Origin Live is perhaps best known as a maker of tonearms. Those who know more about the brand know it produces a good range of turntables too. What’s perhaps less well known is it also has a couple of really good cartridges under its belt. The Aladdin is the cheaper of the two, by no small margin (it costs £495 to the Champion’s £2,450) but that’s the only part that sounds cheap.
Unlike the decks and arms however, Mark Baker of Origin Live does not make the cartridges. Instead, the cartridges are custom-made variants of Soundsmith’s highly-regarded moving iron designs. In the case of the Aladdin, it’s the medium-compliance version of Soundsmith’s Carmen cartridge, but with a more sophisticated energy-management system, and a composite blue-flecked body reminiscent of high-end superstars like the legendary Kiseki Lapis Lazuli in place of a wooden body. An idiot’s guide to the Aladdin (expressed through the Soundsmith cartridge range) would be to say it’s the Carmen in the body of the Zephyr with the energy-management of the Sussurro, and for those unfamiliar with the Soundsmith range, that’s like picking a good cartridge with a fine body and adding parts taken from a legendary cartridge people are willing to commit war crimes to possess. For – and I’m going to show my London roots here – less than a monkey!
As the name suggests, a moving iron cartridge has a static magnet and coil arrangement, but instead has a small iron attachment to the cantilever that moves within the magnetic field generated from those fixed coils. This gives the twin bonuses of relatively high output (closer to MM than MC) and very low moving mass, making the cartridge an excellent tracker. Like the Carmen it’s based upon, the Aladdin features a nude elliptical stylus on an aluminium cantilever, requires a phono stage with set to 47k Ohms load resistance and 100pF load capacitance (in other words, a standard MM input). The combination of 10.27g cartridge weight and 22μm/mN compliance makes it easily compatible with most modern tonearms (it’s a natural partner with O-L arms of course, but I also found it worked well with Funk’s arms and a SME 309). It tracks fairly light at 1.4g and it takes somewhere between 30-100 hours for the cartridge to really bed in, so you might want to recheck that after a week’s heavy playing (I found my sample was remarkably consistent at 1.4g).
No cartridge benefits from a slapdash approach to installation, but the Aladdin is particularly sensitive to azimuth adjustment; get it wrong and the soundstage falls in on itself. Get it right (and by ‘get it right’ I mean set it up with a test record) and you begin to see why this could just be the best kept secret in cartridges. It still had some slight foreshortening in the soundstage depth (the percussion in an orchestra seemed to be sitting in with the French Horns) no matter how right you got it, but the end result won you over.