AUDIO FORUMS >> Decware Reviews >> CSP, Taboo and ZDAC

Message started by Imkhawx on 06/04/11 at 12:58:25

Title: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Imkhawx on 06/04/11 at 12:58:25

I received my CSP (stepped attenuator), Taboo (VCAPS) and ZDAC today.

Been listening since and I must say I am very pleased with the amps. The ZDAC has yet to be used so I won't comment yet.

The amps are unbelievably dynamic, spacious with superb timing and detailed like you wouldn't believe. But more importantly, putting all that aside, they are extremely musical.

The bass is a little lean and the absolute top end is tinged with a little hardness, but I put that down to the fact that I'm using the setup with brand new DSRII interconnects (which from experience take notoriously long to run in... but worth the effort) and new Decware power cords.... not to mention that all the electronics and tubes are also brand new.

But there is more than enough there for me to already be very impressed....

Right now, they're in my bedroom system together with the NFX. Almost completely an all Decware system..... only the phono stage is a Dynavector P75mkII as my ZP3 is in my main system.

I'm gonna try the system out with my well run-in and trusted Hisago and Crystal interconnects as well as Furutech power cables tonight. I use these in my main system and know them inside out. This will give me a clearer picture of how good these amps are going to be. In the mean time, I'm gonna run in my new cables in the TV and AV system for a couple of months.... (worked before!  ;) )

Will keep you guys updated.

In the meantime, any advise on how best to set up the ZDAC with an iPad as a music server? Should I get a dock and use the Toslink or USB outputs for the best results? Any advise would be really helpful as I've not kept up to date with digital technology.... my son does all the "ripping" (?) for me so I don't even have any idea how it's done.

I actually bought the ZDAC for him but I figured I'd better try it out first...... That's the excuse I'm giving him anyway.  ;D

Any advise would be helpful for a digital "virgin"!

Back to the amps..... as I typed this, I was listening to Dylan's Infidels album and the music is just enthralling........ and I'm grinning from ear to ear!

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Donnie on 06/04/11 at 14:11:36

You will get the best sound using the usb input on your ZDAC.
I use my computer for hardcore listening sessions and a Wadia Ipod dock for day to day usage. Right now I am down to just the analog output from my Wadia, my ZDAC is in the shop for repair. I also love Infidels, it is my favorate Dylan album.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Lon on 06/04/11 at 14:40:07

I agree with Donnie, if you're using a dock like one of the two Wadias that allows the digital output of the iPod into the dock, then the USB out from there into the ZDAC-1 should give the best sound, though with quality coaxial or glass optical cables the result may be equally great.

Congratulations on this set up, you really going to be reveling in your music collection in a way you probably have not ever before.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Imkhawx on 06/04/11 at 15:58:30

Thanks guys...... I'll start shopping around for a good dock that can be used with the USB.

btw..... I just switched to my seasoned cables and the CSP and Taboo combo simply blew me away..... These things are a HUGE step up from the SE84.

I'll mess around with them for a few weeks or so... then I'll compare 'em up against my 2A3 monobloks and see how they stack up.

I suspect that they'll be very very good and I may have to move 'em to my main system... Hope not though.... My monobloks are largish and my wife will kill me if I bring 'em to my bedroom. She loves music as much as me but she'll kill me all the same if I mess up our bedroom!


Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Donnie on 06/04/11 at 16:36:08

This might work for you. I don't know much about it though. I'm not up on Ipads.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Imkhawx on 06/05/11 at 01:00:45

Thanks Donnie...... looks promising and theres a dealer in Singapore so I'll give it a go.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Imkhawx on 06/05/11 at 09:33:43

The Cambridge Audio dock works a treat donnie/lon....

Plug and play..... I brought the ZDAC to the shop and auditioned the dock/ZDAC combo..... sweet. Brought the dock back home and sounds even better.....

A little cold and analytical for my tastes but very good nonetheless..... as far as digital goes. We'll see how it goes as everything runs in..... maybe I may need a tube output stage.... ZBOX or ZSTAGE....

