I ordered an Aida right before the Zephyr was announced, I'm trying to get them to switch it out.
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Macdadtexas, I have the Classic also and have a Dynavector XX but was contimplating the Grado Reference 1. Why are you keeping the Grado and the Zephyr? I would be very interested in your opinion of the Grado Reference 1? Since I wasn't sure the Grado would be for me, I was thinking of the Sonata 1 so I wouldn't loose to much. Thanks for any help.
Thanks Macdadtexas and Bsme85... based on what Soundsmith and VPI had to say about the Zephyr, I assumed it and the Classic would work nicely together. Any more details about your experience? What type of music do you listen to? Low level detail? Overall tonal balance? Tracking ability? Apparent surface noise on less-than-perfect records? What do you like best (or least)? Etc?
If my bank account makes it through the holidays basically intact, I'll be cartridge shopping for my Classic next month.
Tracks, perfectly (although my experience is that any cartridge if not damaged, will track well if set up correctly, and I used the excellent MintLP protractor for this set up).
Low level detail is excellent, not quite the Ortofon A-90 (which is now my ref for all cartridges after hearing it recently), but it is excellent.
Tons of bass slam, and speed. (I have read reviews, while glowing which call the Classic a bit on the lean, and not warm side, but I have not found that to be the case, especially with this cartridge). My test track for Bass is always "So Lonley" by the Police. Both Sting's Bass, and Stewart Copeland's kick drum are in the room with you on with this set up. I'm very happy with it.
The highs are sublime and not rolled off at all. Clear, with a seamingly limitless ceiling. Great match for my Cary/Maggies combo.
I listen to a lot of Rock (from the Beatles to Arcade Fire and Widespread Panic), Classic Rock (Journey, the Police, AC/DC), Hard Rock/Metal (Led Zep, Mettalica, Black Sabbath), Vocal Jazz (tons of Ella, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra), instrumental Jazz (love Chet Baker, Dave Brubek), and some orchestral.
Did you speak with Peter regarding the sonic differences between the Aida and the Zephyr?
Both are the same price but utilise very different cantilever/stylus arrangements. Aida has the SS's topline Ruby cantilever/optimised line contact while the Zephyr uses and Aluminium/Elliptical setup. Zephyr has much lower compliance at 10µm/mN vs 22 µm/mN for the Aida (or 28 µm/mN with the high compliance option).
I'm thinking the low compliance Zephyr would be more appropriate for my Phantom arm, but I really like how the ruby cantilever/optimised line contact sounds on my SS retipped 103R.
Thanks for the reply Macdadtexas.
After reading the blurb on both products it seems the Zephyr's elliptical stylus was used to alleviate the tracing problems with azimuth roll in unipivot arms.
Since the Phantom has the 'magnaglide' stabilisation to prevent azimuth changes, maybe the line contact equipped Aida would provide higher performance for my situation(?).
Perhaps I'll enquire with SoundSmith.
Bsme85 - quite right. I used line contact type styli with my previous Graham 1.5T - which is a traditional unipivot - and got very good performance.
I was just repeating the SoundSmith ad-speak.
They're suggesting the elliptical shape of the Zephyr's stylus has some benefit in dealing with the inevitable azimuth roll of an unstabilised unipivot. I suspect the elliptical profile presented to the groove would be more consistent than a line contact under conditions of slightly changing azimuth.
FWIW, I've found line contact styli to be quite critical of azimuth adjustment.
When looking at the two similarly priced Soundsmith MI cartridges - the Aida and the Zephyr (and yes, I realise there are design differences) - my thought is that a stabilised unipivot - whether that be a Phantom, Vector or Continuum etc - would probably get more benefit from the line contact shape since they are not prone to azimuth roll. But I guess Peter would be the one to ask on this.
I'm not suggesting stylus shape over-rides other design advantages that any particular cartridge might present on an unstabilised unipivot. IME the stylus shape chosen has a major influence on the recovered sound and I personally tend to favour retrieval properties of line contacts.
Update on set up. Originally used the VPI jig for alignment. Sounded great, but wanted to step it up a notch.
Purchased a MINT LP protractor. Wow! What a difference. So much more dialed in now in the soundstage department.
Do yourself a favor and purchase the MINT LP. Worth every penny. Plus you know your investment is sounding its best.
Hi: I'm late to post, but I want to add my comments for the benefit of folks who are contemplating purchasing the VPI Zephyr. As a general matter, I concur with the comments offered above. Specifically, it's one of the best cartridges I have ever played. My Zephyr has about 15 hours on it, maybe even less. I don't know how long the break in period is, but I can't even imagine how much better the sound may be like after break in.
