Bad experience with ZYX AIRY 3


The Airy 3 is very well rewiewed here in AUgon, in many other articles here and there on the web and seems to be much appreciated by a lot of audiophiles...
However did someone had himself a bad experience with this cartridge and for what reasons ?

I have had only great experience with this cartridge after apox 8 months
I have had mine for about a year and have nothing but praise for it. Sorasound (Mehran) is great too.

Sorry. Mine is unbelievably good.
All great things to say about my Airy3 & Mehran at Sorasound! Go for it Andre. It will be a blast on your Verdier. Cheers,
Mine is also terrific. It surely competes favorably with most anything out there.

The Airy 3 is as good as it gets...unless you purchase a UNiverse...and the service that you will receive from Mehran is even better!!

Dear friends: With all my respect : all of you give an answer that Andre is not questioning.

Now, I think that what I heard by my self on this cartridge I can't say was a " bad experience ", no: what I can say about is that this cartridge has problems at both frequency extremes and that if you have the right audio system or you heard it in the right audio system ( full range one ) you could corroborate my statement about. This is not a " bad experience " but it is a " faulty experience ".

Andr{e, the Celebration beats easily that cartridge.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I did have a bad experience with a ZYX Airy3...

I A/B'd it with a ZYX Universe, which replaced my Airy 3!

The Airy3 is a wonderful cartridge. You will be very happy with it. Mehran at Sorasound is the best!
Love my Airy 3S, loved the service from Mehran, love the performance it provides...

"this cartridge has problem at both frequency extrem"

Please could you describe exactly what kind of problem ?


I would like to know what frequency problems you are referring to as well.......... My system is as full range as most (20-22k) and I have not heard the problems you are mentioning. Is your system full range??

Their main problem: Too cheap!
I bet, when they would be distributed normally with the regular pricing they would get much more respect. See the Shelter story. Or the Koetsu hype. No one says it is the best in the world ( Zyx in general or the UNIverse ), but I can definetly say, there is much worse out there for much higher pricing. Raul is not mad about it, it is his opinion, I am not mad about Koestu's ( for example ), others are ....
For a completely indepent viewpoint,not owning the UNIV,but having heard it,for what I considered a lengthly listening session,it WAS/IS a very special design.Please don't get into what I,myself,was guilty of(in a somewhat related matter)!!
The cartridge contenders,for the CROWN are plentiful,but I didn't need to hear all of them(I have heard quite a few,though),to allow me to feel that this design is special.My friend just bought an Airy 2 and loves it!He previously had a Sumiko Celebration.A very nice design.

One thing that really showed up with the UNIV,was a spectacular sense of high freq air,and body.I have heard a load of great H/F reproducing products,but the UNIV really "nails" it!

We didn't play as much deep bass laden material for me to ascribe the same attributes to those frequencies,but I see no reason (since everything was quite well balanced)why it would not be stellar there,as well.Though this could open the floor to questions regarding bass,"sometimes you just know when something is right".This was the case,for me,regarding the bass issue.

Sorry,but that was my perception of that cartridge,as it appeared to sound,in a given system!!I think it is an accurate description,without going into a full blown review.You can see a really good one,on the "review" threads.

Now there are some new designs about to make it to the market,that will be fascinating to learn about.These little transducer/treasures are SO much fun to learn about,as they are the "least" hernia inducing component we can acquire,and as I am now keyboarding this with a wicked case of the flu,I care not to think about anything requiring much effort,at the moment.So,please,if anyone cares to ridicule the validity of my opinions,on this design,please remember that I cannot feel much worse than I do already!!

Hi André, Raul ...

Firstly to André - I'm trying to put myself in your place - a difficult one to say the least.

You have likely not heard a ZYX in a familiar system and have been reading all of the gushing commentary about the ZYX lineup.

If one were to look at all of the ZYX threads from the outside, one could easily conclude that ZYX owners have collectively drank the Kool-Aid and departed for the Mother Ship.

I read posts on this and other forums about various pieces of gear and wonder the same thing about the posters, and therefore how their opinions apply to me - a guy who doesn't like the taste of Kool-Aid.

