Every audiophile music lover knows of the legendary sound of Koetsu phono cartridges from decades past. Those old enough to have experienced Sugano's Koetsus retain the memory of a musical experience unequaled. Few were privilegedd to own and enjoy a Koetsu. Many of the converted searched out second and third Koetsus, assuring a long, cherished relationship.
Now, in analog's Golden Renaissance and through the efforts of Sugano's sons, Koetsu phono cartridges are again available. Though limited in quantity due to their personal, handbuilt nature, the Sugano family offers a range of models including the Rosewoods, the Urushi, and the ultimate Koetsu, the Onyx Platinum.
To fully appreciate Koetsu, we must know Yosiaki Sugano, artist, musician, swordsman, calligrapher, business executive and creator of the world's most renowned phono cartridges. In his youth, choral singing introduced him to western music, He pursued sword making, dueling, calligraphy and painting, emulating his hero, the 17th century Japanese landmard figure, Honami Koetsu. In postwar Japan, Sugano rose to prominence in one of Japan's largest industrial companies, yet continued to pursue his passions, now including hi-fi.
In the 1970's, Sugano began to experiment with phono cartridges by substituting his own parts in commercially available models. His keen ear and deductive reasoning, combined with an artist's sensibilities, led to the creation of what would become a legend in audio. Sensing the moment, Sugano named his cartridge after his hero, Koetsu.
Sugano's quest led him to enlist universities, specialized industries and master craftspeople to create the special parts to go into his masterpieces. One of the first to use 4 nines copper (99.99% pure), curent production uses 6 nines copper (99.9999% pure). Platinum signature models feature silver cladding of the 6 nines copper, a process where a silver sheath is slowly drawn over the copper conductor.
Ultra-pure iron square plate formers were sourced for their most predictable magnetic characteristics and lowest oxidation. Pre-aged to the perfect consistency, rubber suspension parts are sourced under license with a rubber damper manufacturer. Special magnetic materials, including Alnico have been featured. Today, samarium-coblalt is used with platinum magnets reserved for the flagship models. Japanese craftsmen carve the rosewood bodies, lacquer coat the Urushi bodies, or cut stone for the onyx Platinum. Styli are specially designed and precision ground for Koetsu.
Today, Sugano's sons have revived his art and continue to create musical masterpieces under the watchful eye of the old master. For every music lover, your journey to musical nirvana is incomplete without a Koetsu phono cartridge in your system.
Blue Lace Onyx Platinum Moving Coil
Body: Blue Onyx
Type: Moving Coil
Coil Wiring: Silverplated Copper
Magnet: Platinum Magnet
Cantilever: Boron Cantilever
Output Volts: 0.3 mV
Frequency Range: 20Hz to 100kHz
Channel Sep.: 25db / 1kHz
Inner Impedance: 5 Ohm
Channel Balance: .5 db / 1kHz
Recommended Imp.: 30 Ohm
Weight: 12.5 g
Compliance: 5 x 10-6 cm/dyne at 100 hz
Fuuga’s development was a story of two men’s passion and painstaking R&D which spans for nearly 3 years.
Osamu Nagao was a good friend of Miyabi designer, Haruo Takeda, and was Miyabi’s exclusive dealer in Japan. He has been an analog specialist since he started working in the industry over 30 years ago. He worked at Stax, Audio Craft, RF Enterprise, etc. He was one of the team member who created Blackwidow tonearm with nude EMT cartridge combination which Harry Pearson raved about in the early days of The Absolute Sound. He’s also the one who introduced Mark Levinson to Takeda when Mark created Cello cartridge.
Miyabi was Takeda’s one man operation, and when he retired, he disappeared from the scene completely and there was nobody who succeeds the craft and secret of Miyabi cartridge. Missing the unique quality of Miyabi sound, Nagao decided to start a project to recreate Miyabi under his own company, Shuin-sha, and asked Tetsuya Sukehiro, a young cartridge designer who has been doing OEM works for several well-known brands, to join.
Sukehiro worked at a high-end audio OEM company for 10 years until he started his own studio in 2012. His specialty has been OEM/ODM of analog components, such as phono cartridges and tonearms.
The original idea was to reverse engineering Miyabi, but they soon found it almost impossible. Some materials Takeda used in Miyabi cartridges were no longer available and a unique method Takeda employed to support cantilever turned out to be a nightmare for a stable production.
