EQUIPMENT FORUMS >> ZCD240 >> ZCD impressions

Message started by Doorman on 05/01/08 at 04:57:21

Title: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 05/01/08 at 04:57:21

I recently decided to order one of these Tascam players from Steve. After the initial "leap of faith" some 6 yrs ago for a Zen Select, I've gotta believe the ZCD is in the same league. I bought my first hi-fi nearly 36 years ago, the Select has been the best amp I've ever had.
Anyway, there seems to be relativley few listening impressions posted, and I'm wondering if I've missed 'em, or hopefully someone has something to add.
Apparently there's currently a 4-6 week wait, so plenty of time to reply!
                                                                                     Thanks, Don

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 05/01/08 at 23:22:41

Congrats Don!

I haven't heard it, and don't want to hear it, don't want to have to buy it!

Steve notes it sounds better than the previous machines, and if that's so, you're in for a great treat.  I love my DEC685, and because it's a universal player I'm not moving to the new ZCD.  I just adore the dvd sound and picture, as well as being able to play SACD.  

I have no doubt, not even a tiny smidgeon of one, that you are in for a wonderful time with that machine.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 05/02/08 at 05:12:35

Thanks, Lon. I do wish that the ZCD supported dvd, etc, but having read many other glowing reports on the 685's, I'm hoping the new player is at least as good. I always regretted not buying a 685 when they were available!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by DaveCan on 05/25/08 at 20:49:03

Great to hear your Zcd made it here in good shape.. Sounds like from your response in the other thread that your liking what you hear 8-)    I have no doubt that the Zcd will be nothing less than stellar for the $$$ invested, as I've found with my Taboo.. Looking forward to your impressions of the new player.          Dave :)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by ZENCDUSER on 05/27/08 at 02:57:27

Iíve had the ZCD for approximately three weeks now, and feel itís finally time for a review (since so many people are waiting for reviews!)  In summary, buy it!  The End. Period. Nothing else to say!  
A little background to put things in context.  Iíve had two CD players since 1994: A Carver mult-idisc player from 1994-1999, and a Jolida 601 tubed output player from May 1999 to the present. The Carver wasnít bad.  The Jolida, while a touch warm, was the best value I purchased, prior to the ZCD. As a $349.00 demo from Sound Factor that lasted nine years (and is actually a 10 year old player), the 601 has been through every variety of equipment/room change. Itís played with a CJ MV75/PV-5/Spendor combo, a Select/Klipsch Forte combo, a Cayin TA-30/HornShoppe combo, and a Transcendent Sound SEOTL/GG/Horn Shoppe combo.   I canít remember all the interconnect/cable combos, which included second-hand and/or mid-level Monster, DH Labs, Tara Labs.   Iíve settled with the TS equipment and Anti-cables.  Stunning clarity and, with the power of Audiogon prices, ridiculously affordable for the performance.  Edís Horns are a no-brainer.  Despite the utterly cheap build quality of the Jolida 601, and being so far removed from itís successors (the 602, 603 and the now six-year old  JD-100), it continued to be the one thing I didnít want to change through all the combinations.  Go figure. But age has finally caught up with it, and the skips and stutters have increased to the annoyance point.  Naturally, I contemplated the JD-100 as a replacement, which I could get new for $850.00, but when Steve came out with the ZCD, I decided to apply funds there.
The day the ZCD arrived I listened to some of my favorite discs and tracks for approximately 2 hours. I ordered it with the IEC option but it didnt come with a cord.  No problem I used a common power cord then order the $49.00 Source power cord from MAC Audio.  The ZCD sounded alright, bit did not sound much different from the 601 (to which I applied Dynamat about a year ago, switched from a variety of 12AX7ís to Mullard 12AU7/CV4003ís from Upscale Audio). There was a bit more clarity, but the emphasis seemed to be towards the upper end, making the mid range seem a bit recessed.  There was a tad more bass, but it sounded a bit muddied.  The soundstage seem alright, but not strikingly so.  I wasnt disappointed because as a previous Select owner and a owner of Ed's Horns, I know the power of break-in time.  I figured I'd turn on the ESP Shock protection for comparison.  Things cleared up a lot. I went back and spent about 30 minutes listening to individual favorite tracks, and found more sound staging and clarity in each one.  I dont know if there is a technical reason for it, but thats what I heard.  In looking into the manual (finally) I discovered I actually turned the ESP OFF, since ON is the default mode.  After the initial listening session I devoted about 50 hours to the ZCD with my Isotek burn-in CD, swapped out the JJ with one of my well broken-in Mullard (I've always been biased against all JJs), and the transformation was stunning!  I had a new system!   More accurately, I finally began hearing the net sum of my system:  Lush, rich mids; airy, sparkling highs without edge; deep,  solid, rich, bass.  Everything sounds tone perfect. I think CJ said it a long time ago: It just sounds right.  I keep hearing a richness to the sound.  Some call it "organic."  All the things that I thought were exclusive of each other are present in harmony. Bass but not muddiness or boominess; rich, lush mids (when present) without cloudiness or honey-coated distortion; Clear, extended, toneful (who would have thunk!) highs without etch or that slightly warm but barely noticeable razor-sharp pain in my ears.  But what I still canít get over, and am baffled by, is the depth and width of the sound stage and the placement of instruments and sounds within it.  Edís Horns were always reviewed as masters of this, and while I occasionally heard it in the past, the ZCD allows the Horns to image in full glory.  Descriptions of bass, mids, and highs are almost meaningless until you place them in context with sound staging.  Iím not talking about cheap, hyper-exaggeration of a sound stage, but one that simultaneously sounds solid and real and still spreads the entire width of the wall and, on many recordings, extends 10 feet forward and backwards.   When I mention sounds within the sound stage I'm talking about Oscar Peterson leaning on the bench (the direction of lean is clear!) and Abdullah Ibrahim softly humming along as he plays.
Now, does this mean the ZCD betters players 2-3 times its cost?  I have actually no ideal, and donít care. My comparison is to the Jolida.  Within the context of my experience, my system, my room, and my music, it supplants the Jolida as the best value component I purchased. One could argue I simply removed a glaring weak point and finally achieved system synergy with my other components.  That may be true, being that I know my other components are no slouches.  I listen to a lot of vinyl, and had a policy of seeking out CDs only when I could not find the record at a reasonable price.  The ZCD has changed that.  Actually the ZCD may endanger my whole vinyl mindset.  
Regardless, price alone, when compared with other tube players, makes the ZCD a bargain.  How it fits in your system may vary  But I seriously doubt it will detract from anything you have.
Side note- The MAC Source+ power cord is the business!  Icing on the cake.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 05/27/08 at 04:35:37

The previous post pretty much sums up what I'm hearing as well.  ( My previous CDP was a Musical Fidelity, and before that, a Jolida 603!) The ZCD is by far the best of the previous 6 or 7 cdp's I've had.
I intend to follow up this post when I have time to devote to more extended listening, I've only got a few hours on it to this point.
Thanks for your impressions, Zencduser, and yes, if you're in the market for a replacment CDP, don't even hesitate!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 05/30/08 at 13:49:28

Thanks to you both for your impressions.

Luckily so far no one has compared it to the DEC685 and enticed me to replace that unit.

I'm so there if Steve decides to modify the Sony ES Blu-Ray player!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 05/31/08 at 00:50:44

I've not heard a 685, Lon, but I'll bet it's sweet! If'n I had one, I'd sure enjoy it!
For those who don't and are looking for that "last" redbook player, that won't break the bank, don't even hesitate. It's that good.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 05/31/08 at 01:47:36

Don, I would not consider the DEC685 "sweet" sounding. . .it's pretty accurate and as such "sharper" than "sweeter."  Very good player.  I have a feeling that this ZCD is a better player for several reasons, but I sure enjoy the "universal" aspect of the DEC685.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by DaveCan on 05/31/08 at 16:57:27

The universal aspect would be hard to give up, especially when the sound is really good. Too bad you couldn't have gotten a ZCD proto on trial or something to review. You've had and enjoyed the 685 for so long ,that your impressions of the new player would have been really good to read about IMO.               Dave :)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 06/03/08 at 14:26:50

Well interesting development on my part, non ZCD related.

I have taken the DEC685 out of the system and replaced it with a Sony ES Blu-Ray Player, the Sony BDP-S2000ES.

