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ZZZZ - box.... (Read 30152 times)
Lon
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #15 - 06/24/05 at 12:57:16
 
Mull, if you read carefully above and on another thread or two, I mostly ordered this because I decided I would see what all this preamp fuss was about, and I didn't want to go the full hog route of a CSP, which was more expense, gobs of gain I don't at all need, and more tubes and hard for me to place in my rack.

I'm very happy with my DEC685 and I'm very happy with the Zbox as a preamp.  It may be doing all those other digital cleansing mentioned, but between adding another little stand, footers, and a new Decware interconnect, it's hard for me to definitively say "yes, it's improving my digital playback."  I'd have to take it all down and listen to the DEC685 alone again to definitively say that, and I'm not doing that for a few weeks when I feel everything is broken in and is humming along.

Steve's usual "hype" about the box (hey, it's not bragging if it's true?) made me seriously consider buying it, but it was the fact that I didn't have a preamp and veryoldcat and others are claiming that adding a preamp compared to going straight into an amp was so great what got me interested as well.  The real person to watch for comments about digital improvement with the Zbox for my money is veryoldcat, who will have one very soon I believe.  He has a CSP and he's ordered a Zbox!

I'll let others who bought the Zbox for digital cleansing comment on those aspects for now.  And I'll just bow out and continue listening.
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« Last Edit: 06/24/05 at 13:37:57 by Lon »  
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veryoldcat
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #16 - 06/25/05 at 18:52:20
 
Hey zbox fans,

My zbox is supposed to arrive this coming Thursday (pretty exciting). I'll likely give it a week before making too many comments, and I'll attempt to make the impression as honest as possible.

If there IS a noticeable improvement, I'm likely to be very affected, as even the best cd's in a quality system have always had a bottom line of listener fatigue, for my ears. Perhaps this is due to the sheer amount of music I repeatedly listen to that is lengthy and challenging to the ear (ie, classical music and a good amount of 20th century classical music, at that). Add that to 25+ years of hearing vinyl prior to the advent of cd's.  

From your comments, Lon, the zbox and dec685 flourish with Mullard 12ax7's which I think I have a few of those floating around. I haven't gotten around to trying them in the dec685, and only have the stock ruby 12au7 in it as a reference during its break in, which is now pretty well done. The Decware/Sony 685 is a mighty musical sounding box, even for vinyl-trained ears.

Yes, indeed, Lon. The CSP/se84cs combination did wonders for digital playback in my system, absolutely no doubt about it. I wasn't trying to over-sell it. It was just such a drastic improvement over going straight into the zen.

The gain of the CSP was necessary in my system, as my phono pre is JUST BARELY enough gain for the se84cs with the volume all the way up, but the se84cs definitely sounds its most musical with the volume backed off, for me, to around 80% or so, and the gain increased as needed from the pre.

I've come to greatly trust Steve Deckert's ears, and a short phone discussion convinced me the Zbox was worth a try to further relax the sound of redbook cd's, even if a Zbox-CSP-Zen chain is a slightly more complicated setup.  

At the moment I'm into a major listening binge of Carloz Chavez's music. There is a lot of texture in his music that can really test one's tolerance for digital playback, even with superb quality recordings, as cd's go. If the zbox sprays a little more wd-40 on my redbook cd's, it'll be killer worth it! I don't expect it to be a magic bullet, necessarily, but any improvements to redbook playback will be very very welcome.

More comments later. For those interested, I'll start a new thread.

Karl

   



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Lon
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #17 - 06/26/05 at 02:12:07
 
Karl, I know you'll have fun trying out the Zbox and you're quite adventurous to try one out when you already have a CSP; I'm pretty sure if I already had a preamp, and a CSP at that, I wouldn't have a Zbox!

I know what you mean about phono playback, and personally I'm really fond of analog tape in various forms and wish the days when you could buy prerecorded reel to reels for example as the standard were here.  Ah. . . it's been a long time but that's the best audio I really remember:  tubed reel to reel into tube amplification.  If the stuff on my 10,000 cds and cdrs were on tape I'd be using a tape based system.

Anyway, re: tubes for Zbox:  I was using Mullard 12AX7s but I experimented last weekend with a tube I found didn't quite work in the DEC685 for me, a cryo'd Mullard 12AT7 and found it was really nice in the Zbox, and so I ordered another one to see whether the same tube in the DEC685 as well would work well.  That second tube came Thursday and I popped it in the DEC685 and so far I really like the combination.  It sacrifices a little low end perhaps, at least so far in the breakin of everything new (new tube, new Decware Reference interconnects, new Zbox and new configuration of having a "preamp" in the system).  But it makes up for it with reallly vivid and lively treble and an open midrange.  With some speaker placement changes and some changing of the setting on my PS Audio Power Plant I'm getting quite realistic sound.

Here's the tube if anyone is interested.  I know I'm not alone in using this tube on this board. Not really cheap, but then not really expensive for Mullards, and cryo'd too:

http://www.tubeman.com/item207.htm
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veryoldcat
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #18 - 06/26/05 at 02:42:30
 
Cool, Lon. Thanks greatly for posting the link.

I'll probably roll with tubes I already have for a little while, but great to know where these are, as I will likely give them a try a little later on.

I know what you mean about analog tape with a tube driven recorder. That was a sound I heard a lot of growing up. No decay in fidelity such as when you get closer to the end of a record!

