Ortofon - a miserable failure for CD-4

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ArmyOfQuad

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I've had it up to here with the myths. Supposedly Ortofon MC cartridges are capable of CD-4 playback. After years and multiple attempts at trying to achieve this, I've decided I'm done playing the game of insanity of trying to do the same things over and over again and expect some miraculous magical different results.

I declare right here that I am 100 percent confident, without any doubt in my mind, that nothing Ortofon has ever made has the capabilities of playing back CD-4 properly, and anyone who says otherwise likely needs their ears checked.

I know files float around that claim to use some mythical Ortofon setup - does anyone know where they really came from? Has anyone seen the equipment do this? File labels are just that - file labels. Who knows what the hell are on those files.

I've decided I'm done with Ortofon as a company for life after dealing with what feels like years of abuse! I've had it!!!

Research begins NOW on suitable replacements, and I'll be selling it all off. I'm done with them, and their years of false claims that littered the webs with lies, costing me years of countless money and hours to find no truth in!

Sick and tired of advertisers cluttering the world with lies that we have to sort through to find any truth.



TLDR: I spent hours yet again swapping a cartridge, playing with tiny screws, protractors, and tiny tools, and even had to resolder a fucking wire that won't play nice, to determine that yes - the $200 fucking dollar Panasonic demodulator performs equally shitty as every-fucking-thing-else!!!!!!!!!!!


I hate CD-4. Format never did anything good for me! Nothing but a money drain with no payoff!
 

4-earredwonder

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I've had it up to here with the myths. Supposedly Ortofon MC cartridges are capable of CD-4 playback. After years and multiple attempts at trying to achieve this, I've decided I'm done playing the game of insanity of trying to do the same things over and over again and expect some miraculous magical different results.

I declare right here that I am 100 percent confident, without any doubt in my mind, that nothing Ortofon has ever made has the capabilities of playing back CD-4 properly, and anyone who says otherwise likely needs their ears checked.

I know files float around that claim to use some mythical Ortofon setup - does anyone know where they really came from? Has anyone seen the equipment do this? File labels are just that - file labels. Who knows what the hell are on those files.

I've decided I'm done with Ortofon as a company for life after dealing with what feels like years of abuse! I've had it!!!

Research begins NOW on suitable replacements, and I'll be selling it all off. I'm done with them, and their years of false claims that littered the webs with lies, costing me years of countless money and hours to find no truth in!

Sick and tired of advertisers cluttering the world with lies that we have to sort through to find any truth.



TLDR: I spent hours yet again swapping a cartridge, playing with tiny screws, protractors, and tiny tools, and even had to resolder a fucking wire that won't play nice, to determine that yes - the $200 fucking dollar Panasonic demodulator performs equally shitty as every-fucking-thing-else!!!!!!!!!!!


I hate CD-4. Format never did anything good for me! Nothing but a money drain with no payoff!
WHY do you think I switched to QUAD OPEN REEL in the 70's AoQ? CD~4 was frustrating THEN and it still is NOW. Bless all those who endured the swapped cartridges, demodulator failures and those clicky/poppy/swishy CD~4 discs.

Yes, there was a paucity of QUAD OR tapes but at least they WORKED!

Just sorry if took you so long and countless expenditures to finally throw in the towel!
 

ArmyOfQuad

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There's never fully throwing in the towel. Until reels or reissues surface for the many CD4 only releases, it's a necessary evil that one must endure. Just another burden put on us due to the miserable failure of an industry that the music industry is to us. They could just fucking sell us some damn hi-res files of all this stuff, but no, not enough money in it for them. Fuck them all!!!!!!

Not sure where to go next with CD4 though. The signet/marantz combo has still been my most solid performer - but it still struggles with the inner grooves, never have managed to get around that hurdle. Really not sure where to go next. Maybe another turntable? Maybe back to linear tracking, and the fun quirks that comes with? Maybe experiment with more modern cartridges? Ugh....I dunno.... Anytime I try to reach out to "experts", they tend to turn out to just be salesmen that know what google tells them. "well, you just need a shibata tip and the right frequency response, and that should do it..." Uh - no - if I had a nickle for everytime I had a shibata tip and the right frequency response give me sandpaper, I wouldn't need to work. You've never played a CD4 record in your life, have you?

Although last guy that tried to "help" me at least knew quite a bit of what he was talking about......and then suggested trying to bypass the RIAA curve in a demodulator to open things up to using other pre-amps. Oh, so close.....but do you really think feeding a signal with the high end rolled off is a good thing for the carrier signal? You lose! You know nothing! Good day sir!

It seems no one knows how to make anything of this format anymore.
 

4-earredwonder

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But I DO believe we're closer in 2022 than we were in the early QUADDIE 70's to achieving surround nirvana with the acceptance of the majors to release their albums in ATMOS and 360.....

