Review: Ortofon OM-5e Cartridge

Category: Analog

Ortofon is a Denmark company that truly and firmly believes that the record...vinyl still is superior to the digital compact disc "by a comfortable margin." If you don't believe me...then checkout their website at And if you don't believe them...then you just gotta hear the OM Series of phono cartridges !

Founding fathers...Danish engineers...Axel Petersen and Arnold Poulsen have time and time again left their rather pronounced mark on the art of analog audio crafting. Their list of credentials is embarrassingly long. Their expertise in vinyl reproduction is unsurpassed in this reviewer's EPINION. And why wouldn't it be? Did you know that Ortofon's cutting heads were and still are used on virtually every major vinyl maker's mother mastering machine? But what really surprises me in the war of the virtues of Moving Coil vs. Moving Magnet phono cartridge design...the co. excels at both.

Now admittedly I have been a firm believer in magnetic phono cartridges. is true that many moving coil designs sound wonderful and dreamy. I'm not opposing that argument at all. For sure {Shure?} these top-notch transducers are worth every penny of their costlier design but a magnetic pickup can bring most of this to a wider audience with limited pocket change and in some cases...surpass their moving coil counterparts.

But the guy with the big bucks is going to rationalize the MC's cost by telling you that the sound quality is worth every penny. I'm not that guy! I am a poor audiophile and must satisfy my "golden ears" with budget but quality audio gear. I've heard and experienced both worlds but Moving Magnet types for $50 are my least until further notice.

Ortofon, however...manufactures both types. And they do it exceedingly well! While some cartridge manufacturers excel only at one type...Ortofon is a master of both designs and with the product up for review here...the Ortofon OM5E...this fact becomes so demonstrably clear.

The cartridge is available from fine Ortofon dealers. $45 is the best legitimate street price. This means that your hard-earned cash will buy you this pickup for this amount of money without forfeiting the manufacturer's warranty.

The Ortofon OM Series stands for "optimum mass". This particular line of moving magnet phono cartridges accommodates more types of tonearms and turntables better than any other line of cartridges I know of...both past and present.

As with all "OM Series" cartridges...the OM5E is supplied in the classic Ortofon orange and white box with typically tiny but fairly well-written Owner's Manual and a little golden/bronze weight that is "built-in" to the very top of the pickup but can be removed when need be by gently prying it out with a tiny screwdriver {probably the one you're using to mount the cart with}. This gives the cartridge the ability to mate with just about any quality tonearm on the market either as a pre-assembled or separately purchased one.

With the weight removed...the cartridge weighs in at a mere 2.5 grams. This makes the cart ideal for ultra lower massed straight tonearms such as the Dual classic "ULM" or "CS" Series types. These tonearms are able to handle cartridges weighing from 2 to 8 grams on the average. Why does the Ortofon manual omit this all important fact? Why does Shure omit an explanation of their two-point overhang guage with their M97xE? This is what just burns me up about these two extremely important modern-day pickups!

With the weight left intact...the overall weight is now 5 grams which is ideal for low mass Dual "1000" & "1200" series turntables plus medium to higher massed arms such as the S-shaped tonearms that so many Japanese turntables of both past and present boast. These arms can handle a cartridge weight range usually from 4 to 12 grams.

I cannot emphasize the fact that proper tonearm/cartridge matching yields first-rate performance in analog reproduction. Ortofon has come up with quite a unique solution here to proper arm/cartridge matching. This enables the OM5E and other "OM Series" cartridges to trace high frequencies superbly in just about any well-made tonearm. Combined with just the right amount of lateral and vertical compliance...It simply provides proper "damping" for all types of tonearms.

Furthermore, each model # is interchangeable with the other. Outside of the Dee Jay units...Ortofon offers a total of five models...the Ortofon OM3E, OM5E, Super OM10, Super OM20 and Super OM30. A sixth replacement stylus # is also offered...the Super OM40 which upgrades any of the current OM cartridges to the formerly available one with its FG shape that so perfectly fits the record groove. The better the stylus shape...the more accurate will be high frequency tracing. This approach makes user upgrade rather easy and very economical without having to purchase a whole new cartridge.

