Ortofon A90 or Air Tight PC-1

Has anyone compared these two cartridges? How would the A90 match with an SME V arm? I've just read so many glowing reviews in the press and on Audiogon that I'm curious about the A90. Thanks.
I own the Ortofon A90 and can switch between it and three other cartridges with my phono stage.

Although testing is not complete and I'm having to go somewhat from memory about PC-1 since I've upgraded to the Air Tight Supreme.

The Ortofon is good but no contest against the Air Tight Supreme or my Koetsu Coralstone. Then again, the Ortofon is much less money than either of those.

My memory of the PC-1 says I would prefer it over the Ortofon, in fact my Haniwa cartridge is also beating the Ortofon in my system. Again, the Ortofon is the least expensive of these four cartridges which makes it (sort of) the winner if only by price.
I see now problem with A90 paired with SME V. In fact I've heard it several times and it track really good with it. It has a live/life like presentation with big sound stage and dynamics.
Albert, I agree with you on many topics but not on the Air Tight PC-1. When I had the PC-1 for testing it was not sounding really good despite the good tests it received. I assume they had to bring out a Supreme version very quickly because of that. I heard many complaints of PC-1 users (but not openly) who expressed exactely what I had experienced with this cartridge.
The Ortofon A90 is a far better cartridge than the PC-1, more openly and with a deeper soundstage.
Until today I ask myself how it was possible to sell so many units from a cartridge which was not developed to its full capabilities?
Let's be honest: The PC-1 is an awful cartridge.
I only listen to it when I get paid for.
"Awful" is a harsh word to describe the PC-1. My thoughts on assessing any component is it's ability to make music within a system. I have not experienced any individual component that sounds equally great/poor/indifferent regardless of the system it is inserted. My memory of the PC-1 is of it being very musical, somewhat lacking in delineation, yet very enjoyable. I have not heard the Ortofon.

I have heard the A90, Air Tight PC-1, and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme, on an SME V in the same system.

I personally liked the Air Tight Supreme and the Air Tight PC-1 more than the A-90, on the SME V. I thought the A-90 sounded way to bright/lean/mechanical pick your adjective on the SME V. That being said I have the A-90 sounding better than I ever had either of Air Tight's sounding on a Reed Tonearm.

Nonetheless, I am still not completely sold on the A-90 as as an ultimate performer, however, it is a strong performer IMO. I am going to place the A-90 in a few more systems, before I have my final opinion on it.

Dealer Disclaimer, I sell competing products to all cartridges mentioned, and personally like those I sell more, just being honest ; 0 )

Almost Live Audio
Dear Peter: I agree totally with Thuchan and Syntax: the PC-1 is no challenge/contest for the A-90 and from my experiences not either the Supreme.

Btw, Albert price never is a synonimous of better quality performance. The A-90 is " inexpensive " against the non-sense Coralstone but this one IMHO is only different but not better performer.

Ortofon IMHO does not needs to over-price their cartridges for people " believe " is better than it is.

Regards and enjoy the music,

I'm not through testing either, I plan to move the Ortofon to the Audiocraft AC4400 and see it that improves things.

I do agree with your comments:
I thought the A-90 sounded way to bright/lean/mechanical pick your adjective on the SME V. That being said I have the A-90 sounding better than I ever had either of Air Tight's sounding on a Reed Tonearm.

In my case the test is with SME 312S which is very well damped Magnesium and a new German tonearm I recently received and testing.

The other tests are by my best friend in my local audio group who owns the Dynavector XV1s, Air Tight Supreme, Koetsu Coralstone, Ortofon (in Reed tonearm) and also owns Fidelity Research FR66s and Audiocraft AC4400.

