Yamamoto HSA-01 headshell/head amp

During my recent trip to Tokyo, I happened upon this gadget. It is a headshell with a built-in gain stage that boosts signal voltage in the ratio 1:14. Apparently this is achieved via a tiny op amp and battery power, both seated in the base of the headshell, behind the phono cartridge mounting area. The beauty of the idea is you can thus boost the signal of a very low output LOMC right at its source, before it has had to travel over connectors, tonearm wires, more connectors, etc, to reach the first stage of gain, be that a head amp, SUT, or high gain phono stage. The op amp is designed to drive a 47K ohm input resistance and is thus suitable for MM stages or a low gain MC stage in which the load is 47K ohms. The net weight is only 12.5g, making it somewhat compatible with even high compliance very low output cartridges. I wonder if anyone has experimented with this gadget. I am about to do so myself.


@rauliruegas .  It was a spur of the moment post as I thought the gain amplifier was part of the SPU and did not know that it was an Ortofon product.  I thought everyone made them at one time or another.

@stereo5 : I think that the Ortofon SPU models were the first integrated cartridge that appeared in the market and that in the latest times we can buy in stand alone version ( some models. ) too.

Through the years other cartridge manufacturers did it the same and in no one of theirs cartridges came with head-amp integrated. Some of those manufacturers were/are ( as Ortofon some models came too in stand alone version and even in plug-in version. ):

EMT,Audio Technica, Fidelity Research, Sonovox, Glanz, Goldbug, Sony, Ikeda, Signet, Grace, Audio Note,Yamaha, Technics, Thorens, Acutex, Dynavector, Azden, ADC, Shure, Nagatron, etc,etc.


If we are willing to do the Audio World gives us the opportunity that every day be a learning day for any of us.




Here is my report on the Yamamoto HSA-01 self-amplifying headshell, used so far only with the Ortofon MC2000: Don’t do it. There is too much hiss or white noise at SPLs even below satisfactory. I suspect this may be because Yamamoto says in the fine print that the device is to be used with cartridges having at least a 0.1mV output at 1kHz at standard velocity. As the cognoscenti may know, the MC2000 does not meet this criterion; its output is only .05mV at the above conditions. Sound quality is very good, but the hiss is unacceptable and would be so to any of us. When I get around to it, I will mount some other higher output LOMC cartridges in the HSA-01, to see whether my hypothesis is correct, that the MC2000 output cannot adequately drive the op amp in the HSA-01. In case you are wondering, I did replace the OEM battery in the HSA-01 empirically, on the premise that it may be worn down just due to aging on the shelf before purchase. Indeed, my measurements of the OEM battery suggest that was worth doing, but to no avail as far as performance with the MC2000. C’est la vie.

@lewm Sorry to hear the experiment did not work out. But fortunately you have a combination of equipment that allows you to enjoy the cartridge. The MC2000 is unique in the challenges it presents, but the beauty of the cartridge is quite the experience even today. Yes, other cartridges may technically have surpassed it, but there is a refinement and gracefulness to the upper registers that few cartridges can equal. The bottom end definition is quite a treat also. I am fortunate that the T2000 transformer and Esoteric E-03 phono stage work well together and the noise floor I have is quite low. I do have to give an extra twist to the volume control, but the system noise is not noticeable unless you stand right on top of the speakers and turn things up to where a low bit of noise leaks through. When listening to music it is essentially a black background. I don’t know if I can ever divorce this cartridge, as it is just too compelling. I always enjoy reading about your experiences with it.