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

Zorin Audio is a Taiwan ROC-based company producing a series of tone arms and turntables that last year at an audio show impressed visually. The machining appeared superb and the designs sensible, but with sufficient innovation to draw my interest.

Because of its “plinthless” design, its massive, well-machined 2.25” tall almost 18 pound aluminum platter, and its $4180 price tag the TP-S3 seemed worthy of review.

Zorin’s background is in automobile power train component precision machining, including replacement gears for vintage Porsches. Obviously someone at the company is an audiophile because you don’t shift gears to turntable manufacturing to make a “quick buck”!

The 12” Zorin PUS-12 tonearm incorporated a few unique design features and its damped, inverted unipivot bearing hit the right notes, especially given it’s $2280 price.

Put together the arm and turntable and you reach $6460, around the same price as a three lettered turntable made in New Jersey. That, I thought made it even more intriguing product review combo (of course there are many other fine turntable and arm combos at this same price point. That one just came to mind when I saw the price).

Set-Up

The TP-S3 sets up quickly. Three tubular arms of polished aluminum extend equidistantly from the generously-sized central hub that holds the inverted ceramic bearing. Massive stainless steel cylinders, capped on top and on bottom terminated with adjustable pointed feet attach to each arm.

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Thus there is no boxy “plinth” in need of damping. The first time I learned the benefits of such a design was when I reviewed the compact Simon Yorke S-7 way back in 1998. At the time I owned a VPI TNT— a large-plinthed “four-poster” actually designed with the Eminent Technology air bearing tone arm in mind.

The E.T. arm featured a fixed bearing and a moving rail, similar to the one currently used by Walker Audio. In fact, the original Walker ‘table was a highly modified Mapleknoll, also designed by E.T.’s Bruce Thigpen. Walker has since changed everything though the basics remain similar.

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As that massive rail moves, the weight shifts from the front to the back of the ‘table. Some three point suspension ‘tables like the Oracle simply cannot adequately accommodate such a “mass migration”, which led VPI’s Harry Weisfeld to design the “four poster”. I think Basis Audio’s A.J. Conti claims to have been there first, but I’m not about to get in the middle of that shit fight.

In any case, the Simon Yorke consists of a heavy, 6” round stainless steel base that’s precision-drilled for the low-friction spindle sleeves, forming a very rigid, massive, stable support mechanism for the platter. A pear-shaped plywood-like composite arm board bolts to the top of the base. A 24 pound platter of mostly Austenitic nonmagnetic stainless steel to which is attached the spindle bearing fits in the hole and that’s it! Everything else is outboard.

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The first time I heard that Yorke’s slam and punch my entire notion of turntable design dramatically changed. That is part of what attracted me to the Zorin.

The massive aluminum platter is “machined out” on bottom to locate the mass near the platter’s outer edge, producing a flywheel effect. The polished ceramic bearing runs on a thin oil layer so before placing the platter atop the bearing, one carefully places the tiny ceramic ball atop the bearing, drips some oil on it and on the bearing and then carefully lowers the platter.

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The outboard AC synchronous motor housed in a heavy pod drives the platter via an “O” ring around its periphery. A dual ganged pulley machined from a plastic of some sort allows you to select 33 1/3 or 45rpm.

Installing the PUS-12 Tonearm

Removing the cap atop the stainless steel cylinder at the approximately “2 O’clock” position reveals a thick piece of plastic fastened in place by a large bolt. Remove the bolt and the plastic piece, replace it with the equally thick plastic arm board drilled for your favorite tone arm (or the PUS-12), replace the bolt and you’re ready to install the tone arm. It’s probably possible to install arms at the other too.

Once that’s been accomplished you have to measure the pivot-to-spindle distance and by rotating the arm board around the not yet tightened bolt, set the PSD (pivot to spindle distance) for your particular tone arm and then tighten the bolt.

The PUS arm is a static balance design (the pivot's center of gravity is below the pivot point, which means you should carefully set vertical tracking force at record height to get an accurate measurement), with an effective length of 308mm, overhang of 13mm and an offset angle of 17.6 degrees.

The PUS 12 arm’s post slides into a collar in standard fashion where its held in place by a grub screw after you’ve approximated its level position with the platter. The fit is impressive. There’s zero play. The unipivot arm will now be leaning well over to right side until you attach the azimuth adjustment weight to a rod extending from the left side of the bearing housing, which will right the arm’s-one sided list.

