Analog Corner #283: Grado Epoch Mono, Miyajima Infinity Mono, MuTech RM-Kanda Hayabusa, Angstrom Audiolab Stella, Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista Vinyl Page 2

One thing I really liked about the Infinity was its top-end snap, speed, and transient precision. On an original mono pressing of Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder (Blue Note 4157), Billy Higgins's cymbals were pleasantly in my face, and the reediness of Joe Henderson's tenor sax produced an exciting immediacy without harshness or etch. Higgins's lower-level snare pops were equally rousing, and when Bob Crenshaw took his double-bass solo, the transient pluck was more nimbly presented than through the Epoch, though with less "meat."

Another of the Infinity's great strengths was its unwavering image stability, and its ability to float between the speakers, with almost ghostly ease, a satisfyingly well-organized and appropriately compact picture. When I began playing an original mono boxed set of The Nat King Cole Story (3 LPs, Capitol WCL 1613), I didn't stop until the end of side 6. Cole's voice between the speakers was warm and mellow yet eerily real; the supershort echo behind his voice in "The Christmas Song" was easily discernible, backed by clean, fast, yet warm piano transients.

I've heard this cartridge elsewhere, paired with a Miyajima Lab mono step-up transformer in front of a Tektron Italia tubed mono phono stage (both are carried by Miyajima's US importer, Robyatt Audio). The combo produced a satisfying mix of fast and precise high-frequency transients, a wide-open but not spotlit top end, and midband generosity that pleasingly warmed up the sound. At home, the Infinity through solid-state electronics produced a uniformly leaner sound that was no less attractive or convincing.

MuTech RM-Kanda Hayabusa stereo cartridge
I took an immediate liking to the sound of this Japanese cartridge (footnote 3). It reminded me of the Transfiguration line, whose manufacture ended in 2017 with the death of its designer, Immutable Music's Seiji Yoshioka.

Maybe the sonic similarity was due to the design. Like the Transfiguration Temper, the MuTech RM-Kanda Hayabusa uses a yokeless system in which a mu-metal coil former is precisely positioned within a powerful neodymium ring magnet. The proximity of coil to magnet and its position at the magnet's center produces a uniformity of magnetic flux field claimed to result in more linear frequency response and greater spatial coherence.


A low coil impedance (here, a very low 1.5 ohms) usually indicates relatively few turns of wire on the former, so the fact that it also produces a high 0.45mV output can be taken as a sign of very strong magnets and an efficient circuit, the latter surely aided by the mu-metal core. (Mu metal is a soft, ferromagnetic alloy made mostly of nickel and iron.) The RM-Kanda's specified frequency range is 10Hz–45kHz, its crosstalk (channel separation) is greater than 30dB at 1kHz, and its channel balance is better than 0.5dB at 1kHz. It weighs 9gm, and has a recommended vertical tracking force (VTF) of 1.8–2.0gm.

The RM-Kanda makes use of the familiar combination of boron cantilever and nude semi-line-contact stylus (Ogura PA) found on other costly Japanese cartridges—except that this isn't a costly Japanese cartridge. It costs $4500—not exactly cheap, but considering its construction quality and that MuTech, while not well known in the US, has been building cartridges (and supplying parts) for others for more than 50 years, and that this sample was easy to set up, with crosstalk and channel-balance measurements that matched its published specs, I'd say it's great value for money. But only if it sounds good.

Which it did. The RM-Kanda's sound was more linear and honest than flashy or wow-inducing. That translated into listening pleasure over the long haul, not instant excitement that turned into sonic fatigue.

When I first played a 2016 reissue of Gil Evans & Ten (Prestige/Analogue Productions APRJ 7120), I was initially surprised that it was a stereo reissue—the jacket and label art don't mention stereo. (I'm glad I didn't play it using the Miyajima Infinity, which lacks vertical compliance.) Then I was floored by the rich harmonic palette and vividly three-dimensional picture presented by this stunning 1957 Rudy Van Gelder recording of piano, soprano and alto sax, bassoon, French horn, trumpets, trombone, double bass, and drums (footnote 4). It certainly demonstrated both the MuTech RM-Kanda's harmonic richness and flat full-range response. In addition to arranging, Evans plays piano here, and for whatever reason, this is one of Van Gelder's best early-stereo recordings of the instrument: It's free of lower-midband bloat and sogginess, and the piano's image floats cleanly at the front of the soundstage.

