"Low Budget - High End" und Musik

Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond vs JICO DT-Z1 EB

Analogis released the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond needle a few weeks ago.

I bought the JVC DT-Z1S cartridge together with a JVC Direct Drive turntable on ebay. At first I did not take it seriously at all. I didn’t even realize how good this inconspicuous part is. Only when I read about the potential of this TA (cartridge) in forums did I become curious. It was still an old whistler
conical needle, which conjured up an amazingly wide stage, but still scanned very roughly. In the forums I already read about a great channel separation with the right needles.

I bought a replica needle, which is made by JICO. The typed elliptical needle now showed a well-balanced, well-drawn sound, although without the spectacular stage of the Pfeifer needle.

So I was very curious about the new Black Diamond and ordered one from my needle dealer.

Besides the JICO with the tipped elliptical stone I had bought a JICO Shibata needle to go with the JVC pickup. The combination was recommended in forums and is really the best I have heard under MM “circumstances”. A great stage, clarity and accuracy down to the last triangle in the orchestra, still musical, just great! But this is a different house number and will soon be discussed in another review. I just wanted to mention it to show what potential this unimpressive JVC has.

A review of the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond at JVC

The three needles that I got to know on the JVC pickup before the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond gave the sound of the JVC a character that I had never experienced in any other TA. The Pfeifer needle gave a wide, loud and live-like sound. The JICO elliptical had a controlled, relaxed but accented sound. The JICO Shibata produced a direct, yet broad and crystal clear sound. So they were so different that I was all the more curious about the Black Diamond.

My personal feeling did not deceive me. I considered it to be the most similar to the elliptical one. And so it is. That is why I would like to compare it with the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond in this test.

Requirements for the test

As with the other reviews (e.g. the AT95 Black Diamond) I would like to refrain from measurements and technical data and rely only on my hearing. The test turntable is once again my Toshiba SR-255, which has been brought up to date by rewiring and is a typical mid-range Direct Drive from the 70s with (as far as I know) Jelco tonearm. It is medium heavy and therefore perfectly suited for the JVC cartridge. A Graham Slee Communicator serves as preamplifier. The amplifier is a Harman Kardon HK6500. The speakers are from Piega, the LDS 1.8 with new tweeters. The cabling is not the cheapest, but not high end either. It remains affordable.

As test plates I chose once again Carole King’s “I Feel The Earth Move” for the distortion analysis on female voices.

As an analog audiophile recording, the JTB record that has grown dear to my heart, with “Space Cookie” as a track, is used again. This ingenious fusion jazz from the end of the 70s, also the heyday of analog recording, comes along with very complicated sound structures. These have to decode the needles.

The third test record is the vinyl version of Gregory Porter’s 2013 album “Liquid Spirit”, released in 2019 on Blue Note, and from it “Musical Genocide”. This recording is audiophile in the modern sense with great dynamics and digital clarity. And last but not least a classic recording from the “golden” Decca era. Haydn’s “Cello Concerto in C Major” was played by the London Chamber Orchestra in 1965.

Before we start with the test records I would like to mention that both the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond and the JICO elliptically excellent trackers. That means they have no problem with IGD (Inner Groove Distortion). They reproduce distortion-free on my Toshiba right down to the inner grooves. The BD (Black Diamond) is somewhat quieter in reproduction. A phenomenon I already noticed with the AT3651 Black Diamond, but it’s not disturbing.

But now to the music:

 

Test 1: Carole King with “I can Feel The Earth Move”

Here the two needles can prove two things in particular.  On the one hand, King’s voice with its on the one hand penetrating, on the other hand very light rough voice proves to be a challenge for turntable needles. Here they can show how well they can handle it, i.e. how well they feel the groove. The other challenge is the very middle-strong recording from the 70s. Depending on the sound characteristics of the needle, it can sound obtrusive here or compensate for this by relaxed playing.

