High Performance, High Value Hana ML and MH Cartridges (Reversed Channels Fixed)

Hana ML and MH Moving Coil Cartridges Though AnalogPlanet reviewed the low output $750 Hana SL cartridge back in 2017 in a “shootout” with the $999 Ortofon Quintet Black S, we’re kind of “late to the fair” on these two newer Hana models, in part because they’ve been reviewed by others in Stereophile (and of course elsewhere), where I mostly (but not exclusively!) cover the top end of the high performance market.

So, I asked the importer, Musical Surroundings, for these two and have had them in and out of the system for some time, but have not had a chance until now to write them up.

Other than output, which is a function of the number of “High Purity” copper coil turns, the two cartridges are identical. Both cartridges feature nude MicroLine styi attached to aluminum cantilevers, hence the “M”. The ML (low) outputs .4mV (@1KHz), while the MH (high) outputs 2mV (@1KHz). Both feature Cryogenically-treated magnetic circuitry, Delrin (a POM variant) bodies and gold-plated, copper top plates that at 9 grams make these two almost twice as heavy as the aforementioned SL, which will make it more suitable for some arms and less so for others, though since Excel Corp does not specify compliance, it’s not possible to calculate what effective mass arms will best work with these two cartridges. Both worked well in the Kuzma 4 Point and Rega RB3000 arms

Other specs that are provided are output balance of <1dB@1kHz, 70µ “trackability” at the suggested 2 gram tracking force, and frequency response of 12Hz-45kHz. Of course, the coil turns affect internal impedance, so the ML’s is 7 ohms@1kHz with >100 ohms recommended loading, while the MH’s is 130 ohms with the standard 47kOhm loading spec.

Details

The MicroLine stylus has an even narrower “contact patch” than the already “severe” Shibata stylus used on the Hana SL. It more closely resembles the cutting stylus itself and so is theoretically capable of extracting more information from the grooves, particularly the higher frequencies and especially those located closer to the label area. If properly set up (the big “if”) you can also expect lower distortion. A cross sectional view would look almost like a flat-blade screwdriver, with the edges being able to trace even the narrowest groove crevice. Of course accurate set-up is critical for overhang, zenith angle and stylus rake angle.

Cryogenically treating metal is claimed to change its molecular structure and thus change sound quality (for the better).

The gold-plated copper top plate is a big improvement and not just because it increases mass and incorporates threaded hole inserts that runs the length of the opening, so you don’t have to mess with nuts (though that’s not a big problem IMO especially if you put a tiny blob of rubber cement on your index finger and embed the nut into it).

The top plate acts both as a damper for the Delrin body and as a mechanical interface between the cartridge and the head shell. Metal cartridge top to metal head shell should produce very different sonic results than a plastic to metal interface (or from whatever your head shell is fabricated).

Obviously, all of these physical changes from the previously reviewed SL should produce noticeable sonic ones. Unfortunately, I don’t have the older SL here, but that doesn’t matter because the sound produced by the Hana ML is exceptionally fine and clearly leaps ahead of the SL, which as I remember it was “really good”. The ML is remarkable.

I installed it in the Kuzma 4 Point and yes, it’s on the Continuum Caliburn, but a mediocre cartridge would drag that stuff down. And I ran it into the ELAC/Alchemy PP-2A. That’s how I did most of the listening. You’ll get to hear it for yourself at the bottom of the review and compare it to the Ortofon Anna D mounted on the SAT CF1-09 arm driving the Ypsilon VPS-100 preamp.

Firstly, the ML is well-built. It achieved 93 degree SRA with the arm parallel to the record surface and crosstalk was minimized and equalized with the cantilever perpendicular to the record surface. I measure 27dB and 28dB separation L-R, R-L adjusted using a digital oscilloscope, which usually “undercounts” separation but is otherwise an accurate method for setting azimuth and for measuring inter-channel output balance. Using Ortofon’s test record the cartridge’s “trackability” matched the spec’d 70µm.