The RM-Kanda's top-to-bottom response featured well-controlled, unbloated bass, a smooth, full-bodied midrange, and satisfying top-end extension and air. Transients were smoother than they were fully and sharply resolved compared to cartridges costing twice the price, and micro- and macrodynamics, while very good, were no match for the explosiveness produced by such super cartridges as Ortofon's MC Century and Lyra's Atlas and Etna.

However, at less than half the price of the Ortofon and Lyras, the RM-Kanda is a highly evolved, well-built, tonally honest-sounding cartridge that also tracked well (up to 80µm peak on track 13 of the Ortofon Test Record). If you own a tired Transfiguration cartridge but still love its sound, step this way! Importer Mockingbird Distribution offers a money-back guarantee. Assuming you correctly install the RM-Kanda, chances are it's not going back. Perhaps the designer can next come up with a double-ring-magnet cartridge as a suitable replacement for Transfiguration's underpriced/overperforming Proteus?

Angstrom Audiolab Stella phono preamplifier
The Italian-made Angstrom Audiolab Stella is as beautifully built inside as out (footnote 5). Look past its glossy, lacquered, wooden side cheeks to find point-to-point wired circuits, and what appears to be an overbuilt power supply featuring what I think are two rectifier tubes, four toroidal chokes, one large and two smaller power transformers, and what appear to be two pairs of 12AX7/12AU7 dual-triode tubes with passive RIAA equalization. It offers front-panel control of inputs (2 MM and 1 MC with Partridge step-up transformers), as well as capacitive MM and resistive MC loading.

But this $13,670 phono preamp got off to a bad start chez Fremer. I discovered right off that the inputs were reversed (the left channel was the right, and vice versa), and the front-panel knobs felt far looser than I expected, considering the otherwise high overall build quality.

The biggest surprise was the sound: coarse and grainy on top, anemic on bottom. In fact, there were no sonic qualities worth writing home about. I let the Stella break in for quite a while, and tried everything to improve the sound, but it was futile. This thing simply did not sound good.

The Stella hadn't yet appeared on Angstrom Audiolab's website by press time, so it must be a new product. If so, I'd go back to the drawing board and figure out what's wrong before releasing it to the public. If the designer actually listened to it, how could he have let it out of the shop with the channels reversed?

Nu-Vista Vinyl—Musical Fidelity's best-sounding phono preamp ever?
You've probably heard that founder Antony Michaelson recently sold Musical Fidelity to his old friend Heinz Lichtenegger, founder and CEO of Pro-Ject Audio Systems (footnote 6). Whatever that will turn out to mean for future Musical Fidelity products, it means little here. The Nu-Vista Vinyl is a classic Musical Fidelity product, designed in the UK, based on Nuvistor miniature vacuum tubes, and superbly built in Taiwan.


Nuvistors pretty much last forever. I've owned more than a few MF Nu-Vista products and have never experienced a tube failure. But no matter—Musical Fidelity says it has enough NOS Nuvistors in stock to last for many generations.

The Nu-Vista Vinyl is an unusually versatile, convenient-to-use phono preamp. It has five inputs, and front-panel pushbuttons for capacitive (0, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400pF) and resistive (10, 25, 50, 100, 400, 800, 1.2k, 47k ohms) loading, all easy to switch among. Each input remembers how you've set it for the associated cartridge.

Another pushbutton option, for super-low-output MC cartridges, adds 6dB of gain. The Nu-Vista Vinyl is fully balanced and includes 10 power supplies, with separate supplies for each channel and each stage, plus passively filtered and regulated power supplies for the Nuvistors.

