Analog Corner #289: Ortofon Anna Diamond MC phono cartridge Page 2

On a practical level, this development allowed Ortofon to use a lightweight, precision-molded, high-strength, high-rigidity, nonmagnetic armature that doesn't alter the magnetic field as it moves. That, combined with ultrapure oxygen-free copper coils, is said to produce "perfect," uncompromised electric reproduction of the armature's physical movement. The efficient system also means significant voltage output is possible using a minimum number of coil turns—which, of course, reduces the system's mass.

The design achieves greater vibrational control using an improved WRD (wide-range armature damping) system. The Anna's WRD system extends the armature beyond the coils, allowing it to interface directly with the rubber dampers in which is sandwiched a small, heavy platinum disc that produces more consistent armature movement. Ortofon claims the changes to this system improve both stereo perspective and transient clarity and accuracy. In addition to the self-damping SLM body, the Anna's body is damped with a thermoplastic elastomer compound that forms the bottom cover assembly. This may strike some as minutiae, but those details are among the reasons an ostensibly state-of-the-art flagship cartridge can be costly—those plus the precision with which all of this must be hand-assembled.

Setting up the Anna D
The new cartridge has an output of 0.2mV; channel balance within 0.5dB at 1kHz; channel separation of at least 25dB at 1kHz (22dB at 15kHz); frequency response (±1.5dB) of 20Hz–20kHz; lateral compliance of 9µm/mN; a recommended tracking force of 2.4gm; a tracking angle of 23°; an internal impedance of 6 ohms; and a weight of 16gm. These specifications are identical to those of the original Anna, other than the 2.4gm recommended tracking force, which is 0.2gm less than the 2.6gm recommended for the original.

According to Ortofon, "both [Anna] models are a perfect match for a high-mass, high-precision tonearm with gimbaled bearings." I installed the Diamond on the Swedish Audio Technologies CF1-09 arm, which qualifies. When I reviewed the original Anna, I still had the dual-pivot Continuum Cobra tonearm on the 'table and did not yet have the CH Precision P1/X1 current-mode phono preamplifier, both of which are also ostensibly ideal for use with either Anna.

Setup was relatively quick and easy. With the arm parallel to the record surface, I observed an ideal 92° stylus rake angle, and minimal crosstalk/ maximal separation and balance with the stylus very close to perpendicular to the record surface—as it should be when you fork over this much money!


Spectacular sonic performance
Prior to Ortofon's MC Century, the only experience I'd had with a diamond-cantilevered cartridge was Transfiguration's Proteus D. I'd reviewed the original Proteus and liked it a great deal (as I liked all of the many Transfiguration cartridges I've heard and reviewed over many years)—but their D version was a big step forward in terms of transient precision and speed, with no sonic downsides. Transparency was greater, and everything was faster and more exciting. The sound was more like a "direct shot" rom the grooves. But then the company's founder and designer, Immutable Music's Seiji Yoshioka, passed away in 2018, and per the family's wishes, the company ceased operations.

Like that cartridge and, of course, the MC Century, the MC Anna Diamond is joltingly fast, clean, and transparent, yet with solidity, weight, and body. Whatever issues I had with the original Anna's midbass transients have been eradicated. From top to bottom, the Anna D is as tonally (I hate that word, but there it is) balanced and neutral-sounding as any I've heard. It unravels detail with the very best Lyras. And, where appropriate, it can sound warm, sweet, and fully fleshed out harmonically. It does not sacrifice body or texture for speed—in fact, I cannot hear any trade-offs whatsoever. I fell in love immediately with the Anna D, fresh and out of the box and carefully installed.

I bought the Kinks' The Mono Collection (Sanctuary 889853281) when it was first released, but for more than a year this 10-LP set, cut by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes, sat unplayed, owing to other listening obligations. Even though these are relatively primitive mono recordings, one of the discs from that set—the album Something Else by The Kinks—was among the first records I played with the MC Anna Diamond (with the preamp set for mono). The Anna D presented Ray's voice in vividly three-dimensional relief as I'd never before experienced from this recording, and unraveled Ray's vocal doubling and Dave's harmonies as I'd never before heard them—along with what sounded like Mick Avory's drums bouncing off the studio back wall. In spite of being in mono, with the Anna D these recordings produced impressive front to back layering and exceptional overall spatial organization. (I went back to the original UK pink-label Pye pressings, and while I think the reissues sound better, the presentation of the originals was better with the Anna D than I've ever heard them before.)


Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time inside Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, twice in two days: first to be interviewed for a documentary video about Creed Taylor and then to hear Newvelle Records artist Billy Lester perform live on the piano from Rudy Van Gelder's Hackensack living room, which had been played by Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and countless other greats. I was keen to play something that had been recorded there, to see if I could associate what I heard at home with the space I had finally experienced in person.

I pulled from the shelves an original pressing of Africa/ Brass by the John Coltrane Quartet (Impulse! A-6), recorded on May 23, 1961, at Van Gelder's and released on the label Creed Taylor founded. Another reason to play it was a story published a few days earlier in The New York Times Magazine about the big 2008 Universal Studios fire that destroyed thousands of master tapes, including, the story said, Trane's whole Impulse! Catalog (footnote 2). The master tapes for this recording no longer exist.

Here, too, the Anna D cast its spell, producing that same room-defining magic. Van Gelder Studio is not a dry room. It has a fast, natural reverb that the legendary engineer purposely designed in; he captured it on tape by insisting on not using isolation, at least until his later years when it was made available. The natural reverb is there in Africa/Brass, subtly expressed as a lively bloom around sax, drums, and piano early in the opener, "Africa." The key word is around: Lesser cartridges make it part of those instruments, while even lesser ones miss it altogether. When McCoy Tyner is given space for a piano solo in that track, the room comes into focus behind him. Cartridges that push midbass warmth produce a "piano in a barrel" sound.

I'm going to skip the usual, specific record references and leave it at this: The MC Anna Diamond is a cartridge for all musical genres. Its frequency balance is as neutral as I've heard. Its dynamic expression at the micro and macro levels (and in between) left nothing on the table, and its response at the frequency extremes was fully articulated. It could be raunchy when required, or silky smooth and refined. It never left me wishing for more or less of anything, whether I was playing symphonic music, small jazz combos, female vocals, or '90s-era grunge. The music, not the cartridge, called the shots.

When I returned the MC Century to service (just a headshell change and a few quick minor adjustments were needed), it was clear that although the Anna D and MC Century sound very similar, they don't sound identical—at least my samples don't! The Anna D is faster, with more sharply drawn high-frequency transients. The bottom end is more nimble. The MC Century's bottom has slightly greater weight and authority; perhaps because of that, while it did recreate the Van Gelder Studio space, it was more blended into the instruments and less well-defined. However, these were minor differences, ones that I had to go looking for to find.

These are two of the best sounding cartridges I've ever heard, and they perform equally well on every kind of music. One is sold out. The other, like the standard Anna, is available as a non-limited-edition product. Keeping the original Anna in production is an interesting choice: My thinking is that anyone who can afford to drop $8394 on a phono cartridge can just as easily (or with equal difficulty) drop $10,499 on the Anna D. Maybe they're keeping the original Anna around for those who want that extra bit of midbass "coziness" and warmth. Of course, with or without a diamond on the sole of her shoe, Anna should be mounted on only the highest quality tonearms.

There are 10-carat pretenders and 10-carat stars. The MC Anna Diamond is a star.

Footnote 2: After it ran, I was told by people who ought to know that A Love Supreme was spared because it was being used to make a reissue.

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