Can I get more out of my Koetsu ?

Hi Team, 
This might be one of my only discussions on here so pls take it easy on me🙏.

My current dilemma is, as the title suggests, I don't know if I am doing one of my carts (Koetsu Rosewood Standard) justice. 

Current setup is:
Koetsu > Yamamoto HS-5 headshell 18.4g > Technics 1200GR standard arm W-achromat > EAR MC4 > EAR Phonobox Classic > Leben 600x > Devore Fidelity 096;

The MC4 SUT is a new addition and it is all sounding pretty magical to me right now. Previously I was using the SUT in the phono stage. 

I know the Koetsu is meant to be on a high mass arm and that is why I added the HS-5 head shell. It is heavy and brings the resonance calculation to acceptable range. I do have to add the added counter weight for the technics arm but with it everything tracks perfectly. 

My other cart is a Hana ML low output MC cart. I like that one too but it only requires a medium mass arm which the Technics is so theoretically a better match.

The Koetsu already sounds magical and better than the Hana to my taste but how do I know if It could be sounding even better?

The way I see it:

  1. somehow hack a high mass arm onto the technics (don't think this would be easy and maybe not recommended) 
  2. Upgrade to technics 1200g (better arm but still not high mass. actually think its less mass than the GR)
  3. Start a new journey with another table with high mass arm (possible but $$$) 
  4. Just be happy with what I got and buy more records 😃

Strategy advice on how to navigate this problem and if new turntable is the answer some suggestions on how to approach that. 

I am not fussy about audio equipment that looks like it can take me to the moon. I am more into older style equipment that just sounds lush, magical and gives me technicolor dreams. 

Thanks in advance!!!


Well not to make a comment of little value… but absolutely. It is only a question of cost.


I have a Koetsu Rosewood Signature. I first mounted it on my Majik Linn LP 12 (mid level)… then upgraded my turntable three times (to near Klimax level), added a Silent Running Audio Ohio Class isolation platform and my Phonostage to an Audio Research Reference 3SE. Each time its performance improved significantly.

So there is really no limit anyway near you. I would probably start with the turntable. Then look at a better Phonostage.

You HAVE already added mass to the tonearm, by using an 18g headshell.  So there is absolutely no need to butcher your turntable in the process of changing the tonearm. That said, my experience with an Urushi does suggest that Koetsus like a high effective mass.  Apart from messing around with your downstream equipment, you might try adding about 5g more effective mass to the arm, by simply sticking a weight to the top of your headshell.  Since the headshell and anything you stick to it are positioned directly over the stylus/cantilever, you can think of any mass there as adding directly to tonearm effective mass.  Furthermore, the necessary increase in mass of the counterweight also adds to effective mass; by a factor equal to the distance from the pivot to the center of mass of the CW-squared multiplied by the mass of the CW.  A US nickel or dime (I forget which) weighs about 5g.  Try sticking one to the top of the headshell using double-sided tape. If that does not improve things, then I would assume you should look elsewhere for upgrades.  And finally, consider that your Rosewood is already sounding as good as it can sound.  There's always that possibility.


Be happy with what you have. There is always something better out there no matter how much you spend. But if you have the money it’s always nice to upgrade your equipment.

Just make sure you have your TT cartridge setup properly. VTA, azimuth, tracking force, anti-skate and level.

Joe Nies

@ghdprentice Been lusting after an LP12 forever. There is a nice looking specked out one for sale at the moment I keep checking in on. I do really like DD in the new technics.

@lewm Good idea. I will try playing around with some weights and yes good point! I might already be hearing all i need to from it already 

@joenies the voice of reason sitting on my shoulder. I think I have done a pretty good job of setting up my carts. I don't know how to measure anti-skate correctly. I think I need a flat record for this. I usually set to 1.5 on the technics and be done with it. 

Re blank vinyl calibration record:

I think one might use an old CD that way!

Although I do have some old DG albums that take up three sides of two disks. The last side, that says in German, something like "Achtung! No musik recorded here!" does have grooves (with a weird pattern to them - I really should try to play one like that one day) and would thus be useless for this job. If you have to go that way I'd use a CD or a 12" LaserDisk if you remember them.

And to the OP: you should be sure that your cartridge is the rate-limiting factor before spending money there.

@yogiboy ordered 
@dogberry nice idea. I have been on the road for the last 20years so don't have a bunch of old formats laying around to recycle so I will start with a blank record. Found one for $8 which seems pretty reasonable.

@ghdprentice which direction would you think if heading in re- Phono upgrade?. I do like the sound of he EAR.

@kdogsy , you did exactly the right thing. As @lewm suggests you might try adding even more mass to get the resonance frequency down to 8 Hz. Adjust your antiskating so that the tonearm drifts very slowly towards the spindle in the run out area between grooves. Soundsmith make a really nice set of graded cartridge screws which you can use to adjust the effective mass of the arm.

The only significant improvement (easily noticeable) would be to go to a better phono stage. The Koetsu has a very low impedance, 3 ohms and would mate beautifully with a current mode phono stage like the Sutherland Little Loco. You will certainly notice an improvement in bass definition. 


looking over your system… sort of anchoring on your speakers. I would say complementary components (if carefully chosen) would be about $5K each. For a Phonostage, I would go used. Audio Research PH8 would be my choice, or new Pass XP17, or Presto.


My strategy, if I were you, would be to swap my components to be up to the level of my level of speakers. Hence, I would upgrade with the objective of taking me out of the market with each purchase. So, the phonostage should take you out of the market. I would you upgrade your TT next, this would net you a substantial gain. Your integrated amp is probably at the level of your speakers. So, that would be at an optimal level.

Typically, I’ll live there for seven to ten years until my financial situation improves and I can think about the next level.


FYI, I own an Audio Research Reference 3. I brought home a ARC Reference 3SE this weekend to audition. Very notable improvement. So, I will send mine back to the factory to upgrade it to SE. clearly worth the money.

Your present system is fine! Stop your neurotic worrying and enjoy what you have! 

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@ghdprentice , you need to try the combo of a very low impedance cartridge and a transimpedance phono stage. 

@jasonbourne52 , What being an audiophile is all about is neurotic worrying about how to make your system perform better. Most people who love music are not audiophiles.  I am convinced that being an audiophile is a surrogate for being a talented musician. I use to play the drums. I have a natural sense of rhythm and timing but not enough fast twitch fibers to make it work at the appropriate level. So, I listen to Dave Weckl, Gavin Harrison, Billy Cobham and Buddy Rich, dreaming I am them.

I’ve seen various numbers for the internal resistance of these wood bodied Koetsus, but never so low as 3 ohms, except maybe for the Platinum version, e.g., Rosewood Platinum. My info suggests 5-6 ohms, but would still mate well with a current drive type phono. However, I don’t think such an expenditure is necessary. Also, my 12 year experience with my Urushi suggests that it is not just for the resonant frequency calculation that Koetsu likes high effective mass tonearms. The Urushi sounds best at all frequencies, bottom to top, with higher mass than necessary to bring Fr into the acceptable range of 8 to 12 Hz.

@mijostyn I got the EAR MC4 to give me options for what loading different carts want to see. I currently have the Koetsu plugged into the 3Ω taps. I will experiment with he other taps too but its sounding pretty good here. Am I solving the the same loading subject you are referring to with this SUT and would I then just consider upgrading to a higher quality MM level phono amp and keep the EAR MC4 or are you imagining replacing bot the EAR SUT and the EAR phono with something like the Sutherland Little Loco?.

Edit: Am reading about the Little Loco now and see it is a different type of design path that is instead of using a SUT.

Is the consensus that this is a better design or a matter of taste?. The little loco seems to be a cheaper option than my current solution of SUT + Phono 

@jasonbourne52 totally. Sometimes I have to make myself get off my ass and go help another human with their problems just to stop my worrying about my own irrelevant crap.  😂

@jasonbourne52 has a good point… but I would side wth @lewm on this lash out on the line of reasoning using that 5c investment to get a datapoint.

Or push it to a quarter in Anton Segur fashion…

In addition to the Little Loco, Sutherland offers a less expensive TZ Vibe full phono option as well as the SUTZ to replace your EAR MC4 allowing for Koetsu current gain into your EAR Phonobox Classic 👍

Twisted-pair phono cables over coax recommended for lowest inductance and max current.

The SoundSmith EZ mount cartridge screws are a great way to listen to how changing the effective mass of your arm changes the sound of the cartridge/arm combo.

@kdogsy , I think most of us that have gone that route prefer it. It works only with very low impedance cartridges which most of the best cartridges are. I would be very surprised if the Little Loco or the big Loco did not make a significant improvement over what you are doing. Another option is the Channel D Lino C. The benefit of the Lino C is that it has a flat output. No RIAA correction. This allows you to use digital RIAA correction and with Channel D's Pure Vinyl program you can record records to Hi Res digital files, 24/192. This allows you to raid your friend's record collection and record any special stuff they have.

@mijostyn …”you need to try the combo of a very low impedance cartridge and a transimpedance phono stage.”


Thank you for the recommendation. I have slowly systematically moved to where I am today over the last fifty years. This is exactly where I want to be.

Koetsu is a brilliant match with MC4. From either its 3 or 6 ohm taps. Other solutions can probably do well too but that MC4 is right at the very best I’ve heard Koetsu. I even preferred using MC4 into an ARC Ref 3SE (low gain mode) over the Ref 3’s own high gain mode (great combo there btw). I think it would be a mistake to move on from the MC4 at this point. 

that MC4 is right at the very best I’ve heard Koetsu

@mulveling sorry to imply otherwise. I shouldn’t doubt the impressive synergy that can be realized from simplicity!

