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Cartridge | MC

Miyajima Laboratory

Manufacturer: Otono-Edison Labs
Price (in Poland): 32 000 PLN

Noriyuki Miyajima 1-45-111 | Katae 5-chome
Jounan-ku, Fufuoka | 814-0142 | JAPAN


Provided for test by: RCM

MIYAJIMA LABORATORY is a company specializing in designing of phono cartridges. Established on March 27, 1980, has its headquarters in Fukuoka-shi, Japan. Its owner is Mr. NORIYUKI MIYAJIMA-san.

homas Alva Edison (1847 - 1931) belongs to the pantheon of American inventors and is known mainly for his two inventions: the light bulb and the phonograph. Of these two, the first one was considered by his contemporaries to be the most important invention. This was best demonstrated by the events of Tuesday, October 21, 1915, i.e. Edison Day, during the huge, prestigious Panama-Pacific Expo exhibition in San Francisco; within 10 months of its duration 18 million visitors visited the fair grounds (!). On October 21, under the Tower of Jewels, a building lit with 5,000 small light bulbs, 50,000 visitors gathered to see and listen to Edison. The gathering celebrated the 66th anniversary of the invention, which - literally - illuminated our world.

Edison himself, however, had a different opinion - in his heart this place was intended for a phonograph. It was the first mechanical device that could record and reproduce sound; earlier attempts allowed to only record the sound. The basis of the invention was a roll with tin foil, and later with paper on which wax was applied. The roll was attached to a mandrel that was turned by a handle. The signal in the form of vertical recesses was recorded with a stylus attached to the membrane; the membrane was loaded with a tube.

Edison was extremely proud of this design, believing that it perfectly captures the spirit of music. In the following years he went even further and claimed that the phonograph "hears more than we ourselves can". When in 1878 the German immigrant Emil Berliner (1851-1929), a telephone company technician in Washington (DC), showed the world his turntable, in which the recording medium was a flat disk instead of a cylinder, sonically it was a step back compared to the Edison's invention. The more so that at exactly the same time the American presented an improved version of his phonograph.

And yet the turntable won the first format war in audio history and Edison himself had to start selling his own version of the record player - a device called the Diamond Disc. And yet ... A few years later, contrary to his salesmen and promotion people, he returned to the phonograph and cylinders and presented the best device of this type, which he called Blue Amberol, which took its name from the blue color of the material the cylinder was covered with.

Today we know that Edison in this case was wrong and that his invention is part of a history today, and we listen to music from vinyl records. But the inventor had a clear purpose: it was to be a device that played music in the best way. It was not about "re-creating" a musical event, but about offering something more, "creating" a musical event in our room. On his way to perfection, he even rejected the invention that revolutionized the audio world - namely electrification of recording and playback process.

| ZEN 禅

Miyajima Laboratory is a brand owned by Otono-Edison Labs. We wrote about Japanese connections of this genius inventor and exceptionally skillful businessman in the MADAKE review. They are multidimensional, because in addition to the homage to the great American which Mr. Noriyuki-san included in the name, it is also about emphasizing his company's contribution to the creation of the Japanese industry, as well as a direct relationship - Madake cartridge cantilever was made of bamboo from the same places that the bamboo used by Edison to construct his first bulb (filament) - from Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu.

There is one more level where these two designers meet. I don't know if you know, but one of the most important differences between Edison's invention and competitors' products was not even that the inventor preferred cylinders, considering that they sound better than gramophone records (which was true), because other companies also offered their own playback devices in which the signal was recorded on cylinders. Nor even that the recordings made with the microphones were much less "clean" to him than the acoustic recordings (in which at that time he was right)

The most important difference between Edison's products and its competitors - both those with rollers and with gramophone records - was that Edison used an in-depth system for recording. The point was that the writing stylus - and then the reading stylus - moved in a vertical axis, creating pits ("hill-and-dale" - a CD is made in a similar way). This allowed to simplify the system transmitting vibrations to the membrane, and thus shorten the signal’s path. Edison was, if you look at it this way, the world's first audiophile, believing that "less is more".

