ZYX R100 Yatra

I decided to try a ZYX cartridge but rather than jumping right in I sort of just stuck my toe in the water and got a Yatra at a very good price.

I find that it has the following strong points:

1. Ease: it sounds effortless. It sails through loud and complex passages with ease. It always sounds relaxed. . I can’t imagine a better cartridge for classical music or post-rock because it does such a great job of sorting out all the instruments and stopping the presentation from turning into a jumbled mess.

2. Spacious soundscape. Though the soundstage (the stage on which the band stands) is the size I’m used to (or slightly smaller) the ‘soundscape’ or ‘soundfield’ is massive and fills the whole room with sparkling air. I think the ZYX really gets "time" correct. I don't care about 'soundstaging' but an immersive 'soundfield' is, to me, absolutely essential.

3. No groove noise: It is incredibly quiet in the groove and somehow just finds the music there.

4. Action: the music propels forward from the images in a lifelike way that connects you with the music. Though the images are back behind the speaker plane the music fills the space between the listener and the image – there is no sense of an empty ‘gulf’ between the listener and the speaker plane.

5. Pace. It really gets me moving to the music. I always thought my table robbed my system of proper timing but since getting the ZYX I don't think much about replacing the table.

Ideally, what I’d like is to keep all these attributes but have more ‘blood’, ‘flesh’, ‘earthiness’, 'tone', 'texture',
'immediacy',‘juicyness’, ‘sweat’, etc. More SOUL; more humanity.
What I want is a cartridge that packs more of an emotional wallop, something with a ton of immediacy, humanity, and soul (but not warm, cozy, smooth, fuzzy, romantic, boring, and ‘blended’).
The ZYX is great but it never tricks me into thinking there are humans in my room playing music or that I have been transported to the musicians’ space. Instead it presents recorded music in an almost flawless way - but it sounds like recorded music. At its worst it sounds good but I find myself zoning out because I’m not emotionally involved with the performance; my ears are involved but my heart isn't: this was the case last night listening to Pink Floyd – I don’t think I’ve ever heard it sound better but I just wasn’t that interested and my mind would continually wander.

I'm left wondering if I can get everything I want from one of the ZYX cartridges higher up in the line or if I should move on to another brand of cartridge.

As you can see from my system link I'm running and Air Tangent arm and it is suggested that low compliance, low (or medium) mass carts work best with this arm.
(and I'm not looking to spend over 4k)
Good review and summary of the strong points that are common to every ZYX model I've heard (most of them). IME, you can certainly get more of what you're missing from higher model ZYX's.

For much less than $4K, the Airy 3-X-SB provides more "oomph" than a Yatra.

For right around $4K, the 4D-X-SB provides a *LOT* more "oomph", about as much as anyone could ask. If you're in North America you might get a deal from SORAsound, especially if you trade in a nearly-new Yatra.

Going beyond your price point, the UNIverse 2-X-SB provides as much "oomph" as the 4D, plus even more speed, clarity, low level detail, microdynamic subtlety and timing accuracy. It takes all of the points you mentioned to a level you've possibly never imagined.

With regard to your observation #4 (the front of the sound stage):

- the Airy3 should bring it roughly even with your speakers (without losing any soundstage depth)

- The 4D will bring it in front of your speakers (again, with no loss of depth, probably an increase)

- the U2 does something altogether different: it erases the front of the soundstage completely; there is no sense of any barrier between you and the music, it's like you're in the space where the recording was made... when you first hear it it's quite spooky, and jawdropping (as was the UNIverse1 in this regard)

Read the reviews by my signature for my take on these models.

I have the same thread going over on AA. It seems that others are getting some of the same pleasures from ZYX but many argue that I'm not likely to find the extra 'soul, emotion, etc.' by moving up the line.

With regard to my observation #4 (the front of the sound stage):
One of the goals I have had in designing my system/choosing components is that of erasing the front of the soundstage completely. The ZYX has been a nice step forward in this regard.

I remember the first song I played with it in: a few minutes in I noticed that I was feeling a little anxious -- I reflected on that and the reason was because I was unconsciously worried that 'someone' in the soundfield might bump into me. This sounds like a massive exaggeration but it's simply a matter of fact. I haven't felt like that since but on that first song I did have that weird sensation.

