Koetsu cartridges - myth or reality?

Hi guys - I am looking to upgrade my 1 year old Dynavector xx1 MC cartridge - I have heard (and read) for many years that Koetsu cartridges are a great option for those looking for musicality, right timbre and lush-sounding analog.

Digging further I find that some cathegorize them as slow sounding, not great tracking and poor price/performance ratio as well... I am looking for advise from those who have experience with Koetsu - particulary those who moved from a fast sounding cartrdige like Dyna, Clearaudio or Lyra - missing anything once you moved?


I moved from a "fast" Dynavecot XV 1S, to "fast" a Brinkmann EMT, to and finally to Koetsu Stone Body cart. Koetsu stone body carts are very special, I personally love the sound I have at home.
Well, I have used both what you term as "fast" cartridges, such as (my current cartridge, the Dynavector XV-1S), as well as the Koetsu cartridges,, (the Black and the Rosewood Signature).

My feeling is that the Koetsu cartridges have positive and negative aspects to them.

First off, they are indeed lush sounding in the mid-range. If you like that sound (I do, as a matter of fact), then you'll love them. If you prefer a more neutral sound, than they might not be for you. If you love vocals, than this might be the line of cartridges you'll love forever.

Second, they have a slightly rolled off treble response, but as you climb the ladder, this becomes a non issue, as the better Koetsu cartridges have excellent treble extension. (IMHO anyway).

Third, and probably the most conerning, is they usually have a rolled off bass response, that is also somewhat loose (i.e. not tight or quick). As you climb the ladder, this becomes somewhat less of a concern. However, from what I have experienced (which does not include the stone body cartridges, but does include the RSP), they never truly have what I would call great bass response. (They were nowhere near as good as either my Shelter 90X or my XV-1S.)

Fourth, I found them to be great tracking cartridges. (In fact neither my Black, my Rosewood Signature, or my friend's RSP ever mistracked, no matter what we threw at them.) Where did you hear that they were poor tracking cartridges, btw?

Fifth, they have a very low noise floor. Ticks and pops are not much of an issue actually. (They were much better than the Benz Micro Glider II, and a bit better than the Shelter 90X.) My Dynavector XV-1S is as quiet as the Koetsu line, if not quieter. (I LOVE quiet cartridges!)

Sixth, yes there is a very stiff markup here in the states on Koetsu cartridges. (Why, I have no clue!) So, if you can either get a used one, or one on the grey market, you can avoid that problem.

My opinion is that they are a great line of cartridges, that are well worth experimenting with. If they work for you, great. If not, you'll, at a minimum, enjoy the lush mid-range for vocals. I managed to get a great deal on the Dynavector or else I probably would have waiting for a deal on a used Koetsu Jade Platinum.

My two cents worth anyway.
I agree with Kurt_tank's critique. I have three generations of the RS (two rebuilt) and two Onyx Platinum Signature (one rebuilt). The Onyx is a stone family member and is much more precise in the highs, mids and low frequencies than the the Rosewoods of yesteryear. Today I have the Onyx P.S. mounted in a Graham Phantom spinning all kinds of sweet music. Yes, the Koetsu favors a gorgeous mid-range, but it's not over blown-just gorgeous, something to enjoy.
I agree with Kurt tank too, I would only add, you should try UK prices if you think they are expensive. I loved my Rosewood Signature, but am happier with the Zyx Airy 3 I have now. I am sure they are coloured, but in a musical, wonderful way. The Platinum series are much less so and I think the Rosewood Signature Platinum probably has the best price performance ratio, if your phono stage can handle the low output.
Look at 10audio the online site, some very good Koetsu reviews, which I very much concur with
Wow - terrific feedback - thanks so far!

1.- I like coloured presentation IF it is musical (which based on your kind response seems like the Koetsu line does).

2.- If you had the chance to take a look at my system - I own Avantgarde speakers - which are fabulous BUT a b****h to tame! particulary on keeping the midrange OUT of the horn - this might call to try first due to the midrange presentation you all described (and I feel tempted to try).

