Murasakino Sumile-Mono MC Cartridge review


The attentive Mono and Stereo readers will surely remember that I've already reviewed Murasakino Sumile MC cartridge some time ago. This is what I've written almost three years back...

"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 firstborn product!"



As you can learn on throughout the review the Murasakino Sumile-mono MC cartridge is of the same DNA, but it also comes with its own merit. 

THE PATH


After almost eight decades since the introduction of the MC cartridge, one would assume that designing one in the 21st century is an easy task. Well... While the setting up the ultra-high-end digital front end became quite a mind-boggling and complex endeavor some might think that analog counterpart is a less complex task. 

While it can be seen as rather simplistic manufacturing, in reality, the outcome is even more unpredicted and a mighty quest of forging the right materials. 

I always loved and cherished the traditional Japanese hand craftsmanship for its timeless quality, ardor execution and the final materialization of something extraordinary. One of such items of most for yours truly was always a Katana. A  traditionally made Japanese swords, famously used by the samurais. I don't have the space to enter fully in-depth into the remarkable process of forging the katana, but among the interesting points is how tamahagane (specialized Japanese steel. In one of the processes, the ironsmith coats the blade with multiple layers of a wet clay liquid mixture, which is a special composite unique to each of the smith. 


In a similar way, with MC cartridges the key elements are built-in materials and their relation to the sound. So while we have general knowledge and technical know-how of cartridge making, what really differentiate the cartridge makers (among other technical aspects) are the ingredients. This is especially intimately connected with the micro analog machines coming from The Land Of The Rising Sun. There are numerous metals, stones, wood, etc. implemented and advertised as key features of the different cartridges. And yes, the sonic imprint, the tone, and the color are deeply connected with these choices. 

SUMILE-MONO


Sumile-mono is an MC mono cartridge that was developed with all of the know-how accumulated during the design of the Sumile MC stereo cartridge.


Sumile MC cartridge was introduced in 2016 the MC cartridge in 2016. A lot of efforts went into the making of the original stereo cartridge and the same goes for the mono version. 

As you know the playback tasking of a mono cartridge is not exactly the same as with stereo records thus mono version have a bit different specifications. Murasakino strongly feels how "In order to bring out the true sound of mono records, you need Sumile-mono.” As you can find out, later on, I do strongly agree with their bold statement...

As a fact, not so many of the present era vinyl enthusiasts did have or have a chance to truly explore and enjoy the mono records as the majority of releases are nowadays an in stereo. 


But, there is an impressive amount of music recorded in mono that might be or not available in analog or digital. It's also a big part of a rich heritage that shouldn't be forgotten. 

Sumile and Sumile-mono MC cartridge do share many of the common components like the base part, that is made of stainless steel (including gold plating), is exactly the same in both products.

Murasakino is a strong advocate of implementation of stainless steel as the cartridge base material. Although it's harder to process they've discovered that it shares the same positive attributes and sonic advantages as with the Sumile stereo MC cartridge. The cartridges are also instantly distinctive via the color finish anodizing. While the stereo version comes in striking purple, the mono has a new beautiful green finish. 

The particular color selection was inspired by the Japanese national treasure folding screen titled “Irises,” painted by Ogata Korin (a famous painter from the Edo period).


There is something about the purple/golden, green/golden aura that Murasakino cartridges emit. A timeless design that is further refined with the Japanese lettering on the chassis.  

And how about the differences on the inside? Murasakino strongly believes that the cartridge’s output voltage can greatly influence the sound and how changes in output voltage transform not only the perception of volume but also the sound quality.

Sumile-mono MC has been optimized to offer a higher output voltage than the Sumile stereo. 0.35 mV vs 0.4 mV.


Despite higher impedance that is a result of increased turns per coil, Murasakino is proud of the achievement of great balancing that holds the lifelike qualities. And, this is exactly one of the major qualities of Murasakino Sumile-mono as described in upcoming chapters...

THE MUSIC 


Not everyone is fond of mono recordings, but there is almost a cult following. I've heard some of the most exotic, pure mono system installations and some of the recordings were sounding absolutely remarkable. I rarely use a metaphor of time machine, but with some of the mono recordings and the way they can transport you through the layers of time, the experience is one of the kind. 

For this particular review, I've reached out to my collection o. As Murasakino Sumile-mono the Electric Recording Company is a unique output that deserves a bit different embracing. 

