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MC Diamond - New reference cartridge from Ortofon

Dkr. 68.000,-  Ortofon MC Diamond -  https://www.ortofon.com/mc-diamond-p-1000
Dkr. 7.500,- Ortofon Reference Black RCA cable - https://www.ortofon.com/reference-black-p-722 

Latest update  7 June 2023


MC Diamond in Triplanar

It was with great excitement that I received Ortofon's newest top cartridge the MC Diamond. But before we get to that, a little history.

I have followed Ortofon for many years and can look back at some of the MC pickups I have become acquainted with. In my collection there is of course an SPU (Gold) bought after my visit to Ortofon back in the 90s, where I also met Robert Gudmandsen often called Mr. SPU. Since then there were all the new MC types, such as the MC20, MC30 and their successors. Since the MC 3000, 5000 and 7500 and not forgetting the Anniversay 70. All super good pickups. Only recently sold my MC 5000, which otherwise played excellently. Then there was Rohman and MC Windfeld, who I reviewed for HIGH Fidelity "clear as a summer day after rain", was my description. In the slightly more affordable price range there was the Rondo Bronze, which served me well for a few years. Several of the newer ones like MC95, Anna and Verismo, I have only heard at demos or at exhibitions.

Transformer or active MC?

Ortofon's own SUT ST 80 SE has a gain of 27 dB. This corresponds to a turnover of 1:22.5. Resulting load seen from the cartridge with 47 kohm on the subsequent phonoamp  is approx. 93 ohm. This corresponds very well to the recommended 100 ohms for the MC Diamond. Elsewhere I have seen more than 10 ohms. It sounds more like the old Ortofon pickups.

I initially chose to use my Tona T 20/40. Here the choice is either 26 dB or 32 dB gain. Similarly, the pickup will look into 116 or 29 ohms. I chose the 32 dB gain. Also tried setting my RIAA to 100 kohm. This gives a more suitable load of about 63 ohms. With 6 ohm generator impedance it fits nicely with the rule of thumb that says 10 times the generator impedance. In the end, of course, we had to listen to whether it was appropriate. In this coupling there are approx. 8 mV out to phono amplifier, which is more than enough.

Ortifon Reference Black .

Ortofon has more than pickups in the program. Their series of Reference cables are manufactured in Japan. They have everything from speaker cables to tonearm cables and the small cables that sit in your headshell. Here, however, it is their series of RCA signal cables that I focus on. Reference Red, Blue, Bronze and Black cover a large area, both in terms of quality and price. Here I have tried Refence Black, which is the best.

Initially it came between my pre-amplifier and a smaller power amplifier, the cable is relatively stiff and just needs to be bent into place. The connectors can be tightened after assembly. It is directional with arrows at both the receiving and sending end. The cables are also available fully balanced with XLR connectors.


Reference Black internally uses a combination of PCIHD (Pure Coppern Ultra High Durability) and gold-plated 3N copper. The cable contains conductors of different diameters and has a double screen. 
A very nice cable that it is almost a shame to hide behind the system.

A very transparent and airy rendering is delivered. There is real "hole" through in the upper octaves. Nothing is wrapped or stored. You sense a bit of the sound philosophy of the Ortofon pickups. Lots of detail and a certain correctness. A tight and very sober rendering. The cable makes certain demands on the connected equipment. Overall, a cable where you get a lot for your money. Can easily be compared with cables in much higher price ranges.

I ended up using Refence Black between my Ikeda IST201 stepup and the subsequent RIAA. It certainly fit very well in this constellation.
Ortofo black cable





Diamond is music's best friend!

The first time I encountered a diamond cantilever was the small Karat cartridges from Dynavector. That was back in the 80ies, but they still exist. A few others have made diamond cantilevers, e.g. Japanese Final and more recently Audio Technica, Ikeda, Koetsu and DS Audio. Ortofon has used diamond in several of their new cartridges, such as Verismo, Anna Diamond and now MC Diamond.