It just does not pay to put a highly compliant expensive cartridge in a cheapy turntable. Believe me ...years ago when I was younger and fooling around with this stuff...I tried ! It just doesn't work ! Just try a Shure V-15 Type III in a Garrard SL-125B and you'll find out what I, don't try it ! The higher tonearm friction is just too much even for the cart here. A more appropriate stiffer compliance higher tracking force cheapy cartridge like the Stanton 500AL would be better here and yield surprisingly good results.


As for those of us with excellent tonearms...the Ortofon matches up perfectly ! Mounted in my Pioneer PL-518 Direct Drive S-shaped Tonearm Turntable and with the cart's Tracking Force and Anti-Skating set to the manufacturer's specified optimum setting of 1.75 grams the cart behaved infinitely famously! The PL-518's tonearm though higher in mass compared to straight designs nonetheless offers very low tonearm friction as evidenced when first "zero-balancing" the cartridge. The arm doesn't get hung up or stick in one spot along the vertical plane. The allowable range for the OM5E is actually anywhere between 1.5 to 2 grams.

The Ortofon "OM Series" the OM5E itself...has been around since the early 80's but the newer models offer some noteworthy improvements over its older brethren. The newer OM's have superior alignment between stylus and body with better inner guts.

Mounting is so much easier with the newer body design which features thicker 1/2 inch slots than its 1980's version {go ahead...check it out!} and better hardware itself! It was such a snap that I thought to myself...anybody who has experienced spending a half hour mounting a Grado Blue and twenty minutes mounting a Shure M97xE would definitely appreciate this! The OM5E mounted easily within about five minutes. This is definitely the easiest cartridge to install that I ever experienced. No muss!

It is so important to properly "align" the cartridge after it is mounted so that Tracking Error is kept at its absolute minimum. This will also enable Inner Groove Distortion to be negligible at worst. Using a two-point Stylus Protractor made out of photo printer paper that I downloaded for free from by clicking on their "Free Stuff" link...alignment was simple and very easy to accomplish...partially because of the Ortofon's slim bullet design and well defined lines.

This design also enables easy groove cuing as the well-marked red-dotted stylus assembly is a champion at this! Even my tired old eyes have no problem setting the tonearm precisely over a given point on the record and the stylus protractor itself. Vertical Tracking Alignment {VTA} was "right on" without using shims in the satin OEM Pioneer headshell or for the need to adjust tonearm height...{which may not be possible with the PL-518 arm anyway}.

Listening Tests:

I have more than several LP's in my reportoir I like to use when evaluating a phono cartridge as I have no objective means for this purpose. These records were all purchased years ago but pretty much can surpass the best compact discs currently available. Although I am an Oldies/Pop/Rock freak, I enjoy all types of music. Most of my serious listening involves Classical music and even some C&W and Jazz. Most of my "test" records are of the Classical genre. They are as follows:

"Khachaturian-The Gayne Ballet" with Loris Tjeknavorian conducting The National Philharmonic Orchestra...RCA Red Seal # CRL2-2263 {Circa 1977}

"Vangelis-Heaven And Hell"...RCA # PL1-5110 {Circa 1975}

"Linda Ronstadt-What's New"...Elektra-Assylum/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Master Recording

"Frederick Fennell-The Cleveland Symphonic Winds-Holst/Handel/Bach"...Telarc # Stereo 5038 {Circa 1978}

"Professor Johnson's Astounding Sound Show"...Reference Recordings # RR-7 {Circa 1979}

"Witches Brew"-Alexander Gibson conducting The New Symphony Orchestra Of London...RCA # LSC-2225 {Circa 1958 Reprint Under License from Polygram Special Markets}

"Orff-Carmina Burana"-Robert Shaw conducting The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra And Chorus With The Atlanta Boy Choir-Soloists Judith Blegen, Hakan Hagegard and William Brown...Telarc # Stereo DG 10056/57 {Circa 1981}

