ZYX R-1000 Series Omega-S

Some time ago, I had been considering buying one more new MC carts and had posted a thread under the title of “Phase Tech P-1G and ZYX Omega-S”. I have finally chosen the latter, i.e. ZYX Omega-S. For their basic design theories, please serve yourself browsing the official websites as I won’t repeat the details here. The following is my brief impression and unofficial opinion on the cart after playing it for around 50-60 hours in my system.

Setting up:
The arm tube or the baseline of the cart is roughly parallelled to a flat record when playing. The VTF applied is slightly less than 2.0 gm for the moment when the room temp is around 18-20 degree in Celsius (around 64-68F), relative humidity is around 80% when auditioning. The VTF applied sounded very good to my ears but couldn’t make it a cart with the best trackability on HFN and Analogue Productions test records (frankly, it doesn't really bother me:). In finding suitable VTFs, I would first experiment finding the lightest VTF which could track well on those test records (with this Omega-S, it was around 2.1-2.15g) with a minimum anti-skating force applied. Then, try lower the VTF by playing different music on different records (probably the ones that would be used in the listening sessions), the practical “sweet spot” of VTF for actual playing would be established according to our preference, and for this subject review sample is slightly less than 2 g.

Choosing step-up transformers:
Breaking in a cart is always time-consuming, Omega-S was of no exception. As its sound started to stabilize (like a bottle of Penfold's Grange in the decanter, taste excellent!!!), I began to play around with my SUTs (Phase Tech T-3, Stage 302, the one built in EAR 88PB). With Phase Tech T-3, the sound was marginally acceptable but the resolution and tonal balance was not the best. With Stage 302, it was not lively enough for such pricey cart, and the 22dB gain seemed to be too low for an MC cart with 0.24mV output. Good news was the hum and residual noise in the background was the lowest. But imaging and soundstage seemed to have rooms to improve.

For this preliminary review, the built-in SUT in EAR 88PB switched at 4 ohms was adopted. It offered the best possible imaging and soundstage with reasonable high/low extensions. It is believed 4-10 ohms transformer loading with gain more than 26dB is more feasible in my system when using SUTs. For your reference, ZYX recommends resistor loading larger than 100 ohms and ZYX's phono stage is usually set at 125 ohms. Bear in mind it’s not a conclusion nor should it be binding for everyone, in any systems. Even in the same system, as time goes by, all settings may change accordingly.

Listening sessions:
For quick review, I always begin with classical. IME, if an MC cart can sound “right” with classical, it can’t be too “wrong” with other music genres but not necessary vice versa. I will post some photos of the records I used later.

Spinning Wilhelm Kempff’s Franz Schubert Sonata A minor, D.845, Omega-S could unfold a full-sized grand piano between the speakers with lush harmonics and timbre complexities, though with a very slight tendency towards the warm side and a bit emphasis upon lowest octaves. This tendency, however, was proved to be a partial result of using EAR 88PB as the character could be diluted by rolling with some Siemens made PCC88s in V3/V4 (still experimenting other tweaks, I will report the results later). In general, I was really impressed by the real-life energy, transient attacks and complexities of the piano which could not easily be experienced with other carts. In comparisons, other carts sounded like a miniature 2-D image. To illustrate more, it was just like watching a 150-inch full screen (Omega-S) and a 50-inch flat panel TV (other entry level carts) between the speakers.

For vocals, Omega-S seemed to be able to smooth out some bad digital recordings by removing the excessive sibilations. It could be regarded as slight coloration of the cart. Personally speaking, however, I wouldn’t mind this type of “smoothness” as long as it’s not overdosed. Not all recordings are “perfect” in any system. If it could make the sonic presentations more enjoyable without an overwhelming character, it should be regarded as a suitable amount of dosage. Whether it’s a good or bad thing, it’s up to you and could be very system dependent.

