Top Wing Blue Dragon cartridge review

The most valuable treasure for me as a reviewer is enthusiasm. It needs to be kept intact and ongoing. A genuine enthusiasm is a very core, that fuels the constant forward momentum and most importantly, it prevents the casual and uninvolved dealings.

After more than three decades of exploring the vastness of the high-end audio universe, I’ve sort of developed my own mechanism and set up a few rules, that I follow. With a non-stop flow of the gear incomings, over the years I’ve trained myself to focus on the positive attributes, trying to dig deeper and understand what a certain product can do especially well across the broader specter of music. Many of you, that follows me for a long time have already figured out the operational logic. If some product was announced for a review, but the follow up is not happening, such product is either not performing up to the standards, needs a revision or is not operating as advertised…

I’m (too often) asked about positive/negative writing. These days my answer is very short. One can always choose to act either with a bee or the fly mentality. We all know their different focuses :)…
So, yes. Blue Dragon caught my attention and moved my inner mechanics with quite a different pace. After my news article and highlighting of the Top Wing cartridges last year, there was a quick follow and locking down the distributions of these unique cartridges from Hong Kong, the USA to Italy etc. And as the follow-ups revealed, everyone is more than happy with the acquisition of these unique analog micro-machines from Japan.

Koichi san from Top Wing has created more than just a stand-out cartridge and I really wanted to dedicate my extended time to evaluate this precious gem and compare it to the other industry top tiers. As you’ll read on, it was more than worthy elaborated time…  


“A phono cartridge converts vibration energy, generated by the stylus tracing the sound grooves, into electric signals. This vibration produces secondary (harmonic) vibration, reviving high-frequency components recorded in the master that could not be recorded with LPs. This physical phenomenon cannot be reproduced digitally but can be expressed as natural analog sounds. Even today, this sound quality is the major reason for the continued popularity of analog LPs. Nevertheless, TOP WING was concerned, because when the sound quality of CDs and LPs made from the same master tape was compared, the CD was superior in terms of soundstage reproducibility. We wondered whether superior soundstage reproducibility would ever be technically possible with LPs and whether perhaps there was something in the production process preventing success. This questioning led to our discovery that existing cartridges were not picking up all sound information necessary for sound-field reproduction.”

Which brings us to the Top Wing’s coreless straight-flux system…


“The coreless straight-flux system adopted for the “Blue Dragon” was conceived by Hiromu Meguro, former design assistant of the Grace F-8 cartridge and principal designer of the F-9 cartridge when he was with Shinagawa Musen Co. Mr. Meguro worked on the basic designs of the TX-1000 and Dragon CT players and on the design of the Center-Search mechanism during his time at Nakamichi Corp. Then, the notion that moving magnet (MM) cartridges were inexpensive and moving coil (MC) cartridges were of higher grade pushed to the back of Mr. Meguro’s mind this system’s concept, which was categorized as an MM device despite dramatic differences compared with conventional MM cartridges. This system, which fell short of commercialization even in analog audio’s heyday, is being revived thanks to today’s state-of-the-art technology. 
As its name suggests, the coreless straight-flux system has no core material, with the left and right coils arranged in a V shape directly above the magnet. With that, the stylus tip picks up fluctuations in magnetic flux produced by the fine sound grooves, transmitting them directly and thus accurately. Unlike MC cartridges, in which the output line of the coil moves irregularly within the magnetic flux, the output line in this coreless straight-flux system is unaffected by such fluctuations. Moreover, a rubber damper adjusted for optimum recording reproduction enhances compliance. 
The difference between the coreless straight-flux method and MM devices can be clearly seen by comparing the Blue Dragon structural diagram above and the MM structural diagram at left. MM cartridges convey fluctuations in magnetic flux to the core material, and the coil picks up the fluctuations. In this scenario, the core has a long magnetic path length and hysteresis loss. In contrast, the coreless straight-flux system is free from any such core effect. 
The coreless straight-flux system also allows stylus replacement. With MC devices, stylus replacement costs are prohibitive, since the entire main cartridge unit must be replaced due to the structural design. Stylus replacement with the Blue Dragon, however, only requires removal of the stylus unit itself. 
Precision design and manufacture of each of the basic parts separately maximizes the potential of the coreless straight-flux system. The Blue Dragon was designed by Yasuhiro Noguchi, president of First Mechanical Design Corp. Now active in laser technology, a field in which ultra-high levels of precision are required, Mr. Noguchi also was involved in the design of the TX-1000 and Dragon CT players when at Nakamichi.
Because of the coreless design, the output voltage of coreless straight-flux cartridges tends to be low—the Blue Dragon achieves a value of 0.2 mV thanks to the V-shaped super-precision coil, specs that are comparable to those of a typical MC cartridge. The outer shell is made of various materials, centering on Ultra Duralumin, to avoid unnecessary resonance modes. In addition, revolutionary Mitchaku Contact technology, developed by Fidelix, has been adopted for the attached headshell. Clearly, the Blue Dragon has been designed, manufactured, and assembled using Japan’s most advanced technologies.


