Analog Corner #289: Ortofon Anna Diamond MC phono cartridge

As I was doing a final edit on this column, I received very sad news from Leif Johannsen, the chief officer of acoustics and technology for cartridge manufacturer Ortofon A/S: Kim Petersen, described by Johannsen as his "right hand and new cartridge design and listening partner" and the company's "top cartridge expert," passed away suddenly at age 52. Mr. Petersen had worked all of his adult life at Ortofon (30 years), and, according to Johannsen, "knew everything about our cartridges, how they are/were produced, and all of the equipment used" in their manufacture. Johannsen added, "He was a dedicated music lover and, according to his partner, had just finished listening to a batch of Anna D's when it happened, though at this time the exact cause of death is unknown." Heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Petersen and the Ortofon family.

Anna Domine
In 2018, Ortofon (footnote 1) celebrated its 100th anniversary by releasing the MC Century, a limited-edition (100 units), top-of-the-line ($12,000) cartridge that represented everything Leif Johannsen had learned in more than a decade of cartridge design and construction for the company.

Probably to his surprise—and that of company CEO and eternal vinyl-resurgence skeptic Christen H. Nielsen—the MC Century sold out quickly. That didn't mean that all 100 MC Centurys immediately found their way into consumers' hands but rather that distributors and retailers worldwide bought them—which is why, many months after they were sold out, some were still available at retail. (As of this writing, I think, none are left.)

Thus, for Johannsen, the question was now: What to do next?

For the company's 90th anniversary, he'd moved dramatically into SLM (selective laser melting) technology to produce the radically shaped metal body of the limited-edition (500 units) A90 cartridge—something that could not be carved from solid metal using traditional machining. SLM welds metal particle by particle, layer by layer, and its use in manufacturing

the A90's one-piece stainless steel body gave Ortofon unprecedented control over mass and density, creating a structure the company describes as self-damping. I believe analog history will judge the A90 to be one of the greatest achievements and advances in phono cartridge design.

In 2015, in honor of the company's recently observed 95th anniversary, Johannsen produced the limited-edition (500 units) A95, again using SLM technology—but this time with a frame of titanium. Two years before that, in 2013, Ortofon introduced their new flagship, Johannsen's MC Anna cartridge, named after opera diva Anna Netrebko. The $8499 cartridge sold for more than twice the price of the A90 ($4200 in its day) and was the first Ortofon to use a titanium SLM body. In addition, the Anna featured a then-new, patent-pending high-efficiency magnet system and a far lower-compliance suspension than that of the A90: just 9µm/mN, in contrast with the A90's 16µm/mN. The Anna's zaftig body (befitting a diva) weighed in at 16gm vs the A90's 8gm. It was fitted with a boron cantilever and a nude Replicant stylus. This was a heavy, low-compliance cartridge that required a high mass arm with chatter-free precision bearings to deliver its best performance.


Is that a subminiature drinking-bird toy or the solid diamond cantilever and nude Replicant stylus of the MC Anna Diamond?

I reviewed the Anna positively and bought it as one of my references—though I wrote that "compared to the (Lyra) Atlas, transients in the midbass and below were slightly softer, which could make them more or less attractive depending upon the rest of your system."

The goal with Anna was to step well beyond the A90 in terms of dynamics and tonal richness, and in both of those areas—and in every other realm—the costly Anna surpassed the A90. (But if I were solely interested in electronic rock music, I'd go for the speedy, lean A90.)

What comes after the Century?
At the 2019 High End show in Munich, Ortofon introduced its new flagship, the MC Anna Diamond. As has become customary, one of my first stops at the show was to meet with Leif Johannsen. I recorded a video of our time together, which began with a tour of the display cases on the show floor.

The original Anna will remain in the line, priced at $8924—which represents a modest price increase after six years in production, while the new MC Anna Diamond retails for $10,499—costly, but $1500 less expensive than the limited-edition MC Century, just as the original Anna is around $1500 less than the Anna D. Like the MC Century, the MC Anna Diamond sports a solid diamond cantilever fitted with Ortofon's Replicant 100 diamond stylus, said to be the closest of any playback stylus to the lacquer-cutting stylus.

Johannsen told me that the diamond cantilever is of course one of the two biggest differences between the Anna and the Anna Diamond, the other being the new cartridge's suspension materials and tuning, which more closely resemble those of the MC Century: "You can say that [the MC Anna Diamond] is basically an MC Century in an Anna body." He added, though, that when you are talking about cartridges at this price, "everything" makes a difference; although the MC Anna Diamond is very similar to the MC Century, it is not identical, either physically (obviously) or sonically.


Three years ago, Johannsen began experimenting with the solid diamond cantilever, putting it in an Anna and also an A95. Will we see in the future an A95 D? He didn't say (although at High End 2019, Ortofon did introduce a boron-cantilevered A95 mono). So after two years of experimenting, Ortofon introduced the diamond cantilever in the MC Century, and this year in the MC Anna Diamond—which will not be a limited-edition design but will remain in the line indefinitely. Johannsen claimed that with the MC Anna Diamond, buyers will be able to get "approximately the same sound" as a few lucky buyers got with the MC Century.

