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Topic: Tell me about more about Ortofone SPU Sound.

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Posted by Romy the Cat on 12-01-2004

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looking at your reply in the Denon-103 thread, and considering that you are from UK, I conclude that you are well-familiar with Ortofones. Can you tell me more about them?

I never had them personally, I had in past a inexpensive Ortofone arm and it was horrible. That built up my revolt to Ortofones, completely non-justifiable, and I clearly understand it.

I never used Ortofone cartridges, though I head them many times in context on somebody’s else systems. However,  I did not like those “somebody’s else systems” and Sound they produced and therefore I would not say that had an opportunity to get a satisfactory presentation of what Ortofones could do.

Knowing about the  “better” Ortofones what I was able to detect while I heard them (do not believe that I can interpret and extrapolate a result with 100% of precision), looking at some data and listening the feedback of numerous Ortofone owners (very valuable factor if one knows how to listened and what to hear in the expressed) and correlating it with my own finds about the performance of the high output MC cartridges I have some guesses why Ortofones are so attractive out there. Perhaps I would even try to put one in my new “Chernobyl Spinnaker” tonearm….

I would like to learn more about the “better”  SPU Sound. So, Starboy, can you tell me more about your Ortofones?

Romy the Cat

Posted by starboy on 12-03-2004

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Well, maybe a little cussing first to set the tone.

The older SPU's are now well sought after, many will end up in collections at now over inflated prices probably in the Far-East where they are worshipped. I've heard a few older SPU's and even those with the built in transformers and I must say that progress was most welcome. Too overblown for my liking.

Now the current crop available. Firstly demand will be low as an SME/Universal fit is required and most audiophiles have long moved on. Alas a few die-hards remain especially in the Land of the Rising Yen.

Ortofon SPU Royal N

The Royal N is the only model that can be used on any tone-arm and the sound is one of pure dynamics but without the top end extremes normally associated with. Yes, there is a ever so slight trade of in the bass but its not an everything equating to nothing sound like the 103. This animal hunts/tracks at 3 grams so boy it digs deep and with the fantastic Nude Ortofon Replicant 100 stylus it just seems to garnish info in a different way from those groove walls. The freq' range at -3db is 20-60,000 HZ (the lesser SPU's in the range only hit 18,000 - 40,000) and tracking is where she excels in spades.

Ortofon Spu Classic (Hot-Rodded)

Well this has been tweaked by the great late Australian Garrott Brothers and has a Weinz Paroc stylus (on their famed modified Decca's they were known as Garrott Micro-Scanner) This has the more traditional Spu sound being big, warm, musical and euphonic but the tweak has given the cartridge the ability to track better and so aid detail resolution. She was tested by Mr Per Windfeld (Chief Designer of Ortofon) and he was impressed with the tweak and its measurements. Yeah, she plays small combo jazz my preferred software with gusto at relaxed listening levels.

As you may have noticed from my previous 103 post I'm a transducer lover and life wouldn't be complete without these 2 SPU's in my stable. They do something to soothe the savage beast that I crave at times.

If you can demo one give it a go, especially the Royal N of which I am slightly biased naturally.

All the above IMHO

Regards all and increase the peace...


p.s. Let me know if you want know more.

Associated equipment:

Turntable: Original Bill Firebaugh Well Tempered Classic: Tweaked Technics SL1210 [Don't knock it till you've heard it and perfect for getting drunk on good wine and playing tunes]

Amplification: Esoteric Audio Research 100 Watt 509 Valve Monoblocks with Mullard valves: Jean Hiraga Lectron JH50: Pioneer SA 810 60's/70's valve integarated.

Phonostage: Esoteric Audio Research 834P with volume pot:Mullard Military Spec' valves and silver power lead.

Speakers: Quad ESL57: Mag Audio Danish Full Range Ribbons. [Apogee Stylee] Rauna Leira MK2 concrete speakers made and designed by OPUS 3 recordings.

