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Mono and Stereo Review of Blue Dragon

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TOP WING’s philosophy

CDs first appeared on the scene more than 30 years ago. The CD supplanted the LP with alacrity and now reigns as the most popular music media. It’s also true, though, that LPs enjoy a devoted following.
A phono cartridge converts vibration energy, generated by the stylus tracing the sound grooves, into electric signals. This vibration produces secondary (harmonic) vibration, reviving high-frequency components recorded in the master that could not be recorded with LPs. This physical phenomenon cannot be reproduced digitally, but can be expressed as natural analog sounds. Even today, this sound quality is the major reason for the continued popularity of analog LPs.

Nevertheless, TOP WING was concerned, because when the sound quality of CDs and LPs made from the same master tape was compared, the CD was superior in terms of soundstage reproducibility. We wondered whether superior soundstage reproducibility would ever be technically possible with LPs, and whether perhaps there was something in the production process preventing success. This questioning led to our discovery that existing cartridges were not picking up all sound information necessary for sound-field reproduction.

Conscious of the concept of soundstage reproduction, TOP WING develops and produces phono cartridges using advanced technologies and innovative materials.

Coreless straight-flux cartridge Seiryu (Blue Dragon)

$12,500 Installed and setup in your TT*

*Dr. Vinyl will  do a premium cartridge installation and alignment on your turntable anywhere in the lower 48 states.  This is a $450 value. This is included in the cartridge price. Contact us for details.

The coreless straight-flux system adopted for the “Blue Dragon” was conceived by Hiromu Meguro, former design assistant of the Grace F-8 cartridge and principal designer of F-9 cartridge, when he was with Shinagawa Musen Co. Mr. Meguro worked on the basic designs of the TX-1000 and Dragon CT players and on the design of the Center-Search mechanism during his time at Nakamichi Corp. Then, the notion that moving magnet (MM) cartridges were inexpensive and moving coil (MC) cartridges were of higher grade pushed to the back of Mr. Meguro’s mind this system’s concept, which was categorized as an MM device despite dramatic differences compared with conventional MM cartridges. This system, which fell short of commercialization even in analog audio’s heyday, is being revived thanks to today’s state-of-the-art technology.

The coreless straight-flux system has no core material, with the left and right coils arranged in a V shape directly above the magnet. With that, the stylus tip picks up fluctuations in magnetic flux produced by the fine sound grooves, transmitting them directly and thus accurately. Unlike MC cartridges, in which the output line of the coil moves irregularly within the magnetic flux, the output line in this coreless straight-flux system is unaffected by such fluctuations. Moreover, a rubber damper adjusted for optimum recording reproduction enhances compliance.

The coreless straight-flux system also allows stylus replacement. With MC devices, stylus replacement costs are prohibitive, since the entire main cartridge unit must be replaced due to the structural design. Stylus replacement with the Blue Dragon, however, only requires removal of the stylus unit itself.

※Stylus replacement is handled by our professional staff after the main unit is sent to us.
※When a defect other than in the stylus unit occurs, a separate service-cost estimate is necessary.

Specifications

Type of power generation: Coreless straight-flux
Stylus: Line contact
Cantilever material: Aluminum
Output at 5 cm/s at 1 kHz: 0.2 mV
Internal impedance: 12.3Ω
Inductance: Secret (but non sensitive to capacitive load)
Recommended tracking weight: 1.75 g–2.0 g
Headshell material: Ultra Duralumin (adopting Fidelix Mitchaku Contact technology)
Weight: 12.3 g (total weight equipped with the attached headshell: 30.0 g)

Coreless straight-flux cartridge Suzaku (Red Sparrow)​

$16,500 Installed and setup of your TT*

*Dr. Vinyl will  do a premium cartridge installation and alignment on your turntable anywhere in the lower 48 states.  This is a $450 value. This is included in the cartridge price. Contact us for details.

A new approach to housing outer-shell design

The housing of our maiden product “Blue Dragon” was manufactured with orthodox methods, utilizing Ultra Duralumin, the long-established resonance-damping material of high rigidity, and finished with ultra-precision processing. Based on this production method, excessive outer-shell vibration and resonance effects on sound were largely eliminated.
While this approach is straightforward, it has the disadvantage of adding weight to the cartridge. This led to the concern that the coreless straight-flux system of the Blue Dragon, weighing in at more than 12 grams, might not be fully utilized in certain tone-arm designs, especially the highly responsive designs of recent years.

However, liberally adopting lightweight materials gives rise to a certain resonance point in the audible range, which adds undesirable tonal quality to the playback sound. Thus, Red Sparrow combines materials with different vibration frequencies to “disburse” resonance, a focus completely opposite that of the Blue Dragon, which suppresses resonance through use of high-rigidity materials.

The materials adopted in the cartridge include titanium, dry carbon, and high-performance resins classified as super engineering plastics, etc., to replace the Ultra Duralumin used in the Blue Dragon. We selected these high-performance materials, also utilized in advanced industries, based on our efforts to seek out cutting-edge technologies and innovative materials.

As a result, the weight of the Red Sparrow cartridge was reduced to slightly less than 9 grams, allowing maximization of performance regardless of the tone arm being used. By adopting a revolutionary method called the coreless straight-flux system as well as advanced technologies and innovative materials, Red Sparrow has achieved coexistence of a natural sound unique to analog and soundstage reproduction never before possible.

Specifications

Type of power generation: Coreless straight-flux
Stylus: Line contact
Cantilever material: Aluminum
Output at 5 cm/s: 0.2 mV
Internal impedance: 12.3Ω at 1 kHz
Inductance : Secret (but non sensitive to capacitive load)
Recommended tracking weight: 1.75 g–2.0 g
Weight: < 9 g

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