Hana SLM (Mono)

Reviewed by for Stereophile, October 2018

To begin, we used my sturdy, over-achieving Pioneer PLX-1000 direct-drive turntable ($699), and which I find to be mechanically and musically superior to my vintage Technics SL-1200Mk.II. Because the PLX-1000's playback of records possesses the qualities of strong momentum, dense images, and quiet backgrounds, I prefer it to most audiophile decks costing less than $2000.

Mike Trei and I and our mutual friend Sphere stayed up late playing single after single, switching from the Hana SL Mono ($750) to my wired-for-mono Shure SC35C ($75) to a Denon DL-102 Mono (discontinued). I was curious to hear how effectively the Hana's nude Shibata stylus would play the little seven-inchers compared to these reliably musical-sounding budget cartridges with spherical-tipped styli. I also wondered if the spherical styli would play these 1960s records more authentically—more as I remembered them.

Or would the Hana SL dig up so much new information that I would listen in awe at previously unheard aural pleasures long buried in these ancient 45rpm grooves?

The answer came quickly, and it wasn't even close: The Hoffman-Trei–aligned Hana SL Mono excavated a lot more information, and did so very quietly. Records such as Desmond Dekker & the Aces' "Israelites" (Ember 55129) or Little Eva's "The Locomotion" (Dimension 1000) made me feel I'd been granted some sort of honored privilege—an unprecedented ability to hear everything that had never before been exposed by my spherical-tipped cartridges. Single after single, the Hana SL Mono made sound that was decidedly present, punchy, finely detailed, and liquid.

I asked Garth Leerer, president of Musical Surroundings, Hana's US importer, if the SL Mono was a true mono cartridge—that is, if it had no vertical compliance and/or generated no signal from its vertical excursions. "The armature on the SL (stereo) is shaped like an X," he said. "The SL Mono has it rotated 45° to read only the lateral groove modulation. Hana uses the dual coil to provide multiple ways to interconnect to optimize performance with different systems, as well as dynamically balance the coil/cartridge suspension."


Read the full review here.

View product on Air Audio Distribution here.