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ZP3 Cart Pairing (Read 2476 times)
Puggy
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ZP3 Cart Pairing
11/02/20 at 19:36:17
 
I currently have a Nagaoka MP-200 on my VPI Classic 1 TT. The stylus is starting to wear out and Iím looking at other cart options. Iím looking at a few carts that are around 2.5mV output (Sound Smith Zephyr mk III, Sumiko Blackbird, etc.) which I know is lower than recommended use with the ZP3. I would greatly prefer not to use a zstage or SUT and Iím wondering if itís still possible to get solid sound.

Iím running my ZP3 through an SE84UFO and 4ohm 100db full range drivers, so I have plenty of headroom and have never gone past 12 o clock on volume with my current cart rated at 4mV output. Is it safe to go with one of these HOMC/MI-style carts or should I stick with something with recommended output like the 2M black? Also please let me know if you have better cart recommendations than these mentioned. Thank you!
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Thorens TD124 | Hana ML | Cinemag SUT | ZP3 (25th mods) | Schiit Modi DAC | SE84UFO | Elekit TU 8600S | Tannoy Monitor Gold 12 | Belden 8402 interconnects | Belden 9497 wiring
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Archie
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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #1 - 11/02/20 at 20:05:04
 
I've run a .5 mV cart through my ZP3 and followed by the CSP3 with success. †(I was waiting for my SUT to arrive.) †The 2.5 mV will certainly work but ZP3 output will be lower accordingly, so input into your SE84UFO will be below optimum. †I think you'll be well below the 1.5 V input needed to fully drive your amp. †If you currently have plenty of headroom, you might still be okay. †However, a gain stage, post ZP3, may be needed.

Can you replace your stylus?  Or are you itching for a new cart?
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ZLC
Technics 1200G TT w/ Ortofon Jubilee MC cart
ZMC1
ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
CSP3 (25th A mods)
ZMA (25th A mods)
Homemade Big Betsy Speakers (F15s)
Silver Cabling
DIY Isolation platforms under amps & TT.
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Puggy
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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #2 - 11/02/20 at 21:05:23
 
Thanks Archie! Is the lower than optimal input voltage more an issue of volume or character of the sound? I donít think Iíll have an issue with volume with a 2.5mV output, but will the sound be more laid back/less full sounding?

I like the Nagaoka but I bought it for a previous table and itís not the best pairing with the 10 inch arm. It needs a head shell weight because of its low mass so not really ideal. I figured Iíd rather not continue to invest money into it since the new stylus is close to the price of the cart new.
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Thorens TD124 | Hana ML | Cinemag SUT | ZP3 (25th mods) | Schiit Modi DAC | SE84UFO | Elekit TU 8600S | Tannoy Monitor Gold 12 | Belden 8402 interconnects | Belden 9497 wiring
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NormD
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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #3 - 11/02/20 at 21:16:40
 
See my profile below for which cartridge I use with my ZP3 and no SUT
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OPPO Sonica DAC
Technics SL-1200M3D Turntable
SoundSmith The Voice cartridge
JRMedia Center running on a MacMini
Panasonic DP-UB820
Marantz AV8802a Pre/Rotel RMB-1585 Surround
ZTPre & ZMA Stereo
Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers (91 db)
2 Hsu ULS-ULS-15 MK2 Subs
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Archie
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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #4 - 11/02/20 at 21:31:55
 
It's possible that with lower input you'll turn things up more and increase amplification of any noise out of the ZP3.  That may not be an issue though so I'd say only volume is at stake.

I like the Ortofon line of cartridges.  Several years ago I plunged into the MC world and while expensive, I am glad I did it.  I think your TT certainly deserves a great cart.
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ZLC
Technics 1200G TT w/ Ortofon Jubilee MC cart
ZMC1
ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
CSP3 (25th A mods)
ZMA (25th A mods)
Homemade Big Betsy Speakers (F15s)
Silver Cabling
DIY Isolation platforms under amps & TT.
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Puggy
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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #5 - 02/19/21 at 20:01:07
 
So I ended up getting the SS zephyr mk iii es and itís a fantastic cartridge... incredibly resolved, great dynamics, and pairs perfectly with the VPI arm. Plenty of output for the ZP3 and still plays very loud through the SE84UFO and 100db efficient speakers. Have not needed to go past 12 on the amp to get very loud output. This cartridge is only 2.4mv output, but almost seems louder than my previous 4mv output cart. This is probably because it is significantly more dynamic, but I usually find myself playing at 9:30 vs 9 previously on normal listening.

It does bring up another issue of gain vs volume. Like Archie said, Iím far below the 1.5V optimal input voltage for the SE84UFO going directly from the ZP3. There is definitely a sense of ďheftĒ missing from the sound, but this was also missing from my old 4mv cartridge. Plenty of volume without hitting the ZP3 noise floor, just not enough body. My Schiit Modi DAC has an output of 2V and doesnít sound as good as the vinyl rig, but does have a sense of scale to the sound that vinyl is missing, even at same volume levels. If youíve ever recorded an instrument or vocals, boosting the gain will drastically change the character of the sound and make it ďbiggerĒ at same volume levels. Same situation here. Even if using a very HO MM cartridge like the Ortofon 2M series, im pretty sure youíre still below the 1.5V full output for the SE84UFO. I know this is discussed in other forums, but I think itís worth mentioning this is more of an issue with the amp rather than the ZP3 as pretty much all MM phono stages have similar gain to the ZP3.

