zyx universe cartr.- ideal weight -ideal vta ,

Dear analogue friends , i want your assistance to regulate my zyx universe cartr.
I use conquerror tonearm and i would know the ideal tested cartr.weight -actually i tried 1,8 and 1,9 gr with good results, other question is if the arm must be completly parallel to the disk or slightly up for optimum performance.
I have it completely parallel and run it with 1.98gr but I would say, it is a "forgiving" cartridge. It works on top level in a wide range.
Comaris,you will,no doubt,get some extremely accurate feedback on this topic.There are quite a few experienced UNI owners here,who definitely know what this cartridge "likes",insofar as set-up.This exactitude can literaly "make" a system!
A fabulous cartridge!
While I don't know anything about your arm, the ZYX will sound best in the 1.8-1.9g area. I have found that anything less than parallel will detract from the sound. You don't need negative VTA with the UNIverse.

Take your time with setup and you will be very happy when you're done.



While I use the R100H, I find 1.9 about right. Also, until I could secure a spacer, I had to have the tail up a bit. The sound was generally good, but came into its own when I was able to make the arm parallel. Enjoy your ZYX.
Hi Comaris,

I've been using a UNIverse since serial #1 arrived in the US. Welcome to the club!

Once you're near the VTF sweet spot, a UNIverse will respond quite audibly to changes of .01 or .02g. You must fine tune by ear to get the most from this cartridge, often on a daily basis depending on the weather. If you just pick a number like 1.80 or 1.90 and then set and forget, you'll never hear what the cartridge can do.

Fortunately, finding a UNIverse's VTF sweet spot is pretty simple:
1. Choose a few dynamic, difficult to track passages.
2. Set antiskating to zero.
3. Play the passage and listen for mistracking (slight fuzziness in the HF's just before actual static-like breakup)
4. If you don't hear mistracking, reduce VTF in .05g steps until you do. That VTF is your "mistracking point".
5. Now add a TINY amount of anti-skating. You need far less than the normally expected amount. Use just enough to prevent R channel mistracking on difficult passages. Any more antiskating will smother the life out of the music.

I've had 12 UNIverses in my system. Their individual mistracking points varied but their sweet zones were invariably .02-.04g above their mistracking point. In this they were perfectly consistent.

Once you find YOUR mistracking point, move VTF upward in .01-.02g steps (yes, you must be this exact). You'll hear the HF fuzziness clean up and then the bass will firm up. That's where you should play, at least for today. If you go much higher the HF's will go dull and the music will lose its pace and "jump". Remember, this VTF sweet zone is VERY narrow and it may change tomorrow. Learn what to listen for and you'll get maximum performance and satisfaction from this amazing cartridge.

Start with the ridge near the bottom of the cartridge body level (don't level the tonearm, that's irrelevant). Adjust by ear from there.

What you're listening for with VTA is the optimum integration of musical fundamentals with harmonics. If VTA is too high the HF overtones will come in "too early". You'll hear the zing of a cymbal almost before you hear the tap. If VTA is too low the HF's will come in too late or be smothered by the decay of the fundamental. The cymbal hit will sound dull or the tap and zing will sound like they came from different instruments.

Hope that helps. Enjoy!

P.S. If your tonearm doesn't have VTF fine-tuning, get yourself some O-rings that fit the ends stub. Sliding one or more O-rings onto the end stub lets you reduce VTF in .01-.03g increments without moving the counterweight.
Nice post (as always).
Dougdeacon, would this method apply to a R100 Yatra cart...or any cart for that matter?
doug is right on.

I have found with my micro seiki 282 arm that VTF as high as 2.2 grams works well, and sometimes tracks better. But it's a very sensitive cartridge to adjustment.

I'm pretty sure this VTF method would apply to any ZYX. We haven't used a Yatra but it worked for the Airy 2, Airy 3, Atmos and an unreleased model we once previewed for Mehran. None of these is as sensitive/responsive to tiny VTF changes as a UNIverse, but their the sweet zone was always just above the mistracking point.

This method also worked well with a friend's Lyra Olympos, another superbly sensitive cartridge in the UNIverse's class. It worked fairly well with our Shelter 901, a very different cartridge from any ZYX. But it isn't universal, some cartridges have a wide gap between their mistracking point and their sonic sweet zone or are less sensitive to VTF in general. Most inexpensive MM's don't have the resolution to distinguish .01g changes, or even .1g changes.

We discovered this method simply by trial and error. With so many cartridges moving on and off our tonearm the concepts eventually coalesced from all the repetition.

The reason it works is the same reason minimal anti-skating works: some suspensions are so responsive that the minimal amount of downforce AND sideforce consistent with good tracking is all that's needed. Additional external force applied to the cantilever-suspension interface just smothers responsiveness.

Doug, are you still calling minimal anti-skating on the Triplanar 5 O-rings? I did that and dynamics improved quite a bit. Do I have to set my anti-skating to zero to dial in my Atmos or is leaving the 5 O-rings on ok?

