Cartridge without serial?


Hey everyone,

Curious as to if anyone has ever purchased a cartridge without a serial number? I'm looking to purchase a cartridge, but the seller has mentioned it doesn't have a serial number, which thus no warranty. Mind filling in my feeble thoughts as to this being a scam? Seller has zero bad reviews and hundreds of positive ones, but isn't based in the US. Any help is appreciated!
32cda8c0 6c27 46c0 8b2f 6b21ab825228j-wall
Cartridges have serial numbers? Huh. Did not know that. Oh, and you can't warranty anything without a serial number. Who'd a thunk? Learn something new every day.


There are a few like juki on Ebay and Kron here on Agon that sell these "gray market" cartridges. There are buyers (from the number of reviews) that would rather pay these discounted price than the full retail price (plus tax) that a dealer would otherwise charge. What is your risk level?  If something happens to cartridge during the warranty period, you will not be able to send it to the dealer, but rather to repair places like Soundsmith or VAS Audio at your own cost - the wait can be long. That's the trade-off. If its the two sellers that I mentioned above, I wouldn't be too worried about the authenticity/quality.  
Post removed 
Actually a serial number itself if not a warranty, you can get warranty when you’re buying from official dealer and it’s dealer ship your cartridge to the manufacturer (not you).

Grey market seller often erase serial numbers or replace them with fake serial numbers, so the manufacturer can’t track the source.

I have serial numbers on every cartridge I got in my big collection of cartridges, except for one ZYX Airy III cartridge purchased from 2juki from Hong Kong! Upon my request the manufacturer confirmed it was a fake serial number, so no warranty!

As been stated million times on this forum:
Refurbishing some special high-end cartridges using different parts from re-tippers is a bad idea! 

Manufacturers of ultra high-end cartridges never refurbish or re-tip them, with warranty you have trade-in program to ship your old cartridge back to get brand new cartridge (even next model) with special discount. 
Rdk, you nailed it right on the head. Reviews are telling and I'll take it risk. After doing some digging I'm going ahead with purchase. 
I have serial numbers on some of my cartridges.  The Kiseki Blue NS I bought from Kron doesn't have one.  I did a Google image search and couldn't find an image of one with a serial number. 

Generally speaking, if you buy an "international" version of something, it's not going to come with a US warranty.  As long as the seller has a lot of positive reviews and you have a level of comfort that it's an authentic item, I think your risk level is relatively low.
What cartridge @j-wall ?
Chak, in one paragraph you contradicted yourself. You wrote that your ZYX aiRY III cartridge lacked a serial number, and then you also wrote that it had a fake serial number. You can’t have that both ways. Which is true? And this is the umpteenth time you have brought this up, so I gather you are really pissed off at 2Juki.

It’s not like anyone with a bona fide expensive LOMC  cartridge is going to get anything approaching a good deal when he or she goes to have it re-tipped by the manufacturer. In general the net cost is similar to that of a brand new cartridge. In fact, as you know, often what happens is they take your cartridge and send you a new one. In other words, the so-called factory warranty is essentially worthless.  People go to aftermarket retippers to save large sums of money vs having the retip or exchange done by the manufacturer. Yes, the trade-off can be altered SQ of the retipped cartridge vs the original. However, it is often the case that the customers are very happy with the results. Live and let live is my philosophy.
@big_greg thanks for the info on international sellers. I haven't ever purchased from an international seller so the lack of warranty was originally worrisome, even though their transparency off the bat was very cool. I'd be curious how often a warranty is used for cartridges? I'm sure I'm personally just used to the piece of mind when hearing the phrasing.  
@chakster I just purchased a Hana ML. There is a shortage here in the states right now, but should be over hopefully in the next month from what I've heard from a distributor.  Dealers are taking pre-orders and basically selling out before they can receive shipment. 
Does anyone, besides me, wonder how the two vendors in rdk777's post above are able to acquire and sell cartridges with no serial number, and yet seemingly no one else can?
@chakster - the cartridge that I got retipped from VAS for ~$500 was well worth more than the ~$6k that I would have to pay for a new cartridge from their trade-in/exchange program.  I can pick up two top end used cartridges with the savings. I also knew that I could no longer go back to the mfr and ask for a trade-in as the cart, in their mind has been tainted - another arbitrary rule, since they don't retip anyways and give you a new cartridge. In some instances, for reasonably priced cartridges, trade-in/exchange program may fare better - but that depends on the buyer. As for me,  I haven't totally fallen in love with a cartridge, where I must have the original. There are many offerings out there and life is short.
@daveyf - the cartridge mafia runs a tight ship. ; )
Chak, in one paragraph you contradicted yourself. You wrote that your ZYX aiRY III cartridge lacked a serial number, and then you also wrote that it had a fake serial number. You can’t have that both ways. Which is true? And this is the umpteenth time you have brought this up, so I gather you are really pissed off at 2Juki.

