Review: Ortofon Kontrapunkt B Cartridge

Category: Analog

Decided to up-grade from my Shure V15VxMR and Gardo Sonata to a higher end cartridge. I find myself listening to more and more vinyl in order to get the full enjoyment out of recorded music. CD's just seem to wear me out if I am actually listening to the music rather than having it in the background while I do other things. So vinyl is the only real choice since I am unwilling to replace 500 CD's with SACD's and also buy an SACD player. Maybe when the watermark issue is settled.

So I started reviewing some better cartridges. If you are into vinyl you know that this generally means buying the cartridge on faith (or Michael Fremer's say so). But, I was lucky enough to find someone on-line who would actually send me a Lyra Helikon to audition. So I did. It was great, but I decided to see if it was twice as great as the Ortofon Kontrapunkt B ($1950 versus $950).

My musical listening runs to older jazz (Miles, Monk, Coltrane, etc.), classic rock (Stones, Little Feat, Santana - sure hope those new Stones SACDs get ported over to vinyl), blues, female vocals (Barber) and classical (mostly violin and piano). Probably listen to equal amounts of each. Lots (~1,000) of older albums and starting to get a good selection of new ones that are superior to the old. Like comparing CDs and SACDs, I guess.

So I had a comparison between the Ortofon and the Lyra and guess what? To my ears the Ortofon was every bit as good as the Lyra with one very small exception. The Lyra seemed to shimmer on that last one thousandth of the highs on which the Ortofon was merely outstanding. A barely perceptible difference and then only on select recordings. Not $1,000 worth of difference. And I did listen to a friend's Benz Glider for an extended period. While a step up from the Shure or the Grado, it was a clear step down from the Ortofon. Not as smooth and not as detailed.

What I look for in my equipment is a smooth, fast and detailed sound. I want to hear what is on the recording, be that good or bad. I don't want bright highs or blotted bass. Just give me the musical facts. Make that recording engineer earn his keep. If it is a lousy recording, then let me hear it. And that is what the Ortofon Kontrapunkt B does. Smooth, fast and detailed. It truely makes my Soliloquy 5.0s speakers sing.

Other than the shear musical "presence" (timing, pace and rhythm) offered by the Ortofon (and Lyra) the most noticeable difference between this cartridge and the Shure and Grado was the amount of music and information it got out of the vinyl. Such a joy listening to my old albums again. Was like getting new recordings in many instances.

I've been listening the Kontrapunkt B for about six months. I used to trade back and forth between the V15VxMR and the Grado Sonata, depending on my mood. Shure for the detail and speed. Grado for the smoothness. But no longer. In fact, I sold the Grado and sent the Shure on to my brother. I do not need. I have the Ortofon. It is smoother, faster and more detailed than either. More musical and provides more information. And offers all of this against a much blacker (quieter) background.

While I may not have beaten Sam Tellig to the reviewing punch on this, I found it first and can prove it by my receipt. I now pay more attention to Sam's writings as I see that he has good taste in most of his equipment.

If you are looking to up-grade your vinyl listening I can't recommend any single piece more than the Ortofon Kontrapunkt B. Based on my vinyl listening over the past several years there was a big gap in cartridges going from the $300 range to the $2000 range. Not that much to choose from in between. I think the Ortofon Kontrapunkt B has done a great job of filling that gap.

Happy Listening!!

Associated gear
Denon DP-59L turntable, Rowland Concentra integrated amp, California Audio Labs CL-10 CD changer, Sony STS-730ES tuner, Soliloquy 5.0s monitor speakers with matching stands.

Similar products
Lyra Helikon, Shure V15Mx, Grado Sonata, Benz Glider.
I completely agree. I've been playing a Kontra B for 14 months now and I love it.

The speed and clarity are amazing mated with my Transcendant OTL amp and ACI Jags. The table is a VPI Jr. with OL RB300 arm. I am currently using a Adcom GFP555 as a phono preamp and and quite happy with it.

Seldom mentioned is the rugged construction and fine appearance of this piece. It is a breeze to install and adjust, and mine has held up admirable. As my listening room is a real world family room, accidents have happened, and although the vinyl will never be the same the B is none the worse for wear.

Most of my new music now sets me back $2-3 at the used record stores. What does that tell you?

I'm glad someone on a real world budget, not a magazine's merchandizing price points, was able to compare the B to one of the acknowledged finest. I love mine and bought it right here from an Agon dealer. It works well in my Linn/Ittok/Pass Ono at 100 ohms.

I live in Israel.

I always was an a Ortofon fan, today I use the "Upper" Jubilee, mounted in a Rega RB-300 arm in my "Oldie" Technics SL-120 table upper 4 Vibrapods #:2 dampers, and all the system works superb. My Pre-amp is a ARC-SP-9/2 47,000 Ohms loaded + a Dynaco Stereo 70/2 tube power, and in our family since 1958 JBL-Paragon 4400, Ranger speaker system

Happy listening!

Wow!! How time flies. I originally posted my review 9 of '02. I must say that I am as happy now as I was then with the Kontrapunkt B. Everything I said before in in better now that I am using a VPI HW-19 Mk III with SME 309 tonearm. This cartridge has aged amazingly well.
Several years later, the Kuntrapunkt B is always a best buy.

I had Denon 103 and 304 cartridges, and Ortofon MC15supMKII ( another best buy ). Just before the Kuntrapunkt B, I did listen to a MC10supMKII, a very very NICE cartridge, but with a very low output.
The Kuntrapunkt B is an absolutely "no problem" cartridge. And no metaphysical questions. Just works as it should.

I put the Kuntrapunkt on a very old frenchie deck : a 60's Bourdereau with a Clément arm, from ORTF national french radio. It looks like a Panzer, the sound is very good, very dynamic, stable and rock solid.

Perharps MC10-20-30supMKII was more romantical, but the Kuntrapunkt is more realistic !
I'm also very happy with the Ortofon Kontrapunkt B. More detailed and at least as musical as my previous MC30 Super II. Nice 'air' around notes, realism and presence on vocals, excellent imaging, decent bass. Easy to install and no setup problems on my SME 3012R / Thorens 520 Professional table. It's playing through an Audio Research SP9-II preamp, Muse model 100 amp, and Apogee Centaur Minor speakers with a Velodyne ULD-15 sub.
I'm still very happy with my Kb. I've moved it from the Linn into a Yamaha linear tracker that is my "convenience" turntable. Still has a great sound. Don't play vinyl as much as I used to since we are very busy and stream iHeart or Sirius into the system as background music during supper, etc. Late nights is when I play the 2 channel system.

Now i need to upgrade my Linn! Any suggestions where I should start?
I shudder to think how many pieces of gear I’ve gone thru since my original review in 2002. But, 17 years later I still have one piece of gear from 2002 and it is the Kontrapunkt-b. Had it retipped by SoundSmith in 2009 and is as good as new. Don't think one could touch its performance today for anything near its original <$1000 price. Have added a Cadenza Black & 2M Black as well as an AT33R (Japan only anniversary model), AT150Ti and Lyra Kleos.