The technical aspects written so far should cover the most important aspects of the Blue Dragon. It’s by no means an ordinary cartridge and the absence of traditional generator certainly plays a major role in the Seiryu stick out nature. 
This particular signal captivation minimizes magnetic distortion, resulting in highly potent signal delivery. This was clearly evident even from the first few tracks. With Seiryu in play, more information seems to be transferred. Blue Dragon introduces a revivifying resolution and density, that started to find its firm coarse after 150+ hours of playback. 
I’ve found a great synergy with Thales Reference and Audio Union Helix 1 Turntable by Mark Döhmann. This combination revealed a new dimension of micro/macro loupe likeability, allowing the most reviving analog experiences up to date. There is something uniquely different about the Blue Dragon. The way that motor-less system conveys the information grants the emotional impact and interaction in a way I haven’t experienced so far. 
But, there is more… The spatial cues mirrored by Seiryu are really something else, defining the three dimensionality of instruments and performers much more vividly and objectively. The music’s scope expands much further in depts easily recreating the atmosphere and sonic canvas. 
Blue Dragon is a genre-less cartridge acting with the chameleon-like nature. It can shift not only from album to album but from track to track, revealing the minute changes of the music and variety of mastering decisions. 
Talking about poetic or lyrical nature of the cartridge surely pushes the descriptions into the exotic realms, but Seiryu nature allowed such refreshing emotional interactions, that it was just hard to keep my enthusiasm bottled. 
Do note, that Blue Dragon’s very low output calls for at least 66-70dB of gain to perform at its best.


The very first record I was scrambling to get out of my collection was a truly spectacular sounding Sounds Unheard of! album from Shelly Manne and Jack Marshall. The Analog Productions re-release is something exceptional and it truly indicates what an analog front end is capable of. Even on ordinary setup, this album will reveal it’s virtues, but with Top Wing Blue Dragon performing the most intricate signal handling duties the playback has picked up some of the R2R qualities, that I’ve haven’t come across so far. The natural flow of the music was refreshingly engaging and the outright dynamic impact granted much higher and comprehensive induction of pure sonic motion. The three-dimensionality, where this record really excels, with Blue Dragon everything extended beyond what I’ve been used to. This was not a microscopic drift in performance, but considerably step closer to the reality!

I’m sure that most of you know . What many of you might’ve missed is her ‎album Live In Europe (Decca Records ‎– 00602557655001). This stand out Limited Edition Box Set shows Mr. Gardot at her finest. Very seldom a contemporary artist places so many efforts for the live arrangement on stage. In a sense, this reminded me of Peter Gabriel’s live performances. Differently, though highly powerful. The music’s momentum was totally out of the box. You’ll not recognize the familiar song The Rain until Melody starts to lay down the lyrics. What develops before her singing is truly a tour de force challenge for any cartridge. Top Wing Blue Dragon was not solely vehemently immediate but could deal with the tremendous strength and intensity. The hardcore representatives of the digital camp would be stimulated by the sense of the lively impact that Seiryu has accomplished! Not exactly an inconsequential ingredient. A solid stand out!

How this was not the one-time coincidence was quickly verified with the Dallas Wind Symphony, Howard Dunn – Fiesta! (Reference Recordings RR-38). This particular Reference Recordings’ album is not solely a top tier test for analog only. It challenges the upper echelon digital front end too by all measures. The La Fiesta Mexicana embraces both dynamic and tonal complexity from the very introduction of the song. Yes, the Blue Dragon is brisk. Surely one of the fastest cartridges out there. Yet, that only wouldn’t bestow such a profound recognition from yours truly. The sheer speed is one of the fundamental pillars of the state of the art performance, but not a sole component. Seiryu somehow unleashes the music’s genuine, organic force in an omission of any damping sonic layers. This grants the music to thrive and signal to establish the full spectrum impact. For any in suspicion, the Dallas Wind Symphony, Frederick Fennell, Paul Riedo ‎– Pomp & Pipes (Reference Recordings ‎– RR-58) provide further vivid and factual evidence. The lowest octaves of the organ really shouldn’t come through as they were carried out with Seiryu in operation. Then again the multiple remarks in my listening notes scrapbook have repeatedly stated the “non-ordinary cartridge!”

And the ethereal sonic realms? The complete Paul Motian Conception Vessel (ECM Records ECM 1028 ST) album serves an immensely complex sonic world. Each song is a little aural experience. I’ve couldn’t pick up the most favorite, yet American Indian: Song Of Sitting Bull is a remarkable affair on its own. I’m certain how the song might be a bit too avant-garde for some, but two three listening will certainly help out. The sound field created by the shakers, flute, and drums is expansive. The lavish rhythmic pace is off non-ordinary DNA too. Something one would easier pin-point to John Coltrane

Blue Dragon really nailed the portraying of the flute’s airy essential nucleus. The drums are not the only one dependable on the perfect rendition of the velocity and density, translating to the capability of rendering tiniest time-based particles. These minuscule fractures are of absolute essential aspects.