Playing “Almost like being in Jazz” by Hugh Masekela, the bass for the first song, "You’ll never know", recorded on Side A is a bit exaggerated. It seemed Bernie Grundman had tried to adjust the tone control later on and made the rest of the recording as close to live performance as possible. Omega-S still presented the exaggerated bass for the first song in an acceptable way without losing any control. The dynamics of the flugelhorn blew the stylus to a slight tension state…Omega-S may need more break-ins or I have to fine tune the alignment, VTF, VTA, etc, later.

These are my preliminary impression based upon the first 50 hours playing. No conclusion yet as the review continues…
My opinions, which shouldn't be binding for everyone in any system, are as follows:

Due to its low output and low internal impedance, a high quality phono stage and special attention on impedance loading is of utmost importance. Though its trackability is not among the best on popular test records, practically it's not real problem. As its tonal balance is slightly on the warm side, it may not be your cup of tea if your system is already too warm or too tubey. The Lapis ball looks weird if not good-looking.

Right after 50 hours of playing, Omega-S already shows its strength in realistic, full-sized imaging and recreating a convincing soundstage with ease. Other strengths lie in its excellence in details retrieval, very low residual surface noise, very dynamic, smooth but lively mid-range & vocals.

Last but not least, I am satisfied with the purchase as I always do with most of the ZYX's products.

Let's see what will happen after another 50 hours;)
From my experience with the original ZYX 1000, the sound was a little on the warm and polite side and not the most extension on top. When I hit the 75-100 hour mark things changed. The cartridge became more open and detailed. You are in for a surprise. Enjoy
Which model of your R-1000 series? Copper(-X), Silver(-S) or Gold(-G)? Yes, I am in for a surprise;)

The Silver high output. I bought the Universe 5 months ago in the low output with copper windings. I have not mounted it yet. I purchased the VAC Phi 300.1 monoblocks and the sound I am getting with an old Timbre Dac and CEC model 1 transport is so good that I am enjoying cd again. I will get to mounting the ZYX eventually.
Nice carts, Jwm.
Actually I was planning to buy a UNIverse...now you know the final choice.
What's the phono amp or SUT you are using now? What's the loading impedance selected for your ZYX R-1000 Airy? Silver high output(with 8-ohm internal impedance)? Just want to grab more information and your invaluable experience on ZYX...

My preamp is an Audio Research Ref 2 Mark 2 and phono is Aesthetix Io Sig. with dual power supplies. I don't load at all. I am 47K. Loading depends upon the phono stage that you have. I am using a Basis Debut and Basis Vector Arm. The nice thing about the Basis Arm is that there are no breaks in the cartridge wire from pins to the final jacks on the ends. I have tried a lot of other cartridges in the past and love ZYX. The only ones have not tried are Lyra, Ortofon, and the Dynavector.
Aesthetix Io Sig. and AR Ref 2 MkII, wonderful!!!
Yes, "no breaks from cart leads to output jacks" is a real good idea! Especially for LOMCs, their minute signals are very sensitive to impedance changes, whether it is inside or outside the carts.

In reply to inmate(John)'s further query on Omega and Ultra Eminent....
In our country, MY Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent BC(M.S.L.'s top of the line) costs 40% more than ZYX Omega. In Japan, the list price of an Ultra costs 30% more in JPY. However, it is believed cost is just a related but not neccesary the underlying factor affecting the performance of some of the very best MC carts out there, incl Omega and Ultra.

Summing up ME up to this moment, can Ultra Eminent outperform Omega in every area 30-40% better off? The answer is "No".

Is it fair to compare an older Ultra Eminent with a young Omega-S? Not really, too. Nevertheless, if disregarding the aging factor, they seem to have equal strengths as equivalent to any top-notch MC carts money can buy. Even though they have similarities in specifications, they are with some differences in sonic characters. As mentioned previously, Omega-S usually offers me warmer, more energetic, smoother presentations whilst Ultra is not cold, not weak in delivering attacks and impacts, and not harsh as a whole.

Is it due to differences in materials(inside and outside)? Different structures? Winded with Silver wire and copper wire? I believe so.