To Raul -

I'd like to issue a friendly challenge to you, because your experiences with the ZYX line puzzles me and is inconsistent with other areas where we agree.

In general I find my observations to be in agreement with you. For example, I share your love of the Dynavector XV-1s. My experience of its counterpart - the ZYX Universe - is that they are far more alike than they are different. Both cartridges are world class performers.

The Audiogon thread research doesn't take me to all of your posts. I could only find one of your previous posts relating to this topic. It's a thread on the Universe, Collibri, XV-1s where you quote a response from Masaaki Sasa of Dynavector. So, let's start with that thread, which addesses the topic of ...

Tracking Force:

In that thread, Masaaki Sasa advised you that tracking an XV-1s at too high a force may improve trackability but will kill top end response.

The ZYX cartridges are similar in this respect. I've found that tracking from 1.90 to 1.95 grams is the range you need to use - this is in fairly cool rooms (69-70 degrees F). If your room is hotter, my guess would be that you need to be in the 1.85 to 1.90 range.

Phono Stages:

I know you have a custom phono stage which you think very highly of - comparing it favorably to the Vendetta Research, for example. Unfortunately, I have no way of hearing your phono stage and how it loads a moving coil cartridge.

MC Gain:

Interestingly, my evaluations (and I think most on this forum) have come using step-up transformers. In my case, I've used S&B, Lundahl, Audio-Note Trans 476 (silver winding), Sowter, and a few lesser known brands, including an impossible to find trannie from Frank Schröder's personal stash.

I know that you don't favor the use of trannies.

Perhaps the ZYX line this is one case where your dislike for step-ups is misplaced - especially in the context of your phono stage? Maybe trannies work well with ZYX's and you've never heard these cartridges strut their stuff because of this?

I have currently cleaned house on my transformers (getting ready for some new iron from Dave Slagle at Intact Audio - disclaimer: no commercial interest - just mentioning him for others' benefit), so I don't have any transformers to loan you at present.

Perhaps another member has some good iron sitting around that you can try with a ZYX. I'd be interested in your comments.


Your turntables (Micro Seiki Rx-5000, Acoustic Signature) are of a very high standard. I see no problem here.

Tonearm Matching:

The ZYX's will work (with silver base) with as light an arm as the Triplanar (haven't tried Graham, Lynn, SME ... likely o.k. too).

The upper limit seems to be 22-24 gram effective mass. That's NOT a misprint. My Universe (silver base) doesn't even blink at the thought of my 18 gram Schröder (ebon wand) tonearm. I've actually tried adding 5 grams by swapping in a brass cartridge carrier to get to 23 grams.

I've listened to both the Airy-3 (both silver/copper coils - each with silver base) and the Universe (copper coil/silver base) in Schröder, Triplanar, and Micro MX-282 tonearms, on my turntables.

Did you use your Ikeda 407 on the ZYX? This would be my choice for your rig. In spite of the compliance numbers, the ZYX line enjoys high mass, as I mentioned above.


I've used the Dynavector XV-1s in the above comparisons because it's a cartridge that we both agree on, and it's also the Dynavector which I have most experience of. I also consider both ZYX and Dynavector cartridges to have a consistent family sound throughout their line, so that one can easily extrapolate what XV-1s' and Universe's baby brothers sound like.

I find the XV-1s and the Universe to be very much alike when set up in appropriate systems. Both the XV-1s and the Universe come very close to the musical bulls-eye. Are either of them perfect? Not on your life - I haven't found the perfect cartridge yet.

Do both cartridges bring a wide smile to your face? U-Betcha-By-Golly.

Do they both cartridges make you want to play every record in your collection? Again ... a big YES!

The Dynavectors tend to ever so slightly over-emphasize the leading edge transients, and their sound is a bit exaggerated. I use the term "Technicolor" to describe them - you know, like th early color movies where the flesh tones were a bit on the pink side, and the blues were a bit too vivid. These movies were still fun to look at, and in a similar way, the Dyna is fun - having that Alnico magic.

