Do remember that, for all its sterling virtues, the TB gear is in the middle of the hi-fi chain—not at the start. If information isn’t recovered in the first place to be amplified and transduced, then it might as well not have been engraved in the grooves. Thus the magically realistic way that the Technical Brain suite of electronics in combination with the Raidho C 4.1 loudspeakers reproduce something like the violin and “string piano” pizzicatos of George Crumb’s Four Nocturnes [Mainstream/Time]—and reproduce them not just with astonishingly lifelike transient speed but with astonishingly accurate tone color—is in large part owed to the Ortofon MC Anna (in DaVinciAudioLabs marvelous Virtu tonearm). Ditto, for that matter, the sound of Janis Joplin’s inimitably supple voice (which, as you undoubtedly have heard for yourself, ranges from hoarse heartfelt whispers to reedy spine-tingling wails, often within the space of a bar or two) on “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” from Kozmic Blues [Columbia].
Of course, the A90 could reproduce some of these same things almost as well as the MC Anna. What it couldn’t do, however, is capture the sheer sock of the terrific rhythm section of Joplin’s band, which here has the kind of bass and power- range weight and impact that make it sound like a solid wall of sound (just as it would in a jazz or rock club). Nor could the A90 reproduce the through-the-floor synth notes on Dead Can Dance’s Into The Labyrinth [MoFi] or the doublebass ostinatos at the parodically solemn start of the otherwise free-wheeling Allegretto of Shostakovich’s Concerto for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra [Argo] with the same natural color, weight, and, yes, sheer goosebump-raising excitement of the Anna.
Like the best speakers and electronics, the Anna is also exceptionally good at preserving the lifelike timing of notes. While considerably warmer and more inherently beautiful- sounding than the A90, the Anna doesn’t overemphasize the harmonic series, as more romantic cartridges (such as Koetsus) do. Nor, for all its incredible speed and newfound power does it scant tone and decay. Everything unfolds at a natural pace— which along with the cartridge’s pinpoint imaging, sensational resolution of low-level detail, and excellent reproduction of soundstage ambience and dimensionality—makes for more of those moments when recorded things sounds so much like the real ones that your heart skips a beat.
This doesn’t just go for thrilling staccato or fortissimo passages, BTW; it is also there in lilting legato or pianissimo ones. Massed strings, for example, on well-recorded LPs like the Shostakovich I mentioned or the Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos [Decca] have a silken sweetness that I don’t associate with previous Ortofons. The A90 would’ve deracinated those strings just a bit, making them a little “whiter” in timbre, a little less fully like themselves. Same for high-pitched instruments such as flutes, bells, and cymbals. Like bass and power-range instruments, they have more energy, but they also have considerably more color, which is mixed with that energy in proportions that make these instruments sound just that much more “there.”
All in all, what we have in the MC Anna is a cartridge that is far more likely to please far more listeners. It still has the kind of neutrality and resolution that transparency-first listeners crave; on first-rate sources it sounds as fool-ya realistic as any absolute sound listener could possibly hope for; and with its newfound density of color and dynamic clout, it is beautiful and exciting enough to delight the “as you like it” crowd.
Naturally, the Ortofon MC Anna receives my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation. It is a reference-grade cartridge that significantly improves upon the reference-grade cartridge (the A90) that preceded it. In fact, I think the Anna is the most natural-sounding cartridge the venerable Danish company has made in a century of doing business!
SPECS & PRICING
Output voltage: 0.2 mV
Channel balance at 1kHz: 0.5dB
Channel separation at 1kHz: 25dB
Channel separation at 15kHz: 22dB
Frequency response: 20Hz–20kHz +/-1.5dB
Tracking ability at 315Hz at recommended tracking force: 80μm
Compliance, dynamic, lateral: 9μm/mN
Stylus type: Special polished Nude Ortofon Replicant 100 on boron cantilever
Tracking force, recommended: 2.6 grams
Tracking angle: 23° Recommended load impedance: > 10 ohms
Cartridge weight: 16 grams
JV’s Reference System
Loudspeakers: Raidho C 4.1, Raidho C1.1, Estelon X Diamond, MartinLogan CLX , Magnepan 1.7, Magnepan 3.7, Magnepan 20.7
Linestage preamps: Soulution 520, Constellation Virgo, Audio Research Reference 5SE, Technical Brain TBC -Zero EX
Phonostage preamps: Audio Research Corporation Reference Phono 2SE, Technical Brain TEQ-Zero EX/TMC-Zero
Power amplifiers: Constellation Centaur, Audio Research Reference 250, Lamm ML2.2, Soulution 501, Technical Brain TBP-Zero EX
Analog source: United Home Audio UHA Phase 11 reel-to-reel tape deck, Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond Mk V record player, AMG Viella 12 record player, Da Vinci AAS Gabriel Mk II turntable with DaVinci Master’s Reference Virtu tonearm, Acoustic Signature Ascona turntable with Kuzma 4P tonearm
Phono cartridges: Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Ortofon MC A90, Ortofon MC Anna, Benz LP S-MR
Digital sources: Berkeley Alpha DAC 2, Soulution 540
Cables and interconnects: Synergistic Research Galileo, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream Power Cords: Synergistic Research Tesla, Shunyata King Cobra, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream
Power Conditioners: Synergistics Research Galileo, Technical Brain
Accessories: Synergistic ART system, Shakti Hallographs (6), A/V Room Services Metu panels and traps, ASC Tube Traps, Critical Mass MAXXU M equipment and amp stands, Symposium Isis and Ultra equipment platforms, Symposium Rollerblocks and Fat Padz, Walker Prologue Reference equipment and amp stands, Walker Valid Points and Resonance Control discs, Clearaudio Double Matrix SE record cleaner, HiFi-Tuning silver/gold fuses