarding the music, but it also seems to pick up surface noise from older records that weren't exactly treated to decent turntables & styluses from the past before my ownership.

This is the reason as to why I am considering wanting to downgrade my stylus to an AT 120. The reason is because I heard that the AT 120 can actually fit an AT 440 MLA cartridge body, and the nude elliptical stylus from the AT 120 might just be a little less revealing, but also more forgiving to certain vinyl imperfections.

So, if I am going to downgrade from a microline stylus to an AT 120 elliptical on an AT 440 cartridge, what should I be aware of before choosing to do so? Also, how is the distortion factor on an AT 120 nude elliptical stylus versus an Ortophon 2M Red stylus? Does the AT 120 seem to fair better with the IGD & sibilance issues that the Ortophon 2M Red?

The reason why I say this is because I haven't heard an AT 120 stylus before, let alone working on an AT 440 MLA cartridge to begin with, but there are many people who tend to complain about distortion & sibilance issues coming from the Ortophon 2M Red cartridges on other discussion forums.

Has anyone here ever had any experience swapping an AT 440 stylus for an AT 120 stylus on an AT 440 cartridge, and if so, what were your results? Finally, has anyone here ever attempted to do a side by side comparison of the AT 120 stylus to the Ortophon 2m Red stylus, regarding differences of IGD or sibilance issues?

I would definitely like to hear your views on this before I downgrade my microline stylus to an AT 120 nude elliptical on an AT 440 cartridge.

Thanks in advance..........
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby Drastic88one » 04 Feb 2014 12:35

IGD ?
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby undergroundhero » 04 Feb 2014 12:39

IGD stands for Inner Groove Distortion

Sorry, I should have been more clear.

Any help would be appreciative. Thanks.......
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby OneyedK » 04 Feb 2014 15:05

Something tells me you're not really satisfied with the AT-440MLa.
I had no problem with it, not even with older records.
What preamp are you using?
If it has an MC input, you might want to try a DL-103 or DL-103R.
(you also need a heavier headshell and DIY a bit to make your counterweight heavier)
Cannot comment about the AT-120, but I'm pretty sure that downgrading is not very rewarding.
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby undergroundhero » 04 Feb 2014 15:13

Well, put it this way, as I said before, I don't mind the AT 440, but the microline stylus is basically ultra sensitive, and you cannot play certain records because the surface noise is more revealing than on others. It is for this reason as to why I thought the AT 120 nude elliptical stylus might be a good alternative, due to the fact that it is a little more forgiving of older records that seem to possess more wear below the groove surface. What I want to know is, if I were to use an AT 120 stylus on a AT 440 MLA cart, how would it sound? Does the AT 120 stylus seem to have any issues with inner groove distortion? The reason why I ask is because I do still have my Ortophon 2M Red cartridge, and it does possess some distortion & sibilance based issues.

Finally, I am not using a pre-amp, as I don't feel I need one for my phono input, unless of course I am wrong in thinking this?

Does this help a little better in explaining my cause?
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby OneyedK » 04 Feb 2014 15:31

undergroundhero wrote:I am not using a pre-amp, as I don't feel I need one for my phono input, unless of course I am wrong in thinking this?

So your preamp is inside your integrated amp.
The reason why I ask this is that some preamps don't do a very good job in keeping the higher frequencies transparent. So surface noise etcetera mixes with high frequency music info.
Most music info is in the low and mid frequencies, but it can be clouded (literally) with high frequency rubbish...
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby undergroundhero » 04 Feb 2014 15:36

Thanks OneyedK,

I actually have my bases covered quite well on that. And, my TT is also grounded properly on the receiver as well. Mainly, what this is about is cartridge upgrade/downgrade......
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby tennmike » 04 Feb 2014 16:45

I too am struggling with AT440MLa vs. Ortofon Bronze on my Technics 1800II. Lots of folks say the 440 is a great choice. So far I'm not hearing it. I think Ortofon cartridges possess a certain warmth that is not present in the AT, and I've had the 2M red, 2M Blue and Vivo Red. All possess a warmth which may be the Ortofon signature.

So all that said, you may want to try another Ortofon like the Blue which would be a move up from the red and still within the pricing of the AT440
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby pivot » 04 Feb 2014 17:33

The AT440MLa needs correct loading to sound balanced and not too bright.

