Analog Corner #317: Ortofon Verismo phono cartridge, Orb DF-01IA disc flattener, RSX Beyond interconnect

Ortofon (footnote 1) had hoped to introduce its new MC Verismo phono cartridge "in person" at one of last fall's North American shows, but those shows never took place. COVID necessitated instead an October 30 live Facebook introduction, the company's first such premier. The next day, AnalogPlanet posted an exclusive interview with Leif Johannsen, the cartridge's designer and Ortofon's chief officer of acoustics and technology.

Those familiar with Ortofon's MC A95 (reviewed here in May and June 2015) will recognize the new cartridge's "platform shoe" shape, which was created using Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology to produce a titanium body that's impossible to produce in the same shape and density using standard CNC machining. The Verismo has a very similar shape, but it's bigger than the A95. The new shape also has visual elements reminiscent of the limited-edition MC Century ($12,000).

Like the unlimited-production, top-of-the-line Anna Diamond ($10,499), the new Verismo ($6995) features a diamond cantilever to which is attached a Swiss-manufactured Replicant 100 line-contact stylus shaped to resemble a cutting stylus as closely as possible.

The Verismo's neodymium-based magnet system shares with the MC A95 and the $5159 Windfeld Ti a metal-alloy armature that's less magnetic than standard iron. Ortofon claims that this armature has "almost no" influence on the magnetic field and that it improves dynamics, which makes sense, since the moving part is less bound by magnetic attraction. Ortofon also says the armature's design helps achieve coil-turn precision in each layer, which helps produce lower distortion and channel balance and separation.


Ortofon claims its "Aucurum" gold-plated, 6NX oxygen-free copper coil wire "allows for zero-loss transmission of the diamond's movements via its Diamond cantilever." The system combines low moving mass and high structural rigidity.

In use since 1979, when it was introduced in the MC 20 Mk.II, the "Wide Range Damping System" clamps a small, heavy, "exotic metal" disc between a pair of rubber dampers of differing properties to produce a suspension system that Ortofon claims maintains uniform damping and tracking performance across the full frequency range while lowering distortion and avoiding resonances. Ortofon claims, for the whole system, "the most linear frequency response and the highest upper frequency limit ever" along with 80µm tracking capability at a vertical tracking force of 2.6gm. Ortofon's Verismo video provides excellent computer graphics that show all of this. It's worth watching.

In the video interview, I asked Mr. Johannsen about the Verismo's relatively high 2.6gm tracking force. He said with complete assurance that it was not a problem—that if set correctly it won't harm your precious vinyl. That's been my experience as well with the full range of 2gm-plus Ortofon trackers. With the Verismo, the Ortofon test record confirmed 80µm tracking capabilities.

To optimize the interaction between damping and compliance, the Verismo's suspension utilizes a newly developed rubber compound that incorporates high-efficiency nano-filler multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT). One of Ortofon's "hedge" businesses—hedging, that is, against the disappearance of vinyl—is developing high-tech elastomers for medical and other industries. I saw this work during a few visits to Ortofon over the past few decades.

With its relatively low 7 ohm internal impedance and 0.2mV output, the Verismo mates well with transformer-coupled and transimpedance-based phono preamplifiers as well as low-noise voltage-amplification–based preamps—all of which I used for this review. Ortofon recommends a 10 ohm load impedance—considerably lower than the traditional 10× internal impedance formula.

Other conservative specs for the 9.5gm cartridge include 25dB channel separation at 1kHz, channel balance within 0.5dB at 1kHz, and frequency response of +2dB/–1dB, 20Hz–20kHz.

The stylus guard on the A90 was diabolical; the one on the A95 was only somewhat less confusing (especially for spatially challenged people like me). Those guards have been replaced here with one that's easy to use and secure. Ortofon recommends using it when not playing records, and I concur, whether or not you have kids, cats, or cleaning people. Why chance it when you're spending $6999 on a fragile phono cartridge?

That price puts the new cartridge $3500 below the Anna D and a bit less than $2000 above the Windfeld Ti, which shares some of the more costly cartridge's features—but not its diamond cantilever. The first diamond-cantilevered cartridge I heard was the Transfiguration Proteus D; the huge upward sonic step from the standard Proteus was immediately obvious. The $8924 boron-cantilevered Anna remains in the line, but it will be retired, I assume sooner rather than later, because in my opinion the new Verismo is more linear, more open, "faster," and more dynamic, though the original Anna is nicely balanced timbrally for classical music. I always like "better for less," and overall I think that's what Verismo offers compared to the boron Anna.


