Ortofon 2M Black vs, Clearaudio Maestro


Just curious if anyone has compared these two cartridges and what their opinions are. Thanks. Bob
bobgates
After reading a review of the 2M Black in Soundstage on-line reviews in June, 2008 where reviewer John Crossett compared the $1000 Maestro to the $500 plus 2M Black, I purchased the 2M Black. The reviewer stated “The plastic/glass-bodied 2M Black is more precise, more firm, and a bit cooler. The wooden-bodied Maestro is more rich and earthy, and it sounds a touch warmer.” So, it depends on what type of sound you seek in your system.

For me, the 2M black was a much better match for system and listening priorities. At almost twice the price, the Maestro does not offer twice the sound. I would consider purchasing a MC cartridge at that price point. The 2M Black also offers another advantage; the stylus on the 2M Black is user replaceable.
Needle-doctor shows the 2M Black at $669 and the Maestro is $1000. Stylus replacement on the 2M Black is $500 and cart replacement of the Maestro is $600. The Maestro is more costly.

The Maestro has better specs than the 2M Black. Channel Separation on the 2M is 26db and > 35db for the Maestro. Channel Balance on the 2M is 1db and .3db for the Maestro. This may be due to the fact that the 2M series has a snap-on stylus assembly that can only detract from the sound. The Clearaudio has a fixed assembly much like an MC cart.
I purchased my 2M Black overseas at a much better price (closer to $500), and the replacement stylus can also be purchased at much lower price. As a tweaker, I am able to use the strengths of the 2M Black and achieve a warmer sound in my system at considerably less expense. I am not anti Clearaudio; they make some nice sounding cartridges. The law of diminishing returns comes into play when considering the purchase of these two excellent cartridges, so is the Maestro worth it? Before purchasing the 2M Black, the Maestro as well several other MM designs made my short list.

Again referring to John Crossett’s review in Soundstage and a search of what others (non reviewers) say on other audio forums, it really comes down to your listening preferences in your system. In these tough economic times, I search for audio products that offer value with excellent sonics. For me the excellent Maestro does not offer twice the sonics at almost double price.

My additional makes sense, $.02
Some interesting thoughts Tayofiji. If cost is the main concern, I don't think either one of these would be the best choice. Neither one is a screaming good deal.

The Crossett review says the Maestro is the best moving-magnet he's ever heard. As you say, whether it is worth it depends on the individual and what they are looking for.
02-07-09: Onetwothreego
The Maestro has better specs than the 2M Black. Channel Separation on the 2M is 26db and > 35db for the Maestro. Channel Balance on the 2M is 1db and .3db for the Maestro.
An interesting thing is that the much less expensive Audio Technica AT150MLX has specs closer to the Clearaudio: 30dB separation and .8dB channel balance. And it has a snap-in stylus as well (available for $179.95 from lpgear.com).

You can get an AT150MLX from J&R Music World for $250 shipped.

I like Ortofon cartridges, but I truly wonder how close the AT150MLX might come to it. It certainly presents more than a taste of high end cartridgitudedness.
Thanks Tayofiji and Onetwothreego for your thoughts. My friend Jon down in Tamap Florida has the Maestro on his VPI Scout and found it to be a big step up from the Virtuoso; of course he thinks I should get the Maestro. Presently though I am using the Ortofon 2M Bronze and find it to be a simply outstanding for a cartridge priced under $400; if the 2M Black is even better it must be quite exceptional. I've seen the 2M Black for $599 and am pretty much inclined to believe that the Maestro at $1000 is worth the extra $400. As the reviewer John Crossett stated in his Soundstage review he liked the 2M Black better than the more expensive Clearaudio Maestro.
>>As the reviewer John Crossett stated in his Soundstage review he liked the 2M Black better than the more expensive Clearaudio Maestro.<<

Actually, the review says the Maestro is the best MM he has heard:

