It didn’t take long before the Hana EL showed itself to be a very solid performer, giving music a very pleasingly rhythmic, energetic and cohesive flavour. The midrange was enjoyable, with vocals and instruments sounding colourful and clear, allowing good tone perception.... The bottom end, as I had anticipated, was very lively and enjoyable, going to respectable depths.... In terms of channel separation, both cartridges gave excellent stereo imaging with the SL seeming to perform slightly better – my ears being the only means of scientific measurement, but I trust the flappy little buggers emphatically.
Compared to the EL, the Hana SL is even more rhythmic, layered and lit-up, adding excellent image or instrument separation to the mix. Bass isn’t as pronounced as the EL but it has improved definition and detail. Just one example of the SL extracting more detail from the grooves with its Shibata stylus is Guy Clark’s South Coast Of Texas LP, where the female backing vocals became noticeably more prominent and some of the playful jauntiness of the music seemed more obvious and therefore more contagious.
I was pleased to note that both cartridges performed superbly with all types of music from jazz and classical to rock and metal to highly processed pop – all of which can inflict their own specific demands on a system. The Hana’s just have that good all-round nature that gets the listener involved in the music and all its aspects like rhythm, timing, timbres and emotion.
Surface noise did not offend with either of the Hana cartridges, though again the SL proved a little better with any hiss or pops sitting nicely under the music without causing too much annoyance. May I refer here to that infamous John Peel quote because I really don’t get too hot under the collar about surface noise these days anyway; life is just too damn brief.
The Hana cartridges are a delight. Perhaps they may eventually become the cult go-to that the Denon DL103 currently is (and isn’t) for discerning audiophiles on a budget – they certainly deserve to.
For a system needing a little help in the bass department, the EL could be the perfect choice, with the bonus of a lift in other areas of performance, whereas the SL is possibly more suited for a well-balanced set up, again with the promise of a surprising upgrade in sound quality.
For realistic instruments, delicate layers of sound with sharp holographic images and, above all, emotional involvement with the music, you can’t go wrong with a Hana cartridge. I shall be watching the development of their status with interest.
Read the full review here.