Murasakino Nobala MC step up transformer review

You could say, that I'm both, rather well informed and quite fond about the analog products from the Japanese boutique high-end manufacturer Murasakino. I've already reviewed the Murasakino Sumile Mono MC cartridge here, that received prestigious Mono and Stereo Editors Choice Award and Sumile MC cartridge here, that also received Highly-recommended product award. Their products are as distinctive as the vibrant and instantly recognizable color choice of their products. While Sumile Mono MC cartridge blends the gold and forest green colors, the Nobala MC transformer follows the radiant purple/golden finish of the Sumile MC cartridge. 

The result is a striking presence, that immediately let you know, that you're about to witness something very special. Many brands are trying hard in finding instantly recognizing design and distinctive tincture. Murasakino succeeds in being immediately spotted from the very beginning. 

As you can read throughout the review, sonic properties of Nobala are as colorful and full of life as the one of the kind hue selection, but without stepping over at the saturation pole. Finding the right sonic balance is still a quest that demands more than a usual set of norms and something that each serious high-end audio manufacture struggle with. Well, the ones that ones to distance themselves from being another déjà vu...


Murasakino Nobala MC transformer was designed to be used with low-impedance MC cartridges and it performs at their best when its matched with the MC cartridges of 5Ω or lower impedance.

Both MC step-up transformers and phono preamplifiers with internal active stages are carrying the very important task of amplifying the weak signals coming from the MC cartridge. 

Murasakino strongly recommends the stand-alone MC step-up transformer. Their reasons include electrical advantages, such as low noise. Active stages of the phono preamplifier implement components, which have an inevitable impact on the accompanying noise levels and MC cartridge signals are received not as voltages but as electrical power. 

Murasakino strongly believes that the most important reason is in the way we're perceiving the auditory impact. The MC transformers, that do not require an active component or feedback circuit produce much cleaner sound, but to achieve very strict preconditions must be met. If an MC transformer is strongly biased, then the coloration of the tone occurs and Murasakino designed the Nobala from the ground out to deliver the sound without any self imprint.


The enclosure is the most important part of an MC transformer as it protects the transformer from noises. For this very reason, Nobala uses a three-layer metal plate to protection. The transformer is first covered with a thick aluminum plate, then further with a 2mm pure copper plate and finally with a machined aluminum case.


Murasakino has chosen the Cardas terminals for the input/output connectors to ensure the unsurpassed signals passing. The main body of the transformer and the earth terminal are made in Japan. In addition to the chassis, all processes, including machining and assembling of Nobala are conducted in Japan.

Chassis vibrations are controlled by the implementation of various damping materials, that are being employed on the inside and with dedicated feet that substantially suppress the unwanted sound (ringing) that could be caused by metal vibrations.

Murasakino also advises that if the gain-adjustable phono preamplifier is being used, to lower the gain for the best synergy. 


Like with all of the components under the evaluation, I've taken a prolonged time to truly discover the Nobala sonic potencies. Multiple albums were being served as the reference music materials, but for this analog gem, I'll focus on the few Electric Recording Company pure analog records.  

Let me start with the latest and superb ERC release, The Beethoven - The Nine Symphonies - Otto Klemperer (ERC046, 13 LP box).

Among my talks with classical music aficionados that love the higher-fidelity reproduction, there a familiarly structured question, that pops up frequently: "How to properly appreciate, value and recognize great classic works and recordings?" My simplest answer is; by listening and by listening more. I love what I do and it's one of the biggest luxuries privileges that life has given me. The only drawback by entering the endless universe of classical music is the relativity of time. While I'm forever grateful for my daily routines, there is simply too little time to explore and enjoy everything at the fullest scope. Perhaps this is the exact "safe trigger" that ignites the appreciation of extraordinary aural enjoyments. 

There is no substitute for concert-going and listening. Perhaps for fellow high-enders and audiophiles the later is more convenient and especially with the ability to find almost everything on the internet the sky is the limit. 

