VPI Classic and ZYX 4D

Hi guys,

I am finally setting the TT and I was hoping to give it a shoot today but apparently problems never end.
I mounted the pick up on the tonenarm leveled the tonearm and I was just about to regulate the reading weight when I realized that even puching the counterweight all the way in I barely reach 1.2gr.
I own a ZYX 4D with the SB@ option which accordingly to the manufaturer it weights 7.9gr which should be perfectly ok.
I think the Dynavector Diamond is 7.5gr or something like that.
I have never seen anybody having this issues...I tried to reasearch but nothing.
I contacted my dealer but he has no clue.
I tried to call VPI but they are unfortunately close till the 13th!!!!
So I don't know what else to do.

If anybody can give me some help I would really appreciate.

Thank you so much.

Are you sure you have the "SB2"? Weigh the cartridge. The standard model, at 4 grams, would be likely to have the problem you are experiencing.

If the cart weighs 7.9 grams as advertised, then the problem must lie elsewhere.

The VPI tonearms have, in addition to the counterweight, a fine weight adjustment screw that is accessed and adjusted with an allen wrench on the back end of the arm. Make sure it's not set all the way down into the armwand.

If it's not that, disconnect your anti-skate device to ensure that it's not causing this problem.

If it's not that, make sure the arm is not contacting the arm lift mechanism at all when you lower the needle to the record surface.

Hope this helps.

Correction to my suggestion about the fine adjustment screw. If it was set all the way down into the armwand, then your VTF would be higher, not lower. So ensure that the opposite is not the case (adjustment screw protruding from the back of the armwand).


yes I am sure I have the SB2 option as I can see the silver base at the top of the cartridge.
I temporarly fixed the issue using the screws supplied by VPI (they came with the TT) that are heavier than the screws they come with the cartridge.
With those screws, pushing the couterweight all the wai in I can measure a tracking force of 1.95gr whch is basically what I wanted to have.
the only thing is that the coutereight is pushed all the wai forward and touches the base of the arm.
I don't know if this might be a problem for the sound or not.

Am I wrong by saying that the closest the counterweight to the pivot of the arm the better it is?
If so, then wound't it be a good thing the fact that I have to push the weight all the way in?

I will check the fine adjustment's screw.

BTW the lifting cue mechanism is released and the arm is freely moving and there is no external antiskating installed.
I just had this problem with an Ortofon Red in a Scout arm. The permanent solution is to get a different counterweight from VPI. The temporary one, which worked fine for me, was to fix a nickel to the top of the headshell [or where the headshell would be if it were detachable] with a small bit of Blutak. You can now move the counterweight back, I think it sounds better farther back even if you can squeeze out the correct force by having it very close. Not particularly esthetic but sounded good.
I would check with VPI to see if they have a different counterweight. I have a Basis 'table/arm, and I had to order a different counterweight for heavier cartridges, like the Dynavector XV-1s, from Basis. Hopefully you get a chance to listen to the 4D at it's best. I, myself, wouldn't feel comfortable attaching a coin to the tonearm.

Currently I'm running a ZYX 4D-X SB2 and I have to say that I am very impressed. I like the 4D-X better than my previous UNIverse-S. The UNIverse had a sweeter midrange, but the 4D has better resolution and extension. Some of this may be due to the silver vs. the copper coils.

It sounds like you are there with the longer screws which weigh more but, if you need more weight, you could try longer screws which would add weight too.

just a thought...
Hi John,

thank you for yuour post.
I have listened to the cartirge a couple of hours yesterday and it is so dead neutral that I am very, very impressed.
There are a lot of thread stating that the 4D is the same as Atmos.
I don't know about that, but if it would be so , then, your previous Universe, would definitely have to outperform your 4D.

The tracking is perfect, although I am going to make better regulations today with my Mint LP and the Azimuth with the meter (I did it yesterday but I didn't spend so much time on it).

I will probably attach the little bolts to the longer screws (although the ZYX comes with the Zn's option i.e. litle bolts on the body of the cart) and that should add some little weight to it and maybe I will be able to move the counterweight a little bit back from the unipivot.

