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Cartridge + phonostage preamplifier


Ω Premium DIAmond X
Premium Artisan

Manufacturer: ZYX Co., Ltd.
Price (at the time of the test):
Ω Premium Diamond X – 47 000 PLN
Premium Artisan – 39 900 PLN

Contact: 128-10 Funaki, Nagaracho | Chiba
Japan 297-0207 |

Product delivered for test by: NAUTILUS

e have already explained where the name of this Japanese company with over 30 years of experience comes from when we tested the R-1000 Airy3 X/TB model, so we do not have to repeat the story to attentive “High Fidelity” readers. We also know the story of the artist who designs the cartridges, Mr. Hisayoshi Nakatsuka. Telling it again would simply be rude. The tested cartridge costs almost 50,000 PLN and the phonostage preamplifier which is dedicated to it costs just a little less, so I assume that anyone who starts reading this article knows what he or she is reading about.

What we are talking about here is the absolute high-end of the analogue world’s price range. In the case of the cartridge, it is visible at first sight. The cartridge weighs 6.7 g and belongs to the top Premium series. It is available in three versions which differ as regards the material of the coil wire: there is the 6N Crystal Copper φ 0.035mm version (with the X symbol in its name), the 5N Silver φ 0.035 mm version (with the S symbol) and the 5N Gold φ 0.035 mm version (with the G symbol). They all undergo cryogenic treatment, i.e. are quickly frozen until the temperature of -193ºC is reached and then slowly heated until they reach room temperature. This results in a perfectly arranged metal crystal structure. Each of the metals produces different sound – Mr. Hisayoshi-san says that it is most neutral with the copper wire.

It is an MC (Moving Coil) cartridge with an innovative “REAL STEREO” generator system. The company claims that the way it is made makes it the first “High-speed” system in the world, which is a reference, as it can be assumed, to a fast response. The parameter can be improved using the “balanced type eddy current elimination mechanism” which eliminates eddy currents generated in both magnet poles (N and S). It is also important that instead of a rigid cantilever suspension wire made of steel we here have a much softer metal (unfortunately, we do not know what metal it is).

However, all of these are things that we read or hear about – things that are not instantly visible. The cartridge has an open design, with the generator on the outside and a frame which holds everything together. However, what can immediately be seen is a small blue spherical object hanged on a little support over the stylus. Its function is to minimize the vibrations of the cartridge and determine its centre of gravity. It weighs 1.2 g, its diameter is φ 8 mm and it is made of lapis lazuli (a heterogeneous mineral mainly composed of lazurite). Pins made of 18 carat gold are placed on a sapphire plate. A diamond Micro-Ridge stylus is fixed on a diamond support having a square cross-section.

The load on the cartridge should equal 100 Ω. The company claims that it can be 100 Ω and more, but its top preamplifiers, the Premium Artisan preamplifier tested with the Ω Premium DIAmond cartridge, as well as the active, battery-powered CPP-1 v2 step-up which I have also used have a constant load of 100 Ω. The company highlights the extremely important function of the load resistor and therefore manufactures its own components of this type (!). So, we can safely assume that the load on the tested cartridge should equal exactly 100 Ω. I have checked it myself. ZYX cartridges, including the tested one, are placed in little wooden boxes and the boxes are put in silk bags.

The manufacturer’s top products include not only the tested cartridge, but also the equally expensive phonostage preamplifier dedicated to the cartridge – the Premium Artisan model. It seems that it is already difficult to sell such an expensive cartridge itself. When it comes to these two products, I think that the Artisan seems to be at a disadvantage. It is a tiny, wooden box with a cheap external wall plug power supply, without the possibility of changing the load on the cartridge, with two inputs (it is the only functional extension).

However, after some listening sessions with a few different preamplifiers in different combinations, I have to say that I cannot imagine that the Ω Premium DIAmond cartridge could be used with any other preamplifier. OK – I can – as it is an almost perfect cartridge (no cartridge is ideal, no matter how much we pay for it), but with the dedicated preamplifier it “feels best” and the intention of the artist – Mr. Nakatsuka-san is fulfilled to the greatest extent. So, if we want to hear what he hears in a way in which we are supposed to do, we buy the cartridge and the preamplifier TOGETHER. This is also how I carried out the main test.

