Like in the upper octaves, the Limetree handled the opposite end in balance and proper presence. This continued down into the first octave with barely eased-off shove, consistent solidity and good though not trend-setting definition and control. It extended into the upper bass and lower midrange to bestow upon the Phono II a whiff of mercy to bypass softness and warmth because this central range didn't suggest any real politeness. That tuning worked well for a machine otherwise groomed for precision and neutrality. In a charming sort of way, it avoided even the first hint of undue starkness.

That music lives in the midrange is an ancient truism from well before the age of truthiness. Because this bandwidth has our ears most sensitive, we're keenly attentive to it. We judge it nearly subliminally. It's automatic but hyper critical. Anything off by even a degree distracts. Zero personality becomes a virtue. That was the Limetree. It presented me with precious little to dig into and latch onto.

Openess? Hello "Suzanne" by Esther Ofarim from her 1972 record Esther. Dynamic expression, immaculate enunciation, properly brisk sibilants, accurate plosives, tidy yet sonorous backup strings even if the ASR endowed their timbres with more saturation and sheen… what really was there to criticize? If one gets fussy, one might notice that Otis Taylor's voice projected just a bit bigger and less edge-limned than the Neukomm without suggesting any emphasis of tonal fulsomeness. I took it as a subtle suggestion that despite the Limetree's obvious talents, more (or a lot more) money can still polish up on certain disciplines like maximum edge contrast

Magnetic, energetic and beautiful. Yello fans recognize the line from Pocket Universe's "Magnetic", arguably the most techno and far-out effort of the Swiss duo. With Ortofon's MM 2M Red which I'll call more guts than head centric, the Limetree was killer fun and extracted more expressive tone colors and on large orchestral more massive macrodynamics than Pro-Ject's €350 Phono Box RS2 did.

In moving-magnet mode, the Phono II achieved somewhat more prominent and weighty macrodynamics. Within the limits of the 2M Red, that managed to render the fulsome orchestra of the Rach 3 captured on 35mm magnetic film as a harmoniously coherent enormous sound body. The focus of MM playback with the budget Ortofon trended toward verve, coherence and density. That this priority of orchestral groups over individual instrumentalists was less due to the Limetree became clear when the far more resolved Ortofon 2M Bronze entered stage right. The Phono II clearly tracked this quality jump between pickups. Strings gained upper-end brilliance, low string won drier contours, impulses showed clearer sharper edges, Cantate Domino's solo vocalists and chorus grew more transparent and better layered. When the cymbals crashed on "Montagues and Capulets" during Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, even MM gave indications that airiness remains one of the Limetree's greatest strengths. But it also registered that the purely subjective fun factor of the sonically superior Bronze variant of the 2M lost out a bit.