I have an old Koetsu Rosewood Longbody from long ago. It came with a Linn LP12/Ittok, so cost nothing. But it had no stylus, and I’ve never heard it.
The stylus was sheared clean off. Some colorful fuzz was left at the scene, and forensics showed it to be red and green woolen fibers. The culprit was a clumsy audiophile in a red-and-green sweater (Christmas colors, so maybe too much egg-nog) who snagged the diamond in his cuff.
Despite the violence, the cantilever is perfect — straight and true, with a beautifully beveled flat tip for seating the stone and setting SRA. It’s not hole-through, so probably was an adhesive-only bond. Coils are fine. Suspension seems fine — sitting on a stationary LP at the right VTF, it rides just right, not low nor high — and compliance feels in the right ballpark. All in all it’s very clean, and produces sound. There’s no erosion of the gold plating, so it may have been newish. 91447 is carved into the aluminum, and an “S” — does S indicate a “signature” model?
Is it worth retipping?
As you can see, I know nothing, so any suggestions are welcome, even negative ones, especially from those who know the cartridge, and have experience with retipping.
My intention now is to keep the boron rod and just add a diamond — it should be quite close to the original sound — but I’m open to change. Installing a new cantilever+stylus is easier and less expensive, but the resulting sound is an unknown, maybe better, maybe not, maybe not Koetsu. Why have a Koetsu if it doesn’t sound like one?
Stylus-type is an issue too. I can’t even find what the original stylus was, I believe a type of hyper-elliptical. I think a fancier cut would add detail but not alter the sound otherwise, but might be wrong.
So — as I know nothing, and my few ideas may be wrong, guidance is needed.
@bpoletti Wrong. It’s a fact. People who can afford expensive cartridges should stop being cheap and do a factory repair or a proper replacement. If one can’t afford it, one shouldn’t have bought expensive materialistic toys to begin with.
Thank you all for the suggestions so far. The response has been much more than I expected.
As Nandric notes, “price is of ’some’ consideration.” As he also says, Koetsu doesn’t “retip” — they gut the cartridge, leaving only the body. Maybe, if it’s a current model, they replace it with the innards of that model. But a long-discontinued model like mine...? How do they fill my empty little Rosewood box? I don’t know, maybe with the innards of their cheapest, a Black, and charge me more than I would pay for a brand new Black... if I wanted a Black.
I want a Rosewood Longbody — and I have one, except for its smallest, and most important part, the stylus.
This leads back to my question — Is it worth fixing?
I only know its reputation: glorious midrange, weak in bass and treble — much like the Quad 57 electrostatic speakers, which I know well, I had many.
Three all-Quad systems — 2 pairs of Stacked Quads (8 panels), and a single pair for the bedroom. Each panel was driven by its own Quad II valve amp. I even had spare Q-II amps as dedicated power supplies for the three Quad 22 preamps which controlled each system. It was heavenly.
Sounds expensive, certainly at today’s prices. But at the time and place, nobody wanted those obsolete old-fogey speakers. And valve amps? Why, when you could have 20-times the power with a Krell? People accepted any offer for their “old crap”— they even threw in all their unused new spare valves for free, eg real Gold Lion KT66s — just be rid of it all.
I know the Rosewood isn’t an “all-rounder”, and of course I won’t use it to play Heavy Metal. No loss, I don’t play Heavy Metal. But it might be ideal (even unsurpassable, like the Quad 57) for the right, midrange-dominant music — solo acoustic instruments, intimate vocals, small chamber groups both classical and jazz — and that is my main musical diet.
Or do I have ridiculous, over-romanticized notions of the old Rosewood? Am I choosing an old shriveled senile woman to be my lover because she was sobeautiful in those tattered old photographs?
If this new info triggers any new thinking, please share.
1. Is the missing stylus the only problem with this cartridge? 2. If not what else is wrong with it?
So if the missing stylus is the only issue there are three places I know of you could send it to have a new stylus installed.
If removal of the stylus caused suspension damage, or the passage of time has caused suspension deterioration then if you want it to sound like a Koetsu Rosewood you need to send it to Koetsu for a rebuild. I would assume that Koetsu will rebuild it appropriately not giving you anything less than what they believe is correct for a Koetsu Rosewood.
Unless you just want to pay for a rebuild from Koetsu, I would send it to SoundSmith, Phono Cartridge Retipping or Expert Stylus for evaluation. If the evaluation indicated damage to the suspension I would send it to Koetsu. If you don’t want to pay that much sell it as a broken item and someone will buy it. If there is no suspension damage I would have the stylus replaced leaving the original cantilever in place.
