EQUIPMENT FORUMS >> ZCD240 >> New ZCD player!

Message started by Steve Deckert on 11/15/09 at 20:21:52

Title: New ZCD player!
Post by Steve Deckert on 11/15/09 at 20:21:52

THE ZEN CD PLAYER has been REDESIGNED from the ground up!


The transport has been massively improved.  It's using a new DAC chip and clock, all new circuit boards, improved layouts and improved wiring.  In fact the only thing that remains the same on the inside of this machine is the rather huge power supply which we loved so much! This new machine, besides being a leap forward in build quality, makes an equally strong leap forward in sound quality.  The reduced jitter, increased bitrate and general character of the new DAC chip makes the ZCD sound overall smoother, slightly warmer and a bit more organic than our original model.

The new DAC chip is a bit of a surprise.  It's a panasonic MN6474A that is used in only a few players that I've been able to find.

( a list of DAC chips used in today's CD players and DACs can be found here:

At nearly twice the cost of say the popular PCM1702 chip used in so many hi-end units, I wouldn't have expected to find it used in this Tascam player.  

D/A Converter for Digital Audio Equipment


The MN6474A is a CMOS digital-to-analog converter with a built-in 16-bit digital filter for pulse code modulation (PCM) digital audio equipment.
It uses noise shaping technology to convert a digital signal into a PWM signal.
It contains a 4-fold oversampling digital filter that permits simplification of the low pass filter after the D/A converter, thus greatly reducing the power consumption of the entire D/A conversion system.

This of course lends itself well to our implementation in the ZCD player where the active 7th order low pass filter AND hi pass filters have been eliminated.  The chip is driving the tube stage directly with no filtering whatsoever.

The chip provides both regular and inverted phase outputs for both channels.
The chip contributes to cost and size reductions for CD players and other digital audio equipment.


Built-in 4-fold oversampling digital filter
(ripple of only ±0.0072 dB within the supported band and attenuation of 62.7 dB within the cutoff band)

Internal resolution of 18 bits
Two's complement input (I2S input code also supported)
Built-in overflow limiter
No zero cross distortion
Sample-and-hold circuit is unnecessary
Output pin for detecting zero input
Single 5V power supply

How much better is the new ZCD200 vs. the original ZCD?  Well, the imaging is as good or better.  The frequency balance is better behaved, less aggressive.  The player is smoother with no loss of detail.

Actually I wasn't terribly thrilled when the CD160MKII was discontinued and the CD200 turned out to be a completely new animal because I had to start completely over again with the output stage design and voicing.  A tedious process when you have a million other things to do, but in the end it has been well worth my time and I'm happy with the end result.

I'm keeping the introductory price at $799 until Christmas.  Also I am almost done with the ZCD-200i that will have a built-in IPOD dock, so we are going to actually have two models this year.

Steve  :)

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by DPC on 11/15/09 at 21:33:24

Now, if the 200i could only send the cd data to my ipod's hard drive. 8-)

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Lon on 11/15/09 at 22:01:56

I probably should have waited for this one!

Best of luck, looks nice!

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Steve Deckert on 11/16/09 at 01:41:50

Hi Lon,

I actually thought of you several times as I've been listening to the first unit break in.  

The new ZCD was unexpected.  I knew Tascam had released a new player, but I honestly assumed little if anything had changed other than the pitch control.  I assumed that nothing would change including the name ZCD.  It was a bittersweet surprise when I opened up the first one.


Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by ZENCDUSER on 11/16/09 at 02:09:46

I remember the conversation about the CD200 back in August, as I was sending my unit back to Decware to have the (now standard) voltage adjustment added, along with the tube regulation :(    Had I only known

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Doorman on 11/16/09 at 04:50:41

I guess it's the nature of the beast--I bought my ZCD about a year ago :'(

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Lon on 11/16/09 at 11:52:22

Yeah, that's how it happens, and I can't afford to just order a new ZCD, so I guess I'll be fine with my Sony SACD player and the ZCD until I can maybe afford the DAC. (Going to have to sell some instruments and audio equipment eventually to justify new stuff).

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Steve Deckert on 11/16/09 at 17:16:42

Yes,  the long faces... now you know why i wasn't so happy when I cracked the lid on the CD200...

Here is what I will do -  Anyone who has purchased a ZCD from me in the past and wants to get one of the newer ones can have it for $100.00 below the current introductory price.  The introductory price lasts until Christmas.  After that the ZCD200 will go up to $899.00 from $799.00.

That means that you can buy a new one now for $699 and after Christmas you can sell your original one for $599.00 saving the buyer $300 over the price of a new one.  If you can't get $599.00 for a nicely burned in original ZCD player, you're just not trying.

Fair enough?

Steve  ;)

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Lon on 11/16/09 at 17:18:50

That's a great offer.  I don't think I'm going to take it, but it's a great offer.  Thanks!

I'll probably stick wth my ZCD and my Sony SACD player.  The Sony has qualities of the new ZCD that the ZCD i have is missing.  And it is built much better, amazing case and chassis. It's way underpriced, like a loss leader.  I'm using the ZCD currently, with a lot of work on adjusting my system it's very close, just a little tarter and more forward, and it doesn't play SACDs, which I really love.  But I'm getting use out of it now, I'll put the Sony back in soon, and then probably alternate.