Talking about the particular orchestras and conductors' qualities is always a touchy topic. Over the years one establishes a clear and intimate appreciation for certain conductors and consequently for the orchestras that are always closely connected with a particular conductor. People will appreciate different things like with anything in life, but more than often a lot of conclusions do overlay. 

One of such iconic recordings is certainly The Beethoven's symphonies. ERC's The Beethoven Nine Symphonies with Otto Klemperer - Philharmonia Orchestra is a rare gem that offers an exploration of spellbinding musical and sonic varieties over the 13 LP Box. 

Regardless of the cartridge being used the Murasakino Nobala allows the music to flow with a feather-like lightness and grand structural completeness when needed. Nobala ability to handle the energy and speed is above any mediocracy and of qualities that position it at the very top of the crop. Klemperer's way of handling the tempi and letting the music fully expanding, regardless of speed is one of the most cherished stand-outs and Nobala reveals the content with a stand out fluency.  

With Nobala the Beethoven's symphonies were presented voluptuous and with full agility. Murasakino step-up has delivered a higher-than-expected environmental cues' density resulting in refreshingly spontaneous performance. 

Elgar - Cello Concerto / Sea Pictures - Jacqueline du Pré / Barbirolli / Baker (ERC044).

This time I'll let me focus my attention on the B-side of the record and remarkable English mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker. Her mellow, eloquent and articulate voice is more than worthy of any repetitive listening. 

For many connoisseurs, Baker is considered Englands's greatest singer and this particular recording as the pinnacle, all-time captured performance of this five songs cycle written by different poets. 

Soothing and with full emotional bind, one simply cannot pull away until the complete side of the records is being played. It feels like those songs were written for her alone. 

Dame Janet Baker vocal is not easiest to replay. Among many attributes, the sibilants can be too quickly pushed into the unwanted brittle realms. The same goes for the rendition of her physical presence in relation to the orchestra. On contrary to many even more expensive step-up transformers, the Murasakino Nobala doesn't crush the seamless synergy between Dame Janet Baker and orchestra under the baton of Sir John Barbirolli. Nobala is full of needed vibrancy and true of tone. For any step-up transformers regardless of the price, these noteworthy qualities are the utmost prize of distinction. 

Bill Evans Trio Featuring Scott La Faro - Sunday At The Village Vanguard (ERC040S)

There are many levels of critical observation needed for the functional rationality ing high-end audio evaluating.  

Rarely the speed and music's flow challenged in discussions as they've can be quite instantly deciphered. Even by someone who's not particularly familiar with the music repertoire. 

The interplay between Bill Evans (piano), Scott LaFaro (bass)  and Paul Motian (drums) is exceptional and the relaxed atmosphere at the legendary Village Vanguard is certainly a big part of this album's smooth charm. But, don't be fooled. This is not just another jazz album. It's a jazz classic and a forward-thinking recording, that inspired and still does. Scott LaFaro playing was ahead of time and Paul Motian unmistakable rhythm magnet drum playing is also off the charts. Evans' playing speakers for itself. The trio has managed to encapsulate a timeless moment that transcends the laws of time and space.    

Murasakino Nobala MC step-up role might be seen as utterly simplistic, yet there tons of things to considered above of  26db gain boost... 

In reality, the creation of a good sounding step-up transformer demands a wide array of painstaking efforts. What to talk about a greater, superbly sounding high-end version?! The sonic differences of an average and ultra-high-end step-up transformer can be light years apart and Murasakino step-up transformer is not shy in this regard. Nobala is a refined, utterly fine-tuned device, that mirrors the music's crystally clear and without usual and sometimes (sadly) expected artifacts. 

The convincing overlaying of piano notes is farther away from the ordinary tasking. With some step-up transformers, Sunday At The Village Vanguard do provide a certain level of believability, but once the piano is joined with the bass and drums the convoluted layering becomes too much of a burden. On contrary to the usual expectations the Murasakino step-up performed above expected, permitting the higher-order level of portraying and an engaging factor that far outside of the given price tag. 

