We’ve had the Miyajima ETR-MONO SUT here for a while, and thought it might be helpful to summarise our thoughts and findings.

One question that we’ve been asked is whether the ETR-MONO is better for playing Miyajima mono cartridges than Miyajima’s stereo ETR-KSW SUT.  The answer to that is a resounding ‘Yes’ – the ETR-KSW is very good, and notably smooth sounding but the mono cartridges really do appreciate the optimum gain and load that the ETR-MONO can provide.  The difference is really quite dramatic – for mono the ETR-MONO SUT is very much better than the ETR-KSW.  We’ve been carrying out some extended listening tests to determine how to get the best out of the ETR-MONO and here are our thoughts.

Dave Cawley of Timestep conducted some lab measurements on the ETR-MONO and here is a table summarising how the different settings change gain and effective impedance:

MIyajima Premium and Zero monaural cartridges have a stated coil impedance of 6 ohms, and Miyajima recommend that the Input Coil is set to “120” and we find that to be best.  But, there is a very wide variation in overall sound, depending on the Output Coil setting.  Miyajima’s Input Coil recommendations are:

Cartridge Coil        Input Coil Setting
2-5 Ω                    80
6-12 Ω                  120
12-20 Ω                 160
20-40 Ω                 200

We do find that the ‘Impedance’ control on the ETR-MONO is largely redundant – it applies resistive loading to the transformer’s secondary winding and therefore changes the load reflected back to the cartridge coil, as well as altering the input impedance of the connected phono stage.  The ‘Impedance’ control acts like a tone control, and without exception we prefer it left in the PASS position, as does Dave Cawley of Timestep, which is why the table shown above gives gain and impedance measured with the ‘Impedance’ control set to PASS.  That said, we can see the ‘Impedance’ control being useful to tame very thin or ‘toppy’ mono recordings, so there’s no harm in it being there.

Using our demonstration Zero Mono B (0.7 mil tip) cartridge, and a variety of old but well recorded mono LPs (mostly classical), we found that with the Input Coil set to 120, best results were obtained with the Output Coil set to 3600.  These settings gave a lovely open character to the music, with taut and nicely controlled bass and a natural musical flow.  That last parameter is difficult to describe in words, but for us it’s the sense that the performers are playing well together, in time, in a realistic acoustic space, and enjoying what they’re doing.  Taking the Output Coil down to 3000 does not audibly change the gain by any appreciable amount, but some of that ‘musical flow’ is lost.  Somehow, 120/3000 sounds just ‘right’.  Adjusting the Input Coil control to 160 lost some of that natural flow.

You are hopefully getting the impression that we like the ETR-MONO, and we do very much.  To hear true mono done properly, with a true mono cartridge (such things are actually quite rare) and a properly matched SUT, is something of a joy.  Being brought up on stereo it’s a little difficult to consider mono as being superior, but in many respects it is (for a variety of reasons).  A Miyajima Zero, paired with the ETR-MONO and played through a decent system is likely to leave most people bowled over, and possibly nonplussed at having their preconceptions challenged – these components are among the very best that money can buy, but fortunately they are both relatively sensibly priced.

As an afterthought, we thought it might be fun to bring out a second ETR-MONO and then play a Shilabe stereo cartridge through separate mono SUTs, to hear how this setup compares to Miyajima’s stereo ETR-KSW SUT.  After a bit of knob-twiddling to find the optimum settings on each ETR-MONO to suit the Shilabe (which turned out to be Input 160/Output 3000, equating to 25dB gain and 144 ohms effective load), we rather like the result, which is a more open, modern and incisive sound compared to the ETR-KSW which has a slightly ‘rose tinted’ presentation (but that’s part of its appeal).  Increasing the output coil setting to 3600 (and therefore lowering the effective load to the cartridge) plumps up the sound a little, but the sacrifice is a slight loss of musical agility.   The ETR-KSW does have better quality transformers, though, which explains its astonishing delicacy with fine details.