I have wanted to buy this player for some time, have been able to, but held back worrying about it's cd playback in comparison to the DEC685.

But ultimately, with Neil Young's Blu-Ray "Archive" series on the horizon and after seeing Blu-Ray movie playback at a friend's,  was pushed over the edge and bought this player. As the flagship Sony Blu-Ray player I was hoping that the cd audio quality would be up to the Decware system. . . .

Well, it's the second day in the system and it's sounding very good. Tonally it's just a tad warmer (and thereby perhaps a bit less accurate) than the DEC685 but that's not a problem, the tonal balance is very good, just about what I would want an ideal machine's to be.  There is about a 10% reduction in sound-staging and imaging in comparison to the DEC685, which outclasses every other player I've heard in those departments.  But this machine is hardly broken in so there's potentially even less than a gap.

This is a very well-built machine with a strong chassis and a great transport, center-mounted.

The picture from this machine is stupendous!

If Steve were ever to decide to modify a Blu-Ray player (and maybe he should consider doing so, it is a format I predict will grow and grow) then this machine would be a great candidate.  I'd send him one to modify in a heartbeat!  His version would be another giant-slayer.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by DaveCan on 06/03/08 at 17:21:12

Lon, would be interesting to hear what your Z-Box might do for this new player, have you tried it out yet?   Do you think you may miss having multiple disc capability like with the 685?         Dave :)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 06/03/08 at 18:29:29

Oh yes, like with the DEC685 I use this new machine through the ZBox.  I'm making those comparisons between the two machines with the ZBox between them and the CSP2.

I don't miss having the changer and loading multiple discs. I miss not having SACD capability a little, but only have about three SACD discs that aren't hybrids.  And the difference between cds and SACDs on the DEC685 is not that great.  The DEC685 and this Blu-Ray make cds sound great.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 06/03/08 at 19:28:06

Lon: A quick check has  the Sony player selling for between 1000/1300 bucks. It looks like a great purchase. Your comments comparing it to your 685 are interesting.
I've not had better sound in my system than with the ZCD, but to be able to combine good audio AND is intriguing!
Keep us posted.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 06/03/08 at 23:16:22

Definitely Don.

Now back to ZCD impressions.  Pile them on.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 06/06/08 at 21:14:42

Okay, just a quick update.

This Blu-Ray flagship is an awesome machine.  The dvd picture is almost as good if not as good as the Blu-Ray picture.  (Just as in the DEC685 cd sound was so good that SACD sound was not a big deal).

The sound has bloomed and it's very very good.  The tonality is spot on.  The soundstaging is not up to the DEC685.  I mean. . . how could it be. That's what Steve brings in his inimitable way to the game.  It's 90% of the way there maybe.  I think I can live with it, I'm already not doing "comparisons" in my head but just enjoying the music.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 06/07/08 at 00:08:04

One of the (many) strengths of the ZCD is it's soundstaging. It's simply as good as I've heard. It's a perfect compliment to my (any?) Decware amp(s) They ability to project an image both side to side, and front to back is amazing. The quality and quantity of the bass output is also very noticeable. I've no idea why this is so, but there it is! To this point, I prefer it with the "esp" disabled, and it sounds so good overall, I've not tried the stock outputs,,to compare. Still settling in, more to come.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 06/09/08 at 15:31:13

Okay guys. . . I'm more flush than I ever have been in my life, and there's no reason for me NOT to also have a ZCD player. . . so I ordered one (and Steve's interconnects and power cable for it) today.

Thanks for pushing me over the edge into reckless expenditure territory!


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by ZENCDUSER on 06/10/08 at 05:01:18

Follow-up impressions.
I've had the ZCD for just over a month now, and have close to 200 hours (with about 100 hours from the Isotek breakin CD).  The unit is stunning! Clarity, soundstaging (particularly depth in the soundstage), and tone have prompted me to make additional CD purchases.  That's what it is all about.  Also, and I hate to use the phrase, but I am re-discovering my current music; In many cases I'm in the studio with the performers!  People moving in seats in anticipation, sheets moving, slight taps on furniture...and then there is the music itself.   I've never been happier.  The ZCD has unleashed my system to myself.   Several days ago I pulled out an old Decware DSR cable I purchased in 2003, but hadnt used in years.  Aside from a slight reduction in bass, the music became even more real, and the soundstage blossomed.  This from a cable that I had grown not to like.  I then had the opportunity to insert a friend's MAC Palladium cable to the ZCD...and I immediately ordered one ($180 new versus the regular $349 price....I think a new model is coming out)   Forget about what you hear about silver cables being strident, harsh, etc....this cable and the ZCD has all the richness, warmth and harmonics I remember from previous gear (CJ, Spendor), yet with speed, clarity and openess that leaves me smiling and speechless.  I previoulsy mentioned I purchased jazz on CDs only after I couldnt find affordable LPs.   Now it doesnt matter.  CDs of recordings made from the 50's and 60's are now satisfying,both my newly purchased ones and older ones.  Thats what I have re-discovered.
Two things I've noted about my ZCD.  The Mullard CV4003 (12AU7) works perfectly for me.  Since I had two for the Jolida, I'm set for many years (I think they were $40 each from Upscale Audio, but many other outlets have them). Secondly, I still prefer leaving the ESP just does something that I really cant point my finger on. At first I thought it was just reducing the soundstaging and clarity, but It is something I feel, not just hear.  Might be irrational, but hey!  One additional thing...the Isotek disc is an outstanding investment.  It quickly shows what your equipment can do by greatly reducing that "Did I make a mistake" breakin time frame that music alone just didnt do quick enough for me.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 06/10/08 at 12:11:32

Thanks so much for your input and impressions!  As a jazz listener they especially seem relevant for me and my system!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 06/11/08 at 03:16:41

Congrats, Lon on ordering a ZCD! Be sure and post your impressions vis a vis your 685!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 06/11/08 at 14:39:47

Will do.  I have been wondering why I did so though. . . as this Sony Blu-Ray player sounds better every day!  :)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 06/12/08 at 00:11:32

Decware's 30 day return policy makes it a no-brainer, though. And who knows, you might decide to keep it!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 06/12/08 at 12:02:44

Oh, i expect to keep it.


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/04/08 at 12:37:16

Well, for like the fourth time in a row with important shipments, UPS has let me down.  I'm going to ask DeVon to use another shipment method next time I buy a Decware machine.

UPS called and said be around 7 to 7 because the package was coming yesterday.  I was housebound that entire time.  Nothing.  The tracking showed it was in Austin and out for delivery.  It just is so frustrating and disappointing.  Now I have to do the very same thing on Monday.  I'm so disgusted with UPS right now.

So hopefully I'll have some impressions to relate sometime next week.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 07/05/08 at 00:36:43

Hi Lon,

Man ..... that's a bummer.  I'm not too crazy about UPS either, but this time they finally did something right for me.  While I was on vacation, my daughter was house sitting for me and took delivery of the ZCD.

I set it up last night and have had it playing non-stop to get a few hours on it with an Amperex Bugle Boy 12AU7.  It is plugged into one set of inputs of the CSP2 while the other set of inputs is hosting a ModWright prepped CEC TL-2 belt drive transport, a Genesis Digital Lens and a Channel Islands VDAē2 DAC and VACē1 power supply ..... connected by Stereovox XV2 digital cables.

I did a very brief A/B of the same disk tonight and the ZCD gave a very good accounting of itself ..... especially considering that it has NO burn in time under its belt.  The one thing I can say is that the presentation is totally different than what I am hearing from the other rig.  This will be very interesting.  The other front end has a retail cost of almost $6000.00 ..... but the ZCD is holding its head up with the best yet to come .....  8-)

It seems that this is just one more example of high quality sound from Decware for the "sincere but broke" music lover.

Best wishes,


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/05/08 at 01:20:31

Hi Randy,

Glad your machine is in place, and thanks for the initial impressions.

For three weeks or so I've been listening to Sony's flagship Blu-Ray player as a source and it has turned out to be quite a nice cd source (and an incredible dvd and Blu-Ray source, fantastic pictures!)  It compares tonally to the DEC685 very very well, being perhaps a bit warmer and a bit more dynamic, though it lacks that last bit of three dimensionality that Steve's output stage provides. So it will be interesting indeed to see how the ZCD fares!

I am nearly 99% certain it's going to gently nudge the Sony ES player out of the way for cd playback.  ;)

Please keep us informed with further listening impressions (and I know you will!)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 07/05/08 at 02:58:21

Lon: Can you say loooong weekend??!
Usually, one isn't in a huge hurry for the week to begin! My ZCD now has a few hundred hours on it, and a soundstage you could easily walk into has developed. On a Dexter Gordon "Ballads" cut, I swear you can hear  moisture rattling around in his sax! Far and away the most satisfying cdp I've had, though I admit to not having owned  digital gear like Randy's
Keep us posted--

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/05/08 at 03:18:23

Yes, a looooong holiday weekend.  Although other than the arrival of the player one day is pretty much the same as another in important ways since I've retired May 1!  I can wait for the player. . . what bothers me is being tethered to the house an additional day.  One day is bad enough. . . now another day.  (I've developed a habit of getting the Harley out early in the morning and being away from home for some hours!) As this is part of a continuing problem I've had with UPS for a time it's very frustrating.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/08/08 at 11:22:40

Well, absolutely no action from UPS yesterday.

Today they say it's out for delivery.

We'll see. . . .

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/09/08 at 00:09:05

Well, at four o'clock the ZCD was finally delivered. . . more than a week after it was sent.  (Have I mentioned I hate UPS?) ;)

I installed it and it's running straight into the CSP2, in other words I'm not using it with the ZBox at present.  

It sounds very dynamic and forceful, full sound, and wide sound stage.  That "dimensionality" that Steve's machines do so well is there.  I'm sure it will sound progressively better over the week.  I forgot to order this with the option for an IEC socket . . .just using the stock Tascam captive cord.  

I'm glad it's finally here and will update as I have more impressions.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Eli Duttman on 07/09/08 at 00:24:52

I forgot to order this with the option for an IEC socket . . .just using the stock Tascam captive cord.


You might have "lucked out". †I'm not a big believer in expensive power cords and IEC connectors. †After all, it's yet another set of mechanical connections.

FWIW, my hypothesis is that fancy power cords are beneficial, when they keep EMI/RFI out of the electronics. †If heavy duty wire on its own actually helps, it's an indication of insufficient energy storage in the PSU. †You can go to the bank on Mr. Deckert not cutting that corner. †;)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 07/09/08 at 03:33:38

Glad it arrived safe and sound! Let that baby play! Oh, I think the "extra connection" reference Eli made re; your power cord makes a lot of sense. I doubt you'll regret it either way. You can always spend the 60 bucks on more music!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/09/08 at 17:29:23

Eli, you're probably right, though I've had great experiences with both PS Audio and Decware power cords on Decware components, including the DEC685 (spliced it in to the captive cord).

Don, I'm playing it.  I'm also going to try to do the "unplugged" thing for break in too, I always do this after Steve first mentioned it years ago: on about five hours, off about five hours, etc. for a while.  I think it works. With this unit "off" means pull the plug!  

Nice machine indeed.  Sounding very nice right now.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/10/08 at 16:43:06

Today I'm running it through the ZBox first, then from the ZBox into the CSP2.

Interesting comparisons.  Today I think i actually may prefer the Blu-Ray straight into the CSP2 to the ZCD through the ZBox by a hair.  It's less forward. Though the bass is stronger on the ZCD the Blu-Ray seems warmer and the piano sounds a bit better on the Blu-Ray.

But the ZCD is still breaking in bit by bit.  Be weeks before it will "be all it can be."

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/18/08 at 15:01:39

Well, here's some additional comments from Lon. . . .

So far this is a very nice player. . . . Hasn't quite blown me away.  I think I like the DEC685 better and I think the Blu-Ray player sounds better. . . though both are different.  The Sony ES Blu-Ray cost an additional 400 dollars or so so sure it SHOULD sound really good.  And maybe I'm just more used to the DEC685. . . .So far the ZCD is the most "forward" of the three and I'm not a big fan of "forward."  (On the flip side my friend Shawn who relocated to Austin and is staying with me thinks the ZCD sounds fantastic!)

So. . . I can definitely say this is a great cd player. . . but whether it becomes my MAIN cd player or if I keep it remains. . . undecided til further breakin occurs.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 07/18/08 at 15:46:43

That's interesting, Lon. My ZCD was good right from the beginning, and sort of out of left field a few weeks ago, it got REALLY good - it just seemed to open up and the soundstage expanded in all directions. It was a pretty clear example to me of the much discussed "burn-in".
The BluRay player is intriguing.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/18/08 at 15:53:47

Don, good to have that information.

Did you get the IEC option and are you using another power cord?

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 07/18/08 at 19:09:29

That's interesting, Lon. My ZCD was good right from the beginning, and sort of out of left field a few weeks ago, it got REALLY good - it just seemed to open up and the soundstage expanded in all directions. It was a pretty clear example to me of the much discussed "burn-in".

Hi Don,

Do you have a ballpark figure as to hours played when the ZCD went to the next level ..... ?



Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 07/18/08 at 23:08:05

Randy: Somewhere around a month/six weeks (?) played 3-4 hrs. per day.
Just one of those things, you know, where quite suddenly it just seemed to really 'open up', and you look up from whatever you were doing and go "Gee this is sounding REALLY great"!
FWIW, I've had no urge to fool with tubes, cables etc. Just buy more music :)
Lon: I do have the IEC connector, and have installed a modestly priced power cord from DIY cable. I think Eli's point re. attached power cord is a good one, though
Keep us up to date on your impressions, Don

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/24/08 at 11:38:55

Just a quick note to say that there has been a jump forward in fidelity and the ZCD is sounding very very good.  

There is a faithfulness to this player that can be ruthless:  if you have a bad recording. .. well there's nowhere to hide.  This machine does not impart a "signature" over the music as others can.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 07/24/08 at 17:48:29

Hi Lon,

To this point, my observations match your own.

I have been playing the ZCD two to five hours every night since around the 4th of this month ..... so it has about 60 to 80 hours on it. †Following your lead, I unplugged it every night for the first couple of weeks to help with the break in process.

It is definitely more "forward" than my CEC / Digital Lens / Channel Islands DAC combo ..... but there is plenty of depth to the soundstage as well. †I have it sitting on a Mapleshade Isoblock / maple slab / brass footer sandwich with heavy hats on top.

Over the last couple of days, the focus and bloom have increased greatly, which up to that point were lagging behind my combo rig ..... and I expect it to get better still.

If someone is looking for a "tubey" sound from this player, they will be disappointed. †It is extremely neutral, and as you said, a bad CD will not sound like anything but a bad CD on this player.

Fortunately, I have collected a good number of fine sounding CDs which are served well by the ZCD. †

Bobaloo paid me a visit last night and when we played the disk "Magic and Loss", Lou Reed was in the room with us ..... †8-)

I think we are both in for a situation where "the best is yet to come" ..... †:)

Best wishes,


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/25/08 at 14:52:50

I agree, I think this is going to be a period of improvement.  I also agree that there is nothing "tubey" about the sound of this player except the fleshed out images and soundstaging qualities that I think I only really find in tubed gear this way.

I have mine sitting in my Samson rack, in the center, it's arranged this way from the bottom up:

Mapleshade Isoblocks and maple platform, Herbie's Audio Lab "Iso-cup" feet under the Sony ES Blu-Ray Player (I've moved away from brass feet to these and I prefer them) and then the ZCD sits on top of the Blu-Ray player on the Herbie Isor-acups, and the CSP2 and the ZBox are on top of the ZCD on the Herbie Isor-cups.  I actually am using two different types of "balls" in the Iso-cups.

I may in time move the Blu-Ray player to the top shelf underneath my Sony TV. . .and see if that makes a difference to the system. If it does I'm guessing it will be a very subtle difference.

I too find there's plenty of depth to the sound from this player. . .despite its slightly forward nature.  I'm getting used to this. . .right now it's a bit too clinical for me to totally relax into it, but this may change.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 07/25/08 at 18:12:18


Have you done any tube rolling in the ZCD ..... ?

I am running an Amperex Bugle Boy 12AU7 at this time ..... and Parker Audio Dave will be bringing over a nice selection of 12AU7s tonight to check out ..... Mullard, Telefunken, Siemens, etc.

Should be interesting,


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/25/08 at 20:07:35

I'm running the same cryo'd RCA 12BH7A that I used in the DEC685 and that I use in the ZBox. . . after rolling a lot of tubes that has been my favorite.  Karl uses it too.  I have the JJ stock tube that came with the machine breaking in in the DEC685 in my bedroom system.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/26/08 at 13:18:38

Well, comparing the two machines as I did for an hour or so this morning (I got up real early!) is quite interesting. . . .

Honestly they are both high caliber machines with wonderful sound.  The Sony ES Blu-Ray continues to be warmer and oddly has a wider sound stage than the ZCD.  The ZCD has a sharper, more compact imaging and definition of texture, and a drier, tighter sound, with a slightly deeper sound stage.

Fascinating.  In a way I really don't need both.  I wish the ZCD were an SACD player as well, then it would clearly always have a home in my main system.

I feel there's a possibility of more "break in" with the ZCD so I'll do more comparisons after more time has passed.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/28/08 at 02:49:10


I've been following your comments for awhile now, and feel obligated to suggest some tube rolling.  The signature you describe is the tube, the player can easily go from dry to warm and of course sound stage varies widely (get it) from tube to tube.  Not that what you have is bad, but likely you can find a similar signature with a touch less dryness and a better sound stage with some work.

Steve ;)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/28/08 at 11:25:18

Steve, I've been rolling some tubes actually, all those I have on hand, and overall I've come up with about the same dryness and soundstage width, in comparison to the Sony ES Blu-Ray player.  

After weeks of burn-in in the DEC685 the JJ tube you sent is sounding very nice in the machine right now. . . .

Perhaps I need to splice in an IEC connection and see what a Decware power cord will do. . . .

Congrats on a really nice player in this ZCD.  If it has completely filled my lock and floated my boat out to see yet, well it may yet.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 07/28/08 at 15:57:29

Despite the fact that there is a good amount of debate concerning the benefits (or not) of an "upgrade" power cord, the captive cord may (or may not) be responsible for some of the results Lon is getting.

When Parker Audio Dave visited my abode the other night, one of his remarks was that it seemed the guitar player on one of the CDs went into the adjoining room to get himself a cold one ..... †;)

So ..... soundstage width is not an issue for me. †At the time, the ZCD was getting AC through one of Dave's power cords.

I also would not use the term "dry" to describe the sound I am hearing .... maybe "precise" for lack of a better term. †The sound is very clear and focused. †On some CDs this is desirable, on others not so much.

Tube rolling produced some very interesting results. †The Amperex Bugle Boy gave us a sweet, very listenable sound. †The Mullard had wonderful bass and lower midrange ..... but was a little rolled off at the top compared to some others. †The Telefunken was the hands down favorite of both Dave and myself ..... lively, extended and full bodied all at the same time. †The Seimens was very similar ..... with just a little bit less of everything.

The real surprises to me were an RCA clear top (which is highly regarded in some circles) and a humble Sylvania that neither Dave or I expected much out of. †They both sounded very good. †Not as good as the Tele ..... but nipping at the heels of the Siemens ..... at least to my ears. †The RCA is better than the Sylvania, but not by a mile.

With that selection of tubes, it wouldn't be too hard to dial in a sound that would make most people happy ..... †8-)

To this point, Bobaloo immediately preferred the ZCD over my combo rig ..... and after about 3 hours of listening, Dave was leaning toward the ZCD (especially with the Tele 12AU7). †It is a different sound for sure than most of the other digital gear I have had in my system ..... and it grows on you as time goes by. †I'm convinced that it is an extremely accurate player ..... and as it breaks in, it is proving to be a player that reveals subtlety in a very nice manner while having impressive dynamics.

Dave is still running the Camelot / Anagram Uther DAC. †For a certainty, my Channel Islands DAC is no Uther. †We haven't done a head to head yet between the ZCD and Dave's front end (and I have a strong suspicion that Dave's rig would win out) ..... but when you consider that the retail price of that front end is approaching 10 times the cost of the Decware player, it puts into perspective just how good the ZCD is.

Kudos to Steve on a job well done.

I'm really interested to see if a different AC cord and some additional break in changes things much from Lon's perspective.


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/28/08 at 19:59:33

Interesting Randy. I'm not going to splice in an IEC connector til I'm sure that I will keep the player in the main system. . . . Not sure of that yet.  I am certainly not getting the great results you are, at least no yet, and it may be that a Decware or PS Audio power cord would help.  (I'm using a PS Audio XStream Statement power cord (B stock) with the Sony player and I'm sure that's contributing to the wonderful sound.) I'm kicking myself a bit for not thinking of the IEC receptacle option at the time of ordering.

I've rolled about seven different tubes (including RCAs and Mullards and an old Tele) and at the moment am using the stock tube, which sounds pretty good for more recordings than others).

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 07/29/08 at 04:53:54

FWIW, I'm using a 1950's (Canadian made ) Marconi 12au7 .
A huge soundstage, excellent separation of instruments/musicians, and an overall non-fatiguing, "listen for hours" musical presentation.
As an aside, I'm using mine with ESP off- haven't spent any time comparing it with the "on" setting yet.
This is one fine player, IMHO!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/30/08 at 00:09:21


The way to tell if an after market power cord would improve the unit when comparing it to the Sony is to remove the good power cord on the sony and use a stock computer power cord with it.  Then you're AB between the two players no longer has the variable to wonder about.


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/30/08 at 02:43:48

Oh I know Steve, but see I'm going to use the player with the PS Audio power cord, so the ZCD has to compare to that. . . .

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by ZENCDUSER on 07/30/08 at 06:50:28

I've been following your impressions of the ZCD. Particularly since I'm a Jazz fan also.  I sense you like all the attributes of great sounding equipment, along with a sense of "jazz lounge ease."  I know they are not exclusive.  To that end, the ZCD projects out quite a bit more then my old Jolida....and I like that.  At the same time I'm getting a very wide soundstage and excellent tone.  The player was a bit strident at first, and I swapped out the JJs for a Mulard CV4003/12AU7.  I'm getting a nice rich sound with spacing between instruments.  My richness test is anything MJQ...and Milt Jackson in particular.  To me well-recorded vibes are the ultimate test of richness, and piano for tone.  I have to admit the presentation isnt warm, but it isnt "cold" either.  It was warmer with the Jolida 601, but much of that I now know was the result of reduced detail. However, individual instruments with the ZCD exhibit warm, lush sound, when the records has it.  Its just that the "sound in between" isnt warm.  I know its hard to explain.  My TS Grounded Grid/SE-OTL/Ed's Horn combo is ruthless in removing veils.  Oddly enough, my newly purchased Decware DSRIIs addsrichness and smoothness to a system that, on paper, should sound harsh with the silver cables.  Go figure.  One other note:  The previously praised MAC Palladium was sold in favor of the DSRII.  Once broken in, the ZCD exposed (at least to my taste) an odd balance.  The MACs were very detailed...but something just wasnt right.  The DSRII's sound right! When I reinserted the Jolida 601 I could not hear a major difference between the two cables!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 07/30/08 at 11:28:44

Thanks for your impressions.

I hear almost all you hear in the ZCD. I think it's a fine player.  I don't mean to appear to be ragging on the player, I think it's an achievement and so much better than the usual players below this price point, probably some above.  Still, for me, I don't quite get the right sound on piano for me, yet, and piano is what I judge a system by.  Nor have I gotten used to the forward nature.

I'm also using the same interconnects you are.  I've rolled the tubes I have and I have enough that I don't think I should buy more just to see how they work here.  

I must say though that at this point the ES Sony Blu-Ray is a better player for me, has that ease and the bit of laid backness I don't have in the ZCD . . .yet.  It's getting a bit better day by day.

I'm likely to keep it, there's always a need for a spare and it would jazz up my bedroom system. (I'm spending a lot more time in my bedroom than ever which is a good thing.)  I've also decided to try out a NAD model that is heavily discounted that seems to do SACDs RIGHT, the price is very nice at Audio Advisor, and I have a lot of SACDs that I miss a bit. . . .

I'm looking for the best source for me. . . it was the DEC685 for a long time, and if it hadn't started to exhibit some digital distortion on some discs and skips on others I'd still be using that nonstop.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 08/01/08 at 16:12:02

Well ..... a decision has been made.

The CEC transport has been sold.
The Genesis Digital Lens has been sold.
The Channel Islands DAC has been sold.
The Stereovox digital cables have been sold.

I am impressed enough with the ZCD to live happily with it in my system. †Based on my experience with Decware equipment, I fully expect it to get better and better as time passes ..... like a fine wine ..... †; )

The fact that my decision is different from Lon's current thinking should not be too surprising ..... much of this hobby boils down to preferences. †While I'm not hearing the "dryness" that Lon is hearing, I am starting to enjoy the more "forward" presentation that the ZCD has ..... but again, it's just a matter of taste. †And ..... it's quite possible that as Lon's ZCD "mellows with age" that it might win him over. †I also think the power cord has a lot to do with the overall sound I am hearing.

Make no mistake, though, there is no lack of depth to the soundstage on recordings that contain such.

One interesting thing ..... the ZCD has no problem playing several CDs I own that the CEC transport would not ..... go figure.

As previously mentioned, I do not think that the ZCD is quite up to the absolute performance of the CEC / Genesis / Camelot Uther or Zanden combo ..... but it comes close enough that I don't feel I'm missing any of the music. †If it did outperform a front end that cost between 9,000.00 and 14,000.00 dollars, it would be one of the greatest engineering feats that have ever been pulled off.

The bottom line is that after a two or three hour listening session, I still have a big smile on my face. †That's what counts for me.

Like the other Decware products that I own, the chances are slim that the ZCD will ever be the weak link in the vast majority of systems.

My biggest problem now is figuring out what to do with the nice pile of cash from the sale of the other front end ..... †; )


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 08/01/08 at 17:00:25

Glad you're that happy Randy.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 08/01/08 at 22:25:25

Well, I've received and set up the NAD T-855 universal player and have been listening a few hours.

Nice player.  SACD sounds FANTASTIC through this, even from the very first hours; better than the DEC685 does on SACD.  (This one does NOT convert the DSD to PCM, but has a separate DAC for SACD). Sounding good on cd too.  Very well-built machine; case to die for.

I've set the ZCD aside on repeat and will forget about it for a while.  It is a great machine.  But I get listening fatigue and just don't settle into the sound.  It's a bit too clinical for me. . .and its strength, showing the differences between recordings, doesn't make for the easiest of listenings.  I'll set it up again soon and see how the two machines compare.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 08/06/08 at 14:53:39

I must say I'm relaxing deeply into the sound of the NAD player. . . no fatigue.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Steve Deckert on 08/08/08 at 03:00:19

Where does your ZBOX fit into all of this Lon?


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 08/08/08 at 11:34:44

I've been using it with all the players and without all the players, using it both with and without all the players, to see what each sound with and without it.

They each sound best WITH the ZBox to my ears.  The ZBox is one helluva product Steve!

I have the ZCD spinning a mono cd for almost exactly a week, under my bed.  I'll put it back in the system soon and see how it sounds.  This week I've been enjoying playing SACDs and HDCDs on the NAD. :)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 08/10/08 at 02:42:13


Based on what I know (or at least think I know .....) about the Decware components in your system, I would be curious what your thoughts are if you run the ZCD into the ZBox and then directly into the amps ..... bypassing the CSP2.  Since there is a volume control on the ZBox, you could control the level from there.

In my system, the CSP2 adds a LOT of dynamics to the sound and pushes everything a bit forward.  The sound might be a little more laid back and to your liking using the ZCD without it.

Just a thought .....


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 08/10/08 at 03:35:04


Yes it probably could be done but. . . using the ZBox as a preamp in this system in this room in the past has been . . . well. . . not really as effective, I can't get the volume range right and in the very best range for the amps etc. and there's a brittle thinness I can't abide now.  (This wasn't made clear to me until I added the CSP2 and it diedn't add forwardness necessarily).(Also, I don't live alone now, and this system serves as the dvd/Blu-Ray source for the house, and I need to have the CSP2 for switching and control and will not use another amp and speakers.)  I may try it again in the future but I don't believe it will be any different.  Also. . .the Sony ES player and the NAD don't have that forward nature through the CSP2 or through the ZBox and the CSP2.  So I'm not sure the CSP2 can be fingered in that manner.

I'm going to let the ZCD spin and season for a while longer then try it again.  But I think that the problem is the very accurate and revealing nature of the machine, coupled with the same in the amps and speakers . . .more and more I need something that is just a bit less so, and can make recordings sound "good" rather than just what they really are.  I have thousands of cds that aren't going to be relaxing and endearing sounding through the ZCD as it was a week ago when I put it aside, but do sound nonfatiguing through the NAD (and did for the most part through the DEC685, at least the last three or four years).

I know we have different tastes regarding playback texture and detail, and I'm very happy the ZCD has been so successful in your system.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 08/19/08 at 23:21:05

Just a note to say that the ZCD is still not in the system again yet, and the NAD T-855 universal player is sounding wonderful, giving a euphonic sound to most all recordings. If one is looking for a universal (well not HD or Blu-Ray, but HDCD cds, regular cds and cdrs, DVD, and DVDRs and SACD then for 450 from (60% off) this is well worth consdering.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Gary_H. on 08/25/08 at 19:08:12

Hi to all (especially Randy and Lon),

It's been a long time since a post from me. But, I'm very interseted in your ZCD impressions thus far.

I have not seen any comment on the factory adjustable output levels available on the ZCD. Does it come standard with 2 mcv and with up to 5mcv available? That was my impression from the product info. Does anyone have a higher mcv level and are you happy with that option?

Thanks, Gary

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 08/25/08 at 19:50:51

Gary, glad you're posting.

I THINK mine is the standard 2v output,

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Gary_H. on 08/25/08 at 21:32:44


Thanks for the reply.

I extend my sympathies to you for the loss of your wife. When I last was envolved with the forum I know you were struggling with issues of her illness and care. My thoughts are with you.

I still have the radial 1.5s, but continue to find the right amp to drive them. I have a Vaughn Audio Carina (1.8 watts in triode, 3.5 in ultralinear) which Eddie eventually sent me after struggling to build a more powerful EL34 based amp. Gee, that was almost 4 years ago now. The radials seem pretty under-powered to me in my room. Anyway, I was thinking I could get more out of my current cd player/amp combo if I had a cd player with a higher output.

Do you think that would help improve the amp power to speaker sensitivity (92db/w) equation? Just how much of a difference would that make? I am ignorant on this issue. But, thanks in advance for any thoughts - from anyone.


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 08/25/08 at 21:55:02

Hi Gary,

Good to hear from you .....

I'm not sure what the output voltage is supposed to be on my ZCD, but I can tell you this ..... for a few weeks, I had the ZCD feeding one of the inputs on my CSP2 and a transport and Channel Islands Audio DAC feeding the other input.

The Channel Islands piece is listed at "Output Level: 2.25vRMS (Single-ended)" ..... but the ZCD was MUCH louder at the same volume setting on the preamp.

You can draw your own conclusions ..... †; )

Best wishes,


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Gary_H. on 08/25/08 at 22:13:25

Hi Randy,

I'm glad to see your still around. You may not remember, but we meet at Decfest '04 - where I meet you, Steve, Zigi and Eddie. Not to make too much of it, but I thought you had a Vaughn amp yourself.

Anyway, the Carina seems just too underpowered for my setup and I am just loking for an economical way to boost the output.

Steve, can you give some insights on the ZCD output and its effect on the overall spl output? What could that do for me?

Thanks for your help.


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Steve Deckert on 08/26/08 at 13:02:28


The ZCD's output is generally set up somewhere between 2 and 3 volts giving it some nice kick and body.  (I have made several units with an adjustable output so the user can set it perfect for any system)

If your amp has a gain control, you would be able to run the control below full volume against the higher output of the ZCD and likely get a bit more talk power from the amp before clipping but I fear it would only be a slight improvement, not a solution to your problem.

If you were running a Zen amp, I would have recommended rather than buying a ZCD, just get another zen and bridge them into mono blocks.  That would have solved the problem nicely.  

Of course, your amp is a highly desirable piece.  If you could sell it and take the money you would have spent on a ZCD, you could buy a TORII MK II and be smiling from ear to ear at the end result.

