Ikeda tonearms & cartridges

Legendary M/C Cartridges, Tonearms etc from Japan
You will be able to hear the breath of LP/SPs !

We are pleased to be able to reintroduce to the market the famous "IKEDA" branded tonearms and cartridges now being supplied by the "Original Manufacturer" for the legendary Ikeda brand.  

Ikeda Sound Lab IKEDA-9TT, IKEDA-9 Musa and IT-407CR1 IT-345 CRT are all adored by music lovers and audiophiles worldwide.

Isama Ikeda’s passion for the perfect analog sound began in the 1940’s when, being dissatisfied with the production at a previous audio company, Mr. Ikeda decided to form his own company – the world famous Fidelity Research Inc. Its products have been welcomed by audiophiles and music fans the world over, including the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Family. By the time the company released such systems as the FR-7 and FR-64s in 1978, it had grown to be a world-class audio manufacturer, developing the world's first air-core quadropole structure for FR-7. That passion continues today and is now available  though Audio Reference.

The superlative IKEDA phono Cartridges and Tone arms were hand-made by Mr. Isamu Ikeda of Ikeda Sound Labs. well-known as a sound master-craftman in Japan, with his dedicated experiences and professional skill for more than 50 years while he had worked as a designer for tonearms and cartridges in a company and then established FR (Fidelity Research Co.) and had served as the founder and the president.

When the cartridge :FR-1 and the Tonearm: FR-24 were introduced in 1967, many of LP/SP record users appreciated the quality very much and finally these products got the greatest sales since the Japanese Imperial family also used.  When the cartridge :FR-7 and the Tonearm: FR-64 were introduced in the market in 1978, FR had grown up as big as a company in the 2nd Board of Tokyo Stock Exchange Market and had acquired the patent for "Empty Core Quadpolar Structure" for FR-7 in Japan and in the U.S.A. Their new range of IKEDA MC Cartridges and Tonearms are ever purely designed and developed for audiophiles and sound lovers worldwide by Ikeda Sound Labs.
 
The spirit, technology and craftmanship of Mr.I.Ikeda were succeeded by IT Industry Company Limited in July, 2011 as the authorized successor.  IT Industry Co., Ltd. now produces and sells Ikeda Branded products for domestic and worldwide markets directly through their authroized distributors in each country.

IT Industry started selling Ikeda branded tonearms and cartridges from July, 2011 according to the Assignment Contract with Mr. Ikeda. Since then, we are introducing a new Ikead cartridge model # 9TT along with phono cables.

Historical background about Ikeda Sound labs: 
Ikeda's enthusiasm for the revival of analogue records continued unabated. In the same year (2000), he established Ikeda Sound Laboratories Company. For Ikeda, this company was a place where he was able to do things that had been impossible under mass production at Fidelity Research, that is, enhancing the precision of manufacturing, pursuing handmade production and experimenting with new ideas freely. Of course, all the products were designed, built and inspected by Isamu Ikeda himself. He also accomplished such feats as realizing air-core structure and developing the world's first MC cartridge without a cantilever, both of which had been his long-sought goals. As cutting heads used in manufacturing of analogue records have no cantilevers, he thought a MC cartridge without a cantilever could be created. Ikeda is a perfectionist. All Ikeda Labs. products, including those sold overseas, are repaired by Ikeda himself in Japan....... 
Mr. Ikeda's enthusiasm for the revival of analog records led him to establish Ikeda Sound Laboratories. For Mr. Ikeda, this company was a place where he was able to do things that had been impossible under mass production at Fidelity Research; enhancing the precision of manufacturing, pursuing handmade production and experimenting with new ideas. Isama Ikeda is a perfectionist, and all the products were designed, built and inspected by Mr. Ikeda himself. He also accomplished such feats as realizing air-core structure, and developing the world's first MC cartridge without a cantilever, both of which had been his long-sought goals. Ikeda Sound Labs will soon be offering a new moving coil cartridge called the 9TT as well as new phono cables.

IKEDA Special Caution:
Anybody selling the IKEDA tonearms and cartridges on e-Bay and/or internet online shopping are not part our dealer / distributor network nor do they have any relation with us at all.

We encourage you to only purchase genuine IKEDA products through our respected international dealer network to be confident you are buying the genimue, up-to date products with full warranty and back-up service.  

Parts and componets list on eBay under the IKEDA Brand are either very old and redundant or they are not the original products from Ikeda Sound Labs and IT Industry Co., Ltd, in other words you could be buying inferior knock offs, therefore you will not be able to appreciate the true IKEDA musical outcome that is so loved by the audiophile world, please do not be taken in by them. 

Please note:
We will not extend any warranty nor after-sale service from us for any purchase of IKEDA products on e-Bay and/or internet online shopping.... you have been warned.

Featured

All Products

Reviews

Featured

IK 01 MC 9TT
NZ$ 4,250.00 (incl. GST)
The Ikeda 9TT is specially designed  and developed  with the concept that a cartridge should be more easy to handle, by inherting the charactristics of  competent ability for...
Hitherto known for their bespoke premium priced audio tubes, Euro Audio Team have just launched a...
IK 05 HS IS2T B
NZ$ 500.00 (incl. GST)
The newest headshell Model Nos. IS-2T(W) and IS-2T(B) are the heavy-duty thick headshells made of Aluminum Alloy by  precisely cutting from the solid piece.  These headshells are...
IK 09 TA 407VTA
NZ$ 8,995.00 (incl. GST)
In an upcoming Stereophile Issue, Art Dudley gave the Ikeda IT-407 stellar reviews, stay tuned for the link when it becomes available, but here are some of the highlights.
EXTENDED REVIEW: Isamu Ikeda was born in 1929 in the Koto district of Tokyo. His pursuit of a...
IK 11 PC 5000
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 600.00 (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 1,200.00 (incl. GST)
Saving: NZ$ 600.00 (incl. GST)
After the result of long years of basic research and study, we are proud to introduce the high quality audio cables developed  under HBC-MS-5000 series that are  greatly superior  in...
IK 11 PC 5000RR
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 600.00 (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 1,200.00 (incl. GST)
Saving: NZ$ 600.00 (incl. GST)
After the result of long years of basic research and study, we are proud to introduce the high quality audio cables developed  under HBC-MS-5000 series that are  greatly superior  in...
IK 12 PC 5000DR
NZ$ 1,200.00 (incl. GST)
 After the result of long years of basic research and study, we are proud to introduce the high quality audio cables developed  under HBC-MS-5000 series that are  greatly superior  in...
IK 15 ST IST-201
NZ$ 5,250.00 (incl. GST)
The newly developed Step-Up transformer, Model: IST-201 is the best suitable for the low impedance (1ohm – 6ohms) MC cartridges. These low impedance cartridges will be able to work with the full...

All Products

Cartridges

IK 01 MC 9TS
NZ$ 2,795.01 ea (incl. GST)
Welcome to the world of Ikeda sound.  It is a common misconception that an entry level piece may be a consolation of a sort.  Let me assure you such is not the case in the world of Ikeda,...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Well, dear readers, we are back to the crime scene! We are gladly going to speak...
Cartridges
IK 01 MC 9TT
NZ$ 4,250.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Ikeda 9TT is specially designed  and developed  with the concept that a cartridge should be more easy to handle, by inherting the charactristics of  competent ability for...
Hitherto known for their bespoke premium priced audio tubes, Euro Audio Team have just launched a...
Cartridges
IK 02 MC 9MONO
Price on application
KEDA 9mono was designed specifically for use in mono and not a modification of the stereo cartridge. Head body is made of solid aluminium alloy layers, to securely hold the generator unit. Needle...
Cartridges
IK 03 MC KAI
NZ$ 7,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
 The newest  flagship  Ikeda  “KAI” MC cartridge is the very special model that uses the high quality materials and components in each part of cartridge in order to further...
EXTENDED REVIEW: It seems that the Japanese are the most qualified experts in the manufacture of...
Cartridges
IK 03 MC SAI
NZ$ 6,750.01 ea (incl. GST)
The SAI iis a complete cartridge & headshell in-one unit and is the uncompromising advancement of the legendary 9MUSAM with completely brand new pickup system. Engineers from IKEDA succeeded to...
Cartridges
IK 05 HS IS2T B
NZ$ 500.00 ea (incl. GST)
The newest headshell Model Nos. IS-2T(W) and IS-2T(B) are the heavy-duty thick headshells made of Aluminum Alloy by  precisely cutting from the solid piece.  These headshells are...
Cartridges
IK 05 HS IS2T W
NZ$ 500.00 ea (incl. GST)
The newest headshell Model Nos. IS-2T(W) and IS-2T(B) are the heavy-duty thick headshells made of Aluminum Alloy by  precisely cutting from the solid piece.  These headshells are...
Cartridges

Tonearms

IK 06 TA VTALIFT
NZ$ 2,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
The IKEAD VTA LIFTER is an inevitable retrofitable accessory that will allow audiophiles in possession of Ikeda 345 and 407 and their predecessors Fidelity Research FR 64 or FR 66 to take advantage...
Tonearms
IK 07 TA 345CR1
NZ$ 6,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Ikeda it-345 tone arm is a High Mass design and has been called big, rigid, and beautiful. Built for “dynamic balance,” although it can support a cartridge weight of 6 to 38.5 grams, the stylus...
Tonearms
IK 07 TA 345VTA
NZ$ 8,750.01 ea (incl. GST)
Tonearms
IK 09 TA 407CR1
NZ$ 7,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Ikeda it-407 tone arm is a High Mass design and has been called big, rigid, and beautiful. Built for “dynamic balance,” although it can support a cartridge weight of 6 to 38.5 grams, the stylus...
History
Tonearms
IK 09 TA 407VTA
NZ$ 8,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
In an upcoming Stereophile Issue, Art Dudley gave the Ikeda IT-407 stellar reviews, stay tuned for the link when it becomes available, but here are some of the highlights.
EXTENDED REVIEW: Isamu Ikeda was born in 1929 in the Koto district of Tokyo. His pursuit of a...
Tonearms

Interconnects

IK 11 PC 5000
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 600.00 ea (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 1,200.00 (incl. GST)
Saving: NZ$ 600.00 (incl. GST)
After the result of long years of basic research and study, we are proud to introduce the high quality audio cables developed  under HBC-MS-5000 series that are  greatly superior  in...
Interconnects

Accessories

IK 11 PC 5000RR
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 600.00 pr (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 1,200.00 (incl. GST)
Saving: NZ$ 600.00 (incl. GST)
After the result of long years of basic research and study, we are proud to introduce the high quality audio cables developed  under HBC-MS-5000 series that are  greatly superior  in...
Accessories
IK 12 PC 5000DR
NZ$ 1,200.00 pr (incl. GST)
 After the result of long years of basic research and study, we are proud to introduce the high quality audio cables developed  under HBC-MS-5000 series that are  greatly superior  in...
Accessories
IK 13 PC 5000LDR
NZ$ 1,300.01 pr (incl. GST)
 After the result of long years of basic research and study, we are proud to introduce the high quality audio cables developed  under HBC-MS-5000 series that are  greatly superior  in...
Accessories

IK 15 ST IST-201
NZ$ 5,250.00 ea (incl. GST)
The newly developed Step-Up transformer, Model: IST-201 is the best suitable for the low impedance (1ohm – 6ohms) MC cartridges. These low impedance cartridges will be able to work with the full...

Reviews

If you truly love listening to vinyl and you can afford it, you owe it to yourself to hear this arm. If you can’t afford it, don’t let it get anywhere near your system or you’ll have real regrets.
Jack Roberts

n regard to bass, the Ikeda let each cartridge I use go very low, and the bass was very fast with no trace of boominess. Again, the Shilabe was the perfect match for the Ikeda tonearm, together they create a bottom-end in my system very much like live music. The bass had both power, slam, and great decay. 

Whether I used the Shilabe, the EMT, or the Shindo SPU, the sound always had great PraT; which resulted in my being drawn into the music and involving me in the performance. Overall, music was incredibly fun to listen to with the Ikeda tonearm in my system. I think it’s amazing that a tonearm can do such good job of handling the energy of these great moving coils and still have such great macro- and micro-dynamics.

History
samu Ikeda was born in 1929 in the Koto district of Tokyo. His pursuit of a perfect analog sound is a legend, which began in the 1940s. Dissatisfied with the production at a previous audio company in 1964, he decided to form his own company, the now-legendary and world famous Fidelity Research Inc. Its products have been desired and owned by audiophiles and music fans the world over, including the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Family.
 
Ever since the end of WWII, Ikeda-san has been making phonographic equipment. The early moving-coil cartridge out of Japan was one of his developments, and many of the Japanese cartridge-makers apprenticed under him. From the mid-sixties through the early eighties, cartridges like the FR 1 and MC 201 and tonearms like the FR 12, FR 14, FR 64, and FR 66 from Ikeda-san’s company Fidelity Research achieved international acclaim. He pioneered the use of silver wire, featherweight styli, yoke construction, and pioneered higher-efficiency magnets which allow for coils with fewer windings.
 
Fidelity Research’s first two products, the FR-1 cartridge and FR-64 tonearm were big hits in Japan. When Ikeda-san introduced the FR-7, which featured the world’s first “empty core, four pole structure” and the FR-64S tonearm in 1978, the company became a major business including being a big player in the Tokyo Stock Market. Unfortunately, due to many unfavorable circumstances including the popularity of the CD, Fidelity Research was forced to close in 1985.
 
Nevertheless, Ikeda San's enthusiasm continued and in that same year, he established a small audio company, Ikeda Sound Laboratories Company. This new company was a place where he was able to do things that had been impossible under the mass production company that Fidelity Research had become. He came out with the 9-series of cartridges, and the IT-407CR1 and IT-345CR1 tonearms. The 9-series took the empty core technology of the FR-7 and added a groundbreaking new development: the world’s first moving coil cantilever-less cartridge, much like the London Decca moving iron cartridges. The new tonearms were improved over the FR-64 and FR-66 by eliminating more vibration through the use of a combination of aluminum, zinc-bronze, stainless steel and brass to form an extremely rigid and musical tonearm.
 
Mr. Ikeda is now in his mid-eighties, and has handed the work over to IT Industries. The spirit, technology and craftsmanship continues to live on with the new company. IT has been with Mr. Ikeda all along in the production of his products. I was assured that IT Industries was still making everything by hand in Japan. Now, the wonderful and beautiful Ikeda products are once again available in the United States. We can all say a word of thanks to William Demars of Beauty of Sound located in East Greenbush, New York for importing them to the United States once again.
 
Description and Setup
 
The Ikeda 325 is listed as the short tonearm and the 407 is described as the long tonearm. The 407 is a dynamic balanced tonearm, so one balances it and then dials in the prescribed tracking force. Tthe VTA adjustment is not as easy as it was on the old FR tonearm, yet it is not difficult to loosen the nice large thumb screws and move the arm up and down in small increments. The supplied headshell is very nicely built and easy to work with.
 
I used the Ikeda 407 on a beautiful brass and burled wood pod that Mr. Demars supplied with the tonearm. A tonearm pod is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that almost everything in the setup is more easily adjustable since you can simply move the pod. The curse is if you bump the pod hard enough to move it, out comes the protractor and you have to get to the right spot again.
 