3.- My amp is 300B based (ergo - GREAT mids) - this stacks up to my last comment.

4.- I LOVE this hobby.

My Urushi was a great tracker and all around performer until I heard a Lyra Argo i. I now use a Lyra Helikon instead of the Urushi in my main system and an Argo i in my second system.

Lyra has the qualities I like, detail retrieval and a tremendous sense of trackability, even across the most dynamic passages e.g., Ray Brown Soular Energy.

For me, line contact is the way to go.
Kurt has said it all and mirrors my experience better than I could say it myself. I am familiar with Stevecham's Helikon and used it until a switched to a Clearaudio Insider. What kind of music are you generally listening to? With your kind of setup, I'd opt for the Koetsu, although I completely have to agree with what Steve has told us.
If you don't want to spend the bigger bucks for the Koetsu stone series or the Platinum upgrades, consider the Urushi. The Urushi avoids some of the bass and treble colorations for which the lower level Koetsu's are noted but retains that wonderful lush midrange and tracks very well. Love my Urushi. When it wears out I will likely have it Platinum-ized.
I have owned about four Koetsu designs,ranging from "Black","ONYX","ONYX PLATINUM",and "URUSHI"....All were superb and musical designs.

I view the line,compared to other mfgrs like a musician would compare different "tone woods" on a specific acoustic guitar.

Some woods,like Maple,will give a dynamic hard/clean sound that best serves hard driving music,and some prefer a warm sounding "tone wood" like Rosewood or Mahogany,which gives full justice to some music types.

ALL are viable choices!!!....Btw,a friend has BOTH the Lyra Titan-i and the Koetsu Coral Stone.He loves both,but prefers the Coral Stone on vocal music,where he feels it has no peers.

Best of luck.
Dear fernando: Less tan a week ago this is what you posted:

+++++ " 04-22-08: Flg2001
Based on my research - I am leaning towards an SME 309 for replacing my RB300 on my Volvere - yes, the iV looks great - but out of my reach if I look for a mint piece... " +++++

well the XX-2 is a better performer with a different tonearm tan your RB-300 but for a Koetsu you will need a better match tonearm too.

Now, if you go for one of the stone Koetsus ( like almost all here already posted and you are toward it ) you need between 7K and 15K plus 3k for the tonearm, this goes to a final figure: 10K to 18K big dollars.

This is what you posted on your speakers:

+++++ " particulary on keeping the midrange OUT of the horn - this might call to try first due to the midrange presentation you all described (and I feel tempted to try). " +++++

IMHO and according to your music priorities your " trouble " is not about cartridges but about speakers: the one that you own are not the right ones for you : a horn always be a horn and the Koetsu or different amplifiers ( like you already tested ) or anything else does not change that fact.

You have to put your money where it counts for a system ( speakers/room ) performance that can match your " coulered musical " sound ( that btw is out of my mind what does that's means exactly like your statement on Koetsu cartridges: +++++ " cathegorize them as slow sounding or all other " fast " ones????? ) priority.

Well, like you sometimes say: my two cents.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Wow, a lot of postings here that agree with my own personal taste/experience. I like the Koetsu stone series because they are reasonably "fast" (dynamic and clear and not overly warm). But, the other Koetsu cartridges sound very good too. As Lewm points out, the Urushi is a particularly good overall performer.

