Today I decided I should give the new Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge that is in for review at Positive Feedback a listen, so I mounted it on my Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124 turntable.
I have my Thorens TD124 doing musical duty in my audio-video system with my vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers, Leben CS600 integrated amplifier, and Leben RS-30EQ phono stage.
I mounted the Zephyr Mk III into my Yamamoto HS-1A African blackwood headshell, and in a departure from my favorite DIY Art of Tone headshell leads, I used generic headshell leads, as I didn’t have an appropriate set of Art of Tone leads made up to use at the moment.
First up for a listen was Chester & Lester, the Chet Atkins and Les Paul masterpiece that’s a must have for guitarists.
As soon as the stylus touched down on Chester & Lester LP I was absolutely blown away by the gorgeous tone of the Zephyr Mk III, which happens to be a match made in heaven for this system and album.
The Chet’s and Les’ music takes on a naturally warm, rich, and dimensional quality that is ravishingly beautiful and extremely musical.
I’ve never heard my Thorens TD124 sound as good as it does with the Zephyr Mk III on it, with timbral realism and overall musicality that was just off the charts on Chester & Lester.
Next I put on my 1993 Analogue Productions test pressing of Chet Baker’s Chet, which is a fantastic album, and is easily the best version of Chet I own.
Again I heard beautiful tone, a lot of musically relevant and naturally portrayed detail, along with very realistic timbral textures from the music.
The Zephyr Mk III has a “real sound” that allows you to listen into musicians touch upon their instruments, portraying their phrasing and melodic flow just beautifully.
For the third album I wanted to hear some female vocals, so I got out the Fairytales LP by Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz.
The Zephyr Mk III provided an intimate and ethereal portrayal of Fairytales, with Radka’s voice sounding beautiful and delicate, and Steve’s piano playing tonally beautiful as well as providing all the nuance of vivid tone color.
Normally I try not to gush on first listen, as I normally like to take a circumspect approach as I listen to a new component so I don’t embarrass myself, but sometimes you’ve just got to gush – the Zephyr Mk III is brilliant in this system!
To be fair, I need to listen to a lot more albums with the Zephyr Mk III to be able to really articulate its performance, as well as try it in my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE, vintage McIntosh, and Garrard 301 based system, to get an idea of its performance in a different context.
Let me also say that one of the things I really like about the Zephyr Mk III is that it’s 2.4 mV output means that I don’t have to use a step-up transformer with my Leben RS-30EQ phono stage, and the Leben RS-30EQ has enough gain with the Zephyr Mk III to pop the windows out of the room with the volume control set at 12 o’clock.
Ok, that’s it for now, it’s time to go cook dinner.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!