Posted by Romy the Cat on 12-05-2004

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How much is what your appreciate in the SPU sound derives from the SPU’s high output. When we load out typical 60-65++ dB gain phonostages with high output 2-3mV cartridges then Sound is way more interesting.

I would not speculate if the thick wires in the coils, amount of the turns, different magnets and some other things are affecting the result but I feel defiantly that overloaded phonostage performs very different then properly loaded. Even if you take the primitive .25V Denon and plug it into 85db gain phonocorrector then it will do way better then a regular 60-65dB phonocorrector. Let presume that by making this observation I took care about all loading, arming and the rest of the things and let assume that I absolutely do not talking about noise.

So, by commenting about the “big” and warm” SPU sound… how much this “largeness” comes from the initial large voltage coming into the corrector, particularly in your case: the 834P loves a lot of input voltage?

When we use a low output needle, properly load it and introduce a lot of gain after phonostages then it always sounds thin, small and contra-warm. The cartridges warmth comes with the “gain arrogance”, or at least this is what I feel.

Anyhow, I am contemplating to get the SPU Mono needle… I just hesitant to do it because I would need a mono phonocorrector and I am too lazy to build it…

Thanks, Starboy
The Cat

Posted by Brian Clark on 12-12-2004


 Romy the Cat wrote:
How much is what your appreciate in the SPU sound derives from the SPU’s high output.

I think you must be referring to the T version with built-in step-up Romy. Current production SPUs have a quoted sensitivity of 0.2 mV. Starboy's SPU that I heard in my system was certainly not "gain arrogant", it came across as a subtler cart than the Denon.
It WAS just a plug 'n' play situation without adjustment to loading however (510 ohms via the 834P internal transformer) so not exactly an over-meaningful comparison.


Posted by Romy the Cat on 12-12-2004

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OK, I will try the SPU mono. I have some questions:

It comes in a headshell with SME bayonet. I really do not need it. Can I remove the cartridge and mount it on a normal “tow-holes from top” tonearm? If it is removable then what be the mass of the cartridge without the shell? Is SPU mono actually a true mono or it is a mono-strapped version of their stereo cartridges? SPU comes form “Stereo Pick Up” so, I wonder… When we cross-wire the stereo cartridges we cancel out the lateral modulations but still it would be nice do not have any of them to begin with….

The Cat

PS: Yes, they all are 2-3mv without built-in step-ups.

Posted by Brian Clark on 12-12-2004


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I don't think it is possible to deconstruct as you desire. Perhaps you need to talk to Per Winfeld at Ortofon (I can give you the email address).

The SPU Mono has 4 coils rotated 45 deg and connected for vertical modulation cancellation. The CG 25Dia has the very same single armature motor as the original 1948 design. The only advantage of the Mono SPU is that it has vertical compliance, like the 102 (which of course is a single armature true mono motor).


Posted by starboy on 12-12-2004

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Methinks that Mr C is correct in that the SPU cannot be deconstructed as I asked the same question elsewhere and got shouted down.   :-(  But hey, maybe they were minor league rookies and some major playa has the answer....

By the way Mr C, the Spu you were treated too was tested by Mr P.W. and the output for this revised Garrott Classic came to 1.5 mv.


StarboY..... No idea but all the gear and a damn good ear...

And please Mr C hurry and make a working phonostage as I will be first in the queue for a demo. Hey, hows about a built in bad boy volume pot? You knows I'm a minimal animal.

Posted by Brian Clark on 12-12-2004

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Hey Mr M, phono stage will be quite a while yet. I'm way behind on my commissions for various unfortunate reasons Sad

Did I tell you I got my own cool Dragon Stockholm vinyl?
Um, probably...


