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From Cadenza Black to A95...

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  • From Cadenza Black to A95...

    I recently acquired an Ortofon A95 cartridge to replace my Ortofon Cadenza Black. I wasn't in the market for a new cartridge. In fact, the CB is a great sounding cart that I have been very much enjoying. The CB has a clean and open presentation that reveals the music in the grooves with confidence and clarity while being on the slightly more revealing side of neutral. (It is the yin to the Cadenza Bronze's slightly warmish yang.) I've been very satisfied with the CB to the extent that I haven't seriously thought about replacing it until now. So why the change? Well, I came upon a screaming deal for the A95 that was just too good to pass on. (By the way, feel free to skip down to the Listening Impressions sections below if you just want the summary.)

    After having heard the A95 is various setups over the years (particularly those with VPI turntables), reading the very well written reviews by Andre Jennings (Absolute Sound) and Myles Astor (Positive Feedback), and knowing Ortofon cartridges to be consistently strong performers across the board, I decided to take the plunge. My vinyl rig consists of a VPI Classic 3 turntable with Classic 3 tonearm------> Nordost Valhalla tonearm cable terminated with XLR connections on both ends------> ASR Basis Exclusive phono preamp. Wireworld Gold Eclipse XLR interconnects lead out from the ASR to the linestage. The VPI Classic 3 (now called Classic Signature) is known to be a bold and assertive table. I've read it described as the "American muscle car of turntables," which I think is an apt description. So I had a slight concern that combining the A95 with it might be too much of a good thing. Otherwise, I was eager to get the A95 in my system and hear what more than twice the MSRP ($2,730 vs. $6,500) would give me from an Ortofon perspective.

    Though I've done some cartridge installation with lesser cartridges before, I decided to have the A95 professionally installed by Scott Dalzell at Viva Hifi here in the DC area. Initially, I decided on a VTF of 2.38 during the break-in stage of about 50 hours or so. I loaded the cartridge at 95 ohms, just shy of the recommended 100.

    Music: While I listened to a lot of different music during this time, I particularly listened to the following for setup and evaluation--

    1) The Stanley Clarke Trio (with Hiromi and Lenny White)- Jazz In the Garden; tracks: Isotope, Bass Folk Song No. 5 & 6.
    * Chosen to test bass response and groove distortion. This Heads Up (Telarc) pressing exhibits quite a bit of groove distortion with the CB.

    2) Laurel Masse- Alone Together; tracks: Alone Together, Body and Soul.
    * Chosen for female voice and tracking ability. The spindle hole is off-center, so the record does not rotate symmetrically.

    3) Loose Ends- Zagora; tracks: the entire album.
    * 80s electronica-funk dance music with very high musicianship. Chosen to test ability to image while holding the musical portrait together.

    4) Thad Jones- The Magnificent Thad Jones; tracks April in Paris, Billie-Doo.
    * Chosen to test ability on mono recordings.

    5) Gregory Porter- Liquid Spirit; tracks: I Fall In Love Too Easily, Time is Ticking, Water Under Bridges (Rubato Version).
    * Chosen to test how black the background is during quiet passages.

    Initial listening impressions: Wow! While I expected some improvement, I didn't expect this much and certainly not so immediately! As I said above, the CB is a great cartridge, but the A95 is substantially better is every way you can measure. It presents a wider and deeper soundstage (not an easy thing in my 11.5' x 19.5' x 8' room), it images better, micro-dynamics are presented with more clarity and ease, and the entire presentation has more body and presence. And this was what I heard from the very beginning! In particular, the A95's assured presentation of spacial cues improved the overall flow of the music. If I was to use one word to characterize the A95, it would be dynamic. Although it plays softer and quieter music with finesse when called upon, this is not a cart for those who want a laid-back presentation. The one (minor) criticism of the A95 in the early hours of break-in was that if anything it was too bold at times with certain albums, but I attributed some of that to the initial gain setting in the ASR (66db) and the slightly heavy initial VTF. Since I'm running balanced from the cartridge all the way through to the amps (the ASR phono pre is designed to operate that way) and my Cary SLP-05 is a high gain preamp, I could back off the gain despite the A95's 0.2 output voltage. After some tinkering, I eventually set it at 52db, which was much more ideal in my system.

    After 50 hours or so: At this point, the VTF was adjusted to 2.26. That adjustment removed any remaining over-aggressiveness that the A95 had displayed during the first 20-30 hours of play. The music is now presented with a more self-assured ease without losing any of the dynamics or weight. The bass is more articulate. And micro-details and spacial cues are not spotlit or presented in a show-off manner (not that they were before), but as part of the musical whole that just flows better. The CB certainly does not produce a flat presentation, but with the A95 the music is just fuller and therefore more realistic sounding.