And haven't given up yet on Dutton Vocalion's stellar QUAD SACD releases! When you hear D~V's RCA former CD~4 discs PROPERLY replicated one wonders what the original RCA engineers were thinking when they attempted to cram so much musical info in those Vinyl discs and had to make 'compromises' to do so [reduce bass to avoid cartridges jumping out of the grooves, etc].

Patience, my man. Slowly but surely SURROUND is making a comeback...sounding BETTER THAN EVER! And thankfully, we're still alive to savor the experience!
 
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Sonik Wiz

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There's never fully throwing in the towel. Until reels or reissues surface for the many CD4 only releases, it's a necessary evil that one must endure. Just another burden put on us due to the miserable failure of an industry that the music industry is to us. They could just fucking sell us some damn hi-res files of all this stuff, but no, not enough money in it for them. Fuck them all!!!!!!

Not sure where to go next with CD4 though. The signet/marantz combo has still been my most solid performer - but it still struggles with the inner grooves, never have managed to get around that hurdle. Really not sure where to go next. Maybe another turntable? Maybe back to linear tracking, and the fun quirks that comes with? Maybe experiment with more modern cartridges? Ugh....I dunno.... Anytime I try to reach out to "experts", they tend to turn out to just be salesmen that know what google tells them. "well, you just need a shibata tip and the right frequency response, and that should do it..." Uh - no - if I had a nickle for everytime I had a shibata tip and the right frequency response give me sandpaper, I wouldn't need to work. You've never played a CD4 record in your life, have you?

Although last guy that tried to "help" me at least knew quite a bit of what he was talking about......and then suggested trying to bypass the RIAA curve in a demodulator to open things up to using other pre-amps. Oh, so close.....but do you really think feeding a signal with the high end rolled off is a good thing for the carrier signal? You lose! You know nothing! Good day sir!

It seems no one knows how to make anything of this format anymore.
Bummer, Sir. Spending time & $$ to no constructive end can make you crazy. CD-4 & Q8's are certainly the most finicky.

Now seeing you were using an MC cartridge, that is approach I would never had tried. At the risk of stating the obvious an MC cart must have a step up device such as a transformer or pre-amp to get it to standard RIAA levels for the next step in the signal chain, such as the CD-4 decoder. I would not expect either of these step up devices would have the bandwidth for CD-4.

FWIW, I have a AT LP-120 TT with a AT 440 MLA cart. Standard issue, no special TT cables. I have no problems at all demodulating CD-4 on a Marantz 400 B.

Much has been said recently about CD-4 carts & tables elsewhere started by Edison Baggins. Might scope those out.

Good luck!
 

ArmyOfQuad

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Yes, using MC cartridges with requirements of a step up device certainly adds yet another challenge to getting that "syngergy" that is required between all components for ideal CD4 playback. However - Ortofon supposedly did develop equipment designed for that. The MCA-76 head amp is the piece of equipment that really threw a wrench into what I thought I knew about quadraphonic, as it was designed with a filter for CD4 playback. Having a piece of vintage hi end equipment with a CD4 mode surface, makes one want to learn more about it, and make it work.

Alas, it does not!

On a completely unrelated topic, anyone looking to purchase a vintage ortofon MC-20 cartridge newly retipped, and a vintage ortofon MCA-76 head amp, please let me know. Probably pretty good for lots of things not related to CD4 playback.

I'm still undecided on what to do with my ortofon rondo bronze cart. If I could sell it off, I'd love to take advantage of an opportunity to pursue other manufacturers, and clear my home of all things Ortofon.

If I could find a decent modern cartridge that performs adequately for all stereo and quad needs, I'd gladly buy one in a heartbeat, which would also free up a new NAD C588 turntable to sell off as well.

I made a huge mistake buying all these things, I doubt I'll ever break even on it.
 

ArmyOfQuad

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I'm at the point where I can't sell off unneeded equipment just to prevent myself from rebuying it.

Over 10 years ago, I sold off 3 Panasonic demodulators (one worked, 2 parts units). I had thoroughly tested them out and determined them to be inferior to the marantz cd400, and realized I would never need them again.

Over the years doubt crept in - sure would be nice if I could just pull it out to turn it on and confirm what I recall. Maybe I didn't tweak it right? Maybe if I tried it with this other cartridge? What if....

Over the years this has built to owning now my 4th of these infernal boxes.

It is still inferior to the marantz cd400.

And now, knowing this for sure, without a doubt, I find myself thinking - should I sell it?

HELL NO!

If I sell it, I'll buy another one in 10 years.

I trust no one, not even myself.

It's more expensive to keep rebuying the same mistakes than it is to just hold onto the mistakes as an infinite reminder of what a mistake it is.


I suppose there's no help for me.....