Getting back to one of the themes of my post...
that 'someone' that might bump into me is sort of ghost-like. It's not that the images are wispy or airy or less than palpable but its just that I never get a sense that they are actually 'real'.

I came across an old Art Dudely review of an R1000 and where he is pretty much saying the same things I am in terms of both praise and that something is oddly missing. It's odd that I can't (and he can't) nail down exactly what's missing but in my gut, or maybe my heart, I just know that something isn't there that I wish was there.
I was unconsciously worried that 'someone' in the soundfield might bump into me.
LOL! As I noted, that sensation is incomparably stronger with the UNIverse (1 or 2). Its ability to erase the wall of artificiality we normally hear is spooky. We made note of this in our UNIverse1 review years ago, as did Arthur Salvatore. It comes, I believe, from a combination of things; including exquisite timing accuracy and low level detail retrieval. Like anything, you get used to it after a time. Of course moving back to a cartridge that's less immediate is difficult... very difficult. Beware!

Regarding "soul, emotion, etc.", read our review of the Atmos/4D. We address that point directly. In the end, I fear you may be searching for two contradictory characteristics. You may have to choose one path or the other, or have separate cartridges or systems for different sonic purposes.

IME, a superbly revealing system is ideal for ancient and folk music, classical, older jazz, classic blues and any music that's recorded live with minimal miking, mixing and processing. What could be more soulful or emotive than hearing the performers so palpably that they might almost bump into you, as if from a front row seat? Emotion and soul in this type of recording comes from hearing what the musicians actually play. ZYX's excel at this, as you've heard, and the higher up the model line you go the better they are at it - especially the nearly nude models (4D and UNIverse2).

OTOH, most rock, pop and modern jazz recordings (and many new classical ones too) are multi-miked, often with the musicians in different acoustic spaces. The pieces are then assembled, dubbed and added to by the engineers into a finished product that never existed in real life. The more revealing the system, the more we hear the seams, the artificiality. It's harder to believe in the soul or emotion from a vocalist who's obviously singing in a closed, anechoic booth while her backup musicians are playing together in a completely different, more reflective acoustic (for example). Artificial input = artificial output.

The only way to NOT hear this artificiality is to play the recording back using one or more components that smear subtle timing cues, smother low level details and/or infuse the sound with some coloration of their own. The classic Koetsu and Grado sound is based on exactly this sort of distortion. (However artfully done, if it doesn't reproduce the actual sound in the grooves, it's distortion.) The most impressive cartridge I've heard in this respect was a Lyra Olympos. It was *almost* as clear and revealing as my UNIverse1, but brushed each note with the slightest hint of mink (as the owner artfully described it). It was gorgeous, but ultimately still a distortion.

Ultimately we each must choose which path we prefer. My preference obviously is for maximum clarity, fidelity and realistic micro-dynamics. Others prefer to sacrifice some of that for the sake of a sonic character that pleases them. No right or wrong, it's all preference.
It looks like the Atmos/4D may give me just what I'm looking for. Then again, I may just have to run two cartridges if I can't find a single one that 'does it all.'
My dealer thinks I should go with a Grado Statement 1 though I think it would be too compliant for my Air Tangent arm. Another 'second' cartridge that has piqued by curiosity is the Miyajima Shilabe.
AS you have rightly noted, ZYX has a special sound and no other cartridge can replicate that. However the earthiness and human nature you are looking for is not one of its strength. The 4D will give you the most but still it may not do it all (especially in the long run). It is a certain compromise and I know how it feels to let it go. I also had ZYX. Try the 4D, that is your best shot.
What cartridge(s) did you try after ZYX?
I have owned a couple of Zyx cartridges, your findings are similar to mine. I would try a Soundsmith Hyperion or Sussuro (I am not a fan of the strain gauge). They give a very nice fleshed out sound, and do not have the high frequency tilt of some MCs. IMO it is that high frequency tilt that makes some MCs sound less than completely "real". I mostly listen to jazz recorded between 1950-1970.
After ZYX I have tried quite a few, Lyra, Ortofon, Miyabi 47,
Van den hul (Condor), Benz Micro Ebony TR and the ubiquitous
Denon 103. Sure enough no other cartridge had that uber
special presentation of a ZYX but all of them sounded a little
more human than ZYX too. A denon 103 is the fall back
cartridge for me even though it stands no where compare to
other biggies in terms of resolution and frequency extension.
But the Denon gets a lot of fundamentals right in terms of
tone, timbre, dynamics (macro) and also timing. So, whenever I
use a different cartridge and something sounds off, I fall
back to Denon for a reality check. If things sound fine with
it then I know the other cartridge was cooking something up.