Berliner did it in a different way - his system assumed writing and reading stylus movements in a horizontal plane. It was a technically inferior system, more complicated, and therefore more difficult to execute correctly, and yet it won. People chose convenience regardless of the quality of the sound. It would be the first situation of this type, but not the last one - do you remember when people chose to rather download MP3 files than buy CDs?


By applying a Japanese measure to the phonograph, Edison could say that he had an inner Zen peace resulting from a clear purpose. Mr. Noriyuki-san also went against the current rules and dissatisfied with the existing solutions on the market, he designed the motor of the cartridge just as he thought it should look like. His idea was patented in 2002 for a mono cartridge and in 2005 for a stereo one. In both cases it was supposed to improve the tracking precision and contact of the stylus with the groove of a vinyl record.

In the solution used by Miyajima, the cantilever is supported on a stem protruding from the rear magnet and is pressed against the front yoke, i.e. the suspension is located between the coil and the front yoke. The advantage of this solution is setting the cantilever support point exactly in the coil axis, thanks to which we get a more effective conversion of vibrations into electrical voltage. This type of suspension does not cause additional resistance and is characterized by a much lower inertia. The core of the coil is made of resin that does not interfere with the magnetic flux and does not introduce additional distortion.

Destiny is the new Miyajima Labs reference cartridge. From the outside, it is very similar to the previous top models of this company, that is Shilabe, Kansui and Madake; they were all "High Fidelity" reference cartridges. The Destiny’s body has a rounded shape, and there is a straight line only at the back, which makes the setup process more difficult. A gold plate with the model name is glued in at the front. The cartridge is fixed using standard screws and nuts - unfortunately it does not feature cartridges, which also does not make user’s life easier.

The body is made of African Blackwood wood or Dalbergia melanoxylon. It is a small tree, usually growing up to 7.5 m high, only sometimes up to 15 m. In the wild it grows in Africa, the Indian Peninsula and in Vietnam. The cantilever is made of bamboo, similar to the Madake model, but here it narrows and a stylus is attached at the thinner end; it has a LC (Line Contact) shape, invented in the 1970s for quadraphonic cartridges. The coil system is a cross-ring, a characteristic feature for this company products.


'Line contact' is an abbreviated form of the name 'extended line contact' - a stylus having prolonged contact with the walls of a record’s groove. It contacts the groove on a longer distance than elliptical needles. Needles of this type are thinner, thanks to which they reproduce treble better. Other advantages of this type of stylus are: low distortion, less wear of the record and better tracking. Originally developed for CD-4 quadraphonic records by JVC; these records featured rear channels encoded only up to 45 kHz.

Line Contact is not a registered name, which is why various companies have reserved their own names under which minor modifications of this cut are hidden, including:
  • Shibata | the cut developed by the JVC, the name comes from the name of the engineer who developed it; The cut was made by the company that co-authored it - Namiki Jewel
  • Pramanik | Bang & Olufsen - also named after the engineer
  • Van den Hul | Van den Hul - from the name of the business owner
  • Fritz Gyger | Fritz Gyger
  • Microridge | Namiki Jewel
  • MicroLine | Audio Technica (under this name one finds the Microridge cut made by Namiki Jewel)
  • Contact Line and Optimized Contour Line | Soundsmith
source:; access: 20.04.2020

The Destiny cartridge has a not very high compliance (approx. 9×10-6 cm / dyne) and is quite heavy. Its basic specification aligns with the ones of the Madake model, except for the weight - Destiny is significantly heavier (9,6 g vs 13,3 g). Mr. Noriyuki-san explains this on the Miyajima Laboratory website as follows:

By making the body heavy, the extra sound generated by the intense movement of the needle point is gone. Since the self weight of the cartridge became heavier, it is necessary to select the arm, but it was able to demonstrate the merit of the cross ring method to the maximum.

Destiny also has a relatively high internal impedance of 16 Ω, so it requires an impedance load of over 160 Ω. In the instruction manual one finds a hint - the impedance should be above 250 Ω. During the test it was loaded either with 200 or with 400 Ω - I preferred the former. Its output voltage is low and it is only of 0.23 mV. We must therefore have a high-class low-noise preamplifier, or a matching step up transformer. And the tracking force, which is typical for Miyajima Labs, is slightly higher than the standard 2 g as the manufacturer suggests 2.5 g.

