The Zavfino 1877Phono’s name first caught the market’s attention back in 2015, when they introduced the ZV5 Revolution Series turntable. With their custom multi-colored paint option, the ZV5 offers a funky alternative to the adventurous soul who wants to print onto the plinth whatever graphics their hearts’ desire. The thought of having a celebrity politician’s face printed onto the platter is an option too alluring to pass up, so I asked for such a review sample.
Four months later, a 40lbs box arrived on the same day as the mighty VPI Titan turntable (review upcoming). I pulled my out bell bottom pants and platform shoes, and was ready to boogie down to the music of James Brown’s Living in America, and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. But of course, they thought I was trying to be humorous and did not send me the Trump edition of the ZV5. They did, however, sent me something much better, the latest and greatest from Zavfino 1877Phono, the Copperhead turntable. I was kind of happy they did, because the Copperhead is one helluva fancy looking table with a solid performance to back it up.
The Copperhead turntable is Zavfino 1877’s first foray into the upper mid-echelon of the analog domain and by account, it has what it takes to compete against the competition in that crowded space, occupied by the Project Xtension 10 (US$ 3,499), the Rega RP-8 ($ 2,995), the Acoustic Signature WOW XXL ($ 3,998), or the Clearaudio Performance ($ 3,000). At US$ 3,740, the Copperhead comes standard with a 9.5” satin black aluminum Aeshna Tonearm; add another $ 560 and you’ll get the much sexier looking carbon graphite version which came with my review sample.
As I examined the Copperhead’s components in detail, it became quite apparent that the materials used to make its competition look like toys.
The Copperhead’s plinth is milled from a solid piece of aluminum which weighs nearly 20 lbs. The surface is embedded with 28 copper studs as an added decor, but they also act to break up any minute standing waves if present. The anodized satin black finish feels almost the same as the finish of CH Precision’s aluminum chassis, elegant and smooth to the touch. The platter is also milled from solid aluminum, adding another 12 lbs to the total weight which makes the Copperhead a 32 pounder, heavier than nearly all its competitors.
At the center of the plinth is an oversized bearing secured by an acrylic housing which decouples it from the platter, further reducing vibration transfer to the record surface. The screws in the acrylic disc that the bearing sits on consist of “Nylon 66” screws, thats mounts the disc to the plinth. The center bearing is machined out of one solid chunk of stainless steel with a porous copper insert that is frozen and then pressed fit along with the Teflon thrust plate into the center of the bearing cap. All heavy duty stuff!
The independent motor drive is housed in its own aluminum housing detached from the plinth to ensure minimal vibration transfer. Powering the unit, is an outboard high-quality AC speed controller housed in an aluminum chassis. On my proprietary soon to be released AnalogMagik calibration software, I measured the Wow & Flutter (speed variation) of the Copperhead motor to register only 0.16%. By comparison, my TW Raven Motor drive registered 0.18%, which makes the Zavfino 1877 speed controller one of the most accurate on the market. If Zavfino is able to offer it as an accessory, I am sure the Copperhead motor and speed controller unit will be highly sought after as an upgrade for numerous turntables.
The Copperhead came with a simple instructions manual, mainly for the operation of the speed controller. There are numerous bags of accessories which include “The Spirit” tonearm cable, 3 spike shoes, a pair of kid gloves, a cardboard alignment template and even a Technometer for platter speed measurement – basically, everything you need to get started. Assembly of the turntable requires nothing more than common sense and take less than 10 minutes.
The Copperhead came with a single belt, but I decided to try a multiple belt configuration given so many tables on the market employ multiple belts. It created too much tension and pulled the entire motor assembly to come into contact with the plinth. Wow and Flutter measurement also increased to 0.32% (a 100% increase!) so I reverted back to using the factory single belt config which is far superior to alternative.
(Height adjustable chromed brass cones, with spike shoes provided)
Courtesy of Sorasound.com, I was provided with a ZYX Bloom cartridge for this review so I mounted it onto the Aeshna arm with the highly accurate Acoustical System Professional Alignment Set. The template which came with the table bears no correlation to “pivot to spindle” distance which means the null points on them are likely arbitrary. I also could not correlate the null points on the template with neither the Baerwald or the Lofgren geometry, so I decided to stick with the Acoustical System’s alignment tractor.
The Aeshna tonearm bears a clean and straight forward design which makes it a great arm for the analog novice. The counterweight has 6 set screws spaced out evenly at the back, which makes it easy to fine tune cartridge tracking force down to the decimals. The Aeshna, however, does have two improvements which can be made to turn it into an even better arm. From a manufacturing perspective, it would be so easy to add an indentation onto the pivot column so that Pivot to Spindle distance can be determined for positioning the null points during alignment. Without it, I had to mess around with a micrometer caliper to determine the center of the pivot. Without knowing the inner mechanical structure of the bearing, my measurement would still be a guesstimate at best. Secondly, the Aeshna currently has no Azimuth adjustment, which of course is indispensable for any high precision setup. Given they have already gone into great details such as providing kid gloves and Technometer, they can easily add a set screw to secure the headshell instead of gluing it, which will add almost nothing to the manufacturing cost while providing the much needed azimuth adjustment.
