I have owned both a new Koetsu Black and a Koetsu Rosewood Signature. Both are the best cartridges I've ever owned. The Koetsu Black replaced a Clear Audio high end cartridge on my Mitchell Orbe and SME IV and was clearly more musical.
Ikeda Rex is better than any Koetsu IMHO.
I recently upgraded from a Benz Micro Glider II to a Koetsu Black. (Not that I really wanted to upgrade, but my friends children bent the cantilever on the my Glider (Warning to Glider owners!!), so I had to replace it anyway).
The Glider sounded very good. It was very analytical, perhaps too much so. It sounded a bit like a CD, in as that it retreived a good amount of detail, with little colorations. It had much more HF than the Black. (I think it is worth the money ($800), and therefore a good value).
The Koetsu Black sounds more musical (like a really good tube amp). It, surprisingly, has a better bass response. It also has a very, very nice mid-range, better than the Benz. The HF are definetly rolled off though, compared to the Benz. (However, this works out fine with my Revel Studios which has HF to spare!) I have only had the Black a week or so, so hopefully it will only get better when it is broken in. As far as value, at $1500, it seems a little expensive, but from what I have heard and read, once it is broken in, there is no going back once you have experienced the "Koetsu" magic. (Oh yeah, it comes with a removable stylus guard!)
My two cents anyway.
Generally Koetsu are magnificent cartridges
in the multi-arm scenarios. Although I clearly see and appreciate the beauty of the Koetsu sound but I do not see myself to use it should I have a TT with just one arm. The Koetsu limitations at lower octave and its yellowness makes Koetsu not an universal sounding cartridge.(Unless you intend to convert sound of NY Philharmonic into Czech Philharmonic and Mahler into Janacek
with EACH record you play). I quiet successfully use Koetsu Onyx Platinum in 2 % of all analog playing (luxury of TT with 5 arms) but if I would be forced to stick explicitly just to one arm/cartridge then I doubt the I would stay with Koetsu.
Romy the Cat
What else do you like? Have you tried the Ikeda?
Yikes! Yellowness? What does that mean sonically? I have an Urushi with about 50 hours on it now and I play everything from Zep to Stooges to Ellington to Respighi to Ray Brown. Everything I throw at it sounds natural and uncolored. Trackability is first rate at 2.0 grams. Dynamics are powerful, plenty of air and the bass goes all the way down and is clear and not thumpy/lumpy at all. The mids are all there and are detailed and sweet, not laid back in the least. I used to use a Glider L2 but I won't be going back anytime soon. This is one cartridge I can easily live with on a single arm (JMW 10.5).
Interesting analogy of transforming Mahler into Janacek (why not transform the Halle Orch/Barbirolli into the Czech Phil/Neumann...?). What verybigamp is probably hinting at is the analogy "transform the Deep Purple into the Deep Purple + London S O"... Older Koetsu had a beautiful sound at the expense of some db loss at freq extremes. Not that the fact ever bugged me when I used to have a Koetsu...:)
I've heard that the Rosewood Platinum is less musical than the Signature. Any thoughts?
Quite likely that the phono stage could not handle the 0.2mv output from the Platinum.
Having owned more than half a dozen Koetsu:
1) Important to load at 100 ohm.
2) Black is the 'classic Koetsu' sound, a bit slow, rich. Bass is big, high-end is not fully extended. A 'Tube' like sound.
3) Rosewood Sig (RS) is the "real Koetsu' cartridge. Even the original late 80's/90's RS properly loaded, in today's electronics, sounds conetemporary, in the same league as VDH, Lyra, etc. But overall, I detected a slight hard-edge which is gone after moving up to:
4) Urushi - one of the most musical and high end Koetsu. I had the original Sugano Sr. version, and 2 years ago, refurbished to current spec. Both spec has the strong musicality, but none of the slowness or comnpromises as in RS or Black. It is very fast, goes down deep and goes up high. If I would say that the Urushi sounds like 'Dom Perignon', then the Helikon sounds like Evian mineral water. This is not to say Helikon is a bad cartridge, but it is very neutral, and pure as water, while Urushi extracts the full flavor of the music.
5) Onyx - Onyx compared to Urushi, it has the same tonal and refinement (having the same coil and stylus structure), but it has different dynamics. This cartridge has extremely linear power, from ppp to FFF, but it however does not have the 'sparkle' effect like the Urushi. A gloriously Hi Fi spectacular, but not as fluid and musical compared to Urushi, in my opinion.
6) Platinum version - different magnet, different coil and can be had with Rosewood, Urushi, or Onyx. The Platinum would retain the same characteristic as the non-Platinum counterparts, what Platinum improves upon is the dynamics and the realism of the playback (but remember, the drop in voltage makes the phono stage setup extremely tough, so the improvement may not be fully realized). It is very difficult to describe the sound of Platinum in words, but basically, you would hear a beautiful violin through the non-Platinum, but with Platinum, you hear more of the shape of the violin box, and the radiation energy of the sub-tonal pressure from the wood beyond the string sound. In a bass drum, Platinum can project the pressure of the drum that makes the music more 'live'.