This is the most expensive cartridge of this company, which was emphasized by a special box. The cartridge came in a large outer cardboard box, inside there was a wooden, very nice box with the company logo.

As it turns out, it was milled from two pieces of solid wood, and not glued together from several elements, hence its considerable weight. The cartridge is screwed to a round element, and on the side, under a lid with a a tonearm milled on it, one finds screw of various lengths as well as a plastic screwdriver. My copy of the cartridge bears the serial number D00041.

I compared the cartridge with the Madake from the same company, as well as with My Sonic Lab Signature Platinum. It was used on the SAT LM-09 (9") tonearm on the TechDAS Air Force III turntable deck. I used the RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC phonostage for the test. For cleaning the stylus I use the DS Audio ST-50, and the Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner Pro for cleaning the records.

MIYAJIMA LABS in “High Fidelity”
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  • Records used during the test (a selec- tion):

    AC Records – Two For Two: “Godzinki” & For D.”, AC Records ACR 016, „AC Records Acoustic References For Audiophiles”, 12”/45 rpm, Test Pressing LP (2020)
    The Famous Sound Of Three Blind Mice Vol. 1, Three Blind Mice/Impex Records ‎IMP6027, 2 x 180 g LP (2018)
    DEPECHE MODE, I Feel Loved (Danny Tenaglia Mix And Edit), Mute/Reprise PRO-A-100720-A, „Promotional 12”/45 rpm”, LP (2001)
    DIRE STRAITS, Brothers in Arms, Vertigo/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL-2-441, „Special Limited Edition | No. 3000”, 45 RPM, 2 x 180 g LP (1985/2014)
    ERIC DOLPHY, Out There, Prestige/Analogue Productions APRJ 8252, „Limited Edition | № 000345”, 180 g LP (1960/2016)
    STAN GETZ & CHARLIE BYRD, Jazz Samba, Verve/Speakers Corner Records V6-413-2, 180 g LP (1962/1998)
    TANZBÄR, Tanzbär, Nature/Clearaudio 0060.063, 180 g LP (1977/2009)
    THE BEATLES, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Apple/Gold Note DT-01, „Limited Edition | No. 82”, (1967/1998);

    Mr. Noriyuki-san's new cartridge sounds simply unbelievably well - it’s not necessarily "the best in the world," but rather "unbelievably well sounding." On the one hand, it is a logical development of everything that I heard in the following top cartridges of this manufacturer, and on the other, a transition to a slightly different dimension. As if the designer decided to "boost up" certain aspects of sound, which he considered the most important, without worrying for consequences.

    The last thing I would say about the Destiny cartridge is that it sound 'neutral'. I can’t use the opposite term because it would not be true either, but it can be easily noticed that we are talking about a completely new quality by comparing this cartridge to the My Sonic Lab Signature Platinum or the Madake by Miyajima itself. We are talking about a sound that does not want to adapt to the good-bad dichotomy, warm-cold, low-high, dark-light, known from the descriptions of other cartridges and to which we are so used to that it is difficult for us go outside this limited batch of terms.

    Destiny is just different. Its sound is almost "overcrowded" and has amazing energy at the bottom of the band. In fact, the energy in question fills all of its presentation, pulsates in every element of its sound, but it is the bottom of the band that gains the most. So we'll get a fleshy bass, low bass, strong bass. But it's not about bass as such. Listen to Money for Nothing by Dire Straits in the Mobile Fidelity version, so with the emphasized bottom, and you’ll be amazed with how many sounds are there, how full the sound is, and yet it will sound too bass-heavy.

    But you don't need a bass guitar for it, you will get the same with a cello, like in the Isao Suzuki Quartet’s recording on the The Famous Sound Of Three Blind Mice Vol. 1. The instrument sounded fantastic - it was firm, full, at my fingertips. Destiny boosts up the sound in such a way that the foreground, if recorded in a dense way, is presented „here and now”, in our room. This was also the case with Suzuki, who was shown in an incredibly dynamic and energetic way, as the most important musician in this recording. As he was.

