Designer Noriyuki Miyajima has earned a worldwide following for his superb artisan phono cartridges. Each new model is the result of passionate research and development, and every single cartridge is crafted in-house by Miyajima’s small dedicated team.
The new Saboten L (‘L’ denoting its line-contact stylus) is a low-output moving-coil (MC) design. It also happens to feature a cactus-spine cantilever, ‘Saboten’ being the Japanese word for cactus.
The Saboten is the second cartridge in the Miyajima range to feature a cantilever crafted from a natural, organic material (the first being the Madake, which uses bamboo). Why? Because ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are two key features of the superb sound quality that Miyajima embodies, and there are few lengths to which Noriyuki Miyajima would not go to achieve them. In this case, he spent several years searching for the ‘right’ cactus plant with a just-so strength and, once he had found it, spent several more years cultivating the cacti in question.
A line-contact diamond stylus is fixed to a short, tubular end-piece of aluminium, which is cemented to the end of the cactus spine. The aluminium end-piece is precisely angled to achieve the ultimate mechanical linearity: it positions the stylus tip very close to the central axis of the cantilever and coil assembly. The benefits of this can perhaps be best understood by way of a comparison: consider the offset position of a tonearm headshell. The offset induces the skating force that a tonearm’s anti-skate is designed to counteract. If there was no offset, no skating force would be generated in the first place, hence there would be nothing to counteract. The Saboten’s two-piece cantilever virtually eliminates comparable unwanted forces at source, thus ensuring no adverse effects on the mechanical integrity of the cartridge’s generator assembly.
In common with all of Miyajima’s stereo cartridges, the Saboten L’s generator system features a unique patented cross-ring design in which the cantilever fulcrum and coils are exactly positioned in the centre of the magnetic field, a designed created to achieve more faithful handing of dynamic contrasts.
All of which is beautifully housed in a handsome body of Cameroonian Ebony, known for its exceptional tonal and acoustic properties.
The proof, of course, is in the listening. The Saboten L’s skilfully balanced mix of natural ingredients serves up a life-like musicality that almost defies the fact that this is hi-fi. Musicians stand before you, not hovering in space but grounded, with a just-so sense of scale and pace. Neither forced nor softened, the music feels effortlessly natural, true and alive. Almost as if there were no technology involved at all.