ZYX in „High Fidelity”
  • TEST: ZYX R-1000 Airy3 X/TB – cartridge, read HERE

  • Recordings used during the test (a selection)

    • Adam Makowicz, The Name Is Makowicz (ma-kó-vitch), Sheffield Lab LAB21, “Direct Disc Recording Limited Edition”, LP (1983).
    • Budka Suflera, Giganci tańczą, Polskie Nagrania MUZA SX 2293, LP (1986).
    • Charlie Haden, The Private Collection, Naim Label LP110, 3 x 180 g LP (2007/2008).
    • Duke Ellington, Masterpieces by Ellington, Columbia/Analogue Productions ML 4418, 200 g LP (1951/2014).
    • Elvis Presley, Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis. 40th Anniversary Edition, RCA Records/Music On Vinyl MOVLP1052, 4 x 180 g LP (2014).
    • Frank Sinatra, This is Sinatra!, Capitol Records T768, LP (1956).
    • Helmut Nadolski, Meditation, VeriTon SXV-786, LP (1976).
    • John Foxx and the Belbury Circle, Empty Aveniues, Ghost Box GBX019EP, 10” LP (2013).
    • Kraftwerk, Autobahn, Philips 6305 231, LP (1974).
    • Krzysztof Komeda, Dance of The Vampires, Seriés Aphōnos SA04, 180 g LP (2013).
    • Maria Peszek, Jezus Maria Peszek, Mystic Production MYSTLP 014, 180 g LP (2013).
    • Mark Knopfler, Tracker, British Groove Records 4716983, “Deluxe Limited Edition”, 2 x CD + DVD + 2 x 180 g LP (2015).
    • Nat ‘King’ Cole Trio, After Midnight, Columbia/Analogue Productions 28180, 3 x 180 g 45 rpm LP (1957/2010).
    • Niemen, Niemen, Polskie Nagrania MUZA XL 0710-0711, „MONO”, 2 x LP (1971).
    • Skaldowie, Rezerwat miłości, Polskie Nagrania MUZA SX 1796, LP (1979).
    Japanese issues available at

    I have never heard a cartridge that would play so smoothly. I really did try to start the test in a cultural manner, with a feeling… Another time, perhaps – now it is simply impossible. The thing that I am talking about is so self-evident that even people who do not fully identify themselves with such a presentation (since it IS a specific presentation) have not been able to deny it. And those who look for exactly such experiences in music were shocked. Everything about this sound was as it should be. As one of my friends who owns Linn and Lenco turntables said, while listening to his own recordings at my home: “It’s been beautiful”.

    The beauty of this musical message is unquestionable. It is mature, well-balanced sound with a drive, but also with flow and brilliant vividness. When we play a monophonic version of Niemen (the so-called “red” album), the frontman’s voice comes to the surface from under the guitars, whereas behind it, much further away, there are choir voices. When we listen to Coltrane’s Blue Train reedition, released in 2008 by Analogue Productions on two LP 180-gram 45 RPM discs, it is hard to comprehend why other cartridges rush so much with it, and so strongly emphasize the attack of the drums and percussion plates, forgetting that the saxophone is the leader here, and that what we can hear here are: aspiration, raptures of sounds, up to the point of sustaining them at the very bottom, as if murmuring. These phenomena should attract our attention through the performance technique, phrasing, music. When we play the debut album of Marek Komasa with its long phrases and soft background with Omega, nothing merges or sinks in itself. The sound is soft and velvety.

    Before we move on to sound, I would like to add two words about elements outside music that are very important for vinyl discs. Omega hides crackling and the surface noise under the sound. It does not extinguish them, but hides them. While I was listening very loud (through my headphones) to a limited version of the BBC Sessions album by Led Zeppelin released on blue vinyl by Classic Records and bought during the Record Store Day, both crackling and noise were audible (more about RSD 2015 HERE). However, they were not irritating and they did not disturb me. I had the impression that, even between tracks, the dominant sensation was the “suspension” of sound, not noise, which is a phenomenon known only from high-end systems. My HiFiMAN HE-6 headphones are not too merciful, especially if they are well-adjusted, but even they gave up when faced with something that is so surprisingly pleasant.

