In the UK, Origin Live is known as a provider of all things turntable, but the company’s repute extends beyond the shores of Blighty mostly for its tonearms. That reputation is built on products like the Zephyr.
Common to Origin Live tonearms, the Zephyr is built on the original Rega arm mount (which also fits the newer three-point Rega mount), with Technics, SME or even Linn adaptors also available. The arm is the cheapest in the Origin Live range that also comes with built-in VTA adjustment, which is as simple as it is effective (it’s just a ring around the arm base – if you can tighten a set of speaker spikes, you can adjust the VTA on the Zephyr).
The arm itself looks a bit like the love-child of a Linn Ekos and a Rega RB300. It’s a gimballed bearing design, with a wide yoke similar to a Linn arm, but tracking force adjustment is purely down to moving the counterweight. In use, the counterweight is extremely hard to move; making it great once the downforce is set but difficult to fine tune without feeling like you are engaged in some heavy-handed operation. In addition, because of the deliberate way the dual-pivot bearing housing is designed, allowing the armtube to float, the whole arm feels like there’s too much play, and when you are adjusting the counterweight, the freedom of that armtube means it can clatter around the yoke. This is deliberate on Origin Live’s behalf (essentially, it behaves like two bearings in one, a high mass one in the horizontal and a low mass one in the vertical, which is notionally precisely what you need from a set of tonearm bearings), and there’s no bearing chatter.
Anti-skate is applied by a hanging weight and outriggers. In use, you generally need to place the bias cylinder very close to the yoke, otherwise the weight can foul its wire outrigger, but you would be unlikely to need that much anti-skate (Origin Live calls it ‘side bias’) anyway. The alloy arm tube itself has captive cartridge tags and good quality captive leads coming out of the end of the arm base. A P-clip is supplied for the arm to be attached to the turntable it is designed to work with. Overall finish is very good, with the metacrylate arm plate adding some contrast to the shiny chrome yoke and counterweight and the black anodised armtube. It’s not SME or Graham-grade finish, but neither is it SME or Graham-grade price. Effective mass of the arm is 12g, making the arm a shoe-in for moderate to low-compliance cartridges (in other words; the majority of modern cartridges).