The Nu-Vista Vinyl's specifications are impressive, as is the norm with MF products: signal/noise ratios of >90dB (MM) and >88dB (MC), and distortion of less than 0.0008%. The build quality of the enclosure and even the pushbuttons is off the charts, particularly for a fully balanced design with five inputs costing $3799. Even if you need only two or three inputs—or just one—this is a high-value item, physically and, especially, sonically.

Like the Nu-Vista 800 integrated amplifier I reviewed in November 2015, the Nu-Vista Vinyl exuded a combination of velvety delicacy, top-to-bottom coherence, and "black" backgrounds that produced immediate and long-term listening satisfaction.

Feeding the Nu-Vista Vinyl signals from a smooth-sounding cartridge might produce over-smooth results, depending on your system and tastes. (In my system, the Lyra Atlas SL and Ortofon A90 proved perfect matches.) However, if you're looking to soothe a hard-edged–sounding amplifier or cartridge, the Nu-Vista Vinyl may be a perfect fit there, too. It's a real smoothie—and, yes, it's Musical Fidelity's best-ever phono preamp: I've owned a few, and I've heard them all.

Footnote 3: MuTech Corp. US distributor: Mockingbird Distribution, LLC, 703 Elm Circle, Van Alstyne, TX 75495. Tel: (214) 668-2509. Web:

Footnote 4: Angstrom Audiolab. Web:

Footnote 5: Audio-show exhibitors: Instead of the usual "audiophile" crapola, why not play Gil Evans & Ten? If your system has the goods, this record will demonstrate that better than any Eagles or Stevie Ray Vaughan or even Diana Krall.

Footnote 6: Musical Fidelity, A Division of Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH, Margaretenstrasse 98, A-1050 Vienna, Austria. Tel: (43) 1-544-858-0400. Web: US distributor: Focal Naim America. Tel: (866) 271-5689 (USA), (800) 663-9352 (Canada). Web:


tonykaz's picture

Steve G. the Audiophiliac picked-up Pampers and KIA as advertisers of his YouTube Channel.

Does a Decade of reviewing Schiit get a Reviewer a thank-you from a diaper company ?

But why KIA ?, is it everyman priced gear ?

Tony in Venice Florida , one of the three Dream Places to Live!

thatguy's picture

Are they official advertisers with him or just adds that ran before his videos?

If they are just ads that ran before his videos that means google thinks you are in the market for those two products; everyone gets different commercials.

tonykaz's picture

But, I doubt that they're sponsoring advertisers .

I tried to arrange a few GM Pick-up Truck adverts in Hifi Glossy's but our Ad Agency people knew better. I'dve done a GMC Pick-up Center Fold-out in Stereophile ( if I could ).

For me, it's exciting to see Fortune 500 stuff advertising in Audiophile pieces, it's like were finally real people.

By the way, Currowong is drawing Hyundai Ads for his YouTube Headphone site ( which is kinda international and Asian ).

Tony in Venice Florida

ps. I suspect that Steve and Currowong both draw youthful followers and have consistently large Subscription Bases .

tonykaz's picture

I just had a close look at one of Kassem's latest : Kind of Blue.

It's a beautiful Creation, probably what 33.3 needs in the way of consistent quality but won't ever get.

Kassem only made 6,000. He says he can't get enough Jackets.

25,000 are promised.

Gotta be vinyls greatest collector item.

I'm not at all a modal Jazz fan but it did sound nice, I felt. Still, I'm not recommending it except as an investment. I didn't and won't buy one. You lads can have em all! ( if you can get one )

Tony in Venice Florida

dc_bruce's picture

Anyway, a thank you to MF for doing all of these reviews. With a moment's thought, one realizes that reviewing a phono cartridge is a lot more work than reviewing a piece of electronics or a pair of speakers. For the latter, the exercise is more or less plug, play and listen. Phono carts, by contrast, have to be laboriously installed, set up, loaded, etc. before you even get to the "plug, play and listen" part.

So, thanks Mr. F!