Ortofon Xpression pickup head Specifications

Sidebar: Specifications

Description: Moving-coil pickup head. Cartridge body material, SLM Stainless Steel and Special proprietary TPE-compound. Stylus type, Special polished Nude Ortofon Replicant 100 on boron cantilever. Stylus tip radius r/R, 5/100µm. Internal impedance, DC resistance, 4 ohms. Recommended load impedance, >10 ohms. Output voltage at 1kHz, 5cm/s, 0.3mV. Channel balance at 1kHz, <0.2dB. Channel separation at 1kHz, >28dB. Channel separation at 15kHz, >22dB. Frequency response, 20Hz–20kHz +0.5/–1.5dB. Tracking ability at 315Hz at recommended tracking force, 90µm. Compliance, dynamic, lateral, 11µm/mN. Tracking force range, 2.3–2.8gm (23–28 mN). Tracking force, recommended, 2.6gm (26mN). Tracking angle, 23°.
Cartridge weight: 28gm.
Price: $5669.
Manufacturer: Ortofon A/S, Stavangervej 9, DK-4900 Nakskov, Denmark. Tel: (45) 54-91-19-15. Fax: (45) 54-91-19-11. US distributor: Ortofon Inc., 500 Executive Boulevard, Suite 102, Ossining, NY 10562. Tel: (914) 762-8646. Fax: (914) 762-8649. Web: www.ortofon.com.

Ortofon A/S
US distributor: Ortofon Inc.
500 Executive Boulevard, Suite 102
Ossining, NY 10562
(914) 762-8646

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Express Yourself" ............ Madonna :-) ..........

Anton's picture

With these "fixed" position cartridges, is it pretty universal that the stylus will land on the right spot (proper overhang) for every 'collet type' arm?

JimAustin's picture

>>With these "fixed" position cartridges, is it pretty universal that the stylus will land on the right spot (proper overhang) for every 'collet type' arm?<<

In principle it is, although the alignment isn't always perfect. because the position of the stylus relative to the collet connection can sometimes be off a little bit. So it makes sense to check the alignment as you would with any cartridge. Not a problem in this case, however.


Zachteich's picture

Jim, you own the bloody thing. You should do the right thing and buy it. I thought Stereophile had a policy about not holding such long term “loans.” How do you just forget about a multi-kilobuck cartridge?

JimAustin's picture

Well at least I came clean in the review; that counts for something, right? Also, for what it's worth, I did buy it.


gjetson's picture

When I read that you had put a $5399 cartridge on the shelf and forgot about it for six years, I was flabbergasted. Didn't it occur to you (or the editors) how arrogant and entitled that sounds? Apparently Ortofon wrote off the "loan" as a $5399 bribe. No wonder so many people question the objectivity of reviewers.

JimAustin's picture

Stereophile has a policy of reviewing all the components we receive--and, conversely, of not taking in equipment that we do not intend to review. So, having requested a sample for review, I was therefore reluctant to return the Xpression unreviewed--and as I wrote in the review, I simply didn't know what to write. I did not feel that the reviewer I was then could do it justice in the context of the system I had then, in particular my analog front end, which was loads of fun but not the least bit analytical.

I like to think there's virtue in transparency--in acknowledging struggles and learning experiences. Such transparency opens one up to criticism. But by telling this whole, true story I was, I feel, able to give readers more insight into product than if I'd suppressed the story and merely rendered a final verdict--and about me, since readers should know who they're trusting (or not trusting). If my goal had been to protect my reputation and demonstrate my golden ear and audiophile mastery, I would have written the review quite differently.

A few more points:
* Instead of putting it on the shelf and using my own cartridges, I could have kept using the Xpression and worn it out. Such things have been been known to happen in this world (although not, to the best of my knowledge, at Stereophile).
* If the importer had, at any time, asked for it back, I would of course have sent it back immediately.
* After the review was submitted, I bought the cartridge.

I'm not especially proud of keeping the Xpression as long as I did--I think that's clear from the review--but by being honest and transparent in describing the whole experience, warts (mine) and all, I think I was able to make it work to the benefit of Stereophile's readers.

Thanks for the note.


johnnythunder's picture

After reading your righteous post, I can safely say that it is no wonder so many reviewers question the objectivity of their readers. This post is not directed towards Jim but to the gentleman poster who seemed a tad apoplectic of Jim keeping the Ortofon so long.

davip's picture

...I wonder if the gushing reviewer of the DreamTime CD player is in a rush to 'return' it.