"Mussorgsky-Ravel-Pictures At An Exhibition"-Herbert Von Karajan conducting The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra...Deutsche Grammophon # 139010 SLPM {Circa 1972}

"Mussorgsky- Pictures At An Exhibition"/"A Night On Bald Mountain"-Leonard Bernstein conducting The New York Philharmonic...CBS Great Performances # 36726 {Circa 1981-Previously released on CBS Masterworks # 6080, 6943, 7165,7014 & M31844}

"Rimsky-Korsakov-Cappriccio Espagnol"-Kiril Kondrashin conducting The RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra...RCA Red Seal # LSC-2323 {Circa 1959}

"Dukas-The Sorcerer's Apprentice"-Walter Weller conducting The London Philharmonic Orchestra...London FFrr # CS 6995 {Circa 1975}

"Sibelius-Symphony # 2"-Andre Previn conducting The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra...Angel # S-37444 {Circa 1977}

"Stokowski Spectacular"-Leopold Stokowski conducting The National Philharmonic Orchestra...Pye # 12132 {Circa 1976}

"Prokofiev-War And Peace"-Werner Janssen conducting The Vienna State Opera Orchestra & The Vienna Kammerchor with soloists of The National Opera Of Belgrade...Heliodor # HS-25039-3 {Circa 1967 originally released on MGM # 3-GC2}

"My Fair Lady"-Lerner/Lowe Original Cast Stereo w/Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Stanley Holloway...Columbia Masterworks # PS 2015 {Circa 1959}

"On Your Toes"-Rogers/Hart Original Cast w/Philip Arthur Ross, Natalia Makarova and Christine Andreas...Polydor 813667-1Y1 {Circa 1983}

"Classic Rock"-The London Symphony Orchestra {LSO} and The Royal Choral Society...RSO/K-Tel # NU 9580 {Circa 1979...Originally on London/Decca Records}

"Children Of The Future"-The Steve Miller Band...Capitol # SN-16262 {Circa 1968}

"Away We A Go-GO"-Smokey Robinson And The Miracles...Tamla/Motown # M5-136V1 {Circa 1966}.

Although a few of these albums are so called "audiophile pressings"...not all are. Some just represent excellent music recording with some real obstacles. The Ortofon OM5E excelled on them all! Although the cartridge specification sheet states the Frequency Response to be reasonably flat out to 25 rarely finds a phono pickup at this price level with such actual extension. The Ortofon appears to be the exception!

Other than that...the Ortofon also struck me as an extremely quiet cartridge unlike its former more expensive but wonderful brother the OM40 Gold with its more ambitious stylus...the Van-Den-Hul that simply picks up every tick, pop and whatever other surface noise it can find. Don't get me wrong...the OM5E will pick up ticks and pops in full stereo but without the extraneous stuff that the better styli sometimes produce. The competing Shure M97xE is sometimes criticized for this.

Just DO NOT use undilluted alcohol for cleaning the stylus as it will strip the gem's polish and cause the OM5E to become groove noisy while losing its sonic charm. DID happen to me and I had to replace the stylus! Use a nice dry camel-hair brush.

One of my favorite recordings of all time is Lerner & Lowe's "My Fair Lady" on CBS Masterworks...not the original MONO recording but the STEREO one made a few years later. The album sounds so-ooo-ooo sweet with this little Ortofon and songs like "With A Little Bit Of Luck" and "I'm Getting Married In The Morning" featuring the comical Stanley Holloway as Ms. Doolittle's down and out old dad...sound so clear with all of the marvelous British humour and human emotion allowed to spring free out of the confines of the record groove!

The castenets of "The Rain In Spain" along with the voices of Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Robert Coote are reproduced so faithfully that one starts to wonder if one is actually listening to a vinyl record or perhaps the master tapes themselves! This sonic characteristic did not lessen on the rest of the marvelous ole recording and songs like Andrews' "Show Me" and "The Ascot Gavotte" featuring the fine other singers/chorus & Orchestra sound glorious!