As always, a great post.
I am using 1.95 VTF. Anything below and you can hear it. As far as VTA I run a tiny bit negative. I tried parallel but it sounded better in my system just down a little. I use it in Schroder SQ arm.
Leave it to Doug to call us all out. On my lesser ZYX, I run it at 1.86 =/-.01. Much less and there added sibilance and much more is a bit congested. My situation is a bit different in that I use a linear arm on an LT-30 (which Doug has seen through pics). Maybe someday I can play in your UNIverse. Enjoy.
Doug, I liked the way you've said that, "Smothers Responsiveness". You analogy makes much logical sense to me about VTA, and Anti-Skate. Your words hit home, thank you for putting it into words than even I can understand.

So many disbelievers seem to speak about "fairies dancing on a head of a pin", and whatnot when speaking about all things "analog".

Your logical suggestions, and advice we have talked about in private.

My Benz Ruby 3 is finally starting to sound like a good Cartridge, it's not sounding "quite so broken" anymore, and sometime soon, I will try your suggestions of O-rings as well, lessening VTF, try to ignore the Digital VTF Scale (within reason), and let my ears be the final judge.

Makes mucho sense that excessive VTF, and Anti-Skate, even if ever so slight, may not serve much benefit.
Doug, are you still calling minimal anti-skating on the Triplanar 5 O-rings?
I am using 1.95 VTF. Anything below and you can hear it.
On my lesser ZYX, I run it at 1.86 =/-.01. Much less and there added sibilance and much more is a bit congested.
I'm responding to Marisplunge, Dgad and Mt10425 together because they're all talking about, "Where do you play right now?"

A funny thing happened with our UNIverse this summer. Until then both our UNIverses (we're on #2) performed best in a VTF range between 1.90g (in the summer) and 2.15g (in the winter). Our changeable climate causes changes in any cartridge and that's been the range for the UNIverses. With anti-skating we were always between 4 and 6 O-rings, varying with VTF and also with individual LP's.

This June or July the mistracking point suddenly began dropping and the sweet spot dropped right along with it. Last year if I'd tried to play a record below 1.90 I'd have gotten mistracking for sure. Yet all of a sudden I found myself using VTF's of 1.85, 1.80, 1.75 and even 1.70! I was also able to reduce antiskating to 3 O-rings, then 2.

What's going on?! The cartridge has 1,000+ hours on it and all of a sudden it's breaking in? I guess that's possible. In June we switched to AIVS from another cleaning fluid that left a lubricant film in the grooves. This film acted as a shock absorber for the stylus. Since the stylus wasn't reaching full extension (and it wasn't, our dynamics with AIVS are hugely improved) the suspension wasn't being fully excercised. I think getting the grooves truly clean has finally allowed our cartridge to fully break in.

Last night, despite temps that would have required 2.00g and 5-6 O-rings a year ago, I played fairly dynamic LP's successfully (gloriously) at 1.65g of VTF and just 1 O-ring! When we played one of our toughest tracking LP's (Ashkenazy/Beethoven sonata #1/London) I finally had to use a bit more force. I moved VTF "up" to 1.68g and used 2 O-rings for antiskating. Result? The best tracking and playing performance we've ever had on this LP.

So, if your records are really clean then at some point in your ZYX's life it may start tracking better at lower VTF's and with less antiskating than you've come to expect. The sonic result is a further improvement, so we fairies all have to stay on our toes to balance on that pin! ;-)
Interesting read Doug, and in relation to this whole thread, and what has been written, do you feel then, that such minor changes of .01-.03g (and such) in VTF (with the UNIverse in particular) may be somewhat not only affecting the Stylus-groove interface itself, but also how precise the Coils are situated within the Cartridge itself as well?

You very last post seems to suggest this, in that the suspension appears to have further broken in, and a lower VTA was optimum for Coil Centering within the Cartridge. (do correct me if I'm wrong about these possible assumptions).

If I am so far on the right track with this thinking-reasoning, then could it also be a viable reason why a Cartridge like the ZYX UNIverse may be slightly more sensitive in this regard of VTF changes in comparison with other fine MC Cartridges? Thanks, Mark (PS: I sure do love topics like this, as it's the know-nots like me that learn something! lol)
Hmm,this concept of tracking force being a bit lower,if LP's are really clean "really" turns me on!Never even thought of "that one"!Damn good assumption,with the amazing sensitivities of the best MC's!!I LOVE it!!Makes total sense!!!
Sadly I won't be able to check this out for two reasons...#1 I am in the process of ordering my Phantom,
(back-ordered,and just my luck,so what else is new).#2 I am usually quite lazy with wet cleaning my LP's,even though I have a good cleaning machine.
BTW,for those interested parties...this afternoon,as my wife and daughter left me to fend for myself(in a Barnes and Noble)while they tortured me with the typical weekend shop(lengthly),I just happened to come by the latest issue of some British audio journal(one of the more popular ones,and I forgot exactly which one.....SORRY!!).Here,I noticed something very interesting(to many on these threads).It certainly was to me,as I truly believe that the biggest advances in home "quality" audio(to me,at least) are the "devices" responsible for what goes on in in the actual "groove".This is just my silly opinion,though!
ZYX has a new design out(according to what I read)which seems to be a darn good idea,and though very pricey,I wonder if it will find it's conceptual way into the "UNI".
This is the elimination of the side-walls, amongst other things like coil refinements,etc(as I understand it,which may not be totally acurate,since I am no "maven",but quite a fan).The NEW design is called the "4D"...COOL name!!Price advertised was 2250 British pounds.
I'm left to wonder if this is below the superb "UNI",or if it is(as I assume)will there be some refinements made to the "UNI",in the not too distant future.