For anyone who would like a taste (and a very full-bodied one at that) of what amazing vinyl replay sounds like without needing to spend 1000s and recoil from the "...clarity, articulation, maybe a more accurate frequency response" of mid-range analogue spinners, think about purchasing a suspended sub-chassis turntable (either a new Linn, £1725, a SOTA Sapphire, ~ $3000, a Gyrodec, or a S/H vintage TT) and put a Hadcock GH228 tonearm (undamped) and Nagaoka MP110 cartridge on it (and learn to manually cue!). My combination of that arm, cartridge, and an STD 305M TT sounded extraordinary in every respect, with no emphasis of surface noise, no speed-stability issues, no lack of bass or dynamics, and no problem at all in suspending disbelief that what I heard in front of me was real rock musicians playing. I have never been able to say the latter about any digital device that I have owned or heard in the 30 years since...

JimAustin's picture


I've heard all those 'tables and like 'em all. My good friend Bryan has a Gyrodec, and I've spent many blissful evenings over the years listening to it with a range of cartridges. Still, there's something about my old-school unsuspended 'table that keeps me coming back. ...

... which reminds me that there's something left unsaid in these comments, and only implied in the review. I paid something like $1100 for my 'table maybe 10 years ago, including an Ortofon RMG-212 tonearm, state of the art back in the day. I've probably spent a bit more than that fixing it up--but we're still not talking about an expensive rig. That's a big reason why I found the Xpression so odd and idiosyncratic: It's an expensive cartridge designed for vintage 'tables. Except maybe for the odd ultra-refurbished 301, or one of a small number of new-but-old-school 'tables making their way onto the scene, it's very likely that such a cartridge will be used with a table/tonearm combo that costs much less than the cartridge does. I think one can reasonably conclude from my review that, while the Xpression is excellent, to get full benefit from such an expensive cart, it's a good idea to make sure your (likely vintage) system is in good condition and well set-up.

One more thing: Thanks for the tip about the Hadcock. I'm in the market for an arm to put on the in-board arm board of my TD-124 for use with a wider range of (non-collet) cartridges. I'll research the Hadcock.

Be well,

davip's picture

Whatever you do, don't damp the trough with silicone before listening to the arm without. The biggest change in tonal balance follows with doing so, leading to the much-touted unipivot loss of bass. Whether such arms are by-design more susceptible to the effects of changing damping or whether it's just easier to assess because of this option is unclear (to me). All I know is that this arm undamped has profound room-locking bass with a midrange and filigree treble that made the Ittok and Rega that I compared it to at the time sound faulty. To my mind, the late George H made better tonearms 30 years ago than Rega will ever make because the model is better to begin with, although I'd dearly love to hear the 228 against a properly set-up WTL arm (something that its cheapo manufacturers seem unable to do or its designers even engage with in-print, i.e., https://www.stereophile.com/content/listening-140#comment-574092), as I suspect that this floating arm would be its match. If the WTL Amadeus wasn't so cheaply-made and attention was paid to quality (and QC) instead of profit they would have a turntable/arm combo to take the audiophile world by storm. Dummies.

Two further things about the Hadcock. 1) They changed the armtube from aluminium to a gaudy stainless-steel, a retrograde step and the former now no longer an option. This has raised effective mass from 9 to 11 g, so not so good a match for MM carts as it was. 2) The armtubes are interchangeable, so if you want to use it with a range of carts then you is in luck.

I guess you'd better get one in for review :D

JimAustin's picture

I very much appreciate all the info on the Hadcock; makes me want to hear it all the more. But, just poking around in the 'net, it does not appear that they are widely available. In fact, on the SoundHiFi.com site, it says "We no longer stock or can get arms or spare parts. January 2017" Got any inside info?


davip's picture

I bought mine in 1980 (!) so no inside info. However, this is the site you want rather than Soundstage: http://www.britishaudiostore.com/hadcock-tonearms-and-spares/. My understanding is that when George passed-on the mantle passed to his son and they continued manufacturing and refining, as the given link indicates. The earliest pre-80s incarnations were true unipivots with no ball-bearings at all (just steel-point and thrust plate), thereafter a four-ball-race was put in the thrust for following arms. The Export arm you see in this Product link (http://www.britishaudiostore.com/hadcock-gh228-export-tonearm/) is a dead-ringer for mine, steel armtube and modern underslung counterweight notwithstanding. Except mine cost £40 new!

It would be good to see these arms out of the limelight if you can get a review sample. It would also provide a counterpoint to my own view that this is the best arm I have ever heard...

JimAustin's picture

I'll see if I can try one--but I'm quite sure its limited availability will prevent me from doing a review. Stereophile policy says a product must be available through at least five (U.S.? I think so) dealers for a regular review; this policy doesn't apply to columnists, but that ain't me!

Thanks again.

Metalhead's picture

Dear Ortofon,

Please send me an Anna or A95 to compare with my Kontra B.

I promise to return it in five years.

Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Zachteich's picture

Jim, I’m happy to hear that you eventually bought the review sample. I’m guessing that you were able to take advantage of a significant trade discount, particularly since Ortofon couldn’t have been happy to take back a five year old unit. Your purchase - and coming clean about it - notwithstanding, the fact remains that your actions have undermined your credibility as a reviewer. Every time I see your byline, I’ll be asking myself if your favorable opinion is, at least in part, created by the generous terms manufacturers offer you. Had I been in your place, I would have suggested to Ortofon that they take the unused cartridge back and have someone else review it. That would have been consistent with your view then that your system didn’t do it justice.

JimAustin's picture

>>Every time I see your byline, I’ll be asking myself if your favorable opinion is, at least in part, created by the generous terms manufacturers offer you. <<

It has long seemed to me that there's a deep inconsistency in such claims: unless we're doing something outrageously improper like selling it for a profit, why should we risk our integrity and reputation for something we don't much like? You don't give someone a rusted-out Pinto as a bribe to favorably review rusted-out Pintos. After all, if we do like it, no bribe is necessary: we're just being honest.

Plus--new point--a brand-new Porsche isn't much of a bribe if you don't sell it and you just leave it parked in the garage. Call me an idiot for not taking advantage, but don't call me dishonest.

No, my opinion is not created by the generous terms manufacturers offer me. So there you go. You are of course free to disbelieve me and to skip my future reviews.

>>Had I been in your place, I would have suggested to Ortofon that they take the unused cartridge back and have someone else review it. That would have been consistent with your view then that your system didn’t do it justice.<<

It would not, however, have been consistent with Stereophile's editorial policy.

I've made my position clear, so I won't be continuing this conversation.



Zachteich's picture

Frankly, the person who should be commenting is John Atkinson. If he cleared your decision to hold this cartridge for six years until you believed your system and your ears were worthy, he is the one who should take the blame. “Stereophile’s editorial policy” indeed.

John Atkinson's picture
Zachteich wrote:
Frankly, the person who should be commenting is John Atkinson. If he cleared your decision to hold this cartridge for six years until you believed your system and your ears were worthy, he is the one who should take the blame.

Okay, mea culpa. And now Jim's review has been published, that, surely, should be the end of the matter.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Anton's picture

This is audiophilia, we specialize in obsessing over the smallest faults or imperfections!


I wonder if there will be calls for Jim's execution over in Critics' Corner.

Tempest, meet teapot!

Put me down as a vote for being fine with the fine Mr. Austin.

My wife is an alpaca farmer, her motto is "Spit Happens." I think it can be used here for Jim and the umbrage he has generated.

JimAustin's picture

>>My wife is an alpaca farmer, her motto is "Spit Happens." I think it can be used here for Jim and the umbrage he has generated.<<

I lived 20 years in Maine, so had several opportunities to visit with alpacas--they look so adorable, but--watch out!

I much appreciate your support.


ok's picture

Cartridges are tiny little things that don't scream hello and the man did not even write a review in opportune time. You could call him unmindful or in worst case scenario ungrateful – but wait.. aren't these the exact opposites of paying off?

ok's picture

this might actually be the frankest article on vinyl I’ve ever read in my life. No blessing, no curse, no fake science or dumb excuses for one’s personal taste. I really could not agree more.

johnnythunder's picture

It's an honest review/article on every level.

JimAustin's picture

I very much appreciate seeing the word "honest" used to describe one of my reviews. That's what I aspire to. No pretense. Thanks to both of you, johnnythunder and ok.


Michael Fremer's picture

Jim, poor set up will do that every time. The better the front end, the less noise, the less "tizz", and the less vinyl sounds like CDs.

JimAustin's picture

Interesting, thanks. FWIW, even back then I was pretty meticulous about cartridge setup--less so, maybe in, e.g., isolation. One of these days I'll try it again, moving on up the line.

volvic's picture

Thoroughly enjoy reading these as a former TD-124 owner, these reviews bring back memories of a turntable that offered great big sound but needed loads of $$$ from Schopper to bring it where I wanted. Good stuff. Hope you finally got that A/C installed.

JimAustin's picture

Thank you!

>>Hope you finally got that A/C installed.<<

Indeed I did--and it turned out to be a major pain! Turns out there's a boiler fan that vents just outside my listening room window, and with the ac installed there's essentially NO isolation. The fan is on nearly all the time in winter, so this was a serious problem for reviewing. Eventually I pulled that big, heavy AC unit out of the window. (It's a rental, so my options are limited.) This summer I bought a portable unit. Doesn't cool as well--less efficient--but much easier to put in and take out. Plus, management has promised to deal with the noise issue before the next heating season. Time will tell. ...

volvic's picture

Our built in units clog and leak and are very old, brought a portable unit from Mtl when I moved to NYC and just bought a smaller one for the bedroom. They both have remotes so when it's time to spin some vinyl they can easily be turned off. The noise in Manhattan with boiler fans (in your case) and noise on 1st avenue for me, is an issue for enjoying music. Was listening to Furtwangler's Bruckner 8th and in the quiet passages could hear the trucks and cabs on the street. I yearn for what Lavorgna and Dudley have for musical enjoyment. Sadly, don't think we'll be leaving the city.