But it is still unclear to me: is it better to have the counterweight as close as possible to the center pivot or not?

I will probably look into the heavier counterweight from VPI and now I am going to check the internal screw inside the counterweight's stub for for weight's fine adjustments and see what's the situation.

I have just checked now and the screw is all the way out toward the outer part of the counterweight's stub, which accordingly to whay you say would suggest that it subtracting (I don't know how much) some weight.
I will screw it all the way in and see what happens.

There's no answer to whether it's "better" to have the c/w closer to or farther from the pivot. Each arm/cartridge combination is unique in this respect.

Fortunately any differences from this will be VERY minimal so don't fret about it. Instead, use the following procedure, which will:
a) solve your problem,
b) give you maximum VTF flexibility, and
c) be mechanically and sonically superior.

1. Start with the fine VTF screw all the way IN. It's clearly advantageous to have this screw engaged by as many threads as possible to reduce vibration. You don't want it all the way out, wobbling.

2. With the screw all the way in, set your main c/w so that VTF measures at the UPPER end of the range you think your cartridge prefers. If you think 1.95g is right, set the main c/w so that VTF is slightly higher, like 1.98 or 2.00.

3. Now you can back the screw out *slightly* to get the VTF you want.


P.S. I agree with using longer/heavier screws and maybe additional nuts, provided you can get them TIGHT. This will increase effective mass, which should benefit this cartridge on this arm.

P.P.S. I've weighed Atmos's with the SB weight. Individual samples vary but 7.95g is typical. The SB-equipped Airy models (Airy 2, Airy 3, UNIverse) weigh about 1g more.

P.P.P.S. As John said, his 4D is outperforming his UNIverse because it has the copper coils, whereas his UNIverse had silver coils. I've had all of these cartridges in my system. A copper coil UNIverse plays rings around a silver coil one, including in the areas of resolution and extension. If he compared his copper coil 4D to a copper coil UNIverse he'd hear something very different.
Hi Doug,

thank you very much for your reply.
You are the expert on the ZYX cart, so I won't comment on that.
Just an aside though.
The ZYX Universe either copper or silver or gold, even more so, they all cost more than the 4D.
How is it possible that a Silver copper coil of a Universe could sound worse than a 4D?
That would lead me to think that the 4D might be a better cartridge.
But if you say otherwise it must be the way you say since I don't have even a close experience you have on cartirdges.

All I can say is that the 4D is a terrific cartridge.
The only complaint is that, on my system, you tell in 2 seconds whether a record is a good pressing or not..and...if it is not...you take it off in 2 seconds.

I guess it is a positive thing...but I am finding out that the majority of the software I have has to be chucked.

Now for the weight issue:

1) I have tighed the screw in the back and I was able to back up a liiittllee bit the counterweight that now is not touching the unipivot's torret.

2) the weight is set to 1.95gr, and the maximum I can reach by touching the unipivot is, I guess, 2.1; my question is: accordingly to the specs of the manufaturer, the maximum weight is 2.5gr. Isn't good practice to set the weight to the maximum weight specified i.e. 2.5gr? do you have experience with this cart and the ideal tracking force?

3) I am still afraid for the antiskating. I haven't set the external mechanical anti-skating system. You told me on another post it wasn't going to skew the cantilever...I really hope so.

4) for the VTA, is it better to have the pick up perfectly parallel to the patter or a little bit sitting up on the record?
How is it possible that a Silver copper coil of a Universe could sound worse than a 4D?
Silver has a much higher molecular weight than copper. Higher mass coils make ANY moving coil cartridge sound undynamic, slow, sluggish, less lively. High mass coils defeat the whole purpose of the MC design.

That would lead me to think that the 4D might be a better cartridge.
A copper coil 4D is a better cartridge than a silver coil UNIverse, but so what? A VW on great tires will beat a Porsche on flat tires around Sebring. That doesn't make VW the better race car.

No one can tell you the ideal tracking force for your 4D, because each 4D will be different. This is true of all high end cartridges. You must learn to listen and adjust by what you hear.

