We offer home demonstrations on Miyajima Takumi, Shilabe and Zero B Mono Cartridges – call or e-mail for details
Noriyuki Miyajima has had a love of music forever, first as a hobby, then as a specialist dealer and more recently as a manufacturer. Using real wood, diamonds and delicate coils, Noriyuki prides himself on honesty. With several patents and a passion that is most clear, Miyajima cartridges have had rave reviews all over the world and deservedly so. Unlike some cartridge brands Miyajima are made in-house with six dedicated full-time people. The cartridge bodies are milled using three Roland Camm-3 CNC milling machines; the cartridges are assembled by hand. Microscopic inspection and full electrical tests are carried out to ensure every cartridge meets or exceeds its published specification.
African blackwood is also known as mpingo and made famous by Shun Mook. According to the BBC “The wood from Tanzania’s mpingo tree is used to make flutes, clarinets, oboes and even bagpipes, making it one of the most valuable plants in the world” and “musicians and musical instrument makers value the timber for its unique tonal qualities” Miyajima use mpingo in their top-of-the-range cartridges because they believe it is the best wood available.
What Makes Miyajima Cartridges Special?
There is nothing unique about using African Blackwood for cartridge bodies, but Miyajima cartridges have a unique, patented design that really is different to any other moving coil cartridge available. Miyajima understood that traditional moving coil cartridges suffer from resonances and distortion, firstly due to the tie-wire that typically holds the cantilever and coil assembly against the magnet pole piece with a compliant insert between to allow some movement. The tie wire has to be very precisely tightened so that the coil assembly is correctly aligned, but its disadvantage is that it resonates, introducing distortion. The second source of distortion is the typical iron coil former of a moving coil cartridge, which actually distorts the lines of magnetic flux between the pole pieces, as it moves through those lines. Miyajima have a patented cross ring coil structure that has a non-magnetic core, neatly side-stepping this problem. The next innovation was to eliminate the tie-wire altogether. Instead, Miyajima use a pointed slide bar that locates the coil assembly very precisely from behind at its pivot point, which is also the centre point of the magnet, while gently pushing the coil assembly against a compliant insert. This means that the coil assembly can pivot unimpeded by a tensioning wire. Here is a helpful animation showing how Miyajima cartridges work:
What Makes Miyajima Mono Cartridges Special?
Miyajima mono cartridges are true mono designs, which means they have only one coil that operates in the lateral plane only. They have no vertical compliance and cannot therefore be used to play stereo records (to do so will cause damage to a stereo groove). Asking the stylus to do only one thing, eg wiggle from side to side, means that it is totally insensitive to vertical movement in the groove, and that manifests as very low groove noise, as well as very faithful tracking of the groove modulations. Most mono cartridges are actually modified stereo designs that have some vertical compliance, and which will pick up vertical groove modulations which are almost certainly noise, dust, damage etc, so in reality a compromise but still probably better than playing a mono LP with a stereo cartridge. Miyajima mono cartridges don’t have any such compromises and are characterised by very low distortion and very low surface noise, whether we are talking about the entry level Kotetu mono or the truly astonishing Zero models.
Why 1.0 Mil Tip?
We cannot explain this any better than Paul Rigby in his review at http://theaudiophileman.com/0-7mil-tipped-miyajima-zero-b-miniature-mono/ but in essence, some older mono LPs had wider grooves. A Zero Mono B with its 0.7 mil tip will play these very well (and far better than any stereo cartridge), but the bigger 1.0 mil tip of the Zero Mono A fits the groove better and the end result is simply better musical reproduction. If you know you have a good number of older mono LPs with wider grooves, then the Zero Mono A is a good investment – the serious mono listener often has both the Zero A and Zero B for ultimate replay of mono LPs across the decades.
Why Does a Mono Cartridge Make Any Difference?
Stereo cartridges will make a good fist of playing mono records, but it’s a compromise. A good mono cartridge does one thing – play mono records – better than a stereo one. Paul Rigby wrote a very good piece titled “Is It Time For Mono?” explaining this far better than I can, and you can read it HERE. He summarised the piece by stating “A good quality mono recording makes stereo pressings sound rather gimmicky and toy-like in comparison. I now wonder what I’ve been missing all these years. More than that, at these prices, a steal…a complete steal, the relative improvement in performance is quite astounding.” Miyajima mono cartridges give you that mono magic, just like their stereo brethren do for stereo records. Truly magical stuff
Zero Monaural Reviews
Body type : African blackwood
Frequency response : 20Hz – 20KHz
Output level : 0.4mV
Impedance : 6 ohm
Recommended load : 100 ohm
Tracking force : 2.0 – 4.5g 3.5g recommended
A version Stylus type : 1.0 mil conical for pre 1967 mono recordings
B version Stylus type : 0.7 mil conical for most post 1967 mono recordings
Compliance 100Hz : 8×10-6cm/dyne
Weight : 11.8g
Miyajima cartridges are just as likely as any other cartridge to wear out over time, or to suffer accidental damage, so buyers need to be assured that the manufacturer offers an efficient and good value repair and servicing service. This is most important in the case of Miyajima stereo cartridges because the unique way that the generator system is designed and built means that only Miyajima themselves are able to undertake proper servicing, adjustment and repairs. While a third part cartridge re-tipper may be able to fit a new tip to a Miyajima stereo cartridge, they cannot adjust the coils and suspension to suit the new tip, so you as the customer will most likely not get a satisfactory result. We therefore recommend that all Miyajima servicing is done by Miyajima in Japan.
All new Miyajima cartridges supplied in the UK are warranted for 2 years from the date of purchase, against manufacturing defects, and that UK warranty is transferable so not restricted to the original buyer. Miyajima only honour the warranty in the country that a cartridge was originally supplied in, in our case the UK, so any ‘grey imports’ are not covered by any warranty at all and Miyajima do keep records of serial numbers to enforce this policy.
Miyajima’s 2 year warranty does not cover wear and tear, nor accidental damage, so Miyajima UK have come up with what we believe is a very fair offer for customers requiring cartridge servicing, as follows:
- Examination, testing and simple adjustment – just a nominal charge to cover actual postage costs between Miyajima UK and Miyajima in Japan and return. We will confirm that cost in each instance and if the cartridge return coincides with a regular shipment from Japan, then we won’t charge for that postal leg.
- Full service/repair – where a cartridge is worn out or damaged (outside the terms of the warranty) and cannot simply be adjusted back to the manufacturer’s specifications, Miyajima UK will offer a new replacement cartridge at 50% of the current UK retail price. This offer is available only to the original purchaser and not to any subsequent owners.
- In all cases, we send cartridges back to Miyajima in Japan for examination and testing.
If any of that is not clear, or if you have any questions, please get in touch using the contact details at the top of this page.