Read again, i said all my cartridges have serial numbers, except for that ZYX Airy III (with fake serial number), and I asked Mehran from SoraSound to check that number, it was there, but it was fake according to Mehran’s information). I don’t care about 2juki or whatever he is under many names, I just want to let other people what’s going on if they don’t know why serial numbers are fake (or removed completely). I don’t have my Airy anymore and I’m not interested in modern high-end cartridge grey market dealers are selling (I don’t buy them anyway at all for a long time).

I just share my experience with this particular cartridge (brand) because this is the only cartridge I bought with fake serial number from grey market dealer (I was hooked too, by the price ).

And I want to advice everyone to contact Mehran first when it comes to ZYX (he’s official importer in North America), because he can offer much more opportunities than a grey market seller in Hong Kong. People don’t even know what Mehran can offer privately! This is why my next ZYX was Premoum 4D from Mehran and the price was better than from grey market dealer! He even called me a few times over the phone and emailed many times, Mehran is one of those dealers you want to deal and he always ready to help (what you expect for a dealer) while juki barely can speak English (and you have no idea who he is).

Mehran and Nakatsuka-San (ZYX) know each other very well. I think they are pissed off about grey market dealer. 

As for the other brands/cartridge I really have nothing to say, some people always looking for discount for an expensive cartridges and I can understand it. What I don’t understand is why they are looking for very expensive cartridges if they can’t afford them from official dealers? For some people price is the only guide, not a quality, just price. They think if it’s more expensive then it must be better, but it’s a myth! But then those people are ready to ruin the signature sound with different parts from retippers, for those who retip/refurbish ZYX with SoundSmith I’d like to ask why don’t you buy SoundSmith own cartridges instead ? If you re-tip/rebuild with VdH then why don’t you buy VdH cartridges instead ?
 @chakster  If the manufacturer is NOT supplying into the grey market, and in the case of Nakatsuka-San...how does he explain the availability of his cartridges?? 
Manufacturer sell cartridges only to his distributors in every region (Asia, Europe, America ...).

Distributor have to buy large amount of carts to get special wholesale prices.

Distributor can sell to the dealers, small shops or to private individuals online, but ONLY in his region!

I think the broken link is Asia and some distributor (or dealer) who can’t sell so much and willing to get rid of many cartridges quickly for very low price. This is a violation of the ethics, there are recommended retail price for dealers, when someone illegally sell for lower price worldwide on grey market (ebay) other dealers suffer.

When serial number replaced with fake number it’s impossible to track down the rat.

This is how it works in my opinion, maybe it’s more complicated, but manufacturer is happy to support only honest distributors, they are very important for manufacturer who can’t sell direct to the buyers.



It's not the consumers fault - consumers will buy at lowest price if all things equal.  Sounds like the mfr isn't willing to do much at the top end and wants to blame the consumer.  I think the mfr's should own up to their product and provide support regardless where it was bought.  There are some companies that do that. Recently, I was talking to Tri of Tri-Planar who said that he supports his products regardless of where it was bought. Now that's ethical.
@chakster  You explanation would apply for a very large conglomerate that sells very high volume.  I highly doubt that any of the cartridge manufacturer's are in that league. Surely they must know all of their distributor's and exactly what product they are shipping to them. I would be surprised if Nakatsuka-San is making and selling a hundred pieces a year-- in total! 
Therefore, it seems odd to me that this situation is going on, unless of course something else is occurring ( which I suspect strongly that it is!).
cartridge without a serial number would make me wonder if its real, knockoff/or stolen.   
@daveyf even if you know your distributors how you can catch one who sold to grey market dealers a bunch of them (if serial numbers replaced with fake number)? This is the only reason to remove or to replace serials, this is ID of the source. 

