The Jelco Ichikawa Jewel Company, based in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro area, is one of the country’s many small-scale precision engineering firms. It has been producing since 1920, and by the 1970s, it had naturally shifted its focus to turntable parts in response to the hi-fi craze of the period. Over the years, it has done a lot of OEM work, but it has also developed its own brand, with the SA-250 tonearm putting it on the hi-fi map. It also sells the SA-250T, which is a straight tubed version of the same, as well as the flagship SA-750D shown below.
It’s a well-made pick-up arm in the style of vintage Japanese Audio Technicas. Its chrome polish (gunmetal or black) is fantastic, and its bearings are fine and well aligned. It’s no surprise that in the 1970s and 1980s, Jelco was chosen to build the Sumiko MMT/FT series, Koetsu, and Audioquest PT tonearms. With an effective length of 229mm, a 15mm overhang, a mounting distance of 214mm, and a standard 30mm Linn mount, it should suit most decks. Cartridge weights range from 4 to 12 grams, with 20 millimeters of lateral and vertical friction.
It includes built-in oil damping, like like older Jelcos, which helps with some of the most problematic cartridges. The company’s proprietary single-point cross suspension system, which dates from the 1970s, is installed. There’s spring-applied bias adjustment, as well as a sturdy two-pin detachable SME-style headshell, which is popular among the Japanese market, which enjoys swapping cartridges. The oxygen-free copper tonearm lead is of good quality, with gold plated terminations and RCA phono connectors or balanced XLRs as options. It presently costs £465 in stock form.
The SA-750D is a smoothie in terms of sound. It delivers a clear, expansive, and precise sound that’s open and detailed enough to allow a decent budget moving coil like the Audio Technica AT-OC9 to really dig into the tape. The music is well-balanced, and the stereo soundstage is faithfully portrayed. It’s a great performance for the money. Its Rega counterpart has a more dynamic and rhythmically intense sound, as well as a more forceful and dynamically explicit tone, making the Jelco feel a touch too laid back and diffuse. The Rega, on the other hand, can feel a little forced and cold, whereas the Jelco lets the music wash over you rather than trying to bombard you. The bass is rich and full, the midband is open and airy, and the treble is lovely and detailed – all of which adds up to a really impressive sound for the money.
The Jelco is showing its age in absolute terms. We now have newer and more capable designs on the market, such as the Roksan Nima, that perform better in one or more areas, but the SA-750D remains a capable, consummate all-rounder that’s a delight to operate. It’s a tonearm in the vein of the 1970s, a jack-of-all-trades that can get a lot of mileage out of a wide range of cartridges, whereas today’s cheap superarms are items that require cartridges to be purchased specifically for them. Consider it more of a classic arm that you can still buy new, and you’ll get the idea.