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Thread: Koetsu Onyx Platinum, van den Hul Stradivarius on Ikeda 407, Fidelity Research FR64s

  1. #1
    Addicted to Best! shakti's Avatar
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    May 2015
    Cologne, Germany

    Koetsu Onyx Platinum, van den Hul Stradivarius on Ikeda 407, Fidelity Research FR64s

    Since I own the Micro Seiki SX 8000 MKII , I am looking for a nice Cart / Arm combination.

    Currently are the Ikeda 407 tonearm (with VTA lifter) and the Fidelity Research FR64s (silver cable, Big "bass resonator" screw, similar to B60 VTA lifter)

    Both tonearms have a different Charakter, so a clear development from FR64s/FR66s to FR64fx/66fx to the Ikeda 407 is obvious.

    The FR64s silver is very open , very transparent, but has always a punchy bass and tends to have a small higher midrange resonance, depending on the headshell/cart combination.

    The Ikeda 407 has an optimized material combination, which gives the arm a very laid back and controlled sound. In the first go, the Ikeda sounds a little bit boring, compared to the flashy performance of the Fr64s, but after a while the well balanced performance of the Ikeda 407 is a quality in its own.

    This comparison was done with Ikeda 9TS, Ikeda KAI and Fidelity Research Fr7f carts, several head shells, headshell leads, tonearm cables were used.

    (This comparison was done only! on Micro Seiki 8000, so on other turntables, this might differ)

    In my mind, in my imagination, I have a clear understanding of my master reference sound. So whenever I install a cart in a Tonearm, I am optimizing to meet my personal reference sound. This might be a different optimum, than others would do (for instance I might have 0,05 less or more tracking force to get my preferred balance)

    Over all the years I tried several times Koetsu and could always understand, why someone would love this sound, but for me, it was always to warm and nice and at least a little bit boring. On the other hand I owned many van den Hul systems , and I was mostly happy, but sometimes the vdh were a little bit edgy, a little bit over the top, too much glammer, to shiny, not enough body.

    Far away of the well balanced performance the Ikeda Kai was giving. On the other hand I knew voices even better, that with the KAI (from Koetsu stone body) , I know vdh carts with a much higher resolution.

    But the balance of the Ikeda Kai...was great.

    So I created the idea, if I can customize the performance of a Koetsu Stone body and a vdh system to become balanced as KAI , which would mean at the end, that Koetsu and vdh have to sound much more similar , that I can imagine, that it would be possible.

    I bought a Koetsu Onyx Platinum, which has already silver coated wiring and a platinum supported magnet, which should give to the performance a higher resolution, that with the original Onyx.

    From vdh I choose the current top of the line product, the vdh colibri Stradivarius , customized for Ikeda and FR tonearms.

    The Stradivarius has a body from Hawaiian Koa Wood and an old Stradivari type of lacquer, which is a good start for a more harmonic performance.

    Both Carts do cost in Germany around 9000,- eur , so pricewise a fair comparison. (The Ikeda Kai is around 7500,-eur)

    From the principal character of the carts and the tonearms, I decided to fit the Koetsu Onyx Platinum in the FR64s silver tonearm, as this high speed, highly transparent arm should "wake up" the Koetsu!

    The FR64s Tonearm comes with a very bad headshell, so I decided to fit the Koetsu Onyx Platinum in a very precise and fast sounding headshell, the Yamamoto HS5 Titanium headshell. As the Koetsu platinum type of carts do have silver coated copper wires, I decided to continue the logic with the silver coated copper leads from Ortofon, the LW-88s, which are highly transparent headshell wired, which should fit very nicely to the Koetsu Platinum and the silver Tonearm wire of the FR64s. Addition I decided to use the Dereneville Headshell mat, as this will bring some more precise structure and contour.

    The Ikeda 407 is built out of different materials, so a part of the performance is due to the material mix, so I decided to use the original aluminum headshell. As this headshell comes with standard wire, I changed to high quality copper from Ortofon, the LW 7N. High quality copper leads can create a sound of more substance and weight, the treble is more soft and integrated , so this should be a perfect match for a vdh colibri type. To kill some small Headshell resonances (the Colibri is very sensitive on resonance management) I used a thin rubber ring from Yamamoto on the headshell finger.

    I have chosen for both combinations the Titanium screws from Yamamoto.

    Than I started the fitment.

    The Yamamoto HS5 headshell does not like modern carts..., first problem, I see two threads, one in the cart, one in the headshell. So I had to modify the headshell to fit the Koetsu. Second problem. Koetsu and yamamoto (with fixed headshell positions) are designed for 50mm distance from Heradshell start to needle (like Ikeda 407 standard), but the old FR64s is for 51mm....

