It’s been over twenty years of abusing the same pair of turntables that has seen me have some good times and some bad times when it comes to cartridge and styli choices. I’ve burnt through a few in that time and regretted a couple of choices, always falling back to the old faithful. But even the stalwarts of one’s stable are not without their failings, and the amount of Blu Tack and five cent coins that have been used for modification over the years just begs the question of why I never seriously looked for a better option. With that in mind, I was more than open to giving the Ortofon Concorde MkII Scratch cartridges a run to see just how they handled.
I first came across Ortofon cartridges in the late ‘90s and have to say, at that time, they really didn’t do it for me. Very stuck in my ways, and very used to the shape and feel of my traditional Technics headshells, I felt totally out of place lifting an Ortofon over a record. The weight balance and the position didn’t seem right, so I went back to the old faithful. Of course, this was a cartridge and headshell that wasn’t really designed with DJ scratch techniques in mind, so it never really stood up to the task at hand quite as well as it should. I do recall, even with my refusal to want to like the Ortofon cartridges way back then, they did step up the performance game. Well, that was last century I am talking about, and it’s a far cry from what is on offer now with the latest release of the Concorde MkII Scratch cartridges. These things just work.
Whilst I am still not 100 percent sold on the feel of the cartridge when placing it on the record, old habits and all, the second these touch down I have to reassess my bias. The stylus finds its groove right away, pun totally intended. It locks down into place and grabs at the record’s surface without feeling like it’s going to skitter as if someone had been messing with your anti-skate mechanism. It’s loud and clear too, with what Ortofon claim to be a 10 mV output that delivers a full frequency response and brings your low frequency basslines to life. But best of all, it works well in both directions. With a spherical design to the stylus tip, it doesn’t grab at the groove’s edges or contours no matter which direction it travels. For regular playback it offers a super smooth travel, but the same goes in reverse. This is perfect for scratch techniques where you need traction in both directions. And if you just want to sit around and listen to the Beatles in reverse, you’ll hear the mixed messages with greater clarity than ever before.
There is no more fighting the edge of the stylus when tracking in reverse as this needle just glides along the grooves in both directions. Certainly a must-have for any scratch DJ looking to improve their sound and technique, but really, it has plenty to offer each and every DJ that simply wants quality sound and greater tracking stability.
Hits and Misses
Big, full sound
Locks into the groove perfectly
Tracks just as well in both directions
Just doesn’t ‘feel’ like a traditional headshell