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ZKIT4 and ZKIT5 (Read 1466 times)
kdwhite
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Posts: 22
ZKIT4 and ZKIT5
03/09/09 at 19:41:10
 
I purchased both ZKITs 4 and 5 to do my own modification to a Tascam CD player similar to the ZCD.

The quality of the ZKIT4 PCB is outstanding.  I've only worked with a very view PCBs but this one is head and shoulders above anything in my experience.  The components in this kit are of very good quality and assembling the board is easy and straight forward.  I'm not an electrocincs expert by any stretch of the imagination.  But I was able to put this kit together without any difficulty.

The ZKIT5 is also of very good quality.  I pondered over how to arrange the components in my cd player and I finally elected to assemble a seperate power supply board for this kit using a Ratshack board.  It works fine but I missed the quality and  durabillity of the Decware board on the ZKIT4.  Point-to-point construction might have been more elegant but I found working with the power supply seperatly and on the bench easier for me.

Installing these kits into the Tascam was not difficult.  The hardest part was undertanding the circuitry (I'm not an electronics guy) so a view emails and a conversation with Steve D got me going in the right direction.  With Steve's help I found where to "borrow" the signal from the cd player's board and I was off to the races.

One of the most difficult tasks for lots of folks is making the holes in the back of the cd player cabinet to accomodate the new tubes.  I was dreading the job until I discovered the Chassis Punch Set.  I bought a set online for about $60.  Take my advice... if you want nice even round holes buy this tool.  It makes the job easy and quick.  One possible source is www.oselectronics.com.

I ws a little nervous applying power for the first time.  The glow tube (OC2) faked my out.  It lit up briefly and then dimmed.  I was sure I fried it.  After talking with Steve once more I learned that these things are not like any other vacuum tube.  So I double checked my wiring once again and pressed on.  In the end I learned that the gow tube was still healthy and glows normally when there is some load on the power supply.  The tube is very odd.  It glows brightly but makes no heat!  It always feels cool to the touch.  Very strange.

I added a gain control pot on the front panel.  I used an Alps "Blue Velvet" and it works very smoothly.  It feels solid, too.

I selected an NOS Mullard CV4003/12AU7 tube for the ZKIT4 Gain Stage.  More on this below.

How does it sound?  It sounds WONDERFULL!!!  The detail is improved.  The bass response is startling.  This may perhaps be partially due to the Mullard tube.  However, I haven't done any tube rolling for comparison.  My system used to be just adequate in the bass region.  Now I wonder if I have too much bass!  The difference is dramatic.

The overall sound is much smoother.  A/B comparison of the original CD player output and the Decware gain stage is like night and day.  The orignal signal sounds very grainy in comparison.  I didn't realize how grainy it was until completing this mod.  I think the music has more 'slam' but without sounding fake - if that makes sense.  It REALLY woke up my amplifier!

I find myself discovering nuances in recordings I missed before.  I am re-discovering some of my old collection.

And here is the piece de resistance... My wife, who is no audiophile, heard the difference immediately.  She was quite captured by the improvement.  The first day she sat down and listened to the stereo for more than two hours!  Since then she has been buying CDs!!!  If this doesn't score way up there on the "Wife Approval Factor" then nothing will!

If you want a ZCD player but just cannot afford it this may be an option for you.  You won't get the benifit of the Decware warranty or other tweaks that Steve does to the Tascam unit but I'm sure this option comes very close to providing the same performance of the genuine ZCD player.

I highly recommend these ZKITS

My system:
Tascam CD-160MKII w/ ZKIT4, ZKIT5 with OC2, owner modified
SE84ZS with stock tubes (Tried others but always come back to Steve's choices.
Decware DSRII-0.5 Silver Interconnects
Klipsch Forte speakers with owner built crossovers
Owner built custom speaker cables.
Grado SR80 headphones (Headphone amp is next!)
Significant acoustic treatment in listening room.
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