ZYX

WARNING: Please do yourself (and us) a favor and not buy a ZYX phono cartridge from someone you are not sure of. We have seen used cartridges sold as new, serial numbers tempered with, and cartridges over 12 years of age sold as new. Give us a chance. You know you are safe with us. We are fair to you. And you will love us.

Introducing ZYX UNIverse II. LOVELY.

Nakatsuka san has done it again! Relentless effort, workaholic and great artisan.

We are proud to introduce to you ZYX Premium line that includes Airy 3 Premium, 4D Premium, and Omega Premium as well as ZYX ARTisan Premium phono stage.

Also ZYX now manufactures interconnects, speaker cables and magnificent phono cables. All done by Nakatsuka san. Some of my associates who have been listening to these cables, did not take them off their system. So good!

We will be posting further details and pricing soon. Till then, please contact us for further details.

As always SORAsound has generous upgrade and Move-to-ZYX policy. In fact, customers who have bought a new ZYX Airy 3, 4D, or Omega from us or any of our authorized dealers from June 15, 2013 (the last three months before this announcement), qualify for full credit towards an upgrade to the Premium line until Oct 15, 2013.

Dear Customers, Friends, Associates:

From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for your great support ever since 2003 when we first established SORAsound and started representing ZYX, Co. in North America and the Americas. You have always been with us. I can not thank you enough. Please know that I will never forget your support.

SORAsound has had a long standing relationship with ZYX Co. In fact, we started SORAsound in 2003 because of our friendship with Nakatsuka san and his offer to us to distribute his fine products. 

You can always count on me, and SORAsound.

 

ZYX cartridges start with Bloom as an entry level cartridge (of course much better than many other high end cartridges), go to R100 series (R100, Yatra, and Fuji), then Airy 3, then 4D and then Omega and higher. In the following sections you read a bit about each cartridge and their specifications. Also you see some reviews included with their author(s) permission.

We will be adding more information here regularly. So please visit these pages again, and contact us for further detail.

Thanks for your support.

ZYX – Who Says What…..

On ZYX UNIverse II …..

“The ZYX Universe II X is the finest cartridge I have ever heard, in my own system or elsewhere. In fact, for only the second time, in my long audio life, I have heard a cartridge which has no weakness, even subtle, compared to the competition.”

Arthur Salvatore, high-endaudio.com

“ It is the music and the emotional intent of the composer that comes through with the UNIverse II. ”

” The UNIverse II delivers all of the phenomenal air, detail and clarity of the original UNIverse and extends those qualities to the bass…. . With more percussive impact and rhythmic drive the UNIverse II easily out performs both the UNIverse I and the 4D. “

Doug Deacon

On ZYX UNIverse…..

“It was God’s will that you asked us to build the UNIverse.”

Hisayoshi Nakatsuka, ZYX Co.

“I too am ‘in love’ with this (.24mVC) cartridge. I know this, because I met my own ultimate practical test of this ‘condition’; I now want to play all my favorite records all over again, and as soon as possible. This only happens when you experience a component that enhance the sonics of your system, to such a degree, that almost everything sounds ‘new’ and ‘fresh’. In short, your system sounds ‘born again’.

In conclusion, the UNIverse .24mV Copper is a truly great cartridge. It’s so flawless and difficult to criticize, that I find it’s easier and more accurate to instead describe its many strengths in a single concise sentence: Its utter realism is spooky.

Arthur Salvatore, high-endaudio.com

“The ultra-high resolution of the UNIverse provides a very deep and wide sonic image, with layers and layers of depth, each blending smoothly into the next. If the recording was made in a large hall, or outdoors, or in a small club, you will know it.”

Jerry Seigel, 10 Audio, June 2007

“This cartridge puts you in the same sound space as the performance. There is no barrier between you and the music. You are not on the outside listening in on the performance. Close your eyes and the instruments and voices are in the room with you.”

Doug Deacon

On ZYX Omega…..

“In a nutshell, the ZYX Omega G is one of the most musically engaging and satisfying cartridges that I’ve heard in quite some time. Many times I found myself unconsciously reacting to the music on the albums exactly like I would at a concert or jazz club. Head bobbing. Shoulders swaying. Wanting to applaud after an exceptional solo.”

Myles B. Astor, Positive Feedback

“Its most startling characteristic is a degree of purity unheard of in a a moving coil design.”

“You’ll hear how precisely rendered are any of the sound it decodes, this it does with a purity and low distortion that elude everyone else’s design, and that means virtually all of the competition.”

“It has the widest soundstage of all the cartridges we evaluated, and ,thus, the very best separation figures (and even makes sonic “sense” of that wide separation)”

“And because of its carzy-glue-like way of sticking to a groove, it has the lowest audible distortion thus the purity and the sense of sparkle aplenty.”

Harry Pearson, Absolute Sound, Oct. 2010

“There is also this unmistakable protrusion to the front of the cartridge in the form of a 1 gram sphere of lapis lazuli that acts as a concentrator and “drain” of any unwanted resonances. Yes indeed, this is one different animal.”

Ray Seda, Dagogo, July 2010

“Ultimately enhanced power sound version of ZYX 4D. From surrealistic sound to airiness in three dimensional can be sensed. You will be surprised afresh with massive information grooved in a record.”

Japanese Hi-Fi Journal, [Translated]

On ZYX 4D (previously called ATMOS in North America)…..

“While Mr. Nakatsuka of ZYX may design his phono cartridges with an artisan’s sensitivity, the sound of the Atmos certainly owes a debt to some well-applied science. Its audible frequency response was demonstrably wider than that of other cartridges, creating a dense and highly rhythmic presentation that was not lacking in the little thing…..”

Marc Mickelson, SoundStage! April 2008

“Never have I heard a cartridge sound so unstrained when unraveling complex musical passages.”

Frank Alles, Stereo Times, June 2010

“My first impression on hearing ATMOS was that this would be a great rock cartridge. Even though I was listening to a solo harpsichord at the time, the power, weight, authority, punch and bass were clearly evident strengths. Switching to ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ confirmed my initial impression. ZYX ATMOS really delivers when it comes to rock. There is no need to turn up the volume to feel the heart beats.”

For others who prefer a more relaxed, jazz-in-a-smoke-filled-club atmosphere, with the emphasis on the rhythm and drive from the double bass ZYX ATMOS will deliver the sound you enjoy.”

Doug Deacon

“I can confidently say that the ZYX 4D is the most tonally neutral phono cartridge I’ve had the privilege to hear.”

Jack Roberts, Dagogo, Oct. 2009

On Airy 3…..

“The clarity of its highs, rich but detailed midrange, and solid foundation in the lower frequencies opened up so much more pleasurable listening–in classical, rock, and jazz. But it was especially fine with operatic voices–so extended, refined, and nimble to the nuances, power, and micro-dynamics of the greatest singers on earth. Bravo!

Garrett Hongo, Contributor to SoundStage!

“Yes, the Airy 3x is a terrific music maker by all the standard parameters. But the overwhelming feeling of openness and freedom from any sense of hi-fi intruding on the musical message is the real strength of this wonderful cartridge. It makes you want to listen to music, lots of music. The Airy 3x is Captian Christopher Pike on Talos IV, freed of his life-support wheelchair. Unfettered. “The midrange is very smooth and yet present. Vocals and vocalists are definitely a strong point”

Jerry Seigel, 10 Audio, April 2005

“The midrange is very smooth and yet present. Vocals and vocalists are definitely a strong point”

“Another thing these cartridges do well is play low level passages really, really quietly. When the musicians are playing ppp the Airy’s portray it with a wonderful, hold-your-breath hush. If a mouse whispered you’d hear it.”

“The Airy3 on our Tri-Planar let the music kick us in the chest and frighten those poor cats. Bass guitar and drums were as rockin’ as with any cartridge I’ve heard. For you classical rockers, listen to eighteen tuned anvils on Solti’s ‘Das Rheingold’. Terrifying. Janos Starker’s Bach cello suites were rich and engaging with the Airy2. With the Airy3 Starker had us dancing on the coffee table. Now that’s a rockin’ cartridge.”

Doug Deacon

On R100 Series…..

“The ZYX [R100 Fuji] is also the purest and cleanest cartridge I’ve heard. Its sense of delicacy is without equal for me, especially in the high frequencies, which appear to have unlimited extension. Its tracking ability is outstanding, not only retaining its purity, but also its separation of instruments during loud, demanding passages.”

Arthur Salvatore, high-endaudio.com

“The R100H renders music’s foundation, be it orchestral, jazz, big band, or pop/rock, with a weight, precision, and realism that defies almost all others…..”

Scot Markwell, music.com

On ZYX ARTisan Phono Stage…..

“I played an Artur Rubinstein performance of Chopin. The effect was so pronounced, so immediately noticeable, that I didn’t make it halfway to my seat. I stood about six feet from the speakers and gaped. Rubinstein’s technique is frequently described as “chiseled”, a concept which never made a great deal of sense to me. After all, Chopin requires the greatest delicacy. Too much control, too heavy a hand, ruins the pieces…..

What I heard that night was the extraordinary way Rubinstein attacked a note and ended it. Each note was perfectly shaped, like a precious jewel, precisely as long as the artist intended: chiseled. A few nights later I recalled Artur Schnabel’s remark: “Anyone can play all the notes. What I do is play the space between the notes.” I heard this witticism when I was in music school, and like Rubinstein’s chisel, it never made a great deal of sense to me – until the ZYX finally made it intelligible.”

