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How good is the ZDAC ..... (Read 6922 times)
Lon
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Re: How good is the ZDAC .....
Reply #15 - 07/09/10 at 23:26:50
 
Wow.  Got my AC fixed! A whole new whole house unit for three hundred bucks (I have a home maintenance contract that actually replaced the unit for free under warranty).

All day I've been going back and forth between the Sony and the ZDAC and . . . at the end of the day, I've decided that I'm going to listen to cds and SACDs through the Sony, and use the ZDAC to decipher the digital from my Sony BDP-S2000ES Blu-Blay player and my DVR cable box. That way I can use the coaxial input for the Blu-Ray instead of switching it out for the DVR, both on glass optical cable.

For most of the material I play I like the Sony SCD-XA5400ES sound a bit more, more reverberance, more depth, warmer bass. (all these seem distinct enough to me though hardly "big.") I could save up for another digital cable I guess and see if that's a limitation, although the Black Knight cable I'm using is very good and sounds killer with the Blu-Ray player. The ergonomics are better now, I can toggle back and forth between my two sources, the 5400 and the ZDAC, and toggle between the Blu-Ray and the DVR on the ZDAC, no more switching of cables.

Edit to add:  I feel that I have verified my suppositions in that I felt that the Sony was the first disc player I've had that was "a real source" in the sense that Steve describes the ZDAC.  It is a real source.  So the ZDAC now makes a real source (and brings real improvement) to my video and TV sources.  I have three real sources, a great thing.

When my ship comes in I can work on a few real sources for my bedroom system!
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« Last Edit: 07/10/10 at 19:10:39 by Lon »  

Decware:ERR,HR-1,ZP3,CSP2+(2),Torii Mk III, PS Audio PWT+PWD MkII,PowerBases,PPP,AC-12 pcs, Denon DBP-A100, Denon DCD-A100, Rega RP3 +TTPSU,white belt+Exact2, VooDoo Cable IC: Evo and UL, Mapleshade:Double Heiix Samsonv2+v3 and 4"platforms,Herbie's IsoCups+Tendft
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waveydavey
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Re: How good is the ZDAC .....
Reply #16 - 07/14/10 at 14:52:18
 
So Randy, now that you have lived with the ZDAC and the Havana for quite sometime, is the Havana now for sale?  Any new listening impressions to offer between the two etc?

Thanks  8-)
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Randy in Caintuck
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Re: How good is the ZDAC .....
Reply #17 - 07/16/10 at 20:55:22
 
Hi Davey,

Well ..... here's the deal.  For my posts to have any credibility at all, I have to tell it as I see it ..... no more, no less.

As such, the opinions I previously shared are still holding :

If a person can find a stash of the very best tubes that work in the buffer stage of the Havana, I prefer it slightly.  There is something about the vacuum tube that adds bloom and dimensionality to the music.  With the stock tube in the Havana, I prefer the Z-DAC.  The problem is that the very best tubes are getting expensive and / or rare .....

Having said that, I suspect that the ZBOX with a top notch tube would give similar results.

When Parker Audio Dave brought his Camelot Uther over for a comparison with the other two DACs, it made me appreciate why this was my reference DAC for such a long time.  It sounds better than either to my ears ..... and should ..... for $ 4500.00.

In addition to being a great sounding DAC, the Uther has built in remote volume and balance control in the analog domain with a display that shows the volume and balance settings.  This eliminates the need for a preamp or other volume control in the chain.

Also, the very latest Anagram modification for the Uther has some sort of circuit that mimics the Genesis Digital Lens built in.  It totally takes the cable issue out of the equation.  I compared budget coaxial, balanced and ST glass cables (on the fly) and can hear absolutely NO difference ..... they all sound great  This is exactly what the Digital Lens does on the output side for cables.

The Uther shows up occasionally for sale (used) and still commands two or three time the price of the (new) Z-DAC or Havana.  I was fortunate enough to find one a couple of weeks ago ..... with the latest Anagram mod.  Hard to believe.

The bottom line ..... the Z-DAC and Havana are both great DACs at a very attractive price.  I could live happily with either.  Anyone who buys a Z-DAC will be grinning from ear to ear, IMHO.  If they pair it with a Z-BOX or the possible future Decware vacuum tube gain stage, they will probably have a hard time prying themselves out of their listening chair .....

When you get to this level of performance, life is good ..... very, very good .....

I would still like to hear from some other Z-DAC owners ..... but, maybe they are too busy listening to music .....

Best wishes,

Randy
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waveydavey
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Re: How good is the ZDAC .....
Reply #18 - 07/20/10 at 10:50:52
 
Thanks for your honest take and review Randy, much appreciated!...

I was surprised when I first saw the ZDAC that it didn't have a tube in the mix somewhere seeings how this is Decware after all..

Anyhow I'll keep checking back for future comments, or ZDAC option news etc..

Happy listening  8-)
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Lon
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Re: How good is the ZDAC .....
Reply #19 - 07/23/10 at 15:28:42
 
Hey Randy, interesting results and thanks for sharing them.

I did a lot of comparing between my Sony ES SACD player (which people seem clamoring to find now that Sony seems to have discontinued it after two years) and the ZDAC.  Both make great sources.  I decided on the Sony 5400 ES because it presented Redbook material in a slightly more relaxed, "bloom" sort of way than the slightly more sharp and slightly more forward (in comparison) ZDAC. I just prefer to hear music that way.  The Sony 5400 ES is also a smidgeon more forgiving of sources than the ZDAC, and with my collection that is a plus. (And SACD from the Sony 5400 ES is just plain better sounding than any other medium I've thrown into the system yet, but that's a fish of a different type).

