|Some time ago, I had been considering buying one more new MC carts and had posted a thread under the title of “Phase Tech P-1G and ZYX Omega-S”. I have finally chosen the latter, i.e. ZYX Omega-S. For their basic design theories, please serve yourself browsing the official websites as I won’t repeat the details here. The following is my brief impression and unofficial opinion on the cart after playing it for around 50-60 hours in my system. |
The arm tube or the baseline of the cart is roughly parallelled to a flat record when playing. The VTF applied is slightly less than 2.0 gm for the moment when the room temp is around 18-20 degree in Celsius (around 64-68F), relative humidity is around 80% when auditioning. The VTF applied sounded very good to my ears but couldn’t make it a cart with the best trackability on HFN and Analogue Productions test records (frankly, it doesn't really bother me:). In finding suitable VTFs, I would first experiment finding the lightest VTF which could track well on those test records (with this Omega-S, it was around 2.1-2.15g) with a minimum anti-skating force applied. Then, try lower the VTF by playing different music on different records (probably the ones that would be used in the listening sessions), the practical “sweet spot” of VTF for actual playing would be established according to our preference, and for this subject review sample is slightly less than 2 g.
Choosing step-up transformers:
Breaking in a cart is always time-consuming, Omega-S was of no exception. As its sound started to stabilize (like a bottle of Penfold's Grange in the decanter, taste excellent!!!), I began to play around with my SUTs (Phase Tech T-3, Stage 302, the one built in EAR 88PB). With Phase Tech T-3, the sound was marginally acceptable but the resolution and tonal balance was not the best. With Stage 302, it was not lively enough for such pricey cart, and the 22dB gain seemed to be too low for an MC cart with 0.24mV output. Good news was the hum and residual noise in the background was the lowest. But imaging and soundstage seemed to have rooms to improve.
For this preliminary review, the built-in SUT in EAR 88PB switched at 4 ohms was adopted. It offered the best possible imaging and soundstage with reasonable high/low extensions. It is believed 4-10 ohms transformer loading with gain more than 26dB is more feasible in my system when using SUTs. For your reference, ZYX recommends resistor loading larger than 100 ohms and ZYX's phono stage is usually set at 125 ohms. Bear in mind it’s not a conclusion nor should it be binding for everyone, in any systems. Even in the same system, as time goes by, all settings may change accordingly.
For quick review, I always begin with classical. IME, if an MC cart can sound “right” with classical, it can’t be too “wrong” with other music genres but not necessary vice versa. I will post some photos of the records I used later.
Spinning Wilhelm Kempff’s Franz Schubert Sonata A minor, D.845, Omega-S could unfold a full-sized grand piano between the speakers with lush harmonics and timbre complexities, though with a very slight tendency towards the warm side and a bit emphasis upon lowest octaves. This tendency, however, was proved to be a partial result of using EAR 88PB as the character could be diluted by rolling with some Siemens made PCC88s in V3/V4 (still experimenting other tweaks, I will report the results later). In general, I was really impressed by the real-life energy, transient attacks and complexities of the piano which could not easily be experienced with other carts. In comparisons, other carts sounded like a miniature 2-D image. To illustrate more, it was just like watching a 150-inch full screen (Omega-S) and a 50-inch flat panel TV (other entry level carts) between the speakers.
For vocals, Omega-S seemed to be able to smooth out some bad digital recordings by removing the excessive sibilations. It could be regarded as slight coloration of the cart. Personally speaking, however, I wouldn’t mind this type of “smoothness” as long as it’s not overdosed. Not all recordings are “perfect” in any system. If it could make the sonic presentations more enjoyable without an overwhelming character, it should be regarded as a suitable amount of dosage. Whether it’s a good or bad thing, it’s up to you and could be very system dependent.
Playing “Almost like being in Jazz” by Hugh Masekela, the bass for the first song, "You’ll never know", recorded on Side A is a bit exaggerated. It seemed Bernie Grundman had tried to adjust the tone control later on and made the rest of the recording as close to live performance as possible. Omega-S still presented the exaggerated bass for the first song in an acceptable way without losing any control. The dynamics of the flugelhorn blew the stylus to a slight tension state…Omega-S may need more break-ins or I have to fine tune the alignment, VTF, VTA, etc, later.
These are my preliminary impression based upon the first 50 hours playing. No conclusion yet as the review continues…