Best to all(almost) -:)
today i am tracking at 1.81 with cartridge eye balled level with lp.
but if you really want to take your universe to another level please get a nanomount system. O my goodness.
BTW now that i am using walkers lp cleaning system i think this vtf is possible.
Well put Doug. As usual I again benefit from your experience.

I wonder how that information will relate to my Atmos witha more exposed cantilever? I geuss thats my experimentation process. I'll elt you know.

Stlrains, whats a nanomount system?

Sirspeedy, sorry about the shopping excursion.
Mariasplunge the Nanamount system is a isolation device made of very small brass footers that go between your cartridge and head shell. and another set that goes between your arm and base.
The changes in my system were vastly improved resolution, clarity, incredible imaging and stage dimensions. Its like taking a blanket off thats been in front of your speakers. sold by Mapleshade audio.
I would relate it to taking Universe from Pro stock to top fuel.
In no way am i plugging the manufacturer to me this is one tweak you have to try for your self.

My opinion (nothing more) is that the old "centering the coils in the magnetic field" concept is not the whole story with VTF. Certainly that's important, but when we get down to changes of .01g it doesn't seem plausible (to me) that this is the whole story.

I believe these tiny adjustments are about minimizing the pressure between cantilever and suspension. We must allow the cantilever maximum freedom to respond to groove modulations, consistent with good tracking of course. This is what micro VTF adjustment "sounds" like to us anyway.

There's corroboration in the fact that minimal anti-skating has similar sonic effects. Excessive A/S sounds almost exactly like excessive VTF: smothered highs, slowed transients and dull, lifeless pacing. These effects seem consistent with an over-damped cantilever.

Sorry about the shopping. I hope it wasn't at 4AM!

The ZYX 4D is an international market cartridge based on the Atmos (which is sold mostly in the US). You can read about the Atmos amongst my reviews if it beats doing more shopping! I know a UK dealer who just replaced a Lyra Skala with a 4D. To say he was bowled over would be an understatement. He emailed me out of the blue saying, "Now I understand what you've been talking about with ZYX. I'm going to sell a bunch of these and my customers will love me."

The 4D/Atmos won't replace the UNIverse because it's different but not necessarily better. The open sides give it more macro-dynamic punch and raw drive than a UNIverse, but it loses a step in low level detail, speed, agility and it has a trace more overhang. The Atmos is an extraordinary rock cartridge, probably the best I've heard. The UNIverse is still better for classical and other acoustic instruments, provided you're willing to keep up with the insane fine tuning like we're discussing on this thread.

The Atmos is slightly easier to dial in than a UNIverse but the methods are the same. It responds similarly but its window of acceptable VTF is a bit wider and its performance curve a bit flatter. If you're off a bit the falloff in performance is not as drastic as with a UNIverse. OTOH, the peak of performance when everything's right doesn't soar quite as high.
P.S. to Sir S,

Congrats on ordering the Phantom! I predict a great leap forward. :-)
I listened to the 4D recently. VEry good cartridge. The ZYX trademark sound but much more body and more dynamic. I compared it with a 47 Labs which had equal dynamics but a bit more warmth. The 47 labs also was a bit richer sounding. I then listened to a Dynavector XV-1s (all the same system but different arms) and the XV-1s sounded most natural. Most like music. I loved them all and would be happy with any. No one was clearly superior. My taste leaned to the ZYX or XV-1s but they sounded like opposites.

As for brass on top of the cartridge. I am using the Brass mounting plate on my SQ instead of the aluminum one. Much better dynamics. Basically it mimicks the description above from Stltrains of the nanomount. The ZYX can be extremely low compliance. Mass will naturally lead to greater extension of the highs and deeper bass. It will also bring you closer to the ideal resonant frequency outside of the the audio range.
Doug,a VERY nice sentiment.Cannot wait to get my hands on it.Thanks and have a great holiday season....others too!!
Well, my analog rig is definitely in this thread's low rent district, but I tried Dougdeacon's set-up method on my Benz Micro Ace cart, and I believe the results are positive.

BTW, I used the HiFi News Test LP.
What arm are you using this nanomount system with? How much does it increase mass?
Mariasplunge,you probably misunderstood my posting.I am awaiting a Graham Phantom arm,and have a Transfiguration Orpheus cartridge.I don't have a clue as to what a nanomount is!!
I made mention of the new ZYX because I felt some folks here would like to read about it.
I think my arm accounts for my generally favoring a slightly higher tracking force. I can get pretty freaked out
if i get mistracking but I think my micro mx 282 does has a very subtle anti-skate that doesn't do a whole lot compared to other arms i have owned. So, i am going generally a little higher vtf and low on the anti-skate and in my rig that has produced the best tracking authority without sounding "closed-in".