The pod was furnished at my request and is not the subject of this review, it was just a learning experience for me. What I should be saying is that setup was easy and mounting different cartridges was a breeze. Like the revered Fidelity Research arms, this tonearm is made for heavy moving coil cartridges and, man, does it make them sing.
 
Listening
 
Just in case you don’t know it, there is no perfect arm for every cartridge. The most versatile tonearm I have ever used was the Clearaudio Universal tonearm. It was an incredible arm for the Benz-Micro Ebony TR, the Miyabi cartridges, and several other cartridges I tried with it, but was not the best for some of the heavy, low compliant cartridges or vintage cartridges like the ADC XLM. 
 
Likewise, the Ikeda is great with the high mass, low compliance cartridges that didn’t work as well with the Clearaudio Universal. Its detachable headshell makes it possible to use it with several cartridges you can’t use with tonearms with nondetachable headshells. For example, it worked great with SPUs and EMTs in their own head shells.
 
Of all the cartridges I tried in the Ikeda tonearm, by far the best match was the Miyajima Shilabe; the combination was simply magical. This may not be the least colored way to listen to music, but you will be hard pressed to find a more emotionally involving and fun way to listen to music. With this combo in my system, the sound was big, dramatic, and very tactile.
 
The Shilabe cartridge is among the fastest, quickest cartridges I have heard at any price. This mates very well with the slightly warm, damped sound of the Ikeda 407. This combination allows the colors of music to come alive in your listening room, with great drive and scale. The midrange has a beautifully warm, colorful texture with lots of drama.
 
In regard to bass, the Ikeda let each cartridge I use go very low, and the bass was very fast with no trace of boominess. Again, the Shilabe was the perfect match for the Ikeda tonearm, together they create a bottom-end in my system very much like live music. The bass had both power, slam, and great decay. I especially loved the way upright basses sounded with this combo. The bass was equally good with the EMT TSD15, but with that special drive and power of the EMT.
 
Whether I used the Shilabe, the EMT, or the Shindo SPU, the sound always had great PraT; which resulted in my being drawn into the music and involving me in the performance. Overall, music was incredibly fun to listen to with the Ikeda tonearm in my system. I think it’s amazing that a tonearm can do such good job of handling the energy of these great moving coils and still have such great macro- and micro-dynamics.
 
With each cartridge I tried with the Ikeda 407, the midrange was liquid, sweet, yet still sounded plenty detailed, and fast. I think this is probably because of the arm’s ability to handle vibrations, and the quality of the bearings. In light of o f its scary, real-sounding midrange, this has the be the SET amp equivalent of tonearms.
 
Yes, the Ikeda has its own distinctive sound, and a fun sound it certainly is. I own a Shindo Mersault RF-773 12-inch tonearm and I have had the privilege of reviewing the DaVinciAudio Grand Reference Grandezza 12-inch tonearm. These three long arms are all magnificent. The Grandezza is the best with lighter moving coils, the other two work best with heavier moving coil cartridges. The Shindo arm is limited pretty much to the Shindo SPU cartridge, Ortofons that are SPU A cartridges, or the EMT cartridges that are being made for it. Though all three tonearms sound a little different, they are the three best tonearms I have had the privilege to use. All three had a relaxed musicality that the VPI 12.7, the Tri-Planar, the Clearaudio Universal, and the Helius Omega Silver did not. I feel truly lucky to have been able to hear all these tonearms in my system, but the three 12-inch arms mentioned above are simply wonderfully, emotionally involving.
 
Let me close by saying thanks once more time to Bill Demars for letting me have the privilege of reviewing this magnificent tonearm when it is so hard to come by. If you truly love listening to vinyl and you can afford it, you owe it to yourself to hear this arm. If you can’t afford it, don’t let it get anywhere near your system or you’ll have real regrets. 
U.S. Importer's comment: 
 
Many thanks to Jack Roberts for his insightful and thorough review of the Ikeda IT-407CR1 tonearm. Jack's comments about it's sound and looks are the hallmarks of this legendary tonearm. The arm-pod is actually made from a phenolic tube, not wood. Phenolic is known for it's extreme density and anti-resonant character and was chosen for this reason. It was custom-made for me. I have secured the spike cups the surface-base with bees-wax. This prevents the arm-pod from sliding around. Also of note is the arrival of the new Ikeda 9TT moving coil stereo cartridge. It sounds amazing on the Ikeda arm!
 
Again, sincere gratitude to Constantine and Jack for their years of great work for the audio community.
 
..........Bill Demars
Simply put, it’s a massive machine that gets the best out of your vinyl without you – or it – having to try very hard, it seems you can afford not to!
HiFi World
Don't be fooled by its conservative looks, this is a brilliantly conceived, superbly engineered vinyl spinner. A memorable - seminal even - high end product.
 
HIGHLIGHTS:
- supreme musical ease
- unerring speed stability
- flawless engineering
- excellent fitted tonearm

What it gives then is brilliant sound out of a (very big) box, with a superb fitted arm that sings with almost any highish mass moving coil cartridge. It presents a relaxed, easy, nonchalant sort of sound, but one that is nevertheless immensely satisfying. The best thing is that it’s very devoid of character, or obvious strengths or weaknesses for that matter. 

Hitherto known for their bespoke premium priced audio tubes, Euro Audio Team have just launched a brand new high end turntable featuring an Ikeda tonearm, no less! David Price gets into the groove...
 
Jozefína Krahulcová, CEO of Euro Audio Team (E.A.T.) is a redoubtable character. Bubbling with enthusiasm for this, her company’s first (but not last, I am assured) high end turntable, she exudes confidence despite the time not being quite right for the launch of such an esoteric, luxury product. “I am a big fan of vinyl - it’s the best way to listen to music,” she tells me, “and I’ve got a very nice classical music collection. I wasn’t happy about the turntables on the market, so I decided to do this...”
 
Ebullient she may be, because the new E.A.T. Forte isn’t just another derivative design – another ‘me too’ premium priced product there to have a presence in the market. It shows some interesting thinking – certainly in its unique combination of clever techniques used by various other designs – and the reappearance of a seminal tonearm from a past master of the art – Ikeda.
 
It is a fixed subchassis “mass design”, in the tradition of the great nineteen seventies direct drives. Indeed, featuring a separate motor unit, massive platter and string belt drive, it actually reminds me very much of Marantz’s fabled TT-1800, their late high end design that never was – and also certain top Micros of that period. Whilst the outward appearance may ring bells, so to speak, the inside engineering is quite different. The plinth is a metal filled, MDF box of backbreaking weight, with beautiful gloss lacquered wood veneer. Debates rage hard on online forums about the merits of this, but suffice to say that just as the sprung subchassis approach works best when the springs are as unintrusive as possible (a la Avid), so the high mass approach works better the higher the mass is – and the Forte is certainly heavy...
 
The platter is the next most noticeable thing, largely on account of its huge 400mm diameter. It weighs 19.9kg, and is a two part affair with the inner section of the platter made from soft alloy, and the outer part made of a harder material. As you might expect, the main bearing (in the Forte’s case inverted with a ceramic ball mating to a Teflon cup) needed to handle this sort of weight and resultant pressure is vast, but it is given a helping hand by magnetism no less – with the be bottom half of the platter incorporating neodymium magnets to lower the pressure on the bearing. This ‘semi magnetically suspended design is an elegant working compromise, but tweakers won’t be delighted to learn that the bearing pressure is not easily adjusted and is best left to the factory setting. Finally, the platter comes with sorbothane damping, and the matt is made from recycled vinyl records; a massy record clamp is supplied.
 
Interestingly, the Forte is a twin motor design, the designers choosing to specify two low torque AC motors generating 2,700Kj of torque via twin pulleys and long diamond cut string belts. This is coupled with an active speed controller, and located in a separate enclosure which is made of sandwiched metal and MDF. This has two speeds, switchable by a push button, and there’s a digital display offering stepped speed increase or decrease (if you so wish). One particular fun feature is the way this speed display counts its way up to 33.333RPM (or 45RPM) when you switch on, steadily climbing to normal operating speed.
 
As you might expect, Technics SL1200-style 0-33.333 RPM in half a second starts are not available from a turntable with a platter that weighs more than most turntables. But this is of course to miss the point; the designers of the Forte assert that the higher the torque to the motor, the more intrusive it can be. By using twin motors, only gently connected to the platter which itself is so heavy it resists the short-term, momentary dynamic wow imposed by the stylus, the idea is that the motors spin the platter up to speed in a reasonable time and momentum does the rest. The motors then don’t engage with the playback loop directly, that 20kg platter acting as a filter to speed variations. 
 
The twin motors seem to work as twin turbochargers on car engines, supplying unstressed lazy torque rather than delivering needlessly (and possibly intrusively) high amounts. Regular readers will know I personally am a big fan of direct drives, but I do find E.A.T.’s approach interesting and very thorough. They have obviously designed the Forte well aware of the vagaries of belt drives, and all the problems it imposes, and would contend – I am sure – that it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it! This is reflected in remarkably fine speed stability [see MEASURED PERFORMANCE].
 
I find the deck itself a paragon of simplicity; it really is the sort of turntable you buy if you’re not into fiddling. Once located (which given its size and mass is easier said than done), you – ermm – just switch it on and off and that’s your lot. No suspension springs to twiddle, no fine speed to set, no intricate assembly of umpteen bits from a kit before it works. Essentially, the EAT Forte is a plug and play turntable – but for millionaires! It is, of course, immaculately finished, and whilst I may prefer functional, machine-like looks of the Avid Acutus or the arresting geometric grace of the Michell GyroDec, I can see that it is an attractive thing to have in your house – providing you’ve got one big enough, of course...
 
Another key part of the Forte is of course the tonearm. Although notionally badged as an EAT product, Jozefína makes no bones about the fact that it is designed and manufactured by Ikeda. Indeed it is a chrome finished Ikeda IT407 12” design, mounted on a sorbothane damped heavy metal base. If you’re not a Japanese hi-fi nut, you might be shrugging and saying so what – so think of it as being a bit like Lexus getting Bristol to supply engines for their top limousine [see ARMS AND THE MAN below] . More remarkable is that Osamu Ikeda was reputed to be in semi retirement, and extremely unlikely to ever make any tonearm for anybody ever again...
 
Originally launched in 2006, the 12” IT407 is a fairly high mass dynamically balanced design that traces its lineage all the way back to Fidelity Research days. Precision radial ball bearings are used along with a thread linked, weighted bias compensator and there’s a locking counterweight at one end of J-shaped polished arm tube, and a detachable headshell at the other. The build quality and finish of this arm is equal to the SME Series V, which really needs no more explanation – but suffice to say it is absolutely exquisite to hand cue, feeling as silky as the top SME in use. My only gripe would be the slightly fiddly arm rest lock, which isn’t the best ever devised, even if it does the job.
 
Once again, the debates around tonearms are manifold; everyone ‘in the know’ has their favourite, and just to make life interesting, they rarely agree. The Ikeda arm brings no innovation, no fancy tonearm materials, no special damping systems or clever ‘active counterweights’; rather it’s an utterly conservative high mass design that relies on impeccable and consistent construction to achieve its sonic goals. Put a decent moving coil in (in my case a van den Hul Frog), dial in the tracking force, bias and vertical tracking angle (all very easy and elegantly done) and you’re off!
 
SOUND QUALITY
 
Having just spent a long and most enjoyable period with Avid’s Acutus, and of course my own Sony TT-S8000 (a late seventies Japanese direct drive that makes most moderns look like Fisher-Price playthings), it was a sobering experience to see the E.A.T. Forte in my equipment rack, let alone hear it. It is massive; bigger I would say than two Technics SL1200s in a row. The sound is concomitantly large, as imposing as the deck’s physical bulk. I was fascinated, as in my system I haven’t come across anything quite like it...
 
First then, a little bit of perspective. I found the Avid Acutus (at a mere £3,000 less if you fit it with the SME Series V tonearm that it so obviously wants) to be a breathtaking vinyl replay tool – masses of energy, vast amounts of detail and tremendous energy that had me perching on the edge of my seat. Put on some power pop like Simple Minds, or heavy electronica like The Prodigy and it was time to fasten your seatbelt for – as they say – the ride of your life.
 
Immense and cowering as the Forte may be sonically, it is not like the Avid. It is an altogether less intense experience. Don’t take this to be in any way disparaging, as actually it is more versatile. Slip on some John Coltrane and you can sip a snifter of Scotch, light up a Silk Cut and tap your toes just as the Right Honourable Ken Clarke would his Hush Puppies. You can relax into the music, think about next weekend’s visit to the in-laws or what colour you’re going to paint the front door when the weather gets better. With the Avid, you’d have the vagaries of the recording etched into your cranium, and may well be thinking, “a great piece of music, but this early sixties cross-paired mic recording isn’t ideal”. Back to the E.A.T. though, and you’d be bathing in the languid, luxuriant sounds of Johnny Hartman singing, ‘Lush Life’, sitting up straight totally transfixed with your heart up where your Adam’s Apple should be. My point is simple; the Forte takes you into the music as far as you want to go, yet demands nothing from you.
 
On the very surface of things, it is less detailed than the Avid. It doesn’t put a magic marker under every attack transient, underlining when the note starts, and yet it is no less fast and no more unstable – indeed it seems even more speed-stable than the Acutus, which is really saying something. I found with Yes’s ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’, my reference Sony only just nosed ahead in the leading edge of the bass guitar stakes. The TT-S8000 is utterly exceptional in this respect, and a little ahead of the Avid, whereas the E.A.T. was, figuratively speaking, just millimetres behind its back bumper. But whilst the lithe direct drive with its light platter and clever quartz lock speed control servo system could just about inch ahead on leading notes, it lacked the E.A.T.’s immense stability. It was as solid as the proverbial lump of granite sticking out of the briny. The scale, the epic expanse of its soundstage and the utter unflappability of its performance beat the Sony into a cocked hat.
 
Peter Gabriel’s ‘Solsbury Hill’ was another case in point. Brilliant of course as the song is, it’s a slightly murky mid-seventies analogue recording and one that doesn’t flatter a turntable of any size, price or weight. I found the Forte was able to unpeel the song, rather like an onion skin, giving me great insight into every layer of the production, yet without sounding in any way forced or strained. I remember the Avid doing this too, albeit with more drama and seemingly more detail, although I still found the E.A.T’s presentation more naturally ‘right’ on an instinctive level. Its dynamics were formidable, and yet less explicit. With such innate power, it was able to deliver the contrasts in a more effortless way, like a slumbering giant waking up to brush away an irritation without bothering to raise an eyelid. Again, by contrast, the Sony seemed a tad breathless – which is not something you ever say about it in less illustrious company...
 
Tonally, the Forte was superb. Its bass is immense, unflappable and without fault – save for being fractionally slower to switch on than the Sony. Alternatively, it may be right and the Sony is simply a little 'nervous' with the leading edges, etching them artificially hard in a characteristically direct drive way? The E.A.T. is also sumptuous in the best tradition of vinyl; cue up The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ from an original seventies pressing of ‘Who’s Next’ and you really know that’s a valve bass guitar amp being used. It’s the sort of bass that doesn’t need to make any apologies – there’s no issue with the recording, or the rest of the replay equipment, it’s just there like the elephant in the room. 
 
