Cartridge & Arm Review

Hana ML Low Output Cartridge

Hana’s range of cartridges continues to grow slowly yet steadily. New up? Paul Rigby reviews the ML moving coil complete with a MicroLine stylus

Brilliant and Gorgeous’. That’s what Hana means in Japanese, apparently. I’ll leave you to consider the latter but the brand has certainly lived up the the former over recent months and years. I’ve come across a few of the company’s cartridges and have been startled at the high level of sound quality. Not to mention value for money. 

This new model arrives at a few pounds under a £1,000 so the build quality and potential sound performance is on the rise, methinks. I was eager to find out if the company might falter in performance terms this time or retain its steady progress.

There are two models in this mini range of ‘M’ cartridges, one is high output (i.e. the MH) but I plumped for the ML, a low output moving coil cartridge, complete with a MicroLine stylus profile. That’s where the ‘M’ bit of name comes into play.

Hana ML Low Output Cartridge

The chassis is made from black polyoxymethylene (POM). The parent company,  Excel uses a particular formulation of POM manufactured by DuPont that sells under the trademarked name Delrin, a material you may have heard of before. I’ve seen it used in turntable platters, for example (I came across it last when I reviewed the STST Motus II turntable)

The front yoke, center and rear components of the magnetic electro-motive circuit and wires are Cryogenic processed, while high-quality copper wire has been selected for the moving coils.

There are captive threaded nuts for head shell fixing screws, built into the cartridge body which is a blessing because I hate installing cartridges while juggling screws and their attendant screw-nuts and the cartridge body. 

Hana ML Low Output Cartridge

Oh, and you may have noticed the gold coloured area at the top of the chassis? That’s a gold plated copper resonance plate that is integral with the cartridge body. It’s there to reduce vibration.

You can hear more about the background to the design via this show report interview I did at the Bristol 2019 show. I chatted with Hiroshi Ishihara of Youtek Ltd. Japan, the Marketing and World Sales Manager for the Hana brand.


I began with an original pressing from the great Ethel Ennis and This is Ethel Ennis (RCA) from 1964. Ennis offered a smooth, cultured, romantic delivery and here she was fronting a full orchestra with jazz overtones but also sweeping strings. I played He Loves Me which offered a playful and energetic gently jazz-based orchestral score.

Hana ML Low Output Cartridge

Playing this record with the Hana ML struck a chord, as it where and it directed me to the very top of the dynamic range. The reach of this cartridge was high indeed which meant that there was a tremendous sense of space. I’ve heard this signature before from Japanese designs. Is it a cultural thing, I wonder? A sort of reaction against the busy and packed cities in that country in which everything and everyone sits cheek by jowl with their neighbour? Do their hi-fi designers exhibit a yearning for space by infusing their cartridges with the stuff? The ML certainly provided it, at any rate, especially around the treble section which not only allowed the cymbals to provide a beautiful sense of character and form – you could hear the nature of this big piece of flat metal when it was hit – but also the reverb that emerged from the hit itself. That decay was long and fragile which lifted the entire song upwards, giving the music a sense of lightness. 

Hana ML Low Output Cartridge

The upper mids, occupied by much of the brass and wind section, was precise in approach. The sense of focus in this area added to the instrument’s personality. Sometimes, during loud crescendos, it was transcribed a little aggressively but that’s me being ultra-picky, that effect was down to price point and not the inherent design. For a sub-£1,000 design, the ML provided a sublime transcription of both the brass and strings. The latter flowed without effort while the brass, especially when the sax and trombones hit lower frequencies during the later parts of the song, showed a wonderful resonance that reverberated with a reedy character.

Midrange insight was superb too. Early in this song, on the right channel, was a piano. Really though this guy sounded like he was playing in another room and you could only make out he was there at all because the studio door was open and the sound was travelling down the corridor. Subtle, that’s what it was. Yet the ML picked up this effect and did so with a mite more character and detail than many more expensive moving coils I’ve heard of late. 

This ability of the ML to lower noise, reach deep into the mix and extract subtle effects naturally without having to force the detail out by pinching the upper frequencies, for example, was one of the major talents of its basic design. 

I wondered how it might react with more dynamic fare so reached for T2 and It’ll All Work Out in Boomland a slice of early prog rock with varying time signatures and tempos from the track In Circles.