Posted by Romy the Cat on 03-28-2005

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I, after being sick and tired form the Denon 102 misery, got the Ortofon Mono needle. I was under impression that Ortofon Mono was true mono cartridge with one coil. However, when I opened it up to mount it’s insert on my “Chernobyl Spinnaker” tonearm I released that it has 4 output leads and that it is essential a stereo cartridge strapped in mono to cancel out the latitude reading. What the hell? I can do it myself without buying a dedicated needle! Dose anyone know if this thing even have an older conical shape of the tip? Did anyone dealt with this cartridge?

The pissed Cat

Posted by Brian Clark on 03-28-2005

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Romy, is that an SPU Mono that you have there? This converted stereo cartridge (SPU = Stereo Pick Up) has its coils rotated 45 degrees to reduce vertical sensing.

The Ortofon C Series are the genuine mono cartridges - the motor system is the same as it was in 1948. They have made them with 4-pin output, like the DL-102, for many years now to make them compatible with stereo-wired arms.

My next equipment purchase is going to be an Ortofon CG 25 to use in an SME Series 1 arm.


PS My air-vaned 834T is performing very nicely for our delectation here.

Posted by Brian Clark on 03-28-2005

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NOT like the '102, which has just the two pins of course.


Fight Entropy!

Posted by Romy the Cat on 03-28-2005

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It has nothing on it besides “Ortofon Mono”. Perhaps if I remove it form the standard Ortofon whale-shape shell then I will be able to identify it. The manual that comes with it said: “SPU cartridges” and has the specification for the entire line up. In the Line up there are 3 cartridges: SPU Mono GM, MONO CG25 and Mono CG65. How could I tell which one I got?

The caT

Posted by Brian Clark on 03-28-2005

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If it is the CG it should say Dia 25 somewhere - unless it is for 78s when it would say Dia 65.
"Dia" for Diamond, the number for the diameter in microns.
I guess if it doesn't say this it will be the SPU Mono.

Actually, if you remove it from the shell the shape of the assembly will say it all.
The type C assembly is a rectangular block, the SPU is thinner, like conventional MC cart assemblies.


Posted by Romy the Cat on 03-29-2005

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I can’t figure out what it is since it is a first Ortofon that I opened. Can you tell me what it is?

Anyhow, I am little disappointed as I anticipated that it should be a purely mono cartridges. I wounded what I have to do with it if I have only 2 cables on my mono arm? I have no problems to connect juts one coil be then the opposite coil of other channel will not cancel out the latitude reading of this signle coil . I wonder…


Posted by Brian Clark on 03-29-2005


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SPU alright! White/Blue and Red/Green should carry identical signal so either pair will do.

The advantage of the SPU Mono is, like with the DL-102, you need have no worries about damaging stereo pressings.


Posted by Romy the Cat on 03-29-2005

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I even never thought about “damaging of stereo records” as there are other objectives to peruse mono cartridge.

Anyhow, I appreciate your help, Brain. I understand that White/Blue and Red/Green carry identical signal but it is not the question. The question that I had if those wires divide as the parallel feeds from one single coil or they come form two coils with electrically reversed polarity (like we do usually when you strap a stereo cartridge to play mono). This SPU does looks small and it does looks like it has one coil but you said “its coils rotated 45 degrees to reduces…” Theoretically in the Ortofon world SPU means "Stereo Pick-Up", so it sounds like my Mono cartridge is a regular stereo cartridge rewired in mono configuration. Frankly speaking I was under impression that Ortofon is curious company and if they suggested that thier cartridges are mono then it would have one single motor and from the Mono-times needle’s diameter. Apparently I extended too much credit to them… I have to look at this thing under a microscope. I hope they did not cheat with the spherical profile…

The caT

Posted by Brian Clark on 03-29-2005

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Romy, a true old-fashioned mono cart, like the Ortofon C Series, has NO vertical compliance at all so theoretically could cause heavy damage to a stereo trace. However I am in correspondence with a chap who does play SOME old stereo pressings with a CG 25 and even after repeated plays detects no deterioration on subsequent playing with a stereo cart.

