Currently manufactured pickups - Mel to Ortofon

Mel Audio
Makes the El high end low output MC cart with a very impressive audio specification, as far as I know the only cart that has been made in Italy in the recent years.

Makes 2 high end MM pickups the 1018E that comes with an elliptical stylus and the 1818S that comes with a spherical one, no company presence on the web but their German distributor has more info here.

This company is actually a one man, Mr. Haruo Takeda an elderly Japanese gentelman that has been making cartridges for decades. Apart from the model he makes with 47 Laboratory he makes just one model, the high end Alnico Moving Coil cart named after the material used for the magnets, in contrast with older carts from the company that sounded particularly sweet but were not great trackers the current model tracks like it's getting paid for it, this is attributed to the use of a Ogura line contact stylus instead of the elliptical that were used in the older types, the Alnico also has a lighter housing made out of aluminium. This cartridge has been getting rave reviews in the Japanese and American press, but seems not to have made it to Europe. No hompage available for the company, but their US distributor TMH has further info on this page.

Nottingham Analogue
I cannot find any mention of their pickups on any of their distributors pages, but dealers in Scandinavia are advertising them as available new so I have to assume that the company is making the Analogue Tracer MM and the Hyper Tracer still, furthermore the K series of MM pickups that used to be sold by ARCAM etc.. also appear to be sold by the company, these include the budget K1 (also available in a version with an 78' stylus as the K78), the mid priced K2 and K3, and finally the classic P77 that is much beloved by the English hi-fi press is still being sold by them.

This Japanese company is mainly a supplier of replacement stylii but also has a line of budget and midrange MM pickups some of which have a good price performance ratio. Their homepage does not have a lot of info on their pickups in English but this Australian dealer has. Models include the C51M MkII a fairly budget model with spherical stylus, you can also get that model with a stylus for playing 78's as the C51M MkII-78 and with an elliptical stylus as the C51M MkII-E, you can also upgrage a basic C51 to either of these variants later by buying a stylus for the E or the 78, and finally there is also a P-mount variant available ot this cart, the C501M MkII. The classic MP line is also still being made but in this case MP simply stands for Moving Permalloy, these are a step up in price from the C series but still mostly considered low to mid end carts, the retail price for an MP-11 in the UK for instance was around 30 £ in 2007, the basic design of the MP line dates from the 1970's and as far as FR responce and other technical details go they are a bit outdated, they however have many fans due to a lively and musical sound somtimes described as a MM version of the Denon DL-103 for a lack of a better one. The cheapest MP pickup is the MP-10 MP-11MP-20MP-30MP-50.

The largest and the most progressive cartridge manufacturer going today. Stands heads and shoulders above other makers in the manufacture of budget and midrange units both MM and MC, but in actuality manufactures anything from 15 € replacement pickups to top of the line moving coil cartridges that will cost you more than a used BMW. Manufactures in total more than 100 models if we count the variations, and they invented the Moving Coil pickup too boot, but you should be aware that with such a broad range only a subset of each is carried by each distributor or a stockist and furthermore some didtributors are not willing to make special orders of the more unusual items, I have solved this either by ordering from one of the German phonogrphic specialists such as Phonophono (the German distributor carries a wider range than most) or from one of the Danish hi-fi shops, they usually only carry a small subset of the range but are quite willing to do special orders directly from Ortofon themselves. Vinyl fans should also note that the company has a cost effective range of accessories such as protractors and test records etc. that they have omitted from their homepage and furthermore a number of their models are missing from the same page, additionally some of the kits (ie. pickups packed with different types of stylii etc.) are only available in some countries and in some cases the kit may be a local packaging concept and thus only avalable in that country.