I can tell you what to listen for. Too light and bass weakens, then you get mistracking. Too heavy and the music loses pace and snap, it sounds sleepy or slow. Find the sweet zone in between.

That zone will change as the cartridge ages, so what's right today will not be right next year. What's right on one 4D will not be right on the next 4D.

It won't hurt to try antiskating. A new cartridge probably needs some, I never told you or anyone that it wouldn't. All I said is that SOME cartridges need less as they age, and a few eventually need none. But again, each cartride will be a little different. You can measure this with instruments or by listening. What you can't do is take my advice or anyone's advice as gospel, choose some number or amount and forget about it. Vinyl replay is not like that, at least not with this level of gear.

VTA (actually SRA)
I get best results with ZYX's very close to level. If you've aligned with a Mint then VTA/SRA may be less critical. We adjust for every LP, but most people don't want that much bother.
Stefanoo, I would think that you would need a lighter counterweight, not a heavier one. You would need a heavier one if your counterbalance was running off the end of the tonearm and you were tracking 1.95 grams. As I read it, you can't track any lower than 1.95 grams with the counterweight all the way in touching the base. I would think there would be some drag effect from the counterweight rubbing the base as the cartridge tracks. To move the weight out away from the base, you would need a lighter counterweight. Besides, as the cartridge ages, you may want to track lower than 1.95 grams. FWIW, I'm tracking at 2.00 grams.

Doug's comments seem to be pretty accurate. I've never heard a UNIverse-X. I bought the UNIverse-S because I was moving from a Koetsu Rosewood Signature, and I was afraid that moving to a UNIverse-X would be too lean for me. I lived happily with the UNIverse-S for over 4 years.

The dealer I bought the 4D-X from also had a Omega-S. He said the 4D-X sounded better than the Omega-S. After 4 years with the S version, I decided to go ahead and give the X version a try. I'm glad I did. I also have a Dynavector XV-1s that just came in, some day I hope to get around to mounting it and comparing it to the 4D-X. To be honest though, between how good the 4D-X sounds, and how nice the weather has been, I don't know when I'll get around to it.

The Mint LP tractor is a great tool, I wish I had bought it sooner.

wow so much useful stuff all at once.
It sounds really complicated to me.

I screwd the the screw all the way in and I moved sligly back the counterweight, but enough to not having it touch the pivot.
I regulated the azimut with the LP test and my Fluke 45 and I had to move the Azimuth Ring a bit, but I guess that it is normal.
The difference on the two channels now is on the order of the 0.01mV which is very good.
With the Azimuth ring a little bit twisted the weight is slighly increased without having touched the counterweight's position...so now it is 1.98gr or something like that (I am going off with the precision of my Sure stylus gauge).
Now I will recheck the alliment with the Mint LP.
The only thing that I find it odd is to find the parallel line or reflection on the Mint.
The cantilever sits a little bit on the inside part of the body and thus I have to incline a bit the magnifier and I am finding some difficolties to line it.

Beside that I will try to contact VPI as soon as they will re-open on the 13th and see what they say.

The only problem I see with the antiskating now is that, if I will insert the mechanical ring, it will considerably push the counterweight back and It will screw up the tracking force.

Nevertheless even at VPI they told me they were running a ZYX cartiridge without AS and they didn't have problem with the cantilever.
P.S. I am going to buy Magic Eraser this afternoon to keep the stylus cleaned as you suggested many times.
just a quick note.
I hope it will help people who will have the same problem I had.
The solution is to take the screw for fine adjustments off the counterweight's stub.
That way the counterweight will be a little bit away from the unipivot.
Now I have set the tracking force up to 2gr and I can go much higher if I'd like too.
it seems to work much better without the screw and that is what mike told me to do.

I'd suggest to all owners of VPIs to take that screw inside off and regulate the tracking force only relying on the counterweight.
it takes a little longer but it is not impossible, of course :)

Hope this helps.

thank you all for your advice.

If balancing your cartridge on this tonearm is easier without the screw, there's still an easy way to fine-tune VTF WITHOUT moving the counterweight (which is very touchy and affects azimuth, as you know).

