Alternative names for "ZYX UNIverse" cartridge

Somehow I have the idea that the "UNIverse" name for this cartridge was one of two or more other names that designate the exact same item, depending upon where in the world it was sold. In other words, it may have been marketed within Japan by another name. Is this correct? And if so, what is the name given to the UNIverse when sold in Japan? Thanks.
"The Planets"

Later they found "The Planets" had a "Universal" appeal and changed the name.

So creative, It inspired an album by Gustav Holst 94 years before it was released.
Perhaps, however maybe your thinking about the ZYX Ayame, essentially a bodiless ZYX UNIverse.

AFAIK, SORAsound had and still has exclusive worldwide rights to distribute the UNIverse design (however named). ZYX agreed to this in exchange for development assistance provided by SORAsound. I'm unaware of that particular design ever being sold under another name, as doing so would have violated the spirit and perhaps the letter of their agreement (unless perhaps with a material change in design, as suggested by In shore).

Perhaps you're remembering the "Atmos"? That model was introduced exclusively by SORAsound prior to its release to all distributors/dealers as the "4D".
Thanks to all, and I was especially hoping Doug would respond. First of all, I cannot be right or wrong, because I was making no assertion; I was merely asking the question. Second, Doug is correct; I may have been thinking of the dual names given to the 4D and the Atmos.

But since SORAsound is the exclusive marketer of the UNIs in the US, it remains possible that the same cartridge is marketed in Japan (and Australia?) under a different name. If so, I wonder what that name may be. There is a ZYX cartridge for sale on eBay (from a Japan seller) that by looks and description certainly seems to be UNIverse-like. I will be visiting my son in Tokyo soon, and I was hoping to pick up the UNIverse equivalent. I think I want one, but I cannot pay the US price for the UNI2.

Albert, Could it be the Galaxy, or was that a 58 Ford?

Ldvalve, Do you know the alternative name for the UNI in Oz?

This is what I meant, the R1000AIRY3G sure looks like a UNIverse, but then again, there is a family resemblance among all ZYX cartridges.
I've owned the Airy 3, the 4D and the UNIverse. They all look very similar except for the labels. They have a similar house sonic signature, but do not sound the same.
Some manufacturers make every model look different, not ZYX.

That cartridge is an Airy 3, not a UNIverse. The "G" stands for gold coils ("S" = silver, "X" = copper).

It looks like a UNIverse because the original UNIverse was the top model in ZYX's "Airy" family of cartridges, which also included the Airy 3, Airy 2 and R-100 Fuji (possibly others, I forget). All "Airy" cartridges used the same polycarbonate body. Except for the model name on the faceplate they are visually indistinguishable except upon very close inspection. (Example: the UNIverse has a sapphire backplate vs. a cheaper material for the lower models. This would be difficult to see in a photo and there's no other visible difference unless you can see different cantilever materials or the effects of cryoing.)

You can see pix of several ZYX cartridges here Needle Doctor ZYX page. Rows 4 and 5 include several Airy-family models, including an Airy 3G. Note the visual similarities...

One correction to Jmcgrogan2's post: the 4D/Atmos is quite different from the Airy family of cartridges. Its body is less substantial and wide open on the sides and bottom - a semi-nude design. This same body is used for the new UNIverse II. There are 4D pix on that Needle Doctor page if you want to see the difference.

Thanks, Doug. I searched for info on the 4D/Atmos and found your and Paul's review of same. You apparently hit the nail on the head, because all other reviews cited the same virtues and deficiencies, pretty much, for the 4D vs the UNI. I would consider the 4D, if it would give me some near equivalent of the UNI performance, to save money. But as you say, it's good but "different".

No one seems to have offered up the alternative name of the UNIverse as sold in Japan, assuming there is such.

I have regularly read that the 0.24mV SB copper wire version of the UNI is to be preferred. Any thoughts on the gold wire version? I had a Colibri with gold wiring; it did not knock my socks off.
Doug, the 4D's shape may have been different, but it still looks like a clear acrylic body like the UNIverse and Airy 3.