The Verismo combines the Windfeld Ti's attractively airy, transparent, relaxed midrange (something the brand's detractors don't think any Ortofon cartridge produces) with much of the Anna Diamond's precise imaging and spatial generosity. The Verismo's sonic performance, like the price, fit neatly between the Windfeld Ti and the Anna Diamond.

Getting the most from any "severe stylus profile" cartridge requires a great deal of setup care. When you read cartridge reviews, you should know if the reviewer used a digital microscope to set SRA and at least a Fozgometer to set azimuth, or whether they set the arm parallel to the record in both planes and hoped for the best. If you're not a measurer, you're probably okay here, because Ortofon cartridges—especially in the Exclusive series—usually are correctly aligned; I measured and found that to be true with the Verismo.

In the video interview, Johannsen says he auditions every cartridge and keeps a photographic record of the measured SRA with the arm parallel to the record surface. That's what you should expect for $7000 and even more so for $10,000+.

Verismo sound
Even before it had much break-in time, the Verismo revealed its basic sonic character to be more similar to that of the Anna Diamond than the Windfeld Ti, with an overall "faster" sound featuring sharper, more finely drawn high-frequency transients yet with a lush and generous midrange and a somewhat tighter, nimbler, better-controlled bottom end—knit together into a coherent sonic package.

Blue Note's Classic Vinyl Series ($24.95) recently released a Trifecta of greats, perfect as a jazz introduction: Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue (ST 84123/3579908), Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch! (ST 84163/3587502), and Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage (ST 84195/3593196), all cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio from the original master tapes and pressed on 180gm vinyl at Optimal in Germany.

Burrell's bluesy crowd-pleaser is an enduring classic that seems to become a chart topper with every reissue. This one hit number one on the Acoustic Sounds best-seller list almost immediately upon release, and weeks later sits at number 7. The others (no less great!) are at 16 (Hancock) and 27.

It's the blues groove that grips listeners—but on the opening track of Midnight Blue, Ray Barretto's conga, so strikingly and transparently captured by RVG, is an ear-grabber. The tune's every element wins over even the jazz-challenged.

The Verismo gets the "crack" of the conga just right—with plenty of skin following the hit. It's just as right on with drummer Bill English's woody "in your room" rim taps and snare snaps. Any softer on these, and the excitement drains. Major Holley Jr.'s bass has just-right weight, shape, and nimble attack, and Burrell's Gibson Super 400 archtop/Fender amp combo—one of the great guitar sounds on record—has just the right balance of transient attack, clarity, and warm sustain.


Set up properly, you'll never find the Verismo boring—or strident. It sings in a timbrally neutral voice that doesn't call attention to itself. On the finest true stereophonic recordings, the Verismo—like the Anna Diamond—deftly places well-focused, three-dimensional images in a natural-sounding space. For a serious dose of that, try Yuko Mabuchi Plays Miles Davis (Yarlung YAR45588/91-171V).


I lavished much attention on Mel Tormé in last month's review of the expensive Analog Relax EX1000 cartridge from Japan—so how'd he fare here? Not quite as velvet a fog—not quite as "jump-in" lush—but velvety and lush enough at less than half the price, and on Mel Tormé and Friends, there's more room sound.

Much as with loudspeakers, we're in a cartridge-design renaissance. Modern materials and construction techniques are allowing designers to achieve (if they desire) timbral neutrality, detail resolution heretofore unavailable, and—especially—dynamic contrasts that come closer than ever to delivering the medium's full potential and realistic sound. Enjoy "romantic" sound? The MC Verismo can deliver that, too—if it's on the recording.

The Orb DF-01IA disc flattener
In my review of the OMA K3 turntable in the October 2021 issue, I noted that a few warped records were impossible to flatten with the 'table's reflex clamp system, rendering them unplayable in the absence of a vacuum hold-down. I promised a review of this device, the Orb DF-01ia disc flattener (footnote 2). I tried an earlier iteration years ago and found it difficult and perilous to use. That's no longer true, and the price is right.


My review sample came from Mockingbird Distribution, an Orb dealer that sells the DF-01ia for $1150—including shipping in the lower 48 states. A $1300 "+" model adds the ability to flatten records that don't have a "groove guard" and includes adapters that make it easier to flatten 7" and 10" records, though the standard version can do those sizes too.