Get some O-rings sized to fit snug on the end stub. Slide 1 or more on behind the counterweight. This will make very small reductions to VTF but you can leave the counterweight alone.

You're making great progress,
If your VTA is too low (the arm is too low in the back) this will decrease the amount of VTF also. If you change the VTA make sure you re-check your VTF.

You mention you use the Shure scale. Are you using the correct line on the scale? This would be the line with the arrow pointing to it that says "times two". So when you put the stylus in that "times two" groove and you set the weight to 1 gram and the scale balances the VTF is 2 grams.
I recommend going to Amazon and getting a resonably priced digital scale. This is one place where it is good to mix a little digital in with your analog! ;-)

PS-Make sure you use a brush or something on you stylus after you use the Magic Eraser.

thank you Doug and Srwooten.

- I know, regulating just by moving counterweight is very tricky and affects azimuth too, I will try your method.

- When I set the weight I am pointing at "time two" 's scale.

- Sometimes I brush after magic eraser some other times I forget. I am trying to become more consistent; nevertheless, I always check the diamond with a 10X magnifier after I am done playing one side or so and it looks really shiny and sharp.

Yesterday I found out an interesting thing I want to share.

During these 10 hours or so of listening, I have noticed a little distortion sometime on the right ch with some records.
So I have checked and re-checked the alignment, the azimuth, VTA and VTF several times and found them to be all good.

So finally yesterday I put the test record on and scoped the output.
I have incredibly found that the system was unable to even track the first tracking ability's track (12dB) so I was kinda of desperate.
I started to tweak the wire, twisting and untwisting it and after many attempts I have gotten the 12dB right.
Nevertheless I was unable to make the following tracks work.
SO I decided to just give it a shot and listen to it.

Difference was huge and distortion that was heard before was gone.

aside not:
my old rega 300 and denon 103 were able to pass all the 12dB 14dB 16dB and almost the torture track (18dB)

Now my question is:

why wouldn't a VPI and ZYX 4D even try to pass at least the 14dB tack?
I mean just by regulating the tonearm to make it track the 12dB made a huge difference I cannot imagine to make it track the following tracks.
Hi Stefanoo, What test LP are you refering to with the tracking test?

Hi-FiNews Analogue Test LP
Firstly Stefanoo, ZYX Cartidges do have a lenghty break in time. I suspect the 4D to be no different than the Airy 3, Universe-Atmos in this regard. How many hours now you figure you've logged?

The Shure VTF Gauge works, but I always questioned mine. An error of .2g will make audible differences, and differences in regards to tracking when the Cartridge is new.

And another thought I had, is the VPI is capable of using a damping fluid in the trough. Maybe try experimenting with fluid damping? Keep in mind, the fine balance of over applying damping fluids, where one drop makes all the difference. More fluid is sometimes not better. Mark
I've had similar issues with my Zyx UNIverse - in fact two of these cartridges. Long story short - I purchased a used UNIverse which sounded great but had tracking issues. Happened with 3 different arms (2 SME V's and a Graham 2.2). Loved the sound so much (other than the occsional mistracking) and was concerned that perhaps I was sold a defective cartridge so I bit the bullet and traded it in towards a new one (Mehran had a great special going on and gave me a reasonable trade-in). The new one does the same thing - at least I know that I have a new perfectly functional one though! I've logged approx 100 hours or so on the new one and same tracking issues - has been tried with the SME V on both an Avid Volvere and an Oracle Delphi V.

In short, the cartridge tracks the first track on the HiFi News test LP but distorts on the second at 2g tracking force. Increasing VTF doesn't seem to improve it. I basically just use this second track to try to adjust the antiskating and leave it at that. I do occasionally hear mistracking towards the end of challenging LPs. Alignment seems to be perfect (as verified by MintLP protractor). I've come to the conclusion that these high end LOMC just aren't great trackers like some of the MMs (particularly Shures, of course) but due to the absolutely spectacular sound the UNIverse gives me I put up with the occasional mistracking. I have never heard a cartridge with the "you are there" factor that this one has.
@Mark: I can't think of any good reason to use damping fluid with the ZYX. If you do, there's real problems elsewhere in the system. The ZYX Omega S LO works wonderfully in the VPI 10.5i arm.

