Ortofon Kontrapunkt b Moving Coil Cartridge

      Date posted: May 15, 2002

Ortofon Kontrapunkt b

Sugg. Retail: $1000 (CAN)
Distributor: All In One Electronics,
50 Wingold Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M6P 1B7 (416) 789-0668 FAX 789-0669

(Reprinted from the Spring 2002 Audio Ideas Guide)

The first series of cartridges named after a Bach theme, that of the Contrapunctus XIX where the composer’s name appears in the upper voice at one point, the Kontrapunkt a and b kartridges (If Linn can do it, so can I!) are based on the previous Jubilee series of more expensive models, and before that the MC-3000 to MC-7500 top models. Here the company has used a new “Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) process for the housing elements as well as for magnetic circuit parts.”

     ”The great advantage of this process is the fact that precise and tiny parts can be made in either stainless steel or highly conductive magnetic materials, by injecting a mixture of a polymer and fine metal powder into a mould. In many ways the process is similar to the way of injection moulding pure polymer parts. After sintering, the material will appear as solid metal, strong but lightweight because of thin dimensions.”

      “All parts in this Ortofon design are pressed together to form the most stable and solid unit. A new magnetic circuit was developed with all the oscillating parts mounted inside the very strong Neodymium magnet itself in order to concentrate magnetic strength around the armature and coils.”

     The Kontrapunkt b uses “a very thin ruby cantilever mounted with the super polished Nude FG 80 stylus. Coils are made from 6-9s pure silver wire and the output is as high as 470 microVolts at 5cm/sec by 1 kHz,” according to the supplied poop sheet, which also offers this curious final comment: “The cartridge seems to work well in small, soft rooms with loudspeakers having moderate tweeters.” Like a padded cell with inexpensive in-walls, maybe? I guess something got skewed in translation.

      One nice thing about the Kontrapunkt b for my purposes was its weight, like most Ortofon MC cartridges, exactly 10 grams, which meant I could could swap it in and out with the MC-3000 II without resetting tracking force. Both use very longline stylus shapes, which require slightly higher tracking force (2.75 grams), though this does not mean higher wear because of the extended vertical contact area, which minimizes disc noise. Also helping in reducing static noise is the conductive carbon fibre bottom closest to the record surface.

     The b is quite handsome, with its blue accented sculpted sintered steel case, though maybe they should have put the B-A-C-H notes into the scale notation on its side. It also has threaded holes on top, which made mounting easier, something of interest to this reviewer, whose arms aren’t long enough anymore to hold the cartridge far enough away to see the screws and mounting wires clearly. However, I managed to get it installed in a SAEC headshell identical to that for the 3000 II without incident or bifocals.

     Next, for the first time in many years, I brought out my main test LPs, the Shure Era IV and Telarc Omnidisc records. With the latter I checked frequency response on our AudioControl 3050A 1/3 octave spectrum analyzer, and found it very smooth, with a little extra above 10 kHz, typical of MC performance. Tracking tests on both were used to compile a score out of possible 40 successful tests with increasing groove modulations at low, mid, and high frequencies. The main limitation of the Kontrapunkt b was in bass tracking, where it mistracked badly on the 1812 Overture cannon test’s first level. It also showed a little difficulty in the Shure Flute test’s highest level. This performance is typical of fairly low compliance MCs, the b scoring a decent 30 out of a possible 40. It should rarely encounter tracking problems with real-world records.

     After a few dozen hours the Kontrapunkt became very quiet in the groove, like the MC-3000 showing the advantages of the line contact stylus profile. It may be that its bass limitations are partly a result of that contact, the stylus being thrown about more by extreme groove modulations, especially ones with unusually large vertical excursions. Cutting engineers tend to minimize vertical groove motion below 50 Hz by summing deep bass.

     To test the b’s ability with highly modulated bass I put on The Power and The Glory, Volume 2, a direct-to-disc recording (which means that vertical excursion cannot be limited because there’s no preview head to warn the lathe when large bass grooves are going to be cut as when mastering from analog tape), and with this organ record, featuring Lloyd Holzgraf on a very large organ in LA, the bass from my two Sunfire subwoofers was impressive down to 16 Hz, but no mistracking occurred. However objects in the room near the subs did rattle and had to be relocated to quiet them.

     In continued listening to more normal program material, such as an excellent pressing of Bonnie Raitt’s Nick Of Time, the Kontrapunkt b showed itself to be a very neutral and accurate cartridge timbrally, unlike some of the competition around and above $1000, which try to provide various sonic flavours. The more I listened to this Ortofon the more impressed I was with its outright fidelity and truth in reproducing the music, which is why it now stands as backup to the mighty MC-3000 II. Ortofon rules!

Andrew Marshall

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