One thing I have to mention about Omega after full break-in. The mid-range will no longer be over-warm, too colored, and bass tightening up with stunning impacts(Note: not booming in the room) which can be felt with my skin! I can fine tune the overall tone with using different SUTs, never having any hard times at all.

If we look for "real, live" performances, we have no other choice but attending a live concert. An audio system is always just an audio system, no matter how high the cost of it(incl listening room, of course). Attending more live instrumental performance could help us to determine how good an audio system can capture and reproduce those live performances.

How about a good MC cart? They should be able to draw your attention to the music, not to how high the fidelity of an audio system, and make you forget everything except the performance itself, though occasionally(as still subject to quality of the recordings), for a short while.

Both of them can get this job done very well. This is the very similarity of both carts! To surpass the performance standard they made would not be an easy task in my system as cost is always of an object;)

Best regards
Hi Dan, Nice system. I am trying to decide between a Ortofon A-90 and the ZYX Omega X(copper). I will probably go with the AMR PH-77 phonostage. Your review of the Zyx is very informative. Its nice to know how it does compare to the My Sonic Lab(a world class cartridge). Tone Audio will publish a review of the Omega X sometime this month. I have to make my decision pretty quick. Just to let you know , my turntable package will be the Musical Life Symphony 3 with Musical Life Vocalista Tonearm. Keep up the good work. All the best.
May I ask, why is the My SonicLab a world class cartridge? All of them I listened to are in my personal "worst 5" Class. Dead, thin, super analytical, has absolutely nothing in common with "music" in real, but probably I missed something?
Thanks, Clivet. I must stress that I just own ZYX Omega-S and heard Ortofon Windfeld for a short period of time in my system.

If you believe Windfeld and A90 are similar designs, except the bodies, I would say that Windfeld seems striving harder for neutrality and less coloration of its own. If the recordings are warm and smooth, Windfeld will gives you "warmth and smoothness". If it is bright and harsh, Windfeld won't make it the other way round. If the recordings are less than ideal, Windfeld wouldn't hide it up. In brief, it proved to be a good match with Ortofon AS-212s or some medium mass gimbal arms with a decent tubed phono(for adding a little tube warmth or romance, if someone prefers so).

Sonically, Omega-S is a tad more energetic, with more weight and body on the lower octaves(slight coloration? Not neccesary as it's still regarded as "tight" and "authoritative" after 100 hours playing), very smooth but authentic vocals, fast transients with realistic acoustic impacts, could deliver a deep sense of harmonic complexities(of course, still subject to good recordings), excellent high low extensions. In comparison, Omega-S seems to be a bit more musical, never harsh and sometimes a bit more romantic.

With 22 adjustable equalization curves and plenty of gain, I wouldn't think you would have any problem with either of them...but I tend to think a unipivot arm with low-medium mass would be better teamed with something like Omega-S as I heard Musical Life Concerto with Fortissimo some time ago, if you regard it's still relevant. Frankly, I may buy one more MC cart later. Something different from my existing MC carts. The candidates may be from Ortofon or Dynavector...

Syntax, you are not totally wrong. I don't believe myself there would be something called "the best cartridge of the world for anyone, in any system". "System matching" is still the audio key word for me.

Back to the main issue, is getting the best out of MY Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent BC NOT an easy task? Hmmm...in comparison, I admit Ultra Eminent is extremely sensitive to slight changes in temperature, humidity, phono cable(better mated it with low impedance design), and may perform with substantial sonic differences with various tonearms. That's all? No. Even worse, not all phono seems to be able to handle 0.6 ohm internal impedance of Ultra Eminent as it is the lowest ever for an MC cart with 0.3mV output! We shouldn't blame the phono designers for sure if an MC cart is a brandnew design, right?

Anyway, the owner of MY Sonic Lab, Matsudaira Y-san, has just launched a new SUT, Stage 1030, with 26dB gain to handle an MC cart with DC resistance as low as 0.3-1 ohm.

If not using this SUT and you may have something like EMT JPA-66 phono pre amp, I believe you still have very good chance to make Ultra Eminent taste good(or taste right in your system).

