Koetsu Coralstone Cartridge Page 2

The Coralstone has the Koetsu house character in spades, and this means a wonderfully open, insightful and spacious performance. My Michell Gyro has always impressed in terms of left-to-right soundstage, but it's not quite up there with the best when it comes to front-to-back depth. With the Coralstone on board this was suddenly much less of an issue. If you're after an immersive sonic experience without a room full of loudspeakers, this pick-up is the way to go.

Another standout feature of the Coralstone is its sense of detail across the midband; vocals, in particular, are drawn right out of the depths of recordings. Like most of its Koetsu brethren, this cartridge has a refined and finely textured sound, but the Coralstone has a touch more life and vitality to its nature than I remember from the old Red Signature. Whether this is down to the latest platinum-cobalt magnet and silvered coils is unclear, but none of the traditional magic is lost.

In addition, no-one should be concerned by the drop off in output at 20kHz as the Coralstone's treble behaviour is an utter delight. No, it doesn't offer the ruthlessly forensic retrieval of the likes of Audio-Technica's AT-ART20 [HFN May '23], for example, but it remains a crisp and clean performer. Moreover, it can separate high-frequency effects within the soundstage and put space between them. This means that without any artificial sense of 'turning up the treble', high-frequency effects stand out beautifully.


Micrograph reveals the Ogura 'line contact' stylus cemented (behind) to a 0.28mm-diameter boron cantilever

The acoustic guitar strings on Brandi Carlile's 'You And Me On The Rock' [In These Silent Days; Elektra 7567864317] had real clarity to them, but without any hint that the cartridge was trying too hard. Lead vocals were placed confidently centre stage, with an appealing space and tiniest hint of echo around them. It seemed as if the Coralstone had moved the recording session from a small backup studio into a far larger venue.

This MC's sculpted treble also means that percussion effects, while impactful and precise, typically avoid any artificial glare or 'zing' – so the cymbals and hi-hats backing The Doors' 'Riders On The Storm' [LA Woman; Elektra EKS-75011] were positively glorious. More alluring still was Ray Manzarek's Rhodes piano, which stood clear of the rest of the band, seemingly positioned just in front of me, while the portrayal of the track's rain sound effects was delicate and lifelike.

Character Traits
At the bottom end, Koetsu's Coralstone delivers a fulsome, detailed performance. Basslines are 'chewy' and there's a fine sense of rhythm, so that The Doors piece ambled along, each note with a form and roundness to it despite lacking the last word in both weight and impact. On the country-tinged 'Mama Said' from Metallica's Load LP [Blackened Recordings 0075328687], James Hetfield's vocals were as heartfelt as I have heard them and, once the chorus got into its stride, the bassline was warm, tuneful and deep. Moreover, although the bass drum strike that announces each chorus was arguably a little cautious – other Koetsus reviewed in HFN have proved the exact opposite – this unexaggerated 'thwack' proved better suited to the balance of the Coralstone as a whole.


Although colour-coding would be useful, the silver-plated cartridge pins are still sufficiently well-spaced to accommodate most tonearm leads/tags

So this is all about 'character' than any kind of deal-breaker and lends credence to PM's theory that the physical properties of the cartridge's body parts all contribute to the seasoning of its sound. There's got to be more to all those vibrant Koetsu colours than pure decoration, after all! I loved that it was possible to listen for hours on end to the Coralstone without fatigue setting in, and that it seemed completely agnostic to the type of music played. From Enya to Slipknot, from James Last to Trentemøller, Koetsu's premium pick-up never once gave any hint that it was out of its comfort zone.

Tunnel Of Love
Ultimately, though, I kept coming back to its performance on vocals, as this is where it really excels. Lana Del Ray's haunting, breaking voice on 'Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard', from the album of the same name [Polydor 0244859191], was spellbinding and showed the Coralstone at its absolute best. If you prize vocals and acoustic instruments above all else, then you'll adore this cartridge.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The Koetsu Coralstone is another masterpiece from the Japanese cartridge guru. While it has all the traditional Koetsu strengths of mellifluous insight and spaciousness in spades, it adds in a modern sense of vibrancy and precision. For those who think Koetsu appreciation is more mystical than sonic, it would be a grave mistake to dismiss the Coralstone – it really does offer the best of both worlds.

Tokyo, Japan
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
0208 971 3909