The Ortofon VNL DJ stylus was recommended to me by a couple of trusted DJ friends of mine as a potential replacement to my aging Shure M44-7 cartridge. Don’t get me wrong, my M44-7 is awesome… It’s loud and very bass heavy… perfect for most of the stuff I listen/spin… which is more on the dance side of things. But it has been discontinued, so to find replacement styli for this cartridge is a chore. The OEM versions have proven to be hit and miss and about $50 a pop, I rather get something consistent.
So I went to my pals and I asked about a possible replacement. In my head I already was thinking of the Ortofon Concorde MKII Club cartridge, but they recommended the VNL considering how I would be using it. Well initially they said, if you’re doing it for Hi-Fi or ripping, then, get a good Hi-Fi grade stylus. The problem with those are, 1, they’re fricken expensive (like over $400 for a cartridge) and you can’t really use it for backcueing and scratching as a DJ cause it’ll wreck your records.
It’s a very good all around “Goldilocks” type of cartridge. It’s not too loud (or soft), doesn’t focus too much anywhere on the frequency spectrum and gives a good output for listening and for DJ use.
The starter pack comes with three styli which are identical, except for the compliance level (which is how much flexibility the suspension has).
- VNL I has a compliance, dynamic lateral 16 μm/m N – Flexible
- VNL II has a compliance, dynamic lateral 15 μm/m N – Rigid
- VNL III has a compliance, dynamic lateral 14 μm/m N – Firm
VNL I is installed by default but it’s nice to have options for you to adjust as your needs change… and it comes included. No replacement cartridges are on the market as of January 2021, but should be available by March.
Output voltage at 1000Hz, 5cm/sec. – 6 mV
Channel separation at 1kHz – 20 dB
Frequency response 20 Hz – 20 kHz -2/+4 dB
Tracking ability at 315 Hz at recommended tracking force:
VNL I 100 μm
VNL II 90 μm
VNL III 90 μm
Compliance, dynamic lateral:
VNL I 16 μm/m N
VNL II 15 μm/m N
VNL III 14 μm/m N
Tracking force range – 3 – 5 g
Tracking force recommended – 4 g
Internal impedance, DC resistance – 750 Ohm
Internal inductance – 450 mH
Recommended load resistance – 47 kOhm
Recommended load capacitance – 200-600 pF
Cartridge weight – 6,5 g
Replacement stylus units: VNL I, VNL II, VNL III
Antiskating: for best backcueing performance use “0”
From a sound perspective it has a nice well rounded sound without focusing too much on any particular frequency. Not too much higher, bass or mids…. and it’s really clean. Sounds are crisp and clear. It is on the quiet side if you compare it against DJS/controller cartridges but that’s not really a bad thing.
A small drawback of this is the usual manual mounting and aligning you need to do as it doesn’t come with a headshell. It’s not that much more difficult than any other cartridge but it is on the larger side so if your turntable doesn’t have a height adjustment on the tonearm AND your slipmat is thick, the cartridge might ride really close to the vinyl at the low end of the tracking force scale. If you go to the midrange of the track force, it’ll have a collision. Be sure to get the alignment right as if you’re slightly off, it goes sliding across the vinyl. Also, it is a dust/debris magnet. Every little spec will get drawn to it.
But overall, the balance of the sound profile, versatile usage and affordable price point makes this cartridge pretty hard to beat if you’re a starting DJ, or one that wants some flexibility and looking for a replacement to the Shure M44-7. While it shares a very similar style of the M44-7, it’s not as loud or resilient in terms of compliance, this is pretty close to the output you would get at a fraction of the cost. Just turn up the gain and increase the tracking force and it’s almost there.
For more information check out Ortofon’s page at: https://www.ortofon.com/vnl-p-949
Ortofon VNL DJ Sylus
A good overall stylus for DJ and general vinyl listening. Starter pack is a great deal with different stylii to accommodate your needs.
- Crisp, clear and well balanced sound profile.
- Three stylii included with intro pack for flexibility of usage.
- Nicely priced.
- Due to its size and tracking force, turntables without vertical adjustment might have issues.
- Dust magnet.
- Sound Profile: Low End 0%
- Sound Profile: Mid 0%
- Sound Profile: High 0%
- Ease of Installation 0%
- Price 0%