For as long as I’ve been writing about this DJ lark, there has been an ongoing eternal struggle between industry audio giant Shure and turntable carts specialist Ortofon. The M44-7s have a solid old school following, and paired with Technics was the pros choice. But they’re fiddly to set up — wires break and the needles aren’t as robust as they could be. But along came Ortofon with the Concordes — a plug and play solution that offers better visibility around the needle and arguably better performance.
Somewhere in the naughties, Ortofon stole my heart with the release of the Thud Rumble Concordes, and then the Serato S-120s. Never before had the needle stuck to the groove or sounded so good. And I no longer had to bother with fiddly wires and fragile needles. And now I didn’t have to listen to that angling dogma that went hand in hand with M44-7s.
But today, in the year of their 100th year in business, Ortofon releases a new generation of Concorde cartridges. The Concorde MKII is redesigned and the range has been rationalised. But let’s hear what Ortofon has to say first:
Ortofon celebrates its 100 year anniversary with newly redesigned models, tailored uniquely to the demands of modern turntable DJs.
Anaheim, January 25th, 2018 – Ortofon, the world leader in phono cartridge technology, today releases the Concorde MkII series – 5 models designed from the ground-up featuring a variety of enhancements to fulfill the needs of any serious vinyl DJ.
In the mid-1980s, the original Concorde cartridges changed the landscape of vinyl DJing, and throughout the years Ortofon has continuously refined the Concorde brand by offering more than a dozen different models to the DJ market. During the past few years, Ortofon embarked on a mission to take the Concorde design back to ground zero, collaborating with some of the world’s top vinyl DJs to create a new series which would fulfill the needs of the modern DJ professional.
There are 5 cartridges in the series, Mix, DJ, Club, Scratch, and Digital. All models benefit from a replaceable reinforced finger lift, which is easily replaced if broken. The cartridge bodies have been broadened, to offer greater stability during performances. Replacement styli offer a tactile feedback when seating, indicating a snug and secure fit, while a cut-out area in the front allows for far more accurate needle drops. The Concorde MkII’s unique 2-seqment body design creates a fresh and attractive aesthetic.
The Concorde Mix offers a budget-friendly, yet high quality option capable of good all-round performance, while the Concorde DJ is considered the jack-of-all-trades, boasting accurate sound reproduction and excellent groove handling. The Concorde Club features a special Elliptical diamond and offers the best sound quality achievable for traditional vinyl playback and offers an outstanding platform for archival and sampling. The Concorde Scratch allows turntablist and scratching DJs to achieve new levels of performance with an unprecedented tracking ability and extra high output, and the specially-optimized Concorde Digital offers both of these features with a technology designed to extend the life of timecode vinyl and minimize errors in decoding.
The Concorde MkII series cartridges are shipping now in Twin and Single configurations, as well as replacement styli. A special series of matching accessory slipmats and T-shirts for each model are also available.
WHAT’S NEW WITH CONCORDE MKII?
Aside from a slimmed down range, at first glance, the key difference is with looks. Ortofon has gone for a more colourful eye-catching aesthetic, one that will immediately identify which Concorde model you’re using. The new design is also a little chunkier. Instead of going on a diet, they’ve put on a little muscle. This apparently is to aid stability.
But it’s more than looks — some the changes are more subtle, but also important to Concorde users. Firstly, visibility around the needle has been improved. But the biggest change is with the lifter. A little while back, we covered the Play Again, a solution that ingeniously fixes broken Concordes. And with the redesign comes a replaceable lifter. Each Concorde comes with its own colour-specific lifter, but they come in a range of colours, allowing you to have a degree of control over the looks of your Concordes, and I imagine that it’s a matter of days before third party versions hit the market in a range of colours, designs, and materials.
And for those driven by numbers, here’s the full specifications:
For OM users, I’m told that they won’t be getting an update. And looking at the lack of OMs on the Ortofon site, I’d say the OM possibly isn’t long for this world.
Pre-empting a couple of questions – you won’t be able to interchange old and new Concorde needles, but I don’t know if you’ll be able to swap needles between new models. Like the old ones, you probably can. But why would you at this point? Just buy the new carts you want and stick with them. You can dabble with such shenanigans in the future.
I’m looking forward to thoroughly checking the range out, and pitting them against my S-120s. On a shallow aesthetic level, I don’t want to swap a black and silver Concorde that matches my gear perfectly for a new sparkling white Concorde Scratch. I’m not one for bold gauche statements with my gear — I sense I’ll have to buy up all the S-120 needles I can to see me through into my dotage.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The new Concorde are more expensive than the originals. While official pricing wasn’t given with the PR, I’ve gleaned the following from Westend DJ for singles, twins packs, and spare needles:
DJ MK2: £85/£165/£32.50
MIX MK2: £70/£135/£25
Scratch MK2: £95/£185/£37.50
Digital MK2: £100/£195/£40
Club MK2: £120/£235/£50
The PR says they’re all shipping now, so give your local DJ boutique a call and get local prices.
And happy birthday Ortofon!