In his system the Ortofon is also rated last place, he also preferred the Allarts to the Ortofon but in that case I held reverse opinion.
Have owned or now own ALL of Albert's cartridges mentioned except the Fidelity and Audiocraft [even his friends Jan Allaerts]

The weak link for most is the SME 5 [sorry David...:-) ] The REAL WINNER is each in the Reed Arms!! This arm has benefits to suit all of the above...
Have owned or now own ALL of Albert's cartridges mentioned except the Fidelity and Audiocraft [even his friends Jan Allaerts]

The weak link for most is the SME 5 [sorry David...:-) ] The REAL WINNER is each in the Reed Arms!! This arm has benefits to suit all of the above...
Azjake (Threads | Answers | This Thread)

A lot of people love the SME 5, so it must have merit. I won't comment beyond that since I've not heard one in my own system.

As I said, I'm not giving up on the Ortofon, I own it and intend to try it in several tone arms and then decide. One experienced Ortofon owner who's opinion I respect said it required nearly a hundred hours to max out.

My Ortofon has about 40 hours break in as of today, which another person I respect says is already "there" based on his experience.

Goes to show that we don't all seem to agree, even when discussing the same cartridge.
agree with Azjake, don`t expect too much of a SME V. I drive the Ortofon in a FR-66fx - it is a perfect match.
Nolitan, it seems you are riding on the low and middle frequency track. A90 too smooth? which tonearm and TT are you using?

I heard it on two occasions: one was a Kuzma reference TT and arm , while the other was with a VPI HRX, JMW 12.5 arm.
On both occasions i found the sound consistent which is smooth, a little rolled of on top, refine, dynamic, superb bass dynamics, wide soundstage... In short it had most of the audiophile virtues of a very hi end cart. However I felt it was a bit too smooth for my taste & lacked that "musicality" or "involvement".

However, I would not dismiss the possibility that 1) the carts were not broken in, 2) improper set-up with the arm and cart 3.) incompatible loading with the phono stage. 4.) break in issues as the cart has around 150 hours on it.

My experience with the the PC1 after 20 hours or so was "my type".

As I go along w/ analog, i realized that set-up, compatibility issues are super critical.

BUT I wouldn't dismiss the possibility of considering an A90 in the future if I hear it in another system matched properly, etc....
Don't forget, if you don't set up the A90 for SRA of 92degrees it can sound slightly too smooth when parallel.

That said it aint ever going to sound like a Lyra or koetsu
That said it aint ever going to sound like a Lyra or koetsu
Downunder (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

Can you explain your comments? I would love to know what you think are the performance differences between those three.

Thuchan, I have three arm wands for my NOS Audiocraft AC4400, do you think the AP-2L (straight) would be good for the Ortofon?

If not, how about the heavy "S" version (I have it too).
Albert, you may use the straight arm wand cause the A90 has a high compliance. That should match perfectly (don`t use the S version), good luck.
Nolitan, do understand. Maybe you have the chance to hear it at another occasion. The TTs and arms you were listening to are fine. downunder is right.
Thuchan_> am always open to things! looking forward to hearing the A90 in a different occasion.
Hi Albert - performance differences - hmmm, I'll try.

The lrya and koetsu introduce their own " view' of music and does it consistently to variangly degrees. Some luv what Lyra does with its lightening leading edges and speed as well as Koetsu with their fuller more relaxed tones in direct comparison. I don't think anyone can say either is neutral.

IMO the A90 is quite unique in that it is neutral, transparent and pure sounding. It seems to replicate the overall characteristics of one's system rather than introduce its own flavour.
In my system it sounds pure, slightly warm character and posses no rising MC frequency. My system is overall has a warm character. I was hesitant in buying the A90 after the Fremer review, as to me ultra neutral always had its downside of leanness and too revealing, not the A90.

OTOH the A90 has sounded in some other systems a bit lean and thin sounding. In seems by consensus to sound different in most system but always transparent,smooth and non peaky.

IMO, the A90 is a bit of a chameleon so if it is sounding lean or rolled off (assuming correct setup) you need to look at the overall voicing of the system not the A90.

great cartridge and to me brings a new meaning of neutrality coupled with musicality.
Sometimes it is not easy to get a proper result, but here is a way which has some advantages

Final comment
Strange, very strange. Those masters who are at the same time artists are tuning, retuning ,possible kissing them and praying for them to sound right,but after some undeterminated break in time. But at the moment you bought them they are crap.So we need to add clairvoyant among the
qualitys involved. It is ultimately about magic.
Well, thank you for all of the responses. I've also received a few comments via email. The views seem pretty split. It's interesting that most like one or the other strongly, but not both. On the SME V, it seems the PC-1 sounds better. Some describe the A90 as being bright, though that seems perhaps arm and set-up dependent. On the right arm and properly set up, the A90 has many fans.

