I find it hard to keep my enthusiasm bottled when something special and unique arrives from the Land of the Rising Sun—especially if it’s high-end and embodies something unexpected.
From the opening of the Murasakino Sumile MC cartridge’s package, one can immediately sense the nature of something different. Sumile comes as the premiere product from Murasakino Corporation.
The main translation of “Sumile” relates to the Viola flower. This resonates with the juxtaposition of the violet and gold design standing out from across the room with its special aura, inviting you to make an aural connection. Other meanings and translations point towards the three syllables forming the meaning of “gift” in Japanese.
With 1.2Ω, this MC cartridge is of very low-impedance. Manufacturing a low-impedance cartridge should be fairly simple since the impedance is kept low by reducing the number of turns in the coil. Yet, fewer coil turns also reduce the output voltage, requiring compensation by a much grander amplification factor, easily introducing a more evident noise floor. The team at Murasakino have strived to solve these problems by maintaining low impedance while ensuring sufficient output voltage.
The cartridge’s base to which the power-generation system, including the coil, is attached is made of stainless steel. Stainless steel is renowned for its stable sonic resonance signature and there are many manufacturers implementing it into their products such as tonearms and cartridges.
Sumile takes the exotic quest for perfection one step further. Murasakino engineers pursued the journey into sound performance, one that is very different from aluminum. Compared to aluminum, stainless steel can act with more rigidity yet is more difficult to process. The results prove noteworthy for many applications and worthy of a more complex pursuit.
But we’re not stopping there—Sumile achieves perfection by gold plating the processed stainless steel. Sumile was inspired by how various platings on wind instruments transforms and improves their sound. Gold plating not only coats and protects the stainless steel, but also improves the overall sound quality.
Those of you who are deep in the world of analog know how every little nuance can affect the sound of the vinyl audio reproduction system. Each and every bit adds to the final sound and it all starts with the cartridge.
The path of finding the proper balance of analog front end is not exactly an easy one. Even with a top tier cartridge in play, there remains many factors—from tonearm compliance, proper tonearm cables, a suitable phono stage with optimum loading, etc.
Nailing down the perfect gain that can transfer an undisturbed and fragile signal is of utmost importance. As with any preamplifier the gain is the king! Still, working with such a small fraction of gain, everything affects the final outcome.
Turnable setup is a science of its own, one that calls for logical takes but also invites a lot of trial and error to arrive at a satisfying place.
Let me start with Rahib About-Khalil’s Blue Camel. I’m sure that many of you know this album dearly. This album exemplifies a fantastic fusion of traditional Arabic music, classical music, traditional, and traditional jazz.
Great relief layering and dynamic diversity calls for more than just a typical pickup. You are raised to a certain plane where the sense of scale becomes comprehendible. Extracting the best of the oud—a fretless string instrument—in combination with the traditional percussion is a very different story.
Sumile’s rendition of complex, overlaying notes was impressive. Not only that, it allowed the space for other instruments to manifest without losing grip or focus. Try this with most of the cartridges on the market and they will tear your music asunder.
Both of my reference phono preamplifiers were a great match with Sumile. One of the Thrax’s fixed settings is nearly identical to the needed loading and the flexible Grandinote Celio dip settings were also a great match.
The second disc to assist in my evaluation was the great Saint-Saëns/Liszt - Michele Campanella, Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra, Aldo Ceccato – Piano Concerto No. 4/Totentanz | Hungarian Fantasy (Philips – 6500 095).
This past century’s early 70’s recording offers an uncompromising stance of piano performance backed up with the Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra. Liszt is definitely not the easiest digesting repertoire, but even for non-classical music, few rotations will create a lasting and lingering impression as it perfectly captivates the inner core of emotional and syntactical elements with a balance of tone and timbre.
Sumile was no stranger in conveying penultimate, crescendo-like passages of both orchestra and piano without losing grip with a sense of a grander scale.
My listening notes respectively confirmed an iterative approach to the piano rendition without lurking into the abysmal realms at any time.
It is always a complex endeavor to combine orchestra and piano with a fundamental frequency yet with Murasakino’s cartridge in play, chord progressions were formulaic and tuneful in nature.
Sumile moved from pianissimo to forte fortissimo in absence of a typical Japanese warm signature and saturated tincture, acting without smearing the tones or contortion.
A rare balance repeatedly manifested with my satisfying smile. I was not picky in the abyss of pin point details, but rather enjoyed the music for what it is; a rarely exhibited venue in any price range.
You never know exactly what each and every cartridge will bring with its dedicated voicing. Yes, I'm always enthralled by Japanese analog micro machines. Yet, while there is a great span of what can be expected sonically, Murasakino’s Sumile MC cartridge was a balanced act coming as something surprisingly refreshing. Upon the strike of the first note, this little musical machine instantly captured my senses. Drive, balance, spot on tempi, natural, feather-light detail, and musical transcription in vernacular.
Murasakino’s Sumile cartridge comes as visceral and has more soul then I would even dare to expect. It’s always great to discover such a cameo among all the offerings especially if such zen-like, balanced performance is achieved with the first born product!
Frequency Response: 10～50,000HZ
Output Voltage: 0.35mV / 1kHz
Internal Impedance: 1.2Ω
Tracking Force: 1.9～2.1g
Cantilever Material: Boron
Weight : 14.5g