So they were left with Miyabi’s basic materials and configuration. At this stage, they decided to forget about reverse engineering Miyabi and start developing ta new cartridge which sounds as dynamic and musical as Miyabi. It was easy for Sukehiro to create a clean sounding cartridge, but meeting Nagao’s demand was a challenge. Through the whole process, Nagao was the producer with a clear image of how it should sound and Sukehiro was the director who realized Nagao’s image.
When they started the project, Nagao insisted on using alnico magnet, thinking aluminum cantilever and alnico magnet combination is a major responsible factor for the Miyabi sound. However, that wasn’t enough at all, and Sukehiro’s struggle continued.
The first break through came in early 2014 when Sukehiro strengthened the rigidity of rear yoke structure. Sukehiro thought that, from its character, alnico magnet requires a large mass, and that could well be a contributing factor for a particular sound.
He machined out part of magnetic circuit from solid iron, which is usually assembled from several parts due to the difficulty of machining process. By making the mass large enough, it can also minimize the effect of the resonance of magnetic circuit over vibrating components.
At the same time, he changed alnico magnet to more powerful neodymium. There are many new elements he tried, some incorporated and some abandoned at this stage. To further strengthen the rigidity, the rear yoke was structurally incorporated as part of the body.
Nagao was finally happy with the result, but still the casing issue remained. After experimenting with different materials and shapes, they settled on three layers of different types of Dularumin, which gave the most neutral result.
“Miyabi” (雅) means “elegance” in Japanese. To honor the legacy of “Miyabi”, Nagao named it “Fuuga” (風雅), which means “elegance with flair”.
Fuuga Low Output Moving Coil
Output : 0.35mVrms (50mm/sec., zero to peak, 45°)
Impedance : 2.5Ω(1kHz)
Cannel separation : <27db (1kHz)
Compliance : 7 x 10⁻⁶ cm/dyne (100Hz)
Cantilever : A2017 Aluminum Aloy, tapered
Stylus : Parabolic Hybrid, 8µm x 40µm, pure diamond
Weight : 15 grm
Recommended tracking force : 2.0~2.2 grm
Van Den Hul Colibri Stradivarius Signature
MBA: Speaking of building new cartridges, you brought your newest effort the Colibri Signature Stradivarius to Axpona 2017.
AJ: The first Colibri cartridges were produced in 1995-96; over 1000 Colibri's were made in the mean time. The last modification to the Colibri was a change to the magnetic circuit where I brought the sonic quality to tape level when the original recording cut was made well.
Colibri Signature body has a special coating, also sanded outside. The external structure is different than on inside. Looking at the harmonics of scratches, it produces a reducing body coloration. More natural sound with more space for the acoustics during the listening.
The application of The Extender helped here a lot. Without The Extender, there was no change to have The Colibri Signature Stradivarius.
The drying schedule looks like this:
- 4 weeks for first layer
- 4 weeks for second layer
- 4 weeks for third layer
- This is followed by an additional three months of air curing and hardening process
Most MC cartridges can produce a standard output with actual magnetic. Their output can be equal to twice the value of the standard Colibri. The [new] Colibri Signature Stradivarius has now the double of the output of a standard MC cartridge: 0.70 mV /5.6 cm/s. This steeper modulation-output curve improves the dynamics.
MBA: I thought it was interesting that you used Gold, not Copper wire, to wind the Colibri's coils. What led you to that?
AJ: A "slowly" drawn gold-wire sounds better compared to the regularly "fast" drawn copper-wire. I use a 20 to 25 micron soft gold-wire for winding and find it better for very low level conducting. This Gold wire is drawn at extremely slow speed (this isn't actually new as A.J. and I talked about drawing speed and its effect on the sound back in the '90s—MBA.) This maintains much better the integrity of the conductor; around 5 cm/second, there's no mechanical drawing variations modulations and dramatically improved analog sound. Higher drawing speed adds extra crystal boundaries. Lower speed decreases number of crystal boundaries and layers and gives therefore a purer sound. The quality of the wire makes or breaks the final result after all other work on components and construction is done well.
Soft metals have a high number of free electrons. This combined with a very high purity, produces the best sound specific on very low signal level like concert hall acoustics. Actually, I am working on a graphene conductor to increase number of free electrons. It must be treated with care. Both parameters must be maintained: Increase the mechanical strength and at the same time decrease the impedance.
MBA: Another unique feature of your Colibri Stradivarius and Stradivarius Signature cartridges is the cantilever length and the absence of a front pole piece. What are the advantages of this design?