Dr. Richard Weiner, Bound for Sound

“With its combination of exquisite detail retrieval, rich midrange tonality, and the ability to delineate dynamically complex musical passages, the Artisan consistently paid homage to whatever music I played through it.”

Tim Aucremann, SoundStage! August 2008

On ZYX ARTisan Phono Stage…..

“This is, most likely, the finest head-amp I’ve ever heard. I state this because it is competitive with the finest transformers I’ve had, while all the many other (external) head-amps I’ve heard are simply not in that league.

Disclosure – The ZYX head-amp is a solid-state device! It is highly unusual for a successful cartridge manufacturer to also design and build an audio component that is so different in fundamental nature (non-mechanical in this instance), with such excellent performance.”

Arthur Salvatore, high-endaudio.com

ZYX UNIverse II

Our most sincere gratitude goes to Nakatsuka san, for creating yet another masterpiece. For those who only want the very best: UNIverse II.   On the surface, you see the familiar body of ZYX 4D. UNIverse II has Nakatsuka san’s secret recipe in it. This is the music as is.

Suggested introductory retail price $8,495. Please read a couple of reviews posted below.

Review by Mr. Arthur Salvatore of high-endaudio.com.

The ZYX Universe II X is the finest cartridge I have ever heard, in my own system or elsewhere. In fact, for only the second time, in my long audio life, I have heard a cartridge which has no weakness, even subtle, compared to the competition. More incredibly, and unlike the first cartridge to achieve that milestone, only a tiny number of cartridges I know of even match it in anyperformance area. The UNIverse II obviously breaks new performance ground, but before I examine those areas in detail, I would like to discuss the last 20 years in my personal cartridge history, which will provide the perspective that I feel is necessary to fully appreciate the UNIverse II’s important achievement.

My Recent Cartridge History (1992-2013) – A Quick Recap
The first cartridge I heard in the “modern era”, which had no “serious” sonic weakness, was the Benz-Micro Ruby. While some other cartridges still had minor advantages in certain areas, the Ruby had no “obvious” weakness, which I define as some sonic “problem” that any serious listener could hear, without even having to listen for it. Prior to the Ruby, every cartridge I had heard, at any price, had at least one (or more) fundamental flaw; lack of body; poor dynamics; loss of detail; veiling; no depth and/or focus; poor decay; loss of natural harmonics; lack of immediacy; missing and/or distorted deep bass; treble roll-off etc. The Ruby was different, it was “excellent” in every area, which meant that, for the first time, you didn’t have to choose, and then live with, one unavoidable sonic “poison” (at a minimum). This was a huge technological breakthrough at the time. Later in the decade, after a few other cartridge changes (now irrelevant), came the next important step forward…

The Transfiguration Temper was the first cartridge I heard with not even one weakness, obvious or subtle, compared to any of its known (to me) competitors. I simply loved this cartridge. It did everything as well, or better, than anything else, which is extremely rare in audio. Predictably, that desirable status lasted only a few years, and ended (for me) after I heard the top models from ZYX. While the finest ZYX cartridges were superior overall to the Temper, or anything else I had heard, they still had some sonic weaknesses compared to the best of their cartridge competitors.

Each ZYX model I* heard improved on the previous model, starting (I believe in 2004) with the FS Fuji; then the Airy 2; then the Airy 3; then the UNIverse .48mV Silver; and ending, in 2007, with the UNIverse .24mV Copper. However, even the UNIverse Copper had noticeable weaknesses compared to the outstanding Dynavector XV-1S (and later the XV-1T), and this finally brings us (6 years later) to the UNIverse II X, which is the upgraded “II” version of the (original) UNIverse .24mV Copper. Finally, to be clear, and consistent, the UNIverse II has no disadvantage (or “downside”) when compared to the I.

*One of my associates auditioned these top ZYX models, in his own system, before I did.

The UNIverse II X Performance Evaluation
There are four significant sonic differences between the UNIverse I and the II. The other improvements are also important, though they’re best described as enhancements of the I’s already acknowledged strengths.

1. More Natural Body, “Guts” and “Substance”- This is heard immediately, especially with male voices, or any other instrument within that range*, but it can also be observed at all frequencies. Just as important, this change is entirely “natural”, which I believe requires a further explanation, since this also involves the UNIverse I and other cartridges.

The critical point is that the UNIverse II has no “fat” tagging along with the extra body. This problematic “melding” happens with every other cartridge I’ve heard, with the one exception of the Dynavector XV-1S. The II is “light on its feet”, yet it still has true substance, and having this combination is one of the rarest qualities in cartridges, or audio components in general for that matter. Audiophiles almost always have to choose either flexibility or solidity, and then learn to live with a noticeable deficiency, but not this time. This is an achievement that only the very finest of components have ever accomplished.

So, to be clear, the UNI 1 was always “leaner” than the ideal (“perfection”), but outside of the Dynavector XV-1S, every other cartridge I’ve heard with supposedly more “body”, actually had more “fat” instead. Now some audiophiles may still prefer “fat” to “solid and lean”, but, from my perspective, this “cure” was worse than the problem, which is why I felt (and still feel) that the UNIverse I was a superior choice, overall, when it came to reproducing music naturally. For those listeners who place “musicality” as their highest priority, this will be the most important improvement.

*I listened extensively to the (Pure Reference Extreme) monitors by themselves, with the matching subwoofers turned off. This allowed me to isolate the different frequency ranges and thus avoid confusing one sonic change for another.

2. Greater Power, Weight and Impact in the Bass- This is also immediately heard and felt. In fact, it’s probably the first sonic difference a non-audiophile will notice. The bass may also go a little deeper, but I’m not certain of that, since what I’m observing could be a psychoacoustic reaction to simply hearing more power and weight at the very lowest frequencies. For many audiophiles, this will be the most important improvement, though that is not the case for me.

3. Greater Dynamic Force*- The UNIverse II has much more “balls” than the UNIverse I (which was already excellent in this area). The UNIverse II can actually sound “violent” at times, like a physical assault, bringing it noticeably closer to live music. It’s the least inhibited cartridge (or most uninhibited cartridge) I’ve ever heard. It has the power to startle like nothing I’ve heard. This improvement is easily noticeable at all frequencies (and with all instruments**).

For many audiophiles, and this includes the writer, this (unprecedented for me) dynamic capability will be almost a revelation. For those audiophiles who trust their “gut reactions” to a component above all else, this will be the most important improvement.

*Directly Related- Subtle and short-lived dynamic changes are also more noticeable and easily heard, so the music sounds more “expressive” as well, which many audiophiles will feel is another important improvement, though it’s not as “in your face” obvious.

**Though not with all records. Some records actually sound transformed, while others sound basically the same dynamically. This cartridge, like all cartridges, is obviously limited to what is already in the grooves.

4. More Information, and Better Focus, at the Soundstage’s Two Lateral Extremes- The UNIverse II has the most uniform quality of image, from the extreme left to the extreme right, I have ever experienced. The lateral extremes are reproduced with an unprecedented (for me) focus, solidity and separation. If there are any remaining differences between the musicians in the center, and the two sides, they are now subtle. The UNIverse II also sounds “larger” because of this, mainly due to the two far sides now being as real and as “active” as the center. The UNIverse II’s superiority over other cartridges in this area is very noticeable.

Visual Analogy- Think of a widescreen movie, which is out of focus and “washed out” on its two far lateral sides, suddenly appearing larger when those same two sides become focused, colorized and “solid”. This improvement will be most important to those listeners who value “imaging” above all else, especially focus, image size, separation and organization within that image.

The Other Sonic Improvements

In contrast to those described above, these other improvements do not change the fundamental performance level of the UNIverse. The UNIverse II has somewhat better overall focus everywhere in the soundstage, and not just at the lateral extremes. The recording space is also slightly better defined, which provides the listener a greater sense that you are in the actual recording venue. There is even greater transparency, with more information than I’ve ever heard at the back of the hall (or studio), though this is not a “breakthrough” improvement, like what occurs at the lateral extremes.

There is a little more precision and control (already a ZYX “strong suit”), which is especially noticeable during loud and complex passages. Finally, there is a greater capture of natural harmonics, so the individual character of the instruments is more easily heard.

The Practicalities
The 1st hour listening to the UNIverse II was simply awful. I was almost in tears! It took around 50 hours for it to sound as I describe, though by 30 hours it was close. Only time will tell whether there are still more sonic improvements to come, but if there are, I believe they will be subtle. The UNIverse II is very VTF and (room) temperature sensitive. I am currently using 2.25 grams. TheVTA is (surprisingly) less sensitive.
Conclusion
The UNIverse II is a significant advancement over the (already outstanding) UNIverse I. I would categorize it as a strong “Level 5″ Improvement (which means it is even more noticeable, and important, than the “II” upgrade of the Reference Lenco that I posted two months ago).

—————
Level 5-
 The improvement can be heard at all times by anyone with healthy hearing, including listeners with no interest in sound quality. The improvement is now always “significant”; meaning an audiophile can no longer enjoy their system without this specific improvement.
—————

On a purely subjective note…

The UNIverse II provides me the widest range of listener responses that I can recently remember from one component change, since hearing the (original) Reference Lenco/Graham Phantom back in2010Examples: “Goosebumps” have become much more common, and this is the most involuntary “gut” listener reaction I can imagine. I also find myself loving, or hating, certain recordings more than I did prior to the II, mainly because I now better appreciate the musicianship I’m hearing (or the lack thereof).