Yet it doesn’t overpower, or slur notes, or dominate the mix in any way; put on some nineteen sixties freakbeat from Ice (the most famous band to come out of my own Sussex University, which isn’t saying much) and yes, sure enough, you can tell it’s recorded in someone’s bathroom in Brighton. Cue up 4hero’s ‘Escape That’ however, and you’re into low frequencies the like of which you rarely hear outside of Wembley Arena. Powerful as the E.A.T is below the stairs, let’s just say it’s not gratuitous.
 
Across the midband, you have a massively expansive sound. It makes the Sony – and to a less extent the Avid – seem rather stuck between the speakers. Yet instruments are not quite as accurately located as with the Acutus, which if it were a policeman would be a Miami-based member of CS1. The E.A.T. isn’t imprecise, it’s just big enough in its soundstaging for you not to have to ask questions; “the guitar’s over there, the lead vocal is over there, okay, fair enough!” Nor is the midband quite as icily clear as the Acutus or the Sony, but it’s actually no less detailed or informative, it’s just the way it presents the information is altogether more relaxed. Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Ikeda arm is at least partly behind this state of affairs. It’s so redolent of all those hours I used to spend languishing in Japanese hi-fi shops in and around Tokyo, listening to that country’s high end fare. Think massively polished, with easy information retrieval that would never even think of throwing it at you. Yes, it’s an ever so slightly ‘hi-fi’ sound, but a gorgeous one – and mates brilliantly to the E.A.T’s mellowy, moody, subtle sound.
 
As befits a turntable of this immense speed stability, the treble is a joy. It is slick and easy, beautifully polished and wonderfully atmospheric – yet sharp and incisive in a way that never dominates. Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue’ was majestic; smooth, vast in stage and deliciously, naturally musical, and with a wonderfully natural top end. If ever there was a turntable/arm combination to flatter a cartridge’s natural treble ability, this is it. Once again, my reference players both turned in a superficially slightly more detailed rendition, but it wasn’t in any way more informative. Rather, it was if the brightness control had just been turned up a bit. The Avid was brilliant, pushing you right up close to the cymbals, the Sony had wonderful ‘snap’, whereas the E.A.T. took a gentle step back from the hi-hats, giving a less ‘in your face’ rendition that was – all said and done – a tad easier and more satisfying to listen to.
 
CONCLUSION
 
At this level, you’re not going to get a bad turntable, so the question then is – what kind of good one do you want? As with fine wines, great watches, top restaurants and seven star hotels, at this price you’re buying something that suits you like the best bespoke tailored suit. And so whom would the E.A.T. Forte suit? Well, the standard fitment of the Ikeda arm means this is far more like a turntable package than most decks at this price, which come sans tonearm, requiring you to make this big decision. The Forte is a case of ‘add cartridge and go’; it even requires relatively little set up as it is not a skeletal design which demands various layers be bolted on to various others.
 
What it gives then is brilliant sound out of a (very big) box, with a superb fitted arm that sings with almost any highish mass moving coil cartridge. It presents a relaxed, easy, nonchalant sort of sound, but one that is nevertheless immensely satisfying. The best thing is that it’s very devoid of character, or obvious strengths or weaknesses for that matter. Simply put, it’s a massive machine that gets the best out of your vinyl without you – or it – having to try very hard, it seems you can afford not to!
 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
ARMS AND THE MAN
 
In 1964, the former factory manager of Japanese tonearm specialist Grace decided to start his own business. At the age of thirty five, Osamu Ikeda formed Fidelity Research Kabushiki Kaisha and by the mid nineteen seventies his company was making world-class tonearms and pickup cartridges. Ikeda was no copyist, taking out several international patents and finessing his designs like few others. Indeed, so respected was he in Japan that his products were even used by the Imperial Family. The late nineteen seventies were the glory days for Fidelity Research, with the FR64 series of tonearms his strongest product, being a superlative device at a time when there was a relatively paucity of competition. 
 
After the demise of Fidelity Research, the great man came back with Ikeda Sound Laboratories Company. An altogether smaller and specialist affair, he designed, built and inspected every product by hand. It was a chance for yet more innovation, not least the world’s first MC cartridge without a cantilever. The new IT345 and IT407 tonearms were launched in autumn 2006; coming in twelve and sixteen inch versions respectively. E.A.T.  use a specially modified, gloss finished version of the former. (since updatded to Ikeda IT407-CRI 12" tonearm & Ikeda 9TT catridges)
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
MEASURED PERFORMANCE
 
The EAT Forte carries an Ikeda IT407 12in (307mm) arm with detachable headshell. This is a solid affair made from various metals Ikeda say, rolled not diecast. The arm feels solid and ‘dead’ in the hand and indeed it measures like that too. For a long, tubular arm it is surprisingly free of a main arm tube mode, expected around 200Hz or lower. In this region there is no sign of vibration, although a small bump at 120Hz could possibly be due to primary flexure. Otherwise, the IT407 is a very ‘quiet’ arm all the way up to 3kHz and should give excellent bass quality and fine sound staging as a result, as well as a pure midband. Above 3kHz, as accelerations rise, the headshell becomes as active as most, so here the Ikeda is less distinguished. Also, 12in arms roughly halve the tracing distortion generated by a 9in arm and usually sound smoother and silkier as a result, although often not as ‘fast’.
 
The EAT Forte turntable produced some amazing results. It was just 0.1% slow, a negligible amount and low speed drift below 1Hz was lower than usual too, resulting in a very low unweighted Wow and Flutter value of 0.072%. This suggests the EAT Forte will have much the same grip on pace as a Direct Drive. Weighted wow and flutter was low too, as is to be expected, measuring 0.061%. 
 
An unusual combo this may be in appearance, but it is a good deal more sophisticated under the skin than one might imagine. It’s a great pairing. NK
 
SPEED STABILITY
 
Don't be fooled by its conservative looks, this is a brilliantly conceived, superbly engineered vinyl spinner. A memorable - seminal even - high end product.
 
HIGHLIGHTS:
- supreme musical ease
- unerring speed stability
- flawless engineering
- excellent fitted tonearm
reference midrange, robust low frequency, sweet top-end and a simply unreal midrange, like Miles Davis in your room quality.
Peter Breuninger

I am winding down my time with the 9TT.

It has been featured with the IT-407 in a series of video shoots on the Onedof turntable and now on the surprisingly excellent Triangle Art Signature turntable.

The 9TT offers a holographic midrange more 3D than the Koetsus I've heard or owned (Rosewood, Rosewood Siggie, Pro-IV, The Urushi Vermillion), although I've not heard the $10K plus Koetsus, but the 9TT falls well under this price point.

It is very low in output so I would not use a tube phono stage with it without a SET.

My results are based on the Wyetech Ruby P1 combo; reference midrange, robust low frequency, sweet top-end and a simply unreal midrange, like Miles Davis in your room quality.

I can say that this Ikeda 9TT is a focused cartridge, focused because it reproduces in a very charming way some music genres and because it has its own attitude; if you like it, you buy it.
Domenico Pizzamiglio

Listening to strings quartets with it it's very pleasant because the timbre connotations are well defined but less contrasted than usual. It is possible to recognize all the instruments and it's ok if the cello is less pot-bellied and the violins are softer; with selected recordings it is pleasant (the trio for violin, cello and piano by Haydn in the execution of Beaux Arts Trios on Philips for example) because Ikeda soft sound regulates the harshness of the recording. 

In our sector there are brands or names that still recall precious and rare objects, sometimes even esoteric or arcane. Mysterious and magic masters -most of the times from Japan- that hidden in their secret, dark and dusty laboratories, work restlessly to wind transformers, examine with a microscope copper and silver to see if it's pure and at the same time, solder very expensive electronic equipments made with noble metal to get best performances. Their names are well known to all those that are long time hi-fi followers. Sakuma, Kondo, Imai, Shibazaki, Shindo and Ikeda, of course, are in audiophiles’ mind. Isamu Ikeda is part of the legend since 1964 when he founded the brand Fidelity Research that designed and built tonearms, cartridges and step-ups. The importance of  FR64 And IT407 tonearms is universally renown, it's a 12" tonearm that is considered one of the best ever. The cartridges, FR1 and FR7 have reaffirmed the success of this enterprise that has been also listed in stock exchange. In 1985 this enterprise closed down for reason that have not been divulged. After a while the Ikeda Sound Labs were established and in 2011 production line and marketing has been moved to IT Industry Company Ltd. We are lucky enough to have in our hands the last of their phonographic cartridge: the 9TT. This cartridge exists also the monophonic version, to please all kind of vinyl records lovers. A characteristic feature of these series 9 cartridges has been the fact that they didn't use the cantilever because Ikeda reckons that it is the cause of some noise and causes the loss of the dynamics of the recording. If I don't go wrong only Decca has a similar product. On the other hand the absence of the cantilever causes a wrong reading of ondulate vinyl and no superiority is demonstrated. Surprise surprise, 9TT has a cantilever so we're back to tradition once again. We hardly read about the look of these cartridges but I want to stress the fact that this 9TT is really harmonious and it looks nice on the tonearm. To be exact on 2 tonearms. As you will read shortly this review has been made using ... 4 ears. The review of this Ikeda is a special event so I asked a friend and valuable reviewer to write about his listening impressions. Domenico Pizzamiglio has a very vast experience in the analog field and so he's the right persono to do it. I haven't read his impressions yet because I don't want to be influenced by his ideas. 
 
Here are some technical facts that are important when choosing a phonographic cartridge:
Type: MC cartridge 
Output Voltage: 0.16mVrms (35.4mm/sec., at 45°peak) 
Coil Impedance: 2.0 ohms (1kHz) 
Appropriate Stylus Force: 1.8 grams ±0.2 grams 
Frequency Response: 10Hz ~ 45kHz   
Channel Separation: over 27dB (1kHz) 
Channel Balance: within 1.0dB (1kHz) 
Stylus Chip: Solid Diamond, Line Contact 
Cantilever: Double layered duralmin pipe. 
Weight: 10 grams 
 
Now we have to face the dilemma: step-up or not step-up? I personally stay with those that say “no step-up”. With one exception when the levels of the cartridge output are so low that there's no way to amplify them actively. The only exception I see is for those that use a tube phono-preamplifier that generally have to limit its gain because of the noise it generates. The solid state designs, today, can gain up to 70 dB and can amplify cartridges that pass the 0,1 mV. I might be strange but in this world where less is better the idea of putting 2 extra connections and hundred odd meters of copper coil has no appeal for me. Every transformer, no matter how it is built, modifies the frequency response at the top and, sometimes, at the bottom too. All in all there are not many good step-ups and the connecting cables that can reproduce the original sound are really expensive. This is why I reckon that these transformers must be avoided if not really necessary. I want to deal also with the matter of the impedance of the load that the cartridge needs to play at its best. I often read about rules, sub-rules, formulas, square laws and fractions ... but all these calculations are oftentimes denied by the hearing. Allen Wright, lamented founder of the Vacuum State Company, suggested to try and load all the MC at 47KOhms "not to damp the life out of them". According to him there were exceptions represented by some Ikeda and Dynavector Ruby. These two had a better sound at 100 Ohms. This is an interesting theory that I subscribe only in part. I think that it depends also on the components used in the system. My personal experience is that my Lyra Helikon, when amplified with a phono preamplifier Audio Research PH3 is at ease with 47 KOhms, while with Einstein's "The Turntable's choice" I use 85 Ohms. This is just one of many examples. For this Ikeda I have found correct the same value I use for the Lyra and in effect it has an impedance similar in its absolute value (5.5 Ohm for the latter). 
 
The system used for this review was the following:
 
turntable Basis 2001, tonearm Graham 2.2, phono cable: LAT International XLR, phono preamplifier: Einstein "The Turntable's Choice" balanced, cable between pre and phono preamp: Transparent Super XLR, CD/SACD player dCS Puccini + Puccini U-Clock, cable between CD player and preamplifier: MIT Oracle MA Proline, preamplifier: MBL 4006, cable between pre and power amps: MIT Oracle MA-X Proline, power amplifiers: Bryston 7B ST mono, loudspeakers: JBL 4350B,  AC1, Black Pearl and others self-made, mains filter: Black Noise 2500.  
 
Now it's time for the listening impressions after the 50 hours of burn in that are recommended by the Italian distributor. Just a remark, after the first 30 hours we have not noticed any relevant change. For the first listenings I have used records that have no relevant technical feature. I usually take the most of this opportunity to listen to old and neglected records. I want to tell you about "Mondi Lontanissimi" by Franco Battiato (EMI). The hits of the drumstick let you hear the sound of the drumhead in a very unexpected an pleasant way. The Hi-Hat in "No Time, No Space" sounds very clear. When the timbre of the 9TT gets more stable we can listen to pieces that have a higher technical quality. Tchaikovsk’s Romeo and Juliet (Telarc) is the first one. The cartridge passes very well the romantic sensation during the opening of the strings. The kettledrums enter in a pompous way but lack a little in dynamics. The soundstage that comes from the big JBLs speakers that transform the electric impulse generated by the Ikeda, is large and free from constraint. You may have noticed that I'm not a fan of the depth of the image and I can tell you why straight away: because it doesn’t exist in the real world. That's it. You probably attend often to acoustic music concerts. If you want to listen to music far down, the way many audiophiles like it, you will have to sit in the places that are far away from the orchestra. This is not what the sound engineers record because they want to make you hear the sound just like the director hears it, and sometimes you can even hear the breath of the musicians playing. In this case if depth is excessive it is unreal. Well, let's go ahead with the description of the superb sound of this Ikeda 9TT. The extreme of the high range seem a little bit laid back but have the desired effect of producing a very sensual sound. There's no need to say that the Japanese are unbeatable in this. "Tabula Rasa" by Arvo Part ( ECM) presents a moving sound of the strings in a dreamlike atmosphere. Jarrett's piano is also outstanding in the harmony of a global reproduction with high quality and emotional engagement. The hits on the drum in the final part of "Fratres" are really impressive for their harmonic richness and plainness. Simon and Garfunkel's voices in "The Concert in Central Park" (Geffen Records) are fascinating in their simplicity, sweetness and high definition. Guitars in "April Come She Will" are reproduced with richness of details that are in contrast with the sharpness and the speed of the bass and the bass drum in "Wake Up Little Susy". Could it be that this Ikeda is nuts about Jazz? Of course this is a rhetorical question. Now that we have guessed its soul and attitude we take advantage of it and listen to "Heard Around The World" by Miles Davis (CAS). It's a double vinyl recorded in 1976. This is a quintet with Sam Rivers/ Wayne Shorter at the sax, Herbie Hancock at the piano, Ron Carter at the bass and Tony Williams at the drums. Ikeda shows its capacity of interpreting what's hidden in the grooves with strong delicacy. The recording is very natural and this is the way it is reproduced. This cartridge is highlighted by jazz and small orchestral groups. The difference between the two vinyl records, recorded between Tokyo and Berlin is clear and 9TT can reproduce the events’ atmosphere very well. The trumpets and double bass pianissimo come out of the record very clearly, on top of the hiss of the analog master. A quick passage with "Made in Japan" by the Deep Purple clears out the fact that for this kind of music there are more qualified alternatives. I have almost forgotten to tell you that this cartridge has an incredible ability of tracking the records without distorting the sound until the very last groove. The needle's cut is evidently very well done. 
Well, what can I say in conclusion? This is the typical Japanese jewel with the characteristics that define all the music machines that come from that part of the world.
 
