A Blast from the Analog Past: Kiseki Returns

by Roy Gregory | April 17, 2014

s if we needed further indicators as to the rude (and perhaps surprising) health of the analog revival, you won’t find a much more telling pointer than the resurgence of the highly respected and long-dormant Kiseki marque. And rest assured that this is no simple branding exercise: sticking a recognized name on an otherwise unrelated (or unworthy) product. As our cousins across the moat might say, this is "le vrai Kiseki" -- the real deal.

But first a little bit of history for those who either weren’t born (or can’t remember) the days when Kiseki cartridges were current. Despite being seen by many as the handmaiden to Koetsu’s queen bee, in reality the Kiseki cartridges were genuinely viable alternatives to their higher-profile compatriots, while in the exotic shape of the diamond-cantilevered Lapis Lazuli they offered one of the truly great MC pickups, a cartridge that has analog diehards who actually heard or lived with one going all misty-eyed at the mere mention of its name.

Like all things audio, legend and time have helped to obscure reality, with rumors abounding as to who was responsible for and who actually built the Kiseki cartridges -- and no, it wasn’t Dynavector. In fact, Kiseki arose originally out of European frustrations with the erratic supply of Koetsu cartridges. Although the products were always built in Japan, the business was instigated in Holland by Herman van den Dungen, an erstwhile Koetsu distributor. The brand might have disappeared under the assault of CD -- Holland being the home of Philips, after all -- but now it's back: same ownership and same cartridges, at least up to a point.

Initial offerings are the Kiseki Blue NOS (1600 in the UK) and Purple Heart NOS (shown above, 1995 in the UK). As the names imply, these are identical to the original designs, although newly manufactured from old parts. That’s a blessing, as it ensures that perishable elements, like the suspension, are newly sourced and won’t have deteriorated over time. Available in strictly limited quantities (100 for the Blue and 49 for the Purple Heart), this is very much a case of "grab one while you can." With rumors of possible Agate NOS and Black Heart NOS models in the works, analog aficionados should definitely watch this space. The only slightly disappointing part of this whole story is that there are no plans (due to parts availability) to offer NOS versions of the sapphire- or ruby-cantilevered models, the Purple Heart Sapphire and Agate Ruby. As a past owner with very fond memories of several versions of the latter, I can’t help feeling the loss, but then you can’t have everything, and the very existence of these NOS offerings is reason enough to rejoice.

But should you fail to grab hold of one of the limited number of NOS cartridges (and the Blue NOS cartridges are already all but gone), all is not lost. Even better news than the arrival of the NOS models is the announcement of new production, designated NS. These are updated versions of the originals, distinguishable by their slightly shorter-nosed bodies, with the Blue already available and the Purple Heart well advanced. These should be joined later by Agate and Black Heart NS models to complete the range. Asking price for the Blue NS is 1700 in the UK. The short-nosed body is slightly reminiscent of the Milltek high-output designs that also came from the same builder, but these are definitely low-output devices.

Of course, only time will tell how they stack up against (and possibly improve on) the original versions, but with a review sample already on order, we’ll be keeping you posted. In the meantime, you can find more info and updates here.

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