I also wonder what you mean by lengthy break-in? 50 hrs? 100 hrs? I find that sort of time normal with all MC cartridges that I've had. The ZYX needs time like all cartridges but one really begins to hear what it is capable of, by 50 hrs.

Damping is at best a crutch IMHO--or the cure is worse than the disease.

Myles Astor
well Hfisher...you have the very same problem I have.
I can only track the first one.
It seems very strange to me.
my LOMC Denon was capable on the Rega 300 to track 12dB,14dB, 16dB...BUT.....I had MUCH more mistracking that I do have with this cartridge and sound was miles away from ZYX and VPI.
So all in all...it might be true that there isn't a strict correlation between test records and music, otherwise, since Denon almost tracked the 18dB's the sound should have been galactic and no distortion would have ever been heard.

I would like to investigate this further on though.
I am going to call VPI now and I want to hear their opinion, then I will post the conversation to keep you all up-dated.
Ok I just got off the phone with Mike from VPI.
First of all, all the honors to this company and the guy.
The best courtesy ever experienced very knowlegdable of what he talks about, of course :)

Now, he said that

1) when measuring the weight on the gauge, always make sure that the armtube is parallel to the platter when pick up sits on the gauge. if not, when the pick up will go down to the record will likely track 0.2gr or so lighter.

2) since the ZYXs like universe or atmos or 4d are very light and even with their silver base's option they won't reach let's say 10grm, the problem is on the weight and resonance of the system. So what I should try is, putting 3-4 gr of clay and rebalance the arm and see if I can get to the second and third track...which I should supposedly get right.

Hope this hels me and everybody else with my same problem.

P.S. for VPI's users it might be better using a stainless steel armtube instead of aluminum when mounting a ZYX
Stefano, have you seen this?

It's made by VPI, and sounds like it may help.


thanks for the advice.
I did know they make this extra base.
The pick up has already one that takes it from 5gr up to 7.9gr.
I wouldn't like to add any other external body i.e. any more resonance, if it was possible.
If test with clay will go good then I will definitely go for the stainless steel's armtube.

I will keep you guys posted.
Now, I tested the system with 3-4 gr on the headshell.
Tracking is a little bit improved.
By Increasing tracking force up to 2.1gr I am tracking clearly one ch of the 14dB's while the other ch is in distortion due to lack of antiskate force.
I tried to compensate untwisting the wire on the lemo connector.
Situation improves on the 12dB's and a little on the 14dB's but not enough to let me track that one.

The most "interesting" thing I found are the 3 spaced tracks at 15dB.
I cannot track any of them, of course, since the maximum I can track, I guess, is 12dB BUT while the 1th and 4th track are distorted but still they are coming through somehow, on the last one the pick up won't even try to stay on the grooves but it will skip directly to the end.

That is really bad. It shows lack of ability to track grooves.

I don't know what else is left to do in order to improve this aspect!
What I wonder then, is where does the blame for such get placed? Is it then the sole fault of the Cartridge, the possibility of a mismatch of Arm Mass-Cartridge, or is it perhaps also a fault of the Arm design, being a Unipivot?

I know Myles previously mentioned the attributes of the use of a Damping Fluid being nothing more than a bandaid, and he is probably correct with this classification.

I know a number of times, Doug Deacon had made mention of not liking ZYX with Unipivot Arms, and I seem to recall the term used by him in his listening tests as "wooly".

Would/could this what Doug is perhaps getting at, because of the Unipivot Design, its lack of being able to be a compliment, and compatible to such a Cartridge?

It was the initial reason I suggested to perhaps try Damping the Arm slightly. Might be worth a try, and the results can always be easily reversed if not favorable. Mark
Hi Mark,

thanks for your post.
If have noted there is another user that had the same exact result but using a SME and Gra tonearms.
Neither one of them is unipivot.
So I guess it is not the toneare none is the matching since I have ran resonance (later and vertical) test and it is withing range.
The sound in outstanding, don't get me wrong.
I am just trying to understand if there is way to match the test tracks ot not.
I am starting to think that ZYX are designed not to track those tracks...I don't know it is something strange.
If the cartridge is extracting a Looott of details and information, why can't it track those test tracks that instead my old rega and denon did with much less retrivial information and detail and everything.

