Hana cartridges have a well-deserved reputation as giant killers. But what if Hana made a cartridge that had ‘big hitter’ price and specs? That’s where the Umami Red comes in.
Made by Japanese cartridge experts Excel Sound Corporation and built with a sculpted Duralumin body with an ebony inlay, the Umami Red features an open-air moving-coil generator sitting in what Hana calls an ‘auricle’. As the name suggests, the auricle shape is inspired by the outer ear, and brings the sides of the cartridge body as close to the generator as possible – to increase stiffness and break-up resonance – while affording the generator both the sort of freedom normally found in fully nude generators and the added protection of a cartridge body. This generator uses a samarium/cobalt magnet with a square-plate permalloy armature and pure 30-micron copper wires. The cantilever is made from boron and features Hana’s microline stylus (as used in the ML and MH cartridges we so enjoyed in Issue 172). It has an internal impedance rated at 6Ω and a 0.4mV output, and tracks at around 1.8–2g.
The body itself is best described as ‘sumptuously’ finished, with a black Urushi-painted undercoat, a red-pigmented silver powder coat (gold pigmented for the Hana character itself) then lacquered and polished. Wisely, Hana supplied a removable stylus guard and a good mounting kit, and installation (to the gimballed arm on the VPI HW-40) and load-matching passed off uneventfully. However, there is a wealth of difference between the ‘excellent’ sound you get from a first fit and the ‘outstanding’ sound you get if you spend some time aligning and load-matching with extraordinary care.
The Umami Red is that rare jewel in phono cartridges; a design that gives you both the sort of detail and precision of sound that presents whatever music you put on the platter with a laser-guided focus on the recording itself, and musical grace and passion. That makes for some interesting listening sessions, both in terms of ‘depth’ and ‘width’… not just of soundstage, but music collection. Here’s what I mean; Lana Del Rey’s title track to Norman F***ing Rockwell![Interscope] is such a thing of beauty you might only play that one track in a test listening session, but the Hana and I were in it for the long haul. At each stage, the cartridge tracked sublimely, opened up the recording with detail, scale, imagery, and dynamics, but more importantly got past those observational details and engaged you to the point where a musical snack turned into a full-blown banquet. The Umami Red has a great tonal balance too, perfectly pitched between bright and bland. It’s sophisticated presentation will take time to beguile, but when it does, it will really get under your skin.
The Hana ML and MH gets you glimpses of what a really good cartridge can do. The Umami Red gives you the complete picture. It represents the top-end of Hana’s output, but goes toe-to-toe with some exceptionally rare cartridges with some very lofty reputations. And it sacrifices nothing. This is truly top-tier LP replay!
Price and contact details
Hana Umami Red: £3,399
Distributor: Air Audio Distribution.
Tel: +44(0)1491 626 629
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