In many ways, that preternatural capability rests as much on what the CAR-60 doesn’t do as on what it does: There’s no edge or brightness, no rounding or etching; there’s no stretch or elongation of the images or acoustic, no selective projection or spotlighting of instruments or frequencies. But above all, there’s no sense of haste or congestion, constriction, or compression. The result is a presentation that is as natural in terms of proportion as it is in perspective. You don’t realise just how many liberties most cartridges take with the shape and extent of the performance until you hear it reproduced without those aberrations or exaggerations. The result is musical performances that have all the presence, body, and power for which the Kuzma cartridges are rightly known, but with a level of integration and a natural immediacy that brings performers to life. On first listen, you might think that the CAR‑60 sounds dull or small, lacking in detail or transparency. But, just like a diamond tweeter, what you are hearing is that lack of edge and glare, combined with a level of natural organization and integration that binds all the information retrieved from the groove into a single, meaningful whole. It’s not how much detail there is, but how that detail is used. Listen longer and you soon start to realize that textures and dimensions, colours, and incidental nuances are not just there, they’re right where they should be. The incidental noises of performance, be they an instrument hitting a music stand or a player’s breathing, fingers on a guitar body or the way a singer moves relative to the microphone are captured with a natural ease that adds to the performance rather than distracting from it.
But perhaps the CAR-60’s most special quality is that it brings that sense of order and control to the time domain as well as the spatial and dynamic. Just as defining the edges of the soundstage can make it seem smaller, and just as increasing the intimate relationship between band members tends to pull things in, allowing the music time to happen can rob it of urgency – at least if you are used to expecting the system to drive things along and fire the notes at you. But once again, listen longer and you soon appreciate that things happen just as quickly as they should and that the Kuzma reacts quickly enough to let them happen just when they should. It doesn’t matter whether you want to cite the relationship between Joe Jackson’s piano and Graham Maby’s bass [Summer In The City: Live In New York, Intervention], or the inner workings of Coltrane’s elongated lines on A Love Supreme[Impulse!] the rhythmic and dynamic complexities of Martha Argerich playing Prokofiev or the sweeping momentum of a Sibelius crescendo, the CAR-60 doesn’t just bring the musicians to life, it allows the music to breathe and communicate, engage, and seduce. Because that is what makes the CAR-60 special: you don’t hear IT because you hear the performance; it’s not about sonics, it’s all about music.
No cartridge can be all things to all men or women. There will be those who crave more detail and there will be those who expect more sonic fireworks. There will be those who never get the CAR-60 working right because they use the wrong arm or just lack the necessary skills and patience. They might well conclude that it’s dull but worthy. But if you hear this cartridge singing and if you really do use hi-fi as a gateway to music (rather than an end in itself) then I suspect that many a listener will be as astonished and flabbergasted, besotted, and beguiled as I was when I first heard the Lapis. This is one diamond that just might be forever.
Type: Low-output moving-coil cartridge
Output Level: 0.3mV (3.54cm/1kHz)
Internal Impedance: 6 Ohms
Stylus Profile: Microridge
Coil Windings: 4N Silver
Manufactured by: Kuzma Ltd.
Distributed in the UK by: Audiofreaks
Tel: +44(0)208 948 4153