The MC Anna Diamond particulars
In addition to the SLM titanium body, solid diamond cantilever, "thin and light" Replicant 100 stylus, and specially tuned suspension—which uses custom elastomers similar to those used in the MC Century—the MC Anna Diamond's high-efficiency magnet system features an optimized geometry and a neodymium and iron-cobalt blend claimed by Ortofon to produce "unprecedented consistency of the flux density within the system's air gap." The system is claimed to deliver more uniform magnetic field strength, which allows each coil to sense identical flux density regardless of position. The result, according to Ortofon, is the preservation of dynamics and impulse linearity.

Footnote 1: Ortofon A/S, Stavangervej 9, DK-4900 Nakskov, Denmark. Web: US distributor: Ortofon USA, 500 Executive Boulevard, Suite 102, Ossining, NY 10562. Tel: (914)762-8646

SET Man's picture


It is great that Ortofon named their carts after one of the great voice of the opera world. I was lucky to see her perform at the Met Opera back some years ago in "L'Elisir d' Amore"
But ironically not many of her works are available on vinyl. There are a few and they are very pricey. And like most of classical works ,likely recorded with digital.

Anyway, I'd love to be able to afford an Ortofon "Anna" cart so I can play my LP copy of Anna Netrebko Violetta from Verdi's "La Traviata" Her version of "Addio del Passato" can make you tear up, whether CD or LP version.

PeterPani's picture

Since I live in Vienna I had the luck to see her several times already. It is a voice that goes straight through the stomach in a live setting. I have listened to her in Konzerthaus once, that was the higlight of my classical life. If you speak German, I wrote a review back then:
At least you can look at the pictures taken with my Ipod at the bottom.
I will never forget this performance. Still after 10+ years a shiver goes through my body. For several minutes the wall of the Konzerthaus went visible into vibration and grew optically together with Annas voice. Surprisingly, last year, I read a review in the newspaper from another opera with Anna, and he used nearly the same words to describe his experience. I will never forget the vibrating red color of the concert house walls during ths concert.
Regarding the doublegate Violetta / La Traviata - sadly it is not very well produced (muffled acoustics) - the sound from the Salzburg Traviata BluRay is much better - and a landmark of Salzburger Festspiele.
I blame Netrebko, that she never did record her voice analog - people would pay fortunes for an analog r2r-copy. It will be a joke of history that the older recorded Callas voice will be listened to in 100 years with more awe than Netrebkos. Not because Callas was better (I guess they are equal, but Netrebko sings already 25 years in top voice, giving her an edge over Callas), but her voice was recorded analog. Listen to Callas old mono records at home gives always magical moments. Listening to Netrebko at home is digital sterile. BluRays help with the pictures of her warm charisma.
My gatefold Violetta I had autographed at the Vienna State Opera by Netrebko (in a legendary scrum for dead or alive signature hunt). She wrote with a fat black felt pen her name all over the red sofa. It is perfect! I was the only one with a record cover. She seemed surprised and had fun to put her name on it with a big laugh and shiny eyes.

tonykaz's picture

Any mention of the Warranty ?

There is an East Coast Phono Cart. Company that include a LIFETIME warranty .

At these price levels, isn't some customer support expected ?

I was an Ortofon Dealer via Tex Morton & Assoc. ( I don't recall Ortofon ever offering any sort of warranty )

Tony in Venice Florida -- temps today in the mid 60s F

ps. the diamond cantilever looks dirty, I don't recall the Dynavector 17D accumulating debris like your photo shows. Hmm. maybe you're playing dirty stuff.

Ivan Lietaert's picture

" the MC Anna Diamond sports a solid diamond cantilever fitted with Ortofon's Replicant 100 diamond stylus "

Please englighten us a bit more, Michael. On the microscopic image you published, the cantilever seems to have a metal core and on it plenty of dust, or are those tiny diamonds? If so the word 'solid' is ambiguous: it could be a synonym for 'very strong' but it could also mean it is made of pure diamond (so no metal core).

gpdavis2's picture

Assume the first photo above is a "stock" pic. An Ortofon universal headshell on a universal arm is something I've not seen MF use in the past but is something I would not be without.

Jack Pot's picture

The Demise of a God.

Neither Wagner nor Shakespeare. But still Danish.

Two years ago, my official Ortofon dealer convinced me to buy an Ortofon MC Century cartridge. There was no chance to audition the cartridge, but my dealer assured me it would be a major upgrade from my Ortofon MC Anna cartridge. I have been an Ortofon fan all my life, slowly moving up the food chain of Ortofon cartridges. The investment and risk were considerable, but the MC Century would be the culmination of my lifelong loyalty to the brand. Empathy played a considerable role in the decision.

The upgrade was disappointing. The Century improved on the Anna in the lower registers but at the cost of an incisiveness reminiscent of digital playback. Detail at the cost of musicality. Over the course of the next 2 years, my dealer reset the cartridge/ arm combination a number of times, because I kept complaining that it did not deliver on its promise. To no avail.

