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Are Koetsus worth it?

Discussion in 'audio' started by Tim Jones, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. Tim Jones

    Tim Jones pfm Member

    I'm approaching one of those system rethink moment wherein I'll have an opportunity to do some good things. Alongside my distinctly out of date digital set-up, I'd like to take an opportunity to equip my SME20/3A and Aurorasound Vida with something less lowly than the current Benz Micro Ace SL cart I've had on for the past year or so.

    Don't get me wrong. I much prefer the Benz to the DV TKR it replaced; which was a bit too hi fi, and a bit too low an output, for my tastes. I do hear a lot of good things about the Koetsu/SME combination. But I'm a bit mystified by that, at least in the sense that the SME decks are relatively 'dark' sounding, while Koetsus (at least the 'cheaper' ones) are renowned for being down in the high end.

    Given the relative difficulty of auditioning high end carts, at this point I'm tempted to take a punt on something with a reputation for a more lively character - such as a Lyra, or even, weirdly, a 17D3. Any views or experiences welcome....
  2. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I think the SME/Koetsu synergy isn't really a bright dark thing, more the bold, full-bodied somewhat rose-tinted and romantic presentation of the Koetsu balances the slightly dry and analytical perspective of the SME. Lyra tend towards very bright, tight and dynamic and personally I'd prefer one on a warmer deck like an older LP12, Garrard 301 etc. Obviously a lot depends on the phono stage and rest of the system. I've always rather fancied a Koetsu, but never been able to justify the cost, I've liked the ones I've heard. I had a Lydian B for a fair while. The DV17 is very clean fast and enjoyable with great tracking and a lovely top end, but really lacks weight, slam and heft IME (I had one for a very short while, I liked it but it was just too thin for me). It would be a great cart to counter a really over-warm or weighty system.

    Please only take the above as broad-brush generalisations made over the years in various scenarios, obviously context and personal taste are everything when it comes to carts. It is certainly annoying they are so hard to get to hear these days!
  3. abbydog

    abbydog pfm Member

    About 40 years is a long time to sustain a rip-off... they are very good.
  4. flatpopely

    flatpopely Prog Rock/Moderator

    Who said rip off?
  5. Tim Jones

    Tim Jones pfm Member

    The rest of the system (SN2/Harbeth Compact 7s) is pretty much geared towards a mixture of midband insight (going through a jazz and chamber phase...helped by the Vida) with just a tinge of PRaT for old times' sake.

    I seem to remember Jason Kennedy putting a 17D3 on his SME20 with apparently great results. But I did live with 17Ds for the best part of a decade (on an LP12/Aro and then a P9), so part of me is willing the change. Plus I do take your point Tony that's it's not as simple as light/dark.

    I could probably stretch to an Urushi, but it's still a big stretch. With any luck I might find a dealer who might be willing to dem. Any volunteers welcome....
  6. abbydog

    abbydog pfm Member

    The OP's question was 'are Koetsu's worth it?'

    In my world, if something isn't worth the money, it is a rip-off.

    I make the point that the cartridges have survived in the market a long time for a reason.

    But then I have an Urushi on the Brinkmann for a reason, no?

    Do tell if you have a problem with these cartridges - or people using them.
  7. RossB

    RossB Member

    Some years ago I had a Koetsu Rosewood which I tried on the SME IV I owned at that time with an Orbe. I didn't feel that the SME/Koetsu combination was a good one, although many people do seem to use this combination. I found that the Koetsu sounded better on a heavier Japanese arm.

    The Koetsu was a nice enough cartridge, but these days I think there are better cartridges for similar or lower prices. I would take a Benz Glider over a Koetsu, for example.

    A Lyra may be what the OP is looking for, since they are certainly brighter sounding cartridges which can enliven an otherwise dull system. I've owned a number over the years - a Clavis DC, Clavis Evolve, Helikon, Delos, and Kleos. I don't know why I've owned so many, since I haven't really liked any of them, except the Evolve. They are all a bit lean and shrill for my tastes, but many people love them. Certainly if you want a contrast to the Benz, the Lyra will provide it.

    Another suggestion is a Van Den Hul Frog. To my ears this bridges the gap between the Lyra and the Benz sounds - it is fast, detailed and dynamic - more so than a Benz - but there is also a bit more body and tonal depth than a Lyra.

    You may also want to listen to some different phono stages. The Vida is quite nice, but can sound a little bland (I owned one for a while). As you own an SN2, you might be able to try a Naim Superline, which is more dynamic and characterful than the Vida. The Trilogy 907 and Tron Seven are also excellent options which personally I think are distinctly better than the Vida.
  8. andyr

    andyr Registered User

    I do know someone who loves his Koetsu but can I suggest a Benz LP? You can still buy the LP, even though the LP-S has been out a number of years ... although the S may be more readily available in the USofA. (Europe, I have heard, prefers the LP-S - which has quite a different sound. Or it's vv ... I'm afraid I forget which.)

  9. jy3

    jy3 pfm Member

    And just to make your choice more difficult, don't forget Transfiguration.
  10. koi

    koi pfm Member

    Or ZYX
  11. Dark Lord

    Dark Lord pfm Member

    try an ortofon spu royal N.

    very good.
  12. martin dawson

    martin dawson pfm Member

    Kiseki Blue NS does it for me.


  13. GJO

    GJO pfm Member

  14. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed pfm Member

    Don't get me started on Koetsus; or in fact any high end cartridges. It's an addiction. Be back later.
  15. Andy1912

    Andy1912 pfm Member

    I have a koetsu red on a SME 20/2 with Harbeth speakers. It's a beautiful thing. Replaced a DV17d3, which was good but is understandably outclassed by the koetsu. The sound is gorgeous.
  16. flatpopely

    flatpopely Prog Rock/Moderator

    No issues at all. I've only heard a Rosewood but it made some of the most realistic piano sound I have heard from an MC.
    Not heard a Brinkmann so can't comment.
  17. Gaius

    Gaius Trade: Stiletto by Tangerine

    Andrew heard the Koetsu round mine and yes it was a lovely cartridge. Are they worth it, well that's down to the individual but there is nothing else quire like them.

    Tim, I am just about to move on from a Karat 173/D to a Kiseki Purple Heart which might also be the very thing for you, you are welcome to pop over.


  18. Tarzan

    Tarzan pfm Member

    No experience of listing to Koetsu, however being based on looks alone they are worth the Wonga.:D

    Koetsu Urishi?

    Nurse! nurse!
  19. keith1962

    keith1962 pfm Member

    Moved from a Lyra Kleos to a Miyajima Shilabe and wouldn't go back!
  20. mjw

    mjw pfm Member

    Tim, I listen to a lot of piano and the Red Signature does it beautifully (albeit on a WTA, not an SME). Mine was a used buy from PFM and all sales being final I did worry about reports of a rolled-off top. It just isn't the case. It's a beautiful thing.
    Emil F might still have a Black for sale. I don't think he ever used it (but it's priced in Euros so perhaps not the bargain it was last year).
    Good luck

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