I strongly disagree with Syntax's comment that the PC-1 is "awful". It sounds very good in my system and very much like the way it is described by both Fremer and Valin in their reviews as well as some others I've read, so I don't get "awful". Perhaps the PC-1 was poorly matched or set up in Syntax's system. I like Downunder's comment that the A90 "brings a new meaning of neutrality coupled with musicality". Boy, that is pretty high praise.

My friend just bought an A90 and has offered to bring it over so that I can hear it in my system and do a direct comparison with the PC-1. It may take some time as the A90 is brand new, but if I can hear them both side by side, and hopefully properly set up, I will know which I prefer.

There does seem to be some consensus that the SME V does not compete with some of the better arm designs. For those who don't like the SME V, could you describe what it is about the arm that you don't like and perhaps suggest another arm for my SME 10 that may be better. Thanks.
Dear Albert: I don't know if you already did it but if not the very first step with the Audiocraft AC4400/3300 is to change its internal wiring for a better today quality performance wire.

About the A-90/Audiocraft combination I think that you can take advantage ( additionaly of Thuchan advise you ask for. ) on the S shaped arm wand where you can mate the A-90 ( or any other cartrridge ) with different weight and different build materials headshells that will help to permit that the A-90 shows its best in your system.
Here you can buy some different headshells:

Btw, if you decide to try the S arm wand then I recommend too to change/use the IKEDA S-50 headshell wires.

Regards and enjoy the music,

Tonearm wire is already changed and I have Ortofon brand silver headshell wire in place plus a spare Audiocraft headshell for my S arm.

If you read back a few posts, Thuchan suggests the straight arm for Ortofon and leave the heavier "S" arm for another cartridge.

Currently the "S" wand is in place with Koetsu Coralstone and the two seem well matched, the sound is superb.

Louis (my friend with Kharma that you heard) is using a Coralstone with Fidelity Research FR66S and he thinks it may even be a better match than the Audiocraft AC4400 with S wand.
I have an A90 mounted on a SME V on a Kuzma Stabi Ref. The combination sounds fantastic and I am very satisfied. I have heard the PC 1 on a Kuzma with a Triplanar, while a decent combo IMO it is not as good as the A90 on the SME. My other table is a Garrard 301, Triplanar, Transfiguration Orpheus, another outstanding cartridge, Fidelity Research FR64S, Miyjima Premium Be mono.
Dear Peterayer: If you analyze each one audio system of the persons that already posted here then you can/could understand why the " differences ".

I know very well Ortofon cartridges and, at least in this forum, for the very first time people are " talking " on Ortofon.

I own or owned several top of the line LOMC cartridges like: MC30, MC2000, MC3000, MC3000MK2, MC5000, MC7500, Rohman, Windfeld and the A-90 ( that I heard several times in my system borrowed for my friend. ).
IMHO there is a common characteristic that over the time Ortofon was/is coming refined: accuracy that for Ortofon means: lowering colorations/distortions ( that Downunder name it like " neutrality ". ).

Independent of the critical importance of any cartridge precise set up and tonearm matching many of us are accustom to cartridge " colorations " performance that in the A-90 are lower and different than what we heard through other cartridges.

In some ways maybe we have to " switch " our sound/music " normal " perception to the A-90 different one.

The other subject is that with a cartridge like the A-90 that posses that kind of accuracy the phono stage quality performance has to be first rate because the cartridge will point out the phono stage deficiences that even changing load impedance can't be fixed.

One factor that could help those A-90 owners that are not totally satisfied with or people that does not like it against other cartridges is that you can/could try different tonearm/cartridge " geometry " set up: Baerwald, Löfgren or Stevenson and hear what works best for you. Of course that you can try this kind of set up with any cartridge too. IMHO worth to try it always that you can do it, this makes a difference.