The company's OM range of low cost MM cartridges has a reputation similar to those of Sennheiser Headphones in that there is simply not a bad cartridge in the line-up, while there are cartridges from other makers that often are as good or better in any sense, you simply cannot go wrong with a OM cart at any given price point. The range starts with the budget OM 3E which is a very cheap pickup only really sold in the most cost concious of countries such as the UK but has a elliptical stylus probably the cheapest model on the market with such, but even if you are looking for a budget model we would recommend the OM 5E it's only slightly more expensive and available in a P-mount version as the OMP 5E, the replacement stylus for this unit is somewhat cheaper than the one for the OM 10 series so those of you with a flock of kids may want to have something like this in preference to a more expencive option (although you can also use the 5E stylus with the rest of the OM series), note that there are also OEM variants of this design namely the OMB 5E and the P-mount OMT 5E (see below for diff. between OEM and full price variants). Next up is the OMB 10 which is an OEM variant of the OM 10 Super, this is a really good budget pickup, the difference between the 2 lies not in design but in manufacturing tolerances so that the Super version has the same mechanical specifications as the OMB version but the former has better electrical specs but basically the same sound, the OMB also is shipped in a plain box without without any accessories etc. You can also get the OM 10 Super packaged with both a LP and a 78 rpm stylus as the OM 10/78 Super, with just a 78 rmp stylus as OM 78 Super, with a stylus for the playback of mono LP's as OM D25M and in a P-mount/T4P version as the OMP 10 Super and an OEM version of that model called OMT 10. Next up in the line is the OM 20 Super that is about twice the price of the 10 and has a naked elliptical stylus (available in a P-mount as TM 20U) and the OM 30 Super (P-mount as OMP 30) which is about twice that again, these are mid range carts that compete with lower priced MC's, noticeable improvements over the budget MM's lie in their bass response and better tracking due to the improved stylus profiles.

The other MM line from the company is the 500 series that starts with the 510 MkII that's slightly more expensive than the OM10 but sounds quite similar, the more upmarket 520 MkII and 530 MkII are similarly priced as the OM20 and 30 and I am not sure about the diffrences, the 540 MkII however is the top of the line MM from the company as far as I can tell.

Much of the same can be said about the company's range of DJ pickups as can be said about the OM, they are built upon similar technology after all, NB the Concorde models feature an integral headshell with an SME type connector. The basic model from the company is the silver coloured OM PRO also available in black as the OM PRO S, or the slightly more expensive Concorde PRO version that features an integral headshell, that model has become pretty much the standard in disco's and you can get it in black as the Concorde PRO S and with a stylus cut for use with 78rpm records as the PRO/78. For scratch fans you can get the new(ish) Concorde Scratch especially built for that purpose, a headshell less version of that cart called OM PRO Scratch or the Concorde DJ S that has a spherical stylus that allows you to move the record both forwards and backwards, that cart is also available as the Concorde DJ E that has a better sounding elliptical stylus but will not work with scratching and headshell less versions are the OM DJ S and OM DJ E. Ditto for the Nightclub model, it has an improved bass response vesus the DJ model and is available as the Concorde Nightclub S or OM Nightclub S with a spherical stylus and as Concorde Nightclub E or OM Nightclub E with an elliptical. The top of the range model is the Concorde Broadcast E, it has an elliptical stylus and is aimed more at broadcast and music studios than nightclubs, the headshell less version is the OM Broadcast E of course, notable with those models is a good channel separation with difficult frequency ranges. There is also floating around a version of the Concorde called Gold Limited edition but I have not been able to track down any real info on them. All of the Ortofon DJ line with the exception of the Broadcast models can be had in kits with extra stylii and some of them in double packs

The moving coil range from the company starts with the MC1 Turbo a fine budget high output MC that is noticeably also available in a P-mount/T4P version called X1 MCP and that is as far as I know the only MC made in that format. The other high output MC's from the company is MC3 Turbo and costs slightly less than 2x the MC1. The low output range starts with the MC Nr.2 a pickup that is a tremendous bang for the buck, great bass for this type of pickup/price point (but limited availability, Germany only ?), the classic line-up of Ortofon MC's includes the MC 10 Super also available in the MC 10 Super MkII and MC 10 Surpreme variants, Hi-Fi Choice has reviewed theMC 10 Surpreme BTW., the MC 15 Super MkII, the MC 20 Super MkII and the MC 20 Surpreme, the MC 25E that features an elliptical stylus but you can also get that pickup with a Fine Line line contact stylus as the MC 25 FL for about 20% more, the MC 30 Super MkII and the MC 30 Surpreme. As we go nearer the company's top of the range MC's things start to get interesting, the MC Rohmann was introduced in 97 or so in memory of the managing director of the company and named after him, while the audio specifications are very similar to the MC 30 Surpreme it has the OrtoLine stylus that is otherwise reserved for the top models, the model got rave reviews when it was introduced and you can read a review of the MC Rothman by the English Hi-Fi Choice rag, the MC 2000 MkII features a nude Geyger 80 stylus and has a body made out of ceramic to minimise resonance, the MC 3000 MkII shares the same body but has an Ortofon Replican 100 stylus and an improved audio specification, the MC 5000 shares the casing and stylus of the 3000 but has an improved specification including the very impressive 5Hz to 80KHz at -3db, the top of the line MC 7500 however has a casing milled out of a solid block of pure titanium and features the Ortoline stylus