Specific comments include imaging and sound stage are eerie, almost like the singers, orchestras, bands, whatever, are performing in between my speakers -- no sh*t! Bass is tight as he*l and extended. If there's "real" bass impedded in the grooves, the Zephyr digs it out. Trackability is excellent. This sucker plays old records that give other cartrdiges indigestion. And vinyl hiss and pops, hardly any. Almost as clean as CD. I almost reached for my CDP clicker to replay a track, but realized I'll have to get off my butt and do it the old fashion way. Oh well, we audiophiles DO have to make sacrifices. By the way did I mention the Zephyr sounds great too -- ya think??
Ok some specific advantages that some folks may find particularly relevant. I own a VPI Classic (w/ Classic 3 arm upgrade) to twirl my vinyl. If you look at some of my other threads, I have had a tough time matching a cartridge to the Classic. In the case of the Clear Audio Maestro and Virtuoso, I picked up a bass resonance. One possible explanation may have related to the resonant frequency of the cartridge/tone arm combo.
I then tried an Ortofon 2M Black. It sounded pretty good, but I heard a crackling sound when tracking transient dynamic grooves. Lots of hiss and pops too. A possible explanation might have related to the fact that the 2M uses a Shibata stylus, which is essentially a line contact stylus. As some of the posts above mention, tone arms that use an unstabilized uni-pivot arrangement, like the Classic, may have a tough time tracking unless azimuth is perfect. Good luck!
In fairness to the gear, as I mentioned in other threads, I realized that I didn't tighten up some set screws at the bottom of the tone arm base which might have caused the problems. At this point, I'll never know for sure because the cartridges mentioned above are history. I didn't get a chance to find out if tightening up the set screws would have made a difference.
Ok, now the weaknesses . . . . . .
Well, it's time to get back to the music. I'm spinning a remastered new release of Roy Orbison's greatest hits. Da*n, I can even tell the type of breath mints Roy used.
Macdadtexsas, the Zephyr continues to amaze me. Other cartridges might have done an ok job of separating Roy, the background singers, and the band, but nothing like the Zephyr. There's almost space in between Roy, the background singers, and the band. Same with my old symphonic records. The instruments are hanging in space.
And, sorry to repeat this point, but for some reason the cartridge doesn't pick up all the hiss and pop garbage from my old vinyl. Raquel, another A'gon contributor, is pretty knowledgeable about stylus configurations. He/she (not sure) may want to speak to why the Zephyr elliptical stylus could do such a good job. Perhaps, the diamond size or shape is such that the stylus is riding on "virgin" vinyl parts of the grooves.
Another point goes to the JMW arm. It seems that the JMW uni-pivot is generally well respected. However, I find the need to make so many adjustments annoying. So far, my experience has been that adjustments relating to azimuth and VTF are a particular PITA, and those types of adjustments have to be dialed in with precision when using certain cartrdiges, e.g., the Ortofon 2M Black (with the Shibata stylus -- a line contact type).
By contrast, there seems to be a natural synergy with the JMW arm and Zephyr, which is no surprise because Peter Lederman and Harry Weisfeld collaborated in the design of the Zephyr. So far my experience is that dialing in azimuth and VTF is a lot easier and more forgiving. I don't know how "transferrable" this synergy is to other arms. So anyone using another arm who is contemplating buying a Zephyr should make appropriate inquiry, perhaps with Peter Lederman.
Macdadtexas, as far as audio life beyound the Zephr is concerned, I suggest that you source as much quality vinyl as you can and just enjoy it. BTW, if you are thinking about tweaking cables, send me an e mail through A'gon. I think I may have sourced a well respected vendor who can custom construct high quality I/Cs at a very reasonable price.
Can anyone comment on the TONAL qualities of the Zypher? I've heard that the Aida/Boheme are more neutral and detailed than the Zypher and that the Zypher is more lush and romantic sounding. Those wanting to add some tubelike qualities to their front end would choose the Zypher and those wanting the benefits of solid state would choose the Aida or Boheme. Thoughts? As a Scout owner, I'm more inclined toward the Zypher since it is expressly designed for the JWM arm but my system leans a tiny bit toward the warm side and I want my cartridge to be dead neutral rather than rolled off or romantic sounding.
Bshapperd, am I correct in assuming that the Simaudio Moon is your current phono pre?? Notwithstanding whether it is or isn't, I own the Zephyr - as I've already mentioned above and am pleased with its performance on my VPI Classic. It's output is 2.3 mV and requires a pre that has 47K ohm input impedance, which means that most phono pre's should be able to handle the carty. [As an fyi, the DV 20X2 is my backup carty.]
I think the more important question is whether the phono pre/linestage you're looking at will mesh well with your amp. That changes your question around quite a bit.
Although my phono pre is an ARC PH-7, soon to be PH-8, I wouldn't recommend it because I don't know how it will work with the rest of your gear -- as just explained.
And one bit of advice, if you open-endedly ask what is the best [insert: line stage, phono pre, amp, etc], you'll get a million responses. I generally refrain from answering those types of inquiries unless I strongly suspect or know that a particular combo is a natural fit or a bad fit.