Since we were on the Loco transimpedance train, the SUTZ was most applicable.

My Koetsu Vermilion also gets along extremely well with simple tube RIAA gain via the SUTZ transimpedance current-to-voltage converter.

Is the consensus that this [transimpedance] is a better design or a matter of taste?

@kdogsy That’s a great question that’s been avoided 😎

I would venture it’s an acquired taste with the right system and cartridge.

When the design works, users will of course seek out low-impedance pickups that enjoy the party, most likely with the belief that non-working pickups are irrelevant in the LOMC universe.

In Stereophile’s March ‘23 issue, Herb Reichert describes the SUTZ connected to his all tube Tavish Design Adagio as, “These sonic descriptions fail to communicate the subjective character of my Dynavector experience. I put hundreds of listening hours on the XX-2 because it’s lively, easy-flowing free-spiritedness made me want to play records. At the end of every side, I needed another” as well as, “Ron Sutherland went wild and created a new category of phonographic components - the current-drive headamp - that let me add my own choice of tube glories to the quiet steadiness of virtual short loading.”

As far as a better design is concerned - I suspect that may have something to do with Mr. Sutherland calling it Loco.

I think you’re doing ok. You may think about a turntable upgrade but that’s just part of the hobby. As for your koetsu, I have a Rosewood Signature mounted on my vpi scout. It’s sounds great.  They can be finicky but keep adjusting. That’s what I did and eventually hit its sweet spot. Also be sure to use brass mounting screws. It helps. Good luck. 

Thanks everyone, enjoying the discussion. @mulveling you have offered SUT advice previously and I am really happy with the difference in sound sound the MC4 has made. I kept the interconnect short as you suggested and will try out some shorter interconnects from TT > SUT also (currently 1M).

I have a good used high end HiFi warehouse at the end of my street so if I see any of the mentioned gear from this thread come through I will ask for a loan to experiment. 

I have been drooling over some turntables that could be possible upgrades but I think I am getting into the 10k territory which is allot for me and I might like to end up with something with 2 tone arms if spending that much. 

anywah appreciate all the comments and insights 🙏

For what it’s worth, I am using a custom built, solid state current driven head amp in front of my tube phono stage with MM levels of gain. The results are impeccable, terrific. I love it. I did it because you have to go out of your way for gain if you are using an Ortofon MC 2000 cartridge, which has possibly the lowest voltage output of any cartridge ever marketed but produces decent current output owing to its very low internal resistance (2 ohms). And I don’t own a SUT. this type of head amp is real competition for any step up transformer.

Kudos to Sutherland for going commercial with the idea, if that’s what they’ve done. Because I can’t find such a product on their website.

@lewm I ordered a set of head shell bolts designed for the purpose of experimenting with adding mass, like you said. The heaviest are about 6g so the difference = + 5g. My counter weight wasn't heavy enough to counter this much additional weight so I got a roll of solder I had lying around and tightly coiled it around my counter weight followed by some electrical tape then another layer of tightly coiled solder and more electrical tape. Looks quite neat and added enough weight to counter the new head shell screws. Do you see any issue with this counter weight hack?

After making this change I don't think there was a sonic improvement. I actually think what i was hearing was a decrease of airiness and less decay details. Kind of made the sound feel a bit dense and dead to me. (excuse my non audiophile language).
I replaced the 6g (total) screws with the 3g (total) screws and left the counter weight as is is with all the solder attached. So this added 2g mass above the head shell compared to my starting point + whatever the solder/counterweight calculation would amount to. 
I feel like the sound improved and had more of what I noticed was missing from the higher mass setup.

I will continue to experiment but just wanted to let you know that I am enjoying following your suggestions to see where it takes me. 

In my experience, mass itself isn't really the key factor in getting Koetsu to sing. I've heard them perform very well even on the relatively lightweight VPI 3D arm (*with dual pivot). I think the arm's bearing and overall energy management is more important than the moving mass, at least unless you're egregiously outside of the ideal 8 - 12 Hz resonance range.

Experimenting with head shells is fine and could be a good idea, but I certainly wouldn't bother with hacking the counterweight or tacking extra mass onto ane existing headshell. So I'm not too surprised the extra mass wasn't an improvement. The Koetsu body already provides a lot of mass itself (10 - 13 grams).

@mulveling - I think you are right. The less compliant cantilever is going to send energy back into the arm. Those old school Fidelity Research arms could handle it, not just because of mass at the headshell but because they were pretty substantial overall.

 I've done very well using the Airline arm- pretty low vertical mass, not a long arm tube (but a substantial one) and the overall horizontal mass of the arm carriage is huge. A damped arm might be able to accommodate this energy- though I'd be pretty careful about overdamping. I know somebody who uses a Coralstone on a Well-Tempered arm (not sure which generation) with success.