COMMENTS
shawnwes's picture

I had a low mileage ML in my system for about a week. It was definitely better than the Dynavector 20X2H I'd sold on but preferred the Lyra Delos and my current Dynavector DRT XV-1s by far. It's unfair to ask a much lower priced cartridge to try and compete against more refined models however at it's price point the ML brings alot to the table, but try to stretch a little further up the ladder if possible and you'll be well rewarded. Most vinyl lovers would be amazed at the sound of a Delos properly set up.

infohou's picture

Agree,

The last Delos I heard was pretty close to my original Kleos. Just a bit less of everything as they say. I traded in the Kleos for a Kleos SL. And folks need to keep in mind the Lyra carts since the Delos(Kleos, Etna, etc) are a different design & sound than the older models.

Ortofan's picture

...the Ortofon Cadenza Red.
https://www.ortofon.com/media/147328/Cadenza%20Red%20HiFi%20News%2007-20...

At about the same $2,000 price point as the Lyra Delos, there's the Cadenza Blue.
https://www.ortofon.com/media/147316/Cadenza%20Blue%20HiFiNews%20March20...

Michael Fremer's picture
An Ortofan! As am I
Ortofan's picture

... and Shure are no longer in the game.

The Stanton 881S was the cartridge of choice for the late Doug Sax.
http://www.regonaudio.com/Stanton881AudioTechnicaATML70.html

infohou's picture

Which made me wonder.

Fredrik's picture

But I really liked the SAT better. I own the Hana EH and was thinking of buying the ML but maybe I should invest in something else? But what?

Michael Fremer's picture
?
Fredrik's picture

really sure. Perhaps twice that of the ML? Or should I stretch even further? My TT is only a rather simple Acoustic Signature Primus with a TA500 arm. But the TT may change to something a little better in the future. Also, I think 0.4V is the lowest my Devialet can use.

Fredrik's picture

are made in my hometown, maybe I can get one cheap...

mtemur's picture

thanks for a very detailed review Mr. Fremer. both files sound great but Ortofon setup sound lively. I’m doing audio restoration for the last couple of years and I loaded those files to an audio editor to better see the differences. here's what I found;

1. your turntable is very quiet and rumble is very low. it's not existent over 22Hz.
2.Anette Askvik record is a very good pressing like you mentioned and it's very very quiet.
3. both of the setups (Hana and Ortofon) are aligned very well without extreme sibilance. both cartridges have correct zenith alignment cause I get consistent 0.4 samples of delay between channels (which is ok) on both tracks. in terms of channel levels matching: Hana setup +-0.6db Ortofon setup +-0.05dB (superb).
4.unfortunately there is some hum/electronic noise on both setups. a little bit more on Hana setup. any ground loop or loose ground connection may be the reason for such hum/noise.

hum/noise frequencies:
419Hz, 540Hz, 660Hz, 780Hz, 900Hz, 1020Hz, 1140Hz, 1260Hz, 1380Hz, 1500Hz, 1620Hz, 1740Hz, 1861Hz, 1981Hz, 2102Hz, 2223Hz, 2342Hz, 2460Hz, 2581Hz, 2705Hz, 2820Hz, 2945Hz.

luckily it is very easy to remove them digitally. (I’m not a fan of digital audio on the contrary I only listen to records but digital audio might be useful for some occasions)
screen shots:
before
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dn2qwKG2uA1TqbYxTcpp8l435MpfzQEQ/view?u...
after
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xKHqtGKSKLA4EIRI04l5JHvP_1n_v1wS/view?u...

audio files (first 5 seconds):
before
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1E6QqSOq-eYdyozWLnrWYH2QkWzYZJaWJ/view?u...

after
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-JcW91UKgMDXGD5PE04cK0gPvz140VNV/view?u...