I could learn a lot from doug about set up, and someday I will!
I've been to Doug's and heard first hand exactly the changes he is prescribing. Eye-opening, startling, obvious. Yes, the minute changes in his system are that evident. Then I've gone home and tried to re-create, with some success, what I've experienced in his living room. There are variables involved in to what extreme the results of applying Doug's suggestions are in any given system. But in saying this I'm in no way implying that his methods are not valid and still of great practical use. His suggestions have greatly helped me improve my system's playback. I'm offering this as comfort to others like myself who listen to music that does not lend itself to taking advantage of all of what a cartridge like the Universe, or Orpheus, etc. might offer. Don't go crazy here, guys, if you don't hear all of the improvements.

First and foremost, Doug, and especially Paul, have extraordinary ear-to-brain coordination. They hear stuff. I'm talking alien type stuff here! I'm sure there are others of you among us.

The genre of music reproduction that Doug and Paul prefer is of a somewhat specific, but by no means uncommon, vein. What they are seeking can be described as the experience of sitting in the middle of a string quartet or in the immediate presence of a vocalist with no electronics in between. They know what this music should, and should not, sound like. They know immediately. And so their system is voiced to the max to expose any weakness in the ability to reproduce that experience I've tried to describe here.
Thanks for the common sense post, Dan - as usual. You described what we're seeking to reproduce very well. It's wise to point out that not everyone shares the same priorities.

If your interests don't gravitate toward the sound of acoustic instruments and skilled vocalists presented without electronic intervention, then this degree of craziness may not repay the time and effort. If you don't give a %@#&! about the sound of a three-manual harpsichord vs. a single-string clavichord or whether Emma Kirkby sounds as lifelike as possible, forget most of the above!

Aside from the time it takes, playing as we do involves some risk to your vinyl. As Mothra suggested, playing so close to the mistracking point could mean playing below it the next time the weather changes. We monitor VTF constantly (not with a scale, by ear) and it's become second nature just out of habit. If that would drive you nuts then it isn't worth the bother.

In that case (for a ZYX) I'd suggest finding the mistracking point (definitely useful info to know) and then playing .10 - .15g above that in warmer weather, .15 - .20g above in cold/dry weather. That would work as a virtually set-and-forget method for any ZYX we've used.
For those who are truly into squeezing the abs most from any "really high res" set-up,I believe one's house lines must be scrutinized "way" more than previously thought!!Not general conditioning.
There are those,here,who originally gave me the idea(from looking at each individual's set-up approaches,but I tried to go a tad further).This started with a lightening strike to my home last year!Don't fret,I benefited greatly from this,in the long run!!
If one goes to the length of "regenerating and running their A/C in fully balanced configuration"(whole system),these little variables we are speaking about(VTF/VTA/Antiskate and a host of other bits and pieces) come into the foreground in "far" greater relief!This is absolutely and immediately obvious,if all else has been correctly addressed!The most subtle of voicings/shadings that we can become adept at playing around with really show up,if one comes around to this "total regeneration/fully balanced" A/C connection for one's set-up.
A close friend/serious hobbyist recently bought my sales pitch,here,and was blown away by the additional detail and harmonic shadings he was able to get from his Magico Mini/Phantom/Orpheus rig,which was not too shabby in the first place.
Don't take my word at face value!Anyone can try a free loaner from The Cable Company,for only the shipping cost.What can be bad?
Best, to most-:)
Didn't work for me Doug!
Whilst your methodology sounds very convincing, I tried it on my Raven AC with Hadcock GH228 and it failed.
I have had the ZYX UNIverse for 1 year and thought I was tracking it at 1.9gm until I bought a digital gauge which showed I was tracking at 2.4gm.
Mounted the same Hadcock on the Raven AC a month ago and by following Arthur Salvatore's method of VTF, I found it sounded best at 2.33gm.
I tried your method and played the RCA Reiner Pines of Rome with the climactic strings at the end (close to spindle, max tracking error?).
The strings sound just as horrible at 1.5gm, 1.7gm and 1.9gm.
I couldn't discern what the 'mistracking' you describe actually SOUNDS like?

It then dawned on me why Arthur's methodology was better than yours?.........you approach it from the point of view of 'finding the BAD sound and moving up slightly from that?'
Arthur relies on finding the GOOD sound and building on that....see his method attached below.
I actually found that I heard none of your aural descriptions on HF and bass when I followed your methodology but I found a HUGE difference in sound quality, depth and staging when I used Arthur's.
The fact that I'm tracking much higher than you and apparently the other users here is a little worrying?.....but perhaps it's all system dependent?
I'm getting the Continuum Copperhead this week together with the Dynavector DV1s and I get my Schroeder Ref arm in a month so I'll be able to mount the ZYX in both to compare it to the Hadcock.
Philosophically I prefer Arthur's 'Glass half full' method to your 'glass half empty'?.....sorry.

A Vertical Tracking Force (VTF) Procedure

Here's a simple, four-step procedure that anyone can use if they have an accurate digital gauge and a tonearm with fine and repeatable VTF adjustability.

Step 1. Start with the VTF at the lowest recommended setting and increase it .1 grams at a time. The sonics will get better each time, but when they inevitably deteriorate, stop. All that's relevant now are the last three .1 gram positions. You are now "in the ballpark".