JimAustin's picture

>>I yearn for what Lavorgna and Dudley have for musical enjoyment.<<

Art isn't 20 minutes from Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y, etc. :-)


volvic's picture

Oh well, my bad. Then I just yearn for Lavorgna's musical listening space.

JimAustin's picture

Oh, no, you're right. I must not have been clear. I was just pointing out that living in NYC has some advantages, too.

volvic's picture

Plenty of advantages! It has everything, but if Academy Records on 18th ever closes or moves, then I am done with NYC.

beauranheim's picture

Instead of leaving you might venture out to Academy's Brooklyn branch, and maybe visit a few more stores in the area.

volvic's picture

Those stores don’t carry the genres I listen to.

JimAustin's picture

Hey Beau, just saw this. Thought I'd comment. I visit the Brooklyn store, the east-side store, and the 18th Street store periodically, along with the Jazz Record Center and a handful of stores in the Village. Having come here from a civilized small city (Portland, Maine), I've found New York-area record stores unimpressive. In Portland I had just one main store--there were some others, but one I especially liked--and I could always find something interesting to buy. The problem, I suspect, is that there are just too many of us here, picking them over. Could also just be timing: Good records at good prices have gotten more rare, and that roughly coincided with my move south. For the record, I spent a year in Princeton circa 2000 and spent a lot of time at PREX. I remember it being much better back then--which supports the latter theory: It's not the place, it's the era.

Anton's picture

No destination record shops where I live, so I have "evolved," or, more aptly, likely "devolved."

I now tend to sit and listen to records while perusing my iPhone for fun LP ideas. Then, I read about the pressing information and slip over to Discogs.

I value my time at 10 bucks an hour, so if I decide I want a Steely Dan Aja AB-1006 pressing in mint condition, I value it out as what the cost would be to head into the bay area to look and the time I would spend shopping...plus the cost of the other crazy stuff I would buy. (One time, in So Cal, I impulse bought a vintage Yamaha CR 3020.) I rationalize my laziness as a time/money saver and have had great luck with Discogs. Many times, I then shop with the same seller looking at inventory, so it's like shopping in a shop. Or, at least that's what I tell myself.

Semi-rural life is full of hardship, and us members of the "hard urban" diaspora must adapt and evolve.

If not for Amazon, Discogs, The Music Room site, and Fed Ex, I couldn't live out here. But, if momma happy, everybody happy (and I can crank the music with no fear of a neighbor being bothered.)

JimAustin's picture

Discogs or sometimes eBay. But--in all those (post-eBay) days that I spent in b&m record stores, I always resented stores that sold their best stuff online. So now I still feel a little pang of guilt when I buy that way. (I do it anyway.)

ken mac's picture

Stores in NYC are notoriously picked clean. More so than ever. But a brief NJT ride to New Brunswick (forget PREX unless you get their email blast altering arrival of a new collection), and a 10 minute Uber ride to Millbrook NJ brings you to Darren Revilla's store. Middle of nowhere, great collections, and most NYers won't bother. Darren's business is so good he recently moved to a larger space, and he has a good selection of used hi-fi, to boot. It is the place. And it ain't NYC.

JimAustin's picture

I drive by there approximately twice / week, on my way back and forth to Pennsylvania. Will be there in about an hour, in fact (heading northeast), but no time to stop even if it's open. Won't be long.

To reciprocate a little: There's a place in Ephrata, PA that has a huge collection. Called the Record Connection. Not a lot of collectible stuff, but much volume of decent stuff. A little more than two hours from the city.

ken mac's picture

Keep your eyes on the road and ....

volvic's picture

Thanks for the recommendation, will check it out next time I drive out to NJ. For me there are not that many classical and opera record stores anymore. There used to be quite a few in NYC in the 80's and 90's but most of those have closed. Stereophile profiled a few of them in several issues over the years and the one that still has a decent selection that is still around, albeit at much higher prices than the past, is Academy Records on 18th but have sadly had to move over to Discogs and ebay for more selection and real world prices. I have had better luck in Boston. I do like Aux33 Tours in Montreal, where I have had good success there, however their prices have inched upwards for used vinyl, but it is still a fun store.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Rafe lives in a bungalow ........ He must be thinking ....... La vie est merveilleuse :-) .........

tonykaz's picture

I wonder if all our Old & Vintage Phono Cartridges are still worthy of having a "Closer" look to see how they perform.

Are those vintage Koetsu Reds still worthy ?

Tony in Michigan

ps. is there someone that can breath new life into our drawer full of dead & dying ?