Zorin Audio TP-S3 Turntable and PUS-12 Tone Arm By the Numbers Page 2

The Sound of The TP-S3 Turntable and PUS-12 Arm

Along with the four budget price MM and MM/MC phono preamps used in the survey I used the Swan Song Audio Cygnet that will be shortly reviewed. It costs approximately $2300 depending upon options and I used the Phasemation EA-1000 a $15,000 phono preamp that will be reviewed in Stereophile.

Job number one for a turntable is to play at the correct speed. Using the Feickert Platterspeed app and test record, the ‘table ran slightly slow reproducing a 3150Hz tone at 3140.1, which is about .003% off. Not much. The lowpass filtered to remove record eccentricity caused “wow” produced maximum relative deviation of 0.02%/+0.03% and maximum absolute deviation of -0.5Hz/+0.9Hz. These are decent numbers, comparable to the less expensive Pro-Ject Xtension 10 recently reviewed.

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For most of the review I used the supplied carbon fiber mat. Before breaking down the ‘table for return to the manufacturer I recorded a variety or other mats and soon after returning from the Munich High End Show 2014 I’ll post them so you can hear what various mats do to the sound (if anything).

The Lyra Titani has a reputation for sounding somewhat analytical and “clinical” but the combination of it and this ‘table and arm produced a pleasingly rich sound with very deep, tight and firm muscular bass, a rich, somewhat midbass, neutral mids and smooth, sweet and extended high frequencies.

Certainly this combination at almost twice the price of the aforementioned Pro-Ject produced a more sophisticated, smoother yet more detailed sound. A recent 4 LP direct to disc Nimbus solo piano recording of Beethoven Sonatas performed by Bernard Roberts (Nimbus D/C 901) (what a score at The Princeton Record Exchange for $12.00!) produced solid pitch, convincing transients and a rich, convincing harmonic palette. The piano was presented well-focused in three-dimensional space, though of course not as cleanly as on my big ridiculously expensive system. Backgrounds were pitch black and most impressively the arm handled well all of the difficult to track transients without producing any audible tracking glitches. You’d know you’re not listening to a budget rig!

Image solidity was equally impressive and the arm tracked well every record I threw at it.

I had this ‘table and arm in the system for a very long time and over time got to like it more and more. And over time I realized that one of the main reasons was its overall smooth demeanor. If it veered towards one side of the sonic fence it would be on the side of slight overall warmth but with no obvious lump or bump. A very smooth ride.

Conclusion

I can’t directly compare this combo to a VPI Classic 3 or any other similarly priced arm/’table combo because I don’t have them here.

The Zorin combo is competitively priced and I think sonically competitive as well with other products at this price point.

As for why you’d buy one over the other, it’s partly the looks or which arm you might prefer. This one doesn’t have an “on the fly” VTA tower but in my opinion that’s not important unless you fetish over VTA/SRA. I set it with a microscope and I’m done.

If I had to choose the arm or the ‘table as the better value it would be the somewhat idiosyncratic arm. For $2280 you are getting a really solid performer that’s very well-built and also has a great looking fit’n’finish, though I wish they’d do something about the screw that locks the arm on the rest. It’s oddly out of synch with the rest of the arm.

However, the arm/’table combination at its price point is also attractive given the build quality and the engineering. And you can easily add additional arms.

Yes, Zorin Audio is a relative newcomer. In fact I couldn’t find any reviews online just product information. So buying one puts you in “pioneer” territory. Some people like that kind of chance-taking especially given how bullet proof ‘tables and well-constructed this particular arm appears to be. Based on my time with this combination it’s a chance worth taking.

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COMMENTS
mobileholmes's picture

The company HQ and manufacturing are done in Taiwan, ROC.