Outside of the Koetsu line, I think the Transfiguration Phoenix should be considered as a candidate for your upgrade. This is a lively sounding cartridge with a slightly prominent midrange that gives it clarity without being excessively bright. I like the Lyra line too, but, these are on the more detailed and analytical side (more open top end, but can be bright or slightly strident). I own, and like, the Lyra Titan.
I recently purchased a Koetsu Black. It is Very nice, a bargain imo. A good place to start if you are curious. It replaced a denon 103R with ease.
I own the Koetsu Coral for two years. Noted its high frequencies extension compared to Urushi, another cartridge from Koetsu which I like and have been using it with Graham 2.2 tonearm. For my case, I found it to be critical for tonearm's effective mass matching with Coral and the fine tuning and adjustment of the settings prove extremely important to derive the best performance out of Coral, espeically to capture its high frequency intensity right. I use it with Triplanar and the ASR basis phonostage setting at 65ohms. It is definitely a fine cartridge with all the fine attributes that Urushi has, and maybe due to its stone body, the micro details is more focus at the upper frequency region as compared to Urushi. As for a wood body, Urushi when paired with 47lab Phonocube gives a very realistic and fine presentation in my system. Overall, lesser micro details as compared to Coral, but prove itself to be organic in the midrange with just sufficient frequency extension in both ends when heard in my system. Really a different taste with these two cartridges though they are from the same company. Top perfomers.
All Koetsus I ever listened to are great when the owner has a super analytical reproduction system and he looks for additional warmth. Here they are great with their dominant, blown midrange and their non existant high frequency area, linked with a weak bass. I like their design and the good pricing, when available 2. hand. They work well in heavy Arms.
Fernando - all the Koetsu's are great. I really love mine and recommend them unreservedly. However Raul brings up a very good point.

Your RB300 cannot, and will not, bring the best out of a Koetsu, not even the Black. If you go for a Koetsu you'll need to upgrade to a much much better arm.

Perhaps your first step should be to keep your current cart and upgrade your arm.

Thanks all for your feedback - I forgot mentioning that I already bought an SME IV tonearm - (currently on its way thru FedEX - and that is the reason of looking for a change of cartridge.

I agree with the description of the Dynavector sound - nothing to complain at except of a not so envolving presentation - tonality is great. speed and decay are fine as well, but a little lightweight presentation overall (could be my modified RB300?).

There is a Coral Blue (?) listed here at a reasonable price - but I just can't find any feedback on that particular Koetsu model. Hunting season started!

What budget are you looking into? It may be interesting to you that Albert Porter traded in his Jade for an Airtight PC-1.
Dear Fernando: Good to know that you will have the IV that is a better match to your XX-2 that the RB300.

Now, IMHO and due to my Koetsu experiences that SME is not the best match for a Koetsu cartridge. If you insist on this kind of cartridges you will find a better quality performance with other tonearms.

I think that before you decide to go for a Koetsu take the time with your Dyna in the IV.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Thanks Raul - you are not the first one who say that the Dyna in the SME will really shine - I will definitely take my time there - the arm will be here next Wednesday.

I remeber you recommending me the Sumiko Celebration for the SME - do you still agree?

What arms would you reccomend for a Koetsu? In particular are their older or less popular arms, ie. high mass, that you would reccomend that would be considerided a bargain, less tha $2000?
Dear Fernando: Yes, I do.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I think Raul makes a superlative point("Bravo" for bringing this up Raul)about some arms allowing Koetsus to shine,beyond other choices.

I am always amazed how some Koetsu owners claim sonic nirvana(or the opposite)with some of the arm choices used with them.

Regardless of some claims...these are very good cartridges,and deserve the absolute best in arm matings!

Because of the varying needs of the different models(how many are there now,and from past models?....Like maybe a zillion?) -:).....one should pay really close attention to mating the "best" arm.

This particular subject should "definitely" fall into someone like Raul's "expertise of arms,and match-ups"!!

Good luck
I've been considering a Koetsu as well. I'm curious as to opinions as to which arms match up well. I currently have a JMW 12.5 on a VPI TNT 6. Thanks!
I own both the dyna XV-1 and Koetsu Rosewood.

Yes the rosewood is warmer sounding, slightly fatter less deep bass and a little rolled off - but it sounds fabulous!!
I also have VPI HRX so they will work nicely on the 12.5 arm. Also try if you are game the cartridge man isolator. Works wonders on the koetsu, not so good on the dyna as it was right near the top of the VTA tower.

