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REVIEW: Hana SH Moving Coil Turntable Cartridge

OK, so I finally had the chance to put my brand new Hana SH moving coil catridge on my 1974 JVC VL-8 turntable. Setup was fairly easy and took about 45 minutes (though I should state that this is the *first* time I’ve had to replace a turntable cartridge). I found that I could set everything as per Hana’s instructions and still have great results. I ended up with an anti-skate of 2.5g -the setting on this turntable isn’t very precise, so I am stuck going in .5g increments. To my ear, 2.25 probably would have been just right. All of the settings on the receiver (a 1976 Tandberg TR-2055) are dead-middle, i.e. no extra bass or treble. Cartridge was purchased from Needle Doctor in Minnesota and I can’t say enough great things about them or their staff.

Prior to this, I spent the past week “cleansing” / sterilizing my vinyl collection so everything I play is as clean as it is going to get for me. Finally, it should also be noted that my prior reference point was a twenty plus year old $29 cartridge (an Audio-Technica MG-35V), so this exercise is a bit like trading up to a Porsche from a VW bug…

Now I’m not one that typically has the patience to break something in easy so I decided it was best to “see what she’ll do” right at the onset. I picked a few records that my old cartridge had some sort of issue with, or that I thought could put various aspects of the cartridge through the paces.

First up, my original 1986 pressing of “Master of Puppets”
The first thing I realize is that this cartridge is *quiet*. I could not hear the hiss that I’m used to without cranking the volume UP. First track is “Battery” which starts out with some Spanish guitar, before heading into the usual thrash. Wow. Very punchy. Almost sounds like it is right in front of me. As the twin electric guitars join in, the sound is REALLY full. SO much so that my initial thought is that I’m listening to the CD. Next track is the title track and I feel like I’ve just been smacked upside the head – the old cartridge just could not handle this album, bass that was non-existent with the MG-35V is full and the mids are right where I like them, nice and full. “The Thing That Should Not Be” is on next and, again, I’m stunned. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium) is next and there’s so much presence, the sound is so thick, that it almost sounds live. I’m impatient now, so want to try out an album the old cart always had a problem with…

 

Next up, a re-issue of “The Razor’s Edge” on 180g vinyl.
Now the old cart could play this record just fine, but some tweaking was needed to get to the point of “playable.” I would have to keep the “low filter” on with the previous cartridge as the rumble on this record was just over the top. No low filter button here! “Thunderstruck” comes in crystal clear and with such an enhanced sound stage that I am again amazed. “Fire Your Gun” is next and there’s this point where Angus Young’s guitar kinda comes at you from the background (and slightly to the right) -some of the solo notes are played on the low E and A strings and these have so much presence. I’m really digging this cartridge and start looking for the next record, thinking maybe something milder. I caught a whiff of burnt electronic smell and a few seconds later the sound is gone; nothing but silence. The Tandberg is now hot enough to fry an egg on it (sérieusement!!) and nothing is coming out of the speakers, even on FM.

I opened her up and nothing is smoking so hoping that it was just an overheat and we need some time to cool down. I will say that preliminary tests are that if you are looking for a “hard rock / metal” cartridge this might be one to consider!

After some time to cool down, I tried out a few more records, this time with volume set a bit lower…


Picked this because its always been kind of a “fuzzy” sounding record to me, and JD makes prominent use of his harmonica. Still fuzzy, but a bit more clear, certainly “live” sounding.


Wanted to see how this sounded, Lucero is a great straight-up rock band and there’s plenty of horns and musical variety here too. Sounded a bit flatter than I hoped; not as dynamic, but still good nonetheless. There’s a good possibility that the cartridge is limited by the quality of the pressing here.


Ben Nichols has a raspy voice and I wanted to hear how it sounded away from the rest of the band on this record. Acoustic guitar, accordions, and Hawaiian guitar all sound fantastic, but Ben’s voice came through with a bit of distortion. I backed off the treble (made it flat now) and it seemed to help a bit.


My favorite Frank Turner record; this was a bit noisier and scratchier than I remember, though once everything gets to full volume, the sound is a bit better. Found myself fiddling with knobs the most on this record (so far) and a bit disappointed in how thin this one sounded. Turning up the BASS knob (which I don’t like to do necessarily), improved things somewhat. Well, “at least I fucking tried…”


One of my favorite albums from the 90’s.. REALLY wanted to see how that Baritone Sax and Mark Sandman’s (RIP) vocals sounded on this cart and I was not disappointed! Excellent!
At this point the needle was a BALL of FUZZ, despite everything being FRESHLY cleaned. It’s safe to say that the Hana not only PLAYS my records better, it CLEANS them better too!

 

The Tandberg is getting hot again; looks like the servicing I have been putting off is going to finally need to happen. I swapped in a Sony receiver (90’s build) so was able to really crank it and listen to this cartridge. Had some fun and played mostly 80’s electronic / pop / etc. and everything sounds amazing. I can’t say enough positive things about the Hana. I’m blown away by the clarity, presence, and depth of sound. It’s making my old $250 Sony receiver sound super sweet.

MSRP $750 (Cheaper when trading in an old cartridge)

– Album artwork is copyright of the artist

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