ZYX universe cartridge---initial impressions

Category: Analog

I have just recieved my "new" universe cartridge and wanted to share my initial experiences with the cartridge. It is a used cartridge that was purchased through audiogon and is touted as extremely low hours(less than 100). Under the microscope, the stylus looks perfect with no observable wear or coatings. It was well packed to prevent shipping damage. I know many people get concerned buying used equipment, but that is one of the advantages imho of this site, people tend to have and offer quality merchandise and deliver what was promised. As far as the sonic qualities of the cartridge, i am still learning. My existing cartridge is an airy3s so i was expecting a significant upgrade in sound quality. Not that the airy is a slouch (by far the best cartridge i have ever used) but everything said about the universe is that it is a better cartridge. My initial settings are 1.80 tracking with a level (cartridge to record surface) vta. I have not adjusted from these settings yet. The rest of my system is a maplenoll ariadne with carbon fiber arm, rotel phono stage and marantz sr9300 pushing klipschorns. What did I hear compared to my airy? First I would describe the airy and universe as being a neutral sound in that it appears the balance between bass, mids and highs are consistent wih what is on the vinyl. Some cartridges tend to accent certain bands such as mids or highs, more bass etc. I do not get this impression when playing the universe. I played 4 albums so far (Karajan showpieces for orchestra album 2, Maurice Ravel on Angel records with Andre Cluytens conducting, Alan Parsons Pyramid, and a MOFI pressing of Dire Straits). One of the significant differences is what i would describe as the speed of the cartridge. That is every note sounds more crisp and complete on the universe. The resolution of individual instruments is also significantly better. this does not show up on my rock albums but was very apparent when playing the Karajan album. It appears that more of the orchestra is there in the room. The sound stage is a little larger than my airy3s. again this is more apparent in the classical album compared to the rock album. The Mofi version of the dire straits album was fantastic. The bass response is deep and strong. The background during quiet passages is clear and almost CD like. This album also played very well using my airy3s. I had expected that i would have to crank up my overall amp level with the low output but found the sound was very similar in level to the airy3 though the output is lower. not sure why however. I will upgrade my phono stage next to find one more compatable with the rest of my system. I still will tweak the vta and vtf to ensure i have found the sweet spot. But so far, i have been very pleased with the initial experience with the cartridge as well as pleased with using this site to make transactions for equipment,
Hi, Is this the low output cart? Also, is it copper or silver.

Sorry i did not include in note. The universe model is the .24 mv output and silver wire coils