Keeping the essence without adding the flavor should be the only raison d'etre for any step-up transformer. That's not exactly de facto, especially with some of the Japanese step-ups that are still somehow following the archaic lush voicing. While Nobala accedes the explicit tone canvas it doesn't overflow the vibrancy. Nobala resonates with the real world qualities rather than artificial and artful reality.


There are different schools of thoughts when it comes to the amplifying of the fragile signal coming from the cartridge. Some fanatically defend the pure tube approach, others are the strict followers of the solid-state design and some believe in the path MC step-up transformer.

Over the years I've tried many of the different phono preamplifiers and there is no black and white answer. It comes down to the synergy and holistic approach to a complex subject matter. Especially with the signal as fragile as one coming from the cartridge the rule of triple too follows... Too many people are too often taking too lightly the proper system gain distribution.

A big part of balancing act and potency of my reference analog setup's potency and balance comes from the latest version of my Thrax Audio Thrax Orpheus (via its tube gain stages and LCR correction). Yes, it's not simple and it never was. Different systems demand contrasting components. Not only on the analog front end side but across the complete system. Forget about shopping bag mentality in high-end audio. When it comes to the reproduction of the music worthy of a high-end audio labeling components needs bonafide matching. Not within price domain or any kind of the so-called established recognition. The synergistic approach calls for much more than quasi and fancy repetitive phrases. Creating the aural ecosystem that can inspire is an art!

Murasakino Nobala MC transformer is an avid proof, how a properly executed, winded and tuned step-up transformer can deliver a novel level of musicality and an interactive engaging factor that is not so easy to reach regardless of the price sticker.  

People are understating the real potency of the 21st-century analog reproduction. Perhaps due to the lack of hands-on experiences with the real high-end setups and partially due to the impetus digital audio push forward momentum. When the analog front end and a complete system chain is properly set up (and tuned) the sonic award beyond anything ordinary. 

The zen-like even qualities of Sumile and Sumile MC mono cartridges are continued with Nobala. The Murasakino DNA is evenly distributed across all of the three products I've had a pleasure to evaluate. This translates to the handling of the complete frequency spectrum without particular bumps. 

One of the most important factors of any step-up transformers is the absence of its forte sonic imprint. It goes the same for non-alteration of the music's speed and energy transfer. While this might sound like an easy task to perform, I can assure you that is far more complicated and complex to apply the right materials, proper core, winding process, etc. 

Murasakino Nobala MC step-up transformer has shown repeatable qualities and surprising lock and load with the cartridges that have internal impedance below     5Ω. Over the extended evaluation time, I've partnered the Murasakino Nobala MC step-up transformer wide a wide selection of cartridges that includes Lyra Etna SL, Sumile MC Mono MC, Gold Note Tuscany Gold, Etsuro Urushi Bordeaux, etc. 

The cumulative impressions from my listening notes were of similar conclusions. Nobala conveys the music's message in such a way that it doesn't lose original music's mightiness. When partnered in the best way the Nobala can establish a mesmerizing interaction between the listener and the performer. 

On the upper scale of high-end audio, this should not only be a wishful possibility, but a mandatory standard and Nobala is a prime example of doing it exuberantly right! Most importantly in the absence of mechanical stress, that can be too frequently attached with the transformers in general.  

For what it represents sonic wise and nonetheless price-wise (compared to some rocket high priced step-up transformers, the Murasakino Nobala MC transformer is of a different league. It can preserve the inner core of the music and like the both Murasakino cartridges, it touched my inner nucleus. I'm happily awarding the Murasakino Nobala MC step-up cartridge with Mono and Stereo 2019 Upper Echelon Product award. ⬤

Matej Isak


- € 8.990,00


  • Frequency Response:    10~70,000Hz
  • Boost Ratio:     26db
  • Internal Impedance:    5Ω or less (cartridge impedance)
  • Dimensions:    166mm(W)×95mm(H)×155mm(D)
  • Weight:    about 2.6kg



Tel: 075-366-6485