UPDATE: Zero Audio Carbo Tenore ZH-DX200-CT

I’ve been using the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore ZH-DX200-CT as my daily driver for six or seven months now and thought it was time to pass along my experience. As noted in my original review, the sound has been excellent. I have probably 15 or 20 different pair of earbuds but this is the one I keep in my laptop bag and use whenever I’m working at a coffee shop or library. The big question on these has always been the build quality: it’s a quality product but the design feels a little delicate. The cord is very thin and there’s minimal strain relief at the buds. I haven’t run into any problems there but I’m probably a little more careful than the average user. I always wrap the cords properly and store them in my laptop bag pocket, away from keys, etc.

The one area that I’ve experienced some wear has been the tips. I’ve never experienced this before but the silicon tips seem to have expanded a little, to the point where they no longer grip the nozzle and will fall off without warning. Taking them out of my ears requires me to fish the tip out of my ear canal and if I’m not careful even just taking the buds out of my bag will end up with one of the tips on the floor. As problems go this isn’t bad, I can either use a little rubber cement to secure the tips to the nozzle or I can take this as an opportunity to order some new tips and see how they effect the sound, which is what I plan to do. Check back in a few months when I post my findings.

Overall I’m still thrilled with these earphones. As I said, it’s the pair I use when I’m not evaluating a new pair, the sounds is just amazing for the money and they’re comfortable too.

Link: Zero Audio Carbo Tenore ZH-DX200-CT at Amazon

U-Turn Audio – Orbit Plus Turntable – the best budget turntable

I have a small record collection, around 200, but I haven’t listened to them in years, ever since I sold my beat up old Pioneer turntable. Spotify and CD rips have been my main source of music but the thought of all those cool old records has haunted me. I finally decided to do something about it and set about researching turntables.  There are a lot of options out there in the $200-$500 range, which I gather is where you need to be to get really good sound. After a lot of research I settled on the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus and I have to say, I’m blown away by the quality and performance.

Looks and Build Quality:
I’ll be honest, looks were nearly as important to me as sound. This is going to be out in the open so I wanted something that looks cool. The Orbit Plus looks terrific, with a clear acrylic platter and exposed belt drive.  I opted for black but it’s available in five chassis colors, including a swanky 70’s green.  Build quality is rock solid, important for the best sound quality. Absolutely no complaints in look or build quality.

Sound
As cool as it looks, if the sound is bad it won’t matter. I purchased the model with a built in pre-amp, so I was able to plug it directly into the Aux inputs on my Marantz home theater receiver. I’m running a couple of Micca bookshelf speakers and a small subwoofer, which is sufficient for my small room. Set up was easy, to be honest I didn’t do any calibrating or anything, I just plugged it in and dropped the needle on (what else?) Dark Side of the Moon. I’ve heard this record dozens of times on Spotify, and it sounds great but hearing it on a pristine record played on a high quality turntable was a transcendent experience. Could I tell the difference in a blind test? Maybe not on every record but on this one I honestly think I could. Is it a “warmer” sound? Deeper? I don’t know how to describe it other than to say fuller or thicker, but to my ears it does sound better. I did a few basic tests, like jumping up and down on my floor and pointing a fan at the turntable but there was no skipping or audible distortion. My ears aren’t as finely tuned as some but to me, this thing is perfect.

Value
Look, at $379 this isn’t a cheap purchase. You can buy some shitty Crosley for $99 but you’re going to damage your records. The Orbit Plus has a nice, high quality Ortofon OM5E cartridge, which is as good as it gets in this price point. The turntable itself is so well built that you can comfortably go with a high end cartridge if you feel the need to get into serious audiophile territory. This really is something you’ll buy for life, its that well built. It’s made in America and U-Turn Audio has excellent support, with a strong social media presence and a passionate user base. This is my favorite audio purchase, maybe ever. If you’re looking for a turntable I can’t recommend this thing highly enough.

Link: U-Turn Audio – Orbit Plus Turntable via Amazon