    To put it in another context, the A95 is the first component that I have changed within the same brand that improves upon the previous component in every way possible. I've had 3 previous Cary preamps before the SLP-05, 2 previous pairs of Martin Logan speakers, and 2 previous Cary DACs/Disc players. None of my current successors comprehensively improved upon those previous components like the A95 does compared to the CB. Even the SLP-05, an all-time great tube preamp, only equals the bass slam of the SLP-2002. The CB is an exceptional major leaguer that is an occasional All-Star. The A95 is a perennial All-Star that will receive strong HOF consideration when all is said and done. I'll post more listening impressions after 100 hours or so, but make no mistake, it has already exceeded my expectations. Ortofon has hit a grand slam with the A95.
    Anthony
    Analog: VPI CLASSIC 3/Ortofon A95>ASR Basis Exclusive>>
    Digital: AURENDER N10>CARY 306 SACD PRO>>
    ===> Cary SLP-05> Bryston 28B-SST2>>MARTIN LOGAN SPIRES

  • #2
    Anthony
    Analog: VPI CLASSIC 3/Ortofon A95>ASR Basis Exclusive>>
    Digital: AURENDER N10>CARY 306 SACD PRO>>
    ===> Cary SLP-05> Bryston 28B-SST2>>MARTIN LOGAN SPIRES

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by asindc View Post
      I recently acquired an Ortofon A95 cartridge to replace my Ortofon Cadenza Black. I wasn't in the market for a new cartridge. In fact, the CB is a great sounding cart that I have been very much enjoying. The CB has a clean and open presentation that reveals the music in the grooves with confidence and clarity while being on the slightly more revealing side of neutral. (It is the yin to the Cadenza Bronze's slightly warmish yang.) I've been very satisfied with the CB to the extent that I haven't seriously thought about replacing it until now. So why the change? Well, I came upon a screaming deal for the A95 that was just too good to pass on. (By the way, feel free to skip down to the Listening Impressions sections below if you just want the summary.)

      After having heard the A95 is various setups over the years (particularly those with VPI turntables), reading the very well written reviews by Andre Jennings (Absolute Sound) and Myles Astor (Positive Feedback), and knowing Ortofon cartridges to be consistently strong performers across the board, I decided to take the plunge. My vinyl rig consists of a VPI Classic 3 turntable with Classic 3 tonearm------> Nordost Valhalla tonearm cable terminated with XLR connections on both ends------> ASR Basis Exclusive phono preamp. Wireworld Gold Eclipse XLR interconnects lead out from the ASR to the linestage. The VPI Classic 3 (now called Classic Signature) is known to be a bold and assertive table. I've read it described as the "American muscle car of turntables," which I think is an apt description. So I had a slight concern that combining the A95 with it might be too much of a good thing. Otherwise, I was eager to get the A95 in my system and hear what more than twice the MSRP ($2,730 vs. $6,500) would give me from an Ortofon perspective.

      Though I've done some cartridge installation with lesser cartridges before, I decided to have the A95 professionally installed by Scott Dalzell at Viva Hifi here in the DC area. Initially, I decided on a VTF of 2.38 during the break-in stage of about 50 hours or so. I loaded the cartridge at 95 ohms, just shy of the recommended 100.

      Music: While I listened to a lot of different music during this time, I particularly listened to the following for setup and evaluation--

      1) The Stanley Clarke Trio (with Hiromi and Lenny White)- Jazz In the Garden; tracks: Isotope, Bass Folk Song No. 5 & 6.
      * Chosen to test bass response and groove distortion. This Heads Up (Telarc) pressing exhibits quite a bit of groove distortion with the CB.

      2) Laurel Masse- Alone Together; tracks: Alone Together, Body and Soul.
      * Chosen for female voice and tracking ability. The spindle hole is off-center, so the record does not rotate symmetrically.

      3) Loose Ends- Zagora; tracks: the entire album.
      * 80s electronica-funk dance music with very high musicianship. Chosen to test ability to image while holding the musical portrait together.

      4) Thad Jones- The Magnificent Thad Jones; tracks April in Paris, Billie-Doo.
      * Chosen to test ability on mono recordings.

      5) Gregory Porter- Liquid Spirit; tracks: I Fall In Love Too Easily, Time is Ticking, Water Under Bridges (Rubato Version).
      * Chosen to test how black the background is during quiet passages.