We start with the Japanese needle. It turns out that it can do the scanning. However, she has slight problems in two places in the song with King’s voice.  The sound image still shows the midrange-heavy recording. The midrange is perceived as amplified, although it is slightly dampened. I was very positively surprised by the great three-dimensionality in the reproduction. The piano stands out from the speakers on the left and the guitar floats in the room on the right. The instruments and King’s voice can be easily located. Wow! Overall good performance of the JICO needle except for the two dropouts in King’s voice.

The Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond doesn’t let anything burn. The voice is sampled absolutely clean and error-free throughout the whole song. Super performance! The central recording is cushioned by the BD through its very relaxed, already restrained playing. On the one hand this seems harmonious, on the other hand less lively than with the Thakker. The three-dimensionality is also clearly visible here, but is more discreet. The instruments do not stand out so accentuated.  Nevertheless, the sound image can be described as spatial.

The sampling performance of the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond is perfect, better than that of the JICO replica. The sound of the Black Diamond is more restrained, softer than the accented Japanese. So now it will be exciting to see how they perform in the audiophile JTB recording.

 

Test 2: JTB with “Space Cookie”

Here the two can now prove themselves properly.

This time we start with the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond. An impressive performance. What already announced itself at Carole King continues here. He is very precise in his sampling behaviour. Every cymbal is reproduced very clean and natural. The restrained playing style can be seen here as well.

On the frequency band the mids are slightly reduced and softly reproduced. This is especially noticeable at the beginning of the piece on the acoustic guitar. The string plucks are nicely placed in the room, but are less accentuated and griping than shown on other tested needles. The basses show depth and are clear and crisp.

Interesting is the behavior in the high notes. Here I already hinted at the example of the cymbals, that they are reproduced very accurately (due to the naked diamond) and naturally. This is the case with the entire trebles. But they do not push themselves into the foreground at all. Rather, they are also somewhat reserved and free of any sharpness. Cymbals and triangles are nevertheless clearly audible and sound as if someone is playing them here in the listening room.

The spatiality is good, instruments can be located. The stage is not very wide, but this also fits the recording.

All in all a very harmonious performance of the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond, which can be classified on the relaxed side.

And what does the elliptical Japanese needle do?

It gives me a short “Wow”. It is insanely good! How can you describe it? On the one hand, it seems controlled, never exuberant. On the other hand, the frequency bands are so well integrated and equally balanced. The sound is accentuated compared to the soft-focused BD, but never sharp (like the AT95 for example). When I inserted the acoustic guitar I got a shiver. So warm and catchy, as if it was played right in front of me.  Everything seems alive in a controlled way.

The Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond is minimally ahead in the accuracy and naturalness of the treble display. But the trebles are more clearly audible here. I have the feeling that I hear more overtones on the way between mids and highs. The spatiality is good, similar to the Black Diamond.  The acoustic guitar and the saxophone float in space.  Also the rest of the band gets depth in the stage, which is not very wide.

Even though the naked Black Diamond makes the trebles look a bit more natural, I like the Japanese needle better. It’s a matter of taste: both are controlled and on the relaxed side. But the elliptical Japanese shows more liveliness in the performance through more accentuated mids. But one or the other likes the softer reduced mids, which never seem spongy and invite in a pleasant way to long never annoying listening to music.

 

Test 3: Gregory Porter with “Musical Genocide”

We start with the elliptical Japan replica from JICO production. And it shows already in the first bars what it can do. The bass line and the piano fill the room as if they were here in the room. Plus Porter’s warm voice, which stands out well from the speakers. The warm familiar character of the recording is reproduced very well.

It is similar to the above observed. The needle manages the balancing act between controlled, relaxed playing and dynamics and passion. You could also call it very, very close to reality. That is probably a great compliment. And rightly so.

