Koetsu Urushi Vermillion Cartridge Lab Report

Lab Report

A schism is widening in the world of pick-up design. On the one hand there are brands pushing at the edge of suspension design, generator efficiency, low tip and moving mass, while employing sophisticated yokes and body materials. Recent examples include the Ortofon MC Anna Diamond [HFN Oct '19], EMT Jubilee Silver [HFN Jun '19] and Lyra Etna SL [HFN May '18] – all designed to achieve a very extended (often 'brightened') response with low distortion and excellent tracking performance. Even the Kiseki Blue NS [HFN Jul '18] despite superficial similarities, leans more towards these technically-driven pick-ups. But Koetsu's, as KK remarks, are closer to an artform in aspiration and performance.

The Vermillion's rich and lush sound is betrayed by the lateral and vertical responses [Graph 1, below], although its excellent symmetry in extracting L+R and L–R cuts contributes to the scope and uniformity of its soundstaging. Here the marked presence and high treble roll-off, amounting to –5.5dB/20kHz (lateral) and –7.8dB/20kHz (vertical), is part of a downtilted trend starting as far back as 200Hz and is more exaggerated than we saw with the Urushi Sky Blue [HFN Jul '13].

The 208µV output is almost exactly half that of the Sky Blue variant, and demands a very low-noise step-up solution. As with the other Urushis, the mechanism is symmetrically poised – the compliance measuring close to 11cu in both planes and ideally suited to medium/heavy tonearms – but it's not a confident tracker. Grooves up to 60-65µm were traversed but the right channel let go at just +12dB (re. 5cm/sec) at 300Hz. Distortion is moderate at 1-2% (vertical) and 0.4-3% (lateral) up to 3kHz, but is almost entirely, and benignly, 2nd harmonic in character. PM


Frequency response curves (–8dB re. 5cm/sec) lateral (L+R, black) versus vertical (L–R, red)


Lateral (L+R, black infill) and vertical (L–R, red) tracing and generator distortion (2nd-4th harmonics) vs. frequency from 20Hz-20kHz (–8dB re. 5cm/sec)

Generator type/weight Moving-coil / 9g
Recommended tracking force 1.8-2.0mN (1.9mN)
Sensitivity/balance (re. 5cm/sec) 208µV / 0.23dB
Compliance (vertical/lateral) 10cu / 12cu
Vertical tracking angle 26 degrees
L/R Tracking ability 65μm / 60μm
L/R Distortion (–8dB, 20Hz-20kHz) 0.5–28% / 0.9–17%
L/R Frequency resp. (20Hz-20kHz) +2.1 to –7.9dB / +2.3 to –5.3dB
Stereo separation (1kHz / 20kHz) 29dB / 22dB
Price £4498

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