Koetsu Blue Lace Onyx vs. Coralstone


wondering if anyone has had the opportunity to compare these 2 cartridges?

would also like to know if anyone feels the "diamond cantilever" to be a worthwhile upgrade?!

any insights appreciated...
11flat6
You might want to call Brian at the Analog Romm in San Jose, Calif. He knows Koetsu very well. They have a web site with phone numbers.
Joe
There is a review somewhere of one of the Blue Stone Koetsu's. I recently had it emailed to me. I think it is online. The reviewer compared the Urushi, Tiger Eye and something blue. But I forget. He then mentioned how the Coral Stone is something special and better than all.

I would hate to break a diamond cantilever and Koetsu's have a reputation for losing cantilevers. I have that personal experience and so does the review I am mentioning. If you can afford it then go for it.
think i did come across that review a while time back... don't think there was any reference to the Blue Lace Onyx though (i believe it was some other blue stone Koetsu cartridge... Lapis or something?!).
I once was a fan of Koetsu...however, I tend to think of them as audio candy rather than a cartridge I would own. If I were you, I would listen to the Koetsu of your choice compared with the top examples of Dyna, Benz, etc. I know it is a difficult search, but may very well save you money and disappointment in the long run.
Here s another koetsu review

http://www.dagogo.com/View-Article.asp?hArticle=530
Andromedaaudio, Thanks for that review. I am a long time happy owner of an Urushi, and I have had to absorb a lot of snide remarks from those who think Koetsu's are passe'. However, the review sucks. He seems to have reviewed a platinum version of the Urushi Vermillon, based on his statement that the output of his sample was given as 0.2mV. All the "normal" Urushi variants have an output of ~0.6mV. Moreover, I once inquired direct to my Japanese dealer about upgrading my Tsugaru to Platinum status and was told that it was not possible, after he consulted the factory in Tokyo. (IOW, this was not done thru the US importer.) Nor have I ever seen an Urushi Platinum for sale new, so this is all puzzling to me. Therefore I don't know what to make of his comments on the Vermillon. When he gets to the other two cartridges, his comments jump around to many other different stone-bodied Koetsu's, to the point where it is sometimes not obvious which one he is really talking about. Plus, the comments about the colors of the various stones are kind of silly and irrelevant, IMO. And finally, he never tells us what tonearm he used, let alone anything about his downstream electronics and speakers. Perhaps regular readers of Dagogo are expected to know this stuff. Still in all, I am now very curious about the Azule Platinum, not to say "salivating".
I agree with first poster. Brian of the Analog room has more experience with the stone body Koetsu's than anyone else I know.
The more expensive ones have a more refined sound. The lack of higher frequencies are not important, because the soft bass ability will be compensated with the improved midrange influence from the stone bodies.
The earthy feeling and sound of the Coralstone is special, it is a trip back into the History and I always did like the Blue Lace most with a Martini in my Hand - or some more - when listening to it. The longer I listened to it, the more I saw the "Gestalt" of tones.
Stringreen and Syntax raise a cautionary point. Candy and alchohol both metabolize into sugar.

Overindulgence may lead to confused mental states, witness Dr. Lewm's patient obsessing over silly colors, or obesity.

Withdrawal management programs are widely available.
Dear Lewm,
You must always have in mind your special OTL/ESL system
when most of the rest folks here we are listening with set-ups that a Koetsu has nothing to add, but most likely to hide.
I've owned an Onyx Platinum for a couple of years now and in my experience the Koetsu's are overpriced and agree with stringreen's comment about them being "eye candy".

I'm now an Ortofon a90 user and it's superior in every area. The Koetsu doesn't even come close to what an a90 can do.

...I now await a barrage of complaints from Koetsu owners (who haven't heard the a90, of course!).
No complaints. To each is own, and glad you're enjoying the A90. I would think Koetsu owners may be curious what you use for a phono stage, and what TT/arm you used. That said, all that matters is you are happy w/ your Ortofon.
Fjn04 - Phono stage is Whest Ref V, arms I've used the carts with include Origin Live Conqueror, SME V, Ortofon 309-d (12"). TT is a Consonance LP5.0 Mk2.
I have not tried the SME 5 w/ my Jade, but it seems to be the arm recommended most w/ the heavier stone body Platinum's.
I don't know the Whest, but is recognized as a top tier phono stage. Certainly it seems as if you gave the Koetsu a fair shot, but simply prefer the Ortofon. Enjoy.
Dear Sprog, What tonearm? No surprise that you like the A90 better than your Koetsu. Apparently many others would prefer it as well. Koetsu is not my religion, but I hope you will pardon me if I say I still enjoy my Urushi and will continue to do so. (Never heard a stone-bodied Koetsu.)