When I think different looking, I mean really different looking. Look at the Sumiko like, the Blackbird looks nothing like the Celebration, or the difference between the Dynavector XV-1s and a TE Kaitora Rua. These are radically different looking cartridges within the same line. The ZYX line, by comparison, has subtle differences visually.
What about the Omega? When I first saw it years ago, I thought the purple ball out front was the height of gimmickry. ("Lapus lazuli", indeed.) Since then I've heard the UNIverse and gained high respect for ZYX as a result.

I want to add a top flight LOMC to my cartridge repertoire, and I think I want it to be a ZYX, but after hearing so many superb and inexpensive vintage MM and MI cartrides in my system in recent years, I am the more reluctant to pay the ca $5K freight for a new UNI, or a "reconditioned" one from Sorasound.
Lewm You will not be making a mistake buying a UNIverse even though your wallet and collection of MM ,MI sez different.
On top you have an excellent phono section to help convince you made a very good decision and
I think Doug Deacon would agree with me on that.
Thanks, In-shore. I did not mean to imply that buying a UNIverse would be a "mistake"; it's just that I have been getting so much bang for the buck with these other cartridges that I have become a bit impecunious (love that word). Indeed, I have never ever paid more than around $2200 for a cartridge (that was for a used Colibri). Got my Urushi in Tokyo for less. So, you could fairly say that I have always been an audio cheapskate. And I now do see that up until I found these excellent vintage MM and MI cartridges, and except for three MCs that I now own or have recently owned and that I do or did enjoy (Urushi, Colibri, Ortofon MC7500), I was cheating myself of a lot of pleasure because of my close-mindedness about cost.
Ldvalve, Thanks for the tip. The Ayame seems to be a nude UNIverse made for sale in Australia. Have you heard it? It must be a real featherweight, given that the fully enclosed (or at least partially enclosed) UNI is already very lightweight unless you add the optional SB, which is recommended by most.
it is an awesome Cartridge. heard it on the Kuzmar 4 point arm . Dynamic is to die for .speed and explosive sound stage . great cartridge by any means .


I've been off skiing for a week, hope this is still helpful. The following is true for all models where we've made a comparison (Airy 3, 4D and UNIverse)...

X (copper coils): fastest, most macro-dynamic, most micro-dynamic, least slurring of leading/trailing edges, lowest sound floor, greatest "snap"

S (silver coils): less so (analogy: turns a ZYX into a Benz)

G (gold coils): much less so (analogy: turns a ZYX into a Koetsu)

Low Output/.24mv (but ZYX uses a non-standard test record, so use .35mv for calculating phono stage gain requirements): see the characteristics ascribed to copper coils, above

Hi Output/.48mv (but ZYX uses a non-standard test record, so use .70mv for calculating phono stage gain requirements): see the characteristics ascribed to gold coils, above

It has NOTHING to do with conductivity or other electrical properties of the coils. It's simply a function of their mass, in which:

Gold > Silver > Copper
Hi output (2X as many coils) > Low output (1X as many coils)

Reducing the moving mass of the coils on the armature reduces its inertia. Result? Faster responses, less slurring, greater amplitudes.

For any given ZYX model, the fastest, liveliest, most dynamic sound will come from the low output version with copper coils (and the SB weight). The slowest, softest, least dynamic sound would come from a high output version with gold coils (and no SB weight).

This is not theory. It's derived from comparative listening and thinking about why we heard what we heard. The differences were very easy to discern.


Ldvalve's description of the sound of a nuded UNIverse sounds much like our review of the UNIverse II, which is a semi-nuded UNIverse (UNIverse in 4D body).
Dear Doug, Thank you for your advice. I note that you couldn't resist taking a shot at the Koetsu, any Koetsu. It's OK. I forgive you. I haven't listened to my Urushi in so long I've forgotten whether to defend it or not. Are you sure you were away skiing, or were you just lost in the snow in CT?

I don't necessarily buy your explanation of WHY the 0.24mV copper version of the UNI sounds best, but I do take the point that it does sound best.
It wasn't really a dig (much!)... actually a pretty realistic comparison. Many people prefer a more rounded, relaxed sound... including nakatsuka-san himself! I'm told his personal preference is the gold-coils.