    I devoted a significant number of listening sessions to old Polish vinyl discs, usually in a bad condition. While I travelled back in time and the quality of the discs worsened, the number of cracklings rose, just like the level of surface noise, which is obviously clear. It was the worst in the case of vinyl discs pressed in Poland in the 1980s, with “banana-colored” endpaper. However, with the ZYX cartridge and preamplifier I listened to them with pleasure and I accepted sound anomalies as “color” and “testimony” of the time, and not an error. It is amazing how it is possible to interpret an error in such a good, forgiving way! The system will give advantage to better-quality discs (as regards the pressing), by giving them greater dynamics; they will have more colored tonality, but even the worst rubbish (in terms of technical, not musical quality) will have its five minutes.

    When compared to the Miyajima Labs Madake, my reference cartridge, we get a more softened, more fine-tuned musical message in the sense that it is more focused on what is happening between sounds, interaction, and not only on their outside “image”. Everything in it “sits” deeper, thanks to which those who prefer strong “to-the-front” sound may feel disappointed. It is not a cartridge which “x-rays” recordings, or makes us analyze them. This is, of course, possible, but on a different level than a simple “this is such or such tonality”, “the guitar is clear/hazy” or “the stage is broad/narrow”. We have reached a point where such statements do not make sense, because it is not certain what they mean, they do not have a designation.

    Stratospheric high-end, to which belong both the Premium DIAmond X cartridge and the Premium Artisan preamplifier, may seem to have no features. It is a false image, so please make me happy and try to forget about it. At every price level, even as unbelievably high as in this case, the audio product modifies sound in its own characteristic way. The best products do it in such a way that we do not treat it as a modification, but as an interpretation. A modification would be a more or less authorized deviation from the original, whereas interpretation is its creative development or transformation, but having the value of a new original. Since we do not know the master-tape and we were not present when the recording, mixing and mastering of the recordings that we listen to took place, all we can do is compare them using a few devices and systems, and only then refer to our experiences with instruments played live.

    The top ZYX system sees the world in a colorful, good way. Neither the Dynavector DV XV-1t, nor the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme, and not even the Madake which is silky and soft inside, are so completely, absolutely soft and at the same time substantial. Cartridges usually either emphasize the attack or the sustain, even if these are such outstanding examples of devices as the ones mentioned above. They do it in a subtle way, as well as are elegant and refined in how they behave, but they still do it.

    However, Mr. Hisayoshi Nakatsuka is able to combine fire with water – his cartridge sounds soft, unlike any other, but is not silty or softened – it shows the beat and the power, as if we are playing discs using an “idler drive” turntable. However, the first and very important impression will stay with us for a long time and it should determine our attitude to this kind of musical message. Resolution, selectivity and, generally, all features that we describe to talk about the nature of sound are out of any discussion here. They are out of discussion in the case of all the cartridges that I have mentioned. ZYX adds to this something that cannot be “done” anywhere else, in any element of the system – if it is not sent from the source, we can only emulate it, try to forge it somehow. I am talking about distributive sweetness. I have never and nowhere heard anything like this before and I enter this with my whole self. Let this be the summary – another one is not necessary in this case.

    Ω Premium DIAmond

    The Ω Premium DIAmond is an MC cartridge with a “Micro Ridge” stylus measuring 3 μm×60 μm. Its guaranteed lifetime is 2000 hours (at a tracking force of 2 g). When it comes to the tracking force, the manufacturer has determined an exceptionally wide range of acceptable VTF: from 1.7 to 2.5 g. The lifetime is determined with reference to 2 g and this value is recommended in the product technical specifications. I have tried out a few different values and, in my opinion, the cartridge best traces the fragments with high dynamics and strong bass, without losing subtleness, within the range of 2 – 2.15 g. I listened to the recordings at the tracking force of 2.1 g.