These days I am liking the Lyra and also about to try a Decca
Which Lyra are you liking now? The Delos was on my radar as was the Denon 103R.
I've been looking at both the Hyperion (LT) and Sussuro. Have you compared them to one another?
I've never compared them side by side. I've only heard them in a familiar system at different times.
Can you say a little about how they compare or are there too many variables to comment on the contribution of just the two cartridges?
I think most of the variables are the same, it's that too much time has passed between hearing both that I can't really expand more than that. Both of them do have a nice solid sound, without the whispy-ness of some MC cartridges.
Which Lyra are you liking now? The Delos was on my radar as was the Denon 103R.

I have tried the Delos, Skala and the Helikon. They sound very similar yet different.

Delos: The most dynamic of all, both macro and micro. Most detailed too.

Skala: The warmest of them all. Has more glow, good PRAT.

Helikon: Best flow and PRAT. Most neutral tone. More dynamic than Skala but less than Delos. A slightly thinner sound than both of them.

I would also suggest you look at a Decca London Gold cartridge. It is not all the finicky as some make it out to be. Sonically very natural (like the Denon 103) but more dynamic and detailed.
Exlibris,is your YATRA fitted with either TB or SB weight?
These help to achieve correct tonearm/cartridge resonant frequency for optimum performance from the cartridge in case the resonance is too high.
Mine has the SB weight and I'm quite happy in regard to the issues you mention in your post on a tweaked rega RB300.
I'd say it has much of the things you are looking for,in a technically correct way too.Of course I have no doubt that more expensive models will further improve things,as other friends say here.
No, no weights.
Thank you.
I see that you have used the Miyabi 47. I've read good things about it and Miyabi Standard; it's too bad they aren't available anymore.
Yes, the Miyabi was very good. It has the warmth of a good MM and details/dynamics of MC.
If no weights are to be used, then the arm should be of quite high effective mass to help the cartridge to work right.
I have a airbearing linear tracking arm which works best with low to medium mass cartridges. The mass of the arm in the vertical plane is very very low but the mass in the horizontal plane is high.
I've spoken with the designer of the arm and he simply says to use low compliance cartridges of low to medium mass (under 10 grams).
Have you ever tried one of ortofon SPU's in your system ?
I haven't tried an Ortofon SPU because they are too heavy for my arm. I need a cartridge that is under 10 grams and I think the lightest SPU (the Royal) is 13 grams.
I've been doing some reading on the London Decca Super Gold and it does sound intriguing/exciting. I've also read the reviews that talk about possible problems with the cartridge mistracking, sounding threadbare at times, and being intollerant of dust, dirt, and worn grooves.
It sounds like to would make a great second cartridge but that it may not be good choice for an all-round, everyday cartridge.
I have a Universe1

It is incredibly musical
Some say it doesn't have enough body on driving rock music but I have never felt anything lacking. All the other qualities are so overwhelming

You have an impressive system

Maybe you can get your hands on a demo trial
Exlibris, I know quite a few who use the Decca as their primary cartridge. It is not as bad as some people tout it to be. Yes, it probably likes Unipivot more than any other cart or something very stable and solid like an SME V or Thomas Schick. But beyond that it is just a nice cart. The problem that some describe about the Decca while tracking worn out records or dirty records may be true but to me it is nitpicking. How many of us really use such neglected records in our expensive system ? Those records will anyway sound crap through most cartridges.
Some say it doesn't have enough body on driving rock music but I have never felt anything lacking. All the other qualities are so overwhelming