Although at this point, I'm certain I'm done with the Ortofon. For good. Well.....the MC20 anyways. I'll probably hold onto the MCA-76. After all, I haven't tested every vintage Ortofon cartridge on it. I suppose it's possible 10 years from now I'll want to torture myself some more.


Maybe by then my hearing will have suffered enough that it will all sound good to me.

Time for another drink.
 

par4ken

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The Ortofon CD-4 cartridge is the SL 20 Q. I don't know if the MC20 even if retipped with a Shibata is exactly the same. I bought an SL 20 Q a few years back but got a bit of sandpaper quad on the inner grooves. I chalked it up to stylus wear. Later through careless handling I broke the stylus and so it now need a re-tip.

My Sony XLMC-1, although not referred to as a CD-4 cartridge works well. It is also a moving coil. It works with the Ortofon pre-preamp, also with my Akai step up transformer and my homebrew tube based pre-preamp. I have two of the Sonys, the one with the least miles works best the other sandpaper on the inner groves.

The CD4 button on the Ortofon MCA-76 does nothing to alter the sound. As I understand it's there to remove (filter) anything that might interfere with the demod. Prior to reading that I had assumed that it either boosted the high end for CD-4 or low pass filtered the output for stereo.

I understand that to get CD-4 working right you have to fiddle with the cartridge alignment and the anti stating. I never really liked CD-4
it is far to finicky for even the most devoted audiophile and for the average person, forget it!
 

ArmyOfQuad

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FWIW I thought your Rare Earth CD-4 conversion was worth opening a sealed Convertaquad. :)
Thanks.

Wow, that's an old one - was still using the mitsubishi linear tracking table for that one, and that was probably before the signet got a retip, still on it's original shibata tip.

The results I got in the past are what make the current efforts so infuriating - I keep looking to work out those little flaws here and there, and push things a bit further, but I've been up against a wall for at least 10 years now.

But some good things managed to get through.

I think what helped was that I was misadjusting the demodulator at the time in a way that would cause distortion on loud passages, which tends to not happen with quietly pressed Japanese import titles. Which was fine and dandy until I cued up Eric Carmen and ended up "All By Myshhhhhhelf"
 

sjcorne

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I found a sealed(!) CD-4 copy of Jackson Browne's Late For The Sky in a used shop earlier today, but it's only slightly less noisy than the used copy I've had for ages. On the other hand, The Temptations' All Directions sounds as good as any high-quality stereo LP - no distortion or sibilance, minimal surface noise, etc. I'd guess a good chuck of the USA product out there is unplayable regardless of how good your setup is.
 

Bob Romano

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I'm only going to say that I have heard it work and work well. My Tomita and CCR conversions are testaments to that. Sorry it didn't work for you but I found it to be the best CD4 system I've ever heard. And by the way, I can guarantee you that what I say my files are are what my files are. That includes the Ortofon CD4 setup. Oh and another on to add to the pile was my Rare Earth conversion as well.
 
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gvl_guy

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The only way to REALLY be sure you can get CD-4 to work is to buy a REAL CD-4 cartridge IMHO. Expensive? Sure. A crapshoot that a used cartridge will work properly? Yup. But all of these "xxx will work for CD-4 even though it wasn't made for it" is an even bigger crapshoot. I have all the proper stuff, several cd-4 cartridges, two demodulators, and it still is far from perfect. Noisy, crackly, but not every time or with every album.

My next journey will be a semiconductor cartridge with my Technics demodulator. Will it work better? Who knows. But years ago my cheapo Panasonic (bsr) turntable with built-in demodulator and semiconductor cartridge was flawless. So, I'm going to try that route. Now....to find a cartridge where I don't need to sell my car to afford it. 🤨
 

jaybird100

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I found a sealed(!) CD-4 copy of Jackson Browne's Late For The Sky in a used shop earlier today, but it's only slightly less noisy than the used copy I've had for ages. On the other hand, The Temptations' All Directions sounds as good as any high-quality stereo LP - no distortion or sibilance, minimal surface noise, etc. I'd guess a good chuck of the USA product out there is unplayable regardless of how good your setup is.
Many of the Atlantic and Asylum CD-4's used recycled vinyl, which didn't work well for that system. That type of vinyl was bad enough in stereo, but a downright disaster for CD-4. JVC did most, if not all, of the CD-4 pressing in Japan, using better quality virgin vinyl. The American record companies put quantity above quality. CD-4 had potential, but the record companies using that system, especially in the US, orchestrated its demise. Had the WEA group gone ahead with its original plan to use QS for their quad releases, we wouldn't need this discussion.
 

Doug G.

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I'm sorry some of you guys have such problems with CD-4. As I've stated many times, playing CD-4 records, for me, is really no different from playing regular two channel records.

