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Long Overdue Test and request for comments (Read 1009 times)
BLFST
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Long Overdue Test and request for comments
12/27/09 at 02:51:30
 
Since my serious commitment to audiophile listening several years ago, my primary choice of source has been with vinyl.  I probably listen to vinyl 70 percent of the time, with CD making up the remaining 30 percent.  I have never been able to quantify why I like vinyl better, thinking that maybe it was just nostalgia to earlier days.  I have what I believe to be a great CD player, a Rega Apollo, and my turntable is a Music Hall MM5.1 with a MM cartridge.

Recently I have been toying with the idea of purchasing a ZBOX for the CD player, but wasn't sure if it would be worth the cost.  I have found that most upgrades (certainlay not all) are subtle improvements for the most part.  Because my listening ear isn't well trained, I really didn't think that my CD output could be improved that much.  

One thing that I had never done, is compare vinyl with CD immediatly.  I didn't think that I had the same recording in both formats in order to do a listening test.  This evening I was going through some of my music and I found that I had both formats of Bob Marleys "Legend".  This was my chance to compare tracks of both formats side by side.  WOW, what a difference between the two.  Whereas the vinyl format had a soundstage that was full from wall to wall and depth, the CD recording seemed to have a broken soundstage, with music come from either speaker and from a point between speakers, but with gaps in between the three.  In addition, the CD had many of the instruments compressed with each other and the vocal section sitting in the lap of Bob Marley.  I had never noticed these differences in the past.  Had I not done this listening test, I would never had been the wiser.

Anyway, to my request for comments.  Do any of the members who are or have used the ZBOX have any comments on what they have found with the unit?  I have found only a couple of reviews and very few threads on the ZBOX to help me out.  I am pretty sure that a unit is in my future, but I would like some validation that it will help on soundstaging and imaging before making the commitment.

Thanks.

bill
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Lon
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Re: Long Overdue Test and request for comments
Reply #1 - 12/27/09 at 14:12:29
 
First, unless you have the same mix and mastering, it's hard to throw all the blame of the differences between those two listenings on the format.  Just saying.  They may be different engineered versions and interpretations of the source tape.

As for a ZBox. . . what type of cd player are you using?  If it's a very fine one with great attention paid to all stages especially the analog output stage, a ZBox may not bring you much improvement. If it's cheap and cheesey, the ZBox will improve your playback.  In between these extreme price/design points, the ZBox will improve your playback to some extent.

To be honest, the most improvement I hear from a ZBox with players I've used (and most are quite well-designed ones) is tonal balance.  It's improved, more natural, less "digital." There are sound stage and imaging improvements, bringing you a bit more of a focused presentation than without the ZBox, but they've not been as pronounced an improvement. There is alos a sort of "homogenization" that may or may not be a slight diminution of detail and dynamics, but is a pleasant improvement sonically.

That's my best shot.  Hopefully others will chime in with their ZBox experiences.

---Edited for spelling
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« Last Edit: 12/27/09 at 16:27:44 by Lon »  

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BLFST
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Re: Long Overdue Test and request for comments
Reply #2 - 12/27/09 at 21:23:16
 
Lon - thanks for your reply, I value your thoughts/opions.  

I agree with you fully on the mix/mastering.  After listening to several tracks and comparing between the two formats, I immediatly went to the covers to verify if the labels were the same/different.  Although the cover art is identical on both covers, the labels are different.  Unfortunatly, this is the only music that I have in both formats to compare with.

I am using a Rega Apollo CD player.  I believe it to be a very good player.  That is why I have been apprehensive in purchasing the ZBOX, I didn't know if I would get a significant improvement sonically or not.  

I figured that I would probably get an improvement tonally.  This improvement alone would probably not convince me that the purchase would be beneficial.

Hopefully some other members will chime in to help me make a decision.

Thanks again.

bill
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Alan H
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Re: Long Overdue Test and request for comments
Reply #3 - 12/28/09 at 00:11:32
 
Try your CD player's digital output into a NOS DAC - my listening experience was similar to Steve's (see his NOS DAC thread), and the Dig/Vinyl gap closed for me by a significant amount.
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Steve Deckert
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Re: Long Overdue Test and request for comments
Reply #4 - 12/28/09 at 04:19:13
 
I am not afraid to put it after DACs, be them tube or solid state, even those costing 10 times it's price.  It does something rather magical with my reference DAC that has given me pause.

Steve
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BLFST
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Re: Long Overdue Test and request for comments
Reply #5 - 12/28/09 at 23:15:29
 
Thanks for the replies and for directing me to Steve's thread on the NOS DAC's.  At this point, I don't think that I could afford a seperate DAC, but it is something that I will consider.

My intention on purchasing the ZBOX is still unclear, but I have time to dilberate on it.

Thanks.

bill
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Re: Long Overdue Test and request for comments
Reply #6 - 12/30/09 at 03:15:10
 
BLFST,

If you listen to a lot of classical music, I think the zbox is a must. There is something very stressful about cd playback the zbox does a great deal to relieve. In fact, if you could say anything about the zbox, is that it de-stresses the sound.

Regarding cd playback:

Piano sonorities, for example, especially where there is a lot of ambience in the recording, are MUCH more intelligible. Any type of "choral" effect is much improved, such as massed orchestral strings, dense choral textures, and so on.

I think if you mostly listened to small combo music, you might not notice the advantage as much, although I find close miked violin and vocal recordings to benefit greatly. There are quite a few cd's I personally found to be barely listenable in the past until patching Steve's zbox into my system.

Is it a perfect panacea for digital playback? Well, no. I still prefer vinyl by quite a margin.

Karl


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BLFST
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Re: Long Overdue Test and request for comments
Reply #7 - 12/31/09 at 21:34:13
 
Karl,

Thanks for your input.  I do listen to some classical, but my tastes run mostly in Jazz, Blues, and Rock with instrumentals of any genre most likely listened to as well.  

Decision is still up in the air, although if I get a tax return this year, the decision is leaning towards giving the ZBOX a try.

Thanks.

bill
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