The arm comes with a pair of counterweights one of which also includes a means by which you can attach an additional cylindrical weight if necessary. Start with one of the weights, slide it onto stub and tighten the grub screw. Since azimuth is set using the weight previously placed on the rod extending from the side of the pivot hub, there’s no need to rotate the counterweight as on the VPI arm, so a channel machined into the counterweight stub vertically orients the counterweight.

The instructions are unintentionally humorous with warning after warning about over-tightening the various grub screws. Clearly the importer knows his audience!

Next comes the most critical part of the arm set-up: unscrewing the two small screws atop the pivot housing that hold in place the inverted bearing. Care must be taken to avoid losing the two tiny screws!

To prevent damage to both the bearing point and cup, Zorin places a small piece of foam rubber in the cup that must carefully be removed before you pour in about a 1/3 of the way up the cup the supplied damping fluid after which you carefully replace the inverted bearing point, locate the two small screws in the holes and secure the bearing.

Should you wish greater damping you can use a more syrupy fluid as suggested in the manual. By the way, the machining of the inverted bearing appears to be superb and the “fit’n’finish of it all is very nicely executed despite the very reasonable price. The only oddity here is the tone arm lock: after you place the arm tube in the very nicely machined armrest, you screw in what looks like a cartridge bolt that fits over the top of the tube—a rather primitive touch! Either that or the designer has a great sense of humor!

Next you install the anti-skating counterweight attached to an “O” ring by a length of monofilament. Pretty much standard fare here.

The Patented Adjustable Head Shell

. Zorin’s unique head shell consists of a three thick, machined pieces of aluminum. One attaches via two bolts to the side of the “L” shaped arm termination block out of the center of which come the four wires terminated with color coded clips.

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Another piece of machined aluminum attaches via a single bolt on top of the first piece, forming an adjustable horizontal hinge. This is most unusual in that this hinge sets the usually fixed offset angle. The hinge bolt is set tight at the factory for the correct 17.6 degree angle but Zorin supplies a plastic gauge to confirm the angle.

The cartridge mounts to the third machined piece, attached at a right angle to the second one by a bolt set in a slot that allows it to be slid fore and aft as well as angled up and down.

In other words, you set overhang by sliding this piece back and forth and once set, you can radically adjust VTA/SRA by rotating the piece on its horizontal axis. Or you can set VTA/SRA by loosening the stem grub screw and raising and lowering the back of the arm. Or you do it using a combination of the two.

The only trick with doing it from the front is that when you loosen the bolt you must prevent it from fore and aft movement or you’ll lose your overhang setting.

The greatest advantage of this patented head shell is the vast expanse of open space behind the cartridge. It makes it so easy to attach the clips. Sort of the opposite of SME head shells where the cartridge pins often butt up against the head shell pins leaving almost no room for the two sets of clips (SME owners will know what I mean).

Once you get the hang of this unusual, unique but sensible tone arm, setting it up becomes fairly straightforward. Howeer, though you can adjust overhang, VTF, VTA/SRA, anti-skating and azimuth, as with SME arms, you cannot adjust the zenith angle because the screw holes through which you mount the cartridge are not slotted so you can’t twist the cartridge about its vertical axis (in other words you can’t twist it horizontally).

The only way to do it then would be to loosen the offset screw and change the offset angle—a move I wouldn’t recommend. This is less of a problem than it might seem assuming the cartridge has been correctly built: the cantilever will be parallel to the hash marks at the “null” points on whatever alignment tool you choose to use.

Of course as we’ve demonstrated with digital microscopy, even if the cantilever alignment is perfect there’s no guaranty the diamond has been perfectly oriented in the cantilever so achieving perfection in this parameter is “iffy” anyway. As I tell attendees at my turntable set-up seminars, “If you want perfection, buy a CD player.”

You can set VTA/SRA in one of two ways: by raising and lowering the back of the arm or by loosening the cartridge mount and rotating it. That produces large VTA/SRA excursions since it’s happening at “cartridge level” and you risk throwing off the overhang if the mount slides in the overhang slot.

I first set up the Shure M97xE and then moved on to the Lyra Titan i, which is what I used for most of the auditioning.

The arm “handles” well (though as with all 12” arms, it’s a bit ungainly compared to a 9” arm) and because it is fluid-damped at the closed, inverted pivot point it doesn’t shimmy side-to-side before it settles in the groove like VPI’s or Spiral Groove’s Centroid arm.

I’ve found that while those arms look unstable going in, once there both are extremely stable. However, some find the look of these arms rocking back and forth unsettling. Not a problem here.

Because the arm and ‘table present two variables it’s impossible to present a sonic assessment of the arm separated from the ‘table and vice-versa.

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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.