Tag Archives: Analog

Hana Umami Red Phono Cartridge

Designed by Excel Sound Corporation’s Masao Okada-san, the Hana Umami Red phono cartridge has a gorgeous-looking, glossy-red, Urushi-lacquer finish with a front inlay of ebony wood. Beneath all that beauty is a machined A7075 duralumin-alloy chassis in what is called an “Auricle body design.” The groove-tracing end of the Umami Red consists of a nude, natural-diamond, microline stylus attached to a solid-boron cantilever. The moving coil is high-purity copper with a 6 ohms impedance and a 0.4mV output. The armature is a square plate of pure iron-based permalloy with a samarium-cobalt magnet. To further refine the cartridge, the front yoke, rear yoke, pole piece, and 24-karat gold-plated terminal pins are all subjected to a “cold annealing” process with cryogenic treatment.

The Umami Red arrived packaged in a glossy black cardboard outer box with the Hana logo on five sides and a serial number on the underside. Inside was a small cardboard container housing three sets of mounting screws (4mm, 5mm, and 6mm) to use with headshells of different thickness. The proper mounting screw can be selected based on the thickness of the headshell combined with the 3mm mounting-depth of the Umami Red’s threaded holes. Accompanying the mounting screws were a wood-handled stylus brush, a mounting-screw hex key, and a one-page spec sheet/manual. 

For this evaluation, I set up three individual tonearms (SME V, Graham Phantom III, and Basis Vector IV) on the Basis Debut Vacuum. The phonostages used were the Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+ with external Linear Charging Power Supply, and a custom-designed and modified unit called The Raptor. (The remaining components in the chain are listed in the Associated Equipment sidebar.) 

For initial setup, I used the Debut armboard with the mounted SME V. I chose this ’arm first because it doesn’t allow offset angle or azimuth adjustment. As a result, the Umami Red was mounted in the SME without those parameters fully optimized. After some time on the SME V, I switched the armboards to either the Graham Phantom III or the Basis Vector IV. One item worth mentioning is that the Graham Phantom III has a headshell thickness of around 5mm. The longest supplied Umami Red mounting screws (6mm) would not fit through the Phantom III armwand and securely attach the cartridge. However, the Graham ’arm comes with the necessary (8mm) screws in its accessory kit. The Basis Vector IV worked with Umami Red’s 6mm mounting screws. 

In all cases the Umami Red (tracking at 1.97 grams) met the specifications for channel balance and crosstalk. Stylus rake angle (SRA) was near where I prefer it, with the tonearms level; a final adjustment of ’arm height—a couple of millimeters higher—placed the SRA where the Umami Red sounded best to my ears. Cartridge loading was highly dependent on the phonostage used. I settled on loadings of 59 ohms and above. In my case, the final value was based on the phonostage’s ability to manage ultrasonic peaks far outside the audible range, which can wreak havoc on audio signals and, in some cases, overload the electronics in the phono stage. I preferred the Phonomena II+ at 96 ohms, where it seemed to preserve the high frequencies while allowing the sound to retain solidity. The custom Raptor phonostage allowed for much wider loading choices. 

The Umami Red has an exceptionally balanced sound. Its tonality is a bit closer to neutral than that of the slightly warmer-sounding Hana SL. The Umami Red has significantly better macro-dynamics, harmonic complexity, and warmth than the Hana ML, while, at the same time, keeping the higher frequencies smoother and more extended. I should note the SME V did not allow the Umami Red to sound as visceral and authoritative as the cartridge did on the Phantom III or Vector IV.

The post Hana Umami Red Phono Cartridge appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Acoustic Signature Typhoon NEO turntable and TA-5000 tonearm | REVIEW

Does anyone really NEED a $34,000 turntable/arm/cartridge setup like the Acoustic Signature Typhoon NEO, TA-5000 and Acoustical Systems Palladium? Well, of course not! Okay, let me qualify and rephrase that. If someone is a serious [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Sweet Unreleased Reggae Sounds Score On Ethiopian’s Return Of Jack Sparrow

I admit to being something of a novice when it comes to truly deep knowledge of reggae and ska music. Once I get outside of the basic sphere of Bob Marley & The Wailers, Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, Toots & The Maytals, Delroy Wilson, U-roy and some others, my knowledge falls off dramatically. Then there are the English artists that emerged in the wake of the punk and new wave movements such as The English Beat, The Specials, The Selector, Linton Kwesi Johnson, etc. That said, I’ll add a heartfelt “mea culpa” ahead of time if I make any glaring errors here!

I first became aware of a group of artists from a label called Nighthawk Records just a couple of years ago when the good folks at Omnivore Recordings sent me a handy and quite wonderful sampler of the label’s work. There is an interesting back story there so you should click here to jump to my earlier review to read about its genesis. Recently, the label sent me a previously unreleased album by one of these artists, Ethiopian — aka Leonard Dillon — and from the first listen toThe Return Of Jack Sparrow I’m finding this music immediately welcoming.  