The Universe has a more accurate tone color. In comparison with the XV-1s, the Universe is just a bit soft up top - only slightly. It is absolutely magical with massed strings. There is absolutely NO STRESS or edginess with this cartridge, and dynamics while very fast, are just a bit short of the mark (about as far short as the Dynavector is overblown in this respect).

These are very subtle differences between two world-class cartridges in an imperfect world.

As I write this, realize that I have ZERO tolerance for bandwidth limited cartridges. I'm in complete agreement with you. I cannot for example tolerate a conical stylus Ortofon SPU's riding on an SME 3012R. Yes, their midrange is glorious, but the top end is non-existent and this to me is a fatal flaw.

Thom @ Galibier

I held off posting so you could get responses, positive or negative, from ZYX users other than me. The concensus is pretty overwhelming, but I wonder why you started this thread?

When you asked me about your Airy 3 it had only 10 hours on it. I suggested the following before you made any judgements:

- put at least 150 hours on it, preferably 200

- try increasing VTF in small increments (.04g) over a wide range (1.85-2.15g)

- try reducing arm height in small increments (20 on the TriPlanar dial) over a wide range (from level to tail down)

- try a small degree of damping using the TriPlanar's trough (this only as a last resort)

That was just three days ago. You haven't had time to do any of this very thoroughly. What exactly are you asking for?

Top level MC's require exacting setup to perform well. This requires thought, patience and persistence.


Extraordinarily good post. Lots of great info there. Just one teensy correction:

Maybe trannies work well with ZYX's and you've never heard these cartridges strut their stuff because of this?
A ZYX doesn't require an SUT to perform well.

My UNIverse, the Airy 2 and the Airy 3 all sound better with my gain stage than with the 3-4 trannies I've heard used. (That is only because this gain stage is better than those SUT's, nothing to do with the cartridge.)

Again, thanks for a wealth of solid, real comparisons,
Hi Doug,

I had to wonder whether or not Andre's post was a troll - especially with the thread's title ... not even a question mark at the end. Can one be anymore provocative?

This did give me an opportunity to think out loud however ... about issues I've been working through privately.

Thanks for reminding me that you've found a great phono stage with MC gain.

One thing that continually gets lost in the mix with respect to equipment commentary is the "smile factor". At the end of the day, you either want to listen to your tunes, or you don't. It's really that simple. All of our gear has some flaws in it, and if we focus on that instead of the joy it brings us, we are hopelessly tortured souls.

Obviously, we need to characterize it in some way in order to have some sort of meaningful discussion, but we need to be able to return to answering a very simple binary (thumbs up thumbs down) question.

Rather than drag all of this out with repetitive babble, anyone interested can link over to my Rants page - to a rant entitled "Evaluating Audio Gear - You Shouldn't Have to Get Used to It". The theme is "balance" and avoiding a de-constructionist approach to this stuff. When you start thinking in this way (as opposed to in a holistic way), you are doomed to misery.

Thom @ Galibier
Thanks guys,one more reason for me to step up the ZYX line,using the FUJI R-100 FS and loving it!Quick question if you can help.How do I decide between,example Airy 2 S and Airy 2 X?Also I own an Aries 2 and JMW10 is the SB option a good idea for improvement?Thanks Mike.

I've had the copper and silver UNIverses side-by-side in my system. The silver was slightly slower/smoother on leading edges. It slightly rounded off initial transients. Some people find this sort of thing pleasant. I find it distracting. YMMV.

The copper is more neutral and has more lifelike microdynamics. It does not round off (or exaggerate) transient leading edges. Notes sound like what was cut in the grooves, neither more nor less.

I haven't heard a silver Airy 2 or 3 so I can't be certain this characteristic translates to those models, though I would expect it to. The Airy 2-X is already a somewhat gentle sounding cartridge. Gentling it more might really be too much. OTOH, the Airy 3-X is very free and powerful. Gentling it a touch could be helpful in some systems.

Whichever coils you choose, the SB option will yield a major improvement on a JMW. Strongly recommended.

