Following the astonishing success of the Hana SL cartridge and more recently the Hana ML, the Japanese manufacturer had set on the ambitious manufacturing project of a very high-end phono cartridge, the Umami Red. This cartridge provides remarkable performance, but it unfortunately aims at very few music lovers considering its price. Hana comes back with an equally ambitious product, but at a more reasonable price. Even though the range gap between this new cartridge and the Hana ML doesn’t seem completely filled, this new Umami Blue allows to aim at a broader audience.
HANA UMAMI BLUE: BODY
The shape of the Hana Umami Blue MC cartridge is very ergonomic and the stylus seems to have been designed by aeronautic experts! Hana Okada was the one who designed and developed the body of the Umami.
It’s machined from A7075 aluminium. This is one of the hardest and lightest alloys there is. It’s commonly used in aeronautics.
On the front, the body features a POM inlay which was selected due to its vibration absorbing properties.
Finally, the Auricle™ body directly incorporates threaded mounting holes on the top surface for optimum mechanical coupling with the headshell.
The Hana Umami Blue MC cartridge has a shiny iridescent blue body consisting of thermosetting melamine resin (MTP).
Developed by Dupont, melamin resin bonds to the aluminium via a vapor deposition process followed by a 30-minute “baking” at 120°C. The resin’s hardness allows to increase overall cartridge rigidity and limit resonance.
HANA UMAMI BLUE: MOVING SYSTEM
Hana selected a Nude MicroLine stylus for this cartridge. It looks similar to the one found on the Hana Umami Red MC cartridge and the Hana ML.
This stylus is mounted on a superb boron cantilever. Boron has a hardness similar to diamond. It allows to hold the MicroLine stylus with rigidity and precision. This cantilever allows the smallest sound details as well as microdynamics to be transmitted with minimum loss to the phono cartridge generator.
It’s associated with high-purity copper coils. The armature is made of pure iron while alnico magnets similar to those found on the Hana ML are in charge of the generator.
Hana also mentions a cryogenic treatment which was applied on most components. This “cold annealing” process at near absolute zero temperature is used to treat the generator and the gold-plated output pins of the Hana Umami Blue. The cryogenic process alters the molecular structure of the materials, allowing to enhance rigidity and life span.
HANA UMAMI BLUE: BOX AND ACCESSORIES
Unpacking the Hana Umami Blue MC cartridge is not surprising.
Like all Hana products, the packaging is very sober, even pretty cheap for a cartridge in this range. Nevertheless, it’s not the box that makes music! The budget was clearly dedicated to the technology and materials that make up the cartridge.
Three screw sets (4, 5, 6 mm), an Allen key and a brush are supplied with the product. That’s the bare minimum, but also the most important!
HANA UMAMI BLUE: SETUP
Application is fairly simple and the adjustment is facilitated by the shape.
Its rather high compliance for a low output MC cartridge and its average weight allow it to be associated with most quality tonearms having average/low effective mass.
Load impedance could have simply been around 80 ohms, but experience has shown that usually, you need to multiply internal resistance by 15 to obtain perfect load with an MC amplifier (See our wide range of amplifiers). This can be different with an MC transformer (Step Up).
Therefore, perfect load is here around 120 ohms. However, it’s possible to have superior load on some systems if you’re looking for a little more clarity.
The fairly adequate output level of 0.4 mV requires a 58-dB gain MC phono preamplifier minimum, but recommended gain is 62 dB.
HANA UMAMI BLUE: TESTING AND LISTENING
Like other high-end phono cartridges, 2 tracks are not enough to fully enjoy the Umami Blue because this cartridge is not demonstrative and doesn’t impose an extravagant personality. This is the reason why listening to your first LPs is surely a little confusing. On the other hand, we quickly notice its qualities, and particularly the balance.
It’s normal to find some of the characteristics from the Hana ML cartridge associated with the Umami Red’s qualities since this Umami Blue is clearly a mix of elements from both cartridges (with one or two exceptions!).
Therefore, it’s a combination of nuance and refinement, associated with superb neutrality and musicality…
Excellent quality-musicality-price ratio.
Would recommend +++ Franck
Phono cartridge type: low output MC
Body: A7075 aluminium
Finish: blue Urushi lacquer
Stylus: Nude MicroLine
Output level: 0.4 mV / 1 kHz
Output balance: > 0.5 dB / 1 kHz
10 Hz compliance: 16 x 10-6 cm/dyne
Channel separation: 30 dB / 1 kHz
Frequency response: 10 – 50,000 Hz
Coil impedance: 8 ohms / 1 kHz
Recommended load impedance: > 80 ohms
Recommended tracking force: 2 g
Tracking ability: 70 µm / 2 g
Weight: 10.8 g