We'll see.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Lon on 06/05/11 at 13:40:07

Glad that dock is working for you. The ZDAC-1 should open up a bit in a few hundred hours. Mine is not exactly the same as production models, I got one of the first ones and Steve opted to change one op-amp afterwards and I opted not to return it.  I still don't use it for Redbook as the Sony SCD-XA5400ES betters it for that if you ask me, but it's great with my Blu-Ray player and DVR. Has a bold and rich sound.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Donnie on 06/05/11 at 16:19:28

Wow, someone in Singapore takes my advice. The guy across the street won't give me the time of the day. I wonder if it has something to do with my "Garage System" blasting out what we call "Father Rapin'" music while I work out there.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Imkhawx on 06/06/11 at 12:46:02


I would take advice from timbuktoo if it made sense mate.
Glad I did too.

Works fine and I just got home from work and am looking forward to a few hours listening to it.

Must say.... it sounds better than what I expected.... Will probably give it up soon so my boy can have it in the system in his room.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Imkhawx on 07/19/11 at 12:46:22

It's now been more 6 weeks since I've started using the new amps. These things are freaking fantastic! I A/B'd them against my 2A3 monobloks and they are definitely better.... not by much, but better. Their characteristics are a little different... My 2A3's are definitely warmer but the Taboo/CSP combo is faster and more rythmic. Both are "sweet" but the Decwares seem a little more real and can handle a wider range of music and have better, slightly cleaner bass.... especially with old school rock like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep etc.... My 2A3s are better with soul, instrument heavy work, less complex works, female vocals etc.

The differences between the 2 are miniscule... so much so that it becomes a matter of taste and not so much one being outright better than the other. Am extremely satisfied.

Set up with my LOTH-X Polaris, they are both great. However, when set up with my NFX, the decwares are a better match.

This is a sweet, sweet combo.... It took years for me to tweak my 2A3s to get to where I wanted them to be. I could have saved a lot of time and money if the Taboo/CSP combo was known to me earlier....

With Stepped attenuators and VCAPS and the Taboo configured as a pure power amp, the combination is enchanting. SUperb, superb amps.

The ZDAC is good too but it is still too harsh for me.... I guess I'm just a vinyl kinda guy. My son loves the ZDAC/Cambridge audio dock though.... He finally realizes what is possible if you do things right and stop messing about with boom boxes and the like..... In a couple more years, I think he's gonna follow his old man down the path of audio madness!

Thanks Steve...... I'll tell you what the whole system is like once I've burned-in the interconnects.... On a side note, the Decware power cables rock! Cheap compared to what's out there and better sounding than my Furutechs which cost almost 1.5 times as much.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by will on 07/26/11 at 17:29:39

Imkhawx, It s great to hear your enthusiasm with your Decware. Seems to do that with a lot of us.

As to the ZDAC playing from a server, there has been a lot of experimentation with DAC's toward the end of analog presentation from digital, and with substantial success. And though there is thought that computers only produce 1s and 0s, this has empirically been soundly disproved by those who have explored.

To optimize the computer as server, there is the real necessity for specific computers, how they are set up, the feet they are on, the power cords used, weight on the computer, the USB, coax or toslink cable used.....just like with amps, these things all matter. And in my experience, they still matter with an Async interface which is thought by some to rule a lot of this out.

Then there are files. Presumably, your iTunes files are compressed in some way. I have found that error corrected, uncompressed files are distinguishable even from so called lossless files, and that all the forms of heavy compression can sound pretty good with ear pods, but through your taboos.....this is very different.

So finally, if the objective is to get really good sound from the ZDAC, it is apparent that stuff other than 1s and 0s comes through those cables and from the computer itself, so the considerations are as complex and dependent on synergy as with the rest of our gear.