If you aren’t familiar with Ethiopian, some information from Omnivore’s website may prove enlightening:

Reggae legend, Leonard Dillon, known as the Ethiopian, was the founder of one of Jamaica’s premier ska, rocksteady, and early reggae sensations The Ethiopians, but got his start under the name Jack Sparrow. His early solo Jack Sparrow single efforts, some backed by The Wailers, didn’t yield any hits and prompted him to form a group, The Ethiopians, where he found his first success. So popular was their track “Train To Skaville,” that The Ethiopians were able to tour beyond Jamaica and they headed to the U.K. in 1968. “Train To Skaville” sold over 50,000 copies in Jamaica and made a slight appearance on the U.K. charts where it left a lasting impression. So much so, it was later covered by The Selector during the ska revival during the early ’80s.”

Even though The Return Of Jack Sparrow was recorded in the mid-80s, what I love about this is that the production aesthetics are not pinned to that time (a phenomenon which ruined my taste for “new” (if you will) reggae of the period. So this is a welcome treat. Also, many of the song arrangements have happy surprises of not only vocal harmony but fresh compositional leaps which keep the tunes from sounding same-y (an issue with some reggae artists, I must say)

Ethiopian’s vocal approach reminds me of what might have happened had Richie Havens made a record backed by The Wailers.  No gated snare drum sounds here folks — just classic reggae vibes revolving around strong melodies and arrangements. 

The black vinyl pressing on this two LP set is real nice, dark and well centered.  The sound on some of the album is perhaps my only nit in that it has some tell-tale artifacts on some tracks, leaving a bit of fuzzy crunchiness around the vocals in particular. It is not awful so once you get used to the sound its not a problem, but do be aware of what to expect. The phenomenon seems to be less prominent on the second disc so perhaps my copy has a pressing anomaly, I’m not sure. Either way, this is not a huge deal breaker for me. 

Ultimately, the joy of The Return Of Jack Sparrow is about the songs and there are many gems here such as the fun “Train To Skaville” (obviously a remake of the early hit) and the hopeful “I’m Gonna Take Over.”  Its a shame this album wasn’t released back in the day (apparently the label ran out of money so it sat on the shelf after  completion).  I love how the slow slinky groove of “Flirty Flirty Guys” envelops the sweet melody and storytelling like a glove. A love song of lighthearted jealousy, this song could easily be turned into a Hank Williams-esque country classic, so strong is the simple structure of the tune.

And then you’ll hear things like “Lets Together Again” with its badass opening riff this side of The Grateful Dead’s version of “Hard To Handle.” The a-cappella version of “Heavenly Father” — just before the album-closing full band version of the song — is a stunner. 

And so it goes on The Return Of Jack Sparrow by Ethiopian & His All Stars. If you love classic sounding reggae and rich ska grooves, this may be a good jam for you to check out. In my book, this one’s a keeper. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Andover Audio SpinBase and SpinSystem | REVIEW

When I first heard about Andover Audio’s SpinBase in the PTA War Room, I obviously wondered, “What’s a SpinBase?” After a quick internet search and a read through PTA’s review of the Andover Model One [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum & My Sonic Lab Signature Gold Moving-Coil Cartridges

Although my wife and I are longtime fans of Japanese cuisine, film, art, and literature, it wasn’t until the spring of 2019 that we made our first, long-overdue journey to that remarkable country. To say that we were unprepared for the impact this trip would have on us is an understatement. 

Never before had we visited a land that was at once so foreign yet so completely comfortable, despite—aside from an arigato here, or an oishi (“delicious”) there—the massive language barrier. This was especially true once we left the sometimes overwhelming craziness of Tokyo for the more manageable confines of Kyoto, and still farther south to a remote onsen (hot spring) rarely visited by Westerners. 

It was on this trip that the Japanese mindset, with its dedication to mastering craft and its obsession with the smallest detail resonated on a physical (as in, yes, now we get it) level. Which naturally brings me around to the pair of exceptional moving-coil cartridges under consideration here. Because in their own ways, they’re the perfect embodiment of the Japanese spirit. Tiny yet expensive objects, meticulously built by hand to exquisite levels of…near perfection. 

Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum

Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum

During my day gig as a wine merchant, it’s not uncommon to have a customer walk into my shop, spot a familiar label on the shelf, and exclaim, “Wow, I remember when that bottle cost only X!”—naming a price from perhaps decades earlier.

Naturally, the wine world isn’t the only one in which today’s prices might cause eyes to spring out, all googly, like those of a character from a vintage Warner Bros. cartoon. But then, what did you pay for your house, car, hell, your cup of coffee, 20 years ago? Um, how about your audio system? 

Take, for example, the first of these cartridges, the Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum moving coil. 

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Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound