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 high-end audio 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.
Before I answer your questions, let me first introduce myself. I am Daisuke Asai from Murasakino Ltd. Almost all of the information on Sumile is available on our website, and I am going to provide supplemental information. I may now answer your questions.
First, I will explain the relationship between output voltage and impedance.
Although this relationship has already been described on our website, I believe that the most important consideration in designing an MC cartridge is the balance between output voltage and impedance. From the very beginning of the Sumile design and production-planning processes, we maintained the output voltage at 0.35 mV or higher and the impedance at ~1 Ω. I am certain that our specifications for the Sumile output voltage and impedance, which are 0.35 mV and 1.2 Ω, respectively, represent the best balance between voltage and impedance.
Why do we use stainless steel to construct the base of the cartridge?
We were inspired by the use of stainless steel in the tonearms of Durand Tonearms, a prestigious tonearm manufacturer in the USA.
These tonearms are highly sophisticated and durable; thus, we used stainless steel to construct the base, on which the power-generation system is mounted. Additionally, I would like to mention that we have been testing the Sumile cartridge since its prototype stage against Durand Tonearms’ “The Kairos” model.
Why do we use gold-plated stainless steel?
The stainless-steel base of the cartridge is plated to improve the overall sound quality. I devised this idea from my experience in playing the oboe, a wind instrument. The tube of an oboe is made of Grenadilla wood. The sound quality varies to a large extent with the quality of the plating finish on the keys, which are made of metal, imbedded into the wooden tube, and pressed using fingertips.
I believe that gold-plating the keys adds softness and beauty to the sound; this is why we use a gold-plated stainless-steel base.
Let me explain who wrote the calligraphy printed on the cartridge as well as its meaning.
The Japanese calligraphy of the model name on the side of the cartridge was written by the chief priest of a temple in Kyoto. This type of Japanese writing is called “Kana-moji” or just “Kana,” and is only used in Japan.
Finally, I will explain the logo.
As you can see, the logo design comprises two vertically stacked circles. The circle at the top figuratively represents a disk or phono record and the one at the bottom represents the platter of a turntable.
By making these two circles contact each other, we attempted to figuratively represent the moment when the disk is placed onto the platter.
This is supposedly the most exciting moment for analog-music enthusiasts when they play a record.
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 line stage 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, 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.
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.
Prokofiev, Cleveland Orchestra, Maazel – Romeo & Juliet (Complete Ballet)Decca – SXL 6620-2.
Is it possible to capture the real dynamic impact of the orchestra? To some extent, yes. There are few records, that can offer a viable rendition of real drama and Decca’s Prokofiev, Cleveland Orchestra, Maazel – Romeo & Juliet is for sure among them.
With any cartridge, the biggest quest in voicing is finding the proper balance. At any point and on the ultimate plane you do not to want to attenuate any specific portion of frequency range. In order to render full scale orchestra at the believable level, there cannot be any frequency bumps or the cartridge will simply act as an equalizer.
A similar story follows the design of the phono stage. Its not a rocket science to build one. But it’s a very complex task to make a great sounding one. Finding the right balance between noise level and musical potency is a task that many, if not most, are simply not able to push to the ultimate plane.
Sumile is a rare gem that conveys classical music with the gestalt without sonically falling apart when the crescendos starts to evolve in amplitude. The same goes for the ultra fast dynamic shifts, where the sudden attack incomings demands lighting fast follow up and rendition.
This is where analog, as a signal-carrying medium, still wins over digital. It’s all about the energy transfer that mirrors very closely with the analog gear box transfer of the energy. Digital came far and some attributes even point further than analog, yet after objective and critical observations, analog excels in many different ways.
Dynamic shifts can quickly kill and demolish the holly trinity: timbre, tone and color. Not likely with Sumile. When tutti comes at forte there is no typical masking of quark-like dynamic pointers. Resulted performance was an inspiring voyage, calling me back for more.
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 fit.
There is no ultimate equilibrium when it comes to high-end audio reproduction. Illusory perfection is too often overrated these days and the trend of constantly new, state of the art favorites comes as a tiresome burden after a while.
A more sensible and objective path seems to be the one that focuses on the actual strengths and how a certain product in a proper synergy can bring us closer to the real deal.
A reviewer’s luxury and given task is to explore and report about the means of conveyance, find out great bearers of music as well to highlight great juxtapositions of different products in balance.
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 comes as product without a genre tied to its core. The rare ability to operate universally and with problem-free setup opens up many doors to the ultimate analog system.
Sumile raises the bar for its balanced nature in absence of Munch-like saturated portrayals. It operates with a realism of Rembrandt and Bouguereau, combining the multiple layers of sonic focus points that embraces a reality with a grand portion.
Call me nuts, but I’m positive that Sumile is somehow connected in some way with My Sonic Labs, as the similarities of positive attributes are too close to eliminate. It is a wild guess, but it might be produced by the same master.
Murasakino’s Sumile came at the right time for a review. I’m finally satisfied with the analog setup that offers a potent platform to explore different analog musical machines.
Sumile found a great place in it and performed way beyond expected. For the firstborn, it is an overachiever that any company would want it, yet performance comes with a price!
Whenever certain price point is reach many audiophiles and music lovers quickly chooses the very critical mood.
In the real world one can rise to the certain level of vinyl reproduction with quite down to earth pricing. Traveling that extra miles comes with a heftier price tag. Its not for everyone. But those, who can afford such commodity, might cherish the last drops derived from the analog nectar with utmost enthusiasm.
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! I'm wholeheartedly awarding it with Mono and Stereo Highly Recommended Product Award!
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