You need to get the total capcitance of the input circuit as low as possible. Some Technics SL-1200 are known to have shipped with higher than desirable cable capacitance. See here and scroll down: http://www.kabusa.com/frameset.htm?/m1200.htm

Also, once capacitance is correct, the 440MLa sounds best at 32 k ohm resistive loading. Do a search here on "AT 440 MLa loading". Not rocket science to add 100 k resistors in pararel to the phono inputs.

Are you sure you have vta set correctly? Mine runs ever so slightly "tail down".

Frankly I find the AT 440MLa very forgiving of older, worn records and virtually elimiated IGD. Quite the opposite of the negatives reported here.
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby Hepokatti » 04 Feb 2014 18:28

I have at 120 right now and have had at 440 in the same turntable (Linn Axis). I've got at 120 now on a different table, but I have to say it is pretty balanced and good sounding cartridge. I prefer it to 440mla a lot, but I haven't heard the 440 with the "correct" loading.

Loading might be something you could experiment with first, but if you don't find it satisfying, then you can go for the at 120. It's a very good needle imo. There are other styli for the same body, but I'm not that familiar with them, even though I also had at 130 (excellent btw!). Try to find some posts by "Lini" about the subject.

EDIT: Oh yeah, at 120 does suffer some minor congestion in the inner grooves (compared with the 440), but its nothing major really. A tradeoff I will happily live with. Actually once broken in (really long with the at 120) i don't notice any distortion with properly cut LPs. That being said, the 440 is still better in this regard.
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby lini » 04 Feb 2014 18:50

ugh: Which alignment approach are you using?

And yes, loading can indeed play a pretty big role. And unfortunately the AT120 family of carts (to which the current AT440MLa also still belongs, as it's practically a renewed granddaughter of the AT140LC) along with their T4P counterparts of the AT102P family belong to the cartridges that would ideally like to see a very low capacitive load of only around 150 pF, which in practice can be a challenge to achieve, because often enough the input capacity of the phono stage/section already is as high or even higher - and then the capacity of the whole cabling to the cartridge still adds up to that. Hence in many cases these carts will sound overly bright, if the load isn't adapted accordingly...

Greetings from Munich!

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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby tom6to1 » 04 Feb 2014 19:16

Another option you may want to consider is the Ortophon "Blue" stylus for your "Red" cartridge. AFAIK, "Red" and "Blue" cartridge bodies are the same (except for colour) with the difference being a conical stylus for Red and an elliptical stylus for Blue, and the stylii are interchangeable.

I have the "Blue" on an SL-1200 and am very happy with it. I am not noticing any IGD. I am considering buying the AT440MLa due to all the nice things said about it installed on the SL-1200 on these forums.
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby w_axlrose1 » 04 Feb 2014 20:30

Can't say I've noticed any surface noise issues with the 440. Presumably you have given the problematic records a good clean? You mentioned that they were old and one thing I did notice when I first installed my cart was that the microline stylus dug out all of the accumulated groove crud on the first couple of plays.

I would be interested to hear what the 440/120 hybrid sounds like, though if you ever go down this route.
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby BMRR » 04 Feb 2014 20:32

If he puts a 120 stylus on his 440 cart, would he still be dealing with the 440's "loading" issues?
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Re: Ortophon 2M Red vs. an AT 440 vs. an AT 120 upgrade?

Postby OneyedK » 04 Feb 2014 21:05

pivot wrote:Also, once capacitance is correct, the 440MLa sounds best at 32 k ohm resistive loading. Do a search here on "AT 440 MLa loading". Not rocket science to add 100 k resistors in parallel to the phono inputs.

I just plugged in my AT-440MLa once more...
220pF is as low as I can get (120pF-measured-total cable capacitance + 100pF -specced- of the phono amp).
47k loading to begin with...
Played one album side and I still like it this way. 220pF//47k
But what the heck, grabbed a few Y-splitters and a couple 100k plugs and gave the same album another spin.
Yep, I get it now, the whole 33k story, highs seem smoother, I don't notice roll off but the music gets more focus!
Must have had a bad case of upgrade-itis so that I missed it before...
Thanks!
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