With John Lee Hooker's Country Blues Of John Lee Hooker (ERC041) this is as raw and as pure intake as it gets. This is a portion of an old-school country blues. While Hooker's other outputs do offer a bit more forte guitar sound this record has its own merit. When the systems are set up to the proper level Hooker's vocal entraps the listener wholeheartedly and unconditionally. Sumile-mono MC cartridge encapsulated Country Blues Of John Lee Hooker with a way more insightfulness than I've expected. When the high-end performance is pushed up to the ultra-high-end level, the micro-dynamics density plays a crucial role in expanding the sonic scenery. This is exactly what Sumile-mono did! It has further revealed and uncovered so far non-familiar  

Wassily Kandinsky spoke of... "Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul."

We're always in search for those right vibrations that touch our inner core and let us experience something non-ordinary. Music can bypass the usual sensory advocating when the high-end audio systems allow it. And this is where the high-end audio differs from hi-fi by large. It's not even a matter of $$$, more of a proper matching of the components and refining the system to the level where we're able to taste some of that heavenly nectar. Especially with an analog replay, the gates of aural transcendence seems to get open a bit more easily. I've really liked the Sumile-mono ways of conduct. 

Murasakino mono cartridge opened up a way more vivid sonic projection and has painted the sonic canvas with far more richer, more real and palpable notes. This was easily recognized with John Coltrane Coltrane (ERC038). I'm an avid Trane's fan, knowing his music from my early childhood. Coltrane is one of the artists that pushed the music playing into the spheres that were unreachable (and still are) for most of the musicians. I'm not considering myself as a Trane's expert, but he's playing can truly captivate both of my mind and heart and is a non-expected balancing act. With so many hours of Coltrane music during my lifetime I'm quite sensitive to any unexpected variates in his playing and witting analog there is something not exactly explainable, that takes his music a bit further. As noted elsewhere in the review, this is somehow connected with the mono. 

With Murasakino Sumile Mono first randevú with Coltrane, I've immediately written down how drastically the fluency of his playing changed. It was not altered, but more captivating. We're too often neglecting the interactive part of the music listening. 

And uber-rich tone overlays were not only easily distinctive with Murasakino Sumile-mono, but there was a new, so far undiscovered and newly introduces depth, that literary drew me into way focused and immersive listening. At the very beginning of the "Bakai", the clear distinction between the metallic percussion and brass instruments immediately sought my attention. I know this song by heart but the clarity and relief layering suddenly become most sharply etched. My listening notes remarks said "WOW"! 

Intriguingly and interestingly a lot of the most refreshing and newly introduced aspects were further confirmed with Kenny Dorham Quiet Kenny (ERC042M). The impact was similar as with Coltrane. 

But... there is more. What has been already hinted with the previous album become crystal clear with Quiet Kenny's "Blue Friday". Fluidness, clarity and the tone! Again the relief-like structure was remarkable and vividly separation of the instruments was further away from what one would expect from mono. It was intriguing to easily distinguish the spectral shading, that is more in the domain of the stereo. The overlapping of the trumpet and piano notes didn't created an unwanted cluster. On contrary both instruments had their authoritative space without being smitten by unwanted resonances, thus taking much-needed timbre definition.  

Brass instruments really need their grit to form a believable sonic illusion. Murasakino Sumile-mono tone is really something worthy write about! What I call the golden trinity of timbre, tone, and color are crucial for the formation of the captivating interaction. When "Blue Spring Shuffle" came on I've just frozen for a moment. A short moment of surprise has ended with a big smile on my face and thought. "Oh dear, that is something". 

It's hard not being instantly drawn by the Bill Evans Trio Featuring Scott La Faro Sunday At The Village Vanguard (ERC040M) Evans' time phrasing ardently followed by Paul Motian unmistakable and rhythm tight drumming. 

Bill Evans's piano sounds perspicuity fresh on the ERC vinyl release and the notes are easily orbited into space with noticeable decays and delays' prolonging. Yes, quite a feat!

We cannot exactly talk about the horizontal and vertical depth in mono? Not exactly in the same sense as with stereo, but there is still a dimensional sense that our ear mechanism deciphers and with Murasakino Sumile-mono the depth scope was somehow extend beyond subtle notching.

When entrapped with such a highly potent combination of Murasakino and Electric Recording Company releases, the time just took its own dimensional role. 

Being a reviewer does come with its own set of challenges. That's why its really important to get occasionally lost in space-time-continuum, forgetting about what needs to be done, when and how...

And Murasakino Sumile-mono MC cartridge does come to a unique capability when paired with the matching records like ERC releasee used for this review. 

CONCLUSION


I guess I've never got over of my affection from the products like Murasakino Sumile-mono. There is something very different in the way that Japanese heritage and know-how .is deeply etched in their products This always results within sonic's DNA and not always for a better. 


