Koetsu Urushi: Blue Sky, Vermillion, Tsugaru

Does anyone have any knowledge or experience about how these Koetsu Urushi models differ in sound? I know the Blue Sky and Vermillion have lower output, and that each have different coil materials, but how does this affect the sound, particularly the sound of the highs?
No comments about these Koetsu models after so many months? Does this mean nobody knows or nobody cares?
Hi Warjarrett
I have the idea that most folks about, just don't have the Mega-Buck budget --- and so they couldn't care less?! :-)

Some say: --- that prices for these babies are big time marketing influenced, same motor, a few more or less windings here or there, put into yet another not so very pricy (in real terms) semiprecious stone -- voila another 10k $ item is born, make that 20k$ for their top offering... It smells like some elitist rip-off to me.

Some friend of mine has just come back from the Munich Hi-End Show and was not exactly blown away by the Koetsu’s when comparing with the other TOP MC offerings. If you want names I'll let you know :-)
I'm not selling ANYTHING, just some 'poor old audio sod' I am.

But lucky as it can get, I'm running an Orpheus in my system right now --- and keep on shaking my head, saying -incredible- all the time.
In fairness, I had listened to the likes of a Windfeld, Dorian, Axia, and etc. before, so no Koetsu which does little to answer your actual question.

Why not share your finding with your current Koetsu (I guess you are using one...)

I asked a similar question and got a similarly vague reply recently. I doubt that many have heard the different Urushi's. I had a Rosewood Signature that I loved, so do'nt listen to anyone saying you should avoid them, not directed at you Axel.
HiFiCritic, the ultra expensive, no adverts UK magazine recently did a Cartridge bake off and the Sky Blue Urushi won handsomly. Mind you, it was the most expensive.
If you are interested there are a couple of Urushi's on sale now on the Gon, for quite good prices. That is the only way I would get back into Koetsu, I could'nt afford new.
First of all, there are differences but I can never keep them straight, so I was reluctant to try to respond to your post for fear of mis-informing you. The differences are possibly in the types of magnets used, Alnico vs something else, but mostly in the wires used for the coils. I believe the Vermillion and/or the Sky Blue use silver-plated copper vs copper for the other variants. It's possible that the Sky blue uses pure silver. I use a Tsugaru (or Wajima?) and I love it. It's black with gold speckles, if that helps. The US and European prices are somewhat inflated by the importers and distributors, as is true for most other Japanese phono cartridges. If you are in Tokyo and willing to wait, you can get a good price. (Most Tokyo dealers don't stock them and they must be special ordered.)
Lewm: Prices, do'nt get me started. I can simply not understand price differentials in imported cartridges in particular. You think Koetsu is expensive in the US. A couple of years ago we paid the same number of £'s as you would in $'s for a Koetsu. That at a time when the $ was 1.8 to the £, a simply crazy difference. Both countries were importing from Japan, for goodness sake. At the time I wrote a long letter to HiFi+ about it and got a front page 3 page reply from Gregory, saying the difference was perfectly reasonable. You can easily see whose side the magazines are on and it's not the reader.

Then take the Benz line, we seem to pay about 40% less in the UK. I bought a new LP cartridge for about $2200 recently. What is it in the US, $3500? Can anyone even begin to justify these price differences? Perhaps it's shipping costs, they are pretty heavy!
I am just glad that I have a loving and loyal son who lives in Tokyo. That's how I solve the problem. But many Japanese cartridges sell for the exact same price in Tokyo as they do in the US, e.g., Lyra. I have never been able to figure that one out.

Warjarret, the more I think about it, the more I seem to recall that the Blue variant has pure silver coil wire, whereas the Vermillon has silver plated copper wiring. But this info should not be hard to verify. When I finally have to get my Urushi rebuilt, I am going to ask for the Platinum upgrade. They do not sell an "Urushi Platinum", but I think it's available on a rebuild.
Dear Warjarret: Here you can read something about:


it is very difficult to find a person that owns or hear both cartridges in his system so maybe the best you can do is to ask to Koetsu and see what opinion they have about.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I want to keep this thread going because I think Koetsu buyers need some way to decide, besides just how their dealer wants to direct them. At the last CES, I asked the USA importer for Koetsu. He said all Koetsu Urushis are built EXACTLY the same way. Maybe in the past there were some coil material and magnet material differences, but not for many years. Only the Vermillion is a little different, by having two coils in parallel (per channel), fewer windings for lower output and different guage wire to keep the coil resistance identical to the other models. He said all models sound exactly the same, with the Vermillion offered for people that particularly want the lower output. The Vermillion requires a high-gain/low-noise MC stage or step-up, whereas the others work straight into most phono stages. So it is really just up to the buyer to choose his favorite color, in these beautiful lacquer finishes.
"Urushi", I believe, refers to the art of lacquer application.
I recently saw a chart comparing the various versions of the Urushi. It seems to agree with what you say. Only the Vermillion is somewhat distinctive. I would buy the Blue, because I like blue. In terms of output, the Urushi is a "tweener". I am not sure it has quite enough output to drive just any MM phono stage, but it does not need much more gain than what is typical for such a stage. It seems popular to bash the Koetsu line these days, but the Urushi still gives me great pleasure, and I now own several other cartridges with which to make comparisons.