9TT is a cartridge that states straight away: “This is my sound, take it or leave it!” The situation of hi-fi around the world makes me guess that many people would say:” I take it!” If I had the financial means to buy all the things I like I'd be in this group for the pleasure of the many vinyl records that are lying on the shelves in my room. Ikeda has a strong attitude and this is the reason why it is extremely interesting and not expected.      
 
Angelo Jasparro
 
 
Domenico Pizzamiglio's listening
 
IKeda 9TT has been listened also in my system that is very similar to the system of Angelo (belt turntable, pivot tonearm - his is unipivot, mine is dual - solid state phono preamplifier) but with different components. 
I chose, for the Morch tonearm on a Bauer DPS, the blue armtube. This is the heaviest among all those produced by J.J. Morch. A tonearm around 20 gr seems to be the most apt: with my tonearm whose mass is 20gr the resonance frequency is close to 11Hz lateral and 9 Hz vertical. Adding a 3 gr plate, the lateral resonance frequency went down to 10 Hz while the vertical remained the same. The declared compliance value seems to be real. I used a Lehmann Black Cube phono preamplifier that is also MM and gave me the opportunity to use the Ikeda with a Ortofon T20 step-up, that fits the internal impedance of Ikeda. I used also the American Hybrid Technology pre that is made for cartridges with a mobile coil and has the great advantage of having a very high signal to noise (90 dB) ratio. In this way the feeble signal coming from the cartridge has no problems with the noise. The signal is not so feeble after all, in fact the 0,16 mV declared are very prudential. I heard no differences with the Transfiguration Aria that has an output of 0,3 mV, that is to say the double. Step-up or active phono preamplifier? If it is quiet I have no doubt and I prefer the active preamplifier. Some like the step-up but I think that it lacks of those details that are present and clear with the active pre. I have read that the transformer is better because with the phono pre the MC cartridges play too sharp: I don't think this is true. I believe that we have to trust the imperfect human ear and we don't have to try loads that are excessive. The sound might seem sharp but in this case it's a mistake of the user and not of the system. I think that adding cables on cables is not so useful and may disturb the final result.
 
There are situations though when it is necessary to use a transformer for reasons linked to the cartridge chosen or in vintage systems that have valve pre amplifiers that are not as silent as the modern ones. In my specific case, may be because I could adjust the gain of the pre amp with my two Burmester phono stage, I had no problems with Audio Tekné and also with the Denon DL S1. The latter when preamplified with its own transformer does not convince me while I find it more free with the America Hybrid Technology. It is true that modern active phono stages are very silent, or at least those that I have recently tested like Whest Audio, Tom Evans, Boulder or Burmester are really quiet. 
 
Let's go back now to the object observed. Ikeda declares only the internal impedance that is 2 Ohm. Ikeda is Japanese and in Japan step-ups are loved. For those that will use a transformer they will have to choose an apt one and those that want an active phono stage may use one that is around 100 Ohm of load. I have tried different loads. With 50 Ohms the cartridge was correct but somehow forced, with 500 Ohms the sound was excessive from mid-low range to mid-high range with very little influence on the low and deep range and on the treble that appeared almost dynamically compressed (but this was just because the other two were too acute).  
 
Well, how does this Ikeda sound? 
 
It's different from the previous Ikeda that had no cantilever. I remember that when I tried one I noticed its speed and the fact that it was not too soft. The sound was "monitor like", a bit pushed forward and very charming. With this Ikeda, cantilever left aside, things seem to be different, less charged-up and more relaxed, calm. After the suggested hours of burn in the first octave is still not complete; the sound of the bass drum is smaller than usual There is the hit but it's positioned on a higher frequency. The highest part of the audio spectrum seems to be laid back. This Ikeda reminded me of Koetsu with their full but soft sonority. 9TT is a chamber music cartridge. 
Listening to strings quartets with it it's very pleasant because the timbre connotations are well defined but less contrasted than usual. It is possible to recognize all the instruments and it's ok if the cello is less pot-bellied and the violins are softer; with selected recordings it is pleasant (the trio for violin, cello and piano by Haydn in the execution of Beaux Arts Trios on Philips for example) because Ikeda soft sound regulates the harshness of the recording. 
 
With other recordings the pathos is a bit lessened as in the concert for Violin and Orchestra by Beethoven directed by Karajan. Also the piano is enhanced by this cartridge, often the first octave is not recorded at the right level (in Petrouchka by Stravinsky for an instance, Pollini DGG) and its tendency to be soft in the high range makes long listenings possible. Ikeda did not convince me when dealing with more complex and dynamic signals. The Firebird By Stravinsky on Telarc has a medium-low range a bit advanced together with the medium range. Instruments are defined but here and there the cello sound ruins a bit the final result and is lacking of force in the highest part of the frequencies. In the Concert n. 4 for Piano and Orchestra by Beehtoven (Kempff, DGG) the sound seems to come from a room rich in absorbing materials, far from the bright rooms that we usually find abroad (Munich Philarmoniker or Berlin or again the Musikverein); well the impression is that of being in a opera theatre in the 18th Century. When listening to modern music, Making Movies by Dire Straits for example, you cannot feel the impact of the electric bass and also other sounds result less violent here. For those who love the Lieder this cartridge seems to be perfect. With this genre Ikeda's characteristics are very fitting. I don't want to deal with the soundstage, it's different in every recording. The weakened frequency answer makes the loudspeakers less present and gives to music a more defined depth. Tracking is very reliable, comparable to that of Goldenote Tuscany, Air Tight Supreme, ZYX Omega Gold Diamond, Lyra Olympos, and there's never the sensation of mistracking. 
 
I can say that this Ikeda 9TT is a focused cartridge, focused because it reproduces in a very charming way some music genres and because it has its own attitude; if you like it, you buy it. 
 
The cost is around 3.400 euros. It's not cheap but Ikeda is one of those brands that produce dreamlike objects. In this case the price is not excessive if compared with other japanese élite production. 
 
......Domenico Pizzamiglio
I can say that this Ikeda 9TT is a focused cartridge, focused because it reproduces in a very charming way some music genres and because it has its own attitude; if you like it, you buy it.
Angelo Jasparro & Domenico Pizzamiglio

Listening to strings quartets with it it's very pleasant because the timbre connotations are well defined but less contrasted than usual. It is possible to recognize all the instruments and it's ok if the cello is less pot-bellied and the violins are softer; with selected recordings it is pleasant (the trio for violin, cello and piano by Haydn in the execution of Beaux Arts Trios on Philips for example) because Ikeda soft sound regulates the harshness of the recording.

Angelo Jasparro listening:

In our sector there are brands or names that still recall precious and rare objects, sometimes even esoteric or arcane. Mysterious and magic masters -most of the times from Japan- that hidden in their secret, dark and dusty laboratories, work restlessly to wind transformers, examine with a microscope copper and silver to see if it's pure and at the same time, solder very expensive electronic equipments made with noble metal to get best performances. Their names are well known to all those that are long time hi-fi followers. Sakuma, Kondo, Imai, Shibazaki, Shindo and Ikeda, of course, are in audiophiles’ mind. Isamu Ikeda is part of the legend since 1964 when he founded the brand Fidelity Research that designed and built tonearms, cartridges and step-ups. The importance of  FR64 And IT407 tonearms is universally renown, it's a 12" tonearm that is considered one of the best ever. The cartridges, FR1 and FR7 have reaffirmed the success of this enterprise that has been also listed in stock exchange. In 1985 this enterprise closed down for reason that have not been divulged. After a while the Ikeda Sound Labs were established and in 2011 production line and marketing has been moved to IT Industry Company Ltd. We are lucky enough to have in our hands the last of their phonographic cartridge: the 9TT. This cartridge exists also the monophonic version, to please all kind of vinyl records lovers. A characteristic feature of these series 9 cartridges has been the fact that they didn't use the cantilever because Ikeda reckons that it is the cause of some noise and causes the loss of the dynamics of the recording. If I don't go wrong only Decca has a similar product. On the other hand the absence of the cantilever causes a wrong reading of ondulate vinyl and no superiority is demonstrated. Surprise surprise, 9TT has a cantilever so we're back to tradition once again. We hardly read about the look of these cartridges but I want to stress the fact that this 9TT is really harmonious and it looks nice on the tonearm. To be exact on 2 tonearms. As you will read shortly this review has been made using ... 4 ears. The review of this Ikeda is a special event so I asked a friend and valuable reviewer to write about his listening impressions. Domenico Pizzamiglio has a very vast experience in the analog field and so he's the right persono to do it. I haven't read his impressions yet because I don't want to be influenced by his ideas. 

 
Here are some technical facts that are important when choosing a phonographic cartridge:
Type: MC cartridge 
Output Voltage: 0.16mVrms (35.4mm/sec., at 45°peak) 
Coil Impedance: 2.0 ohms (1kHz) 
Appropriate Stylus Force: 1.8 grams ±0.2 grams 
Frequency Response: 10Hz ~ 45kHz   
Channel Separation: over 27dB (1kHz) 
Channel Balance: within 1.0dB (1kHz) 
Stylus Chip: Solid Diamond, Line Contact 
Cantilever: Double layered duralmin pipe. 
Weight: 10 grams 
 
Now we have to face the dilemma: step-up or not step-up? I personally stay with those that say “no step-up”. With one exception when the levels of the cartridge output are so low that there's no way to amplify them actively. The only exception I see is for those that use a tube phono-preamplifier that generally have to limit its gain because of the noise it generates. The solid state designs, today, can gain up to 70 dB and can amplify cartridges that pass the 0,1 mV. I might be strange but in this world where less is better the idea of putting 2 extra connections and hundred odd meters of copper coil has no appeal for me. Every transformer, no matter how it is built, modifies the frequency response at the top and, sometimes, at the bottom too. All in all there are not many good step-ups and the connecting cables that can reproduce the original sound are really expensive. This is why I reckon that these transformers must be avoided if not really necessary. I want to deal also with the matter of the impedance of the load that the cartridge needs to play at its best. I often read about rules, sub-rules, formulas, square laws and fractions ... but all these calculations are oftentimes denied by the hearing. Allen Wright, lamented founder of the Vacuum State Company, suggested to try and load all the MC at 47KOhms "not to damp the life out of them". According to him there were exceptions represented by some Ikeda and Dynavector Ruby. These two had a better sound at 100 Ohms. This is an interesting theory that I subscribe only in part. I think that it depends also on the components used in the system. My personal experience is that my Lyra Helikon, when amplified with a phono preamplifier Audio Research PH3 is at ease with 47 KOhms, while with Einstein's "The Turntable's choice" I use 85 Ohms. This is just one of many examples. For this Ikeda I have found correct the same value I use for the Lyra and in effect it has an impedance similar in its absolute value (5.5 Ohm for the latter). 
 
The system used for this review was the following:
 
turntable Basis 2001, tonearm Graham 2.2, phono cable: LAT International XLR, phono preamplifier: Einstein "The Turntable's Choice" balanced, cable between pre and phono preamp: Transparent Super XLR, CD/SACD player dCS Puccini + Puccini U-Clock, cable between CD player and preamplifier: MIT Oracle MA Proline, preamplifier: MBL 4006, cable between pre and power amps: MIT Oracle MA-X Proline, power amplifiers: Bryston 7B ST mono, loudspeakers: JBL 4350B,  AC1, Black Pearl and others self-made, mains filter: Black Noise 2500.  
 
Now it's time for the listening impressions after the 50 hours of burn in that are recommended by the Italian distributor. Just a remark, after the first 30 hours we have not noticed any relevant change. For the first listenings I have used records that have no relevant technical feature. I usually take the most of this opportunity to listen to old and neglected records. I want to tell you about "Mondi Lontanissimi" by Franco Battiato (EMI). The hits of the drumstick let you hear the sound of the drumhead in a very unexpected an pleasant way. The Hi-Hat in "No Time, No Space" sounds very clear. When the timbre of the 9TT gets more stable we can listen to pieces that have a higher technical quality. Tchaikovsk’s Romeo and Juliet (Telarc) is the first one. The cartridge passes very well the romantic sensation during the opening of the strings. The kettledrums enter in a pompous way but lack a little in dynamics. The soundstage that comes from the big JBLs speakers that transform the electric impulse generated by the Ikeda, is large and free from constraint. You may have noticed that I'm not a fan of the depth of the image and I can tell you why straight away: because it doesn’t exist in the real world. That's it. You probably attend often to acoustic music concerts. If you want to listen to music far down, the way many audiophiles like it, you will have to sit in the places that are far away from the orchestra. This is not what the sound engineers record because they want to make you hear the sound just like the director hears it, and sometimes you can even hear the breath of the musicians playing. In this case if depth is excessive it is unreal. Well, let's go ahead with the description of the superb sound of this Ikeda 9TT. The extreme of the high range seem a little bit laid back but have the desired effect of producing a very sensual sound. There's no need to say that the Japanese are unbeatable in this. "Tabula Rasa" by Arvo Part ( ECM) presents a moving sound of the strings in a dreamlike atmosphere. Jarrett's piano is also outstanding in the harmony of a global reproduction with high quality and emotional engagement. The hits on the drum in the final part of "Fratres" are really impressive for their harmonic richness and plainness. Simon and Garfunkel's voices in "The Concert in Central Park" (Geffen Records) are fascinating in their simplicity, sweetness and high definition. Guitars in "April Come She Will" are reproduced with richness of details that are in contrast with the sharpness and the speed of the bass and the bass drum in "Wake Up Little Susy". Could it be that this Ikeda is nuts about Jazz? Of course this is a rhetorical question. Now that we have guessed its soul and attitude we take advantage of it and listen to "Heard Around The World" by Miles Davis (CAS). It's a double vinyl recorded in 1976. This is a quintet with Sam Rivers/ Wayne Shorter at the sax, Herbie Hancock at the piano, Ron Carter at the bass and Tony Williams at the drums. Ikeda shows its capacity of interpreting what's hidden in the grooves with strong delicacy. The recording is very natural and this is the way it is reproduced. This cartridge is highlighted by jazz and small orchestral groups. The difference between the two vinyl records, recorded between Tokyo and Berlin is clear and 9TT can reproduce the events’ atmosphere very well. The trumpets and double bass pianissimo come out of the record very clearly, on top of the hiss of the analog master. A quick passage with "Made in Japan" by the Deep Purple clears out the fact that for this kind of music there are more qualified alternatives. I have almost forgotten to tell you that this cartridge has an incredible ability of tracking the records without distorting the sound until the very last groove. The needle's cut is evidently very well done. 
Well, what can I say in conclusion? This is the typical Japanese jewel with the characteristics that define all the music machines that come from that part of the world.
 