Michael Fremer's picture
Though I feel as if you have undressed me! The Ortofon set up uses a step-up transformer into a (metal can) vacuum tube MM phono preamp (Ypsilon) so that might account for some of what you saw but the ground wire was definitely attached to the SUT. As it was from the Kuzma to the ELAC/Audio Alchemy. I'm in the midst of experimenting with large grounding blocks....
mtemur's picture

frequency intervals are 120Hz. so it must be 60Hz AC line related hum. both setups have almost same hum and actually ortofon setup has lower. that’s why Ypsilon step-up transfrormer and Ypsilon tube phono stage may not be the culprit. I’m using a kondo ksl silver step-up transformer, kondo tube phono stage for recording vinyl for audio restoration projects and I haven’t had any hum/noise issues. I have a dedicated AC line, ground and AC filtering. I didn’t spend extra effort for star grounding and using only kondo ksl silver cables’ (powercords, tonearm cable, litz etc.) ground connection but hadn’t have any issues.

Michael Fremer's picture
A dedicated A.C. line as well as a ground wire running from box literally into the ground on spike. I've had issues here with hum. Don't forget I have a very complicated system here with too much going on and constantly changing for the kind of black I'd like. However I'm having some luck experimenting with a grounding system and still working on further lowering it...and figuring out from where it's coming...
Anton D's picture

Very educational and much appreciated.

manuel-silva's picture

Question is: is file 2 worth 98k more?

Michael Fremer's picture
A value judgement based made after listening to a great deal more music and on a system truly capable of demonstrating it...
DrJB's picture

I purchased a Hana ML and a Grado low output Reference 2 last December for my VPI Prime Scout. I bought an extra metal VPI tonearm for the Hana, but it sounded so sweet riding the 3D wand that I decided to swap the cartridges on a monthly basis. The metal arm has been relegated to mono duties. The Grado is a fantastic rock and roll pickup because of its big yet tight bottom end. Overall, it doesn't provide the detail of the Hana, but it's such a smooth ride--like an old Cadillac floating down the highway. The ML is no slouch in the low end, but it doesn't have the same impact. I enjoy both of them and look forward to the monthly swap. You mentioned how important setup is for the ML stylus and I can personally attest to how horrific it can sound if VTA is off by even a fraction. One big advantage of the microline stylus is its uncanny ability to minimize or even eliminate pops and clicks. My gear is far from the world of the audiophile, but with high-value/affordable products like the Prime Jr., KC Vibe, and now the Hana ML hitting the market, it's remarkable what can be achieved on a moderate budget. Thanks for your review, not only of the Hana, but of many other affordable products on AP.
By the way, in you Excel tour you comment that the Denon test turntable has a broken counterweight. I'm assuming that it's an angled affair designed to lower the weight's center of gravity, no?

Michael Fremer's picture
Probably....
PistolPete83's picture

This review popped up at a good time! I've been trying to figure out my next high output MC. Currently I have a Hana EH. Prior to that I had a Sumiko EVO III. I've been between the Sumiko Songbird and the Hana MH. The MH would be first foray into something other than an eliptical tip. I mostly listen to rock, punk, experimental instrumental, and other narrow sub-genres of the sort. I'm not sure the MH would be a worthwhile additional expense for me. Michael, you reviewed the Songbird last June. Any thoughts or input for me regarding this choice? Thanks for your time!

Ortofan's picture
creativepart's picture

Loved the cut so I found it on Tidal and I'm enjoying it a lot. I'll look for this on vinyl now.
Thanks!

Diogo's picture

Thank you so much for doing these reviews. It is truly extraordinary to be able to hear these products as well as reading about them, particularly in such high quality rips. I am a huge fan of all your audio tests!
I apologize in advance for pointing this out but I believe that one of the rips has the right and left channels reversed (I am not familiar with this recording so I cannot say which is wrong and which is right).
Also - and I don't mean to sound ungrateful - maybe the ultimate test to know which cartridge we prefer would be by recording them with the same phono preamp... Of course the different turntables and tonearms will have a big impact as well, but it would be a great starting point to know that the preamps are not imparting the cartridges with their own distinct sonic signature.
Thank you again and keep these reviews coming!
Diogo

shawnwes's picture

Just one completely outshines the other. I'd love to hear what the ML could do with a Boron or Ruby cantilever. The aluminum one it comes with is a little chunky IMO.