-Steve  :)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Gary_H. on 08/26/08 at 15:54:04

Thanks Steve,

I do have an intetgrated amp, but it looks like the ZCD may not help me that much. Regretably, I know you are right †::). I have tried valiently to get the amp I need, but it just hasn't worked out.

Well, not all of us get it right every time †:-[

Thanks for your advise. (I am still very happy with the 1.5s †;D


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 08/26/08 at 17:23:54

Not to make too much of it, but I thought you had a Vaughn amp yourself.

Hi Gary,

Yes ..... I did own a Carina and it's a fine amplifier by any standards. †However, I sometimes run my Parker Audio Behemoths and the Decware SO Imperials in parallel ..... and the impedance is just a wee bit lower than the Carina is happy with. †The Decware Select loves the load. †So, I sold the Carina to a friend in Columbus, Ohio where it is happily driving an 8 ohm set of loudspeakers.

The proper tool for the job at hand ..... †; )

Is there any chance that you will make the DecFest this year ..... ?


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Gary_H. on 08/26/08 at 21:26:23

Hi Randy,

Thanks for the update.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend this year. I live in southern Oregon and it's just too much for me to travel out there right now.

But, I know you'll most likely be there and I will be thinking of all you chaps.


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by ZENCDUSER on 09/03/08 at 03:11:33

I've past the 3 1/2 month mark with the the ZCD, and look forward to another 9 years (to match my Jolida 601's longevity!) †I actually had the 601 out the other day and played it. †For a †$349.00 out the door demo from May 1999, it is a good sounding unit. †Cheaply made, but good. The ZCD takes it up numerous notches, but I've enjoyed the 601 and will always keep it till it stops completely.

I've followed Lon's ZCD experience with interest. †He's had enough Decware products and exhibited enough loyalty that I value his views. †Plus, anyone who recognizes jazz as America's classical music is a Man to be respected!! †I originally had a SE84C I purchased used in early 2001, and later traded it it in for a CS later that year (back when Steve was doing that!) †I say that to say I've been lurking in the forums for a while, and have noticed a lot of Lon's impressions. †I'm glad that he isnt immediately smitten with the the ZCD! †Based on my tastes and what I'm hearing, the ZCD seems a little different from what Lon has always stated he likes. †Granted, I dont know the degree of difference, but I'll add that have I've noticed my ZCD has mellowed a bit in my system to the point that I've taken out the Mullard CV4003/12AU7 and found synergy with a EH 12AU7. † I began to detect a bit of softness/cloudiness with the Mullard, which had initially taken the "bite" out of the ZCD as it broke in. †The ZCD's presentation/perspective is forward, no doubt about it. †But I dont find it harsh. †I'll reiterate that I found the DSRII's to actually help mellow the sound while keeping the forward presentation. I hear all the lushness and "vibrato" in the music. †The Transcendent Sound gear hides nothing, but now I realize the gear served only as an offset to the cloudy 601. †Yes, a vicious cycle! †I'm about to receive a new integrated amp that I †hopefully believe will marry well with the ZCD and Horns for years to come. †But I'm confident with the ZCD in making the amplification move. †I suspect the ZCD has a lot more breaking in to do.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 09/03/08 at 11:36:42

Thanks for posting those impressions.  (And the kind words).

I'm still letting the ZCD spin away and season in another room.  I think of adding it back in, but remember the bite and the fatigue, and I'm happy with the NAD player I'm using (very) (and enjoying SACDs and HDCD discs quite a lot) and so I'm not in a hurry.  And if as you say the machine is still breaking in after three months, then I'm doing the right thing.

If I still can't relax into it when I finally do put it into the system, I'll probably consider parting with it.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 09/03/08 at 16:07:41

Mine is  continuing to improve after some 4 months. Recently, the soundstage took quite a "leap". It was always very well developed side to side, but the placement of instruments and voices front to back has jumped by no small ammount.
(Bearing in mind my previous player was a Jolida 603)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by ZENCDUSER on 09/03/08 at 17:07:29

I fogot to add that part about the soundstage.  I was away for a week and had my system turned off at the isolation transformer.  When I turned it on I noticed a slightly deeper and wide soundstage that persisted over several CDs.  I checked my left speaker, thinking I had left the connections reversed (I sometimes reverse a speaker connection on albums and CDs, which often widens the soundstage at the expense of tight base).  The connections were not reversed.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by tybee on 09/14/08 at 00:24:37

Can anyone comment on the type of dac in this player?  Is it non-oversampling, oversampling, or upsampling?

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by opnly_bafld on 09/14/08 at 04:23:54

I believe the dac is 16 bit/ 8 times oversampling.


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 09/20/08 at 16:17:17

Okay, a little update.  I put the ZCD back in the system, and it's sounding. . . better. Still a bit more forward and "tart" than I'd like ultimately.  But improved. I'm going to use it a while and see if the fatigue inducement still happens. The fact that now all my input tubes are 6N2Ps is a factor in raising the listenability I believe.  Their "lushness" has helped.  Also I've toed the speakers out quite a bit, directing the ribbon tweeter off to the sides. . . .

There's a touch more detail and dynamics here than with the NAD 585 player, but the NAD has a wonderful warm sweetness that I know I'll miss. (And I'll miss playing my SACDs).

This is without the ZBox in the system.  I'm sending my ZBox back to Steve if he'll agree (I've asked DeVon about this) to add an input and a selector switch, and look into a hum problem I've been having with the ZBox for a few weeks now.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 09/23/08 at 16:41:41

Okay, i'm continuing to try to get a handle on this player.

I can see why Randy would sell his front end in favor of this one, especially as I think Randy loves a tight and focused sound more than I (I admit to liking more a relaxed and laid back sound, sounds more like actual music than reproduced music to me that way). This machine with Steve's mods really give you the real deal on the disc.  Which often is not a good thing in my case; I have thousands (literally) of discs that could use more sweetening than this machine will allow.

I've discovered that the listening fatigue I had experienced the first weeks with this machine has somehow dissipated.  The six weeks of running constantly under my bed must have accomplished that.  

In comparison to my other favorite sources, this machine remains a bit more "forward" than I'm apparently comfortable with, and there is less bass presence* than I'd like.  I've rolled tubes and these features remain within the tonal changes that tube rolling brings about. . . . I think this machine is very neutral and is showing me the problems that I have with my system and room.  I do tend to shelve down the ribbon tweeters in my RL2s a lot, and the geometry of my large room must be hampering me.  I'm not really able to add room treatment and I'm not changing speakers soon it appears so. . .I'm trying to get used to this as I don't want to add a subwoofer (don't think that's the cure) and I really do want to like this ZCD machine.  It's a quality playback device, no doubt of that!

I've ordered a fresh tube of my favorite tube and I'm sending my ZBox back in for attention (and the ZCD DOES sound better with the ZBox than without).  I'm going to keep spinning discs and listening and "acclimating" myself as best I can.  I really WANT to love this thing! :)

* well, maybe there's less bass presence. Maybe there's just something that's fundamentally different in the way this player interprets things than the DVD player sources (DEC685, Sony ES Blu-Ray player, NAD T585) I've been using and used to.  DVD players always seem to present cds in a certain way that is a tiny bit smoother, warmer, than dedicated cd players, at least to ME in my system.  I do miss a tiny rounding, a tiny bit of warmth that I think I'm used to and just isn't there with the ZCD and shouldn't be if it's a "coloration" of a DVD player. . . . The Decware products are just so clean and clear, I mean the ZCD, the CSP2, the SE34L Monoblocks just don't color the sound. . . maybe I'd be happier, get that touch of warm sweetening I seem to be missing, with a more classic sounding tube amp, Eddie V's, a revamped vintage one, etc. with the ZCD giving me the unvarnished truth on the disc?  Something to ponder I guess.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 09/24/08 at 03:43:01

Lon: Are you still using the blu-ray player also? I agree the ZCD does give a rather "sharp" presentation- I love the detail and soundstage, but I know what you're saying.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 09/24/08 at 13:06:17

Oh yes, my Decware system is my entire entertainment system in the living room-dining room area and I'm using the Blu-Ray player for Blu-Ray and DVD discs. . . comparing it to the ZCD on occasion the last few days as well.  It is smoother and warmer and a bit more laid back than the ZCD. . . I could easily live with just it, but the ZCD continues to improve and has more "depth" as far as stage and image.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 09/27/08 at 22:25:46

My ZCD continues to improve as well.
I have been tweaking the system to optimize the sound. †I am currently running the SO Imperials from a pair of plate amps fed from the speaker taps on the Decware Select and think that I have the crossover frequency and gain level just about perfect. †With the SO Imperials hooked up there is certainly no lack of weight in the lower frequencies ..... †

One additional thing was also added to the mix. †I built a box filled with lead shot and sand that sits on top of the ZCD and adds a nice amount of mass to the player. †I experimented by adding and removing shot and sand until the "tuning" sounded right to my ears.

