Ortofon – In the beginning, there was the soundtrack
Turn back the clocks, folks. Even before there was Ortofon, some audiophile things were going on, like Fonofilm and Electrical Phono Film. Yes, the very early days of Ortofon and the talking pictures passed away nearly 100 years ago. Meanwhile, the specialists from Denmark have turned out to be the inventors of the analog future.
A timeline and some history
On October 9, 1918, two Danish engineers, Axel Petersen (1887-1971) and Arnold Poulsen (1889-1952), founded the Electrical Phono Film Company. Their aim was to explore the possibilities of high quality recording and to develop one of the world’s first synchronized sound film systems.
Five years later, on Ocotber12, 1923, the first sound film recorded indoors was shown at the Palace Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was the first real sound film recording using the “variable area” method, too. For the very first time, the name “System Petersen and Poulsen” was shown on a filmstrip, later to be known all over the world.
Initially focusing on sound film technology, the Electrical Phono Film Company developed microphones, dynamic compressors, oscillographs, optical instruments and the like. In the early 1940s, the company began to diversify into cutting and playback equipment for the gramophone industry.
In 1946, it introduced the first mono cutterhead that raised the top level of registration of the oscillations from 5 kilohertz to 14 kilohertz. Also in 1946, the company’s name was changed to PhonoFilm Industry A/S.
In 1948, the company developed the world’s first moving coil cartridge. It matches the quality level of the mono cutterhead introduced two years before.
In 1951, Ortofon A/S was founded as a trading company under the umbrella of PhonoFilm Industry A/S. This change was made in reaction to the tremendous increase in demand around the world. “ORTOFON” was registered as a trademark for all products of the company, and a guarantee for imported articles was made. The name “Ortofon” comes from the Greek words “orto” (“correct”) and “fon” (“sound”).
In 1953, Ortofon manufactured the first A212 tonearm.
In 1957, the first stereo cutterhead was available. Within the following two years, Ortofon developed an adequate playback cartridge for stereo records, and the now legendary SPU (Stereo Pick Up) was launched in 1959. Target clients for the SPU, which is available with two different shells (A and GM), were primarily professionals like the Danish State Broadcasting Company, the Swedish State Broadcasting Company and Deutsche Gramophone (DG).
Since then, Ortofon has developed and manufactured more than 300 different cartridges, including the iconic “Concorde” series, introduced in 1979, and some ultra-advanced designs like the MC Anna (a hommage to opera soprano Anna Netrebko) and the MC 90A, the latest being the MC Quintet Series and the 95th anniversary models SPU A95 and MC A95.
Ortofon also offers high quality analog components for vinyl lovers, including tonearms, step-up transformers, cables and many more accessories.
Ortofon is a Danish-owned, financially thriving company that employs 85 people. The manufacturing unit in Nakskov, a cityin southern Denmark, has experienced operators, engineers, technicians and administrative staff combined with modern machinery. As a result, human craftsmanship is delivered with uniform industrial quality. The products are sold worldwide through a network of more than 60 importers and sales subsidiaries in the United States and Japan.
Ortofon benefits from its location in Denmark, a country recognized for its strong tradition in acoustics and its wealth of high-end manufacturers who make hearing aids and acoustic measurement equipment, in addition to all sorts of high-end audio equipment.
Today, Ortofon is the leading cartridge manufacturer and supplier of cartridges. This is a result of significant design experience and great technological know-how. Acoustics, materials, technology and micro mechanics are key areas of Ortofon’s technological prowess. Research and development are done by the company’s own engineers supported by a strong network of acoustic know-how and industrial design in Denmark.
The Ortofon brand is widely recognized among consumers and industry professionals. The company’s expertise in materials, magnetism, acoustics and micromechanics have led to the establishment of a separate B2B division OrtofonMicrotech, which manufactures precision TPE (ThermoPlastic Elastomer) components, technical rubber, customized coils, bone conductors and components to the hearing-aid industry.
The company complements this with a suite of innovative value added services, which cover project management and product development. As the company has evolved from its roots in making movie sound tracks to developing precision components and unique compounds for technical rubber, one aspect of its operations has remained constant: the culture of excellence.
Ortofon has a long history and a rich heritage, but the most important point is to have something to offer today’s consumer. The company preserves the heritage by continuously investing in technology and product development. The philosophy is that even a traditional product can benefit greatly from new technology and industrial expertise. Ortofon aims to bring the customers many hours of new, inspirational and enriching vinyl listening experiences.
Ortofon has developed significantly over the last 10 years and currently is in a phase where the use of the advanced technologies has created exciting new business opportunities in the health care industry. This growth is driven, among other things, by investment in new technology and new products. Currently, Ortofon A/S and Danish Technical University are working in close collaboration to develop the HINMICO – The High Throughput Integrated Technologies for Multimaterial Functional Micro Components – a new micro-factory concept.
The company plans to continue growing and will increasingly focus on developing and manufacturing components for the hearing-aid industry, not in the least bone conductors.
The CEO of Ortofon is Christen H. Nielsen. He was born in 1954, grew up on the island of Funen – the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen – and studied economics and languages. He has been interested in hi-fi in 1976 after he experienced the Roskilde festival, followed by more live concerts and finally hi-fi. He joined the audio industry in 1991, when he took a job at JAMO Loudspeakers. In 2004, Christen H. Nielsen became CEO of Ortofon. His favorite music and artists are Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Antonio Pappano, Daniel Barenboim and Anna Netrebko. His hobbies are literature and languages.