9TT is a cartridge that states straight away: “This is my sound, take it or leave it!” The situation of hi-fi around the world makes me guess that many people would say:” I take it!” If I had the financial means to buy all the things I like I'd be in this group for the pleasure of the many vinyl records that are lying on the shelves in my room. Ikeda has a strong attitude and this is the reason why it is extremely interesting and not expected.       
.
..........Angelo Jasparro
 
 
Domenico Pizzamiglio's listening
 
IKeda 9TT has been listened also in my system that is very similar to the system of Angelo (belt turntable, pivot tonearm - his is unipivot, mine is dual - solid state phono preamplifier) but with different components. 
I chose, for the Morch tonearm on a Bauer DPS, the blue armtube. This is the heaviest among all those produced by J.J. Morch. A tonearm around 20 gr seems to be the most apt: with my tonearm whose mass is 20gr the resonance frequency is close to 11Hz lateral and 9 Hz vertical. Adding a 3 gr plate, the lateral resonance frequency went down to 10 Hz while the vertical remained the same. The declared compliance value seems to be real. I used a Lehmann Black Cube phono preamplifier that is also MM and gave me the opportunity to use the Ikeda with a Ortofon T20 step-up, that fits the internal impedance of Ikeda. I used also the American Hybrid Technology pre that is made for cartridges with a mobile coil and has the great advantage of having a very high signal to noise (90 dB) ratio. In this way the feeble signal coming from the cartridge has no problems with the noise. The signal is not so feeble after all, in fact the 0,16 mV declared are very prudential. I heard no differences with the Transfiguration Aria that has an output of 0,3 mV, that is to say the double. Step-up or active phono preamplifier? If it is quiet I have no doubt and I prefer the active preamplifier. Some like the step-up but I think that it lacks of those details that are present and clear with the active pre. I have read that the transformer is better because with the phono pre the MC cartridges play too sharp: I don't think this is true. I believe that we have to trust the imperfect human ear and we don't have to try loads that are excessive. The sound might seem sharp but in this case it's a mistake of the user and not of the system. I think that adding cables on cables is not so useful and may disturb the final result.
 
There are situations though when it is necessary to use a transformer for reasons linked to the cartridge chosen or in vintage systems that have valve pre amplifiers that are not as silent as the modern ones. In my specific case, may be because I could adjust the gain of the pre amp with my two Burmester phono stage, I had no problems with Audio Tekné and also with the Denon DL S1. The latter when preamplified with its own transformer does not convince me while I find it more free with the America Hybrid Technology. It is true that modern active phono stages are very silent, or at least those that I have recently tested like Whest Audio, Tom Evans, Boulder or Burmester are really quiet. 
 
Let's go back now to the object observed. Ikeda declares only the internal impedance that is 2 Ohm. Ikeda is Japanese and in Japan step-ups are loved. For those that will use a transformer they will have to choose an apt one and those that want an active phono stage may use one that is around 100 Ohm of load. I have tried different loads. With 50 Ohms the cartridge was correct but somehow forced, with 500 Ohms the sound was excessive from mid-low range to mid-high range with very little influence on the low and deep range and on the treble that appeared almost dynamically compressed (but this was just because the other two were too acute).  
 
Well, how does this Ikeda sound? 
 
It's different from the previous Ikeda that had no cantilever. I remember that when I tried one I noticed its speed and the fact that it was not too soft. The sound was "monitor like", a bit pushed forward and very charming. With this Ikeda, cantilever left aside, things seem to be different, less charged-up and more relaxed, calm. After the suggested hours of burn in the first octave is still not complete; the sound of the bass drum is smaller than usual There is the hit but it's positioned on a higher frequency. The highest part of the audio spectrum seems to be laid back. This Ikeda reminded me of Koetsu with their full but soft sonority. 9TT is a chamber music cartridge. 
Listening to strings quartets with it it's very pleasant because the timbre connotations are well defined but less contrasted than usual. It is possible to recognize all the instruments and it's ok if the cello is less pot-bellied and the violins are softer; with selected recordings it is pleasant (the trio for violin, cello and piano by Haydn in the execution of Beaux Arts Trios on Philips for example) because Ikeda soft sound regulates the harshness of the recording. 
 
With other recordings the pathos is a bit lessened as in the concert for Violin and Orchestra by Beethoven directed by Karajan. Also the piano is enhanced by this cartridge, often the first octave is not recorded at the right level (in Petrouchka by Stravinsky for an instance, Pollini DGG) and its tendency to be soft in the high range makes long listenings possible. Ikeda did not convince me when dealing with more complex and dynamic signals. The Firebird By Stravinsky on Telarc has a medium-low range a bit advanced together with the medium range. Instruments are defined but here and there the cello sound ruins a bit the final result and is lacking of force in the highest part of the frequencies. In the Concert n. 4 for Piano and Orchestra by Beehtoven (Kempff, DGG) the sound seems to come from a room rich in absorbing materials, far from the bright rooms that we usually find abroad (Munich Philarmoniker or Berlin or again the Musikverein); well the impression is that of being in a opera theatre in the 18th Century. When listening to modern music, Making Movies by Dire Straits for example, you cannot feel the impact of the electric bass and also other sounds result less violent here. For those who love the Lieder this cartridge seems to be perfect. With this genre Ikeda's characteristics are very fitting. I don't want to deal with the soundstage, it's different in every recording. The weakened frequency answer makes the loudspeakers less present and gives to music a more defined depth. Tracking is very reliable, comparable to that of Goldenote Tuscany, Air Tight Supreme, ZYX Omega Gold Diamond, Lyra Olympos, and there's never the sensation of mistracking. 
 
I can say that this Ikeda 9TT is a focused cartridge, focused because it reproduces in a very charming way some music genres and because it has its own attitude; if you like it, you buy it. 
 
The cost is around 3.400 euros. It's not cheap but Ikeda is one of those brands that produce dreamlike objects. In this case the price is not excessive if compared with other japanese élite production. 
 
......Domenico Pizzamiglio
If you truly love listening to vinyl and you can afford it you owe it to yourself to hear this arm. If you can’t afford it, don’t let it get anywhere near your system or you’ll have real regrets.
Jack Roberts - Dagogo

SUMMARY REVIEW: With each cartridge I tried with the Ikeda 407, the midrange was liquid, sweet, yet still sounded plenty detailed, and fast. I think this is probably because of the arm’s ability to handle vibrations, and the quality of the bearings. In light of o f its scary, real-sounding midrange, this has the be the SET amp equivalent of tonearms.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Isamu Ikeda was born in 1929 in the Koto district of Tokyo. His pursuit of a perfect analog sound is a legend, which began in the 1940s. Dissatisfied with the production at a previous audio company in 1964, he decided to form his own company, the now-legendary and world famous Fidelity Research Inc. Its products have been desired and owned by audiophiles and music fans the world over, including the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Famil

Ever since the end of WWII, Ikeda-san has been making phonographic equipment. The early moving-coil cartridge out of Japan was one of his developments, and many of the Japanese cartridge-makers apprenticed under him. From the mid-sixties through the early eighties, cartridges like the FR 1 and MC 201 and tonearms like the FR 12, FR 14, FR 64, and FR 66 from Ikeda-san’s company Fidelity Research achieved international acclaim. He pioneered the use of silver wire, featherweight styli, yoke construction, and pioneered higher-efficiency magnets which allow for coils with fewer windings

Fidelity Research’s first two products, the FR-1 cartridge and FR-64 tonearm were big hits in Japan. When Ikeda-san introduced the FR-7, which featured the world’s first “empty core, four pole structure” and the FR-64S tonearm in 1978, the company became a major business including being a big player in the Tokyo Stock Market. Unfortunately, due to many unfavorable circumstances including the popularity of the CD, Fidelity Research was forced to close in 1985

Nevertheless, Ikeda San’s enthusiasm continued and in that same year, he established a small audio company, Ikeda Sound Laboratories Company. This new company was a place where he was able to do things that had been impossible under the mass production company that Fidelity Research had become. He came out with the 9-series of cartridges, and the IT-407CR1 and IT-345CR1 tonearms. The 9-series took the empty core technology of the FR-7 and added a groundbreaking new development: the world’s first moving coil cantilever-less cartridge, much like the London Decca moving iron cartridges. The new tonearms were improved over the FR-64 and FR-66 by eliminating more vibration through the use of a combination of aluminum, zinc-bronze, stainless steel and brass to form an extremely rigid and musical tonearm.

Mr. Ikeda is now in his mid-eighties, and has handed the work over to IT Industries. The spirit, technology and craftsmanship continues to live on with the new company. IT has been with Mr. Ikeda all along in the production of his products. I was assured that IT Industries was still making everything by hand in Japan. Now, the wonderful and beautiful Ikeda products are once again available in the United States. We can all say a word of thanks to William Demars of Beauty of Sound located in East Greenbush, New York for importing them to the United States once agaiN.

DESCRIPTION & SETUP

The Ikeda 325 is listed as the short tonearm and the 407 is described as the long tonearm. The 407 is a dynamic balanced tonearm, so one balances it and then dials in the prescribed tracking force. Sadly the VTA adjustment is not as easy as it was on the old FR tonearm, yet it is not difficult to loosen the nice large thumb screws and move the arm up and down in small increments. The supplied headshell is very nicely built and easy to work with

I used the Ikeda 407 on a beautiful brass and burled wood pod that Mr. Demars supplied with the tonearm. A tonearm pod is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that almost everything in the setup is more easily adjustable since you can simply move the pod. The curse is if you bump the pod hard enough to move it, out comes the protractor and you have to get to the right spot again

The pod was furnished at my request and is not the subject of this review, it was just a learning experience for me. What I should be saying is that setup was easy and mounting different cartridges was a breeze. Like the revered Fidelity Research arms, this tonearm is made for heavy moving coil cartridges and, man, does it make them sing

LISTENING

Just in case you don’t know it, there is no perfect arm for every cartridge. The most versatile tonearm I have ever used was the Clearaudio Universal tonearm. It was an incredible arm for the Benz-Micro Ebony TR, the Miyabi cartridges, and several other cartridges I tried with it, but was not the best for some of the heavy, low compliant cartridges or vintage cartridges like the ADC XLM

Likewise, the Ikeda is great with the high mass, low compliance cartridges that didn’t work as well with the Clearaudio Universal. Its detachable headshell makes it possible to use it with several cartridges you can’t use with tonearms with nondetachable headshells. For example, it worked great with SPUs and EMTs in their own head shells

Of all the cartridges I tried in the Ikeda tonearm, by far the best match was the Miyajima Shilabe; the combination was simply magical. This may not be the least colored way to listen to music, but you will be hard pressed to find a more emotionally involving and fun way to listen to music. With this combo in my system, the sound was big, dramatic, and very tactiLE.

The Shilabe cartridge is among the fastest, quickest cartridges I have heard at any price. This mates very well with the slightly warm, damped sound of the Ikeda 407. This combination allows the colors of music to come alive in your listening room, with great drive and scale. The midrange has a beautifully warm, colorful texture with lots of drama

In regard to bass, the Ikeda let each cartridge I use go very low, and the bass was very fast with no trace of boominess. Again, the Shilabe was the perfect match for the Ikeda tonearm, together they create a bottom-end in my system very much like live music. The bass had both power, slam, and great decay. I especially loved the way upright basses sounded with this combo. The bass was equally good with the EMT TSD15, but with that special drive and power of the EMT

Whether I used the Shilabe, the EMT, or the Shindo SPU, the sound always had great PraT; which resulted in my being drawn into the music and involving me in the performance. Overall, music was incredibly fun to listen to with the Ikeda tonearm in my system. I think it’s amazing that a tonearm can do such good job of handling the energy of these great moving coils and still have such great macro- and micro-dynamics

With each cartridge I tried with the Ikeda 407, the midrange was liquid, sweet, yet still sounded plenty detailed, and fast. I think this is probably because of the arm’s ability to handle vibrations, and the quality of the bearings. In light of o f its scary, real-sounding midrange, this has the be the SET amp equivalent of tonearms.

Yes, the Ikeda has its own distinctive sound, and a fun sound it certainly is. I own a Shindo Mersault RF-773 12-inch tonearm and I have had the privilege of reviewing the DaVinciAudio Grand Reference Grandezza 12-inch tonearm. These three long arms are all magnificent. The Grandezza is the best with lighter moving coils, the other two work best with heavier moving coil cartridges. The Shindo arm is limited pretty much to the Shindo SPU cartridge, Ortofons that are SPU A cartridges, or the EMT cartridges that are being made for it. Though all three tonearms sound a little different, they are the three best tonearms I have had the privilege to use. All three had a relaxed musicality that theVPI 12.7, the Tri-Planar, the Clearaudio Universal, and the Helius Omega Silver did not. I feel truly lucky to have been able to hear all these tonearms in my system, but the three 12-inch arms mentioned above are simply wonderfully, emotionally involving

Let me close by saying thanks once more time for letting me have the privilege of reviewing this magnificent tonearm when it is so hard to come by If you truly love listening to vinyl and you can afford it, you owe it to yourself to hear this arm. If you can’t afford it, don’t let it get anywhere near your system or you’ll have real regrets.
........Jack Roberts

......it was during the Ikeda's time in my home, during which I simply grabbed record after record, and during which experience the IT-407 maintained a level of musical performance that sounded consistently Right
Art Dudley - Stereophile

SUMMARY REVIEW: most notably, the Ikeda allowed music to sound larger than usual for a given volume setting: something that was true with stereo and mono recordings alike. The Electric Recording Company's reissues of Johanna Martzy's recordings of J.S. Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, which I described in last month's column and which continue to enchant everyone who has heard them through my system, sounded especially commanding with this arm in place. Another great mono example came courtesy of reader John Connolly—who, noting that I'd never heard a mono Parlophone copy of the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (Parlophone), remedied the situation by loaning me his own first-pressing copy of same, along with a seventh-pressing stereo copy (Parlophone) for the sheer fun of it. (Thanks, John!) Again, the Ikeda conferred on both records an impressive sense of scale. And the sounds of voices and instruments on both LPs—especially the stereo edition, which was surprisingly enjoyable—were substantive and realistically thick, with excellent spatial presence. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: Writing is easy. See? I just did it. Three whole sentences, written between breakfast and lunch. (I had to pause and think about one of them.) Payday, here I come.

What isn't easy is performing some of the tasks that make writing worth reading. My least favorite of those is receiving equipment samples that are too large or too heavy for UPS and FedEx: Few things strike greater fear in my heart than having a tractor-trailer driver call me from his cell phone, saying he's blocking traffic at the bottom of my driveway and wants to know how to reach my house—and, by the way, his liftgate is broken and he's not responsible for getting this 300-lb crate out of the truck and through my front door. (My narrow, hilly, 1000'-long driveway and its overhanging cherry trees seemed charming when I bought the place; little did I dream.) Yet it's undeniably true that big, heavy things can be a great deal of fun to read about, so I carry on.

Other difficult tasks are comparatively pleasant. I don't really mind setting up loudspeakers—even the ones I can scarcely move on my own—if only because the rewards of getting things right are so gratifying. And, more than almost anything else, I do enjoy installing and setting up tonearms, especially when the project involves making a tonearm board or plinth on my own.

