The end product of a collaboration with Ortofon, Pro-Ject’s Pick-It DS2 moving coil cartridge is a lower midrange or, if you like, high-end budget cartridge. Paul Rigby reviews…
If I was going to come over all French, leap up from my seat, point a finger at my turntable and declare, “J’accuse!” Then I would probably do it to a number of low cost moving coil cartridges on the market who try their best, bless ‘em, but don’t really excite. There are a number of carts out there at a lower price which perform ok. They’re perfectly fine. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with them. But they’re bland. I’ve listened to a few. When I’ve done so, after a minute or two my mind starts to drift. I begin to wonder if I’ve taken the chops out of the freezer for dinner that evening or whether I need to buy petrol for the strimmer. Things like that.
Moving coil cartridges are wonderful little things but, in general terms, don’t really light up the universe until you hit £700-£800 or so. Now, there are exceptions to this of course (everything that Hana does is one of those exceptions, for example) and that’s something to celebrate but whenever I review a moving coil under that price I hold my breath and ready my pointy finger, the one with the French accent.
I wondered if Pro-Ject’s new offering would be once of those exceptions.
The Pick-It DS2, designed by Pro-Ject and made by Ortofon, is a meaty and bulky device when you hold it in your hands. This is no fragile, retiring, delicate flower like some naked van den Hul cartridges you might see on the market. On no, the only thing ‘naked’ on the Pick-It DS2 is the stylus which is a nude elliptical model.
That chassis is made from a polyamide selected by Pro-Ject because of its “mechanical properties”. The company went on to say that the chassis is made using a, “…special Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) manufacturing process that involves using a laser to melt the housing material into a given shape.” The idea of that is to lower resonances.
You’ll find gold-plated connectors on the rear and a bonded top-plate with three contact-points and threaded bolt-holes. To that effect, the DS2 is sold in a wooden box supplied with spare bolts and a hex key.
Weighing in at 9g and offering a best tracking force of 2.2g, the Pick-It DS2 also offers a screw thread inside its chassis negating the need for fiddly screw nuts. Thanks goodness for that.
I started with Mike Oldfield and his Platinum (Virgin) LP from 1979. I played Into the Wonderland, featuring vocals by Wendy Roberts.
I have to say that I will be returning my pointy finger back to its holster on this occasion because the Pick-IT DS2 is a little gem.
The reason for this covers a range of reasons but the underlying theme here is life. Life! Every hi-fi component needs it. That sense of oomph. A certain get-up-and-go. A pinch of pizazz. A sense that the music reaching your ears is exciting and vibrant and threatens (at the very least) to force the ol’right foot into a steady beat.
That’s what the Pick-It DS2 did for me. My right foot received a healthy degree of exercise in this review.
The first point of interest here was the low noise aspect of the performance which meant that space and air rushed into the soundstage and allowed the midrange to present detail in a naturalistic manner. The lack of noise always reduces a certain stress and tension lurking behind the music. Here, the low noise performance of the Pick-It DS2 allowed the musicians to relax and hit a steady groove, giving the music a swing to it that forced you to listen.
Hence, cymbal splashes on this track seemed to start earlier and finish later and appeared to travel further. There was more information within, I know that much. Roberts’ vocal performance was also textured in her delivery. She offered a slight grain when she placed effort behind the voice and when she manoeuvred to hit lower registers. The Pick-It DS2 nailed the changes which gave her performance great character.
Speaking of character, the percussion had bounce but also tonal realism. This sense of realism in the low frequency range gave the overall mix a sense of balance.
I then moved to Nancy Sinatra’s It’s Such a Pretty World Today from Country, My Way (Reprise).
The lead Sinatra vocal is drenched in old fashioned echo, presumably to give her a grander yet slightly romantic air. The backing vocals don’t have this effect, being rather focused in their presentation. The Pick-It DS2 was able to compare and contrast the sonic difference between the two, separating the two tracks successfully. The same could be said of the backing instruments with the warming slide guitar compared to the focus and precision from the accompanying acoustic guitar strums and bass guitar. That the Pick-It DS2 was able to differentiate between these tonal colours was a testament to its inherent design. It would have been oh so easy to smear the varying boundaries into a murky grey, giving the music a melange of tonal boredom but no, the Pick-It DS2 was able to shuffle each tonal flavour and deal the whole lot to the ear with order and discipline.
This cartridge was able to offer a studious appreciation of music, partly because of its low noise performance but also because it presented information to the ear in an ordered and balanced manner. More than that though and unlike some of its contemporaries, the design translated the emotion of the music. A critically important facet and one that will have you coming back to your vinyl collection looking for more.
PRO-JECT’S PICK-IT DS2 MOVING COIL CARTRIDGE Price: £525 Tel: 01235 511166 Website: www.henleyaudio.co.uk
GOOD: low noise, spacious mids, characterful bass, balanced presentation
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Origin Live Sovereign turntable
Origin Live Enterprise 12″ arm
Ortofon Quintet Blue cartridge
Icon PS3 phono amplifier
Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp
Icon Audio MB845 Mk.II monoblock amplifiers
Quad ESL-57 speakers with One Thing upgrade
Blue Horizon Professional Rack System
Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components
All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner