04 May, 2016

Rare Cartridges: Nagatron Ribbon, Stax Electrostatic

Smorgasbord: Versa Dynamics 1.0 under Walker Proscenium Gold Signature; Foreground: Technics SP-10/Stax/Electrostatic. Middle, right: Garrard 301/Ikeda 407/Nagatron ribbon; center, amp for Stax; left, Garrard 401/SME3012/Nagatron Induced Magnet. Click pics to enlarge.

Letter from NYC (54) 2016 (10): Heroic Analogue Efforts
Rare Cartridges: Nagatron, Stax

(Article finished in HK). For me, this is a special article. Not many are privileged to get to hear even one rare analogue legend, not to mention several in one morning. But my friend Andy basically did a "presentation" for me, and I am damn impressed! Thanks to the old souls who keep the flame alive! In an era of hyperbole's (generously applied to each new generation of "super" cartridges), re-visits to an older era should be mandatory.
I had first arranged to take my Empire and Shure cartridges to Andy's place for a listen. As it would be a lot easier to have an arm with a removable headshell, I asked Andy to make one available. Imagine my surprise when I walked in to see so many turntables, armed with RARE cartridges. Pics here are indeed worth a thousand words...

We did not listen to the Versa Dynamics 1.0 under the Walker Proscenium Gold Signature (with Stanton 380, reported previously). For associated equipment, see the link.

Garrard 301/Ikeda 407/Nagatron (Jeweltone) HV-9100 Ribbon
Nagatron Ribbon (0.04 mv output) was connected through a dedicated 1:100 transformer (Nagatron Z Coupler).

Garrard 401/SME3012/Nagatron 360CE Induced Magnet
 SME 3012 (converted from SME 3009) with damping trough

About Nagatron I found some of Andy's postings in vinylengine. Attached below.

"...Nagatronics was active in the heydays of the vinyl era. They marketed in America a full line of phono cartridges made in Japan by Nagaoka during the 70s and 80s. Nagatron as a brand is now mainly remembered by their induced magnet cartridges which, imho, can still hold their own sonically against many high-price phono cartridges currently available.

Nagatron's flagship cartridge was not an induced magnet type but was of an "exotic" ribbon design. Instead of a magnet, a piece of iron, or a coil in the magnetic field, there is a strip of ribbon. According to Nagatron, the ribbon design offers the highest degree in linearity of all the magnetic phono cartridges. The penalty, however, is in the output level. It is around 0.04mv, a magnitude lower than the current low-output MCs, therefore, requiring a high-gain transformer or head amp to work properly into a normal preamplifier.

There is also this lencoheaven thread (where the pics of the HV9100 below come from)

Sonic Notes HV-9100 I absolutely adored the Ribbon HV-9100! Although working in a different way, its sound did remind one of the ribbon planar's clear, pristine presentation, but sans the undesirable peakiness. An open window; marvelous! 360CE As for the Induced Magnet 360CE, the sound was softer, but eminently enjoyable. Part of this may be attributable to the more mellow damped SME arm (as compared to the Ikeda). In any case, the sound was still excellent and hard to fault!

Andy told me Nagatron lost its shirt developing the amplification/transformer for the ultra-low output cartridges. Admirable heroes of hifi! I am sure there will be more Nagatron in  my analogue future!

Technics SP-10/Stax UA-7 and CPX Electrostatic Cartridge
Stax CPX electrostatic cartridge is connected to the Stax UA-7 arm via a dedicated arm tube.Stax Electrostatic is fed through the Stax POD-Xe, a tubed oscillator/de-modulator unit with a bypassable 10db solid state booster amp.

More on Stax Here is a vinylengine gallery that has a lot more pics for the Stax (and Nagatron) stuff covered in this article. Enjoy! Personally I am a huge Stax fan. Their earphones are still unrivaled imho. Hence I was very eager to hear this setup. Sound The sound was still very respectable, but the midrange and lower treble were not quite fully fleshed out and not quite as good as the Nagatron ribbon. We even tried bypassing the booster amp with my iFi iTube buffer (6 db gain setting) but there was not much difference. I suspect the more "direct" direct-drive may be a culprit here. But I'd love to hear this cartridge in another setting.

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