    The cartridge has an open construction, without any casing that would enclose its motor – this is supposed to free it from distortions and vibrations. It is placed in a rigid frame cast from aluminum, magnesium and other metals. At the front, a lapis lazuli spherical weight is hanged – the letter “X” is placed on the little arm that supports the weight, to provide information on the coil material – copper of 6 N purity. The board in which golden (!) pins have been placed is made of precious stone – it is sapphire. Thanks to parallel side panels, it is easy to set the cartridge. ZN bolts have been permanently fixed to the cartridge.

    Output voltage: 0.24 mV (3.54 cm/s, 1 kHz)
    Frequency response:
    • 10 Hz - 100 kHz
    • 20 Hz - 20 kHz (±1 dB)
    Channel separation: > 30 dB (1 kHz)
    Channel balance: < 0.5 dB (1 kHz)
    Recommended tracking force: 2 g (20ºC – 25ºC)
    Tracking force range: 1.7-2.5 g
    Trackability: > 60 μm
    EQ compliance:
    • horizontal: 15×10-6cm/dyne
    • vertical: 12×10-6cm/dyne
    Internal impedance: 4.0 Ω
    Load impedance: > 100 Ω
    Coil wire: X type – 6N Crystal Copper φ 0.035 mm/CRYO
    Cantilever: natural diamond (square cross-section of 0.22 mm)
    Stylus: Micro-Ridge Solid Diamond 0.07 mm
    Contact radius/lifetime: 3 μm×60 μm, 2000 h/2 g
    Pins: φ 1.25 mm, 18 carat gold
    Ball: Lapis lazuli φ 8 mm, 1.2 g
    Weight: 6.7 g

    Premium Artisan

    The Premium Artisan preamplifier is a small, lightweight device with a wooden casing. It can be painted any color we want – the preamplifier that I used in the test was golden, but I have also seen a blue, a carmine and a silver one, as well as one in the natural wood color. At the front there is only a power switch with a blue diode and an input switch – we can simultaneously connect two cartridges (two tonearms) to the Artisan. The corresponding inputs are located on the rear panel and there is also an unbalanced RCA output and a port for connecting the DR-1210S (12 V DC), which is a very small wall plug power supply.

    The equalizing circuit was selected after years of listening sessions – it is a simple CR circuit, without feedback. The 100 Ω cartridge load resistor is solely manufactured by ZYX. The company claims that no resistor or capacitor has been used in a standard way and that their properties are corrected. It is not known what type of correction it is and the method is protected by a patent.
    Transistors are used in the equalizing and the amplifying circuit. When we look at the inside of the device, we can solve the riddle of the simple power supply. The circuit is actually battery-powered: 9 NiMH batteries are used in it – separately for the amplifying and for the equalizing section. It has resulted in an extremely high signal-to-noise-ratio – the company claims it is 95 dB.

    Input impedance: 100 Ω
    Gain: 62 dB/MC1, MC2 (1 kHz)
    Signal-to-noise ratio: 95 dB
    THD: <0.1% (1 kHz)
    Frequency response: 2 Hz – 500 kHz ±1 dB
    RIAA deviation: ±0.2 dB (20 Hz – 20 kHz) Output impedance: 47 kΩ
    Channel separation: >100 dB (1 kHz)
    Input: 2×RCA (MC1, MC2)
    Output: 1×RCA
    Power consumption: 1.2 W
    Battery: 9 x NiMH180AAH (1.2 V/1800 mAh)
    Dimensions (W×H×D): 154×66×192 mm
    Weight: 675 g



    - Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
    - Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
    - Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

    - Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
    - Multiformat Player: Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD
    - Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
    - Power amplifier: Soulution 710
    - Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

    - Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
    - Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
    - Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
    - Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
    - Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
    - Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
    - Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

    - Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
    - USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
    - LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
    - Router: Liksys WAG320N
    - NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
    System I
    - Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
    System II
    - Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

    System I
    - Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
    - Power Line: fuse &#8211; power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m) &#8211; wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
    System II
    - Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
    - Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
    - Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
    - Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
    - Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
    - Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

    - FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One