Even Julie Andrews' diction as the grammatically incorrect Ms. Eliza Doolittle sounds good e.g..."Wouldn't It Be Loverly". I'm telling you that even this big ole rocker fell in love with "Broadway" all over again while listening to this wonderful classic record with the Ortofon OM5E fully in place on my modest Pioneer turntable deck thru the terrific Polk R-30's.

The 3.3mv Phono Input Sensitivity of the TC-160LC phono pre-amplifier matched up quite to perfection with this MM Ortofon. Of course the preamp also sports an adjustable gain which will help prevent overloading. The recording itself also sports "true stereo"...not some cleverly disguised "mono-in-stereo's-clothing" dreamt up by a more modern engineer who doesn't believe that this makes for proper soundstaging.

Even more noteworthy and unbelievable was the fact that throughout the playing of this top notch 1959 album...I could hear all of the "nose" sounds like snorting and just plain ole human breathing from Ms. Andrews and Mr. Harrison with an uncanny detailed but nonetheless subtle clarity! This "clarity" I speak of did not lessen as the tonearm and cartridge journeyed toward the center spindle.

On operatic voices from "War And Peace" and "Carmina Burana" it sounds so darn natural lacking any shrill or shrieking. This little discovery led me to my next phase of the testing...Sibilance which can absolutely kill a cartridge for me if it doesn't turn in good performance here! On Smokey's "Come 'Round Here {I'm The One You Need}" and "Save Me" there are some over modulated S-SS-SSS-SSSS sounds that can absolutely splatter all over your system if not handled properly.

This area in phono reproduction is usually a sure downfall for inexpensive pickups...but not for this Ortofon! For the most handled them with ease and naturalness except for the worst one where it only very slightly mistracked. This fact caused me to wonder if the more elaborate microline styli were worth it as they are known for handling this chore better than their cheaper less ambitious brethren such as the OM5E with its 8 x 18 micron Elliptical shape. The OM5E {at least to my humble ears}sounds even better than the great but too brilliant and chattery {at times} $100 A-T 440ML and its former close cousin...the Signet AM30.

Don't get me wrong...there were a few recordings that at first seemed a bit harsh with the OM5E but were "few" and this situation was resolved once I acquired the TCC TC-160LC phono preamp. There was a big difference going from the Pioneer SA-500's preamp to the TC-160LC and to a lesser degree going from the Yamaha R-500's. A good preamp will clean up the clutter found with lesser ones. I'm not joking and I'm dead serious!

Tracking Ability itself seemed far better than the 65 micron rating given by the manufacturer. Equally impressive was the cart's ability to handle those tympani bass gut punchers I so often talk about...ala "Carmina Burana" and "Fennell-Cleveland Winds".

The cart's Dynamic Range is stunning given its type and price! The great thing about that is that nothing gets masked or lost when going from soft to loud passages as sometimes the case with the M97xE. Yes...there are cartridges that can better the OM5E but they are few and far between....and mostly more expensive! Subtleties and nuances are most certainly present setting the Ortofon yet again apart not only from the "cheapies"...but also from many more expensive models.

Just listen to Christine Andreas singing the classic "Glad To Be Unhappy" from the 1983 production of Rogers & Hart's "On Your Toes".. Her voice is so crisp and clean while all of its dynamic emotion is reproduced without flaw! Then there's that piccolo that is not just a high pitch tonemaker that a lesser cartridge makes it seem to be but rather an airy woodwind after all.

Also noteworthy is the orchestra's performance that the Ortofon so faithfully reproduces with percussion sounding wonderful and with full punch! The cymbals actually sound like cymbals without being smeared all over the place even unto the end of the record.

Stereo Separation and Imaging are easily the best in the $50 category and far exceed my expectations for a phono cartridge in this price range! Three dimensional purity and pinpoint accuracy come to mind here and the OM5E produces a slightly deeper image than the the Shure M97xE or Grado Blue. Crosstalk is kept at an absolute minimum! It just seems to me that Ortofon's spec of 20 to 25 db is so conservative as compared to others that claim to have a 30 db or better rating. Once again, the OM5E is the undisputed champion here at fifty bucks.

On Side 1 of the "Professor Johnson" recording there are some pretty pronounced strikings of the bells that cause some carts to mistrack in the form of a distorted clanging-like sound...but not the Ortofon. Again it sounded so doggone natural and handled the transient sounds with ease !

Transient Response and Separation were really superb on Track 2 of Side 2 on Vangelis's "Heaven And Hell" album ! The Stereo Presentation far exceeded anything I expected from a $50 phono cartridge. The low mass stylus assembly seems to give this cartridge a unique ability to trace almost perfectly the tiny modulations of the record groove.

The cartridge excelled on all of my "test" recordings but really blew me away with its handling of the loud and dynamic whip cracking on "The Overture To Tam O'Shanter" from RCA's "Witches Brew" ! Low Frequency Reproduction is absolutely first-rate and with superior definition compared to other under $100 pickups.

The low mass design of the cartridge seems to enable handling record warps without a hitch! Only the Shure M97Xe can equal the Ortofon in this department. But the M97Xe requires its Dynamic Stabilizer/Dustbrush to be in place for such an achievement on most tables...some audiophiles believe that this approach adds too much damping and softens the pickup's performance characteristics too much. The OM5E does not have a stabilizer and thus...nothing to get in the way of the sound. Yet there is no wallowing on the medium mass Pio tonearm. I'm sure that Rega and Dual owners will experience even better performance in this respect.

The cartridge's Output of 4 millivolts is ideal for most magnetic phono preamps both modern and yesteryear in nature rated at 47,000 ohms with a sensitivity range of 1.8 mv to 3.5 mv. Remember what I stated earlier in the report when discussing Moving Coil types? Well...the same holds true for magnetic inputs as well. There is no substitute for proper matching. Make sure you have a good Magnetic Phono Input Stage like the NAD PP-2 or TC-160LC whether using a classic 70's receiver or a more modern one...which brings me to another point.

The cart's response appears to be very independent of Cable Capacitance but DO try to use at least basic "audiophile" grade OFC {shh-sh-sh! can get 'em from the darn dollar store!} interconnects as they will only serve to enhance the cartridge's great performance while rendering many quality years of sure-fire performance!

Please make sure your modern home theater receiver sports a Magnetic Phono Input! Many do not and more and more units have abandoned this little feature as their creators assume that you have foresakened Analog! The extremely economical but audiophile grade TC-160LC or NAD PP-2 would work wonders for this situation.

Some pickups are susceptible to hum and interference when mounted in turntables that have their motors mounted near the center spindle. The Grados are infamous for this characteristic on Dual 1200 series and Rega arms causing many owners to either shield the motor or trade in the cart itself.. When I turn the volume all the way up on my AudioSource AMP-100 amplifier...there was not a single solitary extraneous noise coming from the cart on my PE/Dual or Pio. Of course...that also speaks well for the associated equipment.

I would say that the Ortofon OM5E's Hum Rejection is superb and the best of any I ever experienced with the possible exception of the OM10 Super, OM40 and Shure M97xE! This applies to Rega P2/RB-250 Arm owners also. I know because I used to own one with glass platter upgrade.

The Ortofon's overall tonality is extremely neutral but not reticent. It is not overly bassy nor is it too brilliant. Yet it is not lacking at either end of the spectrum. It is exquisitely discrete.

The brilliance of either the OM5E or the slightly higher priced OM10 Super is mostly natural and deep bass is reproduced better than most others...when it is truly present. The sound is warm enough without being overly so. There is admittedly indeed a slight sense of upper midrange brilliance but still... an overall neutrality to boot. Just listen to the amazing "Dark Side Of The Moon" by Pink Floyd and tell me the cart is bass shy. That rattling of my porch screens ain't no accident baby! Come on!