The Orb Disc Flattener successfully flattened the previously unplayable Haim Sisters' Women in Music Part III (Columbia 19439748311), a double 45rpm set, and Monk: Palo Alto (Impulse B0032181-01); reader feedback indicates that a large proportion of this release was warped (footnote 3). None of these records were damaged in any way. Both flattened almost perfectly and both are now playable. My too-warped-to-play copy of Mobile Fidelity's "One Step," double 45rpm edition of Monk's Dream was also successfully rescued, as was the Verve/Acoustic Sounds reissue of Oliver Nelson's all-star exercise The Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse A-5).

Footnote 1: Ortofon USA, 500 Executive Blvd., Suite 102, Ossining, NY 10562. Tel: (914) 762-8646. Web:

Footnote 2: Orb Co. Ltd., 6-1 Minamibefu Settu, Osaka, Japan. Tel: +81 (0)6-6349-1858. e-mail: US distributor: Mockingbird Distribution. Tel: (214) 668-2509. Web:

Footnote 3: I received two warped copies—and no flat ones.—Jim Austin


Allen Fant's picture

Happy New Year! MF
great looking Cable/Cords via RSX Technologies.

Jack L's picture


Thanks to my electrical power engineering job. I've involved in electrical cable long enough to let me design/build quality audio interconnects & power cords without wrecking my wallet.

Yes, air is the best dielectric of any wave transmission (=1) next to vaccuum. Teflon/PTFE is 2.1 relative to air. Excellent materials for electric conductor insulation = minumum loss for electrical waves to pass through.

My design/built cables are ALL teflon + air insulated. Period.

But I am pretty skeptical using copper, however pure, as the signal conductor due to the residue copper oxide inside vs pure silver. Yes, may be "long crystsal laboratory grade pure copper" helps a lot SONICALLY.

I only use 99.99% pure silver SOLID conductors for my audio cables/cords.
Silver is the metal of lowest elctrical resistivity & highest thermal conductivity on earth.

IMO, I use pure silver only mainly is for its sonic quality. the inherent 'impurity' in the metal = silver oxide does less 'harm' to the sound of the music signls passing through it than the copper oxide inside the copper conductor.

I've experienced enough to decide to go for pure silver only for my audio cables. Silver sounds much louder, more transparent & transient faster than oxygen-free (only theoretically as minute traces of copper oxide is always there which affects the sound) pure copper.

Subjectively, it sounds sooo much more 'elegant' than oxygen-free pure copper. A close analogy is sound of WE300B vs non-WE 300B in term of sonic 'elegancy'

The problem of using pure silver is the silver tarnishes pretty fast in contact with atmospheric airs which are usually contaminated with sulphur.

So I managed to airtight all my silver cables/cords. So many years now, the sound never change, still so consistent. So I've solved the silver tarnishing problem !

Now here comes another critical issue: shielding !!

Overall/individual conductor shielding will increase the interconductor capacitance & inductance of the cable, which may affect the sound depending how the cable shielding termination is made.

That's why I never put any overall/individual conductor shielding to my desingn/built cables/cords. Without any shielding over the cable, the music sound so much more open & neutral. My very skeptical ears tell me so. Yet my non-shielded silver interconnects & power cord never give me any RFI/EMI & hum problem !!!!!!!!!

So to pay $3,150 for one meter a pair of 'pure' copper interconnect, how much would you pay for 99.99% pure silver interconnects of same length home-brew by yours truly ????

Listening is believing

Jack L

PS: all my cables are electrically 'shielded' but in a different way to affect the sonic to minimum.

Jack L's picture


To pay way over a grand to flatten a vinyl LP ???? The warped record got to be some unreplaceable value, like a wedding gift from the better half !!???

I would never doubt it would work to save warped vinyl records. But its cost to own would render any vinyl LPs forbiddently expensive to keep, right?

For cheapskate like yours truly, my 1,000+ LPs only cost me 1 buck or so a pop from thrift stores. Most most of them are obsolete old old classical music labels (some dated back to 1950s) which are unreplaceable.

Believe it or not, nearly all those pre-owned vinyl are in excellent physical condtion: no warp & no scrap either. I'm a lucky duck or what ?

Only a couple of LPs which came warped slightly at the rim. So what? I just throw them out. Do I worry to spend over a grand to flatten such 1-buck warped record ????

Be a smart consumer !

Jack L