AJ: The Colibri is an Unipole Modulator: Standard is rearly positioned in the magnetic center or moves symmetrically in the magnetic field. The final electrical result is the sum of both magnetic modulators. This, however, causes a difference in modulation. That's reason enough to work only one magnetic pole. By shortening the cantilever, the sonic result is better pulse response and an extended frequency range.
The applied cross-coil comes, thanks to the shorter cantilever, closer to record. This was an issue in the beginning. To solve this problem required playing the with tracking force, compliance and suspension. Initially, I used a 2.5 mm long cantilever but the cartridge had a problem tracking the record. After some experiments, I settled on 3.5 mm cantilever length for the whole Colibri series.
It is common to set the antiskating when tracking at minimal 70 micron or higher. The standard record cutting is between 20 to 40 microns. The incorrect antiskating setting causes standard a worn right side of the stylus what causes too soon record damage. The left side of the stylus is still very well shaped without a worn diamond "plane."
MBA: A.J., one last message for our readers about their cartridges!
A.J. "Cartridge and arm like men and women: minimize the mismatch!"
Van Den Hul Colibri XGW SPED Mk.2 African Grenadille Gold Coil
Our top model custom handbuilt phono cartridge, featuring matched crystal copper coils and 0.22 or 0.30mV/channel output. A version with matched crystal gold coils and 0.38 mV/channel output is also available.
As a result of phono cartridge builder A.J. van den Hul’s continuous research into improving his phono cartridge designs The COLIBRI has seen the light of day.
The COLIBRI is the improved successor to our GRASSHOPPER “BEAUTY” series of phono cartridges where many building components have been removed in a highly successful quest to return to the plain essence of phono transduction.
The result is an unbelievably straightforward sounding “clean and open” design, in all its aspects bearing much resemblance to the “Colibri” named tropical bird’s swiftness, elegance and beauty; Hence the cartridge’s name.
version a) XCP & XCM
b) XCP-HO & XCM-HO
c) XGP & XGM stylus replacement see (*1) stylus shape VDH - IS stylus radii 2 x 85 Micron frequency range 5 - 65.000 Hz tracking force 13.5 - 15 mN
see (*3) static compliance 35 Micron/mN
see (*3) tracking ability 70 Micron output voltage
a) 0.22 mV RMS
b) 0.30 mV RMS
c) 0.38 mV RMS
channel unbalance < 0.5 dB channel separation
> 35 / > 30 dB
stylus tip mass 0.24 Milligram system weight see (*4) vertical tracking angle 22 Degrees load capacitance see (*2) load impedance
a) 500 - 1000 Ohm
b) 500 - 1000 Ohm
c) 500 - 1000 Ohm
eff tone arm mass see (*3) + (*4) + (*5) moving coil resistance
a) 21 Ohm +/- 10%
b) 96 Ohm +/- 10%
c) 36 Ohm +/- 10%
(*1): Stylus replacement and other services available on request.
(*2): Non critical.
(*3): Versions optimized for lower tracking forces (allowing very light arms) can be built on special request. These have a higher static compliance.
(*4): P and M type suffix:
Each of the three above mentioned main versions of The COLIBRI are available with either:
- A regular carbon-nylon plastic body. Total cartridge weight is 6 gram. Suitable for arms with an effective tone arm mass of 8 gram to 14 gram. The plastic bodied version carries the -P suffix in its name.
- A metal body. Total cartridge weight is 7 gram. Suitable for arms with an effective tone arm mass of 10 gram to 14 gram. The metal bodied version carries the -M suffix in its name.
(*5): The cartridge has been optimized regarding an EFFECTIVE tone arm mass of 11 - 12 gram. Heavier arms CAN produce tracking and resonance problems and arms with an effective mass exceeding 16 gram WILL CERTAINLY! Please note that an extremely short cantilever and a high tracking ability and heavy arms DUE TO PHYSICS will never yield a happy marriage.
MC Anna Moving Coil
The Ortofon’s MC Anna represents the highest echelon of Moving Coil cartridges. This state of the art product, representative of numerous Ortofon design elements and ideals, is truly exemplary of the highest degree of performance possible in contemporary analogue playback technology.
The story behind the MC Anna cartridge
Historically Ortofon has a long tradition of paying tribute to persons who have been highly influential within the high-end audio culture and in music culture and history in general. In honor of these remarkable persons, Ortofon has introduced numerous products throughout the years, including the SPU Meister, MC Rohmann, Kontrapunkt BACH Series and MC Windfeld cartridges.