Btw, Albert you don't " take " my point: please forget about weight and be in focus with diferent headshell build material: this fact mainly is what makes the difference in the cartridge sound quality performance. The S shaped arm wand target is precisely that you can choose several and different build material headshell testing in which one the cartridge shows its best. What I'm telling you does not interfere in any way with the Thuchan advise or that you are using that S shaped arm wand with other cartridge,anyway your call.
In the other side the tonearm damping fluid makes a difference too. Good to know that all your Audiocraft arm wands are already internal re-wired as the tonearm too.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Not to flame or anything, some of my friends who tried the A90 describes them as a sound similar to eating food without MSG, sweeteners or flavoring. "Bland". Neutral, natural... again, to each his own as some of them love it, some of them "no feelings". Personally, I would like to experiment and spend more time playing with it...
Nolitan, not to flame or anything

If the A90 is sounding bland etc, I would be looking at the system being played, not the cartridge.

Sounds like they may need to go back to their cartridges with MSG :-)

The guys that have played with the A90 are veterans as they have numerous carts they owned and collected. One chap has 10 carts in his stable: Clearaudio Titanium, Airtight PC1 Supreme, Mysonic Labs Hyper eminent, Miyabi 47, Koetsu Blue Lace, Dynavector XV1t, Miyajima Shilabe, and A90.
there set-up is also very well tuned as they have been vinyl addicts for years.
In the same way, when i heard the A90 at my buddy's setup, its the same experience we have heard. It has all the audiophile qualities to be expected in a cart but lacks that musicality, "soul" as some would say.
Nonetheless, its perhaps the synergy, or some other factors that we are getting this particular result.
I myself is very puzzled because the reviews from magazines of the A90 has been nothing but exemplary.

Anyways, since there is a large variable playing when doing analog, I would leave our observations at that until such time we can hear the A90 perform as the way it should perform as indicated by the positive reviews on the net and the magazines.,
Nolitan, I was somewhat tongue in check with my comments. every system is different as well as tastes, so its a wonder we agree on anything at all :-)

If you read the UK reviews ( hifi news & hifi world) they are not all positive. one says too smooth/laid back, another says lean and bright - go figure.

Me, I have enough MSG in my system I guess I don't need anymore :-)
BTW, I have been listening to the A90 for over 10 months, so maybe I am now used to its neutrality.

I agree. Am sure if i have the chance to live with the A90 in my system. Tweak it around, am sure there will be some positive attributes in there I would "learn to love".
Dear Nolitan: +++++ " It has all the audiophile qualities to be expected in a cart but lacks that musicality, " +++++

" musicality " ?, IMHO that is only a heavy non-accurate coloration. That some people likes that IMHO does not means " musicality " is a live music characteristic but more a wrong audio link performer or whole audio chain system.

Regards and enjoy the music,
"Musical" (musicality) to me means "sounds like real music, ie, acoustic, unamplified, real instruments in a real space, etc." In other words, it sounds like the real thing - music. I don't get how "musical" became "warm, colored, pleasing distortion" in the audiophile sense. I don't agree with Raul's assertion that it means a "heavy non-accurate coloration". My current system sounds more like what I hear at the Boston Symphony hall from row G center than anything I have previously owned, and if I were to use just one word to describe my sound, I would say "musical". I guess there is not agreement on the definition of these terms.

I did hear from one fellow via email that the SME V arm is highly colored and adds a mid-bass bump to the sound and that therefore, I'm not hearing what the PC-1 is capable of. Does anyone else care to describe what they don't like about the SME V and what might be a better arm for the PC-1 or A90 that would work on my SME 10?

