Best Phono Preamps for Ortofon 2M Red/Blue/Bronze/Black

Lately, I have geeked out about finding the best phono preamp for the 2M Red, Blue, Bronze and Black cartridges from Ortofon.

The idea was to find high quality and highly regarded phono preamps that are not only industry leaders by themselves, but also great matches for the characteristics of the Ortofon 2M cartridge range. Phone preamps that balance out the Ortofon 2Ms’ weaknesses and enhance their strengths.

And after lots of research I feel confident that I have found three phono preamps that are fantastic matches for the Ortofon 2M cartridges that won’t break the bank.

I will go into the details below, but first, here is my top recommendation.

My favorite phono preamp for the Ortofon MM range cartridges is the Pro-Ject Tube Box S2. Its adjustable input capacitance from 47 pF to 587 pF makes it possible to balance the frequency response to match your personal taste. And the low input capacitance will together with the smooth sound from the tubes help balance out the Ortofon 2M range’s tendency to sound a fraction bright and analytical.

In the sections below, I will dig into the specifications and characteristics of the Ortofon 2M cartridges. And based on that, identify three quality phono preamps that perfectly match those. I will also discuss the importance of choosing a low capacitance interconnect cable to connect the phono preamp.

So by reading this article, you will hopefully get a few valuable tips that will help you make an educated choice on phono preamp and interconnect cable for the Ortofon 2M cartridges.

Ortofon 2M Specifications and Characteristics

The Ortofon 2M cartridges are probably the world’s best-selling cartridge range. They sound fantastic. When I was upgrading the cartridge on my Rega Planar 2 I was super keen on the Ortofon 2M Bronze but chose the Rega Exact last minute because of the simpler install it provides on Rega tonearms.

The Ortofon 2M range is also known to be a little on the bright and analytical side when it comes to sound characteristics. This is for sure a topic for discussion and to a large degree down to personal taste and preference. But the majority of vinyl enthusiasts seem to agree that they sound slightly bright on most systems.

There is a scientific explanation for why the Ortofon 2M cartridge range is slightly on the bright side.

This might be a bit technical, but bear with me.

If we look at instrumented measurements on the Ortofon 2M range that can be found all over the internet, we see that there is a boost in signal level from about 5 kHZ to about 15 kHZ peaking at about 10kHz.

You will find examples in the link in the resource section below.

The inductive nature of the cartridge (being a coil) and the capacitive nature of the phono preamp input makes a low-pass filter. And there are probably something in the characteristics of the Ortofon 2M coils that creates a resonance peak on the low side the cut-off frequency. And this resonance is likely what causes a boost in signal level between 5 kHz to 15 kHz.

And the boost from 5 kHz to 15 kHz is what causes the Ortofon 2M range to sound slightly bright. The higher mid-range and treble is enhanced.

There are two ways to compensate for the bright sound characteristics of the Ortofon 2M cartridge range and create a more natural sound character. This is what they call balancing in the stereophile world. Balancing is important to get out the true potential of stereo equipment.

The first way is to use a phono preamp (and cable interconnect) that has low input capacitance. This will help reduce the boost in signal level we see from 5 kHz to 15 kHz.

The other way is to use a phono preamp that has a warm sound characteristic. A tube phono preamp or a solid state prone preamp that has a warm character.

If we look at the specification from Ortofon, we see that the 2M range’s recommended load capacitance is from 150 to 300 pF.

Output
Voltage
5.0 – 5.5 mV
Load
Resistance
47 kOhm
Load
Capacitance
150 – 300pF

Instrumented measurements have further shown that to flatten the Ortofon 2M range’s frequency response, and make them warmer sounding, it is ideal to get the input capacitance as low as possible within that 150 to 300 pF range.

That will require a phono preamp with a low input capacitance. And ideally, as we will discuss shortly, an interconnect cable with low capacitance as well.

To sum it up, the perfect preamp for the Ortofon 2M range will, based on the observations and discussion above, need the following specifications and characteristics:

  1. Low input capacitance
  2. A warm and smooth sound character

It also needs to be a quality item to match the sonic performance of the Ortofon 2M range.

In my research, I have found three popular and highly rated phono preamps on the market today that I feel confident about will match those characteristics extremely well.

Good Phono Preamps for Ortofon 2M Cartridges

Here they are.

Three quality phono preamps that will match the characteristics of the Ortofon 2M cartridges beautifully.

Winner: Pro-Ject Tube Box S2

My favorite preamp to use with the Ortofon 2M cartridge range is the Pro-Ject Tube Box S2.

Not only does it have a desirable low input capacitance at 57 pF at its lowest setting, but it is also adjustable up to 587 pf. This is super ideal to tweak and balance the Ortofon 2M range.