From another, more philosophical, perspective (though with practical consequences), the UNIverse II receives my highest compliment: It is a most surprising and unpredictable component, which is extremely rare praise from me. In fact, there has even been a delay in my evaluation schedule* directly caused by this cartridge’s sonic unpredictability (or else there could be some confusion). While other extenuating circumstances were also responsible, I don’t remember if I ever took such an inordinate amount of time to “digest” any component before moving on, but the UNIverse II has achieved this unusual, though highly telling, distinction. Make that “the last word” on it, for now.

Below please read the review by Doug Deacon.

Less Is More

The innovative and creative genius at ZYX has married two great achievements into a single cartridge. The inner workings of the UNIverse have been re-housed in the semi-nude body of the 4D to create the UNIverse II. It is a match made in heaven.

On hearing the UNIverse II for the first time we noticed a nice incremental increase in speed and resolution, resulting in a little more articulation, weight, detail and space around the instruments, compared to the original UNIverse. A pleasant improvement that wasn’t entirely unexpected from the change of the cartridge body. As a few more LP’s were played we noticed that the exceptional air and separation around the violins and woodwinds that we had always enjoyed now extended to the tubas and double basses. Pulling out records with rich, densely scored bass lines was an eye-opener. All the bass instruments were in their own individual space with surprisingly greater resolution of textural detail. Yet despite this avalanche of additional information, what really came through was the rhythmic punch and drive of the music. There is an added unification of the whole sound space that came with the additional spacial focussing of all the orchestral instruments. The UNIverse lifted the veil between the listener and the sound space. The UNIverse II completely immerses the listener in the sound space of the recording.

With the original UNIverse it was often possible to get lost in the admiration of the instrumental detail that was revealed in the mid range and highs to infinity. Despite extending this level of resolution well into the bass, it is the music and the emotional intent of the composer that comes through with the UNIverse II. Our best efforts to assess the clinical advantages of the UNIverse II were often cut short as we were pulled back into the music. It is not easy to evaluate the increased width and depth of the sound stage with involuntary head and shoulder sways induced by the beat of the music. For those that subscribe that music is built from the bass up, the UNIVerse II provides a strong, immensely satisfying and solid foundation.

The last thing I want to do is give the impression of detail, upon detail – but where’s the music? The music is there, first and foremost, the added detail enhances the listening experience. Those familiar with the extraordinary openness of the UNIverse know how revealing the sound can be for instruments like violin and acoustic guitar. They sound like real instruments and it is easy to visualize the sound box behind the strings. The UNIverse II extends this level of realism to the lower registers. There is a far greater clarification of the individual voices of each organ pipe. It is not just a low “C” the individual pipe is now easily recognized. As the size and shape of the body of a harpsichord can be so easily constructed from all the sonic information generated by the UNIverse, the same is now true for kettle drums with the UNIverse II. Everything can now be heard, from the striking of the taut skin and the reflections and resonances within the body of the drum to the subtle differences between two adjacent drums. The open body of the 4 D frees the UNIverse II to generate added weight, solidity and impact of every drum beat. The redesign has eliminated any perceived bass constraint of the original UNIverse.

The 4D body also brings the set up advantages of the 4D to the UNIvese II. As with any cartridge, the more time and care spent on alignment, tracking force and VTA optimization the better the results. This was especially true for the UNIverse; once the alignment and tracking force had been set properly then the VTA needed to be adjusted for each LP to get the very best sound. As with the Atmos/4D the UNIverse II has significantly broader tolerance for less than absolutely perfect arm height. We swapped records without adjusting the arm height for each LP and felt no overwhelming need to make any change. We have bemused many audiophile friends by our constant adjustment of arm height to get the very best out of the UNIverse. This is due to the drop in performance when the VTA isn’t exactly right. The arm height does need to be keyed in for the UNIverse II, but there is no need to make constant adjustments. Optimal sound requires optimal set-up, but the performance drop off due to the slight variations in arm height from one LP to the next are not significant.

The UNIverse II delivers all of the phenomenal air, detail and clarity of the original UNIverse and extends those qualities to the bass. The 4D body enhances all of the strengths of the UNIverse with better imaging, resulting in wider and deeper sound stages. With more percussive impact and rhythmic drive the UNIverse II easily out performs both the UNIverse I and the 4D. Our previous review of the Atmos (4D) left options as to which cartridge was better suited to any particular type of music. With the UNIverse II outperforming both predecessors there is no question about which top performing ZYX cartridge to invest in.

Less is more – so very much more.   

ZYX UNIverse — Dear to My Heart

“I too am “in love” with this (.24mVC) cartridge. I know this, because I met my own ultimate practical test of this “condition”; I now want to play all my favorite records all over again, and as soon as possible. This only happens when you experience a component that enhance the sonics of your system, to such a degree, that almost everything sounds “new” and “fresh”. In short, your system sounds “born again”.

In conclusion, the UNIverse .24mV Copper is a truly great cartridge. It’s so flawless and difficult to criticize, that I find it’s easier and more accurate to instead describe its many strengths in a single concise sentence: Its utter realism is spooky.”

Arthur Salvatore, high-endaudio.com

“The ultra-high resolution of the UNIverse provides a very deep and wide sonic image, with layers and layers of depth, each blending smoothly into the next. If the recording was made in a large hall, or outdoors, or in a small club, you will know it.”

Jerry Seigel, 10 Audio, June 2007

“This cartridge puts you in the same sound space as the performance. There is no barrier between you and the music. You are not on the outside listening in on the performance. Close your eyes and the instruments and voices are in the room with you.”

Doug Deacon

ZYX UNIverse is Nakatsuka Hisayoshi san’s masterpiece. when he built it, he told me it was God’s will that i asked him to build the UNIverse. We still have a limited number of ZYX UNIverse in stock.

ZYX UNIverse is best for classical music and Jazz. how about rock? well, we enjoy rock music with it too, and we have plenty of rock from Super Tramp to Nina Hagen.There are many reviews of (and comments about) ZYX UNIverse available on the web. Just google it and see how many people love it.

The following review is put here by permission from Mr. Doug Deacon, the author of this review.

ZYX was challenged by SORAsound (ZYX’s US Importer) to design and produce a world class, no expense spared, phono cartridge. They succeeded. The UNIverse is not an evolutional tweak to the Airy 2 or Airy 3. From the solid gold cryogenically treated pins and semi-nude shell to the sapphire terminal board, this is a cartridge on an entirely different playing field. The Airy 2 produced great music, the Airy 3 added speed, detail and articulation. The UNIverse leaves both siblings in its wake with a great top to bottom frequency response and phenomenal speed. Music, detail and articulation with finesse and refinement are just the start. There is true weight and authority behind every note. This cartridge puts you in the same sound space as the performance. There is no barrier between you and the music. You are not on the outside listening in on the performance. Close your eyes and the instruments and voices are in the room with you. The UNIverse has not lost its ZYX heritage. It is neutral and produces a wonderfully deep and natural sound stage. Nothing is thrown forward to make you part of the sound space; it is just that the front edge of the sound stage is no longer there.

As with all ZYX cartridges, the music comes first. The added speed allows more resolution of detail and really separates the instruments with their individual timbres. This inner detail adds to the musical experience. It is all part of the magic of putting you in the same sound space. The UNIverse is also fast enough to reproduce tape hiss as a gentle, silky, background hiss. No grittiness or graininess, just a silky smooth soft whisper. OK, no one gets into hi-fi analog to reproduce beautiful tape hiss, but it is a universal experience. For a musical revelation, those damn original instrument recordings now sound like real music. Oboes sound like genuine musical instruments; no more quacking ducks! High soprano choir notes are now fully resolved without a hint of shrillness. Just pure and natural sound. No missteps to remind you that you are listening to a recording.

Got Bass? You bet. Our speakers are only flat to around 42 Hz, but the UNIverse provides room-shaking power with authority and remarkable detail. This cartridge now allows the differentiation of the plucked string and the wood body resonances of double basses even in a full orchestra. There is appropriate weight and authority behind every note from the top to the bottom of the musical scale. It is not just the added weight to the rhythm; the melodic line played in the bass is now fleshed out.

On listening to a Bach Cantata with multiple choirs, orchestras and soloists it is quite remarkable that everyone is accounted for and their individual contributions are easily resolved. An old London blue back (CS-6153) of Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini revealed more of its hidden treasures when played with the UNIverse. There are staccato quarter and eighth notes all over the place. The UNIverse never missed a note, never missed a beat and revealed more of the subtle texturing of the notes than we have ever heard before, all with real presence in the room. Even with frequent doubling of instruments all melodic lines for each instrument are easy to follow, as are the wonderful subtle interplays between the various sections of the orchestra. Absolutely no blurring of one note to another, nor melding of two separate instruments into a single note. It is not just the notes, but the resolution of the quiet spaces between the notes. There is true anticipation as a musician creates tension with the slightest pause; completely drawing you into the music. To be perfectly honest, every single LP played with this cartridge has resulted in a significant revelation. The list just goes on and on. It is quite baffling that dragging a stylus through a groove can actually produce all this detail, power and presence. This cartridge really makes you stop and listen to the music. It is totally spellbinding.

