How to ID true Koetsu Black made by Mr. Sugano, the father?

Ki Choi

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May 13, 2010
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Is there a definitive marks or serial number range that identify that the Koetsu Black cartridge is made by the founder and not by his son?

I have done quick search on the Web and there are various claims what is the real thing or not...

Your expert opinion and photo of one would be much appreciated.

Ki
 

jdza

Well-Known Member
May 3, 2010
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I was hoping someone with a more definite answer would come forward but I'll reply with what I know:

In the 80s it was widely reported that all Koetsus except the Black were built by Sugano himself. The Black was an OEM product built by Musashino (?) Labs.It may well be that that only the aluminium shell was OEM and the innards were by Sugano.

Like everything Koetsu it is all shrouded in mystery. Some time ago I sent my Onyx for a rebuild. Years of repeated v d Hul rebuilds left the Koetsu with a cracked Onyx shell and hieroglyphics on the bottom plate. After several weeks I received my old cart in pieces, another cart in an unmarked box and a stern admonishment to be more careful. The new was simply stated to be an old ,never used ,Onyx shell and goodness knows what inside.It certainly had none of my old components as these were all loose in a bag. All I know it sounds neither like the old cart or anything else I ever heard and constantly trashes everything else I try.
 

Ki Choi

Member Sponsor
May 13, 2010
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Seattle WA area
Great story on your mystery "gift" from Koetsu.

Now that I am officially into playing LPs, I got interested in learning the most accurate or neutral way of reproducing music with certain cartridges like the Denon DL-A100 and Ortofon A90. But then I heard there's another world of euphoric sounding cartridges such as Koetsus that may not be the last word in accuracy but they make music in special ways.

One of the knowledgeable friends told me about the Black. In his opinion, the original father Sugano built cartridges with special metal cantilever that is so different than the modern Koetsus made by the son with boron cantilever. His advice also added that although the Black was the lowest priced Koetsu cartridge but it retains the most of the classic Koetsu sound. But it is not easy to identify the father Sugano built Black. If i find one, i plan to send it to Asia for rebuild.

Maybe there's another cartridge that's better in producing no so accurate but beautiful music... ????
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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It would be interesting to know if the elder Sugano actually sat under a bonsai tree whittling on a piece of rare wood with his jar of secret sap at his side and still found time to build the cheapest Koetsu cartridge in their line. But the problem is that even if the elder Sugano actually did make a certain number of Black cartridges and you could identify the serial number range and you could go on a global hunt and locate one inside of the Holy Grail that you also found during your travels, it won’t be the same once it is sent off to be rebuilt so why not buy a new one instead? That’s what I would do.
 

garylkoh

WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
Sep 6, 2010
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Ki, come on over when you have time. I have the Kiseki Lapis Lazuli set up, and it's the most glorious cartridge I have ever heard (or not heard) in my life. I'm also going to mount the FIM Black Ebony - which should be a little more euphonic for producing not so accurate but beautiful music.

Kiseki Lapis Lazuli.jpg

Playing direct-cut White vinyl :)
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
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Ki, come on over when you have time. I have the Kiseki Lapis Lazuli set up, and it's the most glorious cartridge I have ever heard (or not heard) in my life. I'm also going to mount the FIM Black Ebony - which should be a little more euphonic for producing not so accurate but beautiful music.

Playing direct-cut White vinyl :)

Or he can listen to the Jun Fukamachi CD that compares the vdh Colibri to the Black Ebony!
 

Ki Choi

Member Sponsor
May 13, 2010
758
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470
Seattle WA area
Hi Mark:

It would be interesting to know if the elder Sugano actually sat under a bonsai tree whittling on a piece of rare wood with his jar of secret sap at his side and still found time to build the cheapest Koetsu cartridge in their line.

Mr. Sugano need to be a very small person to be seating "under" a bonsai tree and what I heard was his metal cantilever that is special not the rare wood used. ;)

[/QUOTE]But the problem is that even if the elder Sugano actually did make a certain number of Black cartridges and you could identify the serial number range and you could go on a global hunt and locate one inside of the Holy Grail that you also found during your travels, it won’t be the same once it is sent off to be rebuilt so why not buy a new one instead? That’s what I would do.[/QUOTE]

Well, I am no Koetsu expert. As I understand it, Black was one of the first cartridges Mr. Sugano made, and it could be possible he would have hand made them until the volume increased. The place in Asia will not change the cartridge but replace the damper that may have harden over time and will keep the cantilever.

Sometimes, the search is just as fun as actually finding it. It reminds me of the ole Buddy Hackett joke where he goes on and on about this strange guy with a trumpet in a brown paper bag. He builds up the story to a point where everyone is at the edge of their seat.... 'then the guy pull out the trumpet from the wrinkled brown paper bag and started to blow...Buddy says in a straight face - He couldn't play worth a s___. the fun was in Buddy describing this mysterious guy as if he was talking about Miles Davis.

Ki
 

JackD201

WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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Hi Ki,

Koetsu sort of takes an opposite approach as Ortofon with the A90. Where Ortofon made the body of the A90 dead as door nails when it comes to resonance, Sugano-san and Son use the bodies to get specific colorations. The wood bodies are the fatter, more rolled off and midrange-centric followed by the Urushi laquered ones whose coatings add stiffness and up to the stone bodied carts that with higher resonant frequencies have their colorations to be more prismatic/technicolor in nature. Prices for the stone bodied carts swing wildly mainly owing to fluctuations of the material's costs. This is most evident in the Jade, Blue Lace and Coral. Tiger Eye is always expensive. Internals are the same for all stone bodies however (platinum) except if one elects to go for the diamond cantilever.

