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Diary of a recent Zen Head #2 (Read 3223 times)
If the 1st watt
sucks why continue?
Diary of a recent Zen Head #2
11/10/08 at 14:44:34
08-20-2008, 03:11 AM:
I just received my Zen Head and am putting it through its paces. So far I'm impressed. I use AKG 271s, Sennheiser 595, Grado 325i as my primary headphones. I am interested in your impression of this amp and, of course, once I've had a decent listen, I'll share mine. BTW, the crossfeed is excellent. Better than the Total Bithead (my other portable amp). I went with the Total Bithead for my computer. I choose the Zen Head for something better with my Mp3 player.
Steve Deckert knows how to market. Good thkng or he'd be out of business. He also knows how to make excellent stereo gear. Buying direct is a savings and the customer service is superb. Sometimes when I read so many positive reviews, I think of a concept called groupthink. If many people say that they like something, then others may agree (even if they aren't sure they like that something) just go do along with the group (and not make waves). When I see a whole bunch of laudatory reviews, I wonder if I'm being set up; however, I've read reviews in other places than the Decware website (such as Skylab's very thourough and thoughtful review of the Zen Head) which did influence my decision to get a Zen amp and to finally spring for a Zen Head. I also knew that I could audition Decware gear and send it back for a modest restocking fee if I didn't like it. That is important to me as I'm a rather critical listener.
09-08-2008, 04:57 AM:
I've been listening to my Phililps GoGear hard drive 2 gb music player with the Decware Zen Head for the last three weeks or thereabouts. I do not use any of the EQ features on the Philips. My headphone of choice for this review is a pair of AKG 271s with velour ear pads. I find the AKG 271s to be an accurate studio monitorish (read: flat sounding) honest sounding set of cans. My Grado 325i performs well with the Zen Head, but given the Grado sonic signature, I choose to focus on the AKG's for this review (Grado 325i and the Zen Head is another review waiting to happen).
Music choices include Issac Hayes', Shaft, Edgar Winter Group's, "Frankenstein," Flogging Molly's Float, Lalo Shifrin's Jazz Meets the Symphony, Maria Muldaur's Midnight at the Oasis, George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Alanis Morrisette, "Uninvited," Sarah McLachlan, "Angel" and Mike Oldfield, "Tubular Bells, Pt. 1."
The one thing that I first notice and which impresses me the most is the glorously rich soundstage--it's wide, it's deep, it's three dimensional. This is where the Zen Head excels! The crossfeed works well and I feel no need to ever turn it off (one can if one so desires by taking a trip into the interior of the Zen Head--there one can also change the input impedence, which I left at 10K--the standard setting). I find the crossfeed to be better than the Total Bithead (my only other headphone amp which I've had for a few years). I like how well the crossfeed circuitry works. Simply excellent.
Bass is excellent--tight, controlled, and rich. Midrange and highs are very good. Vocalists come accross well and life-like. Maria Muldaur's "Midnight at the Oasis" sparkles and comes across crystal clear and inviting. Lovely. Morrisette in "Uninvited" has great atmosphere and the vocals are ethreal. McLachlan's "Angel" brings out the goosebumps (but then this song is so well done, I'd get goosebumps even if I heard it over the 8 track in my now long gone 1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88) and the vocals come across rich and luscious. There is a bit of warmth reminiscent of tube amps (Decware is famous for its Zen SET amp--I have one), but not the over coloured euphonic golden velvety richness and bloom that I associate with AMC tube amps or even the venerable Dynaco ST70. If anything, the voice of the Zen Head reminds me a bit of my Zen SET Amp (again it's the soundstage and holographic imaging and the way voices sound).
Switching to Lalo Shifrin's Jazz Meets the Orchestra, the opening cut, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is delightful. Here a jazz combo meets a full orchestra and the results are awe inspiring. I usually use this album when I go out to listen to stereo gear as it is well engineered and sounds excellent.
Dynamics are good, soundstage is awesome.
George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord, " takes me back to my soul searching days. Elton John's "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy," sounds rich. Detail is great. Voices handled well. Again, superb soundstage.
Flogging Molly's Float, an Irish folk themed rock band, had good presence, was nicely balanced, and the strings sounded just right. The Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein," was nicely handled. Solid bass, wide soundstage.