I certainly would not be among those who would trash you or the A90. In fact, I own and enjoy several different cartridges and have had some thoughts about acquiring an A90 myself. But I heard an A90 in direct comparison to the new Allnic Puritas cartridge, both on the same turntable and in the same brand of tonearm. (Two arms mounted on the same tt.) I have to say that the A90 was very fine, but the Puritas was a shade less mechanical, more "musical". I hate when folks use that word as a descriptor of audio gear, but there it is.
Sprog, Sorry for my redundant question. I see now that you listed your tonearms ahead of my request that you do so. I have inadvertently learned lately that the Urushi does its best in what one would call "high mass" tonearms, i.e., 20 gm, minimum, FWIW.
I agree Lewm, I enjoy the Koetsu but it just isn't close to what an a90 can do. I've also heard many cartridges and it's in a different league altogether from anything else - and particularly the Koetsu which I have to say, again, is seriously overpriced, but reviewers (who get paid by manufacturers for their reviews - oh yes they do) say is the "best thing ever" in the cartridge-world.

You're paying probably double what it's worth just for the name, which has all kinds of "mystical" nonsense spoken about it.

An a90 needs a good time to bed-in to sound it's best after installation, so did you have a couple of weeks at least to listen to the Allnic and a90 for comparison?
Suffice to say that I agree with you on cost. The Koetsu stone-bodied cartridge prices are particularly ridiculous, but so too are the prices of many many other "high end" MC cartridges. I purchased my Urushi in Tokyo for, lets say, much less than the US price. This year, too, I got involved in the thread here on vintage MM and MI cartridges, and I have bought several samples to audition. A select few of those are shockingly good, regardless of the fact that they are also relatively cheap. Of course, this is coming from someone who is declasse' enough to enjoy the Urushi.

I heard the A90 vs Puritas, each in a Reed tonearm, at RMAF, in several listening sessions over 2 days. (I kept going back to that room, because I enjoyed the presentation so much.) I assume that both were up and running for 8 to 10 hours per day for at least a few days before I got there. Dunno whether that constitutes adequate break-in for an A90, or indeed whether both had been in use prior to the show.
I found the a90 needs a good 100+ hours.

Listening in your own system is the only way to really tell how good something sounds - from my experience - and that's not possible with cartridges, of course,
unless you have friends who have what you're thinking of buying ....and they like you ;)

I'm a serious a90 convert. It's so instantly "dead-right" right out of the box even though it takes time to settle in fully. By "dead right" I mean it's just so obviously "there" (what??).

Oh dear ...words words words...

Ears know nothing about words, that's why I like mine so much.
.... the sound of the Koetsu Blue Lace Onyx is salubrious, exquisite, stunning, glorious and dazzling and the sound of the Koetsu Coralstone is superlative, smashing, magnificent, superb and impeccable...
Syntax - if you have to choose one from the two Koetsu wich one would you choose?

From my experience diamont cantilever takes these stone bodies to another level of performance (and price too).
I auditioned Jade DC and Coralstone DC as well as non DC versions.
Well, honestly, can't decide. They are both great ones. What amazes me all the time is that they are so much better than the wood bodies, it is hard to believe. A total different chapter from sonics. And both demand a serious metal Arm which has excellent energy transfer. When such one is used, they really come to life. When the System can do it, they sound like the real thing, not only with voices, with older classical records they create a holographic soundstage which is really unique. By far the best I ever listened to in the last 15 years. I compared them to the Lyras because I thought, the Lyras have probably a better detail but side by side they showed me that nothing is missing. Good as they are, but both, Blue Lace and Coralstone serve easily the same information AND more. Seriously a more of "being part of the recording", in a way, a superior view into the room (Vienna Sofiensaal for example)...in a way, I can FEEL the Ambience. Staggering.
Did not go for Diamond Cantilever, in a way I do not trust them, maybe others think different, but I prefer in a way "elastic" cantilever. Otherwise I use my cantileverless Ikeda System.
Thank you Syntax for your valuable opinion.

It is possible that I have auditioned Koetsu cartridges with not perfect setup as I was never impressed as much as you.

I have auditioned Koetsu at TW Raven AC and Black Night with SME V and Graham Phantom II and results were medicore to good and with DaVinci Virtu on the same table and results were goog to good plus.

I have also on havd Origin Live Enterprise C 12" tonearm that seems to be the heaviest one with stable dual pivot bearing but not tried Koetsu with them.

For my Koetsu has their own stron points like texture, bloom impresion of reall events at listening places, but at the same time I feel that leading edges are a bit rounded, attack not fast enougs and overall presentation a bit not neutral (house sound).