This cartridge has the unique ability to reveal much of the emotion that vinyl discs can offer. On Mussorgsky's "Night On Bald Mountain" the brass section of Leonard Bernstein's New York Philharmonic sounded very real and detailed without being harsh or masking the other softer instruments. The strings sound sweet not stringent while the woodwinds were extremely open and airy!

And isn't it nice to know that the Ortofon OM5E is a great cure for those IGD {Inner Groove Distortion} Blues? This is simply one of those cartridges that handle this inherent problem as if there was no problem to begin with! Ahh...such stability throughout the record playing is it not??!!

On high output audiophile recordings...this pickup handles almost everything thrown at it like nothin' man! Nothing seems to phase this newer updated Ortofon.

In Summation:

I have long felt that turntable, tonearm and cartridge manufacturers have made too much of a big deal out of achieving ultra low tracking forces under 1.5 grams. Certainly Shure, Stanton/Pickering, ADC and other ultra high compliance types may sound good at low forces but then these types also need to be matched to a proper arm in order to reap all the benefits. Even so...they cannot handle vinyl LP's and recycled synthetic 45's alike. The OM5E can in most cases.

Yes...Denmark should be proud and Ortofon...I salute you! If I were a dealer of phono cartridges...I would make darn sure to stock up plenty of this Ortofon!

I have always entertained the idea that Acoustic Research might have been a bit ridiculous in offering the economical but high-performing Shure M91ED with its earlier AR XA and XB turntables. Although these turntables were and still are superb units...the tonearms suffer from just a wee bit of vertical and horizontal bearing friction {unless I setup mine incorrectly years ago} plus the fact that the looped tonearm cable is exposed in the rear of the arm...renders the lower one gram optimum tracking force of the M91ED useless! The Ortofon OM5E would be perfect for this arm.

The 1.75 grams tracking force combined with medium stylus compliance represents the ideal force adequate for this tonearm and also for most records. The new improved Elliptical shape poses no threat to vinyl whatsoever and offers superiority over former types. Its ability to "hug" the record groove is exceptional to say the least ! Its mild shape of 8 x 18 micron {.3 x .7 mil} tracking at its rated force raises serious questions about competitors' so-called more advanced styli that demand higher expense for such high performance.

Make no mistake about it...this little MM Ortofon is a giant killer! It has the rare ability {nowadays at this price!} to make your old records come to life while reproducing higher output newer LP's to near perfection! To go back to any other under $100 phono cartridge would be a serious mistake and almost unthinkable.

Owners of the popular Music Hall and Rega turntables will find the newer breed OM Series Ortofons to be wonderful mates to these fine record players' low mass tonearms. One could simply purchase the OM5E as a backup or spare to the supplied Goldring Elans or Eroicas but I suspect when doing so...the situation will be reversed !

For Dual CS-515 and CS-530 turntable owners...these Ortofon OM's are a must! You just won't get better performance results with other more conventional higher mass matter what you pay for them and that includes the highly acclaimed former champion Shure V-15 Type V. The little arrow weight should be removed for these ultra low mass tonearms and I don't understand why Ortofon omitted this in the tiny Owner's Manual. They didn't used to!

The latest "buzz" word around here is that the growing popularity of Project Debut MK3 and Rega P1 belt-driven turntables that come equipped with the Ortofon OM5E Phono Pickup are raising more hairs off of more audiophiles' backs and making first-rate phono reproduction at truly affordable prices a reality! Although I have yet to experience these turntables...they are most assuredly making a name for themselves in the U.K.

I'm not going to sit here and lie to you by saying that there aren't any great Moving Coil Cartridges as I'll never forget the performance I experienced when my audiophile friend...John Bross played a master recording of the Moody Blues' "Days Of Future Passed" with a Benz-Micro "Ruby".. Everything sounded so clean clear and detailed with proper harmonic overtones and timbre! This is the mark of a perfect transcription cartridge. The Ortofon can come surprisingly close to this benchmark!