So it was this past spring, when I was given the opportunity to write about the Ikeda IT-407 tonearm ($6500), which was designed and built by the 84-year-old Isamu Ikeda. Way back in 1967, Ikeda-san founded Fidelity Research, a celebrated Japanese firm that left its mark on the world of phonography with its FR-64 series of tonearms and FR-1 and MC-202 cartridges. (One could say that Isamu Ikeda has left another, more personal mark, inasmuch as many of Japan's well-known cartridge builders have served him as apprentices.) In 1985, as the first shadows of the passing Compact Disc were cast upon the marketplace, the plug was pulled on Fidelity Research—yet Ikeda-san wasn't idle for long: By 1986 he had founded Ikeda Sound Labs, specializing in low-compliance moving-coil cartridges and high-mass, transcription-length tonearms. Which are wonderful things, indeed.

My recent Ikeda experience was occasioned by a change in distribution: After 27 years of patchy representation in the US, the products of Ikeda Sound Labs are now imported by Beauty of Sound, located just 90 minutes from me, in the Albany suburb of East Greenbush, New York. A well-traveled sample of the IT-407—an interesting model number for a tonearm with an effective length of 307mm—reached me while the snow was still on the ground.

Unpacking
The Ikeda tonearm was a delight from the start—defined, for my purposes, as the morning when I made for it a simple armboard of alder wood. (I wanted to use the Ikeda on my 1961 Thorens TD 124, but lacked a spare blank board with the extra real estate required for a 12" arm.) With the newly made board in place on my Thorens, I plotted the recommended spindle-to-pivot distance of 295mm, then returned to my workshop to drill the required mounting hole—which, at 31mm, is considerably larger than most such things.

The very substantial IT-407 would seem to demand no less: Its columnar support pillar is fully 25mm in diameter, and while the Ikeda's 10mm-diameter armtube isn't any thicker than average, it is made of stainless steel instead of the far more common aluminum. With its 35gm moving mass and a counterweight that proved too heavy for my 8.5gm Yamamoto ebony headshell—the latter used with any cartridge on hand—this is clearly not a tonearm for owners of high-compliance phono pickups.

The Ikeda is remarkable for more than just mass: Although its physical design appears solidly smooth and pleasantly unfussy, the arm offers more than usual in the way of setup and adjustment features: spring-actuated dynamic tracking force, which is calibrated and easily set for downforces of up to 5gm; a calibrated and adjustable falling-weight antiskating mechanism; an adjustable lift-lower platform, mated with Ikeda's trademark spherical cueing knob; a beautifully made headshell (of appropriate mass) that's easily adjusted for overhang, offset angle, and, especially, azimuth; and, calibrated for vertical tracking angle (VTA), an arm pillar whose relative height is reasonably easy to adjust.

713listen.tonearm.jpg

That ease of adjustment is due in no small part to the IT-407's very solid mounting collet, which, in the manner of the EMT 997 and one or two other tonearms of my acquaintance, clinches the arm pillar with two locking screws instead of one. Moreover, said screws are hefty nylon-tipped things, with large knurled knobs for those of us who don't always have an Allen wrench within reach of one hand at the moment we're grasping a perfectly adjusted arm pillar with the other. As with Fidelity Research arms of yore, the locking nut that holds the arm-mount collet in place from underneath the board is machined with two diametrically opposed holes; these accept a pair of metal studs that, when used together, serve as a very effective wrench. (Naim Audio—whose founder, the late Julian Vereker, was a Fidelity Research fan—took a similar approach in the mounting scheme for their Aro tonearm.)

Thus did I fasten my review sample of the IT-407 to its newly made board, the latter overhanging the entire right-hand side of my Thorens. I re-leveled the turntable to compensate for the change in weight distribution, then added the cartridge and headshell at one end of the armtube and the remarkably heavy counterweight at the other. With the cartridge near the middle of its overhang-adjustment range and the counterweight's locking screw left just a bit loose—with Ikeda's blessing, per their good installation manual—I set the tracking-force control to "0" and adjusted the counterweight until the arm was perfectly balanced, in which state it was uncommonly stable.

713listen.pins.jpg

Balancing the IT-407 in both horizontal and vertical planes was made easier than usual by a refinement in the arm's antiskating system: a precisely machined thread-and-weight mechanism that is itself mounted to a separate outrigger, the whole of which can be adjusted to sit nearer or farther from the arm pivot, as desired. The axle at the heart of the antiskating system, minus its falling weight, can thus be adjusted to achieve a neutral setting at which the arm doesn't move in either direction; this not only guarantees the system's accuracy once the calibrated weight is installed, it also makes possible better performance in the lateral plane for the hobbyist whose turntable can't itself be leveled.

With the IT-407 in perfect balance, and with its downforce still set to "0," it was easy to observe the quality of the arm's stainless-steel bearings, which support the vertical pivot axle at both ends. (In its predecessor, the Fidelity Research F-64, only one side was supported.) I gently applied a narrow strip of lightweight paper to the stylus tip, noting from the deflection of the strip how little force was required to displace the arm in either plane—and how readily the arm returned to precisely the same vertical position, every time.

An adjustable spring inside the Ikeda's vertical bearing housing provides the arm's dynamic tracking force: an approach that, in my experience, results in a livelier, more impactful sound than is available from designs where stylus pressure is applied by merely unbalancing the arm, fore to aft. As near as I could tell, the Ikeda's calibration was accurate throughout its range of 0–5gm (my reference Technics strain gauge extends to only 3gm), but the smooth and generously sized adjustment wheel, with detents at every quarter-gram increment above 0.5gm, was an unambiguous delight to use.

Finally, to judge the Ikeda's alignability, I sat down with the Ikeda tonearm, a few cartridges, and my DB System's DB-10 protractor—a $49 accessory that Stephen Mejias has accurately described as Jesus's protractor of choice. As I mentioned earlier, the very low-mass Yamamoto headshell proved incompatible with so massive a tonearm, so I relied on the long version of Ikeda's own metal headshell (footnote 1), which allowed me to achieve perfect Baerwald alignment (footnote 2) with every standard-mount cartridge I tried. In every case, however, I had to increase the offset angle by rotating the cartridge body clockwise by at least a couple of degrees (as viewed from above).

That also held true when I tried fitting the EMT and Ortofon pickup heads in my collection. Noting that the IT-407 is designed for use with G-style as opposed to A-style pickup heads (the former exhibiting a stylus-tip-to-collet distance of 52mm, the latter a more compact 30mm), I supplemented my A-style samples with Ortofon's APJ-1 adapter ($99), a length-enhancing accessory whose most astonishing characteristic may be its obscurity among audiophiles. In every case, a bit more offset would have been required for good alignment, suggesting that the Ikeda arm's geometry is slightly lacking in that regard. Because offset is easy to adjust when setting up a standard-mount cartridge, that's no big deal; it becomes a flaw only with fixed-offset pickup heads. Before choosing an Ikeda for use with one of the latter, the user should have in place some means of adjusting—particularly of increasing—its spindle-to-pivot distance, using a separate arm support, an articulated armboard (à la the LignoLab plinth), or other such approach. (Generally speaking, a smaller degree of offset correlates with a smaller degree of overhang, neither of which can be accomplished without locating the tonearm's pivot point a greater-than-average distance from the record spindle.)

Tracking
Perhaps more than most tonearms, the Ikeda IT-407 is one of those hi-fi products that compels its user to just sit back and gaze at the thing: a beautifully rounded construction of polished chrome and stainless steel that appears to be at once both new and old. Isamu Ikeda suggests that its generous curves are "not only for aesthetics: The lack of any sharp edges is employed so that no vibrations or resonances can be stored in the arm."

So it was during the Ikeda's time in my home, during which I simply grabbed record after record, and during which experience the IT-407 maintained a level of musical performance that sounded consistently Right

Most notably, the Ikeda allowed music to sound larger than usual for a given volume setting: something that was true with stereo and mono recordings alike. The Electric Recording Company's reissues of Johanna Martzy's recordings of J.S. Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, which I described in last month's column and which continue to enchant everyone who has heard them through my system, sounded especially commanding with this arm in place. Another great mono example came courtesy of reader John Connolly—who, noting that I'd never heard a mono Parlophone copy of the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (Parlophone), remedied the situation by loaning me his own first-pressing copy of same, along with a seventh-pressing stereo copy (Parlophone) for the sheer fun of it. (Thanks, John!) Again, the Ikeda conferred on both records an impressive sense of scale. And the sounds of voices and instruments on both LPs—especially the stereo edition, which was surprisingly enjoyable—were substantive and realistically thick, with excellent spatial presence.

Given that used vinyl of unknown provenance accounts for so much of my record-buying these days, there is no shortage of LPs in my home that are quite worn; happily, the Ikeda excelled at minimizing the unpleasant sonic effects of ticks, pops, and steady-state groove grunge. Especially when used with my Miyabi 47 stereo cartridge, the Ikeda also proved good at tracking densely modulated grooves, a quality that many of us associate only with very low-mass arms—thanks, no doubt, to years of being conditioned by advertising from the consumer-audio market of the 1970s, and by the editorial content of Stereo Review. Like there's a difference.Things tend to sound like whatever it is they're made of." So said my friend, the artist and erstwhile audio writer Herb Reichert. Regarded in a similar vein, I suppose it's no surprise that the big and somewhat rounded Ikeda IT-407 sounds . . . well, big and somewhat rounded. Those qualities, along with the Ikeda's freedom from harshness and its overall sonic poise and imperturbability, served every record I grabbed......one can imagine without effort those phonophiles who would prefer the Ikeda: The Japanese arm sounded every bit as beautiful as it looks.

.........Art Dudley


Footnote 1: Ikeda appears to have offered, until recently, two different headshells: one that's chromed to match the rest of the tonearm but is curiously short—made, I believe, to suit cartridges whose stylus tips are spaced way ahead of their mounting bolts; and one long enough to suit a far greater number of cartridges, but that's finished in gloss black. I used the latter; Ikeda Sound Labs recently stated that it will now be offered as standard in the same nice chrome finish as the former

I'd rather suggest you to buy it blindly because there are few alternatives at this price range … very few … none may be …
Angelo Jasparro - Italy

REVIEW SUMMARY: The sensibility to the grooves imperfections is very low all to the advantage of the silence and microdynamics. The low range seems to go down without limits and constraints.

On one hand it is less restrained than the Lyra Kleos (that costs 1.000 euros more) and on the other hand it seems more complete. We are talking about nuances, details that we have to search to write something, otherwise we should only write that the cartridge plays well and that's it!

The soundstage has the right dimensions and the sensation of being at the live event is very strong. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: Well, dear readers, we are back to the crime scene! We are gladly going to speak once again of an Ikeda cartridge, and this time it is a world premiere. 

But let's go with order and follow the usual layout of the reviews. We do not deem necessary to tell you about the Japanese manufacturer, since we have done it few weeks ago. We remind you of the Ikeda 9TT. Let us say that the satisfaction to listen to these evergreen cartridges, of any quality level, is always great.

Our job is to talk to you about all the gear types but, given a choice, we prefer a cartridge rather than a digital player, for example. Despite the differences among cartridges seem to be small, every manufacturer gives to it its products a clear sound signature. 

The shape of the stylus, the materials used for the cantilever or for the body of the cartridge, windings made with copper more or less pure, geometries of the design, lead to differences immediately recognizable among the various brands, and not infrequent, between different samples of the same manufacturer.

There was therefore the curiosity to understand what Ikeda had done with a model which costs about the half of the 9TT that we have successfully tested but with some concerns due to the high specialization of that model.

IKEDA 9TS
First of all the colour is different. It is of a beautiful emerald green that gives a touch of vivacity to the whole system in which the predominant colours are usually silver and black ,,, two colours that are a bit boring, so to say. 

Then the technical characteristics, very similar to those of the elder sister, exception made for the output voltage that is almost double, and the diamond shape.

Here are all the characteristics:
Output Voltage: 0.35mVrms (1kHz 35.4mm /sec., at 45° peak)
Coil Impedance: 6.0 ohms (1kHz)
Appropriate Stylus Force: 2.0 Grams ±0.2 grams
Frequency Response: 10Hz 45kHz
Channel Separation: over 27dB (1kHz)
Channel Balance: within 1.0dB (1kHz)
Stylus Chip: Oval-shaped solid Diamond
Cantilever: Double layered duralumin pipe.
Weight: 10 Grams
Compliance: 7 X 10-6cm/dyne

IKEDA 9TS
First of all, let me tell you that for this Ikeda we had a special phono preamplifier, the Lamm LP2 that the Italian distributor lent us because he's convinced about the synergy of the two gears. 

Briefly, after having listened to the Lamm also with our Lyra Kleos, we can draw up a portrait precise enough of the sonic qualities of the American phono preamplifier. It has NOS valves supplied as standard and it unsheathed a somehow romantic sound with the treble slightly rearward, a dreamlike mid-range that only few devices can produce. Even the basses, although clearly coming from vacuum tubes, were particularly fascinating.

The output impedance is particularly high so I suggest you to connect the Lamm to a preamplifier with an impedance input of 50 KOhm minimum, otherwise the sound coming from your turntable will be spoiled as I have noticed using the CD input of my MBL preamplifier that measures 20 kOhm.

I wondered why the sound was so dull, without dynamic and top range, so I read the characteristics of the Lamm and solved the issue thanks to the other line inputs of the MBL, that are higher at 50 kOhm. 

As a result of this appreciated loan, the Ikeda cartridge has been listened to for a long time with the Lamm and with my phono pre amplifier, in order to collect more data as possible and be able to draw on a listening test particularly accurate.

The system must be very warm (the Lamm needs at least half an hour of warm up while the Einstein, that is a solid state device, doesn't even have the switch to turn it off) we start to listen to Charles Mingus' "The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady" (Impulse!).

The double bass doesn't sound perfectly controlled but it is very pleasant and the mid range of the Lamm is powered by the very good signal of the 9TS. The valve signature is precise and has sharp and velvety acute sounds. 

Thanks to the slight roll off in the high range, all the hissing due to the sliding of the stylus in the groove disappear and the same applies to many noises due to dust or imperfections in the vinyl. This cartridge tracks without any difficulty also songs with complex instrumental plots. I want to remind you that the band that plays in this recording is composed by 11 elements, 7 of whom play wind instruments. When they play all together the complexity of the signal is significant.

The atmosphere that springs from the couple Ikeda+Lamm is that of a smoky jazz bar of the 60’s. Very soon you stop wondering whether there are any defects or characterizations in the sound; the target is skillfully centered and we are there, right in front of the band. 

Changing the phono stage to a solid state, the sound opens up with decision, we appreciate more few details in the medium-high range but ,,, the previous atmosphere disappears as a soap bubble that bursts. More reality to the detriment of dream.

But we are not here to tell which is the right solution. As for me, I'd keep both power preamplifiers and I'd use them according to the mood of the moment. The Lamm caresses the music by interpreting it, the Einstein is a precision instrument. 

I am sure that you understand the similarity, I do not want to belittle any of the two gears. Gears that are more or less in the same price range, accidentally. 

Remembering what I wrote in the review of the Ikeda 9TT, I want to test also this cartridge with Deep Purple's "Made in Japan" and … "Holy cow!" … This 9TS seems to have been designed by Ritchie Blackmore in person!

You may say: "Easy! Japanese concert and Japanese cartridge ..." but it is not so! Also the 9TT is made in Japan but it does not sound with this vinyl in the same way.  Well, for the moment I do not care, I enjoy the double LP and I stop scribbling on my notebook.