Step 2. Of the three relevant .1 gram positions from Step One, choose the middle position as the "ballpark", but reduce the ballpark VTF by .05 grams. Then go back up .05 grams per step until the sonics deteriorate, then stop.

Step 3. If there are three positions in Step Two, then the middle one is the new "ballpark". If there are only two positions from Step Two, then it's the lower one. This time go down only .02 grams from the new ballpark and then increase it the same amount until you hear a deterioration. The last position before the deterioration is usually the optimized setting. However...

Step 4. For fine tuning, and also verification, the position which sounded best in Step 3 should be compared with positions .01 grams both above and below it. Even ultra-fine tuning can now be attempted, if you want to become fanatical about it.
Hmm,HALCRO! Interesting post!!
Here is why I would opt for Doug's thoughts,even though you seem to have a good arguement(in the best sense,btw)....Too many folks are WAY too happy!WAY to easily!!They SELDOM go beyond the "first" good sound setting!....Reason(aside from the confidence of experience,which you seem to clearly have)?We have had so many unsatisfactory results over the years,as hobbyists,and especially if we have access to a goodly amount of "correct" sounding set-ups(which tend to motivate us to want "more" from what we have),at various friends' homes(I'm lucky/unlucky here,btw),that when we "GO" for anything new,we are usually pulled into being far too easily satisfied.Even if there is a bit "more" lurking around the corner.We just stop looking,and listening critically enough,when we get to the "it sounds good to me/us" part!
This goes doubley for fussy cartridges!Especially if one is active in going through equipment changes,or fotzes around alot to satisfy the "different" tastes of the "pickiest" friends,when they come over.(I have friends so eager to please certain members of our group,that they have completely re-voiced an already perfect set-up,just to make someone happy...which seldom happened,btw).
I,personally(just my own point of view,and taste)like to find the "first" setting where I am beginning to hear a subtle loss of timbre and harmonic warmth.To me,with my own arm(old as of last Saturday),this is clearly heard as a slight resonant characteristic.Unless you actually "own" my set-up,it is too easy to think this resonant characteristic is something else.I have been accused of this PLENTY,but I know my stuff way too well.Thank God,or my friends would drive me from this hobby!!I then go up,in VTF from there,at .01 gm increments.It doesn't take long to ultimately "know" the exact setting,from there,and I can "then" be quite secure when my own "carnivorous" friends come over...to criticise,as "always"!Of course you are speaking to a different cartridge and arm(the arm I am very familiar with,but was unlucky with),but the general procedure should be fairly universal.No?
I DO have a nice surprise waiting for the next session.-:)
Just my own thoughts,and nothing is set in stone,especially when I make a claim,or five. -:)
I'm sure the Hadcock is a fine arm, but it's not going to behave the same as a gimbal bearing arm. There is not really much difference between the two methods. Because one method may work better for a particular setup than the other does not invalidate the other method.
Hello Halcro,
Thank you too for your post, enjoyed the read as well.
After I read it, I was thinking of Doub, thinking of some of the things he would be telling me to "remember-consider" with Cartridge set up/Tuning.

Doug I remember mentioning once to me not to be too anal about the precision of a Digital Scale, and that while a decent scale will help you get into the ballpark, and the Manufacturer's recommended range of settings, that the ear is the final criteria in achieving best sound.

I think common sense would dictate, when one makes a change, or tweak, and it sounds better, one could assume "somthing right was done".

I myself also went to a better (or should I say "easier") Expressimo Micro-Tech Digital Scale, from previously using the Shure teeter-totter SG-2.

I double checked this Digital against reference weights just to insure it was reaonably accurate, and it was, but of course, a Scale that only reads on .1g increments isn't going to tell you if you're accuratly at 1.93g.

Doug had mentioned an ultra accurate Gauge was only perhaps needed if one wished to exactly repeat a previous setting if one was doing constant changeouts, and wanted to get dialed back in quickly with a previously used Cartridge.

Not to hammer you with the obvious though, have you ever perhaps confirmed the accuracy of your newer Scale? Mark
Hi Halcro,

You combined two topics into one post. I'll address them individually.


Arthur's method and mine are more alike than different. We each start from a defined baseline and move up in increments, noting sonic improvements as we go. When the sound begins to deteriorate we take that as the upper limit of the sweet zone. We then fine tune between that upper limit and the last known point of improvement, which of course is the sweet zone's lower limt. It's the same methodology.

There are some differences of course. Our baselines are different. Arthur starts at the manufacturer's recommended minimum VTF. I start at the mistracking point, which will vary with individual cartridges, tonearms, climates, and even records. Choose an arbitrary point or learn how to optimize for each unique situation, it's up to you.

Arthur takes you through big steps, then smaller steps, then tiny steps. I take you directly to tiny steps because IME they are audible with this cartridge.


We play a few hundredths of a gram above the mistracking point. You prefer much higher VTF's. I suspect this is because we listen to different music, through different systems, with different ears that are attuned to different sonic priorities. (BTW, it would really help discussions like this if yours were listed.)

