I have wanted to check out one of the Jasmine Cartridges for a while, and I happened to talk to a distributor at Capital Audio Fest this past fall and was able to get one of the Dragon MC carts in for review. They are fascinating in their design and I was instantly intrigued. Jasmine Audio uses porcelain with traditional Chinese blue-painted designs making the Dragon just as wonderful to look at as it is to listen to. The Dragon is full of interesting materials, the cantilever is made from solid Boron and is incredibly small, meaning even less mass. The Dragon has an MSRP of $4195.00 (U.S.) and comes in premium packaging that is quite the display in itself. Is the Dragon worth the price, let’s take a look and find out?
Unboxing and Setup
As I mentioned the packaging is extremely nice, which I appreciate when you buy a premium product. It comes in a wooden box and is held safely in place in a piece of acrylic. Getting the Dragon out of the acrylic was a bit nerve-wracking as you have to hold it a little precariously while loosening the screws. Also, the little brass nuts are not captive so make sure you don’t let one fall and roll away. Once it is out and securely mounted on your headshell you’re in the clear. I left it a little loose so I could set my overhang, and make sure it was aligned well. I will say I was a bit nervous tightening the screws as you don’t want to overtighten them and crack the porcelain. I only tightened them enough to keep the dragon securely in place, I do not have a torque wrench small enough to tell you how tight that is, unfortunately. Next, I made sure my vertical tracking angle was set. Lastly, I set the tracking force, on my table this was actually not super easy, the Dragon is fairly heavy so I actually had to run my counterweight ut past where its “normal limit” to achieve a force of 2.5 grams, the higher-end of the recommended range. After getting it set up I put some records on and just let it run in for a while, Jasmine Audio recommends 20 Hours.
I try to stay away from phrases like day and night difference. Every once in a great while though something comes in that makes me think wow, this is a massive difference in sound. The Jasmine Dragon is one such product. When I switched out the Quintet Blue that I had on my LP-7 with the Dragon and put on the first record I was impressed with how much clarity and space there was. I had not heard Moby’s Reprise like this before, but more on that below. At nearly 10 times the price one would hope that there would be major differences and the the Dragon did not disappoint.
The first record I put on to really sit down and listen to was one of my favorites, Reprise by Moby. I have talked about this record many times. It is basically a greatest hits album, but imagine if every time an artist released a greatest hits album they rerecorded all of the songs with a live orchestra, that is what Reprise is. It was released by Deutsche Grammophone and is a masterpiece. My favorite song on the whole album is “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” (with Apollo Jane and Deitrick Haddon), on the vinyl it is the first song on side C. That said listing to all 4 sides is always a must. The recording is truly something to behold. There is so much musical information that the album really benefits from a highly resolving system. When I compared MC carts to MM carts, there was a clear benefit from the lower mass MC stylus, and the Dragon has an extremely delicate Boron cantilever and micro ridge diamond, it really fleshes out every detail in the album. The vocals are lively and natural sounding,
One of my favorite bands, when I was a teenager, was System of a Down, I owned all of their CDs. Not much has changed other than now I have their albums on vinyl now as well. Serj Tankian has an incredible voice that spans 4 octaves, putting him right up there with some of the best in terms of range. I love their chord progression and overall style, which to me at least stood out in the metal genre. Listening to Mezmerize with the Dragon cartridge is a truly wonderful experience. The detail is exceptional really bringing out all of the layers of the music so you can hear even the soft high hats while the crashes and double pedal slam in the foreground. The basslines tend to be very aggressive in most of their songs, especially in “Old School Hollywood”, it’s clean and well-defined, and the low mass cantilever doesn’t get overwhelmed at all.
If you are a regular reader, it will be no surprise that I listened to a Taylor Swift record next, specifically Red (Original Recording). Again the vocals were very natural and rich. The texture that the Dragon picks up really brings an extra dimension to the music. You can almost feel the plucks on the banjo in “Red”. Taylor’s records are always expertly produced and the Dragon takes full advantage, creating a wonderful soundstage and imaging. There is a great sense of depth and width in the music, making my room come alive.
Overall it is the best-sounding cartridge that I have had in for review so far. Everything I have played with the Dragon has had more detail, and better clarity than any of the cartridges I have reviewed before it. It’s like I went from 1080p to 4k. The only negative with this cartridge is how clean your records need to be. Because the stylus is so light and easily manipulated I noticed that on my older records that are not in the best shape that it can really bring out the pops and crackles. With clean records in overall great condition, the Dragon is an absolute delight.
The Dragon also really brought to light how much a good cartridge can do for your analog setup. Cartridges are the most important part of your turntable setup, while other components matter, you can get more from a cartridge upgrade than any other part, assuming you are starting with a quality table. I would rather have a cheaper table with a good cartridge than a good table with a cheap cartridge, granted a good table with a good cartridge is really the best. That said if you are on a tighter budget it may be worth while to spend more on the cartridge than the table. The cartridge, after all, is the part that reads the music and makes it into a usable signal.
Below you can get a real visual of just how delicate the Dragons cantilever is. I took these photos using my microscope at 40x magnification. This was very cool for me to see and I wanted to show you as well as this is probably not something everyone has had a chance to look at. The image on the left is the Jasmine Dragon and the image on the right is the Ortofon Quintet Blue
- extremely detailed
- great sound stage and imaging
- great bass control
- rich midrange
- excellent treble clarity
- Marantz SR7009 Pre Amp
- Mcintosh MC250 Power Amp
- Nakamichi PA-5 Stasis Power Amp
- Sonus Faber Sonetto V Speakers
- Audioquest Power and Interconnects
- Prosper Cables Custom Speaker Cables
- Ortofon Quintet Red and Blue
The Jasmine Audio Dragon is an awesome cartridge that I think just about anyone would be happy to own it comes in at fairly steep price of about $4200.00, but it is worth the money to me. Assumming you have a pretty good table to put it on and get the most out of it, you should be pleased with the results for years to come. The only issue you may run into is getting the tracking force right, make sure your tone arm can balance the weight of the porcelain. Jasmine audio stepped out of the box to make their Blue and White series cartridges and they created something truly beautiful. This very well could be an endgame cartridge for a lot of listeners. With detail on tap all of your favorite recordings may offer you something new to hear, for me it was listening to Reprise by Moby, the vocals were like I have never heard before.
For more information on where to buy check here
For U.S. Inquireries check with Beleive Hifi here
Beleive Hifi provided Hifi Chciken with a review sample, they nor any affiliated paid in part or full in exchange for a review.