Koetsu Restoration

I just finished a weekend listening to a Koetsu Black I had restored by Soundsmith and thought I should share this with other members. I had it restored with Soundsmith's Ruby Cantilever and Optimized Contour. Their top of the line restoration. I have to confessed I never expected the out of the box performance I heard on this cartridge. I installed it on a second system and my wife said it sounded better than my main system which is $10K more expensive. The level of expression and musicality on this restored cartridge was beyond my expectations. Enough said! Before you discard your old cartridge you may want to consider a restoration. I did and I am really happy with the results. This is the first time I have had a cartridge restored and I am already considering the restoration of two other classic cartridges I have.
Many thanks for this post. I have a 20 year old Koetsu Black that is still quite functional, but some theorize that age alone ought to point me toward replacement or restoration. My only concern about any of the restorers is that I get the impression that the Koetsu will come back with more "air" and "detail" after the rebuilds...which scares me, because one listener's "air" and "detail" is another listener's painful brightness and edge. (I talked to 2 restorers about this, one in the States and one in the UK, who told me to expect this change.)

So, could you tell us just a bit about how the sound is different on the rebuild from what it was before - recognizing that you can't A-B them, of course.

Many thanks.
IMO, once a cartridge has been rebuild/retipped by someone other than the original maker, it will be considered a different cartridge. The fact that if it sounds better or worse.....is up to the owner to decide. Some can sound better, some just different and I know some who dislike them after the fact.

I have a few cartridges I will be sending to Soundsmith as they are not made anymore and the company defunct. Only third party people can fix them. So will try them. I believe them to be highly reputable.

If you like your Koetsu to sound like a Koetsu, then you have to send it back to them.

Congrats to Dserran. Thanks for sharing your experience and continue to enjoy your new toy.
Genesis said it all.
Hi Dserren
May I know what VTF are you using with the Black now and what was the original recommended VTF?

What is the TT setup of your main rig if I might enquire?

Soundsmith does a retip on Koetsus, they do not (as far as I know) rebuild the Koetsu. The only folks that do that are Koetsu themselves. I have had a Soundsmith retip twice on my Rosewood, and sonically it was at least as good as the original.

Sadly the Soundsmith tip proved very fragile in my environment and I lost both tips after a couple of hundred hours play time. Peter quite graciously retipped my cart at no charge, no questions asked the second time round, but I decided to have a factory rebuild (and upgrade to Signature level) this last time.

To your pint, it is definitely worth while to have a vintage cart retipped/rebuilt as they normally have a lot of life left in the motors after the tip has expired.

The rebuilt Koetsu Black does have slightly more air and detail, but not to the point of dislike. I don't like too much detail, so I would have noticed any exagerated analytical performance. It does preserve some of the basic qualities I liked of the Koetsu Black. Sorry I can't describe better what my ears hear, I just enjoy what I hear.

My main system is a Acoustic Signature Mambo with a Graham 1.5 arm that has been upgraded to 2.2 status and ceramic wand with integrated nightingale cartridge. To my ears a great set-up and I am also very pleased with it. The system where I am using the Koetsu Black is an Opera Consonance LP2.0 with SME M9 tonearm and the rebuilt Koetsu Black. Phono preamp for the first is Unison Research Simply Phono and for the second Linn Linto. The first is an all tube system whereas the second is an all Linn(SS) system. I have not A-B the Koetsu in my first system so it's difficult to compare one with the other. There are huge differences in the systems and it would be unfair to say that one cartridge is better than the other. I believe that for the price of the rebuilt, and with the system I am using, it's a great cartridge.

Tracking force is a bit less with the rebuilt cartridge than original.
Threaders : Peter of Soundsmith is a rare genius in the field of cartridge rebuild. Many of us have been content until listening to his work. In my world of audio-heads here and across the pond , Peter is the most respected cartridge builder. Please consider these comments before thrashing $$$$ rather than a re-build. Cheers !
I had my Red Signature retipped by the Experst Stylus company in the UK. I think it's very hard to compare the sound, once you have waited a couple of months for it's return, but it sounded pretty darn good to me. They replace tip and cantilever if necessary. Cost £225 against £1800 in the UK for a rebuild, the maths is pretty compelling
The suspension finally collapsed on my old Koetsu Rodewood Signature. Soundsmith did a suspension reconstruction plus the ruby cantilever and optimized contour diamond. It's hard to compare by memory, but there's no doubt that the rebuild has a higher resolution than the original. I'm very pleased.
20 years? Do these cartridges really last that long? I was thinking about buying a Black and even if it last's half that long that would be awesome..

My pre-amp is a Mcintosh C220 and it has about 64 db of gain, would this be enough for the Black? and if so what would kind of step up would be a good idea?


For what it's worth, I ended up buying a new Koetsu Black instead of having my 20 year old one rebuilt. I liked the old one reasonably well, but I have to admit, there was no real comparison. I think that those that postulated that the innards of the old one would have dried out (or whatever) and become less responsive were correct. (This wasn't a stylus issue...it just didn't have that many hours on it--1000, maybe 1500.) The new one seems wonderful, for my taste.

Markc2, the Koetsu is very low output. I didn't have a pre-pre in my pre-amp, so got a EAR 834P, which seems to be a really fine match for the Koetsu. Very recently, I got a Rhea, which I frankly don't like as much as the EAR so far, but it's not yet broken in yet, and everyone tells me to just give it time. I know that Koetsu used to make a transformer/step-up (because I still have mine). Don't know how good they are, but one guy told me to hang onto it...I guess they're kind of rare.
Mark, You wrote, "My pre-amp is a Mcintosh C220 and it has about 64 db of gain, would this be enough for the Black? and if so what would kind of step up would be a good idea?"

There is an internal contradiction in your question. If the gain of the C220 is sufficient, then you won't need any SUT at all. That's the ideal situation. If you're C220 really has 64db of phono gain, I would venture to guess that it WILL be sufficient for the Koetsu Black. I know nothing about the C220, but ideally you may want also to be able to reduce the phono load resistance from the standard 47K ohms to something like 100R to 200R for optimal performance, but it's a matter of personal judgement; the Koetsu will certainly "work" into a 47K load but may sound a tad bright.
My oops, this is me on very little sleep. I didn't know if 64db of gain was enough. So I could get the cartridge and it would work, as you say but might be tad bright.

Would the Grado Ph-1 mess up the sound of the Koetsu, or just let it be? Or are there any others out there along with the EAR?

Thanks for the help.

I've heard the EAR on a Wilson Benesch turntable, and it was very quiet, I could put my ear's to the speakers and I don't think I heard anything but just a slightest of whisper from the speaker, and that was my ear about 3 inches away. That with the volume turned up to normal listening levels.
Heed Quasar at $1k is a sonic bargain and versatile gain and loading-wise.

dealer disclosure.