Another safe alternative is to buy the new SUT, Stage 1030, or any equivalent designs, if any, and find a decent tube MM phono with gain > 40-45dB. IME, I have tried Phase Tech T-1 SUT(designed for primary at 4-10 ohms)and a $7,500 tubed MM phono with Ultra Eminent, the result was: disaster!


Great shot, thanks:) What arm is that?

Syntax, the shiny gun-metal platters in your system are real charms to all vinylphiles! How's your new Omega-(X?)in your system? Now on Graham Phantom II?

To play around with all your vinyl gears must be fun...

green with envy

Hello Dan,
The Arm used for that Picture is a FR-66s/Orsonic Headshell/silver leads. I did it the other way, first I used that Omega (X, low output version) with a Phantom II to compare it with other cartridges I have. I can repeat all adjustments pretty fast and accurate that way.
Even with low output is starts pretty loud, a real sonic "Bang", my first thought was, hey, that is the Phil Spector sound, the wall of sonics.
What confuses me, I read some comments about being close to the UNIverse or better...all I can say at the moment, these 2 cartridges are different like day and night...stay tuned
Agreed. Omega's nominal output at 0.24mV (3.54cm/sec) seems to be understated. To me, it is more like a typical 0.4mV to 0.5mV output MC cart. Right out of the box, mine was already "full of energy, lively", a typical Phil Spector's approach...hmmm, I'd better leave it for you.

So please let us know your invaluable opinions on Omega-X comparing to other top-notch carts you have heard in your system.

Hello Dan, thank you for confirmation about the output. Indeed, I looked twice around the Box :-).
Yes I have some cartridges ready for comparison , with comparable technical datas and also the new Lyra Delos, which is the cheapest from all.
I will need some time.
@Dan and Syntax: Funny you noted the same thing I did with the ZYX. I asked the importer regarding the output level and we know there are two methods of measurment that will give slightly different values. He really didn't answer my question.

That said, I'm playing the Omega in my system at roughly the same "level" on the preamp as my two other higher output cartridges (Titan = 0.5 mV and Air Tight = 0.6 mV).

Now ages ago when I reviewed the Benz Ruby (0.35 mV) for TAS, I noted the same discrepancy between output and where the level on the preamp was set for listening.

I guess in part the answer is that the cartridge has very wide dynamic range and in some cases end up increasing the volume level on the preamp to make up for the lost dynamics.

@Myles, Dan and Syntax, I guess that the output vs volume level position is more likely a matter of technical specs slightly different from the ones given by importer/manufacturer....... - in other words- the cartridge(s) (many ...) does actually have a higher output then stated.
Some manufacturers use different Datas for the output
Zyx uses output at 3,54 cm/sec
Lyra for example at 5 cm/sec
If cart output is 0.24mV (3.54 cm/sec @1kHz), at 5.0cm/sec @1kHz, its output must be > 0.24mV.

If cart output is 0.5mV (5.00 cm/sec @1kHz), at 3.54cm/sec@1kHz, its output must be < 0.5mV.

Feeding with the same test signal, measuring the phono pre direct output signal, and ceteris paribus(speed, volume, etc), my ZYX sample is just approximately 1.5dB(-13.5dB vs -12dB) less than an MC cart with 0.5mV nominal output.

Anyway, in respect of output level, my ZYX sample is extremely user-friendly.

@Dan: there are two different test records that manufacturers can use to calulate output voltage and they give different values (obviously they would select the one that gives the higher value). Jonathan Carr has talked about this before on Agon if I remember correctly. If not, know Jonathan lurks here and could expound more.

But that aside, there still is the question of why the 0.24 mV cartridge's output sounds as robust as ones rated 2x the output. Maybe Jonathan can add to this too!

My point is:the higher the velocity(i.e. spinning speed), the higher the output a cart will generate.

Nominal output at 0.24mV(3.54 cm/sec @1kHz), the actual output may be approximately 0.34mV when measuring at 5 cm/sec @1kHz.


Your explanation is consistent with the one Jonathon Carr offered earlier, and with my experience of 8 or 9 (nominal) .24mv ZYX cartridges. They all played more like a .34mv cartridge with any phono stage or stepup I used.