I have also been trying to figure out the best matching tonearm for my Jade Platinum. I have just changed amps, and
my system will be back up and running after having been down
for a long 6 weeks. I have had the KJP mounted on my Vector
3 w/ Basis 2500 TT. I have felt as if the Vector 3/ KJP match
may indeed not be optimal. However, I had to address the fact
that my amp was not a good match with my speakers first. I
should have a better idea of where I am at after my new amp
is setup, a Vac Phi 300.1 btw. I guess that I would remind
Fernando that the RSP and all wood bodied Koetsus may give
a bit more options with tonearm choice, as they are lighter
than the stone bodys. I am surprised to hear that the SME
would not work well, as I know of at least one person using this combo w/ great success. He has the SME 5 though. I have
got feedback from two other sources who say the SME's would
work well w/ the Stone series. The other arm that is supposed to be a nice match is the Phantom, , as Gerrym5 uses. Other than that, this has been a tough two nuts to crack.
Dear Franks: From what I already experienced about I can say that the Lustre GST-801 and a Dyna DV-505/507 are very good couple to the Koetsu.

Regards and enjoy the music.
How about MDC-800,Raul?I had my Onyx on that classic.

What would you put on a phantom and dyna DV 507 arm if you had a dyna XV-1 and Koetsu cartridge??
Dear Sirspeedy: I owned that arm and I never try it with Koetsu but if you are running there then that means that is a good match.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Downunder: The XV-1 is a very " noble " cartridge that sounds good almost everywhere, so either of those tonearms are very good match.

About Koetsu, this depend the stone ones like the Onyx Platinum works better on the Phantom but the Rosewood Platinum performs best with the Dyna. I'm not saying that the Rosewood/Onyx don't perform well in the other tonearm I'm saying that performs better.

Now, I know that many owners of the 507/XV-1 are using the own 507 headshell, that is a good one around 15grs on weight, and have very good performance: in my experience about I achieve a little better quality performance with a different headshell ( lower weight ), this cartridge issue is true for the Koetsu too and maybe if you try hard the stone's Koetsu could shine too on the 507.

The 507 give to any one the opportunity to find the best quality performance in the cartridge trying with different headshells, IMHO it is worth the effort and almost inexpensive. I'm not saying here that the 507 is the best tonearm out there because of that no there are other great tonearms and the Phantom is one of those top contenders.

Now, as you know when we are talking of tonearm/cartridge performance almost always the result is system dependent and " self " dependent according to each one priorities. Yes, today is almost imposible to have statements in absolute terms because all of us already know that almost all is " relative " .

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul - Some say that the 507 is a quite heavy arm for a suspension table - and is more suited for heavy-non-suspended turntables as yours - do you agree?
Dear Fernando: Ask to your TT builder. That subject is TT dependent, example the SME 20/30 ( a suspended design ) works very good along the 507, but the LP-12 is not good with the 507. You have to check.

Regards and enjoy the music.

If I may add to Flg2001's question about the 507. The issue with this tonearm is mostly related to mass distribution once the arm is mounted on the turntable. The arm itself is 3 lbs, which is something to factor in when considering matching it with some lightweight turntables, suspended or not.

A high-mass turntable design, suspended or not, should be able to accommodate the 3 lbs of the arm without much unbalancing of the mass distribution of the turntable. This is because the extra mass added is a small percentage of the total mass of the turntable.

Conversely, if such a weight (3 lbs) is added to a light turntable, the extra mass will be a large percentage of the total weight of the table and this will certainly tax one side of the structure of the turntable, eventually changing its resonance.

Of course, my comments are general in nature and they don't address any specific design of turntable. An engineer designing a light turntable could foresee the installation of a heavier arm and design the mass distribution and structural supports accordingly.



Raul and others, you have made me interested in purchasing a Dynavector 507 in order to max out the performance of my Urushi and future Koetsus I may want to own. I have never seen a Dynavector "in the flesh". Does it have provision for azimuth adjustment and/or VTA adjustment a la my beloved Wheaton Triplanar? Thanks and sorry for the OT question.


The 507 MK II has adjustment for azimuth via the headshell.

VTA adjustment can be done in two ways: one way is by adjusting the mounting hight of the arm, and the other way is via the 'hight adjustment level', located at the base of the tonearm. This level provides the easiest way to adjust the VTA and requires only your fingers. This level moves the tonearm smoothly up and down.

