The Korf Blog

The inside story: our research, development and opinions

3 July 2019
Headshell Performance — Ortofon LH-8000
The Ortofon LH-8000 concludes our series of articles on measured performance of headshells. It is the final one in our original "cast" that we introduced back in March.

We will, of course, measure more headshells in the coming months. And man lives not by measurements alone — in the next posts we will report on subjective evaluation of some of the headshells that we have already measured.

It's hard to talk about headshells and not mention Ortofon. In our blog post on SME, we've already mentioned that the so-called "SME/JIS" tonearm connector was in fact developed by Ortofon. So it's only fitting to wrap up our series by exploring one of Ortofon's best offerings today.

To quote Ortofon's literature, LH-8000 is made from "Japanese oaktree with Urushi lacquer finish". The fingerlift is separate and is made of yellow-anodized aluminium. Ortofon quotes a weight of 8.5 grams. We found that LH-8000 weighs slightly more than 9 grams without wires, and almost 10 grams with wires attached.
The Urushi laquer surface looks fragile, but, if you believe the woodworking enthusiast, is supposed to withstand both high temperatures and solvents with no deterioration. Still, I was a bit apprehensive dropping hot wax on it.

I needn't have worried. The wax adhered really well, and when the time came to remove the accelerometer, no marks were left at all. I used some rubbing alcohol to remove the remaining wax, and the finish stayed as good as new. Amazing, isn't it?

Ortofon's oscilloscope trace looks like nothing else. It's highly asymmetric. The ball strike initiated significant deflection that was immediately dampened and did not continue in the opposite direction.
Ortofon LH-8000
I've put the oscilloscope trace from the Audio Technica AT-LH13 for comparison. The energy of the strike is also quicky diminishing here, but the trace is symmetrical.
And the spectrogram is probably also closest to the Audio Technica's. Many low-energy modes, and a lot of smearing in low frequencies.
Looks like Ortofon is heavily dampened. The high-frequency mode tend to lose their energy the higher we go, and there's nothing at all above the accelerometer's resonance frequency of 11 kHz.
As expected, the Ortofon doesn't ring long. There's just one mode at 600 Hz that continues past 90 milliseconds.

For IET measurements with a Technics EPC-U24 cartridge, we've paired the Ortofon with the AT-LH13 again.
Up to 2 kHz, Ortofon's spectrogram is indistinguishable from Audio Technica's! But in the high frequencies, the picture is opposite to the measurements without the cartridge. AT has no energy above 2 kHz, and Ortofon has rather a lot.
The listening comparison between this Ortofon headshell and the Audio Technica AT-LH13 should be interesting
The similarity in measured performance between soft wooden headshell and anodized solid aluminium one is uncanny. They're as different as they can be, and yet the measurements are so close.

What we have seen today suggests that the Ortofon LH-8000 should have at least decent subjective performance. Damping might be a problem, but the coating of hard lacquer should improve the sonics. The listening comparison between this Ortofon headshell and the Audio Technica AT-LH13 should be interesting.
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