Everything now sounds even more solid and focused than before ..... especially the bass. †So ..... the "sandwich" consists of Mapleshade Iso-blocks, a maple slab, HeavyFeet, the ZCD, the shot and sand box and HeavyHats as the cherry on top.

The stock feet were also removed from the ZCD to allow optimal positioning of the Mapleshade HeavyFeet.

Here is a photo of the setup (I really must get a better camera) :

Sounding good ..... †


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 09/28/08 at 00:46:52

Looks nice.

I've never liked the sound of sand and lead but then I may not have gotten the tuning right ever.  I have decided I prefer Herbie Audio Lab Isoball footers to the Mapleshade brass AND Isoblocks so I use those under components and platform, and have the CSP2 sitting on top of these on top of the ZCD (the ZBox is by now back at Decware).

Sounding good.  Still not completely satisfied, but may be in the near future if the ZCD keeps improving.  Of course I don't have (and wouldn't be able to in this house) SO Imperials, a definite "deficit"!

Happy listening as you heal my friend!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 09/28/08 at 20:19:37

Hi Lon,

Thanks for the encouraging words ..... they mean a lot .....

In the past, I have had mixed feelings about shot and sand. †In some situations it improved the sound, in others it degraded it. †For whatever reason, in this application it has been beneficial. †The SO Imperials definitely change the overall tonal balance of my system. †While the Parker Audio Behemoths dig down pretty low, they don't produce a lot below 50 hz sitting seven feet from the front wall. †The Imperials help to give the sound a "nice foundation" .....

I have also experimented with a "stock" power cord, the Decware power cord and one that was made for me by Parker Audio. †There is no comparison. †The stock cord lacks "sweetness" and some tonal complexity compared to the other two power cords. †I'm still curious as to how much of an effect your ZCD power cord is having on the sound of your player. †Of course, you are happy with the sound of the stock power cords on your other players ..... go figure .....

Best wishes,


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 09/28/08 at 21:19:14


None of my other players have stock cords.  I have PS Audio XStream cords of two types and Decware power cords on all my other units.

I have a sort of IEC converter I can wire in to use other power cords and probably will.  I'm trying to get a handle on the sound of the unit just as it is. . . and decide if I'm ultimately going to keep it forever (I probably will) and will then splice in t hat IEC plug and use a PS Audio cord on the machine.  I believe that power cords DO make a difference. I regret not ordering this machine with the IEC option!

As for the additonal mass and weight for the player, I really find that using the big brass Mapleshade footers necessitates adding some sort of weight to most components.  I haven't found that necessary with teh Herbie's Audio Lab Isocups, which is nice.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 09/29/08 at 01:26:42

None of my other players have stock cords. †I have PS Audio XStream cords of two types and Decware power cords on all my other units.

Well ..... that's what I get for presuming. †I went back and found the place where you said that upscale power cords were being used on your other front end components .....

That makes a lot more sense to me based on the results I'm getting.

I may just have to try the Herbie's Audio Lab Isocups. †I find myself agreeing with your findings much more often than not when it comes to these things .....

Take care,


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Steve Deckert on 10/06/08 at 23:38:26


I've been following your comments on the ZCD and have been a little surprised and I guess disappointed that the adjectives "forward and tart" or "lacking warmth or smoothness" have remained a consistent theme in all of your posts.  Usually when something like this happens I get to read a post about "finding the culprit" and all is good... so I have to wonder why it's not happening here.

After pondering this for some time, I wondering if the difference between output of the various players is causing this impression.  I would be willing to bet that if I made the output level of the ZCD adjustable so you could find the sweet spot with your CSP2 that we could make the player sound considerably warmer.  

If I was at your house right now, I would probably be experimenting with the CSP2 output level controls on the back vs. the volume control on the front to find where everything sounds and works best for the warmest sound.  Then if that didn't work, drop the output level of the ZCD.  This can be also be done by using a 12AU7 in the ZBOX and adjusting the output level control to about 1/2.


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 10/07/08 at 00:20:37

Steve, I have in fact last week seriously reduced the gain on the CSP2 and that has helped tame the sound quite a bit.  There are endearing qualities to this player.  Though I reiterate, the tart, dryness and forwardness is in comparison to the other players. . . I wouldn't say that it is that way as distinctly outside of direct or simultaneous comparison.  It exhibits these characteristics more so than the dvd and Blu-Ray players as a source.

I made a fairly significant change in speaker placement, and I have been tube rolling (I've been using a 12AU7 or 12BH7A in both this player and the ZBox; the 12BH7A I seem to prefr and it seems to have about the same output as a 12AU7) and seem stuck on the 12BH7A as giving me the most accurate sound (I use recordings I made of bands I was in recorded in my then garage apartment as a guide).

I'm getting used to the player. . .and I'll keep it in system and probably splice in an IEC recptacle and try a few power cords, yours and a PS Audio XStream.  Not really eager to send it back for modification. . . I hate having components in the mail and out of my reach. :)

Thanks for the attention. This is a very fine player. Whether it's exactly what I would dial in for myself and my archive of recordings, not sure, maybe.  Interested to hear how it sounds with the ZBox now that I've moved speakers and gain settings. (Hopefully, YOU have my ZBox at this time, for modification).

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 10/11/08 at 15:12:45

Steve, thanks again for your attention.  In the last few days I have been tampering with the gain on the CSP2 and I find that with very little gain the ZBox sounds very rich and warm on most well-recorded material and most of my archive.  It has also been breaking in over the last few weeks and getting nicer overall.

A wonderful machine (I've really been saying this all along) that is fast becoming irreplaceable in the system.  If only it played SACDs! :)

Thanks for your guidance and insight.  Here's hoping it's this good or better when I have the modded ZBox back from you.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by ZYGI on 10/11/08 at 21:52:00


I came home from Decfest this year with a seasoned ZCD  ;D and after having some problems with it, which were do, in part, to me throwing my suitcase on top of it ( who says UPS is the only one that can damage electronics) I installed a N.O.S RCA 12AU7A tube, which I didn't want to change for fear of the unit not working again, only to find it was much more laid back than what I had heard at Steve's place, or to my liking. This combo when combined with the CSP2 using 6N2P tubes was so laid back and over the top sweet, I couldn't take it. If you haven't tried this set up yet, you might consider it.

Just a thought,

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 10/11/08 at 22:40:05

Bob, thanks.  I have 6N2Ps in all the appropriate sockets on my CSP2 and my SE34L Monoblocks. . . and cryo'd RCA 12BH7A in the ZCD, very close to what you have.  I have so so many tubes I don't want to buy another N.O.S. or two but if I see reasonable ones I'll look for RCA 12AU7As.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 10/15/08 at 20:04:10

Okay by now I'm sure everyone is sick of my "impressions" and I'll just have one more after this most likely, when the ZBox (on the way back to me from Steve) is put back into the system (I had it modded with a selector switch so that I can use both the ZCD and the Blu-Ray player with the ZBox).

I wanted to note that I spliced in an IEC connector to the captive cord and am now using one of my PS Audio Prelude XStream power cords, a cord I am very fond of for components and that is not ridiculously expensive.  The difference with this player is quite noticable, the bass is richer and yet still very fluent, there is weight and body to instruments such as the piano if well-recorded.  I'd advise anyone ordering the player to spring for the IEC connector option and use their favorite power cord, it really makes a difference.

I've made some real changes to speaker orientation for this player, firing the tweeters on the RL2s quite radically towards the side walls, and with the speakers closer to the back wall than I have ever had them before, and with the lower woofers "activated" with wire round porcelain resistors.  But with these adjustments this player portrays a very dimensional and involving sound.  I expect that the ZBox reintroduced will add depth and richness.  It's taken a while but "I've got it where I want it!"