    Still, I can't say that the Japanese cartridge unifies the sound. This is what I talked about at the beginning, this "unbelievable" aspect of this sound. Because if the sound is placed further away in the recording, say Sting’s vocal from the beginning of the Dire Straits’ track, or John Lennon vocals from some parts of the Lucy in the Skye, whatever - it will be shown very far away. This was also the case with some sounds from the AC Records - Two For Two: "Godzinki" & For D." album by AC Records, which has never had so much energy, so much" power "before.

    To further investigate this aspect, I took out from the shelf, a somewhat forgotten (what a shame ...) record Tanzbär, originally released in 1977 by the German label Nature, which came out again in 2009 thanks to Clearaudio. This is unusual music. The album contains medieval songs of itinerant musicians and is a combination of medieval musical traditions with modern performance and vocal technique and is supported by numerous instruments. The album includes performances by The Folk-Sextett, guitars, mandolin, bouzuka, hurdy-gourd, as well as electric bass and piano.

    In the '70s and' 80s, this record was used by record producers in many studios as a sound standard. In the reinterpretation, which was presented by the Miyajima Labs cartridge, I received an incredible performance. The band's voices are not trained, or at least they don't sound like they are, which fits perfectly with the atmosphere of these songs. The Japanese cartridge differentiated them brilliantly and immediately showed what their magic was about - not about perfect purity of the singing, but about emotions, phenomenal combination of vocals with the rhythm - listen to the song entitled Der Brautmörder and it will sweep you from your feet ...

    This record, like the previous ones, was played in such a high-energy, with close to the melting point of steel temperature, way, that I got something like a "direct transmission" from Destiny, as if we were connected to the instruments permanently by some wire that is fixed in our minds, without any "intermediaries" in between. This does not mean that we get a neutral image, absolutely not! The point is that the energy of playing is transmitted immediately and fully, nothing is quenched. The treble is relaxed, it is not as strong as with the same manufacturer's Kansui cartridge, or as with the My Sonic Lab or ZYX cartridges. But still the resolution of this range is so perfect that we seem to get even more information.

    We get with it, for example, instruments that are reliable in their size, mass, bodies. They are no longer "sound sources", and we really begin to perceive them as "instruments". Their sound vibrates in us just like when listening to live instruments, especially if we are in a small room with them - just like in our listening rooms. The size, i.e. the scale of the presentation, is above average and it is difficult to achieve, even in very good systems based on an analog sound source; usually when it does happen the source is a high quality reel-to-reel.

    And yet the first impression is that it is a warm sound. But it is not. It also seems like a dark sound. It’s definitely not. So what is it like? - And this is difficult to define, because there is incredibly lot of information about each element of the recording. However, they are arranged in different patterns than usual. They are used primarily to build tension and scale. It's a cartridge that perfectly differentiates the size of the instruments, although they are all shown larger than with other cartridges. Which version is right? - Probably none of them, that's why Mr. Noriyuki-san's proposition is simply one of the best products of this type in the world.


    In my heart I have a special place for Miyajima Laboratory cartridges. They bring to my world exactly what I expect from them. But none of them had such a big impact on me as the Destiny. And this is not objectively the best cartridge in the world and even the Madake model, the excellent design of the Miyajima Laboratory, in some aspects, such as sound clarity or tonal balance, may seem superior to many music lovers.

    But it doesn't matter much to me. Elements „boosted up” by the designer such as density, fullness, scale, saturation are really great and - I admit - I heard them in my system as if I had never heard them before. It is not as tonally aligned cartridge as the My Sonic Lab Signature Platinum, nor as dynamic and fast as the top Dynavector cartridges. However, let me suggests a trip to a world that no one else except for it - and us - will have access to.

    Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

    Impedance: around 16 Ω
    Output: around 0.23 mV
    Frequency range (-3 dB): 20 Hz – 32 kHz
    Tracking force: 2.5 g
    Stylus shape: nude Line Contact
    Compliance (10 Hz): around 9×10-6 cm/dyne
    Recommended ambient temperature: 20-30º C (25º C optimal)
    Weight: around 13.3 g
    Body: African Blackwood


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