Yes, I think so, too. One of the best sounding carts ever made. The Airline Arms (all) run good with a cartridge VTF in the 2 gr area. When they have a solid cantilever and a low body weight (moved mass) it is also better. So the Zyx is a very good choice. But every sonic result is the sum of - analog - steps done right. The Zyx does not compensate anything, the sonic result is pure, clean and true in tone. Some say about their cartridges, they run well with this or that music and not so good with some different but I think, these comments are a result of mediocre playback systems where the owners need compensations to avoid loosing hairs while listening. Or they try to "tune" a "sound" in a personal "direction" without knowing anything about. The Zyx UNIverse is a complete cartridge. It has no weeks or strengths. It is one of the rare beasts which are done right.
Can it sound mediocre? Well, in those Systems I did select to listen, to, I never had such an experience. But, of course, when the connected Hardware has its own sonic "fingerprint" it can be possible that it can't show all of its abilities.
I have a zyx airy 3 ,I listen only classical music and I praise it a lot, and in fact do not listen more to CD; Salvatore on his blog was saying that" it was among the most intolerant of pickump if played in a less than optimized set up, both vta and tracking force are critical, plus or minus 1/500 of a gram off optimum is audible".
In fact I don't need more something, when I listen to a well recorded record I can imagine ,I am in the concert hall and have shivers in my spine...
But you must have a system which don't lack body to marry it and spend time to get it working perfectly.
For acoustical music it's a must ,but I have no experiences for other types of music.
Pani, I'm thinking of buying a factory rebuilt super gold with 0 hours on it. It comes with a 1 year warrantee from London Decca. The cost is 500 GBP plus shipping. If it doesn't work well with my Airtangent arm do you think you might be interested in this particular cartridge?
Audiotomb, thank you for the compliment. If I had the money for a 4D or Uni II I would be very curious. The ZYX really do nothing wrong and I may never find a better cart. Who knows. I keep thinking about Jack(?) Roberts review of the 4D or Atmos where he says wonderful things but it the end he wants more excitement from a cartridge. I find myself in that boat as well. The ZYX sounds great and I respect the heck out of it but I never feel that flesh and blood musicians are in front of me.
You are likely reading too many reviews and listening to too many audiophiles who say that their systems sound better than real music. It will never sound JUST LIKE real music. It will always be a facsimile. Just the recording and transfer processes lose A LOT before the music hits your system.

There is a negative side of Deccas, yes, immediate, but some artifacts that are not so pure. Your arm and cartridge are pretty darned good, maybe elsewhere in your system would be a better place to look.
I keep thinking about Jack(?) Roberts review of the 4D or Atmos where he says wonderful things but it the end he wants more excitement from a cartridge.
There lies the rub. I never want more excitement from a cartridge, nor a tube, nor a cable, nor a speaker... The excitement I want was created by musicians and - if we're fortunate - recorded in the grooves, not added by some component in the playback system.

The most "exciting" cartridge I've owned was the Shelter 901. That cartridge, in the 4 or 5 different sytems I tried it in, consistently exhibited ringing on the leading edges of transients. This added zip and presence to almost every note, but it wasn't real. I tired of it after a few months.

For me, artificial flavorings always become tiresome. This is why I can't tolerate a Koetsu. Never could. However masterful their colorations, especially in the higher models, in the end they're singing about themselves, not the music. In 10 years I've never once tired of the higher end ZYX's. They add so little to the sound that there's nothing to get tired of. For my sensibilities, that's all I can ask of a playback component. If I want more excitement, I go to a live concert.
Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful replies!
Doug, The Doshi Alaap hear's all:) I have yet to realize it's phono stage.
Pani, I'm thinking of buying a factory rebuilt super gold with 0 hours on it. It comes with a 1 year warrantee from London Decca. The cost is 500 GBP plus shipping. If it doesn't work well with my Airtangent arm do you think you might be interested in this particular cartridge?

Exlibris, what a coincidence, I too have just ordered a Super Gold with extended line contact stylus. If you decide go ahead, let me know, we can share notes.

Regarding ZYX, I never thought it lacks excitement btw. It just sounds a bit cooler than my usual references. I have not heard the Universe though.

I ended up ordering a new Super Gold with the promise that I can return it for a refund (less 10% restocking fee) if it doesn't work with my arm.
I will be sure to share my findings with the group.