Agree regarding Omega vs. UNiverse, they're quite different. I also second your "Phil Spector sound, the wall of sonics" description... nicely put. ;-)
Hi, Doug, who? who? who's Jonathan Carr? What did he offer?

Ok, let me search by Google...I found these:
A passed away British journalist?
A teenage pop singer?
A murderer in Wichita Massacre?
Tons of Dr. Jon Carr?

Just kidding...
What did he say in that article?

Calm down, take some deep breaths!

No article. A post here, probably several years ago from memory. Describing the different test records different cartridge manufacturers use to quote output specs. Exactly as Myles said. I've posted myself for years that ZYX's output specs should be increased in exactly the ratio you used to be comparable with most other LOMCs. Someone listed them once accordig to which record they use. (There, that should keep you busy!)

Jonathon Carr is with Lyra. He posts occasionally as jcarr. Nice guy and very knowledgeable about how cartridges actually work, naturally.
After searching "Jcarr" for a while, it seems not much of the relevant posts remain here in A'gon anymore. Or did I do anything wrong?

Anyway, Doug, thanks a lot.

For quick reference on cart output, my estimation is as follows:

Change in % of Velocity x Nominal/Base Output

= 5/3.54 x 0.24 = 0.33898 or approx. 0.34mV

Sorry for the typo:

Should be *Change in Velocity(not %) = New Velocity divided by Old Velocity (i.e. X cm per second @ 1kHz)

If the nominal/base output of a cart is 0.3mV(measuring at 5 cm/sec @1kHz), for example, we need the spec. of 3.54cm/sec for cart comparison and phono gain compatibility, we may calculate as follows:

3.54/5 x 0.3 = 0.2124 or 0.21 mV(3.54/sec @1kHz)

Just for quick reference.
The output is the way it is. The audible difference from 0.35mV to 0.5mV is not so huge in comparison to 0.15mV to 0.25mV (have such carts too). I can do the adjustments anyway. I will compare it with the Lyra Delos first (I always start comparisons with a cheaper cartridge to hear where the differences are, Performance/Price is important, too). Simply said, how close or far away something is from the perfect reproduction of the sound of real music What I can say now, they are totally different from the presentation of sound, Detail, tonal color, sound-staging, size of instruments, real in tonal spectrum and the musical flow. I changed Arms now for next round.
syntax and any one else who has auditioned both cartridges what differences between UNIverse and omega you are hearing.
[/quote]syntax and any one else who has auditioned both cartridges what differences between UNIverse and omega you are hearing.[/quote]

I think, they have not much in common. I listened carefully and I prefer the UNIverse.
Hi, Syntax.
If you don't mind, please write more about your opinions on these carts under this post, even if it's rather negative. I mentioned not only once here A'gon, I don't believe myself there is any "absolute best cart" for anyone in any systems.

IME, different carts have different strengths and weaknesses. What makes this hobby fun is that it's not simply plug in and play. There are lots of variety and combinations leading us to Rome or making a system sound right to one's ear.

My impression, I also used the Delos at that time.
I used it first in Phantom II, then switched to FR-64s later.
I used 2 different Phonostages with exact Settings for the internal impedance of that cartridge, one has 63dB gain in the Phono, the other 72dB.
Enough to hear every detail.
Original Decca SXL-2313, La Fille mal Gardee, side 2.
Gound-Faust Carmen RCA LSC 2449
Royal Ballet LDS-6065
Esther Ofarim ATR Mastercut
Harry Belafonte Streets I have walked LSP 1s/1s
There is everything on it to rate a component. Strings, Bass, soundstage, Detail, Echoes from the wall, Breathing, Soundstage, Naturalness etc.