As of this publication, the manufacturer has already implemented one of our suggestions and added a divot onto the bearing cap, they are also working very closely to add an Azimuth adjustment.
The Copperhead Sound
Sonically the Copperhead is remarkably accurate and neutral sounding table, with surprisingly good extension at both ends of the sonic spectrum. It is definitely not as warm and velvety sounding as the Linn LP12 or Nottingham 294, nor does it sound as upfront and robust as some of the VPI Rim drive tables, but it definitely carries more dynamic contrast and weight, than many of the competitors previously mentioned such as the Rega P8 or the Clearaudio Performance.
Some great examples of these qualities in play were found in Vangelis’ latest album Rosetta (DECCA 5700634), which was dedicated to the European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe mission. The 13 track journey is a cross breed between Strauss’ sparch Zarathustra, Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar soundtrack, mixed in with Vangelis’ very own Blade Runner. It propels you into a 55 minute mystical space mission which must be heard in its entirety. To fully capture the majestic scale and intensity of Vengelis’ composition, this is one album which should not be rendered with any type of artificial softening or romance. With my eyes closed, the Coppered delivered a full spectrum, high contrast dynamic range, which made it felt like celestial out of body experience as sonic textures caressed my body, with sudden jolts of synthesizer effects… The sound was solid, and weighty, one that I would expect from the solid tables with massive platters. The 32 lbs Copperhead pulled off all that with just an entry level cartridge! Impressive!
The Copperhead, however, did not veer to much towards the end of the spectrum where the sound becomes hard and analytical. On such tables, the normally tipsy and grainy Lalo Symphonie Espagnole (DECCA SXL 2155 ED1), or the Carmen Fantaisie (DECCA SXL 2197 ED3) album, will often be rendered unlistenable.
The Copperhead had enough neutrality to render Ricci’s violin with just the right amount of edginess and bite to truthfully reflect all the imperfections embedded in the recording. It got dangerously close to the edge, and with the wrong cartridge it might just fall over it. But with the ZYX Bloom, there was a synergy achieved with the Copperhead, which made a lot of difficult recordings enjoyable.
Take Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto by Johanna Marty on Testament’s excellent reissue for instance (Testament SPBLT 1483), which is probably one of the most robust and rigorous interpretations of this composition, on soft sounding tables this old recording is often smudged and blurry which robs Martzy of the excitement in her style. Too much clarity and all the faults of an old recording becomes too vivid and exaggerated, again a distraction, that fails to deliver Martzy of our due attention. The Copperhead shines with this type of recording, turning good music into a lively performance with perfect tonal balance.
On lush and colorful recording such as Johnny Hartman’s Once in Every Life (Analog Production’s QRP, APJ105), I was afraid that Copperhead will make me want to put the record back onto my JC Verdier table with the Kondo IO-M cartridge. After all, it is still the undisputed champion when it comes to delivering human emotions. With the ZYX Bloom playing into the CH Precision P1 Phono Preamplifier, the Copperhead did not disappoint. I’ve had listened to Hartman’s record in its entirety, with a clean and truthful rendering of Hartman’s voice which sounded natural, real and colorful.
I shall end this review with an Asian recording which I’ve found most enjoyable with the Copperhead. Rhymoi music’s phenomenal “Song of Songs” album is an absolute MUST BUY for those brave enough to embrace Chinese Classical Vocals. Recorded by legendary sound/recording engineer Li Xiaopei, nicknamed the Kenneth Wilkinson of China, is a sonic mastery of epic proportions.
The opening song “Invitation to Wine” (将进酒) by opera singer Guan Dong Tian ( 关栋天) is sung with such uplifting majestic rigor, which will not only invigorate the human spirit, but will also stretch the limits of your system to the fullest. The Copperhead passed the test by rendering Guan’s voice with astonishing ease and brilliance. His voice had clarity, strength, and radiance! The exercise was repeated once again on the last track of the album “The Whole River Red” (a better translation would be “The Crimson River” 滿冮紅). This time Guan’s voice was reinforced by a Chinese Orchestra with full percussions. The Copperhead delivered a graceful triumphant performance with an unrelenting dynamic contrast combined with a well composed holographic imagery. All in all a solid testament to its ability to deliver the sound that is normally associated with the tables, attached to a significantly higher price tag.
Sitting beside three giants (The VPI Titan, The TW Rave, and the JC Verdier La Platine Vintage), not only did the Copperhead held its own position and displayed such remarkable dynamics, neutrality and realism, but it had also raised the question: “Does anyone really need that much more than what the Copperhead can offer?”
Yes, it is that good of a table. Strongly recommended!
Richard H. Mak
Copperhead with carbon graphite tonearm: US$ 5650
Preamp: McIntosh C1000
Power Amps: McIntosh MC3500 x4 Biamp Configuration
Phono Stage: CH Precision P1 & X1
Cartridge: ZYX Bloom
Tonearm: Zavfino 1877Phono Aeshna 9.5” Carbon
Table: Zavfino Copperhead
Speakers: Peak Consult Dragon Legends
772, Black Rock RD.
Tel: +1 (902) 701-9289
(All photos courtesy of Anson Hon of Mezmer Media)