Hana ML, MH Cartridges Part 2

Truly Explosive Sound

Seriously, I was not expecting the energy release this cartridge manages. It made the speakers “pop”, producing a taut, stable sonic bubble of a big soundstage. I played the just reviewed Monk’s Dream Mo-Fi One-Step and honestly, it may have made for a more exciting listen than it was through my far more costly reference, though it wasn’t as nuanced or delicate-sounding. Monk’s piano though, hung together well on the biggest bangs and avoided hardness on the dynamic peaks and softness in the valleys. The sound was “fast” but not at all bright or hard. It got my attention, that’s for sure!

I played the ORG double 45rpm edition of Peter Paul and Mary’s In the Wind (ORG 071/WB 1507), which has always been a warm-sounding reissue cut by Bernie Grundman. The cartridge retained the warmth, producing rich, full bodied, three dimensional vocals left/center/right from the trio yet with sufficient guitar strum “snap” to bring rhythmic focus to the tracks.

Then I pulled out some records I’ve never played so I can further review the cartridge and sneak in some record reviews! A few years ago I got four German AAA MPS reissues that I finally dug out.

The first was Walking the Line (MPS 0210989MSW) an Oscar Peterson Trio release from 1970 featuring Jiri Mraz on bass and Ray Price on drums. The energy on this album of standards and the pacing at which they deliver these tunes is insane. “Laying out the lines, not walking them” is was what I was thinking (sorry). This, like many MPS recordings and especially those of his friend Oscar Peterson, was recorded in MPS founder Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer’s living room studio. The sound of the recording is immediate and somewhat bright and compressed, but still enjoyable and the picture three-dimensional. Despite the sharp, percussive nature of the recording the ML never became abrasive or edgy. It just evenly and honestly delivered the recording’s sonic message. If you’ve some Peterson LPs, unless you are a fanatic or completist, you could skip this one, enjoyable and super-high energy though it is.

Next up was Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell’s 1971 album Images on Guitar (MPS-0210990MSW) with drums, percussion, bass and an angelic French vocal accompanist named Janine de Waleyne who on four tracks floats on a cushion of reverb over Powell’s João Gilberto-like whispery vocals. There must have been something caffeine-like in the Black Forest air (or maybe it was caffeine) because this album’s boss-nova has a unique propulsion and drive and Powell’s vice-grip string articulation is notable. The Hana ML grabs everything cleanly from Powell’s guitar while producing the appropriate breathy softness around de Waleyne’s cooing and soft wailing and presents it all on a generously sized soundstage.

The Hub of Hubbard (MPS0210991MSW) recorded December 9th 1969, features Richard Davis on bass, Louis Hayes on drums, Eddie Daniels on tenor saxophone and Roland Hanna on piano. The hard-bopping album opens with a breakneck version of “Without a Song” leading me again to believe there’s something in the Black Forest air, coffee (or on a mirror) that gets musicians almost frantic. Here the soundstage is somewhat flat, the image placement ruler-like, and the cymbals soft and swishy. The music is far better than the recording!

Finally, there’s Mirror, Mirror (MPS-210998) an outstanding Joe Henderson produced set from 1980 featuring Chick Corea, Ron Carter and Billy Higgins. There are two Corea originals, two by Carter, one by Henderson and the old chestnut “What’s New?” This one doesn’t sound at all like the other records because it was recorded in Los Angeles at Studio-Masters, which sounds like a relatively small studio based on this intimately mic’d set that puts Henderson pretty much in your lap and the others sounding almost mono-fied around him. It’s a well-balanced, if somewhat claustrophobic mix, that’s got a nice warm feel to it, demonstrating that the Hana ML stays out of the way timbrally, delivering cool and warm as demanded by the recording. If you like warm and lush all the time, this one isn’t for you!

Fast, timbrally neutral, non-mechanical-sounding, transparent and delivering levels of detail usually heard from more costly cartridges, the Hana ML is in every way an impressive sounding and performing cartridge. The Hana MH

The MH version adds some turns of wire to the coils, which adds output, as well as mass to the motor. Sonically, while it sounds similar to the ML, the MH loses a bit of transparency, detail and especially the ML’s liquidity and delicacy. Instrumental attack is slightly harder.

Angel Olsen’s string-loaded All Mirrors (Jagjaguwar JAG 344) demonstrates both the robust and well controlled bottom end both versions deliver but also that the H version loses some of the L’s liquidity, lushness and textural suppleness. That’s the price paid for the added mass of the extra coil windings. Of course, if you need the extra output you have no choice, but given the choice, opt for the L!

Listen For Yourself!

Norwegian singer/songwriter Anette Askvik recently sent for review her beautifully recorded and well-pressed double 45rpm LP Liberty (Birdrecords 5), which she originally released only on CD in 2011, and gave permission for one song to be digitized so you could hear it played back through the Kuzma 4 Point/Hana ML/ELAC Alchemy PPA-2 combo and through the SAT CF1-09/Ortofon Anna D/ Ypsilon MC-15LSUT/VPS-100 combo. Not counting the Continuum turntable, one combo costs around $10,000 and the other around $108,000. Choose your favorite!