We were indeed buried up here. My Sat morning flight didn't get out until Mon night... 2.5 days shovelling snow instead of skiing it. We had 40" of measured snowfall, 5-6 feet in drifts. I couldn't open the house doors Saturday morning, it was up to the door handles. Had to climb out a window, posthole to the deck and dig the doors out.

I'm open to other explanations of course. The sound is as described. Wouldn't differences in moving mass explain it? Which accelerates faster and corners quicker, a motorcycle or a Mack truck? ;)
I note that you couldn't resist taking a shot at the Koetsu, any Koetsu...

The Koetsus - any - have 2 real advantages

Based on their dominant midrange and weak frequencies in high and low they change any harsh, analytical analog System into something bearable.

No. 2.
*Ahem* .... I forgot.....
All three coil versions have the same frequency response out to 100KHz.

Coil mass has nothing to do with the difference. The stylus movements are greater than the coil.

Silver is only 17% heavier than copper. Gold 3X heavier.

Silver has the highest conductivity of any metal, higher than copper or gold.

I have both the silver and copper coil Airy 3 SB's on identical arm tubes (VPI JMW10), that can be swapped in 30 seconds for comparison.

Silver takes a couple of months longer to longer to break in. IMO very similar sound characteristics, with the silver slightly warmer with more apparent high frequencies.

The British ZYX distributor stocks and prefers silver. Copper coil versions are special order.

The choice is a mater of taste.
Syntax, Thanks for helping me out on the Koetsu.

Doug, I would have written much of what Don wrote, to justify my doubts about cause and effect, but I did not want to get into it. Also, altho the fact that the difference in conductivity of silver vs copper and the difference in density between them would effectively cancel each other out, if both were equally important in winding the coil of an MC cartridge, I am not at all sure that conductivity makes that much difference; I think the amplitude of the signal generated depends only upon the number of turns of wire, the strength of the magnetic field, and the distance between them. Yet it's not hard to fathom that conductivity may also play a role. But if lowest moving mass was a central factor in "goodness", then moving iron cartridges would hold sway. (But maybe they do.)
Don_c55's description of the silver coils as "slightly warmer" matches my experience.

Copper = most neutral and dynamic
Silver = 17% warmer
Gold = about 3 times warmer

Interesting question, Lew. Unfortunately, as we know, there's no solution that doesn't carry its own problems.

MI cartridges differ from MC's and MM's in more than moving mass. An MI propagates the signal by causing one magnetic field to induce a response in another magnetic field. The induced response is necessarily phase-shifted from the original, more or less depending on the cartridge's design/build characteristics.

The audible effects of this phase-shift will depend on these characteristics and of course on the transparency of the entire system. At one end we hear mere "smoothing" or "sludge" (think, entry-level Grado). At the other end we may hear a distinct "echo", very disconcerting, at least to our ears.

The first MI I ever played caused Paul and me to wince. His quicker ears and brain let him instantly describe the phase-shifted echo that was the reason for our discomfort.

After thinking (and wincing) for about 30 seconds he asked, "Does this cartridge generate signal in some unusual way?". I confirmed that it did, and described how MI cartridges work. He rolled his eyes and nodded.

Without knowing anything about the cartridge (he'd never even heard of an MI) and with no prompting whatsoever, Paul heard this inherent characteristic and deduced that the generator wasn't a typical MM or MC design. Scary but true.
I think the amplitude of the signal generated depends only upon the number of turns of wire, the strength of the magnetic field, and the distance between them.
True. Of course the distance between them is a function of how far and fast the coils are displaced by a groove modulation. Now if coil A is has greater inertial mass than coil B...
Yeah, but the difference in mass between silver and copper is rather negligible, AND conductivity of silver is better by about the same amount, SO IF conductivity has any bearing on it, then one could wind a silver wire coil with correspondingly fewer turns of wire than a copper one with similar output. Ergo, the two parameters (density and conductivity) would cancel each other in terms of mass. But this gets back to my not knowing whether conductivity has a linear effect on the system. And my being too lazy to find out.