Thanks Doug,I've talked to Mehran and he suggests the "S" just because, I believe ,I told him my preference for music is Jazz and older 70's rock.I haven't quite got to the point of appreciating classical,so I listen to it very little.I do prefer the "warmer" side of things so maybe the silver would be better,decisions decisions.Thanks very much for your response.Mike

Thank you for your answers .
The Zyx airy 3 seems to be a cartridge wich keeps its promises .

Must be patient...


Your preference for "warmer" certainly indicates the "S" over the "X".

For jazz the Airy 2-S would be good and the Airy 3-S would be very good.

For classic rock I would strongly recommend the Airy 3-S over the 2-S. If you can manage the few hundred extra dollars it will be worth it. It's a much more powerful cartridge.

Dear Chris, Tom and friends: Problems on ZYX?: soft at both extremes. Chris I think that I have a full range system: flat in room from 20 Hz to 30 kHz.

I really don't know the kind of resolution that have your ( each one )audio systems and that " resolution " is a very important subject to make any evaluation/comparison between different audio systems..We can take a look to the Chris ( Cmo ) system: it has the ML Prodigys that, in the best room and with the right electronics , could goes flat from 30/35 Hz to 22 kHz: here Chris can't " keep his eyes/ears " on the quality bass sound reproduction. He is using and external phonostage that needs additional cables and connectors for be linked to his preamp and that phonostage use additional stages through the SUTs for high gain output, the amplifier has a high output impedance of around 1 Ohm and this impedance preclude a flat frequency response due to the interaction with the electrical impedance of the Prodigys, all the Chris tube electronics are coupled through additional transformers and capacitors.

All these issues tell me that Chris can't hear the " soft sound " at the frequency extremes: too many " veils ", too many colorations and distortions, a lot of " equalization " to the original signal. But not only Chris is in this case: several other people " suffer " this " stage ".

The other factor that disturb to me is: against what reference do you all are doing your evaluation/comparison?:
this is what Tom post about the Universe:

+++++ " There is absolutely NO STRESS or edginess with this cartridge, and dynamics while very fast, are just a bit short of the mark ... " +++++

Tom, the live music has " STRESS and edginess ", no question about.
As you know and I posted several times my reference is always: LIVE MUSIC and this makes a great differences between what many of you evaluated in front what I evaluate about.

Cello: +++++ " The problem is that Raul shows up every time a ZYX thread appears and proceeds to post and bash the ZYX line... " +++++

Larry, I'm not bashing anything, the real problem is that with your audio system ( that I respect ) you can't hear what I'm telling about, that's all. Be happy.

Btw, the important point here is that you all are extremelly satisfied with ZYX cartridges and this subject is what matters for all of us: sustain in that " road " !!!!

Tom, tks on your offer on SUTs but I already have all the experiences about and that's why I don't use it.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Thanks again Doug,your suggestions are what I'm working towards.Mehran has givin me great service and I've committed to his Airy2 demo sale.I'm sure I'll be upgrading again,what else is new.I'm looking forward to the SB feature,my Fuji doesn't have it.I guess there'll be a Fuji R100-FS H on the market very soon,personel plug, ha ha.Regards Mike

Thanks for your thoughtful response to my post. My system page needs updating, sorry. I am now running Avantgarde Duo 3.2's, Art Audio PX-25, Aesthetix Callisto sig, etc...... The system is "full range" (if 20-20k is what you call full range).

Although I have not had experience with every top MC cart out there, I know and understand music and musical reproduction.......... The ZYX is not "soft" at the extreems (I am guessing that by "soft" you mean it doesn't reproduce these frequency's accurately (For that matter, what exactly do you mean?)). I think you are right in that it does not have the leading edge def. of the Lyra and Clearaudio carts........ Is this what you mean as soft?

As for a stereo system (even yours) reproducing a "live" musical event........... sorry to rain on your parade. There isn't a system out there that can reproduce the real thing....... In the end, what we are all doing is reproducing a recording (which is a reproduction of the original event in the first place). So please don't talk to me about "veils" .......... I have spent too many years actually playing a musical instrument (that's me "live"), mixing "live" music, and recording "live" musicians to fall for that old cliche'.