I like what I have, but am open to other suggestions. I do hope to do a direct comparison between the two cartridges and also plan to attend RMAF to hear other table/arm/cartridge combinations.
Peter, I will be at the RMAF all three days. We might exchange on tonearms if you like. The SME V has some good sides, it is a very honest and straight sounding arm in my ears.But also to be very honest maybe you deserve better...
Dear Peter: +++++ " I guess there is not agreement on the definition of these terms. " +++++

yes, I agree. I heard so many times that " musicality " word with audio items that are really bad and through audio systems that were high colored but where their owners speaks about " musicality ".

Yes, the live music is well " musical " and maybe we have to define in precise way what means that real " musical " term to avoid a mix-up like the one I posted.

In a first instance/a priori for me " musical " means: a natural flow of the music notes/harmonics with the natural agresiveness that live music has with non-distorted/inaccurate " sound " other than the instruments it self or player errors where the main colorations comes from the environment where the live event take place.

The " soul " that Nolitan point out IMHO is in each one of us and it is the music and a very specific kind of music/composition what " moves " each one of us it does not matters if we are hearing music in a live event or through a Sonny Walkman.

regards and enjoy the music,
each one of us it does not matters if we are hearing music in a live event or through a Sonny Walkman.

Portable music player autographed by Sonny Rollins?
Dear Albert: That is for an auction at Sotheby's or Cristie's.
The one I'm refering was Sony ( sorry for the mistake. ).

regards and enjoy the music,
yes, I agree. I heard so many times that " musicality " word with audio items that are really bad and through audio systems that were high colored but where their owners speaks about " musicality ..."


Of these two cartridges specifically, I'd suggest the A90 would be the preferred choice. This is based on time with both cartridges and looking at the other components in your system. My opinion, which is all it is, is to give a preference for the A90.
tas issue 206 oct 2010 anolog issue; "This survey originally included the $4200 Ortofon A90 cartridge", "Upon reading the review preprint, the manufacturer suggested that the sample was either defective or incorrectly setup."

That is very interesting. Could one infer that the reviewer(s) from TAS did not like the sound of the A90? I have not received that issue yet. Do you know what other cartridges are in the survey and who wrote it?

I will be hearing a direct comparison between the A90 and my actual PC-1 in about two weeks in a friend's system. Though this won't be a good as hearing the A90 in my system, the comparison should be revealing. If I can then borrow an A90, I will compare them again in my own system. Regardless, I will report here my impressions.

Being a later comer to the discussion, I read most but not all of the comments. I am running the A90 with the Reed tonearm and with Pass Labs Xono Phono Stage (shall be writing a review of the A90 and Reed arm soon). The A90 to me is a near-perfect piece of engineering that is squeezing the maximum out of the LP and feed it through the tonearm to a phone stage. That is why there are so many opinions because people have different phono stages and hence different component synergy. My comments may be not directly related to the discussion but could not help but chime in.
Harry pearson reviewed ZYX Omega, Kubotech Haniwa, My Sonic Labs Eminent, Miyajima Shilabe, Dynavector XV-1T, Clearaudio Goldfinger V2 and Benz LP 5-MR. His review, " It is immediately apparent that the Goldfinger stands alone. It is like the turntable for which it was designed, a statement." I personally concur. I have been on the up grade train for many yrs and never before did one item make such a drastic(in a great way) difference. It, the golgfinger V2, is the best money I have ever spent on audio equipment. I can not image, even though clearaudio claims an upgrade is comming, any cart. sounding better!
My last 4 cart. because I can not rember before, were Dynavector XV-1s, shelter 9000, PC-1 and now Goldfinger V2. The 9000 I did not like. Took a long time to break in and never really sounded right. The XV-1s and PC-1, to my ear, were very close. If I had to choose between them I would take the PC-1. The XV-1s cantilever is to easily broken and very expensive to replace. As far as the A90 I have not heard, but I have spoken to people whose ears I trust, mostly(all) negative. One such person called it "hype". Again, this for me, is second hand. But, the fact that it was excluded from the review does not bode well for it. Time will tell. Now I am where I wish to be(audio wise) and have no plans to change. The Goldfinger V2 is a final purchase for me as long as it lasts.
Anyone (preferably with personal experience) care to describe the similarities/differences between the A90 with the ZYX UNIverse?

TIA, John