It’s very easy for a cartridge to take this raucous piece of high-energy rock, panic and then present the lot to you as a lump of noise. I’ve heard it done before on numerous occasions. The ML was different. What hit me was the instrumental separation and the calm way that the cartridge applied itself to music. 

Hana ML Low Output Cartridge

Hence, I could quite easily hear the lead guitar and drums – they were almost a given in this powerful track. What was noticeable was how the cymbal taps were separated from this vigorous piece of music and how easy it was for the ear to track the taps throughout the entire track. 

Oddly enough, though, the major achievement here was the emergence of the bass guitar. The latter which is normally subsumed underneath the maelstrom, becoming a series of low-end tones. Here, though, you could plainly hear the bass guitarist noodling away to himself in the rear of the mix. Having a fine time he was too. You’d never know that fact from some cartridges out there though. 


Hana has a growing reputation for quality of design. No matter what price point it decides to tackle, it tends to provide a value for money product because it tends to give you more than the competition at that particular point. For the ML that meant a sense of clarity and insight that allowed detail to be picked out from the subtle recesses of the mix. A trick often reserved for rarified high-end designs. That’s the quality of the Hana ML. 


Price: £995

[NOTE: All Hana cartridges requiring a replacement stylus due to wear or customer damage will be swapped for a brand new identical cartridge at 80% the current retail price less UK carriage costs.] 


Tel: 01491 629629


UK –


GOOD: midrange insight, dynamic reach, instrumental separation, tonal balance

BAD: nothing


[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]


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All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner

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  • Reply
    Christian Thomas
    29th April 2019 at 4:05 pm

    That’s a brilliant way of bigging up Delrin – just about the most common engineering plastic after nylon. (Nonetheless I have taken note of the fact that it works in this application.)

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      29th April 2019 at 4:15 pm

      Hi Christian – I suppose certain materials are popular in the hi-fi industry because of the price/performance balance. VPI has also used Delrin in its platters, for example. Stainless steel is another very common material (I used it when I ate my dinner last night) but it’s very popular with turntable manufacturers 🙂

  • Reply
    2nd May 2019 at 7:19 am

    Hi Paul – You did a review of the Hana E-series, have you tried the S-series? Today I have a Hana SH but I’m contemplating if an upgrade to the M-series is worth the extra money? Maybe getting a step-up and going with the ML.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      2nd May 2019 at 9:33 am

      Hi Tobias – The S-series seems to be the only one I’ve missed. I seem to have covered everything else, even the Mono. Apologies. Reflecting on the Hana carts I have reviewed though and looking at that trend, I wouldnt be surprised if the ‘S’ was pretty darned good 🙂

  • Reply
    3rd May 2020 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I think my Apheta 2 (on a Rega p10) has a left channel problem. It comes and goes and seems to go away with some taps on the arm and sometimes de white wire from the arm to the cartridge. Anyway… Looking for alternatives and the Hana ML has caught my curiosity. The other contender would be the Apheta 3 at more expense, of course, and even at more expense as I think the Rega Aria I own wouldn’t make the Apheta 3 jump that noticible…
    Do you think it would go well with the P10 to a Rega Aria? Being the Apheta 3, what phono stage would you recommend?
    Thanks and greetings from Portugal

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      4th May 2020 at 11:47 am

      Before you spend your money…have you tried unplugging and plugging the wires back in Mario? There may be a grime build up, interfering with the contacts. Cleaning the contacts might solve the issue.

      • Reply
        4th May 2020 at 7:28 pm

        Hi Paul,

        Sadly, I’ve tried that already. Changed turntable also (although note because of this but thought it would go away).
        It’s not a huge problem but it’s there from time to time and until now, it goes away, as I said. I can take it to my Rega dealer but the last time I was there I kind got the feeling he doesn’t know what else to do… I’m guessing the cartridge is somehow a little faulty, I don’t know…
        Anyway… Thought of Hana ML (as I think I can get a good deal on it) and you were the first to review it on a p10.
        Thanks again for the reply!

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          5th May 2020 at 11:34 am

          Yes, the Hana would be an excellent choice, especially if you can get a good deal on it, Mario. Although I reviewed mine on an Origin Live deck.