I wish I will find a good setup for Koetsu as it has nice lone life span, nice blasck background and low noise. Niece cart to own. Hovewer I am a person with only one cart installed and need something more universal.
It is possible that I have auditioned Koetsu cartridges with not perfect setup ...

Indeed, that is really difficult based on the body which hides the view. You need an alignment System with a dimple that you know when it is done correctly. I have such alignment and even with that one I needed some time ...
Anyway, all I can say, these 2 Koetsus are so different to all other Koetsus I ever listened to that I think, that the Designer made probably some changes and did not communicate that. They are also VERY powerful in their gain, rated with 0.3mV, but I use much lower gain in my preamp than I do usually with carts of such output. Both they have a tremendous punch in the reproduction without any softness.
Thank for your opinion.
I also use Acustical Systems Uni Protractor with USB scope and cart even more dificuld to align than Koetsu.
Diamond cantilever - yes, I think it is most definitely worth it. For those interested in the basis of my opinion, I am using the DC rosewood body with
- trans-fi air bearing tonearm, heroically regulated air supply
- NAS Mentor, machined Al / plywood plinth, new Wave Mechanic and motor
- Sowter transformers with nude Vishay loading resistors
- homebrew cost-no-object electronics
- multiple new generation Quad ESL's with reworked high cost electronics
- 80 KHz ultrasonic record cleaner

I was advised that the DC would harden the sound. I can't comment on a standard KRSP, but the DC makes the music uniquely smooth and elegant. My taste in music is "classical", by which I mean serious music, especially from the Renaissance. Polyphony is especially hard to get right - my system does it, and the DC is an important element thereof. The main difference between my system and live (acoustic) performance is slightly inferior leading and trailing edges - and that is the current research topic (turntable).

DC Fragility? Perhaps, but I have not, as yet, had an issue with that. Just make sure that if you use a coin as a standard weight for your stylus gauge, you use a silver coin, not one of the modern steel ones, as the platinum magnet is unexpectedly strong.
Update

DIY air bearing turntable with 45kg platter makes the Koetsu still better. Clarity without the edge, detail without noise.

Trans-Fi tonearm is weighted with brass weights and deadened with damping material.

And the silver Lundahl transformers don't hurt either.
@terry9 
Very curious about experiences with Koetsu and a silver Lundahl SUT, as I'm eyeing those options right now. Do you have the amorphous core LL1931/1941Ag or a LL1933/1943Ag?

I currently have a Bob's Devices Sky 40 and LL1931 (copper). With my Coralstone I find the amorphous core LL1931 to be much more detailed and transparent, which a much higher level of spatial information (really stunning). However, this comes at the cost of midbass punch, impact, and some of the organic warmth and musical flow the Coralstone is known for. So I was thinking of trying the LL1943Ag, which has a mu-metal core. But maybe the LL1931Ag is so good it addresses the flaws of the copper-wired version?

I find that the LL1931 pairs beautifully with a Shelter Harmony, btw (but the Coralstone is certainly the better cartridge). 
@mulveling

I have the LL1931Ag. I consulted the factory and they referred me to K&K, and after discussion, I took their recommendation. Very pleased.

Haven’t noticed any diminution of mid bass punch or impact. Some loss of sweetness, yes, I think so - but I recovered that, and more, by precisely torquing and aligning the cartridge. I concluded that the 31Ag was simply faithfully rendering the signal it was given.

Since you already have LL1931’s, you know that they don’t need anything but loading resistors and a box. That makes DIY SUT’s feasible for almost anyone, and makes the 1931Ag’s highly cost-effective. Speaking of loading resistors, I strongly recommend nude Vishay. To my ears, there is not even a competitor.

Good luck!
Thanks @terry9
My phono stage is a VAC Renaissance SE with the LL1931 built-in, and is chock-full of nude Vishays (I counted 36), including the loading slots. I’d previously borrowed a non-SE; the SE model’s Jupiter beeswax caps and nude Vishays make quite a positive difference. I figure I might as well go all-out to the Ag SUT at this point; agreed that the K&K prices are extremely reasonable! What loading value did you settle on for your Koetsu?
Loading is record dependent, to me. I like values between 30 and 500 ohms, but having said that, I'm probably going to change my tune when I finish my phono/pre V2.0 (which allows values 10 to 1500).