The basses are crisp and controlled present, but never pushing themselves into the foreground. The mids are precisely accented and pleasantly warm. They are also neither subtle nor forward thrusting. Simply very realistic. The highs are already slightly unrolled from the shot to enhance the homely warmth. The Japanese replica also shows a lot of feeling here. The high heads and cymbals sound very realistic, but here the last bit of resolution is missing.  This is probably due to the bonded diamond. But you only hear this when you listen very closely and it doesn’t deceive the overall picture.

Spatiality can be perceived well. The instruments are easy to locate and stand out a bit from the speakers. Porter’s voice also stands out well from the instrumentation. The stage is not particularly wide with good depth. But that doesn’t bother. The small acoustic band does not need a “100m” stage. That would not be appropriate.

All in all a wonderful performance of the JICO replica.

So I am even more curious about the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond

To my astonishment, this shows a very similar performance to the Thakker Japan. Full-bodied the piano and the bass begin. Porter’s voice begins with a lot of feeling and warmth.  The homely atmosphere is also well reproduced here. The frequency band is very homogeneously tuned. Everything is very similar to the Japanese, also this control with room for dynamics and musicality.

This is also a good place to describe the minimal differences. This is all very marginal. The Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond plays a shade softer in the mids. Where the Japan replica is more catchy and accentuated, the BD “flows” more on the relaxed side. This makes the sound even more laid back. In the basses there are hardly any differences audible,. The highs are similarly realistic, slightly rolled off by the recording, you can hear the high heads and cymbals as if you were sitting opposite them. Here the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond shows its strength. The naked diamond manages to make these instruments look a little bit more like the original.

In terms of spatiality, the BD behaves very similar to its “competitor”. A not very wide stage with depth staggering is recognizable. The instruments stand out from each other and have their fixed place. Due to the recording this happens in a rather small scale. Other audiophile pressings offer even more 3D staggering. The Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond is quite capable of doing this.

The performance of the Black Diamond is very impressive and a pleasure to watch. Once again you get the feeling you could listen to this needle for hours. Simply relaxed without being boring.

 

Test 4: Haydn with “Cello concerto in C major” played by the London Chamber Orchestra

As with the other reviews, I dedicate myself to classical music in the end. The example here is one of my absolute favorites in this genre. The recording belongs to the golden Decca period. In the 60s, first-class sound engineers used the simple technology of the time to create audiophile, transparent sounding recordings that today’s sound engineers could learn a lot from.

In classical music, it is important to me how realistically the tones of the instruments are reproduced, the dynamics, spatiality and airiness. The latter means, to what extent can I feel the space, here a hall? That draws me emotionally into the action.

The Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond shows a mixed performance here. The frequency band is pleasantly homogeneous. Unfortunately, the presentation lacks a bit of dynamics and thus drama. Here the relaxed way of playing the performance is not too good.

The biggest point of criticism is the presentation of the cello and the other strings. The tendency towards a soft “flowing” style makes the strings lose their grip. They appear slightly washed out. The 55 year old recording does the rest here.

The spatiality is good. The cello stands out well from the rest of the instruments. A stage is recognizable. However, I get no feeling for the size of the hall. There is no airiness in the performance. That’s a pity, but doesn’t let the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond become my favorite needle for classical music.

What is the competition doing here, the JICO Japan needle?

It does its job much better than its competitor. Again, pleasantly relaxed, it still shows more dynamics.

But I immediately noticed the wonderfully accentuated bellied reproduction of the strings. From the very first bars with the violins it becomes clear that the strings and this needle have found each other. When the cello starts playing for the first time, you get goose bumps. It is as if the cello and the musician were standing here in the room. Simply great!

You can also feel the airiness. As a listener, I have the feeling that I’m sitting in the hall and not in a small room wallpapered with egg cartons. That creates this suction that I need for classical music to feel like I’m in a concert.

The spatiality is also well developed. The cello stands out well from the rest. The audible stage develops a certain width across the loudspeaker boundaries to the right and left. The stage also has depth, the instrument groups can be located.