Okay nowadays it is possible to fake everything, but faking entire cartridges could be pure fantasy.
It could be stolen material and consequently the serial number label is removed if it is not engraved on the same body cartridge.
If a cartridge sold with fake serial number (or without serial number) then you can only guess if this cart passed quality control or not, the history of this cart is unknown. What is easy to do is to make it looks like sealed and never opened before in the box. On my sample the field for serial number in the manual was blank (it was a grey market sample from juki), but my next sample from Mehran (official US importer) was with serial number also printed in the manual and on cartridge body. 
chakster...
Based on your comment I got my ZYX manual out.
At the bottom of page 10 there IS a serial number BUT it`s been scribbled over with a pen, but I can still see the numbers nonetheless.
I would look at the box to see if there`s a number on it too but that`s been in NJ for awhile now :( 
Just checked the manual from my ZYX Premium 4D from Mehran (SoraSound) and there is a serial number field on warranty page with black ink stamp “PD108” and another layer in red “Premium 4D” stamp.

I have another ZYX product (headamp) with same black ink stamp “P1172”, also from SoraSound.


Even my Zyx Live18 headshell comes with serial number (also black ink stamp “S1994” in the manual)
@chakster  Are you suggesting that the manufacturer of a cartridge, who probably is not producing large numbers, will not know if some go missing? Or, that he has no way of knowing which distributor is going through a much larger supply than the others....Plus, is the manufacturer not marking the serial number on each cartridge before supplying to his/her distributor?You think that cartridges are leaving the factory with no serial number attached without their knowledge... I'm having a hard time buying all this....just saying.
We're talking about thousands of cartridges, because the importers are in regions like Asia, Europe, North America covering huge territory with huge population of people and there are many audiophiles and high-end shops. Do you think Nakatsuka-San making 100 cartridges and for the whole Asia they have only 25 cartridges in stock? 

You can't be an importer if you can't sell a lot, you can't buy just like a small shop or private seller, you must buy many cartridges to sell in your country (or several countries).  

For example:

Even if you're buying 100 cartridges and then sell 50 privately to your grey market dealer in Hong Kong who list them for sale on ebay (for the price lower than suggested retail price anywhere in the world) to sell worldwide then you're a cheater, but your samples cannot be identified if you (as a dishonest importer) or your grey market partner decided to remove all serial numbers (or replaced them with fake serial numbers). 

Grey market dealer is a rat in the chain who sell worldwide for very low price, but official dealer can't sell worldwide, because he's a dealer ONLY in one region. They can't sell it lower than suggested retail price, they can't sell it lower than the price they paid, because importer sell to dealers expecting retail price policy from the dealers. 

Grey market dealers ruin the whole system of distribution.  
Just checking ebay for Zyx and what caught my eye is that ones coming from Asia (known seller), and selling as new, are not perfectly packaged, missing the outer cellophane bag with a parallel sticker where cartridge model is printed, type is written by hand (manufacturer?) and serial number stamped. Box should have the serial number as the destination country initials. Both Zyx cartridges i have bought from local distributor here in Athens had serial number on cellophane bag, box and typed on manual, and the country initials (GR). Just check ebay to have a better picture. My simple understanding is that refurbished models are travelling around.

G
@chakster where you get thousands of cartridges being manufactured of the same type and then being distributed is questionable. If a company like Zyx is selling and distributing thousands of cartridges into the world market at anytime, not only would that impress me , but would place me somewhat in disbelief. The whole high end market for a hand built Japanese cartridge, considering the competition and overall demographic of potential customers must be very small...so that even selling hundreds per year would be a significant accomplishment, imo. If you know differently, please point us to this information.
stay away at all cost it is a  fake.
@daveyf I'm tired arguing with you, if you think a manufacturer like ZYX and its designer Nakatsuka-San with at least 50 years experience in cartridge manufacturing can't make a thousands of cartridges nowadays under his own brand then high-end market must be completely dead. But again, they sell them all over the world, USA is a huge country, they sell in Russia, China and whole Europe ... Also they make so many different models from expensive to very expensive.  
@chakster  LOL, If you think that ZYX or any high end manufacturer of cartridges, with the possible exception of Ortofon, is making and selling ’thousands’ of cartridges annually, i have a nice bridge I can sell you....
I found a pic of the serial number on the back of my cartridge.
It reads C3724 and it doesn`t match the serial number on the booklet.
Interesting...
Just checking ebay for Zyx and what caught my eye is that ones coming from Asia (known seller), and selling as new, are not perfectly packaged, missing the outer cellophane bag with a parallel sticker where cartridge model is printed, type is written by hand (manufacturer?) and serial number stamped. Box should have the serial number as the destination country initials. Both Zyx cartridges i have bought from local distributor here in Athens had serial number on cellophane bag, box and typed on manual, and the country initials (GR). Just check ebay to have a better picture. My simple understanding is that refurbished models are travelling around.