And I have to add (via edit) that it's the crystaline clarity and nimble power and open window that the Torii MK III brings to the music that allows me to differentiate and compare these sources. What an amp!  I've loved the Select, I've loved the Monoblocks, I've loved the Integrated, but the Torii has become my prized audio possession. That and the IT Radials. . . I couldn't part with etiher.

Adding the ZBox to the ZDAC output chain does add a bit of "bloom" to the sound.  Sometimes though, when the system is sounding its most revealing, I feel I hear a bit of a lessening of dynamics when using the ZBox in the chain (which may be because of an additional power cord and interconnects -- I always use Decware interconnects in all connectioins).  I drove myself crazy a while back putting the ZBox into the system and out of the system, and I ended up deciding that the benefit it adds to the output of the source I use in the bedroom system (a NAD T585) is really worth having in that system and so it's stayed there. Until Steve offers another tube stage component to complement the ZDAC (and it's unclear to me that he may intend to) the ZBox is a really great supplement to the ZDAC.  And if you do find yourself thinking of ordering one, consider having Steve add an additional input.

I've been reading up on my Sony ES Blu-Ray player (BDP-S2000ES) and it seems that it only passes uncompressed PCM and 24/96 and 24/192 material via its analog outputs, so I'm going to compare its output extensively to the digital output into the ZDAC to see which sounds best.  Should be a bit of fun, I hope, when it becomes frustrating I'll stop.  I even have enlisted the ears of a digital engineer I know, who used to think I was nuts when I talked about cable differences until I gave him some Decware interconnects (pre-current production) and some TARA Labs speaker cables for in his system. Now . . . he sees the light.

Good viewing and listening ahead this weekend I think! Smiley
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« Last Edit: 07/23/10 at 15:56:36 by Lon »  

Decware:ERR,HR-1,ZP3,CSP2+(2),Torii Mk III, PS Audio PWT+PWD MkII,PowerBases,PPP,AC-12 pcs, Denon DBP-A100, Denon DCD-A100, Rega RP3 +TTPSU,white belt+Exact2, VooDoo Cable IC: Evo and UL, Mapleshade:Double Heiix Samsonv2+v3 and 4"platforms,Herbie's IsoCups+Tendft
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Lon
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"Love without
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Re: How good is the ZDAC .....
Reply #20 - 07/27/10 at 12:55:56
 
My conclusions from listening this weekend?

The analog out from my Sony ES Blu-Ray player is very good, comprable to that from the ZDAC-1.  However, the output of the the ZDAC produces more volume, and is welcome for that reason.  To use both the Blu-Ray and the DVR without the ZDAC-1 I have to use the ZBox and I lose a tiny bit of volume as a result. It's just not quite loud enough on some DVDs and Blu-Rays.

The output of the DVR alone is puny and inferior to the output of the DVR feeding the ZDAC-1 in both quality and volume output, so the ZDAC-1 is the clear choice for the DVR.  So I'm happy to keep the ZDAC-1 in the system for video sources.

It's a great machine.  I listened again to Redbook cd via the Sony 5400 ES and the ZDAC-1 and I still prefer the ease and ambience of the Sony 5400 ES, though sound is very good through the ZDAC-1.  I can heartily recommend the ZDAC-1 as an excellent souirce at a very reasonable price.  Very happy with this product and my viewing pleasure is definitely increased with it in the system!
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Lon
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"Love without
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Philip K. D*ck

Posts: 6770
Re: How good is the ZDAC .....
Reply #21 - 08/19/10 at 16:34:28
 
After a week away from my system as I traveled to Ohio and back, I decided to do another shoot-out between the Sony SCD-XA5400ES analolg out and the Sony feeding the ZDAC-1 as a transport. The ZDAC-1 has more hours on it than the last time I made a serious comparison, so it seemed due.

Interesting results. Basically the same results as before, though the ZDAC-1 is more seasoned now and the tonal balance is a bit better (fuller bass, a bit more relaxed treble, open midrange).  The defining differences between them is probably keyed to the bass:  the SCD-XA5400ES seems to have a warmer bass and this brings a bit more ambient information into the presentation, which I definitely like. (The SCD-XA5400ES is a direct coupled voltage design and with no capacitors in the signal path. Is this the fundamental difference in design that leads to the sonic differences?  Seems possible to me.) And there is a more laid-back sound to the presentation than when the ZDAC-1 is used for digital-analog conversion and analog output.  The ZDAC-1 seems more forward, the images and the sound stage are brought more forward and more in-between the speakers.

The selling point for me for more prevalent use of the SCD-XA5400ES is acoustic music such as jazz and classical and folk are more naturally presented.  The piano sounds more natural and resonant in this set up,  with the ZDAC-1 there is more of a "clang" or "sting" to the attack that doesn't really seem as accurate to ME as the presentation from the Sony alone. (And I have been a player of pianos. . . . )  Earlier I had thought that the ZDAC-1 may be the more dynamic of the two. . . but as the treble of the ZDAC-1 improved that gap narrowed, I now think they are both pretty close in dynamic presentation both micro and macro. (I thik that a bit of pronounced treble on transients was making the presentation SEEM more dynamic).

Really I think it is program material that decides it for me. For rock recordings and recordings that are heavily processed in the studio, I think that the ZDAC-1 gets selected as it brings a bold forceful presentation.  For the bulk of my listening though I use the Sony alone, it seems to represent the music with