The ONLY options are to send it to Koetsu or buy a new cartridge.
Have Koetsu do the work. No brainer
Nandric mentioned earlier: "Price, you know, is also of some consideration." I share his view. Are we the only two, Nandric?
But I have a larger issue. Assuming I get the Koetsu working, I’ll face another decision — what tonearm? I own three candidates than seem to be suitable in terms of eff mass, rigidity, bearing quality and adjustment, etc — the Rosewood, according to VE, is very low-compliance: 5 x 10-6cm/Dyne.
The arms are Linn Ittok, Syrinx PU3, Odyssey (penultimate iteration). Both Odyssey and PU3 were dealer-demos, so very little use, and proper use by skilled people, i.e. almost new. The Ittok is more experienced, but in fine shape, passes the swing-test with flying colors, etc.
Of course I can just try all three and decide. But all 3 are fixed-headshell, not easy to mount cartridges, and that’s when damage is most likely to occur. So I hope the first arm I try is "the one", and maybe you can help me here too — especially if you’ve used a Koetsu on any of these arms.
Which should I try first?
Gain stage will be Audio Interface CST/80II SUT first, with an EMT/Thorens active head-amp as an alternative.
[I wish I could post photos of the arms here, but that doesn’t seem possible.]
A few considerations: 1. I understand that Koetsu will not service any cartridge that has been touched by someone else; so if you send it elsewhere, it will never again be a Koetsu. 2. One difference between a Rosewood and a Signature is the quality of the rosewood - aged 20 years for a Signature. You already have that! 3. I’m almost certain that you would be getting a Rosewood or, more likely, a Signature rebuild. Just can’t imagine Koetsu treating a classic like that with contempt. 4. One way to make absolutely sure that you get a fine rebuild is to specify platinum magnets. That’s the best modern Koetsu technology. Costly, but worth it. To me.
I have a Koetsu too - and when it’s time comes, I plan to send it back to the factory.
I wouldn't mess around with the retip based on my own experience. Send it back to Koetsu and you know it'll BE a Koetsu. But then again you don't know what it supposed to sound like so maybe that would be fine to. For the cost of my retip fail plus the expense of the same cart to replace I was dollar wise pretty close to being able to pick up The Statement v2 on an exchange. Might be more cost effective in long run to cough up the extra up front.
My recently acquired RSP was killed by a run in with a duster when I was out of town. Snapped the cantilever clean off. I called Music Direct (where it was purchased) to get it rebuilt by Koetsu. $4200. I called SoundSmith who has done hundreds of Koetsu repairs and now offer a boron cantilever, $450. This a log10 difference in price and I bet, not a log10 difference in sound pleasure. Yes, its not a Koetsu any more, yes its resale value just bit the dust, but I bet it will still sound amazing.
The retip is more expensive than swapping out the cantilever but worth it.
"Retip" is a misnomer. Replacing tip-only is more difficult, that’s why "retippers" avoid it. As I understand it, "swapping out the cantilever" means a complete new cantilever+stylus, and it just inserts into a small tube, with plenty of surface area for the glue-bond. Retipping (stone only) needs far more precision, and offers a smaller, more precarious area for the adhesive — much easier to fail, either on the bench, or later while playing, which means an angry customer.
Lord knows one has plenty of waiting time before SS gets to your repair.
I called SS, left voicemail, followed with two emails. Took six weeks for a reply, a callback by an unnamed someone who told me to call back in another six weeks. Andy Kim took my call instantly and we talked for over 20 minutes. He wanted to do the cantilever thing, not a retip. I had other cartridges to discuss (Accuphase, Fidelity Research, Supex) so we just moved on. A pleasure to deal with.
SS might be a pleasure to deal with but they never gave me the chance.
Its true that if you want SS to perform your repair you have to be patient. I'm on week 13 (but who's countinng?) since they received my cartridge and have not heard a thing. However, they indicate that non SS cart repairs average 8-14 weeks wait time. I have a feeling the best way to communicate is through email and their own repair tracking system. In the meantime I enjoy my other carts, which include a SS Zephyr MIMC. I wonder what the turn around time is for a rebuild with Koetsu Japan?
Best to communicate with SS through their repair tracking system. I always got very quick responses when communicating that way, not so with e-mail. They did excellent work replacing the cantilever and tip on my Cardas Myrtlewood, took just 2 weeks. I spoke to the gentleman who does this work (forgot his name) on the phone 3x, it was no problem at all getting in touch with him. I expressed to him my great surprise that he did the work so quickly and he explained that once he takes these apart to assess damage the parts are so minute that he usually repairs them right away because it's much easier than going back to the cartridge later. $450 for the complete rebuild, a very fair price.
