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Ortofon SPU vs Le Son LS10

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Ortofon SPU vs Le Son LS10

On a sunny afternoon, my colleague and I went to install a Le Son LS10 MC Cartridge to a customer’s home.
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Mr. Wang lives in a beautiful house in Shanghai, and is the owner of a high-end system led on the analog side by a TechDAS Airforce V turntable.
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The air bearing turntable is equipped with 2 tonearms, the first one being an Ortofon RMG 309 Limited 12-inch, holding the top-of-the-line Ortofon SPU Royal GM MKII MC Cartridge.
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The second tonearm, a Sorane SA1.2, received the Le Son LS10 MC Cartridge.
Boxes: Ortofon SPU & Le Son LS10

Ortofon SPU Royal GM MKII

Le Son LS10 MC Cartridge Setup

Le Son LS10 MC Cartridge

To match the smooth sound signature of the Ortofon SPU cartridge, we chose an ebony wood headshell for the LS10. And as the Sorane tonearm requested weigth, we chose brass mounting screws which offer weight and musicality. We also manufactured OCC Silver headshell wires and nylon / graphite washers for the occasion.

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The phono preamplifier is an Aesthetix RHEA, perfect for switching from one cartridge to the other on the fly.

Aesthetix RHEA

The preamplifier is an Audio Research Reference 6SE Line-Stage, driving the Audio Research Reference 150 power amplifier.

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The 150W delivered by the tube amplifier are plenty to drive a pair of Tannoy Kensington GR with ST-100 Supertweeters.

Audio Research Reference 6SE Line-Stage

Audio Research Reference 150

Tannoy Kensington GR with ST-100 Supertweeter

The setup of the LS10 MC Cartridge went smoothly on the Sorane SA1.2 tonearm. We particularly liked its precise and convenient VTA adjustment knob, as well as its original VTF adjustment design.

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After setting up the optimum input impedance and gain on the phono preamplifier, we were ready to sit back and enjoy. The comparison between the 2 cartridges could begin!


Ortofon SPU Royal GM MKII  vs Le Son LS10 – Specifications

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First let’s review how their specifications compare.

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The Royal GM MKII is the top-of-the-line Ortofon SPU. It has a very low output (0.2mV) and features a nude Replicant 100 stylus. This stylus is Ortofon’s most advanced design and can be compared to a microridge.

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In comparison, the LS10 has a slightly higher output (0.35mV) and features a nude Shibata stylus.

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Until here the advantage on paper goes to the SPU, as a microridge stylus should be more resolving than a Shibata, and a lower output should mean a lower moving mass.

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Now let’s go deeper.

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The coils of the SPU are made of gold plated silver, while the LS10 has OCC copper coils. The mass of the SPU coil wire is therefore higher than the LS10, but the coils are probably smaller because of the output difference (0.2mV vs 0.35mV). It is therefore difficult to know which cartridge has the lightest coils.

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Now let’s look at  the cantilevers. The Ortofon SPU does not specify the cantilever material on its datasheet, but after inspection and this cartridge still being an SPU, we highly suspect it is made of aluminium. On the other side, the LS10 features a boron nitride ceramic cantilever, which is far lighter and stiffer than aluminium ones.

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So to summarize: the SPU has a better stylus, and the LS10 has a much better cantilever.
TechDAS Airforce V - Le Son LS10 - Ortofon SPU

Ortofon SPU Royal GM MKII  vs Le Son LS10 – Listening Impressions

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There is nothing like a direct A/B comparison. And the Aesthetix RHEA phono preamp is perfect for this purpose. You can switch from one cartridge to the other by pressing a button.

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Playing Mr. Wang’s favorite pressings, the similarities and differences between the two cartridges appeared clearly.

Where both cartridges excel at is being easy on your ears. They both deliver an extremely pleasing sound without any listening fatigue.

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The SPU delivers a beautiful and relaxed presentation, listening to this cartridge is like entering in a fairy world. The sound feels round, generous, and easy going.

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The LS10 delivers a less lush sound than the SPU, and instead provides more micro-details and dynamics. The sound feels more involving and less mellow.

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Regarding tonearms, the tracking error towards the end of the records was more present with the 9-inch Sorane tonearm than the 12-inch Ortofon one.

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Conclusion

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­Both cartridges provide a superb sound, exempt of any listening fatigue.

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If you like lush and mellow sound, the Ortofon SPU Royal GM MKII is for you. The cartridge delivers a beautifully colored sound that suspends time. The drawback is less details and dynamics. If it was a car, the SPU would be a Limousine.

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If you prefer a transparent sound, providing more details and dynamics, the LS10 will deliver just that. The sound of this system with this cartridge was simply compelling. If it was a car, the LS10 would be a Grand Turismo.

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Meanwhile, Mr. Wang has a new reference cartridge.


Le Son LS10 MC Cartridge - Ebony Wood Body - Le Son Analog Audio

LE SON LS10 MOVING COIL CARTRIDGE

EMBARK ON A MUSIC JOURNEY


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