The wires in the SPU Mono come from stereo coils which have been rotated 45 degrees to emphasise lateral reponse and de-emphasise vertical response - i.e. L+R output with L-R cancelled.

Your cartridge will have the same 25 micron (1 mil) spherical stylus tip as the CG 25 so will ride a little higher in the groove than your 17 micron (0.7 mil ) tipped DL-102.

I would expect them to recommend the SPU Mono over the C-series to enquirers because it can be used exactly the same as a stereo cart with no caveat about groove damage to stereo LPs.
I.e. it's the safer option for someone who is swapping with a stereo cart on a single arm.


Posted by Romy the Cat on 04-25-2005



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I have been running my new Ortofon SPU Mono cartridge and can’t figure out why SPU has such a strong positive reputation and why some SPU users when I ask them about Sound of those cartridge they roll up their eyes. Yes, it is all around fine cartridge but it has quite prominent upperbass with some yellowish tone. I asked Rony about this quality and he commented:

”As regards the upper-bass prominence in the Ortofon I think it exactly what people refer to as the 'spu sound'. It gives a fat violin or over-prominent left-hand on piano, even a super-presence to guitar (try Segovia) that is appealing to some.”

I would not suggest that this SPU glorified puffy-softness is something that is unpleasant. It’s pleasant, however, this idiosyncratic SPU presentation spreads ABSOLUTELY EQUALLY to ANY music and to ANY recording.

Whatever I spin:

Starker with Szeryng playing Brahms’s Double Concerto with Natick and Concertgebouw
Pablo Casals playing Bach’s Unaccompanied Suites
Piatigorsky playing Dvorak concerto with Munch and Boston
Rostropovich playing Haydn concerto with Britten and English Chamber
Du Pre playing Elgar’s concerto with Barbirolli and London
Casals playing Dvorak concerto with Szell and Czech Philarmonic…

…they all “sound” kind of the same. Well, not the REALY same, but this “SPU Sound” flavors all those performances and minimizes the uniqueness and idiosyncrasy of each improvisation. I do not know what those SPU lovers find so attractive in it but I do not think that I like it. Perhaps I do anything wrong with my SPU? Nope, do not get me wrong I do like my SPU mono cartridge – it has very valuable softness and nobility in sound but I wonder if that “largeness” in upperbass could be eliminated.

Interestingly that I have not problems with violin peaces and this slightly overly-reach bottom harmonics work remarkable well. Was playing juts now Francescatti with Ormandy/Phila performing Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen and it sounded just phenomenal! However, as soon the cello group kicks in than it become too “recognizable”..

I understand why the listeners with boxed speakers or with open-baffles would love to fully employ this “SPU effect” (and patricianly the open-baffles guys whose not-damped drivers go to garbage disposal at upper bass) but how can I “use” this upper-bass beautification?

Anyhow, is it possible to lower this SPU’s upper-bass overfriendliness?

Romy the Cat

Posted by Brian Clark on 04-25-2005


...but whether it would be a better match to your speakers than the SPU who's to say.

I am planning an SPU Mono vs CG 25 comparison in my system in the fairly new future. Unlike your speakers mine could do with a little help in that area.

Maybe futzing around with tracking angle could tone down the fruitiness, though perhaps not that helpful with a spherical stylus.
Or a different arm??

Perhaps Zyx will come out with a mono cart one day soon since they are now fashionable.


Posted by guy sergeant on 04-25-2005

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What impedance is the SPU working into? My recollection (10 years since I used one) is that it liked to see a very low impedance load. I would expect puffy, diffuse low frequencies if the impedance was too high.
 I do recall that it was a very 'musical' sounding cartridge but not that it had any obvious tonal imbalance. Mine had that big horrible headshell removed and a small aluminium 2 hole mounting plate fitted which may have helped. I believe your preferred arms are mostly of the bayonet fixing headshell variety though so you'll probably have to keep the headshell it came with.

Are you able to change the loading on the ET transformers?

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