On the 9th of October 1918, the two Danish engineers, Axel Petersen (1887-1971) and Arnold Poulsen (1889-1952) founded the Electrical Phono Film Company with a few capable and foresighted businessmen who would support the organization financially. Their aim was to explore the possibility of high-class recording and developing one of the first synchronized sound film systems in the world. Under primitive conditions, the two Danish engineers and their small staff had to solve a number of what were considered insuperable problems.
The invention of electrical recording by an Edison Phonograph and sound reproduction through earphones were the first conquests. The team had to engineer most of electrical and mechanical components itself and owing to the insufficient sensitivity of the film, the team had huge challenges in the field of optical and photographic recording.
After 5 years, however, the first film was produced. On the 12th of October, 1923, the first sound film recorded indoors was shown at the Palace Theatre in Copenhagen. It was the first real sound film, recording using the “variable area” method. For the first time the name of System Petersen and Poulsen was on film strip. The name was later to be known all over the world.
At that time two films were run simultaneously - one with pictures and one with sound (i.e. it was necessary to synchronize the two machines). Nevertheless the first performance was met with enthusiasm, and it became the method for presentations in the whole of Europe while licenses were established for this technology in many other countries. Later in the twenties the System Petersen and Poulsen was also adopted by the largest American film productions. By that time, the problem of synchronization of picture and sound on the same strip was solved. This became a common requirement on the part of the producers to simplify the copying and editing of the films.
Also within this field the two Danish engineers succeeded in achieving eminent results. Several of the cameras and recording heads constructed then for cinema projectors, were still employed as late as 1968. Additionally a number of other appliances, such as condenser microphones, dynamic compressors, oscilloscopes, optical instruments, amplifiers for reproduction and studio equipment with mixing and editing tables were developed.
The fact that improvements can be noticed without any advance publicity was certified at a Danish premier in 1944. The press wrote that the film was boring but the sound surprisingly good. Electrical Phono Films A/S had constructed a new dynamic compressor which was used for the first time; later this compressor was patented.
Cutting edge cutter heads
Also the disc recording industry had been supplied with appliances by the Danish inventors. A new system of cutter head for the gramophone industry and the amplifier were developed in secrecy during WW II. The cutter head was revolutionary because the level of registration of the oscillations was raised from 5 kHz to 14 kHz. At the end of 1945 the Danish disc recording company “Tono” was able to cut records on the new equipment. No existing pickup system, however, was able to reproduce so high a sound quality that this cutter head produced. So the pioneering Ortofon mono pickup and pickup arm were developed in 1948 and then patented in many countries. In a few years it became world famous.
In 1946 the old name of the company was changed to PhonoFilm Industry A/S and in 1951 Ortofon A/S was founded as a trading company under PhonoFilm Industry A/S umbrella. This was done as a consequence of a considerable increase in demand from the whole world. At the same time ORTOFON was registered as a trade mark for all the products of the company and a guarantee for imported articles was made.
A strong and efficient cooperation between Ortofon A/S and other high-class industrial undertakings within the acoustical line had developed a comprehensive world trade attended to by 36 agencies and many technical and commercial undertakings. The severe demand of high-quality products of Mr. Petersen and Mr. Poulsen dating from the infancy of the sound film was still such a decisive factor that all kinds of raw materials were controlled before they were put into production.
Setting the bar high for the cartridges
Aspu a 25 webs previously mentioned, Ortofon started making cutter heads for record manufacturing companies in 1945 and they became adopted by companies all over the world. From being a development laboratory for tone films (the Petersen and Poulsen System) Ortofon became an important force in fostering the gramophone industry, among other things by developing a Moving Coil cutter head for mono cartridges which was followed by various models of mono as well as stereo cutter heads. Ortofon used its market knowledge and technology from its renowned cutter head production to make very fine cartridges. The first Ortofon cartridge, the MC Mono-A cartridge was developed by Holger Christian Arenstein 1948.
In 1958 the first SPU - Stereo Pick Up came to the market.
A New Moving coil lightweight model, MC 20, was introduced in 1977 and two years later the MC 20 MK II came. The MC 20 MK II became the first cartridge to be implemented with the patented Wide Range Damping System which insured very high tracking ability. Both models were awarded by the Japanese Grand Prix Committee.
Since the 80s, the development of Moving Coil cartridges became highly influenced by major technological progresses with regard to materials and processing technology. Very strong magnetic materials like Samarium Cobalt and Neodymium almost decimated sizes of magnetic circuits and even increased cartridge output data at the same time. New thin cantilever rods made from very hard Sapphire, Boron and Ruby mounted with exceptional new diamonds profiles were implemented as well as extremely pure Japanese copper and silver wires for MC-coils.
Processing technology for molding complex structures in either ceramic or pure metals, based on the special Metal Injection Molding process, created completely new design possibilities and has successively been introduced by Ortofon suppliers in either ceramic, stainless steel or pure iron parts. In 2004 Ortofon started using a wood-powder resin material for new SPU-G housings as well as for the Rondo models.
At the end of 2008 Ortofon introduced a completely new model that was designed in cooperation with the Danish Technological Institute. The SPU 90th Anniversary phono cartridge was thought as a celebration of a significant milestone in the Ortofon history and was the result of a research spanning the Ortofon technological heritage and the emergence of new manufacturing technology called Rapid Manufacturing.
In 2011 Ortofon decided to give their SPU fans around the world an opportunity to get a collection of the four most famous SPUs, each of them being a very special collector's item. The fact that Ortofon has kept the SPU in production for half a century says a lot about the enduring rightness of its design. These four most famous SPU cartridges represent the diversity of technical solutions and materials, and reflect the continuous technological development thoughout the past 50 years.