One of the main reasons for me to acquire this arm is that all parameters can be adjusted, and most importantly, they remain that way for a long time.



Thanks. The virtues of the 507 are similar to those of the Triplanar, as regards azimuth and VTA adjustment, apparently.
Lewm, the 507 is a great sounding tonearm. Highly flexible on cartridge matching, adjustability and a breeze to use. It's also a great tracker and will do warps without a hiccup.
Genesis and others who recommended Dynavector 507 with Koetsu: The Koetsus are relatively low compliance cartridges. The DV507 is said to be a "high mass" tonearm, but just looking at its unusual design, it would seem to have low mass in the vertical plane and high mass only in the lateral plane. Therefore why would it be a good match for a Koetsu? Further, a DV507 owner has advised me that the arm is NOT a good match for Koetsu in his experience. Unless the distal end of the tonearm that moves in the vertical plane is a lot "mass"-ier than it looks, I don't get it.
Well, it seems as if we know which arms do not mate well
with the Stone Koetsu's. It is rather unusual that there
are not many unanimous opinions as to which tonearms do.
This is likely my next step, now that I have my Vac amp
in and sounding so good. If I stay with my Basis 2500, I
would likely replace my Vector 3 with a Phantom. It will
take some time, as I must recup from the amp purchase and
the Grahams take a while to get. I have the Jade Platinum,
which I may have mentioned earlier in this post.

On of the features that I was looking for in a tonearm is that it must be compatible with most cartridges in the market today. I just didn't want to get caught up with a tonearm that couldn't handle a light-weight or a heavy-weight cartridge, should I decide to get one of these in the future.

Dynavector makes the following cartridges:

DV-10X5:   6.6 grams
20x H/L: 8.6 grams
17D3: 5.3 grams
XX2 MK11: 8.9 grams
Te KAITORA RUA: 9.8 grams
XV1-S: 12.6 grams

As you can see, their cartridge weight goes from 6.6 grams to 12.6 grams. According to the specs, optimum cartridge wight for the 507 MK II is from15 to 35 grams, including headshell. The headshell weights 15.4 grams. That means you can use it with a cartridge that weights nothing to one that weights 19.6 grams. This is possible by using one of the three weights supplied with the tonearm. Each weight is optimized for a particular weight range.

Since the headshell is detachable and uses as 4-pin standard connection, the 507 is compatible with any standard headshell in the market today. I can purchase extra headshells, mount a cartridge and forget about it. I can simply swap a cartridge in less than a minute because I only need to make sure that the appropriate weight is attached to the tonearm.

It also helped decide on the 507 the fact that the same company that makes these cartridges also makes a top-notch tonearm. I think one thing they needed to get right is that the 507 worked well with their cartridges.

I don't want to imply that the 507 for sure mates well with Koetsus, but I'll be highly surprised if it doesn't

Below are two links to reviews of the 507 MK II with more technical information about it.





Isanchez...superb post.I'll re-read those reviews to refresh my memory,having read the TNT review awhile ago.Fun to revisit quality products like this arm.

BTW,I had a friend who ran a Koetsu Onyx on an early version 507,and he had little to complain about.The speakers were the huge Beveridge designs,so the possibility of some "sweetening" of sound may have been at play,but it sure was interesting to listen to!


Sirspeedy, thanks for your kind comments. I did find those reviews very instructive when I first read them. I really believe that this tonearm can pretty much handle anything. It is a pleasure to set up and a bigger pleasure to listen to it knowing that it'll extract the most out of the record.