But... Murasakino Sumile-mono is a very different analog micro machine that inspires the returning listenings without the need of logical justification. 

Like with all Murasakino products, the Sumile-mono share the wonderful aesthetics. A vibrant color choice and mesmerizing mixing of gold and radiant green color is a true eye-catcher and it differentiates Sumile-mono instantly from any other cartridge. Even a quick eye glance will entice the mind with its glamour aesthetics. Similar to the Haute horology even a non-aficionado can instantly recognize the product of stand out attractiveness. Same goes for Haute-analog. A lot of efforts went into the creation of Murasakino Sumile-mono and it's great to see that the designer cherish his proud work most highly. I cannot say that this is exactly the rule in our beloved industry and this is the tricky question I've asked many of the manufacturers on countless occasion. Why not putting the last touches and do the design right if, as with many products they've invested almost a lifetime to design and perfect them...


While certain audiophiles are most obviously neglecting the aesthetic part of high-end audio products yours truly believe in the inner and outer beauty. For something that comes with a premium price sticker and is the result of countless hours and efforts, the end product should be a culmination of prominent scrutinization and perfect finishing.

Correlation with analog watches is surly most appropriate. A lot of efforts are dedicated to the perfect the tinniest details and parts with the making of a high-end analog watch. At the end of the day, many will say how the watch is only measuring and displaying the time. Case closed! But for the connoisseurs, there is much more to the subject matter than just an utterly expensive way of displaying the time. 

With high-end state of the art cartridge, the execution is perhaps even more important and complex to pursue. While watches are trying to present a most precise time, the cartridge is trying to convey the music through the highly complex transcribing of an extremely fragile analog signal. 


For many, the analog way it's all about the aura and the mood.  Yet... The MC cartridge is a complex mechanical apparatus that delivers what yours truly still see a sonic miracle. Translating and deriving so many pieces of information from the grooves of the black disc is something extraordinary and still, quite mind-boggling. Yes, even in the 21st century the level of an analog music reproduction still amazes me. Year after year the threshold is being pushed to a higher level and it's inspiring to be a part of this mini evolution. 

There are quite a few mono cartridges on the market and you can enter the unique realms of the mono universe without completely emptying the wallet. But... Like with a lot of products at the ultra-high-end audio, the very last percents of the upper echelon performance are often linked with the premium price sticker. 


While Murasakino Sumile-mono MC does carry some of the Murasakino Sumile MC stereo cartridge's attributes and qualities, it's a different product. The Sumile MC Stereo's zen-like balanced distribution of energy across the complete frequency spectrum is still there, but Sumile-mono cartridge reflects the music a bit differently. This is certainly connected with the way we perceive the mono. 

When mono recordings are replayed properly and potently the sonic output does have certain qualities that even stereo counterpart doesn't possess or are hard to portray. There is something about the believability within the monodomain that is of a different plane. Although our aural sensory system is binaural, perhaps there is something in micro timing domain, that let us discern the certain mono recordings more directly and intimately.  

Murasakino Sumile-Mono MC cartridge did reveal some of the aspects that were not in the sight before and that led me to multiple re-listenings of the familiar music material. 

I'm always enlightened when a paradigm shift occurs or certain firm believes are challenged by the new objective experience. Murasakino Sumile-Mono reignited my original love and interest in mono. 

In my final review contemplation, I've reflected on how much of the records I've inherited from my father was actually mono recordings. Something indeed rang a bell and Sumile-mono cartridge certainly sparkled those beautiful memories. You don't have to explain much when a certain product possesses something spirited and fulfilling. It's an organic, non-overthinking process. 

At the end of the day, we're all searching for that magic that would connect as with more profoundly with the beloved music. For me, the Murasakino Sumile-mono MC cartridge is exactly such an outstanding analog igniter, that deserves all the attention.  

For what it represents and at what level the Murasakino Sumile-Mono MC cartridge can deliver the music I'm wholeheartedly awarding it with the 2019 Mono and Stereo Editors Choice Award. Yes, quite a recognition. More than well deserved!

Matej Isak

PRICE


- 8000 EUR

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS 

  • Frequency Response:     10~30,000Hz
  • Output Voltage:     0.4mV / 1kHz
  • Internal Impedance:    1.5Ω
  • Tracking Force:     2.7~3.3g
  • Cantilever Material:    Duralumin(A2017)
  • Weight:    14.5g
  • MC Cartridge: “Sumile”


CONTACT


MURASAKINO LTD
Japan

Tel: 075-366-6485
Email: Link