I will probably try damping fluid too.

Thank you for your tip.
Funny - your problems sound EXACTLY like mine with my UNIverse - I'm the guy who posted about the SME and Graham arms. I'm mostly using it in the SME V which of course is not a unipivot arm and my tracking results are exactly the same as yours - with distortion coming in the right channel no matter how high I track and how high I set the antiskating. I also hear occasional mistracking on normal records - more commonly towards the end of the side and most common with either dynamic piano or female vocals. On the other hand - I concur with you on the cartridges incredible ability to extract detail - I just wonder if there's anything I can do to improve tracking and extract even more distortion-free detail!

Please do keep us posted - especially if you find some sort of solution. Goodness knows I've tried EVERYTHING and basically just "given up" and put up with occasional mistracking...
right....I saw your post here and I was referring to you.

A question though:

I assume that sme has an antiskating system on the arm.
Do you have it down to zero or set?

I personally start thinking that ZYX are so particular that they are meant to be this way.
Nevertheless after I got the 12dB right and increased tracking force to 2.15gr I don't hear any mre noticeable mistracking..but all in all I have been listening to it for few hours.

I will definitely keep you guys postet on the eventual progress.

BTW speaking with Mike from VPI he told me that I should be able to get the 14dB and 16dB's one..but I don't know if he was being optimistic or what :)

I will find that out hopefully next week.
@Mark: I'm using the ZYX Omega-S Gold LO cartridge right now in a VPI JMW10.5i arm with no problems at all.

@Stefanoo: How many hours do you have on the cartridge? I've found with most new cartridges that they don't track real well until they have at least 50 hrs of playing under their stylus.

it has little hours.
Something like 15-20hrs.
I personally don't think the brake in is going to make that difference though.
Also because, Hfisher has the same problem on SMEV and I suppose cart is fully broken in.

My question is: have you checked the tracking with a LP test and oscilloscope?
Or if you don't have an oscilloscope but you do have a LP test, you are able to listen through your speaker and discern whether the cart is tracking or not.

By chance, do you have the mechanical antiskate on?
If not, have you untwist the lemo connector a couple f turns to increase antiskate or you installed it as it comes and that's it?
Last question: what do you use to align your cart? Mint LP or normal jig and what is the tracking forec you have set?
I just want to outline an incredible pressing that you guys can look into as very hard test for your analogue system:

Carmina Burana volume 2 - Version originale & int├ęgrale

When I put this record on, you can tell the incredible dynamic of it.
The only problem with my configuration is that I hear distortion on the most engaging parts and now I know it is the tracking abilities of the system that starts bothering me since there is a $4500 on cartridge and almost $4500 TT (Classic, SDS, Peripheral, HRX Clamp) plus there are even more so in cables (Mit Magnum Phono and Magnums M3.3 interconnects and Shotguns S1 BiWire speaker) and more in electronics and speakers.
All in all this tracking thing starts getting into my nervs because I personally don't expect tracking problems from such hi-end system.

The sound is really great and I bet since the price of the items, but technically speaking something better can be done!

Just a question to users of VPI and ZYX: do you have stainless steel armtube or Aluminum?
I actually don't know if my armtube is aluminum or stainless steel, how can I distinguish which one I have?

If anybody owns the record I outlined (Carmina Burana Harmonia Mundi HM336) and can tell me if they hear distortion or not I would appreciate.
I would like to work this out as there is no way that VPI and ZYX are designed so poorly.
a little update.
I have reached out the 14dB track.
In order to do that I had to untwist the external wire a lot and there are only few twists left therefore I won't go any further.
I am wondering whether I am ruining the external wire by doing that or not.
I don't see any other way to get up there without doing so.