Dear iSanchez, I read the URL you posted on the DV507. Your post above Sirspeedy's last one missed the point of my question. I am wondering about tonearm effective mass as it relates to cartridge resonance, and you wrote about counter-weights and the ability to set VTF with a variety of weights provided. I have no doubt that the DV507, like any good high end tonearm, can be made to provide proper VTF with just about any cartridge. What bothered me was that by just looking at the 507, it would seem to have very low effective mass in the vertical plane, due to the vestigial nature of the vertically pivoted portion. If this were so, it would not be a good match for low to medium compliance cartridges, i.e., most LOMCs, including the Koetsus. However, now that I've read the review you've provided, I see that the 507 comes supplied with a 15-gram headshell, which will give it a pretty high effective mass when combined with the short arm tube and the screws, etc. Therefore, my question has been answered, and Raul points out that for high compliance cartridges one can use lighter after-market headshells. So the 507 probably can be made to mate well with most cartridges. Now, if it only allowed for azimuth adjustment....
Lewm said "Now, if it only allowed for azimuth adjustment...."

It does allow for Azimuth adjustments (it's in the headshell)... I've done it before.


Dear Lewm,

Sorry I wasn't more specific about your compliance question. I somehow missed it. The headshell as you point out is on the heavy side. I brought up the different interchangeable weights to show that the effective mass can be increased or lowered just by changing the weight that attaches at the end of the short part of the arm.

Based on Raul's suggestions, I have also tried using lighter headshells, although not as light as the ones he has. I found an increase of speed on the sound with a lighter headshell. This perhaps is the byproduct of having to use a lighter interchangeable weight to match the weight of the lighter headshell and cartridge. I'm not completely sure about why this happens, but a lighter headshell does have a positive effect on the sound.

IMHO, the issue of effective mass is controversial and difficult to measure. How much friction the arm is encountered with as it tries to move will certainly affect its effective mass. Therefore, a light tonearm with high-friction bearings will behave as if it has a higher effective mass.

I haven't found data for the 507 MK II's effective mass, but I found that the horizontal sensitivity is less than 50 mgrams, and the vertical is less than 40 mgrams.

Some people say that a turntable is only as good as its bearing. Well IMHO, the same applies to tonearm design. Of course, not all tonearms have bearings, but whatever mechanism allows them to move should be taken into account.



Cool! Thanks.

I would chime in and say that your XV-1s has a higher compliance than a Koetsu. I know that Koetsu's are extremely low. The 507 II matches well with a Koetsu. That might make it too high a mass for a XV-1s.

Did you try a test record to check the resonant frequency? That would help answer more questions. You do have some latitude but between 8-12 Hz is ideal.
Dgad, I think the point is that one can alter the effective mass of the DV507 in the vertical plane, by using headshells of different weight mostly. I am not sure about iSanchez' idea that changing counter-weights has much of an effect on effective mass, especially if the counter-weight is decoupled, which it may or may not be in the case of the DV507. BTW, the manufacturer's spec for the effective mass of the DV507 is a fairly high 25 gm; that would be with the standard 15-gm headshell, no doubt. The XV-1s is said to have compliance of 10 X 10^6 cm/dyne, while the Urushi is said to have compliance of 10-12 "cu" or compliance units. I think 1 cu = 10^6 cm/dyne. Therefore, the two cartridges have about the same nominal compliance, according to their respective makers. In actual practice, there may be some differences, however, since compliance is frequency dependent and probably VTF dependent as well, and the two companies may have different ways of measuring. In the end, you have to determine for yourself where resonance is occurring in your own system, using a test record, as you say.

I tried the Hi-Fi News test record about a year ago and I don't recall any anomalies from the test. I eventually didn't expect any weird results from this test since both items are from the same maker.

Lawm, ++++"I am not sure about iSanchez' idea that changing counter-weights has much of an effect on effective mass, especially if the counter-weight is decoupled"++++. Well, it's hard to tell how decoupled the counter-weight is. The documentation states that the flexibility of the mounting stub for the counter-wight is designed to reduce resonances of the arm.
My point is that the effective mass of the tonearm is largely governed by the mass between the pivot and the stylus contact point. The CW is on the "other" side of the pivot and I don't think makes much contribution to effective mass. I saw a discussion of this once on Vinyl Asylum between two very knowledgable persons, but I don't recall the final outcome. At the moment I have no time to look up the formula for eff mass, but it's available on the net.