Honestly, the Omega confuses me. I sounds nice at the first moment but when I listen to it longer, there are some things which are more or less comparable to a Koetsu, not to my former Zyx carts.
A kind of softness, the soundstage is not really existing. You hear that there is something in the back, but it is nearly impossible to locate it properly.
The frequencies are also a bit different. I think, they are not true in tone. They are different from highs of lows of course and - this is remarkable - in a way it is a levelling of tones.
Interesting, the performances will get a new direction.. Next, the Tone is not really clear. Always a little bit soft, no sharp start/stop and the Soundstage is not clear to the back too. Like listening through a thin curtain. A very good solution for those who hate their CD Player.
Anyway, all this confused me. It is so different to my other cartridges listed in my System.
Anyway,I decided to mount the Lyra Delos as a comparison. This is the latest Design, pretty modern. You know, some say, a cartridge needs endless hours to get into life, to perform best. etc. Not true.
The Character is there in the first second. All the following is getting a little bit better, but it will never change from horrible to super. Only in the opinion of an audiophile when he spent multithousand $$ and his ears will get used to average performance. After a while this "average" is transformed into "great". Modern world.
I like comparisons with „cheaper“ units to discover what is going on in „High End“. I got some very interesting results with that in the Past and decided to follow this route. The Omega really remembers me to the Koetsu „Sound“ of the Rosewood Sig. Platinum which was mounted in the Phantom for an Audiophile who came by.
I did listen to some of them, Black, Rosewood, Urushi, Rosewood Sig. Plat., Onyx and some more... the intentional blooming of every note is so artificial, it is creating a new description in High End: „Analog Warmth“. The bloating and smearing of waveforms can satisfy a lot of customers who are not happy with their Systems or want to tune it in one or the other direction.
This Omega has sometimes double modulations, I listen to a female singer, she holds her voice and while she holds the tone, suddenly I hear a kind of overdub one range higher. A kind of additional amplification in the same time section.
The mysterious added overdub in high frequencies shows, that this „Ball-Design“ created its own kind of life. This design generates multiple, time-shifted echoes of each waveform. In a sufficiently revealing system that is actually worse. Sonically, I predicted strong but thickened bass and macro-dynamics, plus phase-shifted confusion in the entire upper end of the spectrum. In brief, harmonic chaos. A great experience, it made me listen my records new again.
My main listening is Classic, mostly old records from 1960 with a few microphones only. For a comparison I have used an multi Tonearm Table (Micro Seiki 5000 with Vibraplane) but most was done with a Basis Debut Vacuum turntable, fitted with Graham Phantom II Arm and 2 Armwands (Titanium, Phantom II), the results were always identical.

I tried some rock albums too, which are so much more forgiving of many system flaws.
The results didn‘t change.

Ok, Lyra Delos
From the first tone I knew, this is a really interesting cartridge. Better in every area. Clear Tone, superb soundstage, excellent detail without sharp analytics (compared to Air Tight for example), this cart makes a lot different than the Omega. It‘s dynamic impression, specially in micro-dynamics is very rare in this price range and even rare in multiple price range. The ability to produce a real 3-dimensional „picture“ and soundstage is remarkable.
The transients in vocal sibilants, even with the most demanding female recorded voice (Esther Ofarim, a German Mastercut) are ultra clean and precisely delineated.
This is the real Deal for the money. The Details can be focussed, the Soundstage has a kind of Reality, the imagination of size is pretty good. It doesn‘t serve the details en bloc into the listeners face, it is more like sitting in the position of a microphone.
The mysterious added overdub in high frequencies shows, that this „Ball-Design“ created its own kind of life. This design generates multiple, time-shifted echoes of each waveform. In a sufficiently revealing system that is actually worse. Sonically, I predicted strong but thickened bass and macro-dynamics, plus phase-shifted confusion in the entire upper end of the spectrum. In brief, harmonic chaos. A great experience, it made me listen my records new again.


I tried some rock albums too, which are so much more forgiving of many system flaws. The results didn‘t change.
I think I understand. Fascinating review, thanks.
HI Guys, just to give you a heads up,I had the chance to listen to the ZYX Sigma 2 this past weekend along with a few other top cartridges and I wrote the check and came home with a Sigma 2. An amazing cartridge. Not as well known, check it out if you get the chance.