We have kept the great tone of the original Zu/DL-103 and have significantly improved transparency and resolution. Handling has also been considered and improved, with design elements to help safeguard the pickup from accidental damage—stylus guard being the most obvious feature.
If your system needs a bit more treble energy consider the “R” version. If you are not looking to change the tonality of your system stick with the regular non-R version.
Each pickup is comprehensively tested and graded, the better the grade the better the stereophony, but even the standard is pretty damn fine.
Standard ≤ 2.5% | Grade 1 ≤ 1.0% | Grade 2 ≤ 0.5% | Grade 2 PRIME ≤ 0.1% The Mk.II update is significant, both in performance and handling. The body is machined from 6061-T6 and hard anodized to aid in the matching of tonearm-mount properties and further reduce pickup stored/reflected energy. The shape of the housing has also been refined to reduce resonance and stress risers resulting in a much stronger design that better supports the motor assembly. We have also changed the epoxy matrix formulation that binds the assembly further reducing noise and increasing stability to the pickup system.
Grade indicates stereophony performance much more so than tone. Zu performs extensive final testing and then grades them. Tolerance is measured between left and right internal impedance, full bandwidth phase, time-domain, and full bandwidth output curves. Tolerance spec’ is not an average of measures but accounts for the lowest of any measurement, thus giving a true tolerance perspective. Final grade is referenced to serial number, marked on the tests and measures sheet, and box label
A Few Reviewer Comments On The Original:
“The Zu doesn’t just slay giants: It rips their beating heart from their chests, shows it to them, finishes them off, then chases their souls and drags them down to hell.”
“What would you get by spending more money—say, $1600 for the Koetsu Black that I reviewed last July? In my system, the Black has lots of beautiful tone and texture, while sounding less colored, less pungent, than either version of the DL-103. But for all that, the Zu DL-103 in particular was capable of sounding bigger, and had a better, more impactful way with uptempo music. In that respect, the Zu was more stirring—more involving—than all but my Miyabi 47. Really. In many instances, the Koetsu Black or the EMT JSD 5 (also here on loan) had a prettier, even more realistic sound—a flute with a clearer timbral signature here, a more realistic guitar tone there—but for sheer fun, the Zu was usually the one I turned to.”
—Art Dudley, Stereophile
“This is what Zu has to say about the DL-103:
So what’s it sound like? The original DL-103 is a classic, easy to set up and it really soaks the music from that stereo groove. It’s easy on the ears, has “super cart” status in the meat of the music range, with real stereophonic magicness. While the original has life, compared to modern pickups it ain’t all that resolving in the bass; lacks detail as a whole, and is loosy-goosy particularly in shimmer and treble tone, has this hazy-lazy pot-puffin’ thing going on (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the popular hi-fi sound with source gear and speakers trying to rip your head off with high frequency distortion).
The Zu DL-103 cleans it all up, expanding all the good traits, adds incisiveness and full bandwidth dynamic slam and delicacy — all without making it sound like a soulless modern cartridge.
Did they succeed? Yes. While expecting a rather “vintage” sound considering the origin of the Zu DL-103, there is nothing “vintage” sounding about this cartridge. On the other hand, it sounds completely different from the Dynavector, as well as all of the other cartridges I can recall. It is big and bold and yet laid back and mellow all at the same time- it really is recording dependent. While it is different, in this case different is good.
I work in a very high stress industry, and combine that with a long commute, and at times I come home in a bad mood. If I have had an especially bad day I may come home and have a Rum and Coke while I relax. The Zu DL-103 does the same thing-without the Rum and Coke -- it dials up the musical enjoyment, way up -- and dials down the hi-fi artifacts. To put it another way- have you ever heard music in your car, or maybe at a friend’s house and really gotten off on it? You didn’t care about how the music was reproduced, because it was the music that moved you, not the system. The Zu does that. It gets out of the way of the music. Isn’t that the whole point of why we enjoy this hobby?”
—Nels Ferre, Enjoy The Music
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Re: Zu/DL-103 Mk.II Cartridge Grade 2 Prime
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