Musically and lyrically she sounds like Greta Thunberg meets Björk. The tune is (appropriately) “April”:

File "1"

File "2"


While visiting Japan back in October of 2017 I was able to visit Excel Sound Corporation, the company that manufactures Hana cartridges. Here’s the video.

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


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.

lashing's picture

This type of generalization drives people away from hifi in droves. the Delos is on my radar, but price? whats price got ta du wid it?
Seriously, at a certain point there is no excuse for price but price sake. I've been a mafufacturer for years (not carts). Entires lines were built on the "jewelry" appearances alone where 600% vs 100$ for the non new york buff version was standard.The delos, zero jewel factor so I'd hope its a damn fine cart.

shawnwes's picture

If you're just going to rant on an old thread then at least educate yourself at least a little about what you're ranting about and pick a side other than "I don't know anything about what I'm ranting about so I sure hope what you're discussing is worthy of discussion" so that you don't bore everyone to death with your tripe.

lashing's picture

Somebody needs a nap ... and introspection. Good day to you.

shawnwes's picture

back under the bridge mr troll...

Ortofan's picture

...the Ortofon Cadenza Red.

At about the same $2,000 price point as the Lyra Delos, there's the Cadenza Blue.

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.

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:

audio files (first 5 seconds):


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
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.

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!

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.

geekyaleks's picture

I was in the market for a new cartridge - my dealer brought over the Etsuro Cobalt Blue, and the Etsuro Gold - Cobalt Blue was really nice, but the Etsuro Gold was at a completely different level. Gold has very high precision without being "in your face". I ended up getting the Gold - happy happy.....

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.

my new username's picture

and it wasn't difficult to discern the differences through my meager couch setup here of laptop, DragonFly 1.5 and Grado SR60.

The texture on the bass guitar, the shimmer and much longer decays of the cymbals, and once again, just the overall sense of delineation between all the various elements, as if they were all given greater opportunity to be their own thing within the same delicate dance.

But unlike the earlier comparison of Ortofon Blue vs. A-T cartridges, I could live happily with the "cheaper" one here (Hana) even though the differences between it and the Anna are clearer.

lashing's picture

You know I notice Hana is being pushed by dealers hard and pretty much everyone carries them. That tells me something. I wrote a song about it wanna hear it? Here it goes "A big ole markup you must be offer, because everewhere go I, they undercut yer coffer". Of you want to hear that on vinyl its coming out soon at doesntexistnosir.com

Seriously though, the ML looks nice and I have a pal that likes his. Of course, he likes his cables too and every time he spends more money on a set I hear nothing but how they changes his life.

Where am I going? Cause actually, I'm wondering what my next cart is going to be.

seavan's picture

I am wondering if there any trick in setting up SRA for Hanna ML with microscope due to its shape or it's exactly as in this article https://www.analogplanet.com/content/how-use-usb-digital-microscope-set-... ?

Thank you!

mars2k's picture

Looking to mount my ML any tips?

dronepunk's picture

How similar to the old Argent MC’s of the past?
I have read on more than one occasion that the Hana cartridges are built with the same tooling as the Argent cartridges of the 70’s-80’s
The bodies certainly have similarities....

philgo01's picture

Love the video included at the end of this review and your several attempts at humor.

As you probably know, Japanese (and many others in that side of the pond) are usually very FORMAL/ proper,/reserved especially in business settings. Respect of someone in authority or someone of age or education level is highly valued.. Hence, they were probably a bit challenged with how to react with your casualness / goofiness.. BUT, I enjoyed it but I also cringed a little due to the silliness of it all.. including your attempt at Australian accent. Chances are, they don't even know.. , just like I assume you probably can't pick up regional Japanese accents

Now, onto trying to figure out if HANA ML or something else is an MC cartridge I should consider as a significant upgrade to my fantastic Ortofon 2M Blue..

Thanks for a good laugh and for the wealth of knowledge you impart !

Pascal971's picture

Hello Michael,
I’m a bit late but I’m a little lost! I would like to know your opinion between a HANA ML and a SHELTER 501 MK3 on a Turntable Kuzma Stabi S + ToneArm Stogi S 9 ’, and an Aurorasound Vida Prima phono preamplifier, what do you think? My dealer tells me that the Shelter 501Mk3 is way above the Hana ML! I have a big doubt!

Thank you in advance for your help and advice!

Michael Fremer's picture
Haven’t heard the Shelter (or at least not in a long time!)
Duke758's picture

In the process of upgrading to my first MC. Looking forcartridges in this price range.
You have reviewed both with high notes, the Goldnote Donatello Gold and the Dynavector 20X2L. How will you stack them up?

Duke758's picture

In the process of upgrading to my first MC. Looking forcartridges in this price range.
You have reviewed both with high notes, the Goldnote Donatello Gold and the Dynavector 20X2L. How will you stack them up?

kexixiy's picture

Thank you for sharing insights into the Hana ML and MH Moving Coil Cartridges. | popcorn ceiling removal

GinnyMiller's picture

The review suggests that the Hana ML and MH cartridges offer superior performance, enhanced by their design features and meticulous setup. corporate parties tampa