Had cartridges like this been around 25 years ago, I doubt that compact discs would have so easily penetrated the marketplace. Be forewarned. A friend used to enjoy both LPs and CDs. Since the purchase of the UNIverse his Meitner has been collecting dust. We recently demoed a fully tube-modded Denon DVD-3910 against our stock DVD-3910 and our Arcam FMJ CD23. The ZYX handily dispatched all three without breaking a sweat, though I admit the Denons have an edge when it comes to picture quality!

It is difficult to write without reading like a babbling idiot, a sycophant or a shill. No, the UNIverse is not perfect. No cartridge is. How about the cost? This ZYX has surely joined the ranks of other obscenely priced cartridges, yet it provides outstanding performance for the money. How does the UNIverse compare with other cartridges? To give you some idea: an Airy 2 outperforms a Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum. The Airy 3 is a clear step ahead of that. The UNIverse isn’t even in the same ball park. I have heard one other cartridge that can just beat the UNIverse for speed, but that cartridge is no longer made and cost $10,000 in its day. We don’t have any other $10,000 cartridges for comparisons, but at one three-day listening session the owner of a Clearaudio Insider refused to mount that cartridge after listening to the UNIverse. He felt it would be a clear step backwards and did not want to waste our limited listening time.

The UNIverse is well behaved on a tonearm and is equally at home on a Schroeder Reference or Tri-Planar Mk VII. It makes great music on either arm while also revealing their unique sonic signatures. Since buying the UNIverse we have upgraded our speaker spikes, power amp and turntable. In each case the UNIverse instantly and clearly revealed the sonic differences. Each upgrade simply allowed the cartridge to show more of what it can do. The better the system, the more it gives.

Most of the above was written by Paul. I have little to add to his general comments about this cartridge, but perhaps some musical examples will be of interest. The UNIverse either made these revelations for the first time in our system or clarified what had been unclear before.

I’ll start with an imperfect record: Sibelius, ‘Finlandia’, recorded by Charles Mackerras and the London Proms Symphony for RCA (LSC-2336). The 180g Classic Records reissue suffers in some degree from a problem common to many of their re-releases, overly prominent highs. With previous cartridges Classic’s meddling with RCA’s equalization often made this record shrill and unpleasant. With the UNIverse, particularly when paired with a low-resonance table like our new Teres 320, the shrillness is much abated. The pushed highs are still very evident of course, but they are less shrill. The UNIverse’s refusal to collapse closely related waveforms into an inharmonious mass was never more welcome. Instead there is simply a near-holographic depiction of where the remastering engineers fiddled the response curve. The UNIverse makes this record easier to listen to while clearly displaying the engineers’ little tricks.

For an altogether pleasurable example I pulled out one of our best records, Bartok’s ‘Sonate Pour Deux Pianos & Percussion’ (French Erato STU-70642). Katia and Marielle Lebeque, brilliantly accompanied on percussion by Sylvio Gualda and Jean-Pierre Drouet, offer a rhythmic, driving, riveting performance of this 1937 avant-garde masterwork. This record rivals direct-to-disk releases for transparency and the dynamic range is shocking. Levels go from the barest whisper to ear- and room-shattering percussion impacts. If you don’t know this record I guarantee you’ll jump out of your chair the first time you hear it. Fine as the record and performance are, the music itself had always seemed to me more intellectual than emotional. No longer. The UNIverse coordinated Bartok’s intricate and extended rhythmic and melodic lines, and so brought them to real life. The UNIverse’s ability to play anything thrown at it, while maintaining proportion and relation, really allowed my system to make danceable, musical sense of this challenging score. Can your cartridge boogie to Bartok?

Lest anyone think we listen only to classical, I’ll mention the new drive and feeling the UNIverse brought to Clark Terry’s ‘Portraits’ (Chesky Records JR-2). These live-to-DAT sessions from 1988 prove not only that real music can be recorded digitally, but also that old trumpeters can swing and bop with the best of them. The UNIverse’s extraordinary bass response reveals that Victor Gaskin’s acoustic bass often drives the melody as well as the rhythm on ‘Jive at Five’. The UNIverse also resolves Terry’s trumpet and mute brilliantly on ‘Sugar Blues’. We all know the sounds of a muted trumpet. How many cartridges play the harmonic overtones of both trumpet and mute, separately yet simultaneously? This extraordinary clarity helps dissolve the barrier between listener and musician. You can almost believe you are there.

The UNIverse’s refusal to bloom or overplay a note also enhanced Louis Armstrong’s heartfelt, rich and breathy vocals on the 45 rpm Classic Records reissue of ‘St. James Infirmary’ (Audio Fidelity ST-91058). Other cartridges, even the well-controlled Airy 2, can make the tightly miked Armstrong sound larger than life. Not the UNIverse. Armstrong’s as close and sweaty as ever, but now he’s life-sized. This makes his heart-wrenching dirge all the more real.

One friend and fellow UNIverse owner complained to me, tongue in cheek, that it made everything sound like a harpsichord. Well, Satchmo ain’t no harpsichord but I know what he meant. This cartridge’s ability to play without compression, its clear portrayal of each fundamental and overtone without confusion, do indeed remind one of the richly varied yet transparent timbres and harmonics of that instrument. If the record actually contains a harpsichord you clearly hear key, action, plectrum, string and box, not to mention back wall echoes and the birds chirping in the rafters. Yet all these details are perfectly integrated to yield a convincing sonic impression of one thing, a harpsichord. In that sense this component is poetically well named. It sings every available tone and overtone yet all in one voice, as a UNI-verse should.

ZYX Omega

ZYX Omega — IMPROVED and available at SORAsound. ZYX Omega provides the most discerning audiophile the excitement they seek in analogue. As with all other ZYX cartridges, we stock the copper version, low output. But we keep a Gold coil version as well for those of you who enjoy the lushness of top model Koetsus. Lushness with realism.

  • In addition to ZYX 4D features, Omega incorporates K18 Gold Solid Terminals and Sapphire Terminal Board to eliminate sound coloration and extra vibration.
  • Lapis Lazuli Balancing weight (1g weight, 8mm Diameter) is attachd on cartidge top end to coincide sweet spot of cartridge body and gravity point of cantilever vibration system.
  • Material nature of Lapis Lazuli nurifies vabrating wave running from north pole on it’s surafce to the south pole.

“In a nutshell, the ZYX Omega G is one of the most musically engaging and satisfying cartridges that I’ve heard in quite some time. Many times I found myself unconsciously reacting to the music on the albums exactly like I would at a concert or jazz club. Head bobbing. Shoulders swaying. Wanting to applaud after an exceptional solo.”

Myles B. Astor, Positive Feedback

 “There is also this unmistakable protrusion to the front of the cartridge in the form of a 1 gram sphere of lapis lazuli that acts as a concentrator and “drain” of any unwanted resonances. Yes indeed, this is one different animal.”

Ray Seda, Dagogo, July 2010

and a rendition by my good friend Kahori Maki, a highly sought after Japanese artist (you can check out some of her art works at SORAsound gallery, in the arts section of SORAsound.com).

ZYX 4D

ZYX 4D – The ZYX that rocks.

  • ZYX 4D has 4 dimensional factors,reproducing 3 dimensional (Frequency (X), Level (Y) and Time (Z)) music, whenever, whereever, and repeatedly, going beyond time and space.
  • Two layer Laminate armatures enables both supreme magnetic effect and to kill eddy current.
  • Employing world first Super High Speed Reproduction Engine, making null magnetic resistance in magnetic gap.
  • Semi skeleton body eliminates resonance,4D removes side panel from the body.

“While Mr. Nakatsuka of ZYX may design his phono cartridges with an artisan’s sensitivity, the sound of the Atmos certainly owes a debt to some well-applied science. Its audible frequency response was demonstrably wider than that of other cartridges, creating a dense and highly rhythmic presentation that was not lacking in the little things…..” 

Marc Mickelson, soundstage  april 2008

“I can confidently say that the ZYX 4D is the most tonally neutral phono cartridge I’ve had the privilege to hear.”

Jack Roberts, Dagogo, Oct. 2009

“Never have I heard a cartridge sound so unstrained when unraveling complex musical passages.”

Frank Alles, Stereo Times, June 2010

Following is a review of ZYX ATMOS (no longer in production but same as ZYX 4D) by Mr. Doug Deacon. This review is put here by permission from Mr. Doug Deacon. (Picture below – Nami performing at Auckland, New Zealand’s symphony hall in honor of the victims of 2011 Japan earthquake).

When Mehran told us ZYX was introducing a new cartridge I wondered where it could possibly fit in an already full lineup. “Not to worry,” he said, “it’s a new design. I think it will sound very different.”

Those familiar with my enthusiasm for the UNIverse and its lower priced siblings can imagine my reaction. Why would I want to hear a very different sound? Well, they’d revoke my audiophile card if I refused to listen to something new. When he offered to let us audition his demo copy of the new beast – well – who among us would refuse?

The Atmos’ specifications are pretty much identical to other low output ZYX’s, but when I opened the box it was obvious that Mehran was right: this is indeed a new design. The Atmos has a body quite unlike the enclosed acrylic shell of other ZYX’s. Oh it’s still acrylic, but there’s barely anything to it. There’s a top, to hold the permanently installed mounting nuts, and a face and back. That’s about all. The bottom is vestigial at most. The sides are virtually nonexistent, so don’t go poking at them. It does have a removable stylus guard so some thought was given to safety, but it’s no cartridge for a klutz.