@mulveling 

Forgot to reference you. My phono should be finished in a few weeks (said that months ago!), should be able to give you a tighter range at that point.
After waiting for 4 months I'm now a very happy owner of a Blue Lace Diamond Cantilever cartridge. Although just 40ish hours old & not near fully broken in, the Blue Lace is way better (& unfortunately more expensive) than any cartridge I owned previously, it simply blown the Ortofon A95 that it replaced away cleanly. The soundstage is huge and rock solid, speed and dynamic range both staggering. I was surprised how different it sounds compared to the wood-bodied Koetsu I had before, the Blue Lace is simply a very modern high end pick up, no excuse needed to be made for this little gem. But it was a bitch to mount given its short (& almost transparent) cantilever at the middle of the underbelly.  The local dealer informed me that basically all stone-bodied Koetsu have same construction, except for different body material obviously, but they do sound slightly different for some reason, Blue Lace being most lean and neutral, followed by Coralstone. For those who prefer a slight warmer presentation should go for Tiger Eye.
@nicknick 
Awesome! I went from an Ortofon Windfeld MC to an Onyx Platinum when I had my "oh, that's where the music's been hiding" moment. You went all out to a Blue Lace w/ diamond cantilever! Now I've got a Coralstone, but I'd love to get a diamond cantilever some day. Heard a lot of amazing feedback on that.
My dealer who has heard all Koetsu told me the only differences btw diamond & standard boron cantilever are marginally faster, better dynamic range & better bass definition. Guess you can always opt for diamond cantilever when your Coralstone need a re-tip in the future. I originally aimed for a standard Blue Lace but lost my mind when he demonstrated a diamond cantilever during audition, bastard!!  Mind you, koetsu are much less expensive outside USA so I paid nowhere near the published US retail price.
@nicknick
Awesome. And yep, I agree that the US prices are insane lol. Koetsu are actually a good deal in other places. I’ll definitely consider the diamond cantilever when it’s time for a rebuild in a couple years...or maybe much sooner on my Jade!

Enjoy your awesome cartridge!
@mulveling 

Sorry for the delay - installed my air-gap phono/pre, and now have a very good idea of preferred loading.

After the 1931Ag Lundahl's (set at 8 x step-up gain), I am loading the input between 2K and 3K (nude Vishay's), and 0 pF capacitance. This corresponds to a cartridge loading of 25R to 40R, according to the factory rep's website (K&K Audio).

That said, my room is a real bear, and it just eats up low frequency signal; an LF black hole, if you will. So, if I ever get the room tamed, or build a new one, I may well like a higher resistive loading.

That's the KRSP/dc, air bearing arm, air bearing TT.
@terry9
Thanks! For a taste of something different last night, I switched back to my stage’s onboard LL1931, and I have to admit they definitely bring some extra transparency and detail to the table vs. the CineMags. I lose some warmth and bloom from the CineMag, but I’m beginning to think maybe that’s not as accurate. Of course I can also eliminate that extra IC, two connection points, and I have 5 loading options only when using the onboard LL.

I ended up really liking the Coralstone loaded at a net 50 ohms, vs the higher settings (75, 125), and can go down to 25 next time I try. But 50 ohms was sounding extremely well balanced in my system. This phono stage also loads the secondary with nude Vishays. However ,I have the LL1931 set at 16x gain. Any reason why you chose 8x over 16x? 16x helps keep the noise floor dead quiet in my system.
@mulveling 

I use 8x because I constructed my phono stage so that the volume control is identically the gain control on the output stage, so there is no wasted amplification. The gain control usually sits between a gain of 50 and 150 (plus the 8x contribution from the Lundahls).

Since the volume control consists of a rotary switch selecting different nude Vishays (not a ladder), the gain is not compromised in any respect, and the output is black at 8x. Since I suspect that distortion is an increasing function of gain, even in Lundahls, I leave the Lundahls at their floor.

Those Vishays sure do keep the circuit quiet, and complementary aerospace MATxy don't hurt either.
@nicknick 

Thanks for sharing your experiences - I'm happy with my KRSP, but ... good to know the options.

Please keep us informed.
I'm now using a Coincident Audio Statement Phono, loading at 30 ohm. The stock tubes were replaced with Telefunken ribbed-plate 12ax7 which are much quieter & paint a larger sonic picture. I had a ARC Ref Phono 3 previously but felt the sound was too aggressive, the decay was curtailed too, guess the 6h30p supertubes in the ARC are probably too fast for phono amplification purpose.  I never had much luck with SUT, transparency always suffered somewhat in my system. A friend who also has a Blue Lace diamond cantilever uses Kondo silver SUT with a matching phono with excellent results, but they are too pricy for me.
@mulveling 

An update. I tried to run my phono without SUT's, and my gain was just high enough. Just a little hiss, inaudible from 2 feet. More dynamic, sweeter, fuller. Nothing against the LL, just a different sound, which I think that I prefer.

Current loading is 200 to 1000 ohms (polyphony and piano respectively).