The strings sound just as horrible at 1.5gm, 1.7gm and 1.9gm.
I'm not surprised. 1.5g is much too low and 1.7 probably is too. Ours is the only UNIverse I've heard of that's yet broken in (down?) enough to play below 1.8, never mind any lower. 1.9 would have been marginal in colder weather for us a year ago, as I explained. I doubt yours has enough hours on it to attempt such low VTF's.

I actually found that I heard none of your aural descriptions on HF and bass when I followed your methodology.
The fact that I'm tracking much higher than you and apparently the other users here is a little worrying?.....but perhaps it's all system dependent?
I'm getting the Continuum Copperhead this week together with the Dynavector DV1s and I get my Schroeder Ref arm in a month so I'll be able to mount the ZYX in both to compare it to the Hadcock.
I think you've hit the nail on the head. The UNIverse is too resolving and sensitive a pickup for your present tonearm to get the most out of it. I suspect you'll hear very different results with both of your new arms, on which I congratulate you BTW.


MIght I suggest the optional brass mounting plate to come w. your Schroder. It will improve the bass on your ZYX as well as everything else. Just my experience.
Doug i have been having my Universe for about 10 months. We listen to music a lot. I started charting my time daily in the beginning but stopped in mid May at that time i had 300 plus hrs. By now i am reaching or have surpassed the 1000 hr mark i would guess.
I found your post a while back on this revelation and was saying to myself, man i cant wait till i get there to experience more of what Universe is capable of. Well it warmed up in south Louisiana today and using my digital VTF gauge was tracking at 1.68 with sound that was crystal clear and very enjoyable to the ears. AT times the sound can be a little to lean with some music when tracking in the lower range of VTF but still no distortion. With your idea of using rubber rings it makes ease of making large moves in VTF. With my JMW 10.5i having a fine tuning adjustment i can dial in the best sound. Of course anti skate adjustments with JMW are by ear only as with the wire twist you have no gage to guide you. I have found like yourself that not much is needed. VTA is a breeze with adjustment on the fly.
BTW when tracking at 2.10 and below the loss of air and HF is not as great as you would think in fact with some lps its fantastic.
Any how from what i have experienced with Universe this cartridge will track like no other and deliver the music like no other to.
Many thanks for your super info on ZYX cartridges.
Happy musical days
I just had a great expereince last night. I own the Atmos, of which, not much has been said or even tested. Of course correct me if I am wrong there. As Doug has mentioned, the Atmos is not a finicky as the Universe to precise degrees but I still work within precise degrees.

I am getting to proabably the 30-40 hour mark. Hardly coming into its own. Up to this point I had been tracking generally between 2.05-2.15. I really had not played around with much below that. I have done Dougs method several times of trying to find the mistracking point and increasing from there but I have a hard time knowing exactly what mistracking sounds like. So based on Dougs cold weather expereince I just decided to play around in the higher VTF areas now that it winter.

The sound has been good, excellent even but I knew there had to be more. I mean I am playing around with some stellar equipment so I knew there had to be more.

Well last night after a good warm up I decided to try dropping the VTF slowly. All of a sudden things began to really get amazing. Right around 2.00 the sound just...well blew my head off is the only way I can put it. i have never in my life achieved this level of fidelity! I had to turn my head away in astonishment i could hardly believe that my Focals could produce this sound.

Man I cannot wait to experiment further. I think I might have had my first glimpse of what drives people so passionately into vinyl. Not to mention of course all the fantastic music out there!!

Mariasplune not only is the superior sound that vinyl playback delivers satisfying but the fact that its hands on, your own trial and error thats what i love almost as much as the sound. Vinyl play back is a true hobby both in sound and hands on. If you dont experiment you will never know whats possible. Enjoy your weekend
All of a sudden things began to really get amazing. Right around 2.00 the sound just...well blew my head off...
... not only is the superior sound that vinyl playback delivers satisfying but the fact that its hands on, your own trial and error thats what i love almost as much as the sound.
Me too. It's like playing an instrument that needs constant, knowing attention to give its best.

Stltrains, AFAIK you're #2 in the world to successfully play a ZYX below 1.70g. Welcome to insanity. ;-)
Doug i forgot to ask, you mention that number 2 is your Universe of use now. Whats the story on number 1? Did it reach the point of retiping?
BTW really glad there forums like this where people can find out things of importance like our sickness, analog play back. For me its the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Seriously though i would not have even known of ZYX and Mr Mehran if it wasnt for this fine web site and your super info on them. The big rags dont seem to respect ZYX very strange.
thanks again.
"It's like playing an instrument that needs constant,knowing attention to give its best".