Thanks,
Phillip

mobileholmes's picture

Corrected. Thanks!

oglethorpe's picture

there is a YouTube video on setting up the Zorin table/arm and they call the Tone arm lock a Transport bolt

ZorinAudio.com's picture

You can view the video and all other information on Zorin from North American Audio at :

zorinaudio.com
or
northamericanaudio.com

Also, it is true that the bolt as explained in the video is not really intended for daily use nor is a bolt to hold the arm down necessary for any reason during normal use so you simply remove it.

Only if you move the table around or pack for transport do you really need to insert the bolt so it does not swing around and possibly damage your stylus or scratch up the arm.

gorkuz's picture

...to make wisecracks about adding Tetracycline to the PUS-12 damping fluid but it reads and looks like a very nice design missing only what I, contrary to your opinion about this, consider absolutely necessary: on the fly VTA adjustment. That is, perhaps, since I can't, unlike you, set up a separate turntable for each thickness of record, and *every* record demands a different VTA for best performance. I truly can't understand how someone as otherwise critical as you, Mikey, can gloss over this. Not that I would want to fuss over individual settings the way most existing systems are designed, either. I'm not nervosa enough for that.

But perhaps that is because my own very modified or more properly said hand-built table (composite of various VPI parts and much more)is equipped with a motorized remote controlled VTA adjustment system (on a modified old WT Arm)and it takes me only seconds to set VTA to +/- .0005" (but only in a sloppy hurry) if the VTA is already known for that record (one of those tiny post-its on the inner jacket). Or as much as a minute or two to determine a new setting to the same accuracy if not (and record it the same way for the next time around...and round...and...so it only takes seconds the next time on). And I do this from my listening seat, not at the the table's location - a critical difference! Yes, I'm spoiled, and would not want to listen to vinyl without this anymore, as easy as this is to do in my listening room. And yes, you can see/hear this for yourself, Mikey, since I am not far from you in Clifton, NJ.

BobVinyl's picture

"In the world of analog many want's and need's will appear when you have experience in turntable setup as well as testing playback on various copies of an LP you love.
I will agree to disagree with “VTA on the FLY”… The bottom line is that even the small degree of inflection a 200 gram LP presents vs. a normal LP is more or less negligible vs. other things that have to be right in the first place. Plus most don't have the luxury of having remote controlled VTA adjustments on their turntables but besides that if your finding yourself “tuning” to every LP there are far many other setup issues going on beyond the height of the tonearm within a half millimeter.
In the Zorin design the VTA at the headshell does work much better than any other I have encountered as it really does flow with the album as tight as possible keeping the linear line of the body to the cartridge very close, and virtually unnoticeable regardless of the LP played.
VTA compensates for the angle being proper on the stylus angle itself at the diamond cut tip not the “Thickness” of the LP. Unless your also going to adjust weight, and have a way to measure the micron of a millimeter you change each album this is not really a great practice.
No doubt VTA setting is important, but more or less getting the arm and table level with finding the somewhat universal all around best setting for your cartridge (Not LP Thickness) will be a set it and forget it musical experience.
Obsessing too much will not get you the satisfaction. Most of the time a bad LP is a bad LP so sometimes trying to raise the arm too much or to little to compensate for frequency imbalance just turns into a circular issue.
I have set many arms on the fly never finding perfection. But with a great arm / cartridge combo setup right you don’t wish to move it at all.
You need good and not worn out pressings, and you need them as clean, and quiet as possible which will take you much further than VTA on the fly.
But like everything once people have it in there DNA to worry about something like this they may not want to take a different path. Much like some people will not agree that Horns, or Tubes, or Copper vs. Silver whatever is the right way or wrong.
Personal experience is key so finding that perfect combination is always key, nobody on a review can guarantee you perfect results.
By the way if you have that much concern you should look at Zorin Audios Linear Air Bearing arm almost changing the entire equation that will alleviate some of the .01% of most people’s concerns about album thickness and VTA."

gorkuz's picture

...a minor point. Bob, is VTA. While I would easily agree that all the rest needs to be set correctly first, and always is in my setups before I worry about VTA, once that's done VTA is *not* trivial to the sound. It can vary for even the same "thickness" of record due to it being primarily related to the angle of the cutting originally done, not the thickness. Given there is a practical range for the cutting stylus to work within, the VTA will then of course vary will thickness as well. But ignoring it to simplify your life is like playing ostrich (yes, yes, only a popular tale but that is not germane) and sticking one's head in a hole to pretend the ostrich is not being attacked by the lion. It is not insignificant unless you convince yourself it is to sweeten your grapes.