          • Mário
            6th May 2020 at 7:40 pm

            Hi Paul

            I had the idea you tested it on a p10, my mistake.
            Thanks anyway

  • Reply
    Gerald Gaylard
    7th October 2020 at 6:35 am

    Hi Paul
    Thanks for your reviews. I am weighing up the Hana ML versus the Dynavector XX2ii. I am concerned that the Hana tracks less well, as your review suggests. The specs say 70um, but the HifiWorld test suggested 62um lateral/45um vertical. Specs aren’t everything, but I wonder if you could please comment on the tracking of the Hana, especially in hot cut lps like opera and dance 12″? Also, I would imagine that the sound of the Hana is probably warmer than the Dynavector, likely because of that delrin body unlike the Dynavector’s open aluminium architecture – does that seem right to you? Which would you choose?
    With thanks,

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      7th October 2020 at 9:56 am

      If you’ve heard the Dynavector and you like its sound approach then by all means go for that, you won’t be disappointed. That said, I prefer the Hana’s insight and maturity and I didn’t hear any tracking issues. Any issues I might have had where based on my wanting even more from the Hana. You know the sort of thing, you enjoy yourself and you want the experience to continue without any barriers. There were but it was a cost thing. It was not an issue with the Hana – only me 🙂

  • Reply
    Gerald Gaylard
    7th October 2020 at 11:55 am

    I like Dynavector. They’re a bit cooler sounding than most alnico cartridges, but have a decent sense of body and mostly do not veer too far into analysis. Nevertheless, a more forgiving nature and a bit more midrange colour would not go amiss as far as I am concerned.
    I asked about the tracking of the Hana because of the specs, but also because of your comment that “sometimes, during loud crescendos, it was transcribed a little aggressively”. Many mcs track quite poorly and can come unstuck with certain cuts, especially in certain genres. So thanks for putting my mind at ease; it looks like the ML is in my future. I imagine that the new Hana Umami may well be in yours, if not the Etsuro.
    Best wishes,

  • Reply
    6th November 2020 at 11:40 pm

    Hi Paul
    Thanks for your review, it’s enjoyable as always, Is it a good combination the Hana ML and Rega RB330 tonearm , I’m just wondering between This cartridge and new Rega ania pro , which one do you advise. I have Moon 110 LP v2 as preamp

    Thanks in advance

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      9th November 2020 at 11:22 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Behzad. I’d still lean towards the Hana.

  • Reply
    Gerald Gaylard
    27th February 2021 at 9:40 am

    Just to let you know that I did get the ML and I’m super happy with it. The tracking is exemplary and end of side performance is exceptional. Surface noise is low. In fact, it is one of the best mc cartridges I’ve owned (everything from van den Hul to Koetsu to Dynavector to Sumiko to Kiseki to Linn) in terms of its practical performance in simply playing records. It is also a balanced and musical performer: by this I mean that its frequency response is linear and the ml stylus provides detail, but it is warm, forgiving, and does not emphasise vinyl’s flaws. This is extraordinary value in mc cartridges. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      1st March 2021 at 11:01 am

      And thanks for the update, Gerald.

  • Reply
    Christian Haring
    20th February 2022 at 1:53 pm

    Hello Paul,

    thanks for your review of the Hana ML. I am currently looking for a new Cartridge for my Avid Ingenium P&P. Recently i did some upgrades using the metal Platter and a Tecnoarm II with the AT VM95SH MM. Every upgrade brought a big Improvement and now i am realy happy with the Basic Sound of the turntable. Everything is Crystal clear with a nice soundstage. Now i am really curious what a new Cartridge would sound like on the Ingenium. The basic Ingenium was Ok. Sound was little bit dull because of the Platter, but now i think that a new Cartridge could provide a big Improvement. What do you think about the Nagaoka MP 500? I am not quite shure which cartridge to choose. I’m using the Perreaux VP3 Phonostage and a Perreaux Audiant 80 I. I like the elegant house sound of the Hana but i am not shure if it fit’s to Rock and Metal Music as well and mybee the Nagaoka is more neutral, so iIcan use it for Jazz, Folk and the “Hard STuff”. What do you think?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      21st February 2022 at 5:11 pm

      Excel (who make the Hana) and Nagaoka are two of the world’s most important cartridge outfits in terms of technology and market share. Anything they do should be noted. Both are excellent and you won’t be disappointed with either. I recommend a demo if you can, your ears should play a part in your decision. For me, the Hana has the edge because of its inherent MC technology and the sense of space a quality MC phono amp can provide. As I say though, if the 500 has taken your eye/ear then I’m sure you’ll be happy with that.

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