MMMMMC Diamond shellYou usually see cantilevers made of aluminum or, in the better pickups, boron (boron). In other words, hard materials that can guide the record's groove fluctuation from the needle up through the needle tab, without the latter flexing and thus coloring the sound. The best material for this purpose is diamond. The problem, however, is often attaching even the stylustip to the diamond rod. A few manufacturers have managed to make stylus  and cantilever in one piece of diamond. At Ortofon, it is done by drilling a small hole with a laser and precision gluing the diamond stylus itself into the cantilever. Not all manufacturers are capable of this piece of art.. 

NC Diamant side closeThe moving system is suspended in what Ortofon calls a "Wide Range Damping System" (WRD) with small heavy platinum discs in a sandwich construction between two rubber absorbers, each with their own characteristics. This contributes to optimal tracking and also provides optimal internal damping. The new rubber damper is based on Multi Wall Carbon Nano Tubes (MWCNT), which provide just the desired properties for compliance and damping.
 

The magnet system contains selected materials optimized for the pickup. They do not disclose which magnetic material they use. However, it should provide optimal conditions for the coil system, which is wound on a non-magnetic core. This can also be seen from the relatively low internal impedance of 6 ohms and a low output of only 0.2 mV. However, still pretty much higher than some of the old cartridges from Ortofon.

MC Dia replikant naalThe stylus itself is, of course, with Ortofon's Replicant 100 sharpening. A stylus type with a very "tall" but narrow contact surface. I have come across it before in the Winfeld pickup. My experience says that it is a very quiet type that scans the groove without undue focus on any noise or dirt. Ortofon can then also allow themselves to recommend a slightly higher tracking force compared to what you see otherwise. 2.6 grams seems high, but the force is distributed over a larger contact surface, so it's perfectly fine. 

The supplied needle guard is easy to access. It simply clicks into place and works well.


Specifications

Output level at 1 kHz, 5cm/sec. ľ 0.2 mV (immediately it seems a little lower)
Channel balance at 1 kHz ľ 0.5 dB
Channel separation at 1 kHz - 25 dB I measured 32 dB, see below)
Channel separation at 15 kHz - 20 dB
Frequency range - 20 Hz-20 kHz +/- 2 dB
Tracking ability - at 315 Hz and 2.6 grams tracking force - 80 Ám
Compliance, dynamic, lateral - 11 Ám/mN
Needle type - polished naked Ortofon Replicant 100 on diamond cantilever.
Contact surface of the stylustip - r/R 5/100 Ám
Tracking force - 2.5-2.8 g (25-28 mN)
Recommended tracking force - 2.6 g (26 mN)
Tracking angle - 23░
Internal resistance - 6 ohm
Recommended load > 10 ohm
Coil material - Ultra pure oxygen-free copper
The body is made of SLM titanium
Color - silver/black 
Weight - 17.5 g

The introductory exercises

The MC Diamond was initially mounted in an Ortofon Reference headshell. Already from the first few notes, it is clear that the MC Diamond is an excellent pickup. . It is also a pickup with temperament and energy. In other words "it must be tamed". There was some experimentation with load and which arm it should run in. The first test was in my Dynavector DV 507 and directly in the MC input of my RIAA. Low output, but it was managed by turning up a little more than MCDIA USB billedeusual. With 50 ohm load the result was reasonable. Then onto my Glanz MH 124's arm. Here I used an Ikeda IST 201SUT. Definitely far more body and dynamics. A much more impressive and firm  reproduction. Seems like MC Diamond is best loaded via a transformer. Next was then, as described above, via my Tona T20/40 SUT. Still in the Glanz arm. In the position 1:20 there was naturally the same output as via the Ikeda transformer, but somewhat more sober and in a way also more naked. Then switched to 1:40 turnover and there was clearly more power and coherence, Still a slightly different sound than via the Ikeda transformer, which has the ability to smooth things out a bit and make things tastier and easier to digest. In the end, I preferred the sound via the IST 201, so the following listening impressions are in that constellation.

