THE HANA-UMAMI RED MOVING COIL CARTRIDGE
One of my “go-to” torture tests for tracking is the Speaker Corners reissue of the Swiss Movement with Les McCann and Eddie Harris Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969.
In the first two cuts, “Compared to What” and “Cold Duck Time,” McCann and Harris put on a saxophone and piano clinic, but it is the last-minute walk-on performance by trumpeter Benny Bailey that steals the show in my estimation. His solos push the performance to another level. Not only are they hard to track but there is a “rawness” to the sound that, if captured correctly, is amazing to hear. On the other hand, if the cartridge can’t handle the tracking, it can sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. This is an incredibly fine line that the Umami-Red negotiated without breaking a sweat.
It is one of the very few cartridges that have done so for me.
The Umami Red is one smooth customer, but don’t let that fool you. It delivers when it needs to resolve low-level detail, and dynamics. It performs with power and grace.
This cartridge connects you emotionally to the music. It can negotiate virtually anything you throw at it and never get flustered. Its balanced sound always seems to reveal a new interpretation of music that you are familiar with. You will find yourself just wanting to pull out albums and have a listen.
This cartridge isn’t going to immediately grab you, but if given a bit of time, it could very well win you over. Its beauty is in its subtleties and its balanced tone. Maybe there is something to the fact that HANA meaning “Brilliant and Gorgeous”.
So, my takeaway about this cartridge is this, nothing stands out … yet everything stands out.
If you are looking for a cartridge in this price range that you can have a long-lasting relationship with, one that will drive you to be more involved with your vinyl collection and less involved with your equipment, then the Umami Red simply has to be on your shortlist.
What about those two questions posed at the beginning of this review?
Does the HANA Umami Red belong in the Big Leagues?
Have they raised their game high enough to play in the Big Leagues?
I would answer by saying, “Welcome to the big leagues, HANA. You’ve earned it!”