Knowing how much sonic freedom the semi-nude UNIverse has, I was quite excited by the sight of an almost fully disrobed cartridge. (I know what you’re thinking, so stop.) Before mounting it up I anticipated big dynamics and impact. Was that expectation satisfied? I’ll let Paul describe what we heard.

My first impression on hearing the Atmos was that this would be a great rock cartridge. Even though I was listening to a solo harpsichord at the time, the power, weight, authority, punch and bass were clearly evident strengths. Switching to ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ confirmed my initial impression. The Atmos really delivers when it comes to rock. There is no need to turn up the volume to feel the heart beats.

The Atmos is a different kind of ZYX. It is not just an improved Airy 3 and it is not quite a UNIverse. Its level of performance puts it significantly closer to the UNIverse than an Airy 3. However, the sound does not lie between these two cartridges; it has its own sound. This is due in part to a new body shape that is even more open than the semi-nude UNIverse.

As a classical music listener this cartridge has been an eye opener for me. I now have a better appreciation of why the goal of ever greater detail retrieval does not necessarily work for all genres of music, or for all listeners. The strengths of the UNIverse are its speed, detail retrieval, lack of sonic overhang and phenomenally extended highs; all of which work well for classical music. Friends who bring over rock albums all delight in hearing new detail on their LPs, but they are not always bowled over with the UNIvese. I now get it. The UNIverse can be too revealing. It is not a problem of detail overload. The problem is the resolution of the separate tracks that make up most rock recordings. Each track is revealed as a separate entity. Illuminating how an album was put together doesn’t always provide the full visceral experience.

Enter the Atmos. Unlike the UNIverse’s exceptional ability to drop every note when it is finished, the Atmos, like virtually all other cartridges, has a sonic overhang. The energy built up in the cantilever and coils keeps a note going a little longer after it has actually finished on the LP. This overhang is very short with the Atmos and is shorter than that of the Airy 3, but it is just enough to blur the edges of separate sound tracks and present a unified sound. With weight, power, authority, punch and drive coupled with a cohesive sound the Atmos delivers a highly satisfying rock experience. For rock many listeners will prefer the Atmos to the UNIverse.

The Atmos outplays the Airy 3 for all genres. The Atmos has more speed, weight, power, authority, punch and drive. The Atmos is also more forgiving about VTF and VTA. As with all cartridges, time spend finding the best VTF and VTA will be rewarded with the best sound. This is true with the Atmos, but there is less of a drop off in performance when slightly away from optimal.

So, how is the Atmos when it comes to classical music? It is very good and falls just short of the UNIverse. The initial trial with the solo harpsichord was very revealing. The Atmos doesn’t quite have the speed of the UNIverse and lacks the phenomenally extended highs. The Atmos didn’t convey the shimmering air around the strings as they were plucked. Without the extended highs the Atmos presented a slightly bass heavy, darker sound. The creaks and groans of the instrument as the pedals were pressed were more present with the Atmos. There was also that very slight sonic overhang at the end of each note. This small trailing tail prevents the full resolution of the gaps between the notes. There is more of a continuum of sound; a background ambience that holds the notes together. For highly energetic performances such as organ works this results in a less resolved and slightly muddy vibrato when compared to the UNIverse.

On most classical recordings we missed the extraordinary extended highs of the UNIverse when listening to the Atmos. To even the playing field I brought out re-released pressings of recordings made in the early fifties, The Kubelik Legacy on Mercury (MG 3-4500 & MG 3-4501). Not only are these great musical performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but the recorded sound is exceptional. Virtually the only thing missing are the extended highs. The weight, power, punch and drive of the Atmos breathed real vitality and presence into these performances. The Atmos picked up the bass line, drove the rhythm with great ease and provided an extremely satisfying listening experience.

So, for rock the power-punch of the Atmos delivers a highly enjoyable visceral experience. There is no need for most rockers to spend extra money for the UNIverse to get features which, in the end, may detract from their rock experience. For classical music the UNIverse is still the best ZYX cartridge, and one of the two best cartridges we have heard.

That was going to be the end of this review until both proof/goof readers asked the same question. What about jazz? Well, jazz listeners have an interesting choice between the UNIverse and the Atmos. For those who revel in the detail of wire brush strokes, vocal timbres and cymbal hits with natural, extended decays the UNIverse is the clear cut winner. For others who prefer a more relaxed, jazz-in-a-smoke-filled-club atmosphere, with the emphasis on the rhythm and drive from the double bass the Atmos will deliver the sound you enjoy.

Doug’s postscript…

I heard pretty much exactly what Paul described. To put it simply, this baby KICKS, big time.

It would be great fun to A/B an Atmos with a Dynavector XV-1S or Transfiguration Orpheus. My guess is that the impact of the Atmos would impress the fans of those two excellent cartridges, while the tonal accuracy of all three would otherwise make them more alike than different.

ZYX R1000 Airy 3 Phono Cartridge

“While Mr. Nakatsuka of ZYX may design his phono cartridges with an artisan’s sensitivity, the sound of the Atmos certainly owes a debt to some well-applied science. Its audible frequency response was demonstrably wider than that of other cartridges, creating a dense and highly rhythmic presentation that was not lacking in the little thing…..”  

Marc Mickelson, Soundstage , April 2008

  • World’s first Cryogenically Treated Magnetic Circuits/ The cryogenic temperature is – 196 (-320°F) that is the lowest temperature among other commercial cryogenic methods. Under this temperture, the metal parts come to be purified for regularrizing molecular structure to the original status.
  • Coil Wire for AIRY3-X/ Cryogenically treated 6N Crystal Copper.
  • Coil Wire for AIRY3-S/ Cryogenically treated 5N Silver.
  • Coil Wire for AIRY3-G/ Cryogenically treared 24 Gold.

“Wide and flat balance, clear and definitive feeling of being at a live performance. Its dignified and natural sound makes you sense performer’s sensitivity.”

The following review is written by Mr. Doug Deacon on Dec. 20, 2004 and put here with his permission.

This is a comparison of two ZYX R1000 series moving coil phono cartridges, whose full model designations are: R1000 Airy2-X-SB R1000 Airy3-X-SB In early September we acquired a new Airy2. Shortly thereafter SORAsound, ZYX’s USA distributor, asked if we’d like to audition one of the first Airy3′s to arrive in this country. They were seeking a comparison by some independent listeners. Both my ears and those of my partner Paul were used to challenge and verify impressions. Our two Ocicats, Neko and Moki, participated in but did not contribute much of anything useful to this review.

Basics, but not Boring Each ZYX R1000 Airy cartridge offers several options which must be specified at time of purchase. Using the cartridge model numbers above as a reference: “X” Represents copper coils. Silver coils are available for the same price and would be designated by an “S”. We chose copper simply because our tonearm and stepup transformer wires are also all copper. YMMV of course. We have not heard the silver coils and can offer no comparison.

Output Both Airy’s are available in either low (.24mv) or high (.48mv) output versions. The HO versions are designated by an “H” immediately after the “X” or “S” coil designation. We chose the LO versions and, provided you have enough gain in your phono stage, you probably should too. The lower output version of most MC’s tends to have less moving mass on the cantilever and is thus more responsive to fine groove modulations.

“SB” Represents an integral silver headshell weight. This $370 (list) option brings the fairly light (5g) Airy cartridges up to a more normal 8g or so. There is also an optional gold headshell weight for $1,200 (list) or you can opt for no headshell weight at all. This allows the buyer to tune cartridge and tonearm for optimal resonance frequencies without the loss of mounting rigidity that could result from add-on headshell weights. This flexibility and their medium compliance suspensions (12cu vertical, 15cu lateral) means that an Airy can be configured to suit most modern tonearms.

Mounting, setup and other trivia After receiving our new Airy2 I mentioned to SORAsound that installing this unthreaded, open slot cartridge was nerve-wracking and of uncertain rigidity compared to a threaded Shelter or Koetsu. The demo Airy3 had already shipped, but going forward every ZYX cartridge will include permanent mounting nuts. This welcome upgrade will ease installation and ensure solid headshell coupling. The near instant response from ZYX and SORAsound to my suggestion is hereby noted and lauded.

The Airy’s have the same tiny, micro ridge stylus used on other ZYX cartridges. This helps makes them the best groove tracers we’ve heard. This stylus also makes the Airy’s quite responsive to adjustments in SRA (formerly known as VTA). When set just right the sound of each instrument and voice is wonderfully realistic and present. The Airy’s are also very sensitive to changes in vertical tracking force. On our rig we play them both between 1.90 and 1.95g and have no difficulty hearing VTF changes of .02g or even less. Too much downforce reduces high frequency extension, which makes the music go a bit dull. Too little downforce and the highs start to get a bit too lively.

ZYX recommends an impedance load > 100 ohms if playing through an MC gain stage. When we played the Airy’s on a friend’s MC phono stage 100 ohms seemed best, though the Airy3 might have benefited from a very slightly lower load. We play through stepup transformers, however, which is a very different thing. A full discussion is beyond the scope of this review, but the optimal impedance load for an MC cartridge feeding a transformer typically falls somewhere between 1x and 3x the resistance of the cartridge coils. Both Airy’s have an internal impedance of 4 ohms (8 ohms for the the HO versions). I started both cartridges at 10 ohms. This happened to be excellent for the Airy2.