Jon and Vangelis' "The Friends of Mr.Cairo" (Polydor) is a great record, in my opinion. The falsetto voice of Jon Anderson is, this time, in good evidence and the wide extension of the electronic music of the incredible Vangelis is excellently revived. 

I want to point out that also in this vinyl produced by the Greek musician you can read on the cover: "Produced, arranged and performed by Vangelis". Yes, once again he is playing all the instruments.

Incidentally, this Ikeda is very fast in warming up and plays very soon at its best but give her at least ten minutes anyway please! When cold, it tends to focus a bit in the mid range.

This reminds me what happened with the Lyra Helikon. The Lyra, when cold, lacked also in the low range and needed at least 20 minutes of warm up.

We change music genre and we switch to Claudio Monteverdi "Battle of Tancredi and Clorinda", "Madrigali Guerrieri e Amorosi" (Cycnus), recorded in the Cathedral of Lugano (CH) in the distant 1961 by Chamber Music Society directed by Edwin Loehrer.

The naturalness of the treble voices is palpable and the instruments have the right weight, while accompanying the reciting voices. They never veil the voices, as it is in the live performances. 

Dynamics is balanced and the cartridge does not hide even the smallest details of the ambiance. It brings out also the breath of the orchestra that gives to the record a touch of reality.

I am mesmerized and I am interrupted only by the noise of the cartridge that has reached the last groove. 

The difficult choires of the "Miserere" by Arvo Part (ECM) are played easily and also the deep low of the pedal organ does not hider the green cartridge. 

The dreamlike atmosphere of 'Rubycon" by the Tangerine Dream (Virgin Records) are played softly or strongly depending on the composition's requirements. The mid range is a bit in evidence in detriment of the top range and this may be very interesting with some configurations or recordings. The Ikeda trademark had to come out some way or another.

The sensibility to the grooves imperfections is very low all to the advantage of the silence and microdynamics. The low range seems to go down without limits and constraints.

On one hand it is less restrained than the Lyra Kleos (that costs 1.000 euros more) and on the other hand it seems more complete. We are talking about nuances, details that we have to search to write something, otherwise we should only write that the cartridge plays well and that's it!

The soundstage has the right dimensions and the sensation of being at the live event is very strong. 

Conclusion,
The comparison with her elder sibling is natural. Normally, the more expensive the item the better it is. In this case I want to make a distinction.
 

If you read the test of the 9TT you will see that we at Audio-activity.com have not been able to define it precisely "universal".

This 9TS instead is not as perfect in the mid range but it is very good with any vinyl and musical genre it plays. 

I'd rather suggest you to buy it blindly because there are few alternatives at this price range (About 1700 euros in Italy) … very few … none may be …

.........Angelo Jasparro

the Kai has seduced me in such a way that I have had no other choice but to succumb to its charms, it has returned to stay definitively with me.
David Mallen

REVIEW SUMMARY: To conclude, one of the finest records of all time is Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Right after dropping the stylus onto the record, the dynamic and precision that follow leave us astonished. It is surprising how these three instruments elicit such a special accompaniment from the saxophone. The Ikeda Kai offers a reading of “Take Five” of absolute precision, in the saxophone’s notes we find a texture that is above-average, the timbre is exact and there is not the slightest trace of anything strident. The drums and double bass are precise and with a deep bass submitted to extreme control, there are drum solo moments of absolute delirium. The piano repeats the same notes indefinitely but it never tapers off, it is always present. The volume at which it is listened to is irrelevant, nor are the drum’s cymbals annoying, not even in the most extreme drum beating is there the most minor hint of distortion, the theme in and of itself is radical but I must admit that with the Kai my level of exigency has shot through the roof. It is a great record and an unbelievable reading!

EXTENDED REVIEW: It seems that the Japanese are the most qualified experts in the manufacture of pick-up cartridges. Perhaps their work philosophy makes them more apt for this kind of work with its emphasis on detail, or maybe it’s their insatiable quest for perfection. In any case, the best brands and the most lauded ones are “Made in Japan”. Now this is no attempt to upset other manufacturers but the fact is look where you may you will encounter chatter regarding the benefits of these small works of Oriental art. There surely are those who believe that there exists a commonality in the sound characteristics of these products, well, nothing could be further from the truth. Fortunately, there is an endless array of determining factors which make each totally different from the other: the cut of the stylus, the materials employed, the enclosure itself, the coil or purity of the copper, among other factors, result in considerable differences which confer a unique seal for each one of the brands. Additionally, it is an engineer, an artisan who is behind each of these creations, bestowing upon them a very personal seal.

In this case, the man in question is Mr. Isamu Ikeda, creator of this marvel. His name is linked to a professional career wholly integrated to the search for perfection in analogue reading ever since his incursion in the sector back in the 1940s. Initially, he worked for other brands, but in 1964 he founded his own company, the renowned Fidelity Research Inc., where he ended up creating some of the best known products for lovers of analogue sound. Some of these include the FR-24 tonearm, the MC FR-1 phono cartridge from 1967 or the FR-64 tonearm and FR-7 phono cartridge from 1978. Many of the advances promoted during these years were due to Mr. Ikeda, including the development of the first phono cartridges for Winding Mobiles, the use of a silver cable and high-performance magnets. The company went on such a roll that it was even listed at one point on the Japanese stock exchange, though mitigating circumstances including the appearance of the CD and its subsequent rapid ascent resulted in the closing of Fidelity Research Inc. in 1985. That same year, Isamu Ikeda founded a new company bearing its current name, Sound labs, a small firm wholly devoted to audio and the continuation of his investigative research. It is worth mentioning the refinement of such innovative products as the Ikeda 9MUSA U, a phono cartridge without a cantilever. Presently, the catalogue of this brand is made up of five phono cartridge models (Kai, Sai, 9TS, 9TT and 9mono), three tonearms of different size and finish along with other accessories, such as cables, transformers, headshells and so forth.

Craftsmanship versus Technology

In October, 2012, the Kai, Ikeda’s product of reference, was launched on the market, the result of labor covering more than four decades in the design of phono cartridges. It represents the culmination of work which joins craftsmanship and technology in equal parts; it is one of Mr. Ikeda’s greatest achievements and one of the most outstanding products on the current market.

One must bear in mind that Isamu Ikeda is credited with many patents as far as analogue reading systems is concerned, unique for the character of its sound, but also because of the technology employed. The external aspect of this phono cartridge, an attention-arresting intense blue, hides a true work of engineering, above all, with regard to the materials employed: The enclosure is manufactured from a special aluminium alloy, while the upper cover and base are made of titanium, the cantilever which holds the diamond is made of boron, the nucleus is from Permalloy, a compound of nickel and iron possessing high magnetic permeability, the coils are of low impedance and come with a samarium-cobalt magnet which offers great resistance to demagnetisation. The output voltage is 0,19 mV and the coil impedance is of 2.5 ohms, the frequency response is 10 Hz a 45 kHz and the separation of channels is over 27 dB. The phono cartridges are mounted by hand and inspected one by one under a strict control protocol with the aim of guaranteeing maximum quality.

Thanks to the generosity of the importer, Ultimate Audio, I have been able to enjoy this gem for a considerable period. Initially, I had the good fortune of trying it out with a Trinity phono, a truly seductive combination, as any enthusiasts who were present at the Ultimate Sessions in Barcelona and heard the same tandem will attest. After the Trinity’s departure, the Kai remained with my veteran pre-amplifier, the Cadence phono; at first, I was hesitant about choosing one versus the other; however, once these technical questions were resolved, I was able to centre my attention on what is really important, the music.

Sensitivity and precision

For such an exquisite guest product, the choice of recordings has been very particular, though as already mentioned, it has been in my possession long enough for me to enjoy many of my preferred discs. Its sound is attractive and transmits a peace and sensitivity which I had never experienced before. I must admit that it is a component of reference capable of leaving in our system a special aura.

There is a piece by Ravel which I favour especially: It is the Tombeau de Couperin, written originally as a piano solo and subsequently orchestrated by the composer himself. I have chosen for this occasion an Andre Cluytens recording for EMI in the splendid re-release by Testament. It is a recording that is really beautiful, inundating the soundstage with endless detail, a record which fits like a glove for our guest product, It is one that is capable of restoring effortlessly every single one of the wind instruments in its various positions, marking the different sound levels in depth and, best of all, with a surprising clarity and acuity which only serves to reinforce the realism of this interpretation. “Rigaudon” is noteworthy in the beginning with its combination of horns and trumpets as well as the central passage where during the pizzicato of the strings, the oboe initiates the exposition of a sweet melody which picks up the English horn, one of those moments which overwhelm with their natural simplicity. With the Kai, this movement is fresh and detailed, the music is truly alive, it manages to move us, and thus, enjoyment is guaranteed.

The current revision of the Ikeda has coincided with the arrival of the first LPs from Reference Recordings, thus, I cannot resist jotting down a few notes on some fragments. The first of these is Mussorgsky, the dance of the Persian slaves which is an extract from the opera Khovanshchina. What exquisite music! I have no idea what it is about the Russians that renders their music so absorbent and exciting; it goes straight to the heart. In this case, the melody is evocative, it invites us to dream of faraway places, exotic locations; to achieve this level of concentration/emotion one has to listen to it in optimal conditions and this is the case here because the Kai reproduces with exactitude each of the timbres of this hyper-meticulous recording. It is especially endowed for recreating the atmosphere of when and where the sound was recorded, a soundstage that has ample openness and is replete with different points of emission, where the notes float delicately. Besides our invited guest product shows truly surprising body, one that is opulent and energetic, honouring the reputation of these legendary recordings. The listening has been realised at a high volume level without resulting at any time in the slightest hint of distortion or auditory fatigue. Let us change the revolutions now and pass on to the “Danza Macabra” by Saint-Saens, a recording worthy of the highest praises, the orchestra is more present than ever, the strings are extremely real, there are several violin solos which will make your hairs stand on end. Kai’s dynamic response is fantastic, the lowest frequencies are powerful, and an orchestral tutti is not necessary nor is the bang of a kettledrum, the simple pizzicato of the strings is quite significant in this regard. These are exquisite miniatures which the Ikeda Kai restores in a natural manner with a silky treble and a middle range that is decidedly sensual.

Now, let us move on to the end of the first act of Tosca, one of Puccini’s finest dramas. The scene begins with the “dong” of the tubular bells. Scarpia, confident in the success of his ruse, advances energetically through the church. Cannon bursts warning of the escape of Atavanti can be heard from Castelo di Sant Angelo. The intensity increases as the leading character advances, at a given moment the organ joins the exposition reinforcing if it possible to do so this vigorous fragment; as if this were not enough, the chorus initiates the accompaniment. The baritone elevates his voice until finally music and chorus reach the culminating point, achieving one of those great moments in the opera. Baritone and chorus in unison finish off the orchestra with thunderous blows, it is truly sublime. I have chosen this fragment because I am endeavouring to put our invited guest product on the spot. The version selected is that by Georg Solti for Decca with Leo Nucci in the role of Scarpia. It is not the best admittedly, but it is the one that best resolves this passage. The Ikeda Kai demonstrates its ability to extricate the last iota of information from the vinyl groove and it does so with a precision and realism that is hard to find in these fragments in which the sound normally tends toward saturation and stridencies. The most important virtue is that it does so with a praiseworthy sensitivity. The Ikeda Kai contributes extra smoothness to the treble part of the register, independent of the volume elevation that one is listening at.

Let us switch to another musical genre now. For this purpose, I have selected a passionate record, When I look in your eyes by Diana Krall in a re-release of Original Recording Group for the original Verve in 1999. Allow me to advance that with the Kai I not only have the sensation of the singer being present in my living room, but I can hear each of the inflections of her voice. It is a deep voice which surges from the center of the loudspeakers, achieving the right height and maintaining it immobile. “Let’s fall in love” is one of those themes which move you from the first listening, but I must admit that said sensation has improved.

In the beginning, the voice accompanied by the guitar is truly overwhelming, but when the rhythm begins with the rest of the instruments, the Kai offers a sensation of sound fullness that is unequalled. Our guest product restores the voice of Diana Krall in a powerful and imposing manner, but does not allow it to escape from its point of emission. It neither extends nor enlarges itself unnecessarily, but does so from a single point, coming at us with great force. We never lose its position; it is a sensation of hair-raising control and exactitude. The rest of the instruments are magnificent, the bass on the Kai is perfect, and the rhythm at the beat of the bass smothers you. You find your feet unconsciously tapping in a repetitive manner to the music. It is really contagious.

To conclude, one of the finest records of all time is Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Right after dropping the stylus onto the record, the dynamic and precision that follow leave us astonished. It is surprising how these three instruments elicit such a special accompaniment from the saxophone. The Ikeda Kai offers a reading of “Take Five” of absolute precision, in the saxophone’s notes we find a texture that is above-average, the timbre is exact and there is not the slightest trace of anything strident. The drums and double bass are precise and with a deep bass submitted to extreme control, there are drum solo moments of absolute delirium. The piano repeats the same notes indefinitely but it never tapers off, it is always present. The volume at which it is listened to is irrelevant, nor are the drum’s cymbals annoying, not even in the most extreme drum beating is there the most minor hint of distortion, the theme in and of itself is radical but I must admit that with the Kai my level of exigency has shot through the roof. It is a great record and an unbelievable reading!

A declaration of principles

The Kai is a decidedly spectacular phono cartridge, no one will be indifferent before such qualities, its listening is precise and warm, and precisely this sweet point in the treble is what sets it apart from the competition. It has a smoothness which is neither at odds with the transparency nor the realism, just the opposite. On occasion, the music moved me to such an extent that I could not help raising the volume to extremes in which even the best recordings begin to evidence defects; however, this was not the case with our invited guest product. Its body is powerful; the bass notes are always precise and agile but, above all, the high frequencies never saturate, they are always awash in a halo of smoothness.

I have tested it with all kinds of instruments and every type of recording and the results have always been outstanding. The piano sounds with a harmonic richness that is unbeatable, for strings there is a medium range that is markedly sensual, the voices are silky with a register that is very natural, the kettledrums are impactful and, above all, it is capable of recreating the atmosphere of the interpretation in a manner that is extremely real, even when the complexity of the signal is notable. I sincerely recommend that you listen to it and verify the veracity of what I am saying, you will not be disappointed. In my experience, the Kai has seduced me in such a way that I have had no other choice but to succumb to its charms. Initially, I had no recourse but to return it after the testing had concluded, but now it has returned to stay definitively with me.

the 9TT is really at the top of its game when it comes to that ever-so-critical midrange area—and in particular voices—whether be they of the rock, jazz or classical persuasion.
Myles B. Astor

REVIEW SUMMARY: It's clear that Ikeda-son's latest that he hasn't lost his magical touch. His latest creation, the 9TT moving coil cartridge, is a very linear, resolving and truthful sounding transducer and was a pleasure to listen to in my system. The Ikeda 9TT is clearly one of the top performers in its price range and given the proper ancillaries eg. arm and phono section, is a serious contender for anyone shopping for a moving coil cartridge..... given just how good the Ikeda 9TT is, one is left wondering how his all-out, no holds barred effort, The Kai, sounds!