Diogo's picture

Channels are reversed.
On File 1 the first guitar (first chords) is on the right channel and the cymbals are on the left.
On File 2 the first chords come from the left channel and the cymbals from the right.
Listen with your headphones on. I agree that reversing channels can change the experience completely. Just like listening to the same recording in and out of phase...

shawnwes's picture

I'm still hearing guitar right & cymbals left. However with the second it's not as pronounced L/R as it is with the first, it's more subtle, and I'm actually hearing the cymbal more across the top of the room starting from the left & the guitar more closely centered. Bear in mind that I'm listening early in the a.m. at pretty low level because I have neighbours on the other side of the walls but the speakers (B&W Nautilus 805 image pretty well). My amp doesn't have ability to plug in headphones unfortunately.

Michael Fremer's picture
I have swapped the channels on one file so they should now be identical in that regard.
Johnnyjajohnny's picture

The Hana file I downloaded is called 2 at the end, but the channels are still swapped on that one :-/
I tried swapping the channels just to make sure, and that confirmed that the channels are still swapped.

Rudy's picture

I fear the aluminum cantilever has too much mass, as anything I've tried beyond my Shure V15 Type V just can't track all of my records. I'm really surprised they didn't go with boron. But I did hear the SL at an audio show a few years ago and liked its rich sound. (I felt it sounded way better than the top-of-the-line $2k Clearaudio MM they were also auditioning.)

I'm still hurting from exchanging my Dynavector DV10X3 for the XX2 Mk II; the former had a lack of resonance and a really good tracking ability, where I find both lacking in the XX2 despite its otherwise engaging sound.

shawnwes's picture

.

shawnwes's picture

Inquiring minds want to know.

nparadis's picture

1. Beautiful song
2. SAT file : beautiful balance, solid and addictive bass.
3. HANA: very lively and involving experience, bass a bit confused. Being a Hana EL user, I recognize the family sound, but feels closer to the event here.
4. Yes: on HANA file, the channels are reversed (assuming Tidal streaming is right).
5. Yes: clearly audible hum, stronger on HANA file, strong before the music starts, dont hear it once the music started.
6. Michael, with the present context, it seems your setup is really scrutinized! I wish I could looked after that way. Thanks!

nparadis's picture

I wish I could have my setup looked after that way. Thanks!

shawnwes's picture

One thing that I remember about the ML is it does big soundstage well. It just doesn't have the fine detail of a better cartridge. There must be an issue with #1 & as Diogo stated most likely there's a cabling issue.

Fredrik's picture

I think these are the two I am choosing from, the Kleos being a tad more expensive. I surely would appreciate some input before I'll go ahead and buy one.

shawnwes's picture

The Kleos is about 3x the price of the ML. Did you mean Delos as it's about $1500 USD +/-?

Fredrik's picture

I did, sorry for the mixup

shawnwes's picture

I found it to have better detail than the ML but as with all things audio YMMV. My arm is the Audiomods Series 6 & had the ML, Delos & DRT XV-1s all in a short period of time. They all worked very well but had I not already purchased the Dynavector I most likely would have stopped at the Delos.

LarryRS's picture

Sorry if I missed it, but what loading setting was used for the ML on the Elac - PPA-2? Thanks.

Slammintone's picture

Both sounded great but 2 had a bit better punch, excitement and speed I thought.

Neward Thelman's picture

Plus it saves you about $700.00.

aboogaard's picture

Don't know if anyone else mentioned this, but the channels are reversed between the two files in this revue.

shawnwes's picture

Michael? Care to chime in? This is your website after all...LOL

JMiller's picture

I have the Etsuro Urushi Cobalt Blue in my system, made by XL and its the best cartridge I ever had. I am using the EMIA step up transformer made by Dave Slagle; which has something to do with the great sound.

JMiller's picture

files will not play. I have windows 10

shawnwes's picture

I emailed him and he's fixed the first file. #2 still the winner hands down but you'll all get a better sense of the MLs sound now. It's pretty good but just missing that little bit extra that allows you to close your eyes and trick your brain into believing you're in the studio. The SAT combo is pretty darned good.

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