Quote: The Ortofon 2M Black does a very good job of reproducing the music engraved in the grooves of your records. That it does so at about half the price of the best moving-magnet cartridge I’ve ever heard is icing on the cake.
Onetwothreego - you are absolutely right; I stand corrected.
Bobgates, I see the 2M Bronze is up for sale. Just wondering why you are letting it go and what you have planned for the future? I have no doubt the Bronze is a fantastic cart.
Tayofiji, have you heard both the black and the maestro?
I have a VPI Scout and I bought several cartridges to test out including the Clear Audio Virtioso wood, Goldring 1042, Ortofon 2M Back and Dynavector 20XH. I ended up keeping the Dynavector because it sounded more musical and smooth to me than the others. But the 2M Black sounded much louder than the Dynavactor.
Almandog, I think your descriptions of the cartridges would be helpful for many on this forum. BTW, I tend to agree with your final analysis.
Bob, you can get just the black stylus for your bronze, the bodies are the same.
Almandog, so are you saying that you like the MC sound better?
Assuming is never good.
Well, having only listened to only the Dynavector 20XH, I would not say that I like MC better than MM across the board. But I did like the 20XH better than the MM cartridges that I compared it with. I would certainly like to try out a Low output MC cartridge to hear how it sound compared to the 20XH, seeing that I am using a Modwright 9.0 SE phono stage. THis unit is great sounding and it has a lot of gain to support a low output MC cartridge.
Almandog; I've also heard from others that if you're considering the Ortofon 2M Black the Dynavector 20XH is a much better sounding cartridge in that same price range. My friend in Tampa tells me though that the Maestro is a big step up from the Virtuoso so hard to say how the Maestro might compare to the 20XH. Thanks for your comments.
So Bob, if I understand you correctly you're saying that in order of quality its the Maestro, Virtuoso, 20XH and then 2M?

I currently have a 20XL, and am considering a 2M Black, sounds like it may be a lateral or downward move?
I have my 2m black on a vpi scout. Before the black I had a virtuoso. Although both are fine carts, I like the black better with this particular turntable. I have a cj pv-15 tube preamp if that's helpful. The virtuoso I found to be a bit on the dry side. Great dynamics, more detail in the highs and mids, more air and extension The black sounds both warmer and with a bigger soundstage and more extended bass. Since I listen to a lot of jazz and rock those are important qualities.
Sabocat59
I have my 2m black on a vpi scout. Before the black I had a virtuoso. Although both are fine carts, I like the black better with this particular turntable. I have a cj pv-15 tube preamp if that's helpful. The virtuoso I found to be a bit on the dry side. Great dynamics, more detail in the highs and mids, more air and extension The black sounds both warmer and with a bigger soundstage and more extended bass. Since I listen to a lot of jazz and rock those are important qualities.

I wonder if this can be attributed to the 2M Black's removable stylus assembly? I own the Virtuoso, and one of the things I like about it is it doesn't seem to add anything extra of its own to the sound. I don't find it either recessed or forward, it just portrays what's on the record. This can be perceived as you say by "a bit dry". The Virtuoso has a fixed stylus assembly like an MC.

The 2M has a plastic cup that snaps into place which can perhaps be like a "resonator" and add a bit of warmth and create a bigger soundstage. Please note, I am not saying that is wrong. The 2M Black along with the Clearaudio Maestro and Virtuoso are most likely the best MMs available and I will probably buy a 2M Black as well when one comes along at a good price.
Well I don't know why the ortofon throws a bigger soundstage or has bigger bass. I should add the delineation of separate instruments is superb and the highs are quit silky. That said I still have my virtuoso, and I'll either upgrade to a maestro or over to a benz micro ace on the stylus replacement switch. (Don't ask how it happened) I'll get another jmw wand to go with the new cart so that way I can have my cake an eat it too.
Sabocat59, the Ace may not cut it. You may have to go up to the Glider or Maestro to do better than you are getting with your Virtuoso and 2M Black. I had a Glider before my Virtuoso and they are really good. A little tougher to handle though. They can ring and do a few other nasties that MCs are prone to. But when they're on, they're great.
Hmm. Good advice. So maybe I should go with the maestro. I w ould be interested in the difference in performance between the two- the v. And the m.
That is a good question and the answer I think would require having both of them on hand for direct comparison. I would think they are more similar sounding than they are different. That being said, their marketing blurb says:

The Maestro features the same design as the popular Virtuoso but with a new integral body for greater rigidity. With this improvement, you will notice an increase in dynamics and tighter image focus. The Maestro is equiped with a solid boron rod cantilever and Trygon P2 stylus (same stylus used on the famous Insider MC cartridge!) for decisive power not generally found in a Moving Magnet cartridge.

If the m. is even "tighter" than the v., it may not be heading up your alley as far as taste is concerned based on your 2M experience...
Mikey, that would definitely be a downward move.