Thom,thanks for such an informative post!Unfortunately I was not able to digest it with the usual level of "low stress factor",that I usually enjoy,when a thread goes to this length!The reason for this was,my daughter kept whinning for me to get off her computer,so she could go online,and order another "Handbag of The Month"!

Normally I like to print out lengthly posts of this quality,to "digest",while enjoying the leisure of a long lunch break!Had you been considerate enough to give us a "heads up",as to how "good a read" this was going to be,you'd have saved me some grief -:)

My advice to you is twofold:
Firstly, when you DO think you have such interesting info,to post,please be so kind as to preface it with an "advanced warning,of really good content"!This will help to muffle the amount of "nagging" I'll receive,and give me the option of printing it out -:) (One advantage of owning a printing center).

Secondly, "Buy stock in COACH,or LOUIS VOITTON"!!

Hi Pechtm,

I've also got the Fuji FS (w/o silver base) and have been thinking about seriously upgrading. Like you, I listen to mostly jazz and rock, although classical is recently on the rise in my collection.

I think the Fuji is an absolutely fantastic cart in most respects, but in my setup, it seems to lack to tonal body, weight, and drive of my other three carts(Grado "The Statement", Cartridge Man Music Maker III, and Denon DL-103d) on 70's hard rock or large scale classical like Mahler & Wagner.

In all fairness to the ZYX, though, most of this may be simply a result of less than optimal tonearm matching and/or cart setup. First and foremost, I'm relatively new to vinyl and my setup skills betray that. Second, I have a very unique and rarely used tonearm(Scheu Tacco) that is less than ideal for cartridge swapping/comparison and lacks any form of repeatable, calibrated, fine adjustments. The arm is intensely musical in the right situations, nonetheless.

In this particular situation, the Tacco and Fuji simply may not be a perfect match. Or, I just haven't been able to find the "sweet spot".

*** I don't want people to interpet any of this as a sign that the ZYX Fuji is lacking in any way. My system falls into a 1% category of preferred design and performance criterion(flea-powered, hi-efficiency, single driver w/ extremely rare tonearm) that results are highly unlikely to be the same in the vast majority of other people's setups.***

Regardless, from Doug, Mehran's, and other's remarks around here, the Airy 3-S may better address my personal needs. I'm saving pennies for a different tonearm right now that will allow fine, calibrated, adjustments in all three planes like Doug's Triplanar or one of the used Dynavector 507 mkII's for sale right now. After that, I'll look into forming conclusions about any of the carts I have.

Owners of unweighted ZYX's using relatively low mass arms like JMW, Scheu Tacco, etc. would almost certainly benefit from additional mass at the headshell.

Try something simple and easily reversible, like a blob of Blu-Tak on top of the headshell or something.

How much mass to add? Thom's post above gives a clue. Subtract the effective mass of your arm from 18 or so. Add about that many grams to the headshell. Rebalance, reset VTF and play.

I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. The body, drive and weight that darkmoebius misses in his Fuji will probably show up, ready to boogie.

An unweighted ZYX on a low-medium mass arm could indeed be "soft at the frequency extremes" as Raul says, particularly at the low end. I'll wager that's what he's heard. I've heard it myself. On the right mass arm, however, I have not heard those problems.

As usual, best performance requires careful component matching and exacting setup. I'm certain Raul understands proper arm/cartridge setup. But I don't believe he's heard many ZYX's in his own system or had the time to do his usual extensive series of careful arm-matching tests.


Thanks for re-iterating that point, Doug. I've read all the posts in this thread, yet somehow Thom's wise advice didn't hit home with me.

The effective mass of my Scheu Tacco is 14 grams, so I will try 4 grams of blue-tac later this week. Then, work my way up from there over time to see where the improvements stop.

Great news because here are already so many things that Fuji does well, some added body, weight, and authority will take it over the top.

I'll give it a week and report back my findings. The key thing, I think, will getting the blue-tack weight evenly spread on the headshell and rebalancing as you point out.

Many thanks to all the veterans who share their experiences around here.
Dear Chris: Of course your system page " urge " an update.
I know very well Avantgarde speakers and I like it specially the almost imposible ( for others speakers ) " inmediacy " presentation of the recorded music: like the real event!!!