I have had Koetsu and Kiseki, among other artisanal cartridges and would not hesitate to send one to Andy or Peter. However, Peter commonly uses the European styli. Van den Hul, Gyger, etc.
If you go this route IMHO I would specify that the retipper use a Japanese stylus. Ogura Vital would probably be dead close to the original, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use the better Namiki styli either.
Its just a machine, no magic involved and no reason to take out a 2nd on your house IMHO.
Clarity combined with experience, thanks Viridian. And good tip to use Ogura or Namiki, I hadn’t thought of that.
Yes, $2–4,000 is fair for a "new" Koetsu, and since I got it for free, I don’t even have to add the original cost to the total. Still, that’s a lot of money when I don’t even know if I like it — it was sty-less when I got it and I was never able to play it. A retip only, with a similar stylus, will be very close to authentic, at 1/10th the cost. And Andy’s turnaround time is usually fast — though impatience would hardly be appropriate since I’ve just had it sitting in a drawer forever. And admittedly, I’m a bit spoiled on price. I was able to buy a collection of top-drawer cartridges many years ago, from a retired high-end dealer overseas. They’re all NOS, and all for prices so low no one would believe me — but I’ll tell that story another time.
There’s one more alternative we haven’t considered — do it myself. But that’s probably a whole new topic...
van den Hul retips does suspension and cantilever replacement. Turn around time is less than 30 days. AJ van den Hul works in all rebuilds personally. Send all inquires to Finest Fidelity 386-341-9103. He is a master at this with 44 years experience
@terry9@sturgus Just a little follow up. Peter Ledermann at SoundSmith called me after inspecting the damage to my newish RSP. Evidently, the house cleaner not only snapped off the cantilever, but also bent the aluminum cantilever mounting pillar and dislodged the damper and suspension. Ugh. After 10 hours of work he was able to correct the damage and mounted a boron cantilever whose low mass closely matches Koetsu. He performed a full alignment and waveform test. The cartridge channel separation is 37dB; bal 1dB. Mounted back on the FR-64S, the cartridge still sounds wonderful; midrange magic, 3D imaging, and so dynamic. I put 8 hours on it yesterday evening. Needless to say, I am very pleased with this outcome. I realize that to some people, a major "con" of a non-Koetsu repair is lower resale value. But I plan on keeping this one until I wear it out!
Karl, My own Urushi is now about 8-9 years old and has been out of use for a few years now, as I was investigating various MM and MI cartridges and lately obsessing alternately over an Audio Technica ART7 and a ZYX UNIverse (each mounted on its own turntable). Plus I have been playing with old Ortofons, MC7500 and MC2000. The Urushi is just lying there begging to be either used or sold. Then I too saw that SS was offering a boron cantilever and have thought of having my Urushi refurbished. The first step, however, would be to send it to Peter L for an assessment; I am not at all sure it even needs work. Anyway, thanks for your report. I would be interested to learn how you come to feel about the SS-retipped Koetsu after more time has passed. So please keep reporting. (By the way, the ZYX UNI is the champ of them all, in my system, in my opinion, pending a re-review of the Urushi.)
To bimasta: The last thing I would worry about is the notion that Koetsu would cheat you by re-installing inferior parts into your Rosewood body. You don't understand the importance of honor to the Japanese. Yes, you'll pay "through the nose", but you will get exactly what you pay for.
@lewm I most certainly will put some more hours on the cartridge and feedback. But my initial impression is that the cantilever/stylus that SS uses for Koetsu repairs (and the work Peter did to put Humpty Dumpty back together again) allows the inner Koetsu sound to come through. Maybe most of this character is due to the specific Koetsu magnets/coils/dampening?
I also like ZYX and owned a Yatra for a couple years. That cartridge was really sensitive to set up and tonearm pairing. In the end I thought it to be too polite a cartridge for my tastes. I understand the UNI is in a different league!
UNI is special. I have to wonder whether its offspring, the UNI II, etc, etc, are really progressively better or just progressively more expensive. Those who own the later models do claim that they are even better.