EXTENDED REVIEW: Some mornings I wake up and feel like a real audio old timer and other days I feel like a total noob next to a legend like Isamu Ikeda. Back when Ikeda and his company Fidelity Research were in their heyday, I was truly a high-end audio rookie and sadly never had the opportunity to hear his then revolutionary Fidelity Research FR64 or 66 arms or FR1 or FR-7 moving coil cartridges (although I did actually see his arms and cartridges in the showcase at Electronic Workship located then on 8th St. in the Village!). Years later, though, I did chance to hear the Rowland Complement/Ikeda "cantileverless" moving coil cartridge priced then at a jaw dropping and almost unheard price of $2500. And that listening session with the Complement has left to this day a lasting impression. Despite the cartridge's miniscule 0.17 mV output (limiting its use to but a handful of phono sections or SUTs), the Complement set the standard in its day for low end impact, resolution and transient attack. Over the years I've also wondered—given the tremendous strides made in the design and manufacturing of phono stages, arms and—whether we actually heard all that the Complement (or for that matter any other cartridges of that era) was capable of delivering given it was next to impossible to set-up, vanishingly low output and low compliance.

Skip ahead twenty five years or so and Ikeda has once again set up shop and is building what is arguably the best $4000 moving coil cartridge on the market. So good in fact, that the Ikeda 9TT gives the big boys a real run for their money and more than a mouthwatering taste of the state-of-the-art in cartridge design (bear in mind that Ikeda also produces the Kai, his attack on the SOTA). In some ways, the 9TT is an anti-audiophile type of cartridge because you want to play not just one cut from an LP but both sides of an album. Imagine that!

Craftsmanship Defined

Make no mistake. Ikeda's latest and greatest creation has its stylus firmly planted in the neutral and resolving camp of cartridge design. No, the Ikeda 9TT isn't a forgiving cartridge. No, the 9TT won't sugar coat bad recordings. Nor for that matter should it or any cartridge worth their weight in gold. On the other hand, the 9TT brings to the table an uncanny ability to dig more out of those grooves than many other similarly and higher priced cartridges allowing those cherished recordings with seemingly limitless ceilings to continue to blossom.

Out of all the cartridge's attributes, it's perhaps the 9TT's "quietness" and transparency, low level resolution and simply all around effortlessness that sets this cartridge apart from the competition. There's simply less of a sense—much like top cartridges such as the Lyra Atlas and ZYX Universe 2 (and forthcoming Proteus) cartridges—of a stylus (t)racing through the record groove. No doubt part of that quietness is directly traceable to Ikeda's choice of stylus profile. The other piece to the puzzle as Peter Lederman describes it, may be related to how moving coil cartridges handles resonances transmitted up the cantilever to the pivot point (eg. the eerie digital-like quietness of the strain gauge cartridges). That sense of unfettered effortlessness, transient attack and resolution really comes into play on that all-time favorite reference disc Picaflor: Latin American Music for Guitar and Mandolin (Titanic Mn-8). Here, the 9TT really stands out on this Mair-Davis duo championed unique pairing of guitar and mandolin when it comes to contrasting the ringing, bell-like, sharper sound of Davis' mandolin with the softer edged sound of Mair's guitar. There's a uniqueness to each instrument's attack that in particular highlights the mandolin's tremolo or that impression of a sustained note. There's certainly no lack of life or microdynamics and that's coupled with a great sense of radiating guitar and mandolin's radiating body. Tonally, the 9TT lies just slightly to the lean side of neutral but the cartridge doesn't thicken or thin out the midbass to midrange frequencies that would only serve to confuse the two instrument's different tonalities.

"The Worried Drummer" from another long time reference disc Mallets, Melody and Mayhem (Columbia CS 8333) is another go to and extremely revealing reference cut. With the Ikeda, there's simply a striking sense of transparency, tightness and speed on this percussion LP without the characteristic etched, hyperdetailed character of older (that may have a function of the arm and its ability to deal with the energy created by the cartridge when tracking the groove as the cartridge back then) or lesser moving coil cartridges. The 9TT easily sails through that especially hard to track triangle retrieving both the instrument's long decay time, shimmer and damping of the ringing. The 9TT also does an admirable job of conveying the shaking of the tambourine's zils or the subtlest, inner details of the shaken sleigh bells. Drums are shockingly dynamic andunconstricted. Where the Ikeda just falls slightly short of the best is in just the slightest loss of impact and tightness in the lower octaves here (after all it's a good Columbia issue but it's still a Columbia pressing in the low end) and pristineness at the far end of dynamic scale.

The newest addition to my reference disc list and one that superbly illustrates the 9TT's ability to conquer the upper octaves as well as resolution and transparency is the wonderful Three Blind Mice recording Now (Three Blind Mice TBM-2) featuring the Masura Imada Quartet. This closely miked recording—like most Three Blind Mice releases—really illustrates the 9TT's ability to reproduce the delicacy, lightness and resolution of cymbals, bells, etc. The various percussive instruments on the mind boggling "Alter" track simply hang in space and the 9TT allows their subtle ringing, shaking and resonating to emerge from the grooves. There's seemingly nothing but air between the listener and the instrument. At the other end of the frequency spectrum, plucked double bass strings have a real sense of attack, snap and jump factor. No matter how rapid the playing, there's never a sense of confusion or smearing. Ichiro Mimori's soprano saxophone has a distinctive dissonant and nasal quality without the honkiness and brightness associated with other systems. All the instruments are precisely placed on a simply huge soundstage though the 9TT loses a smidge of the recording's sense of amazing spaciousness.

Now the 9TT is really at the top of its game when it comes to that ever-so-critical midrange area—and in particular voices—whether be they of the rock, jazz or classical persuasion. One rock album that I find myself returning to time and time again is the excellent Speakers' Corner reissue of Lou Reed's Transformer (Speakers Corner/LSP-4807). Not only is there an excellent sense of vocal intelligibility and see through quality on "Walk on the Wild Side" but Reed's voice certainly never sounded like that in college even with the use of mood altering substances! The 9TT also exposes like a sore thumb that point in the recording where someone not so elegantly spliced another take into the mix and Reed's voice becomes louder and moves a little closer to the listener. There's also no missing the recordings enormous soundstage; the Thunderthighs appear out of thin air on the extreme outside edges of the stage and slowly creep forward aiding in defining the soundstage's width, depth and height. No, the 9TT doesn't retrieve quite all the reverb enveloping the backup singers. No, images aren't quite as fleshed out as with the best cartridges. No, the 9TT isn't quite as relaxed sounding as say an Atlas or ZYX. But these flaws are in many ways only apparent when side-by-side with the big boys. In other words, you have to really, really know what's on each LP.

What really struck me when spinning that stunning recording of Bach's Quodlibet(Telefunken SAWT9457-A) was just how the Ikeda 9TT so clearly and distinctly separated the male and female voices as well as the female voices around a single microphone. Yes, the Atlas has a bit more transparency and sense of space on this recording although the 9TT is certainly no slouch in this department. Or take another great vocal recording such as Ella Sings Jobim (Pablo Today 2630 201). On this $10 Twist and Shout find at last year's RMAF, the 9TT has an uncanny knack to reproduce Ella's voice with a see-thru clarity that many lesser cartridges/systems obscure. Ella's unique phrasing and the intelligibility of her voice come through loud and clear.... "The Girl From Ipanema" give you the big sound, dense orchestration and layering without confusion with Joe Pass's great guitar work really standing out.

The Ikeda 9TT also fares extremely well with both small and large scale recordings. One example is the great, Steve Hoffman recommended, small scale jazz recording Bob Cooper Coop (Contemporary/OJC-161). Despite looking far and wide for an original black/gold label of this very early Contemporary jazz recording, I've only been able to put my hands on the OJC reissue (the 1980 version done by Steve Hoffman from the original tapes). Coop, featuring Bob Cooper on tenor sax along with the likes of Mel Lewis on drums, Victor Feldman on vibes and Frank Rosolino on trombone doing West Coast jazz, possesses as do any of the best Contemporary recordings, a simply incredible sense of musicians standing and playing in your room (or the mailroom as it would be!). The 9TT does an excellent job on the "Main Theme" from "Jazz Theme and Four Variations" of rendering the silky smooth tone of Cooper's sax. There's no stress or strain and the sound of Rosolino's trombone comes through clear as day. Yes, you can hear some of the "OJC" coloration—that dryness, loss of space and midrange weight, etc.—but you can also get an excellent sense of believe me, just how great the master tape sounds.

Nor does large scale music faze the Ikeda 9TT either. Take for instance, the "Second" or "Third Movements" from the Mercury recording of Fetler's Contrast for Orchestra(Mercury SR90282). There's no sense when coupled with the Doshi phono stage of added stridency, brightness, congestion on dynamic passages like lesser phono cartridges. The 9TT is a little more exciting and incisive than Atlas....The bass and drums are extremely clean though the 9TT loses just a hint of the little spaciousness present of wonderful Robert Fine reference recording.

Finally like Ikeda's other cartridges, the 9TT is definitely no slouch when it comes to low end frequency reproduction and dynamics. Take the Super Analogue repressing of Gary Karr's Religious Songs and Hymns (Super Analogue KIJC 9244). While the Ikeda doesn't quite grip the road like its bigger moving coil brethren, this record serves quite nicely to illustrate the depths to which the Ikeda can plunge on the organ. On another longtime reference Jonas Hellborg's Elegant Punk (Day Eight Music), the 9TT really shines when it comes to capturing the attack and dynamics of his electric bass guitar. And where the 9TT really stands out on Hellborg's rendition of Hendrix's "Little Wing" is simply the cartridge's ability to extract low level resolution and subtlest, softest nuances of the music.

The Touch is Still There!

It's clear that Ikeda-son's latest that he hasn't lost his magical touch. His latest creation, the 9TT moving coil cartridge, is a very linear, resolving and truthful sounding transducer and was a pleasure to listen to in my system. The Ikeda 9TT is clearly one of the top performers in its price range and given the proper ancillaries eg. arm and phono section, is a serious contender for anyone shopping for a moving coil cartridge. ....given just how good the Ikeda 9TT is, one is left wondering how his all-out, no holds barred effort, The Kai, sounds!

Technical Highlights

Isamu Ikeda is hardly a Johnny-come-lately to the high-end audio business. In fact, Ikeda is revered in Japan as the father of the moving coil cartridge; practically every one of the greatest Japanese cartridge-makers has at some time in their career apprenticed under him. Ikeda's more "modern" accomplishments include the introduction (now nearly 50 years ago) of the Fidelity Research FR-1 moving coil cartridge noted for its use of pure silver wire, a lightweight styli, yoke construction air-core coils, higher efficiency magnets (that allowed for coils with fewer windings) and an almost unheard of at that time line contact stylus. Ikeda followed up on the commercial success of the FR-1 with the release in 1978 of the FR-7 moving coil cartridge and its then revolutionary "empty core," four-pole structure.

After Fidelity Research closed its doors in 1985, Ikeda didn't miss a beat and immediately formed Ikeda Sound laboratories. The fledgling companies' first transducer release was the Series 9 cartridge line utilizing the same empty core technology developed for the Fidelity Research FR-7 MC cartridge along with the brand new "cantileverless" design.

Ikeda's latest designs such as the 9TT are no longer cantileverless. He abandoned this design concept in large part because of the cantileverless cartridges' sensitivity to dust, geometry, dialing in and antiskate issues. And thank goodness. His cantileverless designs were an absolute nightmare to align; only the Graham arm of the day with its patented cartridge alignment jig gave any sort of confidence in set-up and alignment. Believe it or not, I actually witnessed Bob Graham mounting and aligning the Rowland Complement in an early production version of his arm in only five minutes. But that was the exception, not the rule.

That aside, the latest generation of Ikeda cartridges is designed to pay homage to that earlier Ikeda magic yet be more forgiving of the aforementioned issues. At the heart of the new Ikeda 9TT cartridge is a permalloy core, neodymium magnet and ideally shaped magnet yoke and low impedance coils. The cantilever is fashioned from double layered duralmin pipe and topped off with a solid line contact diamond.

Still, the Ikeda 9TT isn't, because of its rounded shape and rather large body, the easiest cartridge in the world to set up. Mounting and alignment in the VPI 10.5 Classic arm definitely required both a good set of eyes and a steady hand. Not to mention two things other than alignment may prove problematic for potential buyers at this price range. First, the cartridge's extremely low 0.16 mV output necessitates the use of a very quiet phono stage or step up transformer. Two, the 9TT sports a very low compliance requires the use of a high mass arm though the cartridge performed very well in the VPI 10.5i tonearm. When it came to loading, the 9TT seemed using the Doshi Phono section quite happy seeing at 100 ohms.
........Myles B. Astor

Ikeda IT-345CR1 tonearm, 9TT moving-coil cartridge
Constantine Soo
Vinylphiles in their fifties and older will likely recognise the Ikeda name, a marquee from the 1980s that was synonymous with innovation, quality and exclusivity. Senior Reviewer Jack Roberts reviewed the Ikeda IT-407CR1 tonearm in 2012 and gave it high marks. The historical detail that Jack put together on the company and its owner is a good read.

The Ikeda IT-345CR1 tonearm is quite a treat to hold in one’s palms. The wand is consisted of a dual pipe structure with the outer pipe made of stainless steel and the inner pipe aluminium. three pieces of O-shaped ring are installed between the outer and inner pipes to dampen vibration. The body and shaft of the tonearm are made of brass.

The tonearm’s connector pin is rhodium-plated and the headshell is chrome-plated aluminium. The headshell’s connector, however, is made of titanium. Azimuth adjustment is provided on the headshell.

The IT-345CR1 is one of those rare metallic apparatus that magnificently withstands time after time of close-up scrutiny-turn-admiration. Vertical and weight adjustments is straightforward though relying largely on feel and visual cue. The upside to this is it is easy to loosen the bottom security bolt and adjust the VTA. The aluminium headshell with solid metallic feel is quite a beauty in itself, too, and straightforward to use. Answering my inquiry, the company claimed the tonearm employs dynamic balance as opposed to static balance, thus a “far superior tracing ability because the inner spring always control the stylus pressure stably and constantly.”

The Ikeda 9TT moving-coil cartridge used in this review is the second top cartridge in the company’s 9 Series, producing 0.16mVrms, flaunting a golden finish of an aluminium alloy body coupled to a neodymium magnet and lightweight, double layered duralumin cantilever. A very promising and potent mix. The upper model to the 9TT is the US$8,500  (excl tax) flagship Ikeda KAI in a blue alumite buff finish with titanium top and base, boron cantilever, samarium-cobalt embedded generator, while the US$2,800 (excl tax) entry-level 9TS in emerald finish tops the output at 0.35mVrms, also fitted with a double layered duralumin cantilever.

It is arguable that the true star of this system are the Ikeda CR-345 CR1 tonearm and the 9TT cartridge and the Hartvig provided a platform for them to glisten. The caliber of the Ikeda tonearm and the 9TT cartridge, in particular, is undisputed at the asking prices; one can easily visualise, in particular, the use of the 9TT in more ambitious setups. Employing an aluminium alloy body, the 9TT, in my opinion, produced a more controlled, uniform tonality than those with wood or polymer material. Coupled to a neodymium magnet and lightweight, double layered duralumin cantilever, the 9TT ought to be quite dynamic and even accurate than many.
........... Constantine Soo