The next track i.e. the 16dB is unreachable though and I can't even have the needle laid a second because I see such a bad distortion on both ch that I am afraid for it.
So I think this is it.

yet, my old rega 300 and the cheap 103 where able to easily step up to 16dB.

Now I am curious to check, after this adjustment, if I can still hear distortion on the carimna burana's one.
Stefanoo-Believe me the tracking will get much better! Much, much better!!! Just play the cartridge for another 20-25 hrs and don't get insane about it :) (this is true for the last three cartridges I've listened to including the Titan i, Air Tight PC-1 and the Zyx).

Then you can start dialing the cartridge in. BTW, the sound is also going to change quite a bit if the Universe is like the Omega (that I believe is).

As far as the Carmina Burana goes: I assume you're referring to the Harmonia Mundi recordings (there are five discs in the series) on LP? Actually they are all quite good-with 2 probably the best.


So your old rega 300 and 103 tracked better than the VPI/ZYX, the main question is did they sound better? I have a Denon receiver that measures better than my VAC amp, but somehow my VAC amp sounds better......go figure.

I don't have any tracking issues with my Basis/ZYX 4D, but then again, I listen to music LP's, not test LP's.

yes it is the Carmina Burana Vol 2 Harmonia Mundi on LP.

It is very nice but I can hear distortion, I mean it doesn't come through perfectly clear all the time.
I assume it is my tracking though.
But I have listen to the Carmina Burana on Telarc LP and I can never hear any kind of distortion.
After my last regulation I have gotten 99% right the 14dB track by untwisting the connector a little and increasing tracking force up to 2.35gr.
I decided I will follow your advice and let it run for other 15-20hrs and see how it goes from there.

BTW do you have carmina burana n Harmonia mundi?

Now to answer to John:

of course my denon and Rega didn't sound like this.
My concern is that by regulating the AS and tracking force precisely enough to get up to the 12dB's one I heard a big step forward and so did I when I got up to the 14dB's.
This tells me that there is a correlation between test tracks and sound, but that is not everything.

BTW I do listen to music too :)
@Stefanoo: Yep, how all five LPs in the series.

BTW, the ZYX is a darn good tracker. It handles two of the hardest cartridge tracking tests I know of on LP without pausing-the original Saul Goodman Mallets, Melody and Mayhem on Columbia and Ameniya's Summer Prayer on RCA/Japan. The former album has some bells that most cartridges run away from; the latter has all types of percussion cut at some pretty high levels that doesn't faze the ZYX. So sit tight and let the cartridge loosen up.

Listen--I thought my copy of one of the Music Matters jazz lps was defective when I played it with a relatively new Titan i. It mistracked like a mother and the LP sounded defective. Emailed Ron and then had to tell him that it turned out to be the cartridge :( After the Titan i was broken in, no problem playing this LP.

Patience, and what audiophile has any, is definitely a virtue :)

That's what I keep on telling myself - hopefully my patience will eventually pay off. In the meantime I am on my second UNIverse cartridge and for some reason continue to have the right channel mistracking issue. Again the first one was a used cartridge which was advertised as having 75 hours on it so it should have theoretically been broken in and I traded it in towards a new one thinking that perhaps it was defective. The second one continues to have the same issue despite 75-100 hours or so. I've tried everything - two tonearms, three turntables, all kinds of VTA, VTF and antiskating adjustments, alignment and realignment with both the SME jig and a MintLP protractor, adding mass to the headshell, making sure turntable and tonearm are level, etc, etc...still the same issue. And as I've said the sound is otherwise so good that I'm just prepared to live with it and hope that it settles in for the time being. But all I know is that my other cartridge (a well-used Ortofon Kontrapunkt B which costs 1/3 as much) tracks the first three tracking tests on the HiFi new test LP and I never heard any mistracking on regular records - the UNIverse doesn't appear to pass either of these tests. Of course other than the occasional tracking issue on certain particularly challenging LPs the UNIverse sounds night and day better than the Ortofon.

Out of curiosity, how many hours are required for proper break-in?
thank you very much for your comments.
Based on what you said I will let the cartridge loosen up for anther 20hrs (i.e. 2-3 weeks or less hopefully)

BTW the sound has changed quite a bit in these last 5 hrs.
I think I am up to 25-28hrs so it is too early.

