This amuses me. I'm back into high-end audio for only about 1-1/2 years after being out for a dacade of so. I don't even know what those are. I THINK I've seen the brandnames. LOTS of stuff out there!
Loricraft - every LP sounds better and you dig up more information than before and you wonder why you didn't get it earlier.
With the cart on the same (level of cleaness/dirty) LP, you only get a different presentation.
The Loricraft changes the playing field. BTW, I've no commercial interest in Loricraft, etc...
From a practical perspective, I would go with the ZYX. There are very inexpensive means to clean a record and chances are with a little effort you can get it close to where the Loricraft will get you, but there is nothing you can do manually that can work the magic that a good cartridge can do. When finances will allow, you can get the Loricraft and you will not have to replace a cartridge which you compromised on. In fact, you probably will hold onto the cartridge and then even with the Loricraft, you would have compromised the performance of your analog playback.
I'm still really torn.
The playback source is the *record*. Cartridges come and go - but one's vinyl collection is the fundament, the ding an sich that warrants great care and preservation. A clean record is a happy record. The absence of noise, grunge, clicks is the joy of a clean record. But yeah you can clean 'em by hand - though having a Loricraft (one of the v best) invites you to clean, making it quicker and less of a chore.
On the other hand...
Some aver the transducers as the heart a system. The record cleaner removes unpleasentry, while the cartridge unleashes beauty.
oh what to do what to do
Having owned them both, I strongly recommend them both. ;-)
You need a Decision Analysis Matrix (DAM) to perform Question Winnowing and Prioritization (QWaP).
DAM-QWaP #1: What RCM are you using now?
DAM-QWaP #1A: If the answer is "none" then get the Loricraft. You said it yourself. Cartridges come and go but vinyl is irreplaceable.
DAM-QWaP #1B: If you already have a decent RCM then it's a matter of which component will give you more enjoyment/dollar. That leads us to...
DAM-QWaP #2: What cartridge do you have now?
DAM-QWaP #2A: If it's a Lyra Helikon, Shelter 90X or someting of similar quality, the Loricraft will probably provide more enjoyment/dollar.
DAM-QWaP #2B: If it's a Grado Black, Benz Glider or something else that an Airy 3 would easily better, that leads us to...
DAM-QWaP #3: What phono stage and tonearm are you using?
DAM-QWaP #3A: If the phono stage has suitable gain and impedance and the tonearm suitable effective mass and resonance control, get the Airy 3.
DAM-QWaP #3B: If the phono stage has insufficient gain or inappropriate impedance, or if the tonearm is unsuitable for an Airy 3, that leads us too...
DAM-QWaP #4: Was the original question misguided?
Thanks for the sifting and winnowing ... I kinda went through some of that to arrive at my current state.
Currently I use a 12 yr old RCM from Audio Advisor - the entry level model made by Nitty Gritty and sold by AA - which Nitty Gritty admits was intended to be 'disposable'. Yes it still works, and I use it. But the number of records going into the NBC (need to be cleaned) pile continues to grow.
Current cart is a Shelter 901 on an SME V on a Teres 255 feeding into an Xono phonostage, which has plenty of gain. (see system for other details).
Its not a zero sum answer, but funds are limited...
You're close to where I was a year or so ago. I had a Shelter 901 and a DIY'd shop vac. Using the latter was a chore and it was painfully loud. I actually had to wear earplugs while using it. I upgraded to the Loricraft first and I'm glad I did.
However, you do have a functioning RCM, not a DIY. If it works okay and the records you've cleaned sound reasonably quiet I think I'd go for the Airy 3 first.
The 901 emphasizes certain surface noises. A ZYX does not, so your records will actually sound somewhat quieter.
IME the Airy 3 is much better than a 901 for every aspect of musical and sonic reproduction. You should hear a huge improvement. A Loricraft, as good as it is, would not make such a dramatic improvement unless you had no RCM at all.
P.S. If you go for any ZYX get the SB option. You'll want the extra weight with that tonearm and there's another advantage. Having the extra shim on top of the cartridge will require raising your arm to maintain proper VTA/SRA. This is a good thing. Raising your arm will give your tapered armtube more clearance above the record than it would have with an unweighted ZYX.
Thanks Doug. Your reasoning reflects my own to a large degree. Every year I tell myself the RCM needs to become a priority and every year I put it off in favor of the reproduction chain. (And yes, the records stil get cleaned.) It has taken me a while to realize my front end is being held back by the 901 - or put differently, nicely capable of going beyond it. Damn hobby and its siren's call - next I'll be looking at a 320! Or maybe I should thank the likes of Sibelius, Heifetz, Barbirolli, and Layton. (smile)
If you go for any ZYX get the SB option.
Thanks for answering one of the *next* questions.