With the Airy3, however, changes during break-in were so rapid that we used seven different impedance loads in the first 60 hours! The optimal impedance for frequency-balanced response moved steadily downward from about 8.5 ohms to about 6.6 ohms before stabilizing. ZYX warns against using alchohol-based stylus cleaners, which might damage the suspension. They include a nifty stylus brush with each cartridge and SORASound also includes a safe, ZeroDust stylus cleaner at no extra charge. We actually prefer Paul’s DIY stylus cleaner. It’s nothing but a piece cut off the white portion of a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which can be found amongst the household cleaning products at your supermarket. Used carefully, this works better than any commercial stylus cleaner we’ve tried and it’s virtually free!

Sonics – Finally! Breaking in both Airy’s was blessedly painless, especially compared to some cartridges which give a fair impression of fingernails-on-a-chalkboard when new. Not with a ZYX. Both were enjoyable and eminently musical from the very first side. The Airy2 started off sounding a bit distant, but it relaxed easily and predictably from hour five to hour fifty. The bass and treble opened up, which moved the apparent listening seat steadily forward from the back rows to the front rows. That was it, no other changes were apparent. The Airy3 was more changeable, as noted above in the discussion of impedance loading. High frequencies opened up more and more, which required a steady series of adjustments to keep things in order. Stability seemed to arrive around hour 75, when the truly “airy” space around each very detailed instrument filled with the rich harmonics of instrumental and hall decays in a most natural and enjoyable way.

Both Airy’s are wonderfully musical and involving. The midrange is very smooth and yet present. Vocals and vocalists are definitely a strong point. In a well-matched and optimized system an Airy can nearly disappear behind the music. I have rarely been less conscious of the fact that I was actually listening to a groove being dragged past a pointed rock. When I remembered to think about it, the overriding impression was one of honest, uncolored neutrality. Much of the time I forgot, being too captivated by the music.

For those who have battled inner groove problems, say goodbye to all that. Both Airy’s flew through my toughest inner groove test LP’s with complete aplomb. ‘Les Plaisirs de la Renaissance’ (Harmonia Mundi, HMU 963) includes Alfred Deller’s crystal pure countertenor and a closely miked alto recorder doubling and harmonizing off his vocal line, all in a stony and reverberant acoustic. For some sadistic reason HM put the most challenging tracks on the innermost grooves. This torture test (or “that flippin’ la-de-da record”, as Paul puts it) has embarrassed some very costly cartridges. Those flippin’ la-de-da’s can too easily distort into earsplitting horror. Both Airy’s played them cleanly without effort, though only with the Airy3 did we both remark, “Aha! That’s what the musicians were doing!”

Another thing these cartridges do well is play low level passages really, really quietly. When the musicians are playing ppp the Airy’s portray it with a wonderful, hold-your-breath hush. If a mouse whispered you’d hear it. The Airy2 is especially magical in this regard. Any musician knows dynamics is about more than playing loud. Playing softly when the music demands it is a more difficult test, one at which the Airy’s are sublime. Both Airy’s image and soundstage brilliantly. The Airy2 measured 0.2db of crosstalk using Wally’s Analog Shop and the Cardas record. Read that number again folks, 0.2db! That is astonishing performance for a physical transducer. Images are tight and they stay tight. Instruments are right sized and solidly placed, with miles of air between them. On one large-scale recording after another we hear instruments outside the speakers and all the way to the back corners.

The Airy2′s bass is very articulate, but to get full bass power requires careful tonearm matching. More on that below. The Airy3’s bass is more articulate and extended and is much more powerful. In fact, given the right tonearm, the Airy3 outplays the Airy2 at both frequency extremes. The Airy3 reveals more details than the Airy2, though with both cartridges the details are always integrated into the musical tapestry. Some cartridges throw details to the front of the soundstage even if they don’t belong there. The Airy’s play very low levels of detail, but they place those details within a deep and broad soundstage and keep them in proportion.

2 for the money, 3 for the show? The Airy2 on a friend’s Graham 2.2 was as full-bodied and impactful as anyone could wish. The music truly came to life. On our Tri-Planar VII, however, (and reportedly on a Moerch DP-6) the Airy2 sounds slightly “reserved”. Rockers would just say it lacks balls. On big drum hits it was ever-so-slightly holding back from thumping us in the gut and stampeding the cats. (Okay, I lied. Neko and Moki did contribute to this review, if only by napping.) It seems the Airy2 may be especially well-suited to unipivots.

The Airy3 is more energetic. The maker says he redesigned the magnets to give the Airy3 more “freedom” without sacrificing any of the Airy2′s neutrality. He succeeded. The Airy3 on our Tri-Planar let the music kick us in the chest and frighten those poor cats. Bass guitar and drums were as rockin’ as with any cartridge I’ve heard. For you classical rockers, listen to eighteen tuned anvils on Solti’s ‘Das Rheingold’. Terrifying. Janos Starker’s Bach cello suites were rich and engaging with the Airy2. With the Airy3 Starker had us dancing on the coffee table. Now that’s a rockin’ cartridge. It was too much for the Graham 2.2, however. Despite all efforts at damping the sound was a bit edgy. As usual, it’s all about synergy. This experience suggests the Airy3 will be most rewarding on very stable arms like the Tri-Planar, Moerch DP-6 or perhaps a top SME.

Conclusion The Airy2 or Airy3 deserve a spot on the short list of anyone seeking a top caliber MC that is honest, uncolored and musically involving. In our recent listening they easily outplayed some famed cartridges that list for nearly double the price. Proper equipment matching and careful setup are required, as noted above. If your system can handle its full-bodied energy the Airy3 is the “better” cartridge. Otherwise, or if you simply prefer a beautifully musical presentation that stops just short of laser-like detail and rock-the-house dynamics, the Airy2 is immensely satisfying. They both offer superb groove tracing, a choice of low or medium output to suit your phono stage and the ability to tailor cartridge mass to suit most tonearms. Highly recommended.

Disclosure SORAsound gave us the option to purchase a cartridge at cost and has offered a further relationship if we want one. We ended up buying a UNIverse, the new top model from ZYX whose performance is in a class beyond the Airys, perhaps even in a class of its own. To our ears and those of four friends with much experience, these cartridges all outplay competitors that list for even higher prices. Getting one for a substantial discount from list represents excellent value for the money.

A word from Paul Both of these cartridges share the same electrically symmetrical coil windings that provide stunning left and right channel separation. This is the first attribute heard on listening to one of these cartridges and contributes to a great sound stage. They also share the same micro-ridge diamond stylus which allows for superb tracing of the record grooves. They are both detailed and articulate with no inner groove distortion problems. However, their different generators produce two distinct sounding cartridges.

The Airy 2 sounds good out of the box and becomes more detailed and powerful as the cartridge breaks in during the first forty hours. During this time the listening position moves from the middle of the auditorium to a front row seat. It is completely natural, neutral and with no coloration. The music emerges from a very natural unified sound stage. Everything is both detailed and in the right place. Along with the detail comes a revelation of the subtle nuances musicians use to infuse their performances with emotion. It is a fulfilling musical experience that is completely engaging. One can hear that a choir is made up of individual voices, but the Airy 2 can also present the overall voice of the choir. Subtle inflections by soloists are reproduced beautifully. Instruments quietly playing in the background are detailed and remain in the background.

The ZYX Airy 2 has an astonishing ability to play the quiet notes quietly and with detail. There is a genuine jolt when a note is suddenly played loudly. The power is there when needed and is always well controlled. Everything is presented with such an open and free naturalness that is easy to stop listening to the detail and be swept up into the music, fully appreciating the overall intent of the composer. The Airy 2 is always in control. It will never “bloom” a note, nor is it in its nature to sound shrill or blaring. The control always keeps the sound polite. It is a safe cartridge to listen to – it will not produce an unpleasant sound.

The extraneous detail that the microphones pick up such as the clicking of clarinet keys or the wheezing of the violist are there, but are held back behind the music. The bass is tight, focused and detailed but needs about forty hours of break-in to fully develop. For music lovers who enjoy the emotional experience of listening and can live without the need for the bass to rearrange the furniture, this is a wonderful cartridge.

The Airy 3 has a different generator design which allows for greater freedom. The immediate difference heard is the extra weight and solidity behind the sound, particularly from the mid range down. The Airy 3 can really retrieve bass detail and present it with true power. The barely perceived gossamer veil of control of the Airy 2 has been removed. The sound pours out of the speakers.

The Airy 3 is freer to respond to the full dynamic swings of the bass grooves without losing any detail. For detail aficionados this cartridge delivers. If the microphones picked it up and it made it onto the LP, you will hear it. It is amazing to hear the hang time and decay of a triangle over a full orchestra. On listening to Bach Cantatas it easily differentiates the cht, ch and sch endings of the words. Also the changes of the ch sound as it is modified by the preceding vowel as in ich, nach, auch is well resolved. It is not just detail, but the subtleties of nuanced detail that the cartridge can bring forward. It is not just a voice with vibrato – but the vibrato itself is clear and presented in a totally natural way. It is an amazing experience. The improved bass power of the Airy 3 really brings out the rhythm of the bass line produced by the cellos, basses and double basses; all with finesse and fine detail. The differentiation between the vibrating string and the harmonics of the wood body of violins, violas and cellos is now extended to the basses and double basses. The Airy 3 is more detailed across the board, but it is particularly noticeable in the bass. At the start of break-in the listening position is pretty much where the microphones were placed, producing quite a thrill ride. After roughly seventy hours the space between the instruments fills in with the complex tapestry of decays and room reflections, creating a unified sound environment. With this extra ambient detail the listening position backs off from the microphones and moves to the conductor’s podium. A little patience is needed before all the magic of this cartridge is revealed. The Airy 3 shares the same natural sound as the Airy 2. It is neutral and without coloration. The Airy 3 can also play with finesse and delicacy. It is not all about power and detail.