No arguement from me(too afraid,actually!!-:),and a perfect reason to become very "hands on" familiar with any good rig!!
Though the folks "here" are willing and able to do this,there are many potential serious vinylistas who don't go past the dealer's set-up choices.This business of voicing an analog rig seems to drive some folks away from LP play!It's really not that big a deal! PS...the guy who bought my Triplanar has not touched the dealer set-up,for four years,but is an avid music lover!!I mean the type to spend 500 dollars to see Wagner's Ring cycle,at the MET!! Go figure!!
Of course this leaves more vinyl for me to collect,but it really is a loss to all of us!One reason why the mainstream press is SO uninteresting!
I mean just last week I played a 49 year old disc(Command label...tongue in cheek,Enoch Light music..recorded by the Mercury team of Fine and Piros,which I got for a buck)which reinforced my "opinion"(don't want anymore trouble -:)that there has been NO real progress in "musical reality" on recordings.Just more convenience and choices.
BTW,anyone else,other than me,feel that the actual "phono cartridge"(the BEST of the breed) has been the "biggest" improvement in "real" reality,amongst the multitude of components that make up a great system?Do you think "this" has been the greatest breakthrough in music reproduction?

great thread, alway interesting to hear how people tweak the machine to bring it to higher levels. This will help me as I have recently upgraded to a universe cartridge (can't wait to get it!!). I have been using a zyx airy3s for a couple of years and have used dougs approach to fine tune my cartridge. When you find that sweet spot, the cartridge really sings. THanks for the string

After we had UNIverse #1 for about a year Mehran heard from some foreign dealer wanting a used one for demo purposes. He offered us a good trade in so we took the opportunity to get back to zero hours.

ZYX has no retipping service per se. When the time comes Mehran takes your old cartridge in trade and sells you a new one at a special price - like he did with ours. One could investigate aftermarket retippers but I wouldn't do it myself. They probably don't have access to the ZYX stylus. It's finer than other microridges, which IMO is one reason for the great resolution, clear HF extension and almost non-existent inner groove distortion. No coarser stylus that I've heard can do these things.

SirSpeedy wrote:
...just last week I played a 49 year old disc... which reinforced my "opinion" ... that there has been NO real progress in "musical reality" on recordings.
No argument from me. I've been trying to help a fellow A'goner with sibilance problems he's having on certain LP's of contemporary female vocalists. He mailed me a couple since we don't have them.

They played clean for us but the root cause of his problems became obvious: the singers were miked too close. When they push sibilants hard any component in the system that doesn't do HF's extremely well is going to smear them.

In addition, these engineers multi-miked everything and manipulated the tracks in the mix. (Example: three mikes for one acoustic bass, good grief!) The result sounds artificial. I want to hear music, not engineering tricks. I put on some old Verve recordings of Ella and Billie just to hear it done (almost) right again. :-)

BTW,anyone else,other than me,feel that the actual "phono cartridge"(the BEST of the breed) has been the "biggest" improvement in "real" reality,amongst the multitude of components that make up a great system?Do you think "this" has been the greatest breakthrough in music reproduction?
Until we got our Nick Doshi electronics we would have agreed entirely. Now it's not so easy to say that. We've heard 1 or 2 other cartridges that come reasonably close to a UNIverse. We've heard no other phono or line stage that comes close to our Doshi Alaap. There's been real progress there too.
Yeah,Doug,BUT the Doshi stuff is putting through what the "cartridge" hears.The cartridge's own distinct personality,and they all have the earmarks of their own dedicated "designer"....SO damn cool!!...Here is where I really envy those guys who have the time/money/patience to actually collect different designs...like a coin/stamp collector,or vinyl collector if we want to stay on subject.Whatever comes through the chain,regardless of electronics/speakers etc,starts at the cartridge(stylus,if one wants to get technical).To my way of thinking what the listener "really" hears(assuming all else is done "right")is the cartridge!No? -:)
Trust me,though I have no doubt the Doshi stuff is "fabs",I've got a couple of friends who have mega serious line/phonostages as well.
I never like to personally "talk up" my own personal system(unless an audiogon question relates here)because I feel it takes validity away from anything worthwhile I may have to say,and inserts ego instead.BUT I am definitely NOT insinuating you,or anyone else is guilty of this,and actually have no problem when some do so,which is often.
I try to speak through my personal experiences with friends' set-ups,who own SOTA stuff(the tables aren't bad,btw -:)
While we are on subject...one of your favorite cartridges is now on sale,here on 'gon....The Olympos...VERY nice design.SO collectible! I've got a friend who has it(not the lucky dog's most expensive either),but it's NOT his favorite,in his stable!Some folks are too lucky!!-:)
FWIW,a fanatical Classical LP collector!
I see that the Olympos for sale is the lower output model, just 0.2mv. That's the version we've heard, twice; it's presumably faster and more responsive than the high output version. When I hit the lotto I'm thinking of asking Mehran for an extra-low output UNIverse, just half the length of wire on the coils for .12mv. It should sound incredible and we have enough gain.

We recently had a second opportunity to A/B the Olympos and UNIverse, this time in our system on our arm (last time was in Cello's system on a Schroeder Ref.) Different arms produce different results of course, but we were still surprised.

The Olympos no longer displayed the slight speed advantage it had at Cello's, they now seem dead even in that respect. More evidence that our relaxing suspension is letting the UNIverse become a hair faster? The session at Cello's compared a low hours UNIverse with a well seasoned Olympos, which perhaps gave some advantage to the Lyra (the opposite of our UNIverse/Orpheus session, which gave that advantage to the ZYX).

The only significant difference between these two in our setup was surprising to me, though not to the owner, who referred to the "classic, old Lyra sound". The Olympos brushed each note with the lightest touch of mink (his own term, very apt). It was like the subtlest imaginable Koetsu-ing of the sound, very unlike any modern Lyra.