Continuing this tradition with the MC Anna, Ortofon dedicates this new flagship cartridge to the Opera Diva Anna Netrebko, a virtuoso whose performance displays a formidable technical arsenal of endless versatility. With the dedication of the MC Anna, Ortofon once again emphasizes the company’s unchanging commitment and devotion to the music and to the purest delivery of recorded sound.
Much like Anna Netrebko, Ortofon aspires to provide the ultimate musical experience through a mixture of innovation and technical expertise, combined with inspiration that goes beyond mere thought to reveal true inner emotion.
Output voltage at 1000 Hz, 5cm/sec. - 0,2 mV
Channel balance at 1 kHz- 0,5 dB
Channel separation at 1 kHz- 25 dB
Channel separation at 15 kHz- 22 dB
Frequency response- 20 Hz-20.000 Hz +/- 1.5 dB
Tracking ability at 315Hz at recommended tracking force- 80 µm
Compliance, dynamic, lateral- 9 µm/mN
Stylus type- Special polished Nude Ortofon Replicant 100 on Boron Cantilever
Stylus tip radius- r/R 5/100 µm
Tracking force, recommended- 2,6 g (26 mN)
Tracking angle- 23°
Internal impedance, DC resistance- 6 Ohm
Recommended load impedance- > 10 Ohm
Cartridge body material- SLM Titanium
Cartridge colour- Black/Silver
Cartridge weight- 16 gram
Atlas Low Output Moving Coil
ATLAS …the world’s first asymmetric moving-coil phono cartridge.
The Atlas is Lyra’s new flagship phono cartridge. Why asymmetric? By literally misplacing the “barriers” to great sound that are present in every other cartridge today, a number of important performance benefits are realized.
First, different-shaped structures on the left and right sides of the cartridge body suppress the formation of standing waves within, resulting in a significant reduction of resonance-induced colorations. Second, the asymmetric construction offsets the front magnet carrier and its associated mounting system so that it is no longer in line with the cantilever assembly. This opens up a direct, solid path between the cantilever assembly and tonearm headshell so that vibrations from the cantilever can be quickly drained away once they have been converted into electrical signals, again suppressing induced resonances.
Lyra remains the only cartridge manufacturer to mount the cantilever assembly directly into the cartridge body thereby achieving a seamless, totally rigid connection between the cantilever assembly and headshell. The effectiveness of this system has been enhanced as a result of the asymmetrical structure of the Atlas. Control over spurious resonances is further assisted by the use of a narrowed mounting area, which couples the Atlas more tightly to the headshell and facilitates the transfer of vibrational energy into the tonearm.
While the Atlas retains the yokeless dual magnet system, diamond-coated boron rod cantilever and variable-radius line-contact stylus of the Titan, the rigidity of the double knife-edge cantilever assembly mounting structure has been increased, and the signal coil system is completely new. Rather than a square, the coil former is in the shape of an X, which allows each channel to operate with greater independence from the other. This gives better tracking, tighter channel matching, improved separation, and lower distortion due to crosstalk.
At the same time we were able to increase both the performance and efficiency of the generator coils. The Atlas has 12% higher output voltage than the Titan, but accomplishes this while reducing the amount of wire in the coils by 22%. This reduction in mass further improves tracking performance, while the enhanced output and electrical characteristics allow phono stages to perform more efficiently.
The Atlas uses Lyra’s “New Angle” technology, which mechanically pre-biases the signal coils so that they are perfectly aligned to the front and rear magnets when LP playback takes place. This equalizes out discrepancies in vertical and horizontal compliances, and enables the Atlas’ coils to move with equal ease in all directions for optimal performance.
As with the Titan and Olympos, the hand-made Atlas uses a body that is meticulously carved from a solid billet of titanium, through a process that involves both contact (for the exterior) and non-contact machining (for the interior body structures). By making most of the Atlas’ body surfaces non-parallel (avoiding dimensions that are multiples of other dimensions), and adding a pre-stressed phase-interference resonance-controlling system, resonances have been further inhibited.
We firmly believe that the Atlas represents an important step forward in LP playback.
