Ortofon MC-3000 MC phono cartridge J. Gordon Holt, November 1988

J. Gordon Holt returned to the MC-3000 in November 1988 (Vol.11 No.11):

This latest top-of-the-line cartridge from Ortofon received a generally enthusiastic review in Vol.11 No.1, but was criticized because of its reduced compliance (relative to its MC-2000 predecessor), which led to a thickening of the midbass and occasional LF mistracking when used in a low-mass arm like the Well-Tempered, and also because of questions about its absolute accuracy.

Then I tried the MC-3000 in the incredible Versa Dynamics arm/turntable, and did an about-face. Like all straight-line trackers, the Versa Dynamics has higher mass in the lateral plane than it has vertically. In some straight-line arms, the lateral/vertical mass ratio is as high as 50:1, which is ridiculous. In the VD, it is on the order of 5:1, ideal for a cartridge of average compliance such as the MC-3000.

The quality of bass performance from the VD, which was already superb with the MC-2000, was virtually unchanged with the 3000. But the LF extension—also excellent with the 2000—was increased with the 3000, making the low-end sound even more like that paragon of LF perfection, digital sound (footnote 1). In addition, because the system resonance is moved to a lower frequency by the VD's higher lateral mass, mistracking on extremely heavy LF signals, like infamous cannon blasts, was eliminated.

The VD also brought the MC-3000's spectral balance into line, so that it, too, sounded astoundingly like the original program sources from which discs had been cut—master tapes or direct-wire feeds from the microphones. In other words, while the Versa Dynamics and the Ortofon MC-2000 provided the best reproduction from analog discs that I had ever heard, the VD with the MC-3000 is an even better combination. It's just a shame that the state of the art in phono reproduction goes for $12,500 plus whatever it costs to deliver a usable signal from the 3000's 0.1mV output.—J. Gordon Holt


Footnote 1: Don't laugh. No other recording medium comes close to digital's 0Hz low-frequency limit.
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