I can " see " that you insist on tube technology in your system nice for you: all what I told you in my last post is the same about the use of that technology.

" The leading edge ", yes this is one of the problems. Btw, this leading edge is a live music characteristic and ZYX can't achieve it, till today.

+++++ " There isn't a system out there that can reproduce the real thing....... In the end, what we are all doing is reproducing a recording (which is a reproduction of the original event in the first place). So please don't talk to me about "veils" .......... I have spent too many years actually playing a musical instrument (that's me "live"), mixing "live" music, and recording "live" musicians to fall for that old cliche'. " +++++

I never say or presume that my system or any system can reproduce the " real thing ": of course it can't.

For the " old veils cliché ": I'm not talking of any cliché, what I'm talking is that in the way that you have less links/stages/veils in the original signal reproduction you will have a better quality sound reproduction, that's all.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Subtract the effective mass of your arm from 18 or so.

Doug, what if the effective mas of the arm is 25-35 grams? Is this too much for a ZYX? My arm is an ET2 with 25-35 grams horizontal and 7 grams vertical effective masses. I'm thinking about a Bloom.
I am not sure the the compliance of the Bloom but my guess is you need a cartridge w. medium compliance or higher. Unless you can add weight at the headshell. Otherwise the bass will suffer.
i am considering a zyx also.the universe is beyond my price range but would appreciate any advice on which others in their lineup might match well with my audible illusions 3a and vpi tnt junior tt with 12.5 arm.i have a manley amp so pretty much an all tube system.thanks guys.

Adding weight at the headshell would make your horizontal eff. mass even higher. Doesn't seem like that's the right direction.

Assuming a horizontal eff. mass of 25 and using the usual formula gives a caluclated horizontal resonance frequency of 8.83 Hz, well within the safety zone.

If horizontal eff. mass is 35 horizontal resonance frequency would drop to 7.26 Hz, a bit lower than optimal.

It doesn't look like a serious mismatch. Lower compliance cartridges might be better matches "on paper", but I doubt you'd have any actual problems with a Bloom.
How did your experiment of adding 4 grams of Blue Tac to the headshell ever work out for you with your Fuji ?

"Chris I think that I have a full range system: flat in room from 20 Hz to 30 kHz..."

Raul- I have had this discusiion before. How do you know you are getting flat response into your room? Have you measured it for flat response using a spectrum analyzer or some other device?

I am enjoying the music.

Unfortunately, I never got around to adding the extra mass to the headshell before I sold off the Fuji FS. Work kicked into extra high gear leaving no time at all for audio the last 6+ months. And my current tonearm, although superb sounding, made cartridge swaps and fine tuning a real chore for a newbie like myself.

Sadly, the last time I turned on my system, at all, had to be at least 3-4 months ago. Maybe more. So, I decided a ways back to slowly start selling off the extra components that I don't use. At that point I had - four carts, four amps, three sets of speakers, two turntables, cables, etc. That much stuff sitting around and never getting used is ridiculous.

I'm going to trim things down to one fulltime high-efficiency system that will pack the maximum emotional punch. I'm thinking of actually switching to a Lenco rebuild and selling off my Scheu tables and tonearm.

An occasional downsize is probably good for perspective and general appreciation. Though, I will be back to a ZYX sometime next year - probably one of the Airy's on a different tonearm.
The Lenco sounds like a great way to go. I have a friend who is quite happy with his Lenco paired with a Tri-Planar arm (he has both a UNIverse and a Dynavector XV1-S cartridges)and loves them both). He does give a slight edge to his Garrard 301 over his Lenco at this point.
Let us all know when you are back and running and which ZYX cartridge you end up getting.
All: I am running an Airy 2 low output copper coils with a Morch UP4 red armwand and The Cartridge Man Isolator Pad: The Cartridge Man Isolator works wonders by way of frequency extension and the added benefit of running a Nordost Tyr balanced cable into my Aqvox Phono- Pre cannot be overemphasized. The Isolator adds about 4 grms of mass and as Doug suggests makes a big difference
I suggest all try extra mass while breaking in cartridges. It makes a big difference.