- Designer: Jonathan Carr
- Builder: Yoshinori Mishima
- Type: Medium weight, medium compliance, low-impedance moving coil cartridge
- Stylus: Lyra-designed long-footprint variable-radius line-contact nude diamond (block dimensions 0.08w x 0.12d x 0.5h mm, profile dimensions 3um x 70um), slot-mounted
- Cantilever system: Diamond-coated solid boron rod with short one-point wire suspension, directly mounted into cartridge body via high-pressure knife-edge system
- Coils: 2-layer deep, 6N high-purity copper, cross-shaped chemically-purified high-purity iron former, 4.2ohm self-impedance, 11uH inductance
- Output voltage: 0.56mV@5cm/sec., zero to peak, 45 degrees (CBS test record, other test records may alter results)
- Frequency range: 10Hz ~ 50kHz
- Channel separation: 35dB or better at 1kHz
- Compliance: Approx. 12 x 10-6cm/dyne at 100Hz
- Vertical tracking angle: 20 degrees
- Cartridge body: One-piece machining from solid titanium billet, with reduced-surface higher-pressure headshell contact area, predominately non-parallel and asymmetrical shaping, phase-interference resonance-controlling mechanism, and body threaded directly for mounting screws
- Cartridge mounting screws: 2.6mm 0.45 pitch JIS standard
- Distance from mounting holes to stylus tip: 9.5mm
- Cartridge weight (without stylus cover): 11.6g
- Recommended tracking force: 1.65 ~ 1.75g (1.72g recommended)
- Recommended load directly into MC phono input: 104ohm ~ 887ohm (determine by listening, or follow detailed guidelines in user manual)
- Recommended load via step-up transformer: 5 ~ 15ohm (step-up transformer’s output must be connected to 10kohm ~ 47kohm MM-level RIAA input, preferably via short, low-capacitance cable)
- Recommended tonearms: High-quality pivoted or linear (tangential) tonearms with rigid bearing(s), adjustable anti-skating force, preferably VTA adjustment
Madake Low Output Moving Coil
We used Japanese bamboo (madake) for a new cartridge.
Mr.Thomas Edison used this special madake to the filament of the electric bulb in old days.
This special madake is produced only from the mountain of Kyoto, Japan.
Mr.Thomas Edison found this highest quality madake from 1,200 kinds of bamboo of the world.
This madake is the firm bamboo which grew in the rich soil of the iron content.
Because I was looking for the firm cantilever which was not metal, it was the accidentally same condition.
I negotiated to obtain special madake in Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine of the mountain of Kyoto.
Because I respect Mr.edison of the inventor, "Edison" is included in the name of my Japanese audio shop.
Therefore, they handed over some madake to us in an exception.
Madake of ideal materials has special sound quality.
Madake is rare bamboo now. They do not sell bamboo (madake).
Please do not do an inquiry of the madake purchase to Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu.
There is Edison monument in Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine.
Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine is one of Japan's three biggest Hachiman-gu Shrine.
The follows are websites of Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine. (Japanese website)
Maker Miyajima-Laboratory Product name Stereo cartridge -Madake- Impedance About 16 ohms (About 0.23mV output) Frequency range (-3dB) 20 Hz to 32 kHz Tracking force 2.5 g Stylus Shape Shibata (diamond needle) Compliance (10Hz) around 9×10-6cm/dyne Appropriate temperature 20-30 Celsius (most suitable 25 C) 68-86 Fahrenheit (most suitable 77 F) Weight about 9.7g Body African Blackwood
9TT Moving Coil
The Ikeda 9TT is specially designed and developed with the concept that a cartridge should be easier to handle, by inheriting the characteristics of competent ability for the sonorous expression power attained with the former cantileverless IKEDA 9 series cartridges.
The body is made of a solid aluminum alloy by lathing a piece of aluminum precisely one by one in order to hold the generator unit firmly.
The cantilever is made of a double layered duralumin pipe in order to reduce its actual weight and any possible warping affecting the sound badly, in addition to gaining stiffness.
The sound sources picked up by the line contact architecture of the stylus chip will be precisely delivered to the magnetic coils. In addition, thanks to the highly efficient Permalloy core, low impedance coils, very strong neodymium magnet and an ideally shaped magnet yoke, it is possible to purely reproduce the sound without having any redundant coloring of sound.
In order to pick up the hidden sound elements and a glamor of sounds itself engraved on LPs/SPs in addition to the fulfillment for various conditions required for the best phono cartridge as a reproducing device, we always spend plenty of time to fabricate and then make an alignment repeatedly.
Moving Coil (MC)
0.16mVrms (1kHz 35.4mm/sec. at 45°peak)
2.0 ohms (1kHz)
Appropriate Stylus Force:
1.8 grams ±0.2 grams
10Hz - 45kHz
Over 27dB (1kHz)
Within 1.0dB (1kHz)
Solid Diamond, Line Contact
Double layered duralumin pipe
Left Channel, White (hot), Blue (ground)
Right Channel, Red (hot), Green (ground)