Of course, the fact that the Anna’s chassis has been built in the same way as the A90’s leaves unanswered the question of why Ortofon saw fit to re-inflate that chassis—and, to be honest, I’m not completely sure what the answer to that question is. Perhaps it has to do with lowering compliance to make for better (or more universal) tonearm-matching. (The Anna has a compliance of 9μm/mN; the A90 is 16μm/mN.) On the other hand (or in addition), it may have to do with one of the cartridge’s other “advancements” over the A90 (and previous Ortofons): its patent-pending magnet system.
Ortofon claims that this entirely new system, which “greatly optimizes geometry” and also increases the “active material” (a combination of neodymium and iron-cobalt) of the magnetic engine, “allows each coil to sense identical flux density regardless of position,” thereby optimizing dynamic linearity. It also allows the use of a lightweight, non-magnetic, polymer-based armature, reducing inductance and further increasing the accuracy with which cantilever movements are tracked and reproduced by the coils.
The dramatic increase in flux density has another significant benefit: a reduction in moving mass. Since the Anna’s magnetic field is much stronger and more evenly distributed, the coils can be constructed with far fewer windings and zero overlap among those windings. Ortofon claims that the new magnet system has also increased the effectiveness of its WRD (wide-range armature-damping) system, as the increase in flux density allows the extension of the armature beyond the coils, where it can “interface [more] directly” with the rubber-damper/platinum- disc sandwich that constitutes the WRD. “The cumulative results of these improvements,” says Ortofon, “[are] more lifelike reproduction, with nearly boundless imaging, dimensionality, and dynamics.”
While I’m not sure about “boundless imaging” (a phrase I literally don’t understand), each of Ortofon’s other claims for the Anna is borne out in the listening. What I find odd is that the company hasn’t also touted the most obvious and dramatic departure from the classic Ortofon sound: the Anna’s richer and more beautiful reproduction of timbre. Just as the Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement was unprecedentedly more voluptuous- sounding than its predecessors, so the Anna is unprecedentedly more beautiful- sounding than past Ortofons, with a considerably fuller, more extended, and more dynamic bass range and a richer, lovelier, more fully fleshed-out lower midrange than the A90, as well as a smoother, more natural upper midrange and more extended treble. Not for nothing was this cartridge named after Ms. Netrebko, whose fleet, powerful, gorgeously full-bodied voice it aptly calls to mind.
While the Ortofon MC Anna has undoubtedly gained lifelike density of tone color, it has not done so at the expense of any of Ortofon’s traditional virtues. Which is to say that this is still an extraordinarily fast, clear, ultra- high-resolution transducer with superb imaging and excellent soundstage width, depth, and height. And in spite of its newfound warmth and color, it is still a fundamentally neutral and transparent cartridge. Which is to say that what has been added to the sonic mix fills an absence rather than exaggerates something that was already present. The Anna sounds more lifelike with lifelike sources because it is, in fact, sonically more complete. While the Anna is probably more forgiving of mediocre-to- poor sources than the A90 was, it is not so rich and warm that it makes sow’s ears into silk purses; it simply makes lesser LPs more listenable and livable.
When you combine lifelike tone color with outstanding transient speed, exceptional resolution, and rock ’em/sock ’em dynamics, good things happen sonically. Indeed, I talk about several of them in my Technical Brain review elsewhere in this issue.