      Initial listening impressions: Wow! While I expected some improvement, I didn't expect this much and certainly not so immediately! As I said above, the CB is a great cartridge, but the A95 is substantially better is every way you can measure. It presents a wider and deeper soundstage (not an easy thing in my 11.5' x 19.5' x 8' room), it images better, micro-dynamics are presented with more clarity and ease, and the entire presentation has more body and presence. And this was what I heard from the very beginning! In particular, the A95's assured presentation of spacial cues improved the overall flow of the music. If I was to use one word to characterize the A95, it would be dynamic. Although it plays softer and quieter music with finesse when called upon, this is not a cart for those who want a laid-back presentation. The one (minor) criticism of the A95 in the early hours of break-in was that if anything it was too bold at times with certain albums, but I attributed some of that to the initial gain setting in the ASR (66db) and the slightly heavy initial VTF. Since I'm running balanced from the cartridge all the way through to the amps (the ASR phono pre is designed to operate that way) and my Cary SLP-05 is a high gain preamp, I could back off the gain despite the A95's 0.2 output voltage. After some tinkering, I eventually set it at 52db, which was much more ideal in my system.

      After 50 hours or so: At this point, the VTF was adjusted to 2.26. That adjustment removed any remaining over-aggressiveness that the A95 had displayed during the first 20-30 hours of play. The music is now presented with a more self-assured ease without losing any of the dynamics or weight. The bass is more articulate. And micro-details and spacial cues are not spotlit or presented in a show-off manner (not that they were before), but as part of the musical whole that just flows better. The CB certainly does not produce a flat presentation, but with the A95 the music is just fuller and therefore more realistic sounding.

      To put it in another context, the A95 is the first component that I have changed within the same brand that improves upon the previous component in every way possible. I've had 3 previous Cary preamps before the SLP-05, 2 previous pairs of Martin Logan speakers, and 2 previous Cary DACs/Disc players. None of my current successors comprehensively improved upon those previous components like the A95 does compared to the CB. Even the SLP-05, an all-time great tube preamp, only equals the bass slam of the SLP-2002. The CB is an exceptional major leaguer that is an occasional All-Star. The A95 is a perennial All-Star that will receive strong HOF consideration when all is said and done. I'll post more listening impressions after 100 hours or so, but make no mistake, it has already exceeded my expectations. Ortofon has hit a grand slam with the A95.
      Congrats on the new acquisition! The A95 definitely performs above its pay grade and should still get better. It also seems a good match for the VPI arm.

      A buddy of mine just picked up the A95 and it was a huge step up from his Ortofon Bronze. So much livelier, open and dynamic. The A95 also has a darn good low end too!

      Glad you joined our audio community!

      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
      ________________________________________

      -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
      -cj 40th Anniversary ART300 monoblock amplifiers
      -Merrill Audio Elemente 116 monoblock amplifiers
      -cj GAT preamplifier Series 2 preamplifier
      -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
      -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
      -Lyra Atlas SL, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Allnic cables, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, MG Audio, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies Power Cords
      -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

      Comment


      • #4
        Congrats on your A-95! I agree and concur with every single thing you said about it. And there is one more superb feature to that cartridge IMO, it's trackability. Before my A-95 I was using a Miyajima Shilabe and I had several LP's with "skipping" problems. Not a single one of them skip with the A-95. It's the 4-wheel drive off-road mudder of tracking in the cartridge world. I just LOVE mine! And yes, welcome to the group!
        Speakers: Horning Eufrodite Ellipse III on Stillpoints Ultra 5S feet
        Amplifier: Silver Circle Audio 300B Monoblocks with Takatsuki 300B tubes
        Preamp: TW Acustic RPA-100 Line Stage
        Phono Stage: TW Acustic RPS-100
        Turntable - TW Acustic Raven AC w/ Black Knight Anniversary Upgrades
        Tonearm: Kuzma 4-Point 14" with Air Tight Opus-1 Cartridge
        Tonearm: TW 10.5" with Miyajima Zero Mono
        Vinyl Care: Audio Desk Pro Ultrasonic & VPI 16.5 RCM
        CD/SACD: Playback Designs MP-5 to Bricasti M1 DAC
        Tape: Tascam 42B-NB (Refurb by Soren Wittrup)
        Tape Stage: Doshi V.3
        Power Conditioner: (2) Silver Circle Audio TCHAIK 6
        Wire: Custom Furutech PC's & IC's + Inakustik LS-4004 Air Speaker Cables
        Tweaks: Stillpoints Aperture II Panels & Stillpoints Ultra 5S's & SS's sprinkled about - SRA Ohio Class and Symposium Super Plus Platforms

        Comment


        • MylesBAstor
          MylesBAstor commented
          Editing a comment
          Yes it tracks really well and was a big step up from the somewhat cold and detached presentation of the A90.

        • asindc
          asindc commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks, Tim! I imagine the A95 sounds wonderful on the TW table. If I decide to replace the Classic 3, TW tables are on my short list for serious consideration.

