This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above
Listening impressions
The Miyabi Standard really does set a standard for astonishingly life-like music reproduction when coupled with an appropriate phono preamplifier such as the Art Audio Vinyl Reference which Stephæn brought over for a short audition (the Standard didn't like my Tom Evans Audio Design Groove+ at all). Even on my Japanese pressing of the Beatles' Rubber Soul -- apparently mastered from a particularly bad digital dupe of the original tape for a terribly bright, edgy and annoying LP of that great album -- the Miyabi Standard combined with the Vinyl Reference made it sound like a good pressing done by someone adept at the helm of the mastering console. Ringo's drum beat was driving the music forward in fine fashion and there was an amazing level of transparency, detail recovery, soundstage layering and imaging to live for. Man-o-man, instrumental timbres were really remarkably evocative of the real thing. It's amazing how good the Beatles' music really was. The interplay of instruments and voices here is a blast. I could hear air around the drum heads with every strike. The cymbals? Oh my, the cymbals sounded so real. Voices were rich and warm. How does Takeda-San do it? This album normally sucks so badly that I can't really get into the music. Now I was sitting there totally mesmerized by a remarkable musical performance!

The little comparison I did between the Groove+ (a solid-state phono pre that's awesome with the right cartridge like the 47 Labs MC Bee) and the Art Audio Vinyl Reference (an awesome tubed rig) showed that the Miyabi Standard was at its best with the Art Audio's tubes singing the tune. The Miyabi Standard is an astonishingly transparent cartridge and at its best coupled with a comparatively lush phonostage. When coupled with the peerlessly transparent Groove+, it became a little too much of a good thing. That combo diminished the musical message by being overly analytical and intolerant of varying recording quality. As a result, it put me on edge during listening sessions. And that's a no-no.

On the less expensive phonostage front, my own Fi Yph tubed unit combined with the Auditorium 23 step-up tranny provided a little miyabi of its own to that of the Miyabi Standard for a very musical experience. While the Fi is not in the same resolution league as the Art Audio Ref, it is an eminently musical experience for those more into the tunes than the last iota of detail or sonics. Wanting to exercise my musical Jones, I spun up my Analog Productions test pressing of Gene Ammons' In a Soulful Mood and dropped the Standard into the groove. Gene's sax emerged from the left of the soundstage with a burnished, rich and dynamically nuanced presence while bringing the soundspace of the recording with it into the room. Even with the information level somewhat diminished by my Fi Yph, the music was still detailed, nuanced and utterly convincing due to the Miyabi's transparency. You could hear deeply back into the soundstage where the piano was sounding just a touch dark but tonally beautiful, which is more of an effect of the recorded sound than the Miyabi. The drum kit gives you a nicely realistic hi-hat with a real sense of membrane being struck while surrounded by air. The resultant musical ability of the Miyabi/Aud23/Fi chain never left me wanting - a music lover's treat to be sure. The Miyabi also created a nice sense of space to showcase Gene's stylings and the music always had life and momentum while maintaining a sense of ease and naturalness that allowed me to relax into things.

The classical album that's been getting the most play time at my place lately is Classic Records' 45 RPM version of the RCA Living Stereo Clair de Lune. I'm hooked on de Lune for its sweetly emotive and sensual music. Massenet's "Meditation" kicks off the album in fine fashion with ravishingly beautiful strings. The Miyabi Standard really gets the texture of the strings right to give me a real feel for what Takeda-San means by linear dynamics. To translate 'linear dynamics' how I experienced them, I would simply say 'natural and life-like'. 'Linear' reminds me of mechanical things yet the Miyabi definitely doesn't sound mechanical. Far from it. Tripping (as in "Wow, what a trip") through arrangements by Tchaikovsky, Fauré, Elgar and Debussy really drove home how well the Miyabi Standard depicts musical flow in the same way that a bubbling mountain brook does: a liquid, transparent, natural, refreshing and invigorating cascade of notes passing by in the stream of music. With the Miyabi Standard, I also got a real sense of interplay between the musicians. Individual instruments surfaced out of the depths for their momentary contribution and then submerged back into the overall fabric of the music, the natural ebb and flow of playing off of each other contributions to the whole.

Summing up
After spending a reasonable amount of time spinning LPs, I came to a few conclusions about the Miyabi Standard and who its true target audience is. Takeda-San beautifully handcrafts and tweaks each cartridge to, first and foremost, play music. The Miyabi Standard has a remarkably captivating and convincing presentation that I think a lot of music lovers will embrace as long as they match this cartridge to a system context that is appropriately warm and laid back. This cartridge is shockingly transparent, detailed and nuanced. Combined with its life-like dynamics at both the micro and macro levels and with its flowing musical ease, it really stirred my musical passions during listening sessions. I don't want to short-change those interested in sonic thrills because the Miyabi Standard can deliver those too. However, it's not really what drew my attention during listening sessions. The Standard images exceptionally well both in depth and width. Perspective seems to adjust appropriately to the recorded performance. With symphonic works, it gives me a mid-hall perspective. With jazz trios, it's up close and personal. The Miyabi never really feels distant due to the always strong connection it makes to the musical performance. That makes me be close to the music.

You might understandably take the 'standard' in the name Miyabi Standard to mean that this cartridge is the standard or entry-level Miyabi cartridge - but that's not what it means. Instead, the Miyabi Standard is the embodiment of that high standard of the miyabi value in a phonograph cartridge. This particular cartridge design was the first of Takeda-San's to capture what he felt was the true spirit of miyabi. To him, it
became the standard for what it means for a cartridge to portray the transitory and refined moment of musical beauty as it passes by us in time, decoded from the surface of a spinning LP by the flowing and dancing Miyabi cartridge traveling down its grooves. In a way, this cartridge represents the miyabi an analog music lover recognizes in a digital world that is sweeping away the beating heart of analog with its cold winds of ones and zeros - the hope that there remains a place in the world for the essence of that simple and perfect beauty that is analog music playback.

I think I now understand a little of the sweet sorrow that the Japanese must have felt at Genji's time as they watched the degradation of their beautiful traditional culture. I suspect it's not unlike how I feel now as I watch my own homeland being destroyed by a capitalist aristocracy that's bent on imperialistic conquest of weak and humble lands. While I can't solve the problems of blind greed or the diversions of justice by the brutish and powerful that seem to mark this present age of evil, at least when I listen to music through the Miyabi Standard, I am reminded of a higher principle called miyabi. It really does seem that the Standard brings a moment of refined musical beauty into my life that is true to this spirit when I listen to records during these dark times. It allows me to forget for a moment the societal conditions around me and remember the marvelous things people are capable of -- like music in general and the Miyabi Standard phonograph cartridge in particular -- when we're allowed to develop our better natures.
US distributor's website