Review: ZYX R100H cartridge

Category: Analog

This is the first time I've ever written a review, no other upgrade in my recent memory has muster up enough excitement for me to sit down and write. I will do my best to describe what I heard. The component I'm talking about is the ZYX R100H cartridge.
My analog set up consist of Michell Gyro SE with rewired Rega rb-300 tone arm. Cartridges I've had in my system includes Grado, Sumiko Blackbird, Ortofon OM-20, Benz Glider, and briefly an Audioquest MC.
After reading a ZYX R100H review by Robert H. Levi of PFO, I was very interested and purchased one from Mehran of SORAsound (one of the nicest guy). Got the package a few days later. Inside was a small fabric bag, followed by a small thick wooden box with a clear plastic lid, the cartridge mounted under the lid is also clear not black like what I've seen in pictures. Nicely done.

I mounted the cartridge, set tracking force at the recommended 2 gram and threw on Tracy Chapman Crossroads, a record I've listen to many times. The ZYX certainly sounds different, I turned the volumn up to my preference level. What I noticed almost right away is that I can clearly hear stereo imaging and pin point where each instrument is located in the soundstage, there were much more detail than what I've heard with other cartridges. I noticed subtle details that I've never heard before in the recording (sorry for the cliche : ) The overall sound is very neutral and realistic. With as much detail the ZYX was able to dig up, I never found it to be bright or harsh, the soundstage now has expansive width and gave my system depth which I never had (a weakness with my system due to the speakers being to close to the wall) Bass, mids, and highs all sounds just right and not at all rolled off. The pops and ticks I usually hear is now reduced to static like noises at the far edges of the soundstage. On Santana Greatest Hits, the ZYX showed how dynamic it could be, pace and rhythm sounds right and I never felt like I was missing anything.

If you're shopping for a cartridge in the $500-$700 price range and your system have enough gain for med. output cartridge (.48), I urge you to save up a little more and get the ZYX R100.
Thanks for the review. I've been curious about this cart. Could you provide details about how the ZYX compares to the Blackbird?

The ZYX is more neutral than the Blackbird, the Blackbird is very detailed but in the wrong system it could sound a little thin and slightly upward from neutral.
With the ZYX, I can hear better stereo imaging and pin point where instruments is located, this really impressed me. I consider the ZYX a level above the other carts I've tried. The Blackbird is very good, it just wasn't as believable as the zyx as far as being natural.
It has been 10 days since I made the final decision on what cartridge to use for my VPI Aries 3 TT with the JMW 10.5i Memorial Tonearm. Inputs from Jack, Nick Sy and the numerous replies from fellow Wiredstate members were indeed very informative and insightful, and in many ways, served as my guide in my pursuit for the cartridge I can consider to be a "bang for the buck" choice for my spinner.

The general consensus, which I found accurate based on my actual listening experience, was that the Plinius 9200 paired with the Dynaudio C1s produce a warm sounding acoustic signature. In this regard, the suggestions were for me to go with a cartridge that sounds neutral, leaning a bit to the bright side, to ensure that transparency and details will not be missed out. After a thorough research and budget considerations, I settled on the ZYX R100H.

Off I went to the distributor of ZYX, Audible Illusions, to have it installed. The moment I first heared it play, I knew I hit a gold mine. The sonical characterics I was looking for were right in front of me. And considreing that the TT was being played in a store space with very minimal acoustic treatments further reinforced my belief that luck was on my side that day. More so, I didn't find the sound to be inferior to the one I heard from the same TT, fitted with a $6000 Airtight PC-1, when I first auditioned it. But I held back on my excitement knowing that the final judgement could only be made when I get a chance to hear it sing together with the rest of my set-up.

The following day I landed in Tacloban eager to test it right away. To my dismay, my Cavern, the name I gave my AV room, remained unfinished. I had to wait for another week for it to be ready to accomodate my gears. The moment I had them in, I started to use first my old TT, a Rega P3-24, and my Cayin CD-17A to observe the sonical difference versus the living room where I used to put my gears. And guess what, the difference was dramatic. Indeed, the suggestions by Tyrone Co to use fiberglass foam in between the walls and the gypsum( I hope I spelled it right) board worked wonders. As to the dimensions, I was a bit worried as my room will not be symmetrical since I had to compromise on this to save an exit gate beside the AV room itself. As a rule of thumb, I just made sure that the measurements were in odd figures. And the results would indicate that for the second time, luck would again be on my side. I hope to post pictures of the Cavern in this forum later.

Now going back to my new TT, I started to listen to it by playing Dire Straits' "Money for nothing." The moment I heard it, I said to myself it's right on the money. The sound was very transparent and the imaging superb. At the onset, I was able to hear instruments which were inaudible with the Rega P3-24 which I have been using for the last six months. The soundstage was wide and airy and clearly it produced a neutral sound very faithful to the original recording. I easily noticed the actual separation of the instruments just as they are in real world. I also observed that the bass was very tight and punchy but never boomy. Even in the complex parts of the songs, it continued to stay warm and controlled, characteristics which are important during prolonged listening.

After some rock 'n roll, I went straight to listen to Diana Krall to test the midrange. Here I noticed that the midrange was neutral. Diana's voice was well centered, never forward nor laidback. It was where I preferred it to be. The presentation of her voice was very transparent. The sensation of hearing the singer as if she really was there in front of you was very evident in this regard. Absolutely amazing.

Now, I wanted to test it on music which had lots of complications. I listened to 2 Depeche Mode albums. I find this band to be at the forefront in so far as experimentation with instruments and synthesizers in their music. Weaker systems would normally be off-timed in their presentation. But never the Dyn C1s coupled with a equally capable cartridge. And again, the Zyx R100H did not disappoint me here. It was well timed and never suffered any distortion. In fact, the experience was very scintillating that I never wanted to get off of it. It kind of brought me into a trance-like state without the benefit of a booze.

I think I have said enough. I am sorry not to have mentioned any deficiency here as I could not find anything significant. Maybe, I am still in a trance, or call it aurial nirvana. But that's the least of my concern for the moment. I am having lots of fun.