Based in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, the Jelco Ichikawa Jewel Company is one of Japan’s many small scale precision engineering companies. It has been manufacturing since 1920, and by the nineteen seventies had naturally turned its hand to turntable parts to reflect the hi-fi boom of that time. It has done a lot of OEM work over the years but has also fostered its own brand, with the SA-250 tonearm putting the company on the hi-fi map. It also sells the straight tubed version of the same, the SA-250T, as well as the flagship SA-750D you see here.
It’s a beautifully built pick-up arm, in the style of the Japanese Audio Technicas of yore. Its chrome finish (in a choice of gunmetal or black) is excellent, its bearings fine and superbly aligned. There’s no surprise that Jelco was chosen to manufacture the Sumiko MMT/FT series, Koetsu and Audioquest PT tonearms back in the nineteen seventies and eighties. It looks pretty conventional; with an effective length of 229mm, 15mm overhang, 214mm mounting distance and a standard 30mm Linn mount it should fit most decks. Cartridge weight spans 4 to 12g, and lateral and vertical friction is 20mg.
As per older Jelcos, it has built-in oil damping which helps out with certain more difficult cartridges. The company’s patented single-point cross suspension system is fitted, which dates back to the nineteen seventies. Spring-applied bias compensation is provided, and there’s a rigid two-pin detachable SME-style headshell, beloved by the Japanese market which loves swapping cartridges. The supplied oxygen-free copper tonearm lead is of good quality with gold plated terminations, and comes with a choice of RCA phono plugs or balanced XLRs. In stock form, it currently costs £465.
Sonically the SA-750D is a smoothie. It has a clean, spacious and precise sound that’s open and detailed enough to let a really good affordable moving coil like an Audio Technica AT-OC9 really drill down into the recording. The music flows nicely, and its stereo soundstage is accurately reproduced. At the price, it’s an excellent performer. Its Rega rival is a little more dynamically and rhythmically intense, with a more powerful and dynamically explicit sound; it makes the Jelco seem a tad too laid back and diffuse. But by the same token, the Rega can feel rather forced and frigid, whereas the Jelco lets the music lap around you rather than trying to assault you. Bass is warm and fulsome, the midband is open and spacious and the treble sweet and detailed – all of which makes for a very impressive sound at the price.
In absolute terms, the Jelco shows its age. We have newer and more capable designs such as the Roksan Nima on sale now which do better in one specific area or another, but the SA-750D remains an accomplished, consummate all-rounder that’s a joy to handle. It’s really a tonearm in the nineteen seventies mould, a jack-of-all-trades that will get a lot out of a wide variety of cartridges, whereas today’s budget superarms are products that need cartridges purchasing just for them. Think of it more as a classic arm you can still buy new, and you have its measure.