Minor tragedy strikes

So I found my Koetsu Urushi was missing its cantilever today. Pretty sure the cleaner did it on Friday. Ho hum.

I bought it used at a good price 10 years ago, with a new tip, and did a retip myself at VdH. Used it for 7 of the last 10 years.

I had a Dyna XX2 Mk2 sitting in its box. Bought it new and used for 3 years, got it retipped 2 years ago and had not used it since. It’s actually really quite good and images better than the Koetsu.

I also use a SoundSmith Zephyr Mk3 on a second arm.

If I consign the Koetsu to history, looking at a new MC in due course, the Zephyr MIMC might be an option.

Any opinions? Surely not.


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Lyra Etna.

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Sound-Smith Sussoro. Sublime


Definitely a 1st world tragedy. :o)
I’m currently loving the heck out of a VDH MC-One Special. Has me thinking very seriously about a Frog Gold.


Thanks, that looks a good recommendation. VdH did the retip on my Koetsu and after 3 years the inspection showed only 10% wear. It’s helped by wet-cleaning my records, but the claims about VdH stylus longevity appear to be true, and then it can be retipped at a sensible cost.

It costs the same as the SS Zephyr MIMC, so I now have a shortlist.

Bit over budget (x3), even though my main dealer mostly uses Lyra.

I still also have a Frog gold low output. It’s great value for money if it fits in your setup.

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Having had a Koetsu Urushi Vermillion, which I think is somewhere at 5k?, I must say I wasn’t a fan. Nothing good to tell except it sounded (too) pleasant. I also wouldn’t refit it with a different (vdH) stylus. You’ll have a very different cartridge afterwards and you’ll not know which one.

Unfortunately a recommendation of a new other one makes no sense without knowing deeper about characteristics and specs of the rest of your phono setup.

My main arm is an Origin Live Ilustrious Mk3. It’s the cheaper end of the dual pivots, 12" with cable upgrade. I also have a Jelco 850 12", which has a knife edge pivot. I normally speak to Mark Baker at OL about carts. The OL was well suited to the Urushi and he likes SS so much he had the SS Zephyr rebranded as OL Aladdin.

OL do not sell VdH. A long established (and PSA) dealer called Analogue Seduction does and they also know OL, being a longtime dealer.

An issue will be my EAR Phonobox. I suspect the VdH load impedance of 500 ohms may be higher than the EAR. I’ve emailed EAR to find out.

If he can explain his experience with other carts and how the SS fits so good, I think it’s a good idea to rely on someone who has experience with concrete system synergy.

The Lyra Kleos is a worthy alternative, as is the Dynavector XX-2 Mk II. The Hana ML is also worth consideration and is considered to perform well above it’s price.

Analogue Seduction told me VdH are having issues as they can’t get parts, so they can’t say when anything will be available.

They also told me they had the SS Zephyr MIMC on demo for most of last year and loved it, but recently sold it ex-demo. There are no supply issues. So they are checking the loading values with Peter Lederman to see if it is a good match with the EAR Phonobox.

I had two quotes to repair the Koetsu: Northwest Analogue £2,000+ and no promises, Expert Stylus quoted £360 fixed fee. I’ve used Expert Stylus before and they are very good. His Royal Highness Prince Michael of New Jersey has also used them, if that’s of any relevance. So I will get it fixed, assuming it can be fixed, and may sell it.

Yes…I think the match with the phonology is less an issue, as you can change the resistors…the match with the arm might be more relevant.

Regarding the Koetsu you just have to check how a repaired one sells and if it’s worth to spend another 2k, as it’s a cartridge the original manufacturer doesn’t repair… it will be a different cartridge after the repair with a different cantilever and stylus.

The Expert Stylus repair at £360 uses a boron cantilever as original on Urushi, with a paratrace tip. It’s as good as you’ll get and is a popular choice.

There’s some chat here.

There’s a lot of love for ES. Sending it back to Koetsu, they put in a complete new insides and charge something like 80% of the new price.

There is no issue matching Origin Live with SoundSmith. As I mentioned earlier, SoundSmith actually rebrand some of their carts for Origin Live and I have one on a Jelco. I have used it on the Origin Live Illustrious when my other carts were off for cleaning/repair 2 years ago.
Spot the difference:
Screenshot 2022-01-25 at 00.46.14
Screenshot 2022-01-25 at 00.46.45

Turns out the EAR Phonobox is set at 40 ohms, fine for Koetsu and Dynavector XX2 Mk2, but not SoundSmith. Have my eye on a rather nice step-up transformer with variable loadings.

Origin Live say their designs work with any compliance cartridges, but the effective mass is 16.2g so would suit a low compliance SS Zephyr MIMC.

Why is vinyl so complicated?

It is…especially with a non variable phono pre in case you don’t want to change the resistor internally.

It’s strange how things go. So I got an email on Wednesday from a hifi dealer in Scotland looking for second hand kit. A good guy and they carry a lot of brands, but I’ve only ever sold through him. I have quite a bit to sell, I told him the issue and he recommended a unit by a company called Modwright, Phono PH 9.0. Ticks my boxes - valve phono, two inputs, manual controls on the front of the unit, narrow format, separate power supply, all reports that it is extremely low noise and performs very well. There is a knob with about 6 loading settings and a toggle for two gain settings. As I do not have access to the back of my hifi, they have to be on the front. That and a VdH Frog Gold, if he can get one.

Oh what a change! Good luck, but if the dealer knows the combination, it will be fine. The Frog definitely has potential with a strength in refined resolution especially on top end and is more than solid in its class regarding the rest.

The dealer can also supply the Stevens & Billington step-up transformers. They’ve been making SUT’s for three generations, their audio company is Music First Audio. The SUT route would optimise low noise, but possibly lose that valve goodness. Maybe this Modwright is the best of both worlds. There is a bit of a gap in the market at that price-point - around €3,000 - although they do a balanced factory upgrade that adds €1,000. I can also compare to the internal Devialet MM phono stage, which is good, but will this be better? I’ve heard superb solid state phono pre-amps, like the Brinkmann Edison II, a friend has one with the same Devialet, but it’s big, €10,000 and more for the power supply.

The fun side of audio and I don’t get to break the bank, and I get to listen to more records.