This has lead me to search for a Zstage or possibly a CSP3, however since the schiit is already above the optimal voltage, I really only need the single source voltage gain. If anyone has had a similar experience, Iím interested in what options there are to resolve this at a low cost
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Thorens TD124 | Hana ML | Cinemag SUT | ZP3 (25th mods) | Schiit Modi DAC | SE84UFO | Elekit TU 8600S | Tannoy Monitor Gold 12 | Belden 8402 interconnects | Belden 9497 wiring
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Archie
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Posts: 2731
Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #6 - 02/19/21 at 20:36:03
 
Regarding a gain stage. †I've been running my CSP3 so that I have a bit more range on my ZMA pot from zero to the max that I'm comfortable with. †However, recently I notice a big improvement in weight if I push my CSP3 higher and accept less range on my ZMA pot.

What this is telling me is that driving the amp with "hi voltage" is preferable to not. †Gain riding is good. † Smiley

I really like the flexibility of the CSP3 -- although NOT a low cost gain stage.
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ZLC
Technics 1200G TT w/ Ortofon Jubilee MC cart
ZMC1
ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
CSP3 (25th A mods)
ZMA (25th A mods)
Homemade Big Betsy Speakers (F15s)
Silver Cabling
DIY Isolation platforms under amps & TT.
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Puggy
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Posts: 30
Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #7 - 02/19/21 at 21:00:39
 
Iím sure the CSP3 would make both vinyl and the DAC sound fantastic and give a ton of body to the sound. Iíll probably own one of these eventually but the Zstage (buying used if possible) does seem like the best low(er) cost option. Also the single tube is nice for not getting into a rabbit hole with tube rolling.

Is it best to stick with Decware on something as simple as a single source gain stage or are there other companies/components out there that wonít jeopardize the great tube soundstage of the ZP3? I havenít really seen much in my search that does something similar to the Zstage with the same simplicity. I want to avoid getting some crazy multiple input preamp because when I have a need for that, I most likely will purchase a CSP3.
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Thorens TD124 | Hana ML | Cinemag SUT | ZP3 (25th mods) | Schiit Modi DAC | SE84UFO | Elekit TU 8600S | Tannoy Monitor Gold 12 | Belden 8402 interconnects | Belden 9497 wiring
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lazb
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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #8 - 02/19/21 at 23:00:37
 
You may be as well off using a ZROCK2 as it has gain as well as "tuning" features. Steve recommended I use that first in lieu of a CSP3. He said maybe I wouldn't need the preamp. So far, he was right! You might possibly kill two birds with one stone ?????
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Archie
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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #9 - 02/19/21 at 23:14:55
 
The ZSTAGE with its variable gain might be good (seems like a CSP3 light?) although I have no experience with one. †The CSP3 is certainly not the low cost option but I'd keep mine over my ZROCK2, which I took out of the chain a year ago and have no plans on putting back. †However, I've never tried the ZROCK2 without the CSP3. †In my current set up the ZROCK2 doesn't offer anything I like. †Remember, it shifts tonal balance, which isn't always wanted.
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ZLC
Technics 1200G TT w/ Ortofon Jubilee MC cart
ZMC1
ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
CSP3 (25th A mods)
ZMA (25th A mods)
Homemade Big Betsy Speakers (F15s)
Silver Cabling
DIY Isolation platforms under amps & TT.
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Puggy
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Posts: 30
Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #10 - 02/19/21 at 23:24:53
 
From what Iíve read on the Zrock, I think the Zstage is the better option to do a flat gain boost. I could be wrong, but I thought the Zstage adds an overall flat boost while the Zrock adds shelf filter gain to the bass. Is there a way to add flat boost and not a bass boost on the Zrock?
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Thorens TD124 | Hana ML | Cinemag SUT | ZP3 (25th mods) | Schiit Modi DAC | SE84UFO | Elekit TU 8600S | Tannoy Monitor Gold 12 | Belden 8402 interconnects | Belden 9497 wiring
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Archie
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Posts: 2731
Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #11 - 02/19/21 at 23:34:45
 
The ZROCK2 seems to just add gain in an increment of 3dB, I think.  If you want to "ride the gain," you need a ZSTAGE or like.
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ZLC
Technics 1200G TT w/ Ortofon Jubilee MC cart
ZMC1
ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
CSP3 (25th A mods)
ZMA (25th A mods)
Homemade Big Betsy Speakers (F15s)
Silver Cabling
DIY Isolation platforms under amps & TT.
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Lon
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Posts: 19603
Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #12 - 02/20/21 at 13:35:52
 
My two cents? I had a ZSTAGE for a spell in a system I had at my parents house with an Eddie Vaughn modded C amp. . . and I didn't like it. I rolled a dozen tubes, tried different interconnects and power cables. . . it just never did anything I really liked for the system. So I put one of my CSP2+ in there. . . ah. . . like Goldilocks' pudding that was the right fit.

