Thank You Fumihiko Sugano and Koetsu

Reports are slowly circulating (WBF, FB Groups) that Fumihiko Sugano passed this August 21. He was the son of Koetsu founder Yoshiaki Sugano, and his chosen heir as the next Koetsu master cartridge builder - which he did brilliantly. Personally, I am grateful to the Sugano family for all the joy their products have brought me via my music collection. The Koetsu midrange magic is still unmatched by anything I've ever heard. 

Business continuity is unclear at this time. I don't know any real details - just surprised this hasn't been posted here yet. Hopefully this isn't another Transfiguration scenario. Either way, I'll carefully preserve and enjoy my Fumihiko Koetsu treasures for the full extent of our lifetimes. 

Thank you again Fumihiko! Godspeed.


This is also a sobering reminder: many of the cartridge masters we rely on are getting up there in age - well past the normal "retirement" watermark.

You could point at Ortofon as a model of continuity through multiple master designers, but quite frankly the models from differing eras do not sound alike.

I've also been pointed to a lot of cheap Chinese "knock off" MC cartridges starting to flood the markets over there. These will not be mistaken for a genuine Koetsu, Van den Hul (etc), but it perhaps points to a further shift in the landscape, and I'm not a fan. 

Thanks for the info, @mulveling. Sorry to hear of his passing. I too hope the company continues. 

Did Fumihiko San have any children? It is tradition in Japan for the son to carry the flag forward. 


Thanks for posting, sad news indeed. I hope the company continues to make these amazing carts. I am curious to know if you’ve heard a Ikeda or Fuuga cart in your amazing system. Which Koetsu cart have the most balanced sound? 

Sad indeed. Just like with Buffet's passing, life goes on for the ones lucky enough to still be kicking. Like many here, the 60's were my birth decade onto audio, how much longer do we really have... knock on wood.

RIP Fumihiko-san. Thank you for the diamond rosewood.

I've only had the one Koetsu, and it's always been stellar. 

Koetsu has been the cart ceiling as long as I've been aware of differences in them....and that's been a good long while...

Never could afford one, always like buying a piece of Notable Art for ones' ears instead of the eyes....😔  A round of sake for the passing of a master of his skills to make diamonds sing...

Sad to hear this. This makes me appreciate my koetsu even more. I hope these wonderfully handcrafted pieces continue. 

Another artist is gone.  I to could never afford a piece of art, but to those who could,  what a great loss.

Can we present any links to this claim. I have searched and seen nothing that supports this. 

I found out about his passing when Koetsu returned my RSP, unrepaired, last week.   

Dear @mulveling  : Sorry to hear that , always a lost for all the audio world in the same way that other audio designers unfortunatelly pass away.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


I have an original Sugano senior (c 1980s) Koetsu Urushi in my main system and haven't heard anything that would make me want to change that!

Sad new indeed for this storied and magical company.  And with the future still unknown, I finally made the jump and ordered a Blue Lace, something that has been on my wish list for quite some time.  I was luckily able to find one available and it should be up and running by the end of the weekend.

Let’s hope that the future of Koetsu holds true to the past and that they continue to create new cartridges with the same beauty as in the past.

Sad new indeed for this storied and magical company. And with the future still unknown, I finally made the jump and ordered a Blue Lace, something that has been on my wish list for quite some time. I was luckily able to find one available and it should be up and running by the end of the weekend.

Let’s hope that the future of Koetsu holds true to the past and that they continue to create new cartridges with the same beauty as in the past.

Great choice! My favorite Koetsu (Jade / Onyx / RSP / Coralstone) would change from month to month until I got my Blue Lace around 5 years ago. That’s continuously been my favorite Koetsu, ever since day #1 and hour #1. If need be (and in absence of a Koetsu rebuild option), I'll get my Koetsus retipped by a very carefully selected retipper - whomever I determine will most respect the original design & build of Koetsu. That means NO stuff like ruby cantilevers, or blobs of glue. 

Also agree - I hope Koetsu can find a way forward after a respectful period of mourning.

Koetsu cartridges are for privileged few. What most need is a $2k MC that outperforms any Koetsu. As important as they are their time is over. The man is gone and the space is open.

Of course a $2,000 Koetsu Blue Lace beater would be nice, but if it were something easy to do, it would have already happened.  I have heard quite a few nice sounding cartridges, and some sounded better to me in certain respects, but nothing sounded like a Koetsu that I preferred.  There are other warm and relaxed sounding cartridges, like Koetsus, but they tend to lack the clarity of the top end koetsus.  

So even other Japanese cannot really make a comparable cartridge. Just like Western Electric 300B tube ?

All high end MC brands sound different. Most of these sounds are truly excellent, just different. Koetsus have a particularly distinct sound (on the side of: voluptuous & full bodied, with a very vivid midrange), and are extremely good at what they do. That doesn’t mean they’re "the best" in an objective sense - but they have a vehement fanbase for good reason.

Years ago I didn’t buy the hype, and thought Koetsu’s pricing was outright stupid. Then I actually heard one (on loan, in my own system no less) - and that’s when they get you! I was blown away - expectations absolutely shattered, and I couldn’t box up my Ortofon Windfeld MC fast enough lol. In fairness, my system at that time was absolutely dying for some injection of warmth (Windfeld was a terrible match), and the Koetsu Onyx swap-in gave not only warmth in spades, but an overall quality boost as well.

These days I’m enjoying exploration of other MC’s. AirTight, MSL and Van den Hul are the newest on deck. All superb. But the Koetsus in my collection will always be like family.

Also, you can get a quality used Koetsu for $2K. You’re buying the seller as much as the cart itself.


That is an excellent description of the Koetsu sound and why they are adored.  I don't own one, but, a lot of people I know do have them and I am quite familiar with the sound and I like them a lot.  I own quite different cartridges--a Lyra Titan and a Transfiguration Orpheus L--but I sort of wish I had invested in a Koetsu.  Cartridges with a similar sound as a Koetsu are also not cheap, such as the Allaerte cartridges.  

I don't play as much vinyl these days as I did in the past, so I am not likely to be replacing any cartridge in the near future.  If I did have to buy another, it might be a Koetsu, although my Vector tonearm is probably not ideal (not enough mass), and I have heard another cartridge that I like very much--the Audio Technica ART-1000--a leaner but very lively cartridge.

When even top cartridges sound so different, which one is more correct?

Tape is correct. More or less.

My Blue Lace is up and running as of today.  The change from the Rosewood Platinum is material, even in the first hours of use.  While that is a fine cartridge, the fullness and warmth it brings to Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debbie” (the latest Craft re-issue) or my original pressing of Tracy Chapman, is easily heard.

I have begun experimenting with several SUTs, and am currrently favoring the CSPort.  I am also trying out an SA Lab, which has similar specs to the Koetsu SUT, but currently like the CSPort.  @mulveling  — I know you have tried a few different units and would be interested in your current favorite with the Blue Lace.