Hana Umami Red Cartridge Page 2

This cartridge slips neatly into the high-end pick-up scene, striking an excellent balance between the rose-tinted lushness of some 'traditional' MCs and the cooler analysis of high-tech groove diggers, blending the depth and detail of the latter with a touch more warmth. Moreover, it succeeds in eliciting crisp detail without the slight hardness that can beset the performance of brighter, typically more brittle-sounding pick-ups. Heck, it even has the feisty joie de vivre of the good old Denon DL-103, whose recommended tracking force of 2.5-2.8g some mistakenly fear will lead to premature record wear.

In fact, the Hana Umami Red is not only a jack of all trades, it's a master of most of them. It has an unerring ability to cut through to the heart of a recording and find the very best lurking within. Aided by an ability to track securely, the result is clarity, detail and depth, plus – above all – the boogie factor in spades.

Spin 'Summer Girl' from Haim's Women In Music Pt III [Polydor 0250813817], and the Umami Red captures the thump of the drums with aplomb, punching them out with authority. Danielle Haim's vocal is positioned beautifully centre-stage and projected superbly into the room, really putting the listener at the heart of the action. Then comes the saxophone solo at the end, which arrives blessed with just the right amount of rasp to sound realistic.


So far so good, then, but the real surprise is in the way the Umami Red can dig out the bass line from deep down within a track. In this instance, the repeated sliding notes from the upright bass came through with impressive weight, but the aspect that tickled me most was the delicious squeak caused by Este Haim's hand every time she lifted it off the strings. It's this style of delivery that reminds us how some pick-ups will forensically dissect the vinyl yet still lose sight of the overall musical message along the way. Not the Umami Red. It is able to lay an entire mix bare while never forgetting that its purpose is to convey all the joy of the music at hand.

Food For Thought
What's more, it achieves all this with a pleasing ability to fill the soundstage between the loudspeakers with precision. Its sense of front-to-back perspective is arguably as good as it gets at the price, and ensures vinyl is a true 3D experience.

When it comes to the low end, the Umami Red digs deeply and with confidence. Bass lines are picked up on, brought to the fore and presented with a flourish. Now, that said, there are still times when this cartridge can be a little over-zealous when it comes to the really low stuff, particularly with electronic music. Allward's 'Slowburst' from Cromatophore's Volume 1 EP [Chromatophore CHR 001] boasts some deliciously deep synthesiser action and, while the Umami Red never sounded out of its depth, my regular Clearaudio MC Essence [HFN Aug '17] was just a little bit tighter and more controlled in this area.

However, what was in no doubt was the precision and clarity the Umami Red imparted on the rest of the track. Those deep bass notes are overlaid with some seriously manic electronic percussion and this cartridge gripped hold of them with impressive tenacity. Aided by a good level of air and a pleasing lightness of touch at the top end, the Umami Red was as crisp and open as I could have wished for, but without any artificial sense of upper treble boost.


Rip-Roaring Stuff
One result of this presentation was that during my time with the Umami Red I found myself drawn to recordings featuring more natural instruments. The unwavering level of detail it offers just seemed to suit acoustic music perfectly. Now, don't get me wrong, this pick-up can rock out with the best of them, as proven by a blast of 'Motorcycle Emptiness', a 12in single by The Manic Street Preachers [Columbia 658083 6]. This track thunders along, driven by a solid bass line and some punchy drum work. The slight break in singer James Dean Bradfield's voice was spot on, and the electric guitar had just the right amount of edge to it during the solo. All rip-roaring stuff.

Yet it is with acoustic material that the cartridge really comes into its own. 'Tarantella' from Antonio Forcione's Touch Wood LP [Naim Records LP 097] was a delight, the interplay of acoustic guitars and cello a masterclass in how the textures of instruments and their positioning should be conveyed.

And one thing I kept coming back to on a wide variety of tracks that featured an acoustic guitar was the way in which, when the instrument was strummed, the Umami Red managed to capture each string's individual note, no matter how quickly the pick passed over it. I've heard very few cartridges manage this level of insight before, and it never loses its appeal.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The Hana Umami Red has an ease and effortlessness to the way it approaches music-making that deserves to be heard. It is beautifully detailed and can be particularly enthralling when it comes to acoustic fare, which only serves to make it all the more compelling as a musical companion. And it will rock out too. Umami? Most definitely. At times I was even tempted to describe it as Saiko (stunning).

Excel Sound Co., Ltd
Yokohama, Japan
Supplied by: Air Audio Services Ltd,
01491 629 629