To honor the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Johan Sebastian Bach’s death, Ortofon released three new Kontrapunkt moving coil cartridges at the turn of the millennium. The a and b comfortably outsold the c, despite the fact that they were all slightly different. The b was my favorite of the bunch, with a Nude Fritz Geiger FG80 stylus tip and Ruby cantilever. Each had its own color scheme, but they also differed electrically – Ortofon said the A put out 0.45mV, while the B put out 0.47mV. The cartridges were nearly identical in most ways – the stainless steel bodies weighed 10g total, and the manufacturer indicated a tracking force range of 2.2 to 2.7g (2.5g preferred) at a 20-degree tracking angle.
Ortofon moving coils have been a favorite of mine since the late 1970s, and it’s fair to say they’re excellent. However, while the high-end designs are exquisitely detailed and refined, they are less engaging than some – such as Lyras and Dynavectors – in general. The Kontrapunkt b (£595 when new) is not one of them. I began with Groove Armada’s I See You, Baby, which struck me as very energetic and vital. Unlike its MC30 Supreme predecessor, which worried a little too much with resolving detail and precisely soundstaging, this one got right into the groove and boogied. What a pleasant surprise to hear a smart Scandinavian execute such a musical piece!
When I switched to Herbie Hancock’s Rockit, the Kontrapunkt went straight for the song’s sequenced Linn drums, unleashing a dizzying array of rhythms and dynamics with intoxicating abandon. The Knack’s My Sharona was next, and I was greeted with incredible speed, dynamics, and rock-solid soundstaging, as well as a stunningly wide and bold recorded acoustic, lithe, flexible basslines, a super-low noise floor, and tons of low level detail. The main drawback is a tiny treble bias, but don’t mistake this for distortion; despite its HF emphasis, it’s a really clean, low-noise device that cuts through like butter.
Even by today’s high standards, I think the Kontrapunkt b is fantastic. It has a distinct personality that sets it apart from the company’s other designs, which are often more somber in tone. It’s been one of the most musically convincing Ortofon moving coils for a long time, and it’s a great used buy at roughly £350 – provided you can find one that’s well-preserved, undamaged, and packaged.