With the flute, both harmonic sound’s core and the dynamic DNA essence affects the vibrato and the attack-delay envelope of the sound. Before unwillingly sounding academic… If the attack and the decay are not formulated accurately the flute will simply not sound right. Ever noticed this with any of the cartridges!? Well…

So, as often pushed to forte, it’s not merely about the fatigue-free propagation (not fairly easy, but not expected to be a problematic endeavor at the top range). At this level of operation, it should be about the nobler portion of reality rather than evocative impressionist traits. And that is not being addressed often enough. Among other highly positive attributes of the Blue Dragon, the realism, and consequently the required capability to carry out the necessary level of drama is the vital quality worthy alone of embracing! Not everyone embraces the dramatical reality of F1 driving (or super-sport cars) and handling the action. Yet, it’s the stuff that the dreams are made of!

At this level of pricing and so overused term aka high-tech implementation, this is what we should strive for! The unaltered an unapologetically gobsmacking performance.

Although I’m the biggest fan of Akira Kurosawa’s dreams, this is not a subjectivist’s daydreaming. Thanks to the technology, some of these factual fractions of reality can be actually captured (FFT) and brought to the visible realms…


Like many distributors, dealers and audiophiles/music lovers, that’ve already lived with Top Wing Blue Dragon cartridge, I was more than just positively surprised. The initial technical scope was surely promising something unique, but the actual hands-on-sound experience morphed into an utterly game-changing experience. 
There is a certain momentum connected with the Seiryu cartridge,  that instantly locks you with the very inner core of the music. It feels like somehow-the-speed barrier is removed. A crystal clear sapphire glass with double anti-reflex coating allows an unprecedented look at the high horology watch. In a similar way, the Top Wing Blue Dragon cartridge allows one of a kind analog rendition in absence of the usual glaring side effects, translating into the smeared tones etc. 
I was always and still am baffled by the cartridge’s ability to derive such minuscule information from the grooves of our beloved and highly cherished black discs. Blue Dragon pushes this agenda further and as proven by Seiryu, there is still a lot of information hidden in the endless “analog walleyes” of the vinyl.
We all cherish, love and painstakingly take care of our beloved micro music machines (cartridges). Still, they do have a relatively short lifespan compared to other high-end audio products and they can be damaged very easily. This is where the Blue Dragon stylus replacement feature comes in. Unlike with other MC cartridges, Seiryu’s needle can be easily exchanged for the 1/10 of the price and most importantly in absence of degradation in the performance and without sonic shift, that is often associated with the “usual” re-tipping. As described before, the needle attaches very differently, thus not being subordinate to usual changes.  

Some would suggest that by default cartridges are introducing some sort of distortion or saturation. It’s been quite a while since I’ve joined the debate about the performance of the upper stage analog playback. While I don’t even acknowledge anymore any of the purposely thrown triggers, some individuals should absolutely encounter the real world impact of the state-of-the-art analog before bluntly drawing any of the conclusions of what it’s possible and what’s not. The Top Wing Blue Dragon is precisely the product that 21st century high-end audio analog connoisseurs were expecting and that can contribute something objective by bringing analog up to the speed. I’ve devoted a lot of funds to keep both analog and digital setups on the similar upper echelon level and to maintain my objectives properly balanced. I can reassure you how it‘s not merely the digital side that is accelerating rapidly and pushing the frontiers further. Analog side is With the products like Top Wing Seiryu not only competitive cartridge makers but also digital brands should experience some level of nervosity!

Top Wing Corporation Seiryu – Blue Dragon cartridge clearly pushed the analog reproduction into the 21st century. For what is represent and what is capable of delivering music wise I’m happily awarding it with a rare Mono and Stereo Editor Choice Award. Yes, I’ve I’ve purchased the review sample!
Matej Isak


$12,500 USD


– Type of power generation: Coreless straight-flux
– Stylus: Line contact
– Cantilever material: Aluminum
– Output at 5 cm/s at 1 kHz: 0.2 mV
– Internal impedance: 12.3Ω
– Inductance: Secret (but nonsensitive to capacitive load)
– Recommended tracking weight: 1.75 g–2.0 g
– Headshell material: Ultra Duralumin (adopting Fidelix Mitchaku Contact technology)
– Weight: 12.3 g (total weight equipped with the attached headshell: 30.0 g)


Top Wing Corporation
1-10-2-1102 Sakae-cho Higashimurayama
Tel: +81-42-392-8319 
Fax: +81-42-392-8329