I am not gifted with Paul's hypersenses, but I do hear a very slight sonic character to MI cartridges that I do not hear with MM or MC. It does not make me wince, and I never roll my eyes; it hurts. However, there are distinguishing characteristics between MM and MC, as well. The very best MI cartridges I have heard... are very very good. I just search for what I like regardless of the technology. It's endless fun of a masochistic kind. But maybe a ZYX UNI will be my Holy Grail or Nirvana or just get me through the night (Frank Sinatra credit).
"... endless fun of a masochistic kind."

Rather like posting on internet forums!
Dougdeacon, I just got the same ZYX mark 2 like you. How many hours did it take to open up the sound of this cartridge? I am at 1.85 grams and find right now that my VTA is much higher than parallel to sound good. I have owned other ZYX and they too needed time to open up. Thanks, Jeff
Lewm- I don't have nearly your experience or expertise in analog in general or carts in particular, but aren't most of the metrics that Doug was talking about (speed, micro-dynamics, clean leading and trailing edges) have more to w responsiveness to the groove modulations than to the the amplitude of the cart's output, so from the standpoint of pure physics, I am going w Doug's theory about less mass and thus lower inertia. Of course, that might not apply to macro-dynamics. Maybe a cart designer like Jcarr or someone w experience cutting record masters like Atmasphere will chime in.
Regards, Swampwalker:

Scroll down to pg. 9, notes relating to a 1976 address by Peter Prichard to the Boston Audio Society.

Dear Swampwalker, Thanks for the compliment, but I really don't deserve any such. Who could deny your central thesis: "less mass and thus lower inertia"? And it is very appealing to use Newton's Laws thusly to explain Doug's hands-on experience of the performance of the two different forms of the UNI. All I am saying is that this is only a correlation. We do not really know cause and effect. Moreover, I was also saying that I am not at all sure that a silver coil in an MC with 0.24mV output would indeed have any more mass than a copper coil in an MC with 0.24mV output, because the superior conductivity of silver might ameliorate the slightly higher density of silver, vs copper. And then I pointed out that IM cartridges have the lowest moving mass of all, so if moving mass is the major player in detail retrieval, shouldn't we all agree that IM cartridges are best for that? Needless to say, we don't.

Don't yet know what Peter Pritchard said, but he was the designer of the ADC XLM series, IIRC.
Yup, and I still have one. Originally bought it in the 70s for a Dual 1229. Moved it to my
H-K/Rabco ST-7 in the 80s, where it still lives.

I used to entertain visitors by swapping cartridges between that setup and the Teres/TriPlanar/UNIverse. Until they hear it, many people don't appreciate how putting a fancy cartridge on a cheap rig can be a waste of money, while putting a good rig beneath a cheap cartridge can let it boogie like nobody's business.


Ours opened up in 30-50 hours IIRC.

I've never known any ZYX to play its best significantly nose down. Rather than that, I'd suggest re-levelling and then reducing VTF. From your brief description I'd guess yours may be too high.

Try my method of reducing VTF in ~.05g increments until you get mistracking on tough-to-track passages. Then scootch it back up just .01-.03g.