    But than I remembered an old discussion on the fitting distance of the Fr64s, manual is saying 230mm, but some "freaks" are saying 231,5mm is better. But with 231,5mm, the cart should go to 50,5 to 51mm needle distance, which would fit to my Koetsu / yamamoto combination.

    I am once more happy , that I can change this dimensions easy on my Micro Seiki :-)

    Than I optimized VTA, tracking force, antiskating.

    Fitting a vdh Colibri is always fun. You need a lot of light and self confidence to fit this sensible cart..., it is sooo naked....

    Fortunately the Ikeda headshell allows the fitment with 4 screws, which gives the colibri a perfect fit!

    But than a problem .., The Ikeda counterweight is too heavy to find the balance . I had to add a 4g weight, which I fortunately had.
    May be, I have to think about a more heavy headshell.

    The Stradivarius was also fast optimized.

    So I could start to listen to music.

    (both on my Thoeress Phono, Koetsu on 100ohm, vdh on 200 or 500ohm)

    But both carts were not playing according my expectations. So at first I changed some phono cables, as this normally has a strong effect.

    Luckily the vdh likes the Ikeda Phonocable, and the Koetsu the HMS Gran Finale Jubilee, which I had in my cable box.

    Than I adjusted the Koetsu tracking force to the mid/low point and the Colibri tracking force to higher point direction
    (fine-tuning height and skating accordingly).

    With this last fine-tuning steps , both combinations were playing the music in a great way,

    On this level than both carts played some hours (Clearaudio Cartridge burn in LP)

    Now I am listening to two fascinating combinations, giving me a deep inside to the music. Both still show their given character , but on the other hand both play now on a level, which make them difficult to identify after a while.

    The Stradivarius still shows the transparent and detailed performance, we love from Colibris, but it lost all the downsides a vdh can sometimes give.

    For me the best Colibri performance I ever heard in my system, a great step forward in the Colibri range.

    And listening to the Koetsu Onyx Platinum is giving me still the pure emotional voice , we all like to hear from a Koetsu, but fitted in a Titanium headshell with silver coated wire, silver wired FR64s Tonearm and a neutral / high Performance arm cable the Onyx Platinum can nearly compete with a Colibri even in the resolution area...

    Very important for me, both combinations can "rock", after having hours of Jazz, some old Queen records helped to reset my ears :-)

    This was along leading comparison with a lot of preparation and planning. It was the first time, that I compared carts differently. As mostly I fit different carts in the sam arm to judge the performance of the cart. But mostly I judge only, which carts fits best to my existing tonearm and not , if the cart in general would fit my needs.

    Giving each cart a matching tonearm, a unique headshell, a carefully chosen headshell wiring and Tonarm wiring , the result (at least for me) is much more relevant to my future next steps.

    Now the day to day listening to music will show, which combination will get the most hours , this will than become my favorite combination.

    both carts do outperform the Ikeda Kai (at least for my personal taste, with this arm and turntable)

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  2. #2
    [WBF Founding Member] Addicted to Best! JackD201's Avatar
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    Manila, Philippines
    I very much enjoyed your post. Thank you.
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    Co-Founder and Managing Director PureSound PH - Exclusive Distributor (Philippines only) of Lamm, Von Schweikert Audio, CH Precision, Light Harmonic, Valvet, Townshend, Critical Mass Systems, EERA, KR Audio, Ambience SS, TechDAS, Master Built, Stromtank

  3. #3
    Member Sponsor Addicted to Best!
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    Nice analysis of you set the carts, arms, cables etc. Liked reading the thought process
    Audition recordings: Zero Distortion Link; Reference Components: Zero Distortion Link; Own: Lampi GG One-day-to-get: Apogee Scintilla, or a horn (with Tenor 75 OTL ), Preamp to be fit in to suit the gain and drive the power amp. Analog: TBD

  4. #4
    Very good report,thanks
    You can try if someone borrow to you the Koetsu MC transformer to try with Onyx and Thoress in MM,if you have input mm
    I have coralstone diamond with CH P1 and i use in current but also in MM with his trans the mid and voices are better,bigger and more natural

    But you have to find the new mc trans Koetsu that you can see inside if is new series because the transformer are sealed.

  5. #5
    Addicted to Best! shakti's Avatar
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    May 2015
    Cologne, Germany
    thank you for the hint using the new Koetsu transformer. I tried an older one, and it was not, what I expected.

    I do have the Kondo M7 / Kondo SFZ step up phono stage combination, but difficult to handle with more than one cart.