      • #5
        Anthony,

        First, I'd like to say thanks for the comments on the reviews you've read. Congratulations on your acquisition and the happiness it is bringing you. And lastly, welcome to the forum.

        Dre

        P.S. According to my Ortofon sources, they have completed the 500 pieces build of the MC A95. There may be a few remaining in the hands of dealers; interested buyers would have to check.
        **************************************************
        Every day is a good day to play analog.
        - 12" 33-1/3 RPM or 45 RPM vinyl
        - 10.5" 15ips or 30ips tape
        **************************************************
        Every day is a good day for live music.
        **************************************************

        Comment


        • MylesBAstor
          MylesBAstor commented
          Editing a comment
          Yes and VPI had bought the last 30 or so remaining pieces in the US AFAIK.

      • #6
        Thanks guys for the welcome and the comments. Much appreciated. I rarely post more than passing comments about new acquisitions, but the A95 is such a pleasant surprise in how it has surpassed the Cadenza Black in every way. The closest comparison in my personal experience is when I went from Martin Logan Vantages to my current ML Spires. This is yet another example of Ortofon punching above its weight class.
        Anthony
        Analog: VPI CLASSIC 3/Ortofon A95>ASR Basis Exclusive>>
        Digital: AURENDER N10>CARY 306 SACD PRO>>
        ===> Cary SLP-05> Bryston 28B-SST2>>MARTIN LOGAN SPIRES

        Comment


        • #7
          I also recently upgraded from a Cadenza Bronze to the A-95. As Miles mentioned VPI cornered the market for A-95s. Harry decide to lighten his inventory and he offered a few lightly used examples at a great price on the VPI Forum. I couldn't resist, and as asindc said the upgrade was absurdly amazing. I couldn't be happier (or poorer). Thank you Harry.
          Main System: VPI Prime, Ortofon A95, Bob's Devices VPI SUT, Bottlehead Eros Phono-pre, Phoenix Eagle and Roadrunner Tach, Vinyl Nirvana TD160 Super, Ortofon 2M Mono, Cambridge Azur Universal Disc Player, Blusound Vault 2i, Apple Airport Express, Mytek Liberty DAC, PrimaLuna Prologue PreAmp and Monoblocks, Martin Logan Summit X's. Bottlehead Crack w. Speedball Headphone Amp, Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones, PS Audio PP12.

          Comment


          • #8
            I had the pleasant experience of setting up ASINDC's A95 and Classic 3. It took some effort to get it all dialed in but the results were certainly worth the effort. AS has a very fine system -- and a good set of ears!

            Comment


            • asindc
              asindc commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks, Scott!

          • #9
            ..just wondering if anyone compared the Ortofon Winfield to the A95

            Comment


            • #10
              Originally posted by Stringreen View Post
              ..just wondering if anyone compared the Ortofon Winfield to the A95
              The original Windfeld has been discontinued after nearly 10yrs of service (seems like yesterday) and replaced with the new Ortofon WIndfeld Ti.

              There will be a report in TAS later this year that will discuss the new Windfeld Ti and some of it's character briefly referenced to A95 (now out of production) and Anna.
              **************************************************
              Every day is a good day to play analog.
              - 12" 33-1/3 RPM or 45 RPM vinyl
              - 10.5" 15ips or 30ips tape
              **************************************************
              Every day is a good day for live music.
              **************************************************

              Comment


              • EdAInWestOC
                EdAInWestOC commented
                Editing a comment
                Andre,
                Thanks for the heads up on that report. I look forward to it. I enjoy your reports.

                As an owner of the Windfeld Ti (for over 130 hours now) I cannot fault the cartridge in any way. It simply does everything I ask of it and does not call any attention to itself. To my way of thinking that is what a cartridge is supposed to do.

                I love the extreme low distortion and faultless tracking. It is one of the best investments I have ever made in my analog rig.

                Ed

              • Dre_J
                Dre_J commented
                Editing a comment
                Hi Ed,

                Thanks for the comments.

                Since this post back in February of 2018, TAS has placed the Windfeld Ti Equipment Report online here:
                http://www.theabsolutesound.com/arti...ono-cartridge/


                It's also discussed on Audionirvana (where I think you have commented) here:
                https://www.audionirvana.org/forum/t...uipment-report

                Dre

            • #11
              Yes Dre_J.....I have the original....just wondering how to place the performance in comparison to other carts.

              Comment


              • #12
                I, too, have a CB on a VPI Aries 3D with Fatboy tonearm. I bought one of Harry's "New", not slightly used A95 a few months back but have not mounted it yet. In fact, I have it for sale now on this site. Anyway, I set up and mounted my CB, and felt good about the result. I do have the Stanley Clarke Trio LP mentioned above - what should I listen for when adjusting SRA on the VTA tower?


                Kevin

                Comment

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