So. . . other than ALSO having a ZROCK2 (I can't live without one of those now!) I'd recommend the CSP3 instead of a ZSTAGE to anyone.
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Puggy
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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #13 - 05/12/22 at 01:33:28
 
Coming back to this thread to share my experience in hopes it helps someone else out there.

I initially had the Soundsmith Zephyr Mk iii es running through my ZP3 directly into the zen and then to some 95db Omega Alnico towers. The sound overall lacked body and punch when I listened to analog. Also sounded rolled off and lack energy most of the time. Digital sounded great, which left me confused. This was not really a volume issue, but rather the character of the sound.

Since I didnít want to give up the zen/omega pairing for a higher efficiency speaker that might play better with the lower signal voltage, †I purchased a CSP3 to boost the gain after the ZP3. This added a lot to my set up and helped the issue of gain to some degree. The CSP3 really did take the zen to a new level, but still something was still missing from my analog set up. I ended up selling the CSP3 and buying a 300B integrated in hopes this would resolve the issue, which it didnít, even though the amp is excellent.

At this point I realized the issue wasnít so much that I needed additional gain after the ZP3, but that the signal going into the ZP3 was much too low. Switching back and forth between the $1500 SS (2.4mv) and $400 Nagaoka (4mv output), the Nagaoka had significantly more energy, body, punch. The SS was unquestionably the better cartridge (higher resolution, better dynamics, wider soundstage, much more transparent, etc.) but something was certainly missing.

Fast forward a few months, I was finally able to sell my Soundsmith Zephyr and replaced it with a Hana ML and Cinemag SUT. The signal going into the ZP3 is now ~7mv! I canít express how much better it sounds and how I should have done this instead of buying the HO Soundsmith. More energy, more air, larger soundstage, super punchy. More of that liquid analog sound.

This isnít meant to rag on the Soundsmith at all. The zephyr was probably slightly higher resolution and more timbrely natural, but I prefer the Hana in every other sense as it plays much better with the ZP3. I believe this is largely due to the higher voltage coming out of the SUT, not necessarily because the Hana is a better cartridge. This is definitely the best analog sound Iíve ever had.

Obviously this is just my personal experience and many others here successfully use HO SS carts (or other HOMC or HOMI) around 2mv output with the ZP3. I personally would only recommend only 4mv or higher with the ZP3, especially if youíre a fan of low powered amps that need all the gain they can get. Again, more of an issue of gain than volume.
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Thorens TD124 | Hana ML | Cinemag SUT | ZP3 (25th mods) | Schiit Modi DAC | SE84UFO | Elekit TU 8600S | Tannoy Monitor Gold 12 | Belden 8402 interconnects | Belden 9497 wiring
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BicycleJoe
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It's All In One Note

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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #14 - 06/11/22 at 22:38:50
 
4mv is what Steve recommends for the ZP3, my Clear Audio Maestro V1 is 3.6mv. Steve says that should be good enough. It will be another year before I find out. I have a question have you done room treatments?
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Puggy
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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #15 - 06/12/22 at 00:48:37
 
Steve recommends at least 4mv with the ZP3, which I agree with and I shouldíve listened to before I purchased the Soundsmith. What threw me off was that so many people raved about their combination of HOMI or HOMC with the ZP3, which mostly have a output ranges of 2-3mv. I was also against spending additional money on a SUT, rather than having all of that money go toward a cartridge. I only plan on using a SUT and LOMC from here out.

I think your clearaudio cartridge will work fine. The Soundsmith still sounded good but it didnít have quite enough energy. Your cartridge has over 50% more output than the Zephyr, so I think it would be okay.

My only room treatments are natural to my house - carpeting, a few art pieces that reduce reflections, plants, etc. my issue with the sound wasnít really related to room treatment as I was satisfied with the sound on digital and now it sounds excellent with the Hana ML and SUT.
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Thorens TD124 | Hana ML | Cinemag SUT | ZP3 (25th mods) | Schiit Modi DAC | SE84UFO | Elekit TU 8600S | Tannoy Monitor Gold 12 | Belden 8402 interconnects | Belden 9497 wiring
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BicycleJoe
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It's All In One Note

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Re: ZP3 Cart Pairing
Reply #16 - 06/12/22 at 01:25:11
 
Steve says and I agree with him that the room can be as much as 60% of your sound. I know that's a subjective opinion but if you listen to his recordings with a phone camera with headphones you can understand what he's getting with his room treatments. Not everybody can have a dedicated room in fact I only have two rooms but I am working it out to DIY what I am going to need for my weaknesses. Primarily the glass windows and open kitchen.

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OnOrder
*Rachel SE 34.6IANVmods*ZP3ANVmods*ZLC*
Due summer 2023
In House *JVC QLY-66F DD TT*JBL 240Ti* *Rega IO*Carver Receiver*

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