    Unfortunately the Kondo SFZ Step up ha too high gain for the input of the MM Thoeress, so I cannot use.

    My Thoeress is specially built with high gain factor to accommodate low output MC Systems. The result with Ikeda Kai and Transfiguration Proteus was very good, so I decided to sell Kondo and to enjoy the flexibility of 6 phono inputs on the Thoeress.

    When I finally know, which carts will stay, the Thoeress will customized to the needed loads. Than I will lower the MM sensitivity as well, as in principle I love good transformers as well. My Air Tight ATE 2001 Preamp has the sonic labs step ups integrated, which ends up in a nice result as well.

    (but I always struggle to have a hum free phono performance with Air Tight, no problem at all with Thoeress!)

  6. #6
    I absolutely love my Onyx Platinum; just had it rebuilt by Koetsu last year, and it's still good as new. I agree that with a good arm, phono, and SUT match they can rock out like crazy, yet still maintain that classic Koetsu midrange magic. I also have an old non-Platinum Onyx, and the modern Platinum is certainly more accurate. That said, the old Onyx has a certain lushness and musicality that's also quite beautiful to behold. I currently have mine out for a rebuild, with instructions to retain the original Alnico magnets, just to have available a different -- but still very Koetsu -- perspective on music.

    I've had very good results with Koetsu on Fidelity Research FR64fx and Graham Phantom Supreme arms. But the matching with a Clearaudio Universal 12" was borderline poor.

  7. #7
    Site Founder And Administrator Ron Resnick's Avatar
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    Jan 2015
    Beverly Hills, CA
    Can you compare for us your old Onyx to the Rosewood Signature Platinum?
    Mono and Stereo - Senior Contributing Reviewer

    turntable: American Sound AS-2000; tonearms: SME 3012R, Schröder LT; cartridges: ZYX UNIverse Premium X-SB2, Air Tight Opus-1; tape: Studer A820 Mk II; phono stage: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 power supplies; line stage: VTL TL-7.5 Series III; amplifier: VTL Siegfried Series II; loudspeaker: Gryphon Pendragon; cables: MasterBuilt Ultra; stands: Vintage Audio Nothing racks, Herzan TS-140/Taiko Tana for Io, Stacore Basic+ for amps; power: Benjamin Electric subpanel, JPS in-wall wire, Furutech NCF outlets, Torus AVR60BAL; room: 19' wide X 24' long X 14' tall; acoustic treatment: SoundSense A.T.I. + Lumitex drapes + Vibramat, ASC IsoThermal Tube Traps; tweaks: Shakti Stones, Shun Mooks, self-propelled sound-absorbing cocker-poo

  8. #8
    Senior Member Syntax's Avatar
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    Feb 2012
    At The Dark Side
    The ringing platter from the 8000II is dominant and it is impossible to rate any connected component correctly from a neutral point of view.
    It is like rolling a dice, find something you like today/tomorrow/next week/next month but it has nothing to do with the real thing. It is the way it is. But rolling the dice is fun.
    Kind Regards

    🎶 This is a cryogenically treated Signature 🎶

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Resnick View Post
    Can you compare for us your old Onyx to the Rosewood Signature Platinum?
    Hi Ron,
    The RSP I have is circa 2000 (non-threaded mounting holes), all original, supposedly one of the last made by Sugano Sr. People write a lot about the lush, warm, magical-but-editorialized sound of the Koetsu Rosewood, but in actuality that's what the old alnico Onyx Signature sounds like. My RSP actually has a very airy, crisp top end, and sounds very very much like the modern stone bodies, except that the latter all have slightly more powerful, robust bass response. The Platinum stone bodies are all very similar to each other (Jade, Onyx, Coralstone), with only minor nuanced differences among them.

    Honestly, if I sell one of my Koetsu, the RSP will be the first to go. But even then it's difficult to part with. And the beauty of the lacquered Rosewood is really something -- it's prettier than the stone bodies.

    -- Mike

  10. #10
    Addicted to Best! shakti's Avatar
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    May 2015
    Cologne, Germany
    Quote Originally Posted by Syntax View Post
    The ringing platter from the 8000II is dominant and it is impossible to rate any connected component correctly from a neutral point of view.
    It is like rolling a dice, find something you like today/tomorrow/next week/next month but it has nothing to do with the real thing. It is the way it is. But rolling the dice is fun.
    Thank you for your! point of view, you can imagine, that I like to disagree, that this point of view is the "neutral point of view".

    Comparing the Carts on this turntable is much more close to the real thing, than just rolling a dice, but good to know, that you have a different oppinion .

    I can live with that :-)

    - Juergen

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