OxBox, April 2009 - Xperience with Rondo Blue

      Date posted: April 1, 2009

Pro-Ject-2X-1I have been numbering my contributions to this site, the gathering of some of my observations on the passion of listening to music on good audio equipment. I had thought there might be more of them. Whatever the case, it certainly has been a while, and to keep things straight I am now going to “date” rather than “number”.

Part of the reason for the lapse is there hasn’t been much to write about until now except the music; and let me say I have heard some wonderful music as the year has progressed. My inspiration to share now can be spelled out in one word: v-i-n-y-l. I have a new turntable and cartridge. I had been listening, on a very occasional basis, to LPs on my Kenwood  direct drive with a Fidelity Research FR64 arm and an Ortofon Kontrapunkt b cartridge. The sound I was getting from it was far from perfect, and I felt it should be replaced. Holding me back were there are all those CDs to listen to. Plus, I have to go all the way to the basement to access the several hundred LPs I packed and brought with me when moving out to St. John’s from Toronto.

Thoroughly enjoying listening to CDs on the Aurum Acoustics system, I wasn’t convinced that making an effort to hear my vinyl properly was worth it. To cut a long story short, I finally took the plunge. I have a new Pro-Ject 2 Xperience turntable ($1199) with an Ortofon Rondo Blue ($699) cartridge. Was it worth it? You bet. I would not have tried the Blue were it not that I have had the Kontrapunkt for at least ten years, CD years much more than vinyl years. It still sounds very good and still reveals detail and subtleties that the Rondo Blue (at half the price) does not.
Rondo Blue
In fact, after another listen with the Kontrapunkt b, I think it is safe to say the difference is enough to make the extra cost well worth it. On its own, the Rondo Blue is an excellent performer. It is very well balanced from the bottom to the top of the harmonic scale, has lots of life (macro dynamics) and conveys a bass end that is forceful, clear and tuneful at the same time. A very impressive performance. It is very quiet in the groove, but lacks fine detail and airiness, and therefore presents a less refined listening experience, but still remains very engaging. Just an installation note: the Rondo Blue is quite particular about the proper down force. The recommended weight is 2.2 grams and that’s what works best. Going any heavier really degrades its performance.

About the 2 Xperience turntable: the Pro-Ject website will give you all the technical details (as will the Ortofon site for the cartridge). With its plexiglas base and carbon fibre arm, it looks quite handsome. “Handsome is an handsome does” goes the old saying, and, I found the sound made with the Rondo Blue/Pro-Ject combination very enjoyable; it will not disappoint. But, though the price goes up, I feel the Pro-Ject with the Ortofon Kontrapunkt b offers better sonic value for money.

Certainly the hardware for playing LPs has an amazingly broad price range. I think there is probably a price point that would have you getting to love (I know of no vinyl “likers”) your vinyl again. If you have held on to your LPs and you think an equipment update might bring them back to life, do it! You will not only be pleasantly surprised, but richly rewarded.

Next OxBox, a few words about the music.

PS. In the time between writing this review and the present, I have spent some extensive vinyl time listening only with the Rondo Blue in my playback system. There has been a very noticeable improvement in the performance of this particular Ortofon model. Forty or fifty hours of break-in enhances the strengths I mention and presents you with more detail and sense of space.

Bob Oxley

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