Ortofon introduced the Jubilee a few years back to celebrate it anniversary, unlike most of their MC product range that are refinements of classic pickups the Jubilee was a new design with higher outputs than the MC line and came in a sexy new case made out of aluminium and stainless steel and features a nude Shibata type stylus, it quickly gained a reputation for being something of a bargain amongst high end MC pickups and is in many markets the most expensive Ortofon pickup sold. The company introduced 2 cheaper variants based on the technology (and the casing) behind of the Jubilee in 2000, the kontrapunkt a and the kontrapunkt b were recieved with much critical acclaim and the b version won the 2002 Hi-Fi news award as the best analogue product. Note that neither of those has as good a specification as the Jubilee but sport a slightly higher output and that despite reports in quite a few rags are not the same pickup with different sylii, while the "a" variant has a Fine Line stylus and the "b" has a Gyger 80 and a Ruby cantilever there is also a difference in the audio specification and output that can only mean internal differences as well. Note also that while the b version is close to the price of the Rohmann the a version is actually cheaper than the MC30 so they are aimed at slightly different market sectors.

The SPU and Mono line of MC pickups from the company has is roots in the cutterheads that the that the company manufactured in the 1940's and most models in the range have been manufactured continuously since the 60's, the line has an enormous cult following especially in Germany and Japan but note that some Ortofon distributors such as Henley Designs in the UK do not import the SPU range (booo). The cartridges are with the sole exception of the standard mount SPU Royal N integrated into a headshell with a Ortofon style connector (more commonly known as a SME connector) and it should be noted that these carts will only shine in a heavy arm such as the SME 3009, furthermore there are 2 types of headshells, the A type that is a square unit similar in size to the old mono units from the company and broadly the same as that of normal headshell, and a G type that has is slightly longer more angular body (this is the classic SPU shape) and while most arms seem to be able to work with a G type there is no guarantee and those intending to use those should take a look at Ortofon Tonearms. These tonearms are on the dearer side of the spectrum so you might want to investigate the second hand market if you want to experiment with those pickups. The range is used a lot by European state run radio stations which explains some of those specialised variants. The basic cartridge is the Classic SPU-A, also available with an elliptical stylus as the Classic SPU-A/E and in 2 mono versions, the SPU Mono A/65 intended for the playback of shellacs and the SPU Mono A for the playback of mono LP's. The GM is the classic of the range it has been in continuos production since 1960 and was one of the first stereo MC's in production, the main model is currently called Classic SPU-GM and like the A model is available in versions like the SPU Mono GM/65 for the playback of 78's and SPU Mono GM for the playback of mono LP's. For mono fans there are available slightly cheaper SPU variants such as the Classic SPU Mono CG65Di and the Classic SPU Mono CA65Di for shellacks and the Classic SPU Mono CG25Di and the Classic SPU Mono CA25Di for mono LP playback. But the higher end models are equally sought after, the SPU Reference GM and the SPU Refernce A are models that were introduced in 1989 and have a modern line contact stylus (the Replicant 100) but are otherwise the same as the older models. The "Meister" series were I believe introduced in 1992 to celebrate that Mr. Robert Gudmandsen (Mr. SPU) had been with the company for 50 years and it features a Neodymium magnet and armature wound with 7Nines copper wire, the line-up includes the SPU Meister GM, SPU Meister A, SPU Meister Silber A and SPU Meister Silber GM, the use of a stronger magnet means that the Meister pickups will give an output of 0,35mV rahter than the rather low 0,20mV that the normal SPU will, the silver version has silver wire used in the armature windings. The top of the line SPU Royal GM and SPU Royal A are variants of the Meister introduced in 1999 that have an gold and silver alloy used inside them and feature a Replicant 100 line contact stylus, this is also the only SPU cart that is available in a standard mound as the Royal N.

There is also a line of MM's called OD10, OD20 and OD30 along with a line of mid range moving coil pickups from the company called Vigor, Vega, Virgo, Vero II, Virtus and Vero Selected that appears only to be sold in Germany and I have very little info on the except for the Vero model that is an updated version of a much loved classic, there is noticeably no info on those on the company's website.

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The site was last compiled on Sun Nov 10 2013 at 9:15:00am