A note about setup I am not sure how appropriate it is to discuss setup in a review on how a cartridge sounds. The usual disclaimer “Individual results will vary” may be sufficient. We are on the fanatical side for setting up a cartridge to get the best possible sound from each LP. It is just a magically transcending experience when everything from the loading, tracking force and arm height is set to optimum. This level of attention to detail may not suit everyone, and your results may vary from ours. Other reviews of the Airy 2 have claimed the sound is somewhat flat and not very dynamic. This is true if the arm height is off. The Airy 3 has enough power and dynamics that an imperfect arm height doesn’t necessarily result in a flattening of the sound with diminished weight behind the dynamic peaks.

ZYX R100 Fuji Phono Cartridge

“The ZYX is also the purest and cleanest cartridge I’ve heard. Its sense of delicacy is without equal for me, especially in the high frequencies, which appear to have unlimited extension. Its tracking ability is outstanding, not only retaining its purity, but also its separation of instruments during loud, demanding passages.”

Arthur Salvatore, high-endaudio.com

Detail review in Mr. Arthur Salvatore’s website long before my time and well in the time ZYX was relatively unknown. ZYX R100 fuji moving coil cartridge is a very good mid range cartridge. For a long time, this was Mr. Arthur Salvatore’s reference cartridge, demoted to class B after he listened to ZYX Airy 3, then demoted Airy 3 to class B when he heard the ZYX UNIverse. For the rest of us, these are all class A cartridges!

  • World’s first 15 vital design points (*2).
  • Completely eliminated “Time distortion” and play back the sound that hve been the same sound balance at both channel and truly authentic to the original sound.
  • Improved magnetic circuit.
  • Boron Solid Cantilever/The lightest and rigid cantilever for wide range reproduction.
  • Micro-Ridge Diamond Stylus/Ultimately ideal stylus that can produce sound signal up to 100KHz and prolong life time to 2000 hours.
  • Coil Wire for all R-100/ 6-N class pure copper wire, having highly aligned crystal.
  • Coil Wire for R 100FX / World first 6N systematically crystalized copper wire, having been developed by the help of 2 companies in Year 2002.
  • Coil Wire for R 100FS / 5N silver wire.

ZYX R100 Phono Cartridge

“The R100H renders music’s foundation, be it orchestral, jazz, big band, or pop/rock, with a weight, precision, and realism that defies almost all others…..”

Scot Markwel, Music.com

  • World’s first 15 vital design points (*2).
  • Completely eliminated “Time distortion” and play back the sound that hve been the same sound balance at both channel and truly authentic to the original sound.
  • Improved magnetic circuit.
  • Boron Solid Cantilever/The lightest and rigid cantilever for wide range reproduction.
  • Micro-Ridge Diamond Stylus/Ultimately ideal stylus that can produce sound signal up to 100KHz and prolong life time to 2000 hours.
  • Coil Wire for all R-100/ 6-N class pure copper wire, having highly aligned crystal.
  • Coil Wire for R 100FX / World first 6N systematically crystalized copper wire, having been developed by the help of 2 companies in Year 2002.
  • Coil Wire for R 100FS / 5N silver wire.

ZYX Bloom Phono Cartridge

What a great little cartridge! It offers a large proportion of every good thing in higher models of ZYX phono cartridges – for a fraction of the price – and it does absolutely nothing wrong. Unlike most entry level MC’s there are no colorations, no sluggishness, no coarseness, no artificial anything. The trademark ZYX honesty and clarity are all there.

ZYX R50 Bloom phono cartridge, amazing sounding ZYX entry level cartridge. Of course it is better than many other high-end cartridges.

“We were frankly expecting a lower level of performance. Nakatsuka-san has produced a superb entry level model. We’ve heard $4K competitors that we’d toss in the dumpster in favor of a Bloom.”

“Natural sound having a pleasant texture. Easily and clearly reproduces even a shallow grooved or worn record. Designed for use by budget audiophiles with Champagne taste.”

  • Real stereo generator system, incorporating World first 13 vital design points (*1) and World first feature of eliminating time distortion, having the same playing back sound balance at both channels, truly authentic to the original recording.
  • Pure Damper Material, being long life time rubber with no powder filler.
  • Air Resonance Damper Mechanism in which 8 units individually assume the restoration.
  • Eddy current free cartridge body case, as one of above 13 vital design points.
Specifications (H = High output version) R50 Bloom
R50 Bloom H
Type Moving Coil (Dynamic)/REAL STEREO Generator System
Output Voltage 0.24mV (H= 0.48mV) [3.54cm/sec., 1kHz]
Frequency Response 10Hz ~ 40kHz
+/-1dB 20Hz ~ 20kHz
Channel Separation >25dB (1kHz)
Channel Balance < 0.5dB [1kHz]
Recommended Tracking Force 2.0gm (20~25C)
Tracking Force Range 1.8~2.5gm
Compliance horizontal (vertical) 15×10-6cm/dyne (12×10-6cm/dyne)
Trackability > 80um/1.8gm
Internal Impedance 4 ohms (H = 8 ohms)
Recommended Load Impedance > 100 ohms
Cantilever Material ALMg5 tube 0.38/0.3mm dia.
Stylus Line-Contact Solid Diamond
Contact Radius 6um x 35um
Output Terminals 1.25mm dia. gold plated [EIA}
Net Weight 5.0gm

ZYX ARTisan Phono Stage

“I played an Artur Rubinstein performance of Chopin. The effect was so pronounced, so immediately noticeable, that I didn’t make it halfway to my seat. I stood about six feet from the speakers and gaped. Rubinstein’s technique is frequently described as “chiseled”, a concept which never made a great deal of sense to me. After all, Chopin requires the greatest delicacy. Too much control, too heavy a hand, ruins the pieces. ……

What I heard that night was the extraordinary way Rubinstein attacked a note and ended it. Each note was perfectly shaped, like a precious jewel, precisely as long as the artist intended: chiseled. A few nights later I recalled Artur Schnabel’s remark: “Anyone can play all the notes. What I do is play the space between the notes.” I heard this witticism when I was in music school, and like Rubinstein’s chisel, it never made a great deal of sense to me – until the ZYX finally made it intelligible.”

Dr. Richard Weiner, Bound for Sound

“With its combination of exquisite detail retrieval, rich midrange tonality, and the ability to delineate dynamically complex musical passages, the Artisan consistently paid homage to whatever music I played through it.”

Tim Aucremann, SoundStage! August 2008

ZYX ARTisan Phono Stage Features

  1. Input Resistors made by ZYX
    The ARTisan preamplifier is designed using the resistor made by us. The resistor is made of pure copper wire, world first Cryogenically Purified Crystal Copper Wire which is also used in our R-1000 series X type. The resistor is made by winding the wire into a coil that has no inductance through a special process. Then our resistor can transfer the output signals with no noise and no inductance at all. You can listen to the effect in the pure sound of the Artisan.
  2. CR type RIAA Equalizer
    ARTisan employs a simple but most appropriate CR type RIAA equalizer circuit. Figure 1 shows RIAA recording circuit. As shown therein it has to be noticed that this circuit is comprised of CR configuration, as there is no necessity to employ other type of equalizer such as LCR or NF type. For precise reproduction of time information in musical elements, restoration is required to be made under the condition equal to original sound through CR type circuit. Because, music reproduction to natural sound equal to the reality is made best only by correctly reproducing time factor.
  3. Noiseless Power Supply and Rectifier Circuits
    ARTisan works with 9 pcs. of NiCd batteries in order to avoid normal power circuit noises. So the minute signals from an MC cartridge can be clearly amplified in the circuit. In addition, the Artisan is equipped with 2 types of stabilized rectifier circuits. One drives the linear amplification stage, and another equalizer stage. Thanks to these, extremely stable operation and noise-free amplification with wide dynamic range are secured.
  4. Two types of Inputs, MC and MM
    ARTisan accepts both MC and MM phono cartridges at respective input connectors. Figure 2 shows the Input Switch which enables you to use 2 turntables for comparison. For a listener who wishes to use an MC cartridge in the future, MM operation assures you of fine and unwearied performance of Artisan. MM input mode allows connection with an MC cartridge through ZYX CPP-1 pre-preamplifier, or an MC step-up transformer, or a head amplifier, so you can use 2 MC cartridges simultaneously. Please refer it to Figure 3 wiring diagram.
  5. 100% Playback Circuit
    To playback the sound information of an MC cartridge in 100% fidelity, ARTisan has a simple but special amplification circuit. Normally each electric part has its own time domain, and it gives unbalanced sound as the result. So, ZYX had to correct these each time domain to the perfect one through our own circuit. For example, we never use all resistors and capacitors with normal way. (patent pending)
  6. Electrically Skeleton Wooden Box
    A metallic shielded box makes the sound signals disturbed by some eddy currents occurred on the shielding surfaces. The ARTisan has no metallic surface around the circuitry. It enables you to listen to the effect in the fastest response in the sound of MC cartridge.
  7. Three different colors are available: Japanese Red semi-matt finished with genuine Japanese traditional ‘urushi’ lacquer coating (yes, you guessed it right, Mehran’s favorite), matt Black “urushi” finish, and natural Clear wooden finish with urethane coating.
  8. Handling
    Hook up RCA audio cables to a turntable system and preamplifier. Make sure that the tone-arm grounding wire is connected to the GND terminal of the Artisan. Connection of the grounding wire from the phono motor is subject to your listening result. Be sure to lower the output of the speaker with the level control before cable hook up.