Please keep in mind that no two quality phono cartridges are alike and they all have their own sonic characteristics. I'm telling you this because the "Ruby" will invariably find a large fan base that will feel that "it" is the best. I would have an extremely tough time arguing the point for which I have no intention of doing so anyway. All I'm trying to tell you is that at a considerably lower price...the Ortofon compares very favorably to the far more expensive cartridge. But not the equal. please DO understand that there are better cartridges but you'd have to spend about $100 more to find 'em!

In the $40 to $60 price range there are two other high fidelity magnetic models available for your consideration...the Shure M97Xe and the Ortofon OM10 Super. These three models all are outstanding but one might consider the OM5E for its higher force of 1.75 grams as compared to the 1.25 and 1.5 gram of the aforementioned. Then again...some enthusiasts may see the higher TTF of the 5E as a drawback. I'm not one of them as the well designed elipse stylus hugs the record groove wonderfully!

The Grado Prestige Blue at $80 and the Shure M92E at $25 are also worth your consideration. Particularly disappointing was my Grado Prestige "Blue". Neither can touch the OM5E's performance level. Even the similarly-styled slightly higher-priced Pickering EP-HiFi cannot equal this rugged detailed Ortofon! The OM5E is one of two moving magnet phono cartridges that are bound to be popular sellers that are responsible for vinyl's return to this planet in the coming days. The other is undoubtedly the Shure M97xE. This phono pickup by Ortofon most assuredly is a standout Five Star Performer at the head of its class! *****...PJS II

Associated gear
TCC TC 160LC MM/MC phono preamp
AudioSource AMP-100 power amp
Pioneer PL-518 Direct Drive Turntable
Perpetuum Ebner PE 3048 Turntable
Polk R-30 Cherry speakers
Kimber KWIK-12 speaker cable
Pioneer TX 5500 II AM/FM Stereo analog tuner

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Supex 909e
Signet AM30
Signet AM20
Ortofon OM40 Gold
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Outstanding review. Excellent detail and comparisons to other cartridges we all can afford. Bravo!
The Audio Technica AT440MLa seems to be the class leader in the under $100.00 price range, and the AT120 for under $55.00. They both are more refined, with better detail and dynamics than either the M97xE or OM-10 - I have not heard the cartridge under review. The 440MLa is much more balanced, with better detail than the OM-20, as well. The new Ortofon Red and Blue hold a lot of promise and are getting good reviews across the pond. It seems to be a good time for inexpensive MM cartridges!
Thank you "Viridian" and "Jpstereo" for your most gracious and wonderful remarks.

"The Audio Technica AT440MLa seems to be the class leader in the under $100.00 price range, and the AT120 for under $55.00."..."The 440MLa is much more balanced, with better detail..."- VIRIDIAN

I did promise my EPINIONS readers that I would NOT review any new phono cartridge selling for over the street price of $50 in my New Year's Resolution article. I certainly know that the two aforementioned A-T's are fantastic in their own rite and it is certainly not my intention to disparage them in any way.

You'll have to excuse me as I tend to wax enthusiasm when I've stumbled across a very budget conscious product such as the OM5E and soon to be reviewed M97xE. These two items have dropped in street price drastically rather recently and as I write this thread...the OM5E is now available legitimately for $39 on the internet with its stylus price dropping to just under $35. The M97xE just dropped from $72-$99 of just two years ago to an all-time low of $50. I know because I not only purchased this model back in 2002 but again just recently for the meager sum of said fifty bucks!

The A-T 440ML on the other hand just rose from a low of $93 to its present $100 status. It really is a lovely sounding cart and I applaud A-T for having the only model at its price point featuring the advanced Microline stylus! My point is that at half that price or less...the OM5E compares most favorably when one has mastered the art of cartridge alignment during its initial setup.

My firm belief is that Rega P1 owners are gonna LUV the marriage of the new RB-100 arm with this transducer as I have no doubt that the Rega engineers were able to create a very cost effective dynamic duo. I did experience the A-T 440ML/Signet AM30 mounted in the P2's RB-250 tonearm back in 1998 and found it to be nice but not perfect compared to the Pickering XSV-3000/Stanton 881S. In view of recent enthusiasm...I think I just may have to give it another go in my Pio PL-518. The higher mass arm just may provide enough damping for the cart as I found some unnatural inner groove chattering and brilliance with the A-T/Rega combo back then.