And then in the future I'll try to get myself financially ready for your DAC.  With that I can replace CSP2, ZBox and a CD source or two.  It promises to offer more flexibility for my system, and sound quality too.  I can't spend any more dollars on stereo equipment now, in the last few years I've spent five or six thousand on Decware items alone. Have to show a little restraint. The bank account is not endless, and I have an expensive girlfriend. :)

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by mike_gagne on 11/17/09 at 07:08:08

Decware.....girlfriend......Decware....... girlfriend..........hmmmmm  Decware wins-loyalty, commitment, performance-no contest.   ha   lol

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Lon on 11/17/09 at 12:52:14

No Mike, at this point in my life love is everything.  I feel so grateful that I found such a wonderful love after a period of deep sadness from losing my wife to cancer. Nadine wins my attention and dollars. We're at a juncture, things can go one way or another. They may go towards a larger home in which case I'll have no mad money. So. . . it's a good thing I have several great systems NOW. :)

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by ZENCDUSER on 11/21/09 at 06:05:20


Was the comparison between the new and old player done with any of the options?  Or, better yet, are any of the options required to get the sound you heard, or does the new stock player accomplish what the mods previously acomplished?

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by ZENCDUSER on 11/21/09 at 06:06:17

When I said mods, I meant options!

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Steve Deckert on 11/22/09 at 15:57:13

The players were compared without either having any of the additional options.  I've also compared the two fully optioned out.  The options do exactly the same thing to both machines, so the options have no real bearing on the differences.

Now with a few weeks of listening under my belt I am still trying to figure out which of the two machines actually images better, and I still have no answer.  However, the new machine keeps amazing me with it's rather incredible musicality.  

This week I worked with the 200i thinking it would be basically the same exact build as the 200, but boy was I wrong.  It has turned out to be incredibly complex by comparison.  Everything had to be moved, rearranged, re-evaluated.  Getting the IPOD output directly into the tube stage without using any of the stock cable in the machine  and have it work seamlessly with the CD without one effecting the other, and without the original multiplexing...  That only took 60 hours.  

It's finally finished, and I've been comparing the IPod against the CD player and finding the IPod in a serious competition to see which sounds better.  Put another way, a direct coupled IPod to tube stage is better than you would have guessed.  This is refreshing because it's docked and charging while it plays.  In the past, from a fidelity standpoint, it was always either listen to the Ipod on it's battery, or Charge the IPod.  Charging and listening was a waste of time.

Really turning into a balls out IPod dock, with not only an adjustable tube output stage, but also an active headphone amp with volume, an aux stereo line input - also direct coupled to the tube stage, and even high quality Composite and SVideo outputs.

So it's coming along.


Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Chris K on 11/23/09 at 01:29:31

Will you consider making a standalone iPod/iPhone dock?
I am finding the analog output from my new iPhone 3Gs playing Pandora Radio is stupidly good. And with the Integrated CCE mod the result is holographic. So a surgical transplant to a standalone chassis after your R&D stage is something I would personally be fairly stoked about. Also with a tube gain stage that can be optionally switched in or out to put some "meat on the bones" when the output of the source gets a little lean. Would all this fit in something as neat and tidy as say a Z-box?

Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Steve Deckert on 11/24/09 at 17:28:53


The only way I would consider it is if Apple releases the code to enable the digital output on the 20 pin cable like they did for Wadia.

Otherwise we're really talking about making the IPod sound better, and so far trying various DOCS feeding both tube stages and or the Zenhead,  I have been unable to beat the headphone output jack feeding a Zenhead feeding an amplifier.  Side by side with the ZCD200i's IPod dock using the 20 pin connector feeding a tube stage, the Zenhead is equal or better.

I've been trying to  let  people know that as a line level preamp the Zenhead is a musical force to reckon with, but MOST simply don't hear me, because the ZenHead doesn't have tubes.

Last night I gave a demo of some of our amps and during the corse of the evening SOURCES came up.  In light of the transparency of the amps, a good source is a requirement.  We figured out that on the retail side of things, a stand alone player is going to run around two grand.  The ZCD player at half that amount became something to consider.  So we demo'd the ZCD against my good DAC for awhile, and when the realization finally set in that real money would have to be spent on a source, I grabbed my IPod and Zenhead.  Using that combo as the source gave MORE than satisfactory results putting a real bright light at the end of that tunnel.


Title: Re: New ZCD player!
Post by Chris K on 11/24/09 at 20:46:47

I hear you now and I've considered a ZenHead but have not said much about it. Not knowing what coming down the line with digital both at Decware and otherwise gets a little dicey. The output of the 30 Gb iPod (non-touch) that you've seen me with is thin and a little weak but has had a good result with the CSP2. The iPhone is more robust on its own than the 30 Gb iPod and has better tone and weight but still can be thin at times depending on material. ZenHead design notes claim to help iPod in this regard so I understand your "MOST don't hear me" comments. I just think many are looking for a small, convenient, and less expensive DOCK/DAC. Your full out DAC effort is another thing altogether. The new ZCD200i is pretty enticing, but so is the ZenHead as a tidy and useable solution for portable clean, strong iPod output/interface. I heard or read that the iPod touch and iPhone3G DAC's are better than the classic iPod and I can hear it at home so must be something to that. ZenHead/ZCD??? ::)
BTW you wouldn't believe the non-spec tubes I've been rolling in the center spot on the CSP2 and on the Integrated. 6CG7 and 6BS8 as well as 12AV7. The results have been eye opening and very good. Lower than spec heater voltages allow a lot of experimenting with twin triodes though it can get noisy with the wrong tube. Ever consider adjustable heater voltages and tube regulation for the input stage of the CSP2? Would give a lot of flexibility? Sorry OT :P

OH forgot to ask is there a lot of gain above the iPod max output with the ZenHead?
Nevermind answered my own question. Saw the gain switch on the board and the impedance adjust. ;)

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