I agree that the ZYX does not lack excitement. It may in fact not lack for anything.
Note that Jack Roberts' review is of the gold, which I would think will lead to the softest, least exciting sound. Most folks seem to prefer the Silver or Copper 4Ds IIRC.
Great observation, Roscoeiii.

Any ZYX with the gold coil wire will sound soft, laid back, mellowed, smoothed, etc. Silver is the same, but less so. Copper coils provide closest to lifelike rise times, dynamics, speed and "jump".

I've A/B/C'd several ZYX models with the different coils and heard the the same results. The difference between them is not subtle.
i have the Airy3, UNIverse, (both silver coils vs Copper), Van Den Hul Frog, Sumiko Pearl, and a couple of Ortofon MM cartridges. I have a Maplenoll Apollo and Ariadne signature set up right now that i routinely use. My experience is the Soundstage or separation of the instruments/vocals is superb with the ZYX line of cartridges compared to my other MC cartridges. With a clean record, there is no "noise" or background, just the music. I listen to mostly rock, progressive rock, lots of acoustic guitar and vocals but also enjoy jazz and some classical. Concerning the live aspect, i have a lot of live concert albums. Some of them are pretty crappy recordings but Live Rust by Neil Young as an example, i would say is almost like being at the show. The Dave Gilmour Live in Gdansk is truely awesome with the Universe. I dont have the greatest amp and am looking for a tube amp to go with my Khorns, but i have no complaint on the realism of the ZYX cartridge with a good live album recording
I'm coming to love the ZYX Yatra more and more. I'm not sure if it just a matter of: 1. me getting used to it; 2. me having got the VTA perfectly dialed in 3. the cartridge breaking in.
In any case, the London Decca has yet to arrive so I have nothing to report there.
I did hear a system in a local shop on the weekend that featured the 47 Labs MC Bee cartridge. The sound of the system was very fine but I can't pretend to really know what the cartridge was contributing to that. The owner of the store is a huge fan of the cartridge. He sells many others (Ortofon, Dynavector, Koetsu, Air Tight, Sumiko, etc.) but I sense that the little MC Bee is his favourite.
I installed the London Decca Super Gold today and I listened to it for a few hours.
It is an extremely dynamic and powerful cartridge. At times it is a little scary just how powerful the music is coming from my system. Everything is more real, more there, and more live than I've ever heard from my system.
I was worried about mis-tracking, groove noise, and having to keep my records really clean. As it turns out, none of these things are an issue with this cartridge on my arm.
Syntax have you ever compared UNIverse 1 with XV-1s?
03-27-14: Dnath
Syntax have you ever compared UNIverse 1 with XV-1s?

Yes :-)
Any preference or further thoughts?
Well, I was a Dynavector Fan and when I listened to XV-1s I was disappointed. It is slow and anemic, far away from a real thing reproduction ... a total different cartridge to all others before.
Maybe it is a good compensation for harsh, analytic Systems but in comparison to others I had at that time, it didn't bite the bullet. The Zyx UNIverse was - or is - a total different sonic league.
But, taste is different ... when you want to go for it, I recommend to listen to it before. UNIverse can be bought blind.
2 audiophile friends had the XV-1s also but both sold it after short time. When you ever listened in the past to a Dynavector cart and you did like it, think about the Te Kaitora Rua. That's a good one from Dynavector..
Thank you, I've owned Zyx in the past. I enjoy their cartridges as well.
Exlibris, which tonearm do you use with the Decca. I am also using the Decca Super Gold now and I am liking it a lot. It doesnt have the extra special airy soundstage of the ZYX but it does a lot of other things better than many cartridges costing $3k and more. Ultimately it feels like a super bargain. The fact that it demands only a quality MM phonostage is an additional bonus.
Syntax, that is NOT the sound of the XV1s. It's opposite. Something was wrong with that cart, or the system.

Not my fave cart, not my least fave cart, but I like accuracy in reporting and your report is not accurate. I'm not saying you did not hear what you say you heard, but if you did something was wrong in the system.
I concur with Kiddman. I've heard the XV-1S in three systems, including my own. It didn't exhibit the endless harmonic resolution, low level detail and uncanny quietness between the notes that's available from a top level ZYX, but it was never slow or anemic - quite the opposite. The XV-1S is a good cartridge (and I don't say that of many).
I use an Airtangent tonearm with the Decca.