Personally, I think every cart hound should have at least one. If one were to have only one cart however I would go for an Urushi, Rosewood Platinum (the 'tweener) or Stone as these will play a wider selection of music better being more extended and articulate. Owing to the historic significance of the original Black however, the Black makes for a very compelling choice. Whichever is chosen, I find personally that the presentation always has an impressionistic nature with color and texture in tandem. There will be no lack of the Koetsu sound unlike say Dynavector that has departures in the form of the 17Ds and TKRs.
 

jadis

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Apr 28, 2010
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Reviving this thread, I just saw it now, I'd like to post my first ever Koetsu Black which I bought from an elder audiophile who in turn bought 2 units from a Hong Kong distributor Friden Marketing in the late 80s. Having worn out the first, my friend used the second one for not very long till he decided to sell it and having heard that, I quickly snapped it amidst some other guy planning to outbid me in a dinner table gathering of audiophiles. :D The rule of law prevailed and I got it and marveled and savored at its beautiful sound until I decided to apply to be the country distributor of Koetsu in 2006.

Honestly I have no answer to Ki's original posted question. Koetsu long before was company shrouded in mystery and enigma. Wooden non-sealed box, no paper tech specs, no seal, you're lucky to get a metal of plastic cantilever/stylus protector (yes that is included always), and as I always told customers, the zen like smell of the wooden box is already half the price of what they paid for. :D

When I bought the Black, I was so giddy to be finally an owner of a Koetsu cartridge, as I have only heard one from a neighbor's listening room long ago and was enamored with the sound and the mystique surrounding it. That neighbor had 2 Koetsus, Rosewood and Onyx. The Onyx was on reserve and not mounted. Not surprisingly, there were Koetsu critics, saying that highs were rolled off, bass was flabby and only the mids were worth listening to, that was in the 90s. But it didn't deter me from buying the Black. Yes, it has the Musashino Audio mark on its top, with a serial number and here it is mounted on my ET2 arm wand.

k23.jpg

100_0226.jpg

When I became the country distributor, the Black had a new look:

100_05534.jpg

It had beveled bottom corners and a slanting base near the cantilever area, and of course, it looks 'newer'. :) This is part of the new generation Koetsus made by Fumihiko Sugano. If one is looking for a more vintage one, then my advise is to search for a Black that had the Musashino mark. It had the classic Koetsu sound, and it would be safe to assume that the father Sugano had a hand in the innards of the cartridge, even if the body was OEMed by another Japanese manufacture, maybe he had difficulty 'chiseling' metal. :D
 

msm_1

New Member
Jun 21, 2010
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Brought up an older Koetsu post....I have what I believe to be a early Black. Any idea as to roughly this style was made....Thanks

1005138_10151428905255146_1528243097_n.jpg
 

jadis

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Apr 28, 2010
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Well, maybe not as old as I thought. Looks like a rather high #

View attachment 30261

Yours would be a bit older than my old Black which has a serial number starting with 59...My guess is still that would be vintage 80s. And further, my guess is that the late father Sugano started with a Rosewood or Onyx in terms of production and those were the so called 'long body' Koetsus, which old hands claim have the most distinct Koetsu midband.
 

msm_1

New Member
Jun 21, 2010
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If possible, could you post a pic of the top?

Yours would be a bit older than my old Black which has a serial number starting with 59...My guess is still that would be vintage 80s. And further, my guess is that the late father Sugano started with a Rosewood or Onyx in terms of production and those were the so called 'long body' Koetsus, which old hands claim have the most distinct Koetsu midband.

Thanks for info. Hard to find information on these little treasures. It doesn't show on these pics but has a very tiny screw above the gold line on the front. I've seen maybe a couple of ones with this screw, but again, not much to go on and finding someone who knows is just as hard lol.... Will definitely keep in the family. These older bodies don't seem to come up often for sale, specially original condition
 

jadis

Well-Known Member
Apr 28, 2010
9,198
2,695
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Manila, Philippines
Thanks for info. Hard to find information on these little treasures. It doesn't show on these pics but has a very tiny screw above the gold line on the front. I've seen maybe a couple of ones with this screw, but again, not much to go on and finding someone who knows is just as hard lol.... Will definitely keep in the family. These older bodies don't seem to come up often for sale, specially original condition

My pleasure. Indeed these older bodies don't come up often, and I believe, even broken vintage Koetsus have a value as it can be rebuilt to new condition, complete with a certificate signed by Fumihiko Sugano.
 

msm_1

New Member
Jun 21, 2010
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If possible, could you post a pic of the top?

My pleasure. Indeed these older bodies don't come up often, and I believe, even broken vintage Koetsus have a value as it can be rebuilt to new condition, complete with a certificate signed by Fumihiko Sugano.

True, any vintage Koetsu is a great find.... My understanding, and maybe their standards have changed, but at one time Koetsu would not take in one of their cartridges if it had be rebuilt/retipped by another company. I remember people getting warned that if they took it somewhere else, Koetsu would no longer consider it one of theirs anymore. I only had one rebuilt ( Jade ) and got the option from Koetsu to upgrade it internally to the next level up. Wasn't cheap, but they gave me a great discount. When I finish moving will take some pictures.
 

theophile

Well-Known Member
 

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