I agree with gvl-guy in that I believe a lot of problems stem from trying to use equipment not originally designed for CD-4. Getting the carrier signals to the demodulator unattenuated is probably THE most important aspect of CD-4 and it sounds like it's not happening for you. The demodulators work if they get the signals. My SE-405 and SH-400 work flawlessly with the turntable and cartridges I have (see the thread about "The latest discrete ...added..." I do agree that trusting a manufacturer's word isn't necessarily the best approach. I have always regarded a claim that a cartridge with an elliptical stylus working for CD-4 to be dubious and I have never gotten any of mine to work, even the very high compliance Empire 2000Z which almost works- almost. Almost doesn't cut it. Of course, the tracing radius is what is really important and if as small as, say, a Shibata, it should work but...

Are these MC cartridges you're using low compliance. Most of them are and that is not good to trace the carrier impressions in the vinyl. And then there is the extra electronics the signal is going through, adding complexity and additional chance for the carrier signals to be lost or attenuated. Linda says she has success with her MC setup for CD-4 and I don't doubt her (I forgot what she's using) but generally, these were not included in the original CD-4 equipment specifically designed for CD-4.

When I first got back into CD-4, some 18 years ago, I admit I had the usual sandpaper in the inner grooves and that thin sound like it was ready to break into distortion but that was all tracking and tracing and adjusting VTF/SRA and anti;skate and it has been great ever since. There was/is nothing wrong with the demodulators.

I acknowledge CD-4 discs are generally noisier than regular two channel discs but that's a trade off for having the wonderful experience of discrete quad from a disc. As far as a sealed disc being noisy, after having been around for 40-some years and maybe moved around a lot and sliding around in there against the inner sleeve, well, there's just no telling if that disc came out of the press that way.

Are we absolutely sure Atlantic and Asylum used recycled vinyl in their CD-4 records or is that a myth passed down through the years?

I will have a drink, though. Beefeaters with a splash.

Doug
 
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fizzywiggs41

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Many of the Atlantic and Asylum CD-4's used recycled vinyl, which didn't work well for that system. That type of vinyl was bad enough in stereo, but a downright disaster for CD-4. JVC did most, if not all, of the CD-4 pressing in Japan, using better quality virgin vinyl. The American record companies put quantity above quality. CD-4 had potential, but the record companies using that system, especially in the US, orchestrated its demise. Had the WEA group gone ahead with its original plan to use QS for their quad releases, we wouldn't need this discussion.


Recycled ? Well not from my experience . I had maybe 3 on Atlantic , nothing musically I liked very much ,so it's not worth commenting on them.

But my Asylum CD-4 albums played with very little distortion , I think I had all but one. In fact both of my Joni Mitchell's were very good from beginning to end . Also my Jackson Browne CD-4 was almost flawless in playback . There was a little distortion on my Dylan/The Band album , but only on the final tune on both sides.

If any recycled vinyl was present I don't think WEA could have made such decent Quadradiscs nor meet CD-4'S requirements. Exceptions were their initial pressings on Warner. Three come to mind Deep Purple Machine Head , Doobie Brothers Captain And Me , and on Atco...Black Oak Arkansas.

And my WEA Europe pressings were slightly better , including Passport-Handmade ...a true test for any CD-4 setup.
 

MidiMagic

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Have you ever heard of any other kind of record that is so hard to get to play correctly.

Everything has to be just right for it to work:
- The stylus has to be capable of playing the ultra-high frequencies.
- The cartridge must be capable of picking up these frequencies.
- Arm-cartridge resonances must be minimized.
- The record has to be fastidiously clean.
- The record must not have been previously played on a non-CD-4 player.
- The record must not have been previously played when it was not clean.
- The turntable must not introduce any noises into the signal.
- The tracking angle must be exactly right, especially in the inner grooves.
- The tracking force must be set to prevent mistracking.
- The antiskate must be set to prevent mistracking.
- The wires must not attenuate the carrier.

I have never heard a CD-4 record play correctly all the way through a side.

I decided in 1974 that any system that would make used records unlikely to reliably work with it was untenable.

The only way to get reliable CD-4 playback would be to use that system that makes a computer scan of the surface of the record and then renders it as audio.
 

Doug G.

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Well. I disagree with several of those statements and the rest are equally important with regular two channel records.

I keep repeating that playing CD-4 records is really not any different from playing regular two channel records ,for me, but most seem to not believe me. So be it.

Doug
 
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kfbkfb

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I bought this album (Atlantic records QuadraDisc) in 1975-01 and happened to take it to an audio store one Sat (late) morning, they weren't busy so the salesman let me play the whole album - Marantz demod (don't recall which) + Satin CD-4 cart - no sandpaper or extra noise sounds - it was an excellent quad sound experience.


Just found this old post, might be useful:

edit: AFAIK, the Marantz CD-400 is a JVC 4-DD5


Kirk Bayne
 
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