If you want to look further, there is some discussion in the ZDAC area of this forum, and a great deal on this  Check out the FAQs

Or if you can skim through to find the kernels of wisdom, the DbAudioLads folks (tranquility DAC) have done extensive explorations with the server/setup/cables/arrangements etc...... the whole objective being to match or beat vinyl in analog presentation of music. Also, your ZDAC was designed by a Vinyl head, so Steve worked hard to create the possibility for an analog presentation. To get close to it may take some exploration though. But anyway, there is good stuff in this thread if you are interested.

Have fun!

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Imkhawx on 07/27/11 at 16:36:58

Thanks will...... I'll read the articles you suggested and see if I can make head or tail out of them..... I'm kinda computer "no nothing" other than email, surfing the net and using Microsoft office and several different engineering softwares like ProE, MathCad and AutoCAd.

everything else scares me tbh! But I'll give it a shot. My boy said that he ripped everything in Apple lossless... supposed to sound better. Still loses out to my LPs by a considerable margin when I compared them though.

I will give the article a go though.

Cheers mate.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by will on 07/27/11 at 21:08:11

Imkhawx, Music player software is easy. And a lot of folks say apple lossless (about half original file size) is as good as uncompressed files. Others, like me, could hear enough difference to rip with no compression, especially with hard drives so cheap.

A Mac Mini, once tweaked out is a really good server. Also there are folks making music specific servers, some of which are supposed to be good. So it is not that hard to get into it if you choose.

I have found that the quality of the USB cable is pretty huge too.

Don't know how many hours your ZDAC has, but I think they take 200 or more to get to sounding like they will.

But since you love vinyl, unless there are compelling reasons, why change. :)

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Imkhawx on 10/01/11 at 16:20:04

Hi will,

The ZDAC has been given over to my boy and he loves it to bits.

For me, I'll stick with my deck..... I wanted to try digital to see how far it's come along since CD was first introduced... but for me, it's got a long way to go before it'll match up....

I recently procured a vintage STAX UA7-CF arm from the late 70s/early 80s and I tried it out in place of my Origin Live Encounter arm manufactured in 2008.... The results were amazing....... The older arm was still as good as I remembered it to be. Beats the newer arm hands down.

I may be a little biased but in my view, the top arms from the golden years of analog still rule the roost compared to the newer Phantoms, Triplanar, Origin Live etc..... Or maybe I'm just old!

Nothing currently available in the digital realm has truly impressed me sonically when compared to analog.

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by Lon on 10/01/11 at 16:58:03

Well, you may have to spend a lot more money than you have on the ZDAC-1 to get a better opinion on digital, and I would concede it may not be worth it to you. My current digital front end compares to the best analog I've ever had favorably (though I've never had an expensive analog front end), but it took multiples of the ZDAC-1 price to get there.

If you're happy with analog AND you can gt all the music you want in that format (the reason I moved to digital was I could NOT find all the music I want in that format) than stand tight and enjoy!

Title: Re: CSP, Taboo and ZDAC
Post by will on 10/01/11 at 17:06:39

Yes, the digital transition is far from easy, the sound being so different. Good analog is amazing! And as long as it is getting you like it is, why change! Happy listening is the thing!

I had a hard time shifting over, but just got tired of even new records, all cleaned and vacuumed, having little ticks and pops. That, along with the comparative compression of vinyl finally made me look harder at digital. And it hurt for quite a while, but the benefits for me began to outweigh the painful parts pretty quickly, and it is all personal choices for personal needs.

Then the gear was chosen with the new sound as a foundation and an aspect of the choices toward synergy. Finally, the system is tweaked for digital sources, and even though there is always some headway to be made, I love the sound I get. I think of it, not necessarily as analog in the vinyl sense, but more like analog to live instruments in a good room. All considered, even with a great turntable and perfect records, I doubt if I could go back now.

The choices we have in good audio are so impressive. That you could find the old arm you love is a great example! I am amazed at the options these days toward developing a sound synergy in our own homes that can blow our minds and help make us happy! Lucky us.


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