06. June 2024 · Comments Off on Vinyl Audio Laboratory At High Fidelity Stuttgart · Categories: Hifi News, Industry Insider · Tags: , , , , , ,


Vinyl Audio Laboratory At High Fidelity Stuttgart

HiFi PiG’s Eric van Spelde visits the High Fidelity Bar in Stuttgart for an audiophile vinyl evening in a very Japanese style.


For a couple of years, Stuttgart has been one of several European cities which are home to a listening experience modelled on Japan´s famous jazz cafés (Kissas) that started in the 1920s and 30s when gramophone records were very expensive.

In High Fidelity, Bernd Kreis installed a system consisting of two Lenco-based turntables, home-built valve amps and Altec speakers. On the Tuesday before the High End show in Munich started, Masashi Miyake from Vinyl Audio Laboratory dropped by for an evening about hand-built phono cartridges and old records.


Miyake´s creations are based on the legendary Neumann DST, with further inspiration from the maker of the Lumière cartridges that are built along the same principles. There are three basic models: one for stereo recordings, one for mono and one for 78s. All three are available in ´Classic´ and ´Contemporary´ versions, the difference being that the former versions have a bonded, conical diamond needle and the latter sport a naked diamond, conical of course. These are primarily aimed at music lovers who have large collections of old to very old records – hence the conically shaped needles. Bodies are made from Corian – ´raw/naked´ or Urushi lacquered according to the wishes of the customer, and cantilevers are aluminium.


We didn´t talk prices, as these are basically bespoke items – but you get the ideal when Miyake says he can only build ten or twenty cartridges a year! In fact, the half dozen ones he brought to the High Fidelity Bar (and subsequently, to Munich) are his complete stock…


Outside the summer period, every other Tuesday evening is a Listening Experience at the High Fidelity bar, when music lovers come to enjoy music curated by a special guest who shares information and insights, at the ´Sweet Spot´ area of the bar in front of the audio system. The latter is an entirely bespoke affair – we mentioned the pair of Lencos which are heavily upgraded and are in tailor-made plinths; one was fitted with two tonearms – one featuring the mono cartridge from VAL for this evening and the other with its counterpart for shellac records (78 rpm), and the other with a Supatrac Blackbird to which Miyake´s stereo cartridge was fitted. The phono preamp is based on the circuit design of the EAR 834P but with a valve-regulated power supply and some rather special components in it; the latter is also true for the line preamp, which is built from Transcendent Sound ´s ´The Masterpiece´ kit and sports a pair of 300Bs for the amplification stage. The power amps are 300B parallel single ended monoblocks from an Audio Note kit (now known as ANK and not associated with Audio Note (UK) anymore) and the speakers are large, ported affairs using an Altec/Great Plains Audio 620 coaxial driver each with external crossovers placed under the enclosures. “Normally, the turntables are equipped with modified Denon-DL103s in bespoke bodies, which are excellent for the outlay and, well, the turntables get operated by a variety of people here so you´re not going to risk a high four-figure priced boutique one normally. But tonight is, of course, special and so is the sound” Bernd told me.


Miyake loves old records. Really old records, mostly. The High Fidelity Bar being, in essence, a jazz café (although the next edition – and the last before the summer pause – of the Listening Experience in two weeks would zoom in on post-punk as a genre), the audience got treated to Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck and other famous Blue Note artists (on the original pressings, of course), but also Marlène Dietrich, some really early classical music LPs and, of course, shellac. “People often tell me, why play music from 78s – they sound really, really bad,” said Miyake. “However, even apart from the artistic and historic value of the music on there – there is real tone and dynamics hiding in their grooves…” And sure enough – while the amount of background noise from the 78 being played, would be considered unacceptable these days, there was a full-bodied, ´real´ sound from violin, cello and piano to be heard, quite beyond what you´d think possible from these ancient (and fragile) sound carriers.

Being asked what kind of sound Miyake is striving to achieve with his cartridges, the thing to take away from his response is that first and foremost, he wants recorded music to sound alive.

“Along with tone, liveliness is probably top of my priorities. For the same reason, I do tend to prefer high-efficiency loudspeakers like the ones I was playing on today”.

Vinyl, valves and a great selection of wines to choose from if you are so inclined (proprietor and HiFi system creator Kreis, whose main occupation happens to be wine merchant) – what more can one ask for on an evening out?


Eric van Spelde

Eric van Spelde

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