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 10/16/08 at 03:47:54

It's taken a while but "I've got it where I want it!"

Well ..... it's about time .....

I know that we don't always hear things exactly the same, but the sound you were describing was not at all what I was hearing ..... I have to wonder how much of it was due to the power cord †?

Whatever the reason, I am extremely happy to hear that the ZCD is working for you ..... goodness knows that you have paid your dues to get it where it needs to be .....

The fact that you were not ecstatic about the sound initially does nothing but enhance the respect that your opinions deserve ..... it proves that you are not a "homer" for everything that has the Decware name plate ..... the stamp of approval has to be earned.

Tim Adams paid me a visit last week and was very complimentary about the sound I am getting from the ZCD ..... and Tim is not easily impressed these days.

Having owned some pretty respectable digital front end equipment as a basis for comparison, I am extremely pleased with the sound I'm getting from the ZCD ..... it is a screaming bargain and I can't imagine it being the weak link in any high end audio system .....

I think we have "chosen well" ......

Happy listening,


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 10/16/08 at 13:20:30

Randy, I don't think a whole lot is really due to the power cord.  The cord is like the final decoration on a cake, it reinforces the strengths already there and sets them off.

This machine is brutally honest and I've had to alter my system to accommodate it, which is probably the correct thing for it to evoke, as it is not like other players with a signature.  I didn't think I'd have to do so so radically.  If I were to restore the system to the way it was previous to all these adjustments I don't think I could get through a cd, the sound is so bright and forward.  Now with some months of seasoning and the speakers in positions I never thought they would be I can relax into the sound in the way I used to with my DEC685 and my NAD T585, and have that extra tubed Decware sound that is about ten percent more dimensional and deep than the NAD.  Luckily with the CSP2 I can lower the input gain quite a bit, that was the final trick I needed to learn to tame the sound.

First class sound at less than a grand, a bargain yes, one that may not be "plug and play" for everyone and demand some attention and effort to integrate.  Hopefully I'm done.  I'll investigate the tube that Bob recommends, I notice that Cryoset carries one or two. . . .I hope I don't have to do much more fiddling because it was a bit worrisome.

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 10/16/08 at 14:15:09


There may be one more factor that is affecting the overall sound I am hearing from the ZCD ..... for the past few months, I have been treating my CDs with a product I heard at the last HornFest at Ed Schilling's place ..... Ultra Bit Platinum CD Treatment.

I have no idea what this product does, but one of the claims is that it makes CDs sound "more analog" and based on my experience I feel that it's a fair claim.

As you correctly observe, the ZCD adds none of the coloration that many players do (especially tubed units) and is very honest in its presentation. †It's possible that the ZCD is "honestly" portraying whatever the beneficial effect is on the treated CD.

Everyone who attended the HornFest heard a dramatic difference (read improvement) in the treated CDs and it seems reasonable to me that the more accurate and resolving the player, the more obvious the difference would be.

Whatever the case ..... I am very happy with the results .....

As far as I know, Ed is still a distributor for this product and it can be ordered from his website.


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 10/16/08 at 15:50:14

Randy, I have no doubt that product really works and works really well.

But. . . I play at least fifty cds a week and a different fifty the next week and probably a different fifty the week after that, and I have in excess of 10,000 discs, probably more like 13.000 and I play them eventually. . . .

I couldn't afford the mass quantities of that material I would need, and I don't want to get listening and feel I have to have it on every disc, as I'm afraid I would.

I just can't justify the expense; I'd rather buy new discs, new clothes, organic food, etc.

When those lottery numbers finally favor me, I'll buy a truckload.  Or at least a pickup truck load. ;)  Right now though the "more going out than coming in" has to stop, I'm down to one income and it's 3/4 of my income a year ago (my retirement check) and it's not going up. (What saves me is a house that's paid for and zero debt.)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 10/16/08 at 16:44:55

But. . . I play at least fifty cds a week and a different fifty the next week and probably a different fifty the week after that, and I have in excess of 10,000 discs, probably more like 13,000 and I play them eventually. . . .

What a nice "problem" to have ..... I hope to have the same problem some day .....

I can appreciate why you don't want to get started with this. †Truthfully, it not only involves a financial investment to treat the disks but the time to do it. †To treat 10,000 CDs ..... I would probably be old and gray long before the job was finished .....

With that many disks, you have no doubt chosen the best course by making changes in your system to get the desired sound ..... and healthy food and clothing are always a wise investment .....


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 10/20/08 at 21:49:53

Glad you see my dilemna about the "treatment."  I think I'm wise to steer clear!

Got my modified ZBox back today.  Steve did a wonderful job adding an input and a toggle selector switch.  I can now use the ZBox with my ZCD and my Sony ES Blu-Ray, and use the other input on the CSP2 for my tv sound.  Now all the sources in my living room sound GREAT!

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 10/20/08 at 22:51:11

Glad you've got everything dialed-in, Lon!
Now, back to the 10k +/- cd collection--- !
(green with envy) Don :)

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Lon on 10/21/08 at 11:02:00

Don't be so green with envy Don!  ;)  It's a constant battle to organize and store this stuff!  And it was a great expense of several decades to acquire!

I put in two cryo'd RCA 12AU7s (one in ZBox one in ZCD) and am now listening with these in place. . . interesting. . .not sure yet that I prefer them to the cryo'd RCA 12EH7As. . . .

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Randy in Caintuck on 10/22/08 at 18:38:52

Well ..... last night, my ZCD player attained a higher level of excellence (for the second time) .....

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the following :
Greater depth of soundstage (beyond the already very fine depth)
More space between the instruments and vocalists
A greater sense of the 'recorded space"
An increased sense of "clarity" and resolution.

Without having my previous digital front ends to compare side by side, it would not be prudent on my part to rate the ZCD against them in terms of absolute performance ..... but I can safely say that this player will not have to hang its head in the best of company ..... it's that good.

To anyone looking for a very musical and resolving digital front end and who has been sitting on the fence concerning which way to jump, the ZCD should be on your very short list. †With some break in time and judicious system setup, this player will give many hours of enjoyment .....

Highly recommended,


Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by Doorman on 10/23/08 at 23:38:07

Thanks for the update, Randy. Being as you've had some pretty respectable digital gear in your system, your impressions of the ZCD are interesting.
I've had a fair number of players, but nothing really high-dollar.
My ZCD is by far the most satisfying I've ever had, I'd be interested in hearing a good computer based system sometime, just to compare, but I plan on keeping mine for a long time--
Happy listening, Don

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by ZENCDUSER on 08/02/09 at 02:47:28

Long time since posting.    I've long settled on a power cord for the ZCD: the IEGO L70530 cable with the silver-plated 8065 connectors.  After 10 months of use and comparison with the MAC HC during that time, it has all the jump, clarity, and tone of the MAC, with a smoothness and chime thats hard to describe.  The MAC sounds better with my Carina.

I've since moved away from the Mullard CV4003 tube which, along with a Siemens 12AU7 I've had for several years, were the flavors I've prefered.  In experimenting, I've puchased a RCA 12AU7 Cleartop, an RCA 12AV7, and an Amperex 7062.  The 7062 expands the depth and width of the soundstage, with great tone and a "dynamic smooothness" (hard to describe).  Its both comfortable and spunky.  The 12AV7 seems to do the same thing, on a slightly smaller scale.  The Cleartop seems more detailed, but slightly tipped up to me.  None of the tubes sound are bad...just different flavorings. The CV4003 has the richest, warmest midrange, although a touch veiled in longterm listening..  The Siemens is the clearest and most detailed, and really exposes average to poor recordings.  

Title: Re: ZCD impressions
Post by ZENCDUSER on 09/14/09 at 03:57:58

I've had my ZCD back from Steve just over two weeks now.  I added the tube regulation and variable voltage output.  I was previously running 5 volts into the Carina which came to full power with 1 volt!  Now I'm using about 3 clicks (about the 8 o'clock position)  on the outputs with nice results...less hardness, a little more soundstage depth.  The changes also affected my tube choices.  I now LOVE the RCA 12AV7 over all other tubes (Mullad CV4003, RCA Ceartop 12AU7, Siemens 12AU7, Sylvania 5963, EH and JJ 12AU7's, EH 12BH7).  For me it has the right combo of everything

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