 Correct tracking force is always important. Even more so here, where the relatively highforce can appear to be violent. But Ortofon's Replicant stylustype has a larger contact surface, so it is important. Tried with a tracking force around the 2.5 grams. Ortofon state from 2.5 to 2.8 grams. However, they recommends 2.6 grams, which I definitely preferred. Was recommended by an MC Diamond user online to try 2.7 grams, but it did not work optimally in my setup, the sound fell into place tonally better with 2.6 grams. In other words: "do as Ortofn recommends".

Yes, there are differences in high-end cartridges in the same way that we experience differences in speakers. With the MC Diamond, you won't find a sound like hot chocolate and a laid back easy forgiving sound, that makes everything sound pleasant. No - MC Diamond is more raw and unsweetened. You hear what's in the grooves. Lots of details - sometimes even some you don't want. Here it is important that the good things on a good recording are emphasized and you are almost blown away. "Is there really that much information in my old records?". On the other hand, not everything becomes pleasant when less good recordings are blown up in format and all the unodes are exposed. The overall result is of course highly dependent on the connected equipment. Especially the RIAA and SUT are important. 

Everything described above is with MC Diamond in the heavy Glanz MH124s arm. I then moved the cartridge to my Triplanr MIK IVi. It has a VdH cable that runs to the Tona MC20/40 transformer. In other words, another constellation. Yes, there is a difference. Tonally, it all becomes a bit more laid back. Not quite as tight at the bottom, but still with details and firmness. Upwards, a little more calm came over the top. Probably mainly due to cable and transformer. There is not quite the 100% naked and very revealing rendering. You can say that there was some necessary warmth and fullness in thos combination. Not a huge difference, but still audible. In some areas I preferred the sound via the Triplanar combination, but I also missed a bit of the crispness and solidity that was via the Glanz arm. In any case, MC Diamond was now firmly seated in the Triplanar arm. Especially because after a few hours of adjustment there were small ,oracŠes in the resulting sound! .

MC dia justering af overhang MC Dia - Adjust plust data

My friend Asger spent almost three hours optimizing the setup in the Triplanar arm. Overhang and Azimuth were adjusted. The latter via the Feickert Pro PC spftware. It was a longer process. The adjustments are like a pendulum. You swing back and forth above the optimum and the adjustments are very small.. Even here where Triplanar has small pinole screws intended for this, it requires a lot of patience. Asger managed to get the phase difference between the two channels down to approx. 6 degrees. At the same time, the channel separation was measured at 32 dB. Actually better than what Ortofon states! We could not measure distortion and other parameters, but in terms of sound there was no doubt. Much bigger and wider soundstage. Depth and detail were definitely improved as well. For the rest of the review the MC Diamond remained in the Triplanar arm where it benefited from the far more optimal adjustment. 

Music

Simon gracelandIt would be obvious to play Neil Diamond, but I don't have any of his records- I do have a thing for Paul Simon though. So forward with "Graceland" and the stylus  down in the track "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes". It must be just right for an MC Diamond? Yes, absolutely! I have heard this record many times. But it does not bear the mark of that. Especially not with Ortofon's Replicant sylus in the groove. Definitely one of the quietest I've experienced. The cartridge delivers an open, large listening window with lots of attack and dynamics. There are almost small explosions when the piano touch or the rimshot of the drums comes out of the speaker. At the same time, the sound is clearly a lot slimmer and more present than I'm used to. It's all smooth and straight, with a quieter background. It is thus quickly revealed that MC Diamond adds nothing.