The only thing I am concerned though is the tracking force I am dialing in.
I had increased it up to 2.35gr right now and it seems to be better on the tracking test in fact that's how I get the 14dB's.
Listening shows a better tracking and more details although a bit less of air but all in all very balanced.

I don't hear any mistracking except with the harmonia mundi's.
I will put that record back in in a couple of weeks and see what's changed.

BTW What is the tracking force that worked the best for you?

that sounds strange though.
If you have sme V and antiskate on you should be able to pass at least the first two tracks.
I don't know about the third.
I personally don't hear any mistracking anymore after the last regulation.

Please check better you alignment with MintLP, because you should be able to easily pass the 12dB and also the 14dB's one.

I have read that 100hrs are required for the cartridge to fully brake in.

But anyways I am sure your cartridge is not defective and neither is your tonearm, so I assume you should check better your alignment and the VTF/AS's combo.

Do you have an oscilloscope to scope the output taken from your phono's output?
Last, have you checked your azimuth with a precise DVM and track n.5 of side 2?
That is important too.

I live in Wisconsin if perhaps we are close that would be cool.
P.S. eheheh I just saw from your profile that you are from Canada .... never mind them :)
I agree with you - it doesn't seem right. As I've said I've checked, rechecked etc everything. I'm currently tracking at 2g with antiskate set to 2g. It does better on the tracking test with heavier VTF and more antiskate - for e.g. 2.5g and 3 of antiskate - but then the overall sound isn't as good. Most user comments I've found seem to suggest somewhere between 1.8 and 2g gives the nicest sound with this line of ZYX cartridges so I've compromised on 2g. I just hope that things do eventually "settle in".

As for azimuth, unfortunately the SME arms don't have any real azimuth adjustment so no real room to play with this. However earlier this week I did have a "consultant" with some fancy kind of measure and my azimuth appears bang on. Besides, I find it hard to believe that improper azimuth would affect tracking to that degree.

Anyways, I still am in the dark about exactly what is going on...
Yeah it won't affect that much, I do agree.
What affect the most is the VTF/AS.
It is really strange though.

I can tell you right now: it is not a matter of brake in if you don't track the first nor the second (12dB, 14dB)
I bet you have distortion.
I had some little distortion too when I didn't have the AS right at least for the 12dB's.
After I got that one going the improvement was huge.
I will probably try to re-lower the VTF down to 2gr though and see...not sure yet
To be clear, I do track the first (12dB) track completely clean but get mistracking on the second (14dB) track. Optimal antiskate to decrease this mostly right channel distortion seems to be between 2.5 and 3 on the SME dial.

I agree with you - something must be amiss - just can't quite figure out what it is!

In the meantime the overall sound is excellent so I put up with the occasional mistracking towards the end of sides of a few LPs.

The I was correct, I understood you tracked the 12dB's but you posted something here that sounded like you were unable to track any of the 3 tracks.

If you then track the 12dB, how bad is the distortion on the 14db's?
Is it on both channel? Lots of distortion?

I have now 99% good on the 14dB's. One ch is perfect while the other one is juuusstt the little top cres.
But since I don't have any powerful antiskate install I can't go any further but since you have the AS system you shouldn't have problem to get this one 100% right.
Just a little updat.

I have re-set the eight down to 2gr and lower the antiskate so just enough to get the 12dB's one thus the 14dB is not distorting.

Sound is ver clean dynamic and crisp.
Harmonics are comning through.
The funny thing is that I hear less distortion that when I had it set up for the 14dB's one.
I will hopefully do more listening in the next days.

But anyways it is true that ZYX works properly at 2gr.
If people are still reading me, I just want to ask Hfisher:

have you ran the lateral and vertical resonance test?
Side 2 track 2 and 3.
If not, please run it and tell me what your results are.
They both should be around 10Hz.

I have ran the 2 tests and I found out that without any extra weight they are both on the 16Hz which is not quite right.
I guess I will have to look into the stanless steel armtube.

Let me know.