Hope above helps.
Your description of the Koetsu sound is the most accurate I've read and mirrors my experience, including the Helikon. I am using a Urishi Vermillion with an Aesthetix Io dual chasis signature. As good as the Urishi is, I am considering the Onyx Platinum, but have heard that it is cold sounding and slightly bright and that the Rosewood Signature Platinum is smoother with more resolution than the Urishi and not as cool as the Onyx Platinum.
Perhaps you could contrast these three cartridges in your own eloquent style. Also, I am not aware of a Urishi Platinum.
The Urushi Platinum will be my next Koetsu cartridge. The UP and some other models, such as the one with all-diamond cantilever is not available in US or Japanese retail market, but through people that knows Sugano, they can be obtained. In another word, if you know how to contact them, and pay the right money, they will make any combination of body, magnet, and stylus. But I believe the Ruby or Sapphire cantilevers are no longer available, only Diamond cantilevers can be had.
If you like Urushi, than you have no reason not to go for the UP. In fact, you can retip your Urushi upon its expiration with the Platinum magnet.
If you are looking at Onyx Platinum; an old Onyx, so long as it's the current wide body design, can be retipped with Platinum. In fact, older Onyx by Sugano Sr. looks more transparent, and new Onyx has more stone grain, and less transparent. I personally prefer the 'cooked pork fat' look of the original Onyx vs. 'white marble' look of the new Onyx.
My source tells me that the Urishi Platinum is not available at this time.
Very good, Extremephono. Thanks.
Thanks, EP. Rare is the person that has personal experience with that number of Koetsus and has the ability and willingness to provide desciptions that are meaningful and helpful.
Extremephono,once again thanks for your eloquent description.
Verybigamp, if you only use the Onyx 2 % of the time, what is your mainstay cartridge? Also, in your experience, is the Koetsu Onyx Platinum elevated in the high frequencies?
When you say yellow, do you mean lacking resolution?
Any Koetsu you want is possible when you are a close friend of the importer (NOT the distributer). Fortunately for me, that is the case here. Currently I am running a 'prototype' Urushi body with Rosewood Signature innards. Before this I had a Onyx Platinum Diamond Cantilever. Very nice cartridge, but my continuation of the ol' education comes first.
I got to see, touch, and hear the Tiger Eye Diamond Cantilever that HP currently has...SO BEAUTIFUL. Even so, I think my next Koetsu will be a Rosewood Signature Platinum Diamond Cantilever. That is, when I finish school, of course.
Forgot to mention, I've heard a UP that Extremephono desires. The one I heard was a very special cartridge made for the importer I mentioned. Incredible.
I upgraded to an ordinary Rosewood recently. Prior to that had been using an original HO Glider and the Clearaudio Wood Sigma. I like the Sigma, but the Koetsu is miles ahead in musicality and smoothness. I use the Koetsu straight into a cj PV9A and a Mac C29. It is wonderful, period.
I've been in and out of various turntables over the years, not really spending a lot of money on it, and then basically resorted to using CD's through the classy Bel Canto DAC-1 and/or Perpetual Technologies P3A converter mainly for reasons of convenience and because a large collection of my music is on CD. And, I have been quite happy with this sound for the last couple of years.
This all changed a few weeks ago when I picked up a Roksan Xerxes with a Koetsu Rosewood of about 1989 vintage. All I can say is WHAT A GLORIUS SOUND!! If the DAC-1 & P3A is supposedly upsampling to 24bit/96kHz, then I reckon the Koetsu must be doing 1024bit/1096kHz! The musical message and treble coming out of the Koetsu is so superior to CD it's not funny.
After listening to the Xerxes/Koetsu, the sound of CD leaves me cold and uninterested. With CD the imaging is flattened and the sense of 'acoustic space' collapses and becomes one dimensional - as if the soundstage is sucked into a blackhole of mediocrity!
I have had a lot of different cartridges through my house, albeit a bit average, namely: Supex 900E; Shure V15's; Denon DL103/304; Audiotechnica OC9; and some good ones inc. Linn Asak; Dynavector DV17D & the low output XX-1L...but none of these cartridges come even close to the magic produced by the Koetsu Rosewood. I can't imagine the potential of some the more exotic Koetsus some of you guys are using?
So where does the magic come from with Koetsu's?? Is it rare magnets, the lovingly handcrafted winding of the coil by Sugano San Snr etc. ??
Hopelessly addicted to vinyl for now...
PS: The rest of my system comprises of Supratek Triode amplification (see: www.supratek.biz ); Krell KSA100 & Pass Labs Aleph 3 amp; a pair of large super fast 3.8micron thin-membraned Electrostats; Proac Response 2.5; Yamaha NS1000/1200; other speaker arrays using Raven Ribbons & Accuton Ceramics; Focal Kevlar Transmission Line subs; various other amps using 6550's/300B/6C33CB/211/845/2A3/6B4G /829B & Vaic 302B triodes.