Consider that the total range from the thinnest "Dynaflop" disc with lowest VTA to the thickest record of, say 200 grams, with an especially high VTA is approximately 60 thousandths (.060" !) of an inch. Depending on a particular stylus /cartridge's sensitivity, a minimum of as little as 1/4 of a thousandth (.00025") to a sloppier max of about 2 thousandths (.002") is clearly audible to the decent ear. Some cartridges such as, for instance the old Sumiko SHO act like toggle switches in this respect. Half a thousandth (.0005") off either way and the sound is not just audibly but strongly affected. Sure, some combinations such as a Denon with a conical stylus are relatively insensitive but even that has its limits. Yet you feel that that *60 thousandths* is insignificant and "negligible"?

Perhaps you have been a long time user of the mentioned Denons or something similar, but "half a millimeter" is .0197" or almost 20 thousandths and quite a lot. Even with a difficult to set up arm keeping the VTA to a quarter of that is a good idea for even a relatively insensitive ear, and 20 will not come even close to covering the entire range one can encounter. Realistically I know from experience that this can be a difficult compromise to achieve in service of the entire range so for most such situations I simply recommend doing the best one can closest to the thickness of record most often played to reduce the ear pain. I'm well aware of how difficult this can be with some badly under-designed setups but to say that VTA is insignificant to such sloppy standards is something I and my ears must disagree with.

Yes, you can call me spoiled by the system I built for myself if you like. It does make doing this so easy it is no chore at all. Then again, I also made myself a simple vacuuming system for dusting records prior to play, too (separate from my wet-vacuuming cleaning system). It's at my turntable and works so much better and more quickly and easily than any brush can that all I need to do is step on the footswitch by the table and two or three rotations of the disc later the job is done, no trail of dust, nothing to clean off the vacuum wand adapted from the VPI cleaning types. My stylus never accumulates any dust so my Onzow Zerodust tacky thing has been unused and aside for years already. All made out of a discarded vacuum and odd assorted parts that cost me not a penny after the VPI vacuuming tip, the only expense. but I have to strongly disagree with your calling on the fly VTA setting a negligibly unnecessary item even as found on the best production arms because the quickest and most accurate way to set the VTA is to listen to the results while you do it, even if those won't allow this from the listening position, where the results are the most obvious and precise.

ZorinAudio.com's picture

Hello to all interested in this product.

I don’t think VTA is trivial at all, but it also can be mis-understood greatly.

Not to defend the thought process, but in any case I believe Mr. Fremer was simply mentioning the overall stigma built in around VTA adjustment, and trust me this would not end here regardless what was mentioned.

I will say one thing about the statement here “consider absolutely necessary: on the fly VTA adjustment.”

This may be nice, but 99% of the product out there really does not offer an extremely smooth or accurate way to do this. As a matter of fact most of the “On the Fly” adjustments I have every encountered really don’t work very well on the fly with some exceptions. Most will force you to lift the needle at the very least anyway if you wish not to bump the arm or cause the stylus to jump anyway which is risky.

Again there may be a few well designed arms with “On the fly VTA” and the Zorin simply has a very accurate way to set VTA using 2 points of reference (one at the headshell & one main VTA at the base of the arm) which almost no arm I know of actually has.

So there are tradeoff’s which is always nice for educated customers to be aware of.

Michael Fremer's picture
Nothing I wrote was meant to suggest that VTA adjustment is trivial! Quite the opposite. Nor did I mean that VTA "on the fly" adjustability is important. Quite the opposite. I'm not sure why the author misunderstood what I wrote but I suspect it's in the translation.