@petg60 yeah, thanks for posting this. 

I found a pic of the serial number on the back of my cartridge.
It reads C3724 and it doesn`t match the serial number on the booklet.
Interesting...


@scm very interesting 
I found a pic of the serial number on the back of my cartridge.
It reads C3724 and it doesn`t match the serial number on the booklet.
Interesting...

if it sounds like it’s broken then your Zyx it’s a fake made in china extracted from an Audio Technica AT 95!!!    LOL




best-groove..
 Sorry but you lost me on that.
  
best-groove..
"LOL"... that`s nice of you, glad it made you laugh smh  
Even if the quantities are incorrect, Chackster is absolutely correct on what he describes about the "system" of rats out there.  I worked in consumer electronics for 40 years until retiring from the workforce 3 years ago.  We constantly had issues like this.  It's called either "gray market" or "transshipping".  Or worse, fake knock-off product, typically from China.  I strongly urge that you don't support this business channel as it erodes the manufacturers credibility and most certainly the authorized dealers.  And besides, you may end up with a fake, knock-off product.
Sorry but you lost me on that.

don't worry be happy ... you don't always have to take these things seriously, there are other real tragedies in life.
@mammothguy54  You make an interring point. Is it possible that the cartridges in question, Zyx's, Benz's, Koetsu's and others that are being offered from these grey market vendors are in fact knock-off's? This would certainly explain the lack of a serial number and the annoyance of the very small manufacturer who apparently has logistical stock control.
It is indeed possible those cartridges are knock-offs.  However, it's impossible to know for certain unless you bought one and then sent it to the manufacturer for inspection.  Even a serial number can be misleading.  Our products (of the company I worked for) were being transshipped and the "rats" were placing phony serial numbers directly over our laser etched serial numbers on the chassis.  The end-users didn't know the difference.  Here is a good story... Taylor Made golf clubs were having a high rate of return/defective/failures whereby the shaft was breaking on their drivers.  They have a very high standard of excellence and do extensive testing prior to releasing a product to market.  With such a high and unusual rate of failure they began to research the returned clubs.  On the outside, examination, they sure looked like their products.  However, when researching and testing the metal alloy of the shaft they discovered it was not their product after all.  Contacting the end users they also learned these clubs had been purchased from unauthorized sellers.  It seems those sellers were securing their inventory from a knock-off vendor and, thus, were able to sell the clubs at highly discounted prices.  Did the consumer (end-user) really get such a good deal after all?  I think not.  If the price seems too good to be true then that is indeed likely the case.  Moral of the story, you will be fully satisfied buying from a reputable authorized dealer who sources their products directly from the manufacturer or authorized distributor (depending on the manufacturers business model).  You can almost always get a respectable discount on the product with a simple request or comfortable negotiation if the product is being purchased with other items as well.  And you will have that authorized dealer to help you in the event there ever is a product issue (even Rolex has a service department).
I hope this helps everyone in their decision making process.
Here is a good story... Taylor Made golf clubs were having a high rate of return/defective/failures whereby the shaft was breaking on their drivers........

Wooow...unbelievable!
@mammothguy54 I had heard the story about the Taylor Made clubs before. OTOH, it is interesting that there could be a company doing ’knock-off’s’ of cartridges like the Koetsu’s and the Benz’s. Albeit copying a cartridge could be a relatively easy enterprise, assuming that one had access to a manufacturing facility that knew how to make cartridges...and could deal with the very small parts etc., While I don’t believe there is a very large market for ’knock-off’ high end MC cartridges, compared to Taylor Made clubs ( as an example), I guess if the mark-up is there??
@mammothguy54 what a stellar example. Thanks for the insight.