Review: Ortofon MC Jubilee moving coil phonograph cartridge
above: section cut of the MC Jubilee
Mounting and aligning. The Cartridge comes with a kit of mounting and maintenance tools including a selection of yellow metal (gold plated?) slotted cheese-head screws, a nicely machined miniature screw driver, 4 cartridge tag leads and a -stiff- stylus brush. When held directly to a low powered magnet the supplied screws displayed no magnetic attraction. The cartridge itself comes mounted inside a protective acrylic cylinder for safe travel and storage.
Cartridge Mounting was straightforward. The cartridge body has M2.5 tapped holes installed at standard .5 inch spacing. I used stainless steel internal hex cap screws to further simplify the mounting.
Unique to this Ortofon is an upper body surface providing three slightly raised points in triangular layout. With a single point to the front center, 2 rear, it is possible to adjust azimuth approximately two degrees, on arms that otherwise would lack the adjustment, by tightening one cartridge bolt while loosening the other, thusly tipping the angle of the mounting. Likely owners of Rega RB series arms would find this feature useful.
Cartridge posts are color coded. The supplied owners manual provides a simple schematic for foolproof connection of the headshell leads.
VTF was set at 2.2gram using a Shure SFG-2 balance scale
Overhang and Zenith Alignment was accomplished using the supplied jigs and tools that came with the Graham 2.2 tonearm being used for the review. Azimuth was set using the mirror method described in the Ortofon user manual. VTA was set over time by ear using the on-the-fly vta adjuster of the Graham arm.
The HFNRR test record was used to measure lateral arm/cartridge resonance. At between 9 -11 hz. the cantilever shook the arm/cartridge. Good match-up. In the test record bias tracks this arm and cartridge scored well completing track 8 cleanly and only suffering a slight buzz on the much feared torture track, band 9. Good tracking.
This review period ranges from 5/16/06 to 11/3/06 (5-1/2 months). For the duration of the review the cartridge was mounted to a Graham 2.2 uni-pivot tonearm. The turntable in use is a Teres model 145 with DC battery power supply. Out the bottom of the Graham 5-pin connector is a Silver wire Incognito phono cable terminating into a pair of Sowter step-up transformers (loading the cartridge to 100 ohms), then a Wright WPP100C tubed phono preamp, then Belden 89259 coax interconnects terminated with Eichmann Bullet Plug connectors. Those tie into the solid state Classe' CAP 151 integrated amplifier. Monster speaker cables terminate bare copper into the NHT 2.9 four-way tower speakers. Listening room dimensions are 25ft long, 12 ft wide with a slant ceiling 13-1/2 feet up at high end, 7-1/2 feet high at lower end. The room appears to suffer no major acoustical problems. The recent photo shows my listening environment.
Break in period:
The cartridge seemed to do most of its breaking-in within the first 20 hours when the high frequency became more extended and clean. Midrange bloomed out a bit. Bass got faster and more extended.
This is the most expensive cartridge I've used in this system to date. With that in mind, I fully expect it to out perform anything used previously, and in every way possible. Mostly, it does.
If I were to sum up the MC Jubilee's sonic traits in a short paragraph, which I can't, but if I were to try it would go something like this:
The MC Jubilees' overall sound is rich, full, ambient, detailed, and with loads of inner details cleanly defined. Leading edge transients are fast with plenty of air. It delivers excitement and atmosphere. Notes sustain long and with reverberant fading tails. There is a very strong rhythmic drive. Music has a sense of timing. It gets to the melody. It is not analytical. It is Refined. There is no harsh edginess. No unnatural harshness. No perception of grain. It tracks very well. No miss-tracking over high amplitude passages. It is neither forward nor laid-back. Natural pure tones with no apparent colorations that I can tell. Acoustic instruments are portrayed in glorious natural timbre. The record inner grooves sound as good as the outer. Frequencies are extended clear and natural in either direction without any apparent roll-off. Trust me this one is good. OK, I'm done let's break for lunch.
Wait. Kidding. There's more.
Background: The MC Jubilee was announced to the public in 1998, celebrating Ortofons' 80th anniversary. The cartridge incorporated 'then new' design elements including a Metal Injection Molding process (powdered metal) to produce its stainless steel and iron parts. The new design build is a "pressed together" assembly. No screws or adhesives. The armature and damping system actually reside within the neodymium magnet. The cantilever is a very thin, light boron rod, to reduce effective mass and speed up velocity. Six-nines pure silver is used for the armature coils.
Classical Music listening:
Taking loudness measurements with a Radio Shack spl meter, and for full orchestra listening I set the volume level on the Classe' integrated amplifier high enough to achieve just above 90 db during dynamic peaks.
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor. Ian Davis. H. Lewis conductor, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. London SPC 21057 (Phase 4)
Full size concert grand piano at stage front. Opening chord progression. Large chords combining the upper cleff with the lower. Bass with the treble. The composers' intention is to represent tolling bells. Slow of pace. Deliberate in meter it begins softly but, with a steady crescendo, gains weight, force and volume ultimately getting downright LOUD. Sound waves that initially flow whisper-soft, soon crash-violent into torso and head with percussive impacts. You feel it just as much as you hear it. That's how the Moderato begins. For those who haven't experienced the full weight and the 'volume power' that a concert grand piano can do, try this recording. There is no distortion. At this volume the experience does not hurt my ears. I like the piece.
Also on the classical music listening list was another piano concerto; Rachmaninoff No.1 and the Prokoiev No.3, Byron Janis, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. mercury SR90300. This is a Mercury Living Presence 35mm magnetic film recording. In this recording, the Jubilee was very good at providing details and tones, rhythmic pace and tension. Somehow, though it did not have quite the explosive dynamics as did the Shelter 501 mkII playing the same piece through the same equipment.
The classical music list included Lp recordings of ancient, Baroque, classical and the romantic era. None of these exhibited indistinguishable massed strings or a compressed wall of sound. Rather, the Jubilee was able to portray a sense of the recording space, distinguish between all of the various players, and get to the heart of the various melodic themes with much detail.
Note: Not all classical music was listened to at 90 db (peak) The chamber orchestra music was heard at between 60 and 80 db, as was most of the jazz.
One of my favorite chamber orchestra pieces is Vivaldi: The 4 Seasons. London FFSS CS6044. Karl Munchinger and The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. Dead wax= ZAL 4035-6 2-E and 2-K. A warm and marvelously vibrant recording of an excellent and moving performance by the SCO. But what really works for me on this recording is the pace and tempo of the thing. There is motion. At times a good bit of it. The Jubilee conveys the timing and sense of pace of this recording better than any cartridge I've heard so far!
Almost every recording I heard had a definable soundstage. Stage dimensions were essentially similar.
The imaging is such that the players often become disembodied from the speakers and operate within the volume of the sound stage. While the imaging is not --overtly pin-point--, as in some systems, there is a strong sense of 3 dimensional placement with each player occupying a discernable area within the volume of the stage.
Example: Donovan, "Fat Angel" from the Sundazed mono re-master of "Sunshine Superman". Articulate bongos in air popping out their adagio tempo. They're up above, upstage and to the right. Guitar: The stroke of the pick over damped strings. There is little body sound from this guitar. (Like a solid body electric guitar with the amp turned off.) It is strictly rhythm, downstage to the right below the bongos. The electric bass is center stage, about even with the baffles, and floats above the floor mid-cabinet. Its notes are also short on sustain patterning a beat that plays to the bongo and guitar. The sitar rings with a reverberant eastern ambience. It makes a counter melody to Donovan's vocal, flying above, upstage and left. Finally Donovan's voice, soft, breathing shallow and picking up the back beat. It occupies a broader space at stage-front and center, above all but the sitar with which it mingles. All very atmospheric and you are there in a smoky Moroccan cafe.
Impressions of "Someday My Prince Will come" Columbia CS8456 (2-eye, 2nd pressing)
Paul Chambers pinches the strings tight against the finger board of his double bass, thus avoiding any rattle between board and string. The resulting tone is a clean combination of vibrating string and the resonating hollow hardwood body of his cavernous instrument.
Cobb, striking out a clock-work tempo between cymbal and wood block, lays down both the rules and motivation for this piece. Winton Kelley's piano makes light sharp strikes of chords in counterpoint to Cobb's meter.
'Trane doesn't use vibrato. His wind power, coming up from the diaphragm, takes a detour through the nasal passageway within his skull, thus coloring his tones dark and slightly bitter. His -sheets of notes- trademark riffs take on middle-eastern leanings. Miles colors his un-muted tones dark and nasal then makes riffs in direct and similar answer to Coltrane. All of this takes on a life within the listening room.
Comparisons Lp to CD. Santana "Abraxas"
This is an A to B comparison playing first the cd then following with the Lp/Jubilee.
"Singing Winds, Crying Beasts"
Lp compared to cd:
"Black magic Woman"
Lp compared to cd:
Imaging: cd to Lp: Soundstage and imaging is remarkably similar between the two. Perhaps credit to the sonic visual trickery should go to the recording engineer for creating this stereo soundscape. And perhaps the Lp and cd share the same reference master tape. (just a hunch)
Note: CD player is a Jolida JD100A
Comparisons with the Shelter 501 type 2 that it replaces in my system:
The Shelters' strength is its liquid midrange, Intimate vocals and finely textured instrumentals. But also, not to be overlooked, are its fast leading edge transients that give air, detail and excitement to the music.
The Jubilee doesn't quite manage the midrange intimacy of the Shelter. Comparatively, its midrange is not so much liquid as just natural and coherent with the rest of its frequency range. Female vocals don't appear with quite so much "in the room" intimacy, yet they are the indeed in the room. Ditto acoustic instruments like piano and harpsichord, guitar, bass violin, etc.
The Jubilee reproduces bass that is tight, textured, full bodied and weighty. The Shelter gets that too except with less weight and slam.
The Jubilee is better at fleshing out the individual within the mass of instruments re: full orchestra music. The Jubilee gets a stronger sense of tempo and timing across than does the Shelter.
The Shelters' weakness is its occasional bout of miss-tracking over high amplitude tracks and the occasional slight edginess and harshness. The Shelter seemed to favor certain kinds of music like small combo jazz, baroque period chamber music, acoustical music and the human voice. The MC Jubilee does not seem to have any such tendencies. Rather, it seems to favor no particular genre of music while excelling at all of them.
Needle drops: Soft of impact, The Jubilee's nude-mounted Shibata stylus gracefully slips into the lead-in groove. Quiet of surface noise. In sharp contrast, the Shelter 501-II snaps abruptly into the lead-in groove.
Indeed the MC Jubilee displays no faults of any kind that I can find while never failing to get to the heart of the music..
To sum it up, the biggest problem I had in putting together this review was to force myself into a critical listening frame of mind. It is just too easy to relax and enjoy the music coming out of this item. The MC Jubilee has impeccable timing that never fails to find the tempo within the melody nor the ambience within the hall.