Finally, after more than 300 hrs play-back (closer to 500 hrs by my estimation), the Century revealed its true character. At long last, the Century delivered on its promise: thunderous but always musically accurate bass, life-like mids, soaring highs and an expansive and wholly coherent sound stage.

A few months later, early January 2021, and quite suddenly, it died. The cartridge would no longer track. My dealer rushed it to Ortofon. They had long exchanges. I highlight the most notorious ones (my highlights).

Feb 12th, 2021,
The cartridge has a lot of dust that has almost cemented to the cartridge and you can also see that the cartridge has a bit of rust on the bottom.

Best regards / Med venlig hilsen
Anders Bentley
Sales Department

Feb 17th, 2021,

The diagnostics made by our operator sounds like our recommendations for stylus and record care have not been observed, and that is how it had happened. The physical condition of the cartridge doesn’t align with the story customer has told, whilst we only rely on facts.
To avoid it would happen again, I’d recommend refer to our HiFi FAQ, p.1 Stylus and record care here, very shortly:
1. Remove dust carefully from record surfaces by using Ortofon antistatic Record brush before every use.
2. Use Ortofon Stylus fiber brush a few times along the cantilever in the direction of the stylus tip, whenever you play a new record or change sides.
Ortofon do not recommend the use of solvents of any kind for cleaning of either record surface or stylus

Best regards/Med venlig hilsen
Katarina H. Nielsen
Technical support Web Marketing

Unbelievably, these are the very words of Ortofon.

It is obvious from Bentley’s remarks that there was a serious quality control issue at Ortofon when my cartridge (nr 16) was assembled.

Rust? Rust!

Cemented dust? Cemented!

I live uphill in a cork dry climate (Greece). I religiously clean all my records in a Glass Vinyl Ultrasound Cleaner before their first spin, use a microfiber brush to remove any dust from any record before playing, and apply a Furutech DeStat-3 before lowering the diamond into the groove. Besides, during almost 50 years of playing vinyl almost exclusively with Ortofon cartridges, I NEVER had ANY issue, let alone with either rust of cement.

Obviously, the rusted(!) part was rusted “ab initio”. And probably contaminated during manufacture with some cutting or hydraulic oil. Which in turn contaminated the cantilever and attracted/ attached the dust, which turned to “cement”. Or some variation of the above. Ortofon itself identified and recognized the problem! It sent a microscope picture illustrating the issue.

But then Ortofon went Hamlet-crazy.

According to Ortofon, the condition of the cartridge does not align with the “story” (?!) customer has told. Obviously, the customer and the Ortofon-dealer connived to deliberately rust and cement the cartridge. My official Ortofon-dealer and myself are liars.

These are the “facts” and here is the “proof”: the customer uses a Glass Audiodesk Vinyl Cleaner (which uses water as a solvent, but then thoroughly dries the record). By the way, the use of any “solvent”-based record cleaner invalidates the warranty! And this, unashamedly, by the world’s leading manufacturer of cartridges!

Ortofon dismisses the self-evident explanation – its own glaring shortcoming - to go on a rant against its most loyal customers. Ortofon devises a crime involving customer and dealer. It throws credibility out of the window.

A crime needs:
1. a victim: the cartridge
2. a motive: why would 2 Ortofon loyalists make up a story? One is its official dealer for 30 years, the other a loyal customer for 50 years, both with an impeccable track-record
3. a weapon: how did the suspects manage to “rust” a cartridge? And in such short time! To cement dust to the cantilever? If the use of an ultrasonic vinyl-cleaner or other “solvent” vinyl cleaner rusts cartridges or cements dust, the WHOLE vinyl-community, incl manufacturers of all feather, should put Ortofon in its place: stop the b*s*!
4. a causality: absent motive and weapon, there is no causality.

If we apply the above fact-based reasoning to Ortofon, only one conclusion imposes itself: guilty!

The God has fallen off his pedestal.

What would I like to achieve with this letter?
1. an apology: Ortofon has no idea how hurtful its baseless allegations are; it seems to have lost track of its mission, which is to provide musical enjoyment to its customers and revenue to its dealers. Instead, it is content to insult them.
2. a redress: Ortofon repairs or replaces the MC Century at its own cost and provides a 5-year warranty, independently of the customer’s use of a vinyl-cleaner.
3. a warning: it is impossible for a customer to check in-depth a piece of brand new HiFi when he buys it; if defects are present, they might appear with time; a customer must then rely on the reputation of the vendor for a reasonable outcome; in fact, in such cases, HiFi enthusiasts rely solely on the manufacturer’s reputation. Ortofon failed the test ignominiously. I can only hope that the vinyl-community, led by its most trustworthy opinion-makers, puts the company in its place. Otherwise, any Ortofon customer will fall prey to the company’s predatory practices. Any problem with an Ortofon Blue? Your fault: only use blue vinyl. Ortofon Ti? You “rusted” it. Ortofon Wood? You “rotted” it.

The rot is elsewhere.

RIP Kim Petersen