Thanks again for the tube link. By the way, do you notice a generic difference between the 12ax7/12au7/12at7 in either the zbox or the dec685, or does it more or less seem to depend on the characteristics of the individual tube (and not so much whether it's an ax7, au7 or at7)?

Curious if you have any other impressions.

Karl
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Lon
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #19 - 06/26/05 at 02:58:00
 
I do hear family resemblance in the tube type, and then distinct differences in the brand.  The lowest output in my experience is the 12AU7 type, a sound that for me may be too tame and mellow.  The 12AX7 types are richer, creamier and with more gain.  All those that I have are from my 1959 EICO though, and I know they have MILES on them. . . . I haven't any new tubes of this type on hand that are of any comparable sound. . . I bet these Mullards were giant-killers new. The 12AT7 type has been rather tart and tight in the DEC685 and no Zbox, but I'm enjoying it in the Zbox now and also in the DEC685. . . so far it's a good combo though I miss a bit of "richness" that may come in as things season. . . who knows.

So far with my experimentation I like the same tube type in both DEC685 and Zbox at one time, though that may be quite a different situation in another system.  It's so wild how varied and vast the differences can be in this hobby.

Well, off to bed so I can wake up really early and get a few hours listening in before the world and wife awake!
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« Last Edit: 06/26/05 at 02:59:40 by Lon »  
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veryoldcat
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #20 - 06/26/05 at 05:52:39
 
Helpful impressions, Lon,

I think the thing to do is try everything within convenient range, and see.

Thanks!

Karl
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Grant Robinson
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #21 - 06/26/05 at 06:08:06
 
Well I'v done a bit more swapping and for the most part my initial impressions have crystalized even more.  There is a 'certain' reduction in the quickness and attack from the CS.  The amp will put most anything to shame in terms of sheer light footedness and agility with music.  However, the Zbox compensates with a sweeter sound, more presence and definition.  Ie, there is more 'oomph' with instruments that makes the CS sound fuller and richer.

Soundstage is enhanced and I like the 'slightly' forward presentation.  As I have the my input cables running directly into the non potted inputs at full volume, there is a lot of hum but it's neglegible when running anything musical through it.  

I do feel that a lot is gained in the music though some benefit is lost.  I still like the Zbox though and think it was a good purchase for the enhancements it makes to the sound.

cheers
Grant
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veryoldcat
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #22 - 06/27/05 at 06:52:35
 
Great Scott, Grant,

Thanks for the zbox impressions. Mine should arrive this Thursday.

For me, anything that helps to overcome the aural stress of digital playback (ie, an increase in musicality) is deadly worth it.

The immediate quickness and transparent zinginess of the zen without a preamp or buffer is pretty cool, but if you've listened for hours, the zen amp without preamp or buffer can be very edgy/fatiguing over the long haul, particularly with a cdp source.

The CSP pre has been very helpful in my system with cd sources,  and hopefully the zbox will increase that even more.

I'm kind of hooked on vinyl for listenability and have a lot of records; but hey, I have more than a thousand cd's of incredible performances of incredible music that don't exist on vinyl that I'd like to sound better. If not perfect, the musicality needs to be increased. I'll gladly give up an inch of quickness and transparence for a mile of listenability with digital sources.

Karl
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Lon
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #23 - 07/02/05 at 16:16:49
 
Okay Corey, I listened to the stock outputs, then to the Zbox added between the Dec 685 and the Monoblocks.

It does improve the sound of the stock inputs, everything is improved a little bit.  I didn't listen long enough to make a lot of cool comments on how it sounds.

I will say this though: for me the tubed output of the Dec 685 straight into the Monoblocks sounds better still by a big margin than the Zbox and the stock outputs.  And the Zbox after the tubed output stage into the Monoblocks sounds better, though I am still undecided whether the tubed output and Zbox is "better" than the tubed output straight in without Zbox. Both have different sounds, there are slight advantages to each.

I was releived to take the stock outputs back out of service.  Clearly for my taste and service the tubed output is much preferred.
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dr._sleep
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #24 - 07/02/05 at 21:44:03
 
The tubed output from a modded 685, being a text book grounded cathode, has a output impedance of @ 21K with a 12AX7 and @ 6K with a 12AU7, hence the benefit of adding the Z box, OP impedance @ 600 ohms.

dr._sleep
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Lon
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #25 - 07/03/05 at 11:59:13
 
And funnily enough I'm listening to 12AT7s in both DEC685 and Zbox.

Enjoying some nice early morning listening. Zbox makes a great simple preamp if you don't need gain, just attenuation.
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dr._sleep
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #26 - 07/03/05 at 16:20:24
 
The AT7 generates @ 10 K ohms output impedance in the 685 tubed output and <300 in a cathode follower buffer.

sweet...Happy 4th

dr._sleep
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veryoldcat
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #27 - 07/03/05 at 16:53:27
 
So far, the zbox seems like a drastic improvement in my setup, and is situated between dec685 and CSP.

There are still break in issues so I'm waiting for it to settle down before making comments or fiddle with tubes too much, but the zbox is surprising me.

Karl
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Lon
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #28 - 07/03/05 at 17:05:19
 
Well happy to hear that Karl!
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stone_of_tone
Ex Member



Re: ZZZZ - box....
Reply #29 - 03/01/06 at 22:45:19
 
I called DeVon, and ordered a ZBox today.

Stone of Tone
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« Last Edit: 03/01/06 at 22:50:14 by stone_of_tone »  
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