In addition to using the low and adjustable input capacitance to reduce the Ortofon 2M’s signal level peak at 10 kHz, the warm sound character of the tubes will perfectly match the 2M’s tendency to sound bright and analytical.

The Pro-Ject is also a quality item that gets a lot of praise in the vinyl community. It is probably one of the affordable tube phono preamps on the market that will give the most bang for the buck.

You can check out Techmoan awesome Tube Box S2 review on YouTube. He seems to love the thing!

Specifications

InputsMM and MC
Gain40 – 63 dB
Input
Resistance
MM: 
47 000 Ohms 
MC: 
10, 100, 470, 1000 and 2000 Ohms
Input
Capacitance
47 – 587 pF

Click here to check current pricing on Amazon.

Also Great: Rega Fono MM

Another great phono preamp for the Ortofon 2M range is the multi award-winning Rega Fono MM.

With an input capacitance of 100 pF it is not as low as the input capacitance of the Project Tube Box S2 in its lowest setting, but still in the lower range of MM phono preamps.

The Rega Fono MM is also known for its warm sound character that will help balance out the brightness of the Ortofon cartridges beautifully.

I use the Rega Fono MM’s little brother, the Rega Fono Mini A2D, in my home stereo setup, and I can attest that it sounds warm and pleasant. Significantly warmer sounding that the phono stage that is built into my Denon PMA-1600Ne receiver. The Rega Fono Mini A2D basically shares the circuitry of the Rega Fono MM so that should be a fair comparison.

Besides being warm sounding and a good match for the Ortofon 2M cartridge series, the Rega Fono MM is a highly regarded phono preamp with good reviews and a huge following in the vinyl community.

The Rega Fono MM was awarded best phono stage in its price category 2014,2015 & 2018 by What Hi-Fi. And I have yet to meet a person that is disappointed about its performance.

Specifications

InputsMM
Gain41 dB
Input
Resistance
47 000 Ohm
Input
Capacitance
100 pF

Click here to check current pricing on Amazon.

Cheaper Alternative: Rega Fono Mini A2D

The Rega Fono Mini A2D is a cost effective version of the Rega Fono MM above. And just as its bigger brother above, it will be a great match for the Ortofon 2M cartridge range.

If the Pro-Ject Tube Box and the Rega Fono MM is a bit pricy for your budget, the Rega Fono Mini A2D that sells for about half the price is the one to choose.

It has the more or less the same circuitry, characteristics and specifications as the Rega Fono MM, but comes in a simpler metal casing. It is not much to look at, but feels very solid built. The neat thing is that it is small and can easily be hidden behind or between other components in your setup.

I use this phono preamp with my Rega Planar 2 turntable and Rega Exact cartridge and it sounds fantastic. And I am confident that it will sound just as great with the Ortofon 2M cartridges. I cannot imagine a phono preamp below $200 that will be a better fit for the Ortofon 2M range.

Specification

InputsMM
Gain40 dB
Input
Resistance
47 000 Ohm
Input
Capacitance
100 pF

Click here to check current pricing on Amazon.

Low Capacitance Cable for Ortofon 2M Cartridges

The interconnect cable have significant impact on the capacitive load that the cartridge “sees”.

The capacitive load that the cartridge will “see” is the sum of the capacitance of the tonearm wiring, the interconnect cable between the turntable and the phono preamp, and the input capacitance of the preamp itself.

Therefore, selecting a cable that has a low capacitance is important to level out the Ortofon 2M’s frequency curve to make the system sound nice and balanced.

A interconnect cable that is often recommended for its high quality and low capacitance is this cable from Worlds Best Cables. It is not too expensive and will be a good cable to use with the Ortofon 2M cartridges.

Conclusion

Ortofon is the biggest cartridge manufacturer in the world, and their 2M range of Moving Magnet cartridges is extremely popular among vinyl enthusiasts around the world.

To achieve the highest possible sonic performance from a home stereo setup, it is important to balance the different components. And in this article I have identified three phono preamps and one interconnect cable that will be a beautiful match for the Ortofon 2M cartridges.

Winner: Pro-Ject Tube Box S2

Runner-up: Rega Fono MM

Affordable choice: Rega Fono Mini A2D

Cable: Worlds Best Cables

Thee are for sure other preamps that will sound fantastic with the Ortofon 2M cartridges. But I feel very confident that it will be hard to find a phono preamp that outplay the recommendations above for the same kind of money.

Recourses

Ortofon 2M Black Measurements and Optimal Loading

Ortofon Home

Ortofon Wikipedia

Pro-Ject Home

Rega Home

  • Tom
  • July 2, 2019