The Origin Live Cartridge Enabler is a £25 piece of felt that fits between cartridge and headshell and comes with felt and nylon washers. In this Quickie Review, Stuart Smith gives it a spin.

Origin Live’s Cartridge Enabler

The Origin Live Cartridge Enabler is essentially a felt pad that fits between your cartridge and tonearm headshell and comes with three felt washers and three nylon washers. Packing is a simple printed paper envelope that has an A4 sheet of instructions (that are very good) and a sealy bag with the Enabler itself and the washers.

The enabler is a piece of felt around 1mm thick and with cut-outs to locate cartridge bolts. It has TOP labeled to indicate which way the enabler should be positioned. The top being Top!

FITTING

Fitting the enabler is a simple enough job, though I found it a bit fiddly to get it to sit still on top of the cartridge whilst attaching the cartridge back to the headshell.

Basically, you sit the enabler with the ‘Top’ side facing upwards onto the top of your cartridge (ie top interfaces with the headshell), put the nylon washer, and then the felt washers on your M2.5 bolts, and then attach the whole as you normally would fit a cartridge. There’s no need to undo the cables and tags! You then attach the cartridge to your arm as you normally would, and sort out overhang, alignment, tracking force etc accordingly. However, you will need to raise your arm by 1mm to account for the extra height the 1mm thick Enabler adds. Azimuth can be altered slightly by applying different tensions to the left and right-hand bolts which is a useful thing to be able to do.

A felt top pad felt washers and nylon washers

One point – the cartridge enabler dictated that I needed longer bolts than the one I previously had fitted to the Ortofon Rondo Red MC. This is perhaps worth bearing in mind, but most carts do seem to come with both short and long bolts and I had several to choose from. Origin live suggests that bolts should not be overtightened.

If you have a cartridge with three points of connection for bolts then there is an extra felt washer and an extra nylon washer, though you will have to make a hole in the main top piece yourself.

SOUND

As mentioned, the Enabler was attached to an Ortofon Rondo Red MC cartridge using an Ortofon headshell onto a standard Technics 1200G tonearm. The Red is a good cartridge with, to my mind, a balanced performance top to bottom, though it’s not the most high-end cartridge we have to hand. It delivers a convincing portrayal of whatever it is fed but lacks some of the refinement of our more expensive and capable cartridges – though for the price it is excellent.

I’ have read quite a lot about the Cartridge Enabler and some of the claims seem to be a little over-enthusiastic in their declarations of it being like buying a new cartridge etc. Direct A/B testing is difficult here as I’m not going to go to the hassle of taking the enabler on and off the cartridge between every tune, and I simply don’t have a second identical cartridge.

My thoughts on the sound with the enabler in place are that there is a slight opening up of the sound – more air and more space to the recording. It also seems that the bass has tightened ever so slightly, and the top end is a little clearer, though it is the bass tightening I noticed the most and that tightening adds to the way a tune feels ‘pace’ and tempo-wise. Now I am not talking night and day here – that has to be stressed – but there are improvements across the board. The stability of the stereo image is a tad improved, but again not by a huge margin, and mid-band on vocals seems to be more ‘liquid’ and “real” sounding.

Clear and simple instructions add to the package

All in all, there seems to a tad more focus and accuracy to proceedings with the Cartridge Enabler in place – instruments and sounds in the mix seeming to be a smidge more stable in their positioning.

CONCLUSION

This is not the first product of this kind I have used, but it is the cheapest and it is the simplest. For £25 there are improvements in the overall presentation, but, to my ears at least, they are not in the realms of having spent an extra couple of hundred quid on a better cartridge, though they far exceed the very modest asking price.

However, that £25 is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of what many of us will spend on achieving even minuscule improvements in the performance of our systems, and as such, I reckon it’s well worth a punt. Put it this way, I’ll be leaving it on this particular cartridge and may well look to adding to my other cartridges in due course.

Obvious comparisons will be made with the more complex Cartridge Man Isolator, but that is around four times the price and has similar results to my ears – yes, I do have one to compare with.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality: Not much to say really. It’s a piece of felt cut out to the shape of a cartridge top with some felt washers and some nylon washers

Sound Quality: Not the same night and day improvements you may get by spending a good chunk on a new cartridge, but there are clear benefits to the Enabler being in place, particularly, I noticed, in the bass

Value For Money: It’s £25 for a bit of cut out felt and some washers. Some will balk at this and claim they can do similar for less at home (don’t they always), whilst others will happily pay the relatively small sum for a bit more performance from their cartridge.

Pros:

Definite improvements, if not huge leaps

Cheap enough to experiment

Allows simple azimuth adjustment

Cons:

Can be a bit fiddly to fit

May need longer bolts that are not included

Price: £25

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart Smith

Review Equipment: Technics 1200G turntable with standard arm and Ortofon Rondo Red cartridge. Hegel V10 phonostage, Lab 12 pre1, Merrill Thor amps, and Xavian Perla loudspeakers.

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