Mallet or sledge, Urushi or Onyx,
It matters not which assails my head,
Oh! boundless joy when it stops.

Just for Lew, and only because the OP did ask. ;-)
It is very hard to listen to more than one Koetsu.
You are talking 4000.00+ list per, most stores cannot afford to have more than one setup on a TT. I do not know of any stores that will let you take any cartridges home never mind a Keotsu or a few of them. The cost to set them up just to listen to the differances would not be cost effective. I read lots of reviews and talked with people who have frontends like mine before I desided to purchase mine. Purchasing a cartridge is really a crap shoot. It is like a matress, you do not know till you use it and it also has to get broken in to see if there are issues. IMHO.
Lewm said:
"It seems popular to bash the Koetsu line these days, but the Urushi still gives me great pleasure, and I now own several other cartridges with which to make comparisons".

I own a Jade, but will be buying a second cartridge soon.
Let's say in the $2,000 range new. Just curious what other carts you like along w/ your Urushi. I am considering the
EMT tsd-15 at the moment. I see this thread is on the quiet side as Koetsu threads tend to be, so figured I would hijack it. Thanks in advance.
Dear Doug,
I don't get it, but I am not offended. Now that I have widened my horizons, I realize the Urushi is not the be-all and end-all. Since you are a UNIverse aficionado, it is not at all surprising that you would not care for Koetsus (assuming that was the intended message of your prose poem). I have never heard any other Koetsu, but the Urushi is not guilty of the myriad of shortcomings ascribed to the breed, only some of them. Nevertheless, I still hear a certain quality in the Urushi that causes me to keep it around. It sounds particularly terrific on my Kenwood L07D turntable, for some reason. It also helps that I was able to purchase it in Tokyo for a fraction of the list price everywhere outside Japan.
Lew, I have the plain old vanilla Koetsu Rosewood, and I agree coupled with a DD table you seem to get the best of both worlds.
The great tone of the Koetsu and the speed and control a well engineered DD table.

Dear Fjn04, Like most of us, I like what I have or what I have heard. I happen to have a Colibri, which is the yin to Koetsu Yang (or vice-versa), but I like it too. In a head to head, I might have to rank the Colibri above the Urushi. I also have an Ortofon MC7500, the grandfather of the MC A90. I still have not plumbed that one for all that it can probably do. I've been playing with MM/MI cartridges, too. The Azden 50VL is conceivably a better all around cartridge than many of the expensive MCs. I am very interested to hear the latest Transfiguration and Lyra cartridges, especially their mid-priced ones. Downunder makes a good point; when you combine the Urushi with a very good direct-drive turntable (like his P3 or my L07D), there is synergy.
Interesting stuff. I have heard Brinkman's new TT is a DD.
Thanks a bunch. Of course the Stone bodies are a little tougher to match on a tonearm.
I think Brinkmann now make two direct drive turntables, which they seem to sell right alongside their very excellent belt drive products. I have no idea which sounds best, and there has been sadly little mention of the fact that the Brinkmann products are even out there (at least in the English speaking audio press, perhaps not so in Germany).
I use an onyx at the moment and just love the Koetsu sound. I also have a Benz Micro LP, which is different but on the same warm side of neutral as the Koetsu's. The Zxy Airy 3 I had before was cold and dry in comparison, IMHO. I know others love Zyx.
I would look at Benz then, but I know they are more costly in the US than they are in the UK. Mine cost me about $2000.
Unfortunately there is no koetsu factory site to clear all the questions , i have the wajima and its very good i have also heard the black on several occasions and a stone body i cant remember the type also very nice i dont think you can go wrong with any of them
I have both the current Sky Blue and the Vermillion versions of the Urushi line. The Vermillion has a lower output and thus fewer turns on the coils. In theory this lower output & less mass should result in better sound. I cannot hear any difference.

As to the wire used in the two cartridges: It is exactly the same. I know the advertising copy states that the coil wire is different, but in reality it is the same.

Just go with your favorite color preference or best buy. I think the Blue (really turquoise) is pretty cool. I had Bob Sattin of Bob's Devices build a custom SUT using Sowther OCC transformers in a blue color to match that Koetsu. There is a picture of that SUT on his web site.

There is a photo on my Koetsu Blue in action on the ttWeights Customer Photo page.

The sound from both is pure Koetsu magic & romance.

At this writing am using the Cardas/Benz Silver Myrtle Heart for a more "clinical" sound, but switch to the Koetsu's often.