DiMeola mfl liveAt the HIGHEND  in Munich, a lot was played from the new record with "DeMeola, Mclaughlin and DeLucia" Friday night in SanFransisco. A very magnificent recording with a large space and a clear insight into the musical performance. It sounds like a magnifying glass on the details and definitely a fantastic dynamic and an almost physical presence. There is just a special crispness and an attack on the guitar strings, so you can only be impressed. On this record, it is above all the upper octaves and the dynamics that stand out distinctly and with precision. A rendition that is absolutely addictive. 

MC DIA Lana del Ray

A more recent record is the latest release from Lana del Ray "..Did you know that there's a Tunnel under Oceal Boulevard". Typically nicely produced, but in my opinion not musically as good as her previous records. The fact that the record  is also mint green does not exactly make it better. However,they have chosen to put the music on two records, so there is something good here. If nothing else, disc two is far better. Here you will also find a few tracks with a violent bottom. But otherwise it is the vocalist and the great soundscape that characterize this record. Something that will show you whether your speakers and the cartridge are able to distinguish details and present the music freely in your room. If done correctly, there is good depth in the sound image. Yes, there is not much to complain about. MC Diamond is able to separate the many layers in the music. It is not exactly correct acoustics, rather added effects. However, it can also sound nice and it definitely does here. 

Nojima plays Lixst

When it has to be piano, where both music, recording and the artistic performance come together in a higher unity, this is the record I choose. A Reference Recording recording, where music, dynamics and atmosphere are top notch. Nojima manages to get the grand piano to vibrate and sing. The attacks come like small cannonballs and his speed and balance are impressive to say the least. Here, Ortofon Diamond is settled on home turf. Attack and decay are razor sharp. Lots of air, control and dynamic details. It's a total experience where it's difficult to take the record off again. Absolutely approved.


Bizet Carmen RCA

Just like the previous LP, this one is also 100% analogue. An excellent recording of "Bizet Schredin / The Carmen Ballet", EMI 1969.
The old KS 
M°ller of HIGHfidelity (if anyone remembers him) called it "the best record in the world". In other words, music and recording becomes one. Most people know the music. Here in a great dynamic total experience where you involuntarily think "How can there be so much music in a small groove?". Yes, it can. Especially here with Ortofon MC Diamond, where there is an extended sound stage with impressive depth.

The dynamics - both micro and macro - are such that you just surrender and the little hairs on your arms stand up. The parts at the toprange are razor sharp. Several of my other good cartridges also do excellent. MC Diamond just has this extra layer of air and clarity to it. Some will probably think that it exaggerates a bit. Leave it to them. I think it gives extra life, crispness and detail that I haven't heard before from this record. In other words - a good recording and a good cartridge in wonderful collaboration. 


Wis you were remasteredAfter a short month, I have fallen for the special Ortofon sound. It is crisp, lively, absolutely revealing and on point. In a way, however, it must be under control, tamed a little. It is not a cartrodge that just plays out of the box. It is very different from my other top cartriges or other cartridges I have reviewed. Several of them in the same pricerange, but with a somewhat different sound philosophy.

Ortofon MC Diamond is like the cat on the road - all its own. The music in the background is now the new remastered version of Wish you were here from PinkFloyd. The old recording from 1975 has been given a lift, with a little more top and bottom compared to the old version, which I also have in the collection. But that's totally OK. The music is somewhat more distinct and with a good fullness and power. This reminds med of the system from the late 70ies. Memories of the time when I played with Pickering 1200 and Stanton 681EEE cartrodges. Didn't have the imagination back then to anticipate how a cartrodge like the MC Diamond could ever exist. Now I sit and enjoy the same music, but with a completely different sound and hifi experience. All at once nostalgia and a new dimension with an insight into the music that you can only love.

A kind of conclusion....

Here at the end of the review i listen to Pink Floyd playing in the background. Softly I can sing along to "Shine on you crazy Diamond". Oh yes! Ortofon MC Diamond is all its own and it does it fantastically well.


Now MC Diamond goes on to my friend Asger, who has to try it with completely different equipment. A follow-up review will follow shortly.

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