With Koetsu, the wood bodies are credited for the sonic characteristics. But if that is the case, then I don’t know how to explain the apparent fact that the stone-bodied models preserve the Koetsu "sound" while performing even better, or so it is said. You inferred that the original Koetsu cantilever is boron, like that which can be had from SS. Is that the case? If so, one would hope for not much (or not any) degradation associated with the SS re-tip. PS. I just checked at the Koetsu website. Indeed, the Urushi does come with boron cantilever. I probably knew that once.
i have many of these fine koetsu units and while koetsu will rebuild it there are other options...van den hull will do a great job about 800 really fine work also soundsmith about 1000 will do a great job also. there are many fine craftsmen who can restore it to a nice playing unit. my best result was soundsmith but van den hull is great also. i rebuilt a onyx at koetsu at a cost of 5000 and it was wonderful but honestly van den hull did a wonderful rebuild as well. dont go nuts do what you can afford ignore the snobs.
Thanks for the down-to-earth advice, Biznipian. Did you have any particular snobs in mind to ignore? I mentioned many posts ago that I was considering retipping it myself — I wouldn't be the first. There was no response, negative or positive. Have you any thoughts on it?
Biznipian, thanks for your report and I agree with your advice. The concern is that having the work done by someone other than the maker would lessen resale value. Hence the “snobbery”. I wouldn’t hesitate to use SS myself. I wonder what currency you use, because the boron costs 450$US at SS, so far as I know, not 1000.
I believe $450 would be the price if nothing else is wrong with the cartridge. Extra can be added to the cost if Peter needs to spend hours repairing the suspension or dampening mechanism for example. For the OP, it would probably be just $450.
@lewm Have you listened to your Urushi on the FR-64S yet?
The concern is that having the work done by someone other than the maker would lessen resale value.
Good point Lewm, if one intends of sell it, or if not, keeping that option open is important. My current plan, at my current age, is to keep my small collection ( 20 or so) working and continue using them. Fortunately most of them are nearly NOS (many still are) and all play nicely, so this seems viable. Buying even one new cartridge of similar quality would likely cost as much as my entire initial investment in all of them. A couple need retipping or other repair (e.g. two Accuphase AC-2, and a FR1Mk3F I’d like to try with a stiffer cantilever and more resolving stylus) and I’ll gladly bear this cost because it’s not excessive; less than the cost of a mid-tier modern MM.
Second question — would such an old Koetsu (a relic, antique, dinosaur) have much resale value today? It’s widely viewed as "good for its time" but left in the dust by newer designs. Even if repaired by Koetsu, would its resale value even recoup the considerable cost of this repair? Or might a retip by someone else, while having less total value, provide a greater margin to recoup, or even come out ahead?
The old long-bodies are rare and highly sought after by some. On that one, personally I’d prefer to see it stay a “genuine” Koetsu. Either get it done by Koetsu or sell it to a collector. A collector in Asia will have a much more affordable route to a Koetsu rebuild than through our USA dealer network, anyways. With a more modern Koetsu the issue of 3rd party retip vs. Koetsu rebuild is a much closer call, but certainly all Koetsu will see a real drop in resale value once they’ve been worked by anyone other than Koetsu.
Every few months there seems to be another ad like: “Koetsu stone, just back from SS retip, ruby cantilever, 5 hours, sounds better than new!”. Yeah that must be why you’re selling, after waiting months to get it back, then playing it for just 5 hours, lol.
Bimasta, re the resale value of your old Koetsu, there’s a saying in the used car business...”there’s an ass for every seat”.
mulveling, I assure you that ss does not ruin great phono cartridges, but putting a sapphire cantilever on any Koetsu would surely change its character. anyone who would be surprised to find that out after doing it is naive. Peter Ledermann would tell that to any prospective customer in advance.
It is definitely worth retipping. Who retips it, is a matter of what you intend on doing with it. If you intend to keep it and listen to it, you have to determine if you want to hear it as it originally sounded, Koetsu rebuild, or as a classic rebuilt mc, then any other retipper mentioned. If resale value is the intent, then that choice is apparent. If you only want to get it working to have a very good backup, then, well you know, get it retipped by any reputable retipper. But it can be sold, as is, to any collector, who values the longbody.
Thank you Mulveling, Lewm and Fletchj — good insights and suggestions. The cartridge as-is has the original boron-rod cantilever and it’s undamaged. Most retippers want to replace the cantilever too. But owners of this cartridge tell me that changing the boron would be a big mistake, not only "changing" the sound but degrading it considerably. It’s hard to find a retipper who will simply replace the stone, and they charge a hefty premium for this ostensibly simpler task.
Do any of you have experience in this area? Can you point me to a retipper who does what the name suggests, i.e. re-tips?
Many thanks for the help you’ve already given, and any more you might be able to offer.