Note: Please do not open the wooden box of ARTisan, otherwise the input resistors will be damaged soon, since they are made of very thin wire. Also, do not touch the batteries to avoid electrical shock on you.

ZYX CPP-1 Pre-PreAmp

“This is, most likely, the finest head-amp I’ve ever heard. I state this because it is competitive with the finest transformers I’ve had, while all the many other (external) head-amps I’ve heard are simply not in that league.

Disclosure- The ZYX head-amp is a solid-state device! It is highly unusual for a successful cartridge manufacturer to also design and build an audio component that is so different in fundamental nature (non-mechanical in this instance), with such excellent performance.”

Arthur Salvatore, high-endaudio.com

ZYX CPP-1 is a Pre-PreAmp. It is not a step up. Nakatsuka san used to make some very popular and good step ups which had to be discontinued (some parts were no longer available).

Statements below are from Nakatsuka san:

The input resistor is a very important part of the pre-pre amplifier. It is the first load of the generated signal of MC cartridges. The minute signals should go into the resistor without any influences from resistor noise and inductance. So that we recommend the made of pure copper wire.

CPP-1 uses the world’s first cryogenically purified crystal copper wire which is the same one as the coil wire of our R1000 series X type cartridge. The resistor is made by winding the wire to a coil that has no inductance in special process. The our resistor can transfer the output signals with no noise and no inductance at all.

You can hear its impact in the pure sound of the CPP-1.

ZYX CPP-1 Pre-PreAmp Features:

  1. Input Resistors made by ZYX: The input resistor is a very important part of the pre-pre amplifier. It is the first load of the generated signal of MC cartridges. The minute signals should go into the resistor without any influences from resistor noise and inductance. So that we recommend the resistor made of pure copper wire. CPP-1 uses world’s first Cryogenically Purified Crystal Copper Wire which is the same one as the coil wire of our R1000 series X type cartridge. The resistor is made by winding the wire to a coil that has no inductance in special process. Then our resisotr can transfer the output signals with no noise and no inductance at all. You can hear its impact in the pure sound of CPP-1.
  2. 100% Playback Circuit: In order to play back the sound information of MC cartridge in 100T fidelity, CPP-1 has a special circuit in the simplest amplification circuit. Normally electric part has its own time domain, and it gives unbalanced sound in result. So ZYX had to correct each time domain by applying our own circuit.
  3. Noiseless Power Circuit: CPP-1 works with 10 pcs. of Ni-Cad batteries in order to avoid normal power circuit noises. So the minute signal of MC cartridge can be clearly amplified in the circuit.
  4. Low Noise Charge Circuit: You can listen to music at any time. Normally you use CPP-1 with battery power supply, but you can use it while chargeing from AC, too.
  5. Electrically Skeleton Wooden Box: A metallic shield box makes the sound signals distrubed by some eddy current generated on the shield surfaces. So, CPP-1 has no metallic surface around the circuitry. It will enable you to listen the effect with fast response in the sound presence.

ZYX Live Headshell

ZYX LIVE Headshell is a beautiful headshell that comes in silver and black colors. Nakatsuka san has told me a few times that he thinks the weak link in a tone-arm is its headshell. this is why he developed ZYX headshell. I prefer the silver color and this is what i normally stock.

ZYX SB/GB

ZYX SB and ZYX GB. Silver Base (SB) adds about 4 grams to the cartridge and Gold Base (GB) adds about 6 grams weight to the cartridge.

The nature of the sound becomes somewhat different when you use ZYX SB or ZYX GB. Overall, I think SB provides the better value and we provide it as a gift (i.e. product feature) to our customers with the purchase of a ZYX Airy 3 or above. We think all ZYX cartridges benefit from the added weight and that the added weight should be included as a feature, hence our offer of this option as a gift  (i.e. feature) for airy 3 and above, or at minimal price for ZYX R100 fuji and below to our customers.

 

Specifications

Please note that specifications are subject to change without notice. There may also be variations, errors and/or omissions. Please contact us with questions. It would be our pleasure to help you.

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ZYX – North American Retail Prices

WARNING: We have seen ZYX cartridges sold on the web for very low prices. You get what you pay for: a 12 year ZYX cartridge, a modified serial number, a used one sold as new, etc. This is NOT a scare tactic. This is true. If you want to have lower priced cartridges, we often have demo and used cartridges with warranty. Buy one from us instead of a used one from someone else which they call new!

If someone offering you a ZYX cartridge (on the web or otherwise) appears to be an un-authorized seller, please ask for the serial number. We can provide its birthdate for you! Same with any used cartridge. If you doubt, ask and save yourself some hassle (and money) later on.

Give us a chance. You will love us.

Following you will find ZYX North American retail prices as of Nov. 11, 2012. Based on the exchange rates at the time of establishing these prices, our retail prices are below Japan retail prices. SORAsound and our associates always do our best to make sure you are treated fairly and are provided the best service and support possible.

ZYX UNIverse II   $8,495
ZYX UNIverse – Classic  $6,495
ZYX Omega $4,995
ZYX 4D $3,995
ZYX Airy 3 $2,995
ZYX R100 Fuji $2,395
ZYX R100 Yatra $1,795
ZYX R100 $1,295
ZYX R50 Bloom $995
ZYX Sigma (custom order) TBD
ZYX Diamond (custom order) TBD
ZYX Mono Cartridges 80% of stereo sibling
NEW MODEL: ZYX ARTisan PRO phono stage $5,495
ZYX CPP-1 Pre-PreAmp $1,995
ZYX Live! Headshell $695
ZYX Ring $445
SB/SB2 Option + Zn (nuts) $395
TB/TB2 Option + Zn (nuts) $245

All prices and specifications are subject to change without notice.

All purchases are non-refundable, non-exchangeable. Please refer to SORAsound Policies. We will be happy to answer any question you may have. Please ask before purchasing.

Warranty: ZYX cartridges purchased from SORAsound and its authorized associates carry a one year direct manufacturer’s warranty with ZYX, Co. from the date of purchase. This warranty is non-transferable, applicable to the original owner only. ZYX cartridges are known for their great sound and quality. In case of a problem, like all our other products, it is the manufacturer (not SORAsound) that decides the cause of the problem, and whether or not it is covered under warranty or not.

If you purchase a ZYX cartridge from an un-authorized party (ex. grey market), your cartridge will have no warranty.

Re-tipping is provided at 70% of the retail price (80% for ZYX Sigma and ZYX Diamond). We will exchange your cartridge with a new one. We will also provide you with upgrade options.

We often have demo and / or used cartridges from customers who have upgraded. Please enquire. SORAsound also has generous trade-in, trade-up and MOVE-TO-ZYX policies.

Bad boys and girls. Please do us a favor and do not buy from us…better yet, please do not contact us to begin with. Just do not deal with us and we will love you for that!

In all our years we have had less than a handful of customers we prefer not to do business with. We are not shy to tell those people not to contact us for future business. We want to focus on our time and energy on our customers, the good boys and girls we love.

No tire kickers; those who try to put a couple of dealers/associates pitting against each other for $50; people who are just not happy with their lives, and make us miserable too; people who try to find fault with everything including the audio industry and try to tell us how to run our business; the ones whose offers I accepted but said they need to talk to their wives and get back (thanks for not getting back!), the one who broke his cartridge, blamed the cartridge, but told his friend he broke the cartridge himself, etc.

No “cyber bullies” and “loud mouth bribing.” Some try to “bribe” us by either threatening to post or posting negative things on the web regarding our products or service. Well, I got to tell you – my father was a judge and aside from integrity and love in my family, I learned not to ever let be bribed.

Bad boys and girls, please know that I’m always available for a candid and professional discussion and will forgive your badness but if you continue to be as you have been in the past, please do us both a favor and do not contact us.

Good boys and girls. This is really ALL our customers. As cliche as it may sound, we love our business because of you. You make it fun for us. We love you and do our best to make sure you are happy. Many of our customers have become good friends who visit us or call just to say Hi. You are always welcome to our home. Please do not feel you have to buy anything if you contact us. Just call. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

ZYX FAQ

Here I try to answer as many questions as I can. Some questions will be answered with the help of your audiophile virtual friends. Please know that everything here is copyrighted by SORAsound. No parts of this website can be copied without SORAsound’s written permission.

When it comes to installation, most of us like to set our table/tonearm/cartridge once and forget about it for a few months if not a few years. This is possible.  Below you find some information and suggestions for your bedtime reading. If you think I need to add other stuff here, please let me know and I do that.

Everything is system dependant, person dependant, etc. In the great tradition of ours, please accept our disclaimers and please do everything and anything with care. Whatever you do, please keep the stylus guard on as you install and when you are not playing records.

Please ask cleaning ladies, kids with balls in hands, and unknown people/animals to stay away from your analog rig. You are responsible for use, abuse, mistakes, successes and the ultimate joy of your ZYX and audio equipment. Love from SORAsound.

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