In summary, the Japanese replica needle delivers a great performance and is the clear winner in this discipline.

The Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond Needle does not manage to present the strings in a catchy and accentuated way and unfortunately lacks airiness and the feeling for the room.

 

The summary

So impressed by the JICO needle and its competence in classical music, I immediately put on Rossini’s “Overtures” and am currently indulging myself. The Japanese woman in a green-yellow dress (see photo) not only turns out to be a lover of classical music, she is an excellent all-rounder.  She cuts a damn fine figure in each of the 4 music tests.

She has this charm, that you can forget the technique and just give yourself over to the music. This is a great compliment! She manages this with a sound that is not far from reality. Through a controlled relaxation paired with passion and power in the right places, a good 3D staggering and enough airiness, a sound is created that is addictive.

After this test, this combination is one of my favorite combinations of pickup and needle. Currently the best all-rounder in the team. To put it in soccer terms: it can play in any position.

And the actual test candidate, the Analogis Nivico DT-Z1 Black Diamond?

She also delivers a very good performance in the first 3 test pieces.  Above all she is a real “tracking monster”. There is no trace of IGD (Inner Groove Distortion) to be heard even in the innermost grooves. Also Carole King doesn’t upset her.

If you want to listen to relaxed music in jazz and rock for hours, even in the background to a good book, this needle is the right choice. The treble is excellent, typical for Black Diamond, the bass is deep and crisp. The mids sounded relatively soft in every test. This had sometimes positive and sometimes negative effects. For voices and hard instruments this characteristic can take the sharpness away. With string instruments this unfortunately had a negative effect in my test. They seemed too undefined.

Overall, however, both needles were a lot of fun.  All in all my favorite is the JICO DT-Z1 EB, but tastes and hifi chains are different.

3 Comments

  1. Aleks

    Vielen Dank für den guten und ausführlichen Test!
    Ich habe ein Z1s System mit sphärischer Nadel erworben. Nun würde ich gerne die Nadel austauschen.
    Da ich das Black DIamond System im Auge hatte bin ich auf deinen Bericht gestossen.
    Nun habe ich für 129 Euro die “Nivico DT-Z 1 Shibata” Nadel gesehen und wundere mich ob es die gleiche Nadel ist wie die JICO DT-Z1 Shibata aus deinem Bericht?
    Falls ja würde ich diese der Black Diamond natürlich vorziehen.
    Beste Grüße
    Aleks

    • Onlyadmin

      Hallo Aleks!
      Vielen Dank für Dein feedback.. Ja, ich glaube das ist die Shibata aus meinem Text. Ich habe auch ca diesen Preis bezahlt, und es nicht bereut! Diese Kombi (JVC DT-Z1 mit JICO Shibata) zählt nach wie vor zu den besten, die ich habe. Sie spielt doch noch in einer anderen Liga als die Black Diamond und ist auf einem Level mit dem Audio Technica AT 540 ML oder der SAS Nadel für mein Shure M95.. Die drei “high class” Kombis haben alle unterschiedlichen Charakter, aber sind alle klanglich sehr gut.. Z.B. ist die AR 540 ML meine “Klassik” Nadel, weil sie sehr breit und luftig aufspielt, die Shure mit der SAS ist sehr “fett” und hat einen tollen Bass und Mittenbereich und ist die “Rock” Nadel.. Die JVC mit der Shibata ist ein sehr guter Allrounder und liegt zwischen den beiden anderen. Sie benutze ich oft zum Digitalisieren und Aufnehmen, weil sie kristallklar, aber trotzdem musikalisch klingt und kein Frequenzband überbetont. Also der Kauf der Shibata lohnt sich, da sie im vergleich zur Black Diamond noch griffiger und akzentuierter klingt. Auch ist der Höhenbereich noch noch differenzierter und klarer.
      Frohe Ostern!

      • Aleks

        Vielen Dank für die hilfreiche Antwort.

        Frohe Ostern!

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