Oh... disengage anti-skating while doing this. You can add some back later if necessary but base VTF should be set with A/S at zero.
Lewm- Agree completely that correlation does not say anything about causation but remember we were trying to identify factor potentially responsible for differences between carts of same basic architecture; presumably w same cantilevers, stylus, body, etc. Diff btwn MI, MM, and MC carts have so many variables, IMO, that they are unlikely to be explained by one parameter. Not said too clearly; it's the end of a long day, but I think you know what I mean. BTW, since my primary source is (shudder) a music server, I was trying to point out that I do not have the experiential "database" to apply to the question that either you or Doug have. Apologies to the OP for taking this so far off-course.
Now I understand the genesis of your moniker. Anyone who uses a... music server... as a primary source is indeed lost in the audio swamp. (Kidding; I've heard good ones sound excellent.)
Jwm, also make sure your stylus is Magic Eraser clean after each side. The ZYX stylus collects gunk faster than any stylus I know and its HF performance deteriorates accordingly.
Yes Dougdeacon, I was one of the first to use the eraser. I think it just needs the 50 hours of break in.
Yep, that's me. Deep in the muck and mire at work AND at play. I'm self employed, put in long hours and LOVE the convenience of my MusicVault/Modwright Transporter. I've tons of LPs from the good old days and buy an occasional new one, but until I retire it'll be mostly digital for this fool.
Are you ripping LPs to hi-rez digital? I've never done it, but those who do say that the "flavor" of vinyl (and the quality of the cartridge/tonearm) can be appreciated after such a conversion.
I know a few who ripped LP's, all of them are lonely, their only friend is a cat or old dog, their only email is the daily result from their ebay searches and they wear pink or purple panties. I asked a ripper today "Jack, what is the flavor?" He looked at me 2 minutes, 3, minutes...after 5 minutes I asked him again "Hey Jack, you know the flavor ?"
He said "Aheeeeemmm, you mean the flavor from McDonalds? I heard they have a new ice cream..."...I gave up...I really tried my best to find a good ripper but Jack was not up to the task... And no, no one of them uses a Zyx UNIverse.
Syntax- ?????
Lewm- No I have not tried ripping LPs. analog gets played on my table, digital on the server (save for about a dozen or 2 SACDs which go into my Exemplar 3910).
Wow Dougdeacon, the cartridge is starting to sound glorious. I put on a classical percussion record on the Erato label. The dynamics and bass whacks could give a person a heart attack. I never heard such weight and tightness and power in the bass like this before. The top end remains refined, open, and detailed. I am in aw of the coherence from the top to bottom. Oh boy I'm afraid what more hours is going to bring me. I should also note that I had my Io Signature phono stage updated to the eclipse series, which means much beefier case and better parts. I'm sure that had something to do with it as well. I also added the electronic speed control to my Basis Debut turntable. I ordered A.J. Conti's new tonearm which will not be available until the spring. Toys
Jwm, it is indeed a glorious cartridge. As good as the original UNIverse was, the UNI II improves on its weight, impact, speed and clarity while taking its remarkably low sound floor even lower. All this while improving the coherence of a cartridge that was already as coherent as any I've heard, as you noted. It's hard to believe until you experience it.

Classical percussion on Erato? Yum (and yikes!). I've got a few of those and they will knock you off the sofa if you aren't expecting it. ;-)
Doug you are right I was actually in fear when those bombs would drop really scary. I never had that kind of dynamics before. The Erato is Stockhausen by Sylvio Gualda. I even listened to Simon and Garfunkel Parsley, Sage original Columbia 2 eye which sounded amazing. The recording is a little dark and not the most transparent, but beautiful tone and voice. Its interesting that classical sounds so good on vinyl and not so good on CD. However, when I listen to jazz recorded on cd from the 50 and 60's the cd's sound great and close to the vinyl sound.

Is the new Basis arm the Super Arm 9? Do you know anything more about it than what is on the Basis site?

I have a Vector 3 on a Basis Debut (vacuum clamp, outboard motor controller) setup so that new arm, assuming it has the same geometry as the older arms would be an enticing drop in upgrade.

I have not done any kind of ripping of LPs to digital, although that has become a more intriguing possibility now that I have gotten most of my CDs on to a server. I have heard rips to analogue tape that were quite nice sounding, although I don't see myself ever going the route of less convenience.
Larryi, yes about the arm. Talk to AJ he said once you hear the new one you can't go back to the Vector. I already have one on order. Why would you want to put the vinyl on cd when the sound of the record is better. This does not make sense. Make sure you have one of his new super thin belts for the turntable motor.
Lewm my system is the ESP Harps (similar to the Concert Grands), Modright tube modded 105, Basis Debut vacuum and vector arm with ZYX, VAC 300.1 Mono blocks and 2 Signature line stage. Aesthetix ref. IO phone stage with dual mono power supplies. Siltech and Wireworld wire. I have an Absolare 845 mono amps on order as well.
I can see someone, for easy access to a collection, and perhaps, out of concern over record wear, might want to rip lps to a digital server. I am currently ripping my cds, but, I will not be doing that with records. I do have a newer belt and that did make a big difference for relatively small amount of money.
You will not catch me ripping LPs to digital. Syntax notwithstanding. I would never spend the time, in the first place. Nor do I see the point unless storage space for LPs is in very short supply. CDs, yes. CDs should be ripped.

Jwm. Not familiar with your speakers, but the rest of your system is obviously of very high quality.