Incidentally...speaking of brilliance...not only is it of the utmost importance to properly match tonearm and cartridge but also to make sure that the end result balances the rest of one's rig. In other words...if you own a pair of spinetingling budget Sony bookshelfers with that fantastic but bright Nano Fine Tweeter, Bose 901's or even a set of somewhat lively and brilliant Boston Acoustics A-70' might not want to have the 440ML or the OM5E in the mix. I could see where the M97xE would be the proper choice here as it would tame the overall brilliance and sometimes harshness a bit in the end. Conversely...if you own a pair of B&W or AR shelfers...the OM5E and A-T 440ML may very well be your logical choice as these speakers are extremely neutral in their presentation of the sound field.

I love this stuff! This is so much fun and I am the proverbial "kid in the candy shop" right now with all of these great low priced cartridges being introduced and re-introduced in some cases! I'm even gonna probably break my New Year's resolution of this year next year and purchase a Benz-Micro MC20E Mk. II Low just to test the TCC's TC-160LC MC stage of my new lovely sounding phono preamp.

The upcoming days ahead are going to be so very exciting for you and me as we already realize Vinyl's full potential and will be able to witness a whole new generation taking a shine to the LP and the older one returning to the art that once entertained them for hours on end because store CD's are no longer an attraction or even remotely interesting due to everybody being able to burn their own anyway. What's gonna sell???...The "VINYL" recorded LP....Peter
Petsound, thanks so much for all of the fantastic insight. I just wanted to point out to readers that the AT440ML has a rather pronounced peak at 12K and IS NOT the same as the AT440MLa, which is very nicely controlled in this area. I would not recommend the older cartridge because of these deviations, but the new one is a different kettle of fish altogether. Perhaps they should've changed the model number completely!

I would also not recommend a cartridge with a Micro Line, Van Den Hul, Line Contact, or the like, stylus for an arm that does not have readily and repeatably adjustable VTA. Just my 2 cents.

You know Marty...I wasn't even aware of the "a" on the end of the model number until you pointed it out and now really have my curiosity up! Hmmmm....I just may have to get one of the newer 440MLa's...especially if the cart does tame the brilliance a bit.,,,Peter
Do a search on Vinyl Asylum, it is kind of the pet cartridge over there. Enough ink has been spilled on it to fill the Ganges.
Marty! The A-T 440MLa just dropped to $84.95 on LP Gear. Cool!
I recently replaced my OM-Nightclub E for Ortofon's 2M Blue. (I hope I am not too late, the last post on this thread was in 2007.) By and large I am satisfied with the 2M Blue. Have you had the chance to compare these cartridges.

I still have two OM's, they are in need of new stylises (or is it styli?) but based on review it is probably worth getting a 5e. Then I can make my own comparison.

Regardless, I would really appreciate your feedback.


Sorry, Nick for the late response. I've been busy testing and writing reviews of audio gear on another site but hope to have a nice review forthcoming here on the new entry level Ortofon Omega Get's going to be a doozy!!!

To answer your I have not in any way compared the OM5e to the 2M Blue. Interesting...maybe I'll leave that to you, sir!
Thanks for taking the time, I found it to be a helpful review. I'm setting up my father's turntable for him this week. Interestingly enough, it's a Pioneer PL 518. So, to read about the Ortofon OM 5E as being compatible with that table and arm was a nice surprise. (I just happened to have one laying around, for the times that one of my MCs bites the dust.)
For the record, I feel it to be a bit "muted" compared to a good Dynavector MC, but at 5% to 1% of the cost, that's to be expected.
Hi, just came across your article and appreciate your efforts. I just picked up a almost new Pro-ject III Debut (not Carbon) which comes with 5E. I'm doing research on future upgrade possibility but it seems I should stick with the 5E for a while until I'm ready to move on. Any advice on extracting every possible drop of out 5E?