Issac Haye's Shaft is a revelation. Amazing engineering on the hybrid SACD version. Jaw dropping, goosebumping fantastic. Again, it's got a soundstage to die for and the overall presentation is stellar. The same for Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells, Pt. 1."
The Zen Head is a highly listenable amp. It is a bit tubelike, has an incrediable soundstage, is transparent, and does vocals right--male and female. Sarah McLachlan and Elton John will melt your heart. The Shaft soundtrack is amazing. I should dig out my cd of Holst's Planets and take the trip. I only wish that I had a cd copy of Iron Butterfly's "Ina Gadda da vida."
It's hard to find fault with the Zen Head. One could criticize it for its tube-like sound as it does colour the music, albeit in a way that tube affectionados might relish. I didn't find this colouration to be too obtrusive and actually find it pleasing. One might be dismayed at the largeness of the Zen Head. It's about five inches long and about 3 inches wide. For me sound quality overrides size. If I wanted small, I'd have bought a pair of Yuin PK-2s and run them directly into my Philips and be done with it. Maybe I should borrow my wife's PK-2s, grab my Philips and go for a hike through the neighbourhood tonight...or better yet...grab my son, Zak's African thumb piano and make my own soundtrack as I trek through the neighbourhood...but I digress.
My Zen Head is still burning in (I've only gone through one 9 volt battery--about 40 hours or so). I think I've logged in about 60 hours on it so far. I would expect that in another couple hundred hours, it'll sound even better or that I'll be so used to it, my ears will adjust. This is a headphone amp that I can happily live with.
It is large, but it's robust. The sound is terrific. I'm glad that I purchased it. Eventually I'll get around to evaluating how well it works with my Grado 325i cans. Some say that the 325i's sound best with tubes, that they have a small soundstage but great immediacy. Hmmmm...maybe there will be a synergy between the Grado 325i and the Zen Head. I'll explore this in the coming weeks.
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If the 1st watt
sucks why continue?
Re: Diary of a recent Zen Head #2
Reply #1 -
11/10/08 at 14:45:46
09-19-2008, 03:17 AM:
You nailed it. The Zen Head doesn't get in the way of the music. It lets the music be. (I've taken too many philosphy courses). Yes, there are lots of other headphone amps out there (which I've love to try out btw), but when it comes down to sheer enjoyment/musicality the Zen Head delivers.
Excellent crossfeed and soundstage with very good overall sonics make the Zen Head a brilliant little (okay, kinda largish) headphone amp.
The Zen Head deserves to be considered a serious choice for those desiring a really musical headphone amp. If my sister (I only have one) were an avid headphone user, I'd buy her one just because it is that good. Anyway, all she listens to is Neil Diamond. I'm not sure what sort of headphone and headphone amp combo would suit his musical style (and I just don't want to go there).
09-21-2008, 03:13 AM:
Last evening I spent some quality time with my Zen Head and my Grado 325i's. Nice synergy. Grado's have often been slammed for being really bright with ear wax melting highs, especially the 325i. Last evening they sounded really good together amping my Philips Ipod clone (music ranging from Ray Brown to Roxy Music to Queen to Flogging Molly to John Coltrane to Holst).
I'll have to listen more with this combination, but I think that the Zen Head complements the Grado 325i sound very nicely. In the next week or so, I'll engage in some extensive listening and report back.
10-11-2008, 04:03 AM:
I'm sitting at my computer listening to Pink Floyd on my Philips Ipod clone with Zen Head on and a lovely pair of AKG 701's as my can de jure. I wonder how much sound stage a chap can take before he passes out from sheer delight. I'm reveling in a sonorous soundscape of immense proportions. I am pleased. Anyway, it's certainly worth a whirl.
I'm listening to Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother...now I've switched to Varese's "Ionization." Very terrific this. On to "Ameriques." Oh this Varese fellow is quite good. Almost as good as Zappa. Or John Cage. Or Messiean. Or even Heitor Villa Lobos. Or better yet Elvis.
So far so good with the 701's and the Zen Head via Philips. You might want to find an adaptor. This should not be missed. Even your polka albums will take on a new lease on life. Hey, even my polka albums sound good now.
Still, the best I've heard from the Zen Head and Philips is when I put on my Grado 325i's. There is magic here. Nice synergy. And I need synergy as I've decided that I'm a pirate metal fan (at least for a couple weeks before I get back to serious country music).
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