It was so deftly done that even Paul admired it, and he normally dislikes that sort of coloration even more than I do. While we prefer the more revealing neutrality of the ZYX we could happily live with an Olympos! We can't afford both! Like you we're not collectors of anything but records, and those are for listening.

P.S. The Orpheus would also be on our shortlist of top class favorites and I actually can't think of any others (that we've heard). I expect a fully broken in copy would come pretty close to the other two, with individual differences I'm sure. A more extended comparison with seasoned copies would be interesting.

P.P.S. Remember that nasty, pinch-warped copy of 'Trio' the new Orpheus couldn't track? Well, neither could the seasoned Olympos. Nor can Dan_Ed's XV-1S. There's something about that warp that gives most cartridges fits. For whatever reason, a ZYX sails over it without even pumping the woofers. Maybe some arm/cart magic going on?
Doug: FWIW, the highest-resolution, most neutral cartridge in our lineup is not the Olymos, but the Titan i.

The Olympos has a more artfully stylized sound which undoubtedly makes it sound better on many systems. The Olympos is the one cartridge where we've deliberately allowed ourselves to indulge in poetic liberties (^o^). Probably as a result of this, I've been told by most Olympos owners that they prefer the Olympos, and I've also heard multiple installations where I agreed that the Olympos sounded preferable to the Titan.

But in a really top-flight system and set up immaculately, the Titan i (especially the single-layer coil SL version) shows higher resolution, greater dynamics and neutrality. I've had this confirmed to me by Olympos owners, who found that the performance hierarchy between Olympos and Titan was reversed once they upgraded their systems and also put more effort into the setup. Of course, personal taste also plays a big role, so if someone listens to the Olympos and Titan i in a top-flight setup and still prefers the Olympos, I fully understand.

Remember, when we buy a transducer like a cartridge or speaker (although the same also applies to amplification), we are buying the potential for performance, but not a guarantee of performance. Much of the performnce is up to the component, but the level of performance actually achieved also depends on how much of that performance we can extract, by choice of partnering equipment and setup. And I think that the more neutral and revealing the component in question is, (almost by definition) the deeper you have to dig to get most of the performance out.

I am sure that many of you already know all of this (particularly you, Doug), but it is worth the occasional reminder (^o^).

regards to all, jonathan carr
Doug can you explain to me a bit more about what you mean by cartridge speed. I hear this term and understand it somewhat but wouls appreciate some light shedded on this topic. How does speed effct sound (in general) and why is it a good thing, as it seems to be?

Great thread. Its about the only break I take from listening!
Doug,thankfully warps don't occur with my table(vacuum).Yet my next move,next spring/summer is to definitely get a disc flattener.Gotta have one!!Sometimes you can replay a previously perfect LP,and find a slight warp(sucks,if too big).The Cosmos has most of "those" covered,but occassionally I have a slight problem,which requires my pinching the tubing,to fool the table into thinking it is vacuumed flat.
My Olympos friend(I'm sure Jcar knows him)has the Titan i,and the mono Titan i,plus the Koetsu Coral Stone(I hate him,btw-:).He mirrors Jcarr's thoughts almost exactly,as to performance.BUT what he does(lucky dog)is switch arm wands based on music played.
For all I know,he may have a PC-1,in house as of now.
BTW..he did not win the lottery,but DID get a divorce,awhile back.Maybe,in his case,that was winning the lottery-:)

PS,I am surprised you are loosening up,regarding the "O".What you heard,should still remain valid,unless you heard it again!This statement is "strictly" hobby talk,no agitation intended.
While on the "hobby talk" subject(hey you blocked me,so how else to yenta about stuff),I was shocked that my 2.2 sold in 4 days!!My pal,who I always set up stuff for,did me a favor and sold it for me.
The Phantom is coming much sooner than I thought.Perhaps next week,but my arm board is at Sota.
Truthfully,I am SO worn out from all my playing around and voicing of stuff,that I am NOT looking forward for more scrutinizing set-up work!!
Sorry for my always long winded posts,but some things I can't change.
Hi Jonathon,

Thanks for getting me more up to date. I haven't heard a Titan i but of course I'll pay close attention if/when I get the chance.

"Artfully stylized" sounds alot like "brushed with a hint mink" to me. ;-) It really was artful, as I said.

Those poetic liberties weren't audible the first time we heard an Olympos, in another system, but they were clearly on display during our recent session. That's a good demonstration of the points you made regarding setup, other components and the neutrality of systems as a whole. The less colored everything else gets, the more noticeable even subtle shades of color become when they're present in any one component.

Of course personal preference always wins out, as you said. This particular Olympos owner brought it around to compare because he wanted to hear it in a system that's more neutral than his own. He prefers a hint (just a hint) of that poetic license. His system has a touch of it and he understands quite well this is why he prefers the Olympos.

BTW, thanks for the nth time for your helpful advice re: the frequency of stylus cleaning (2-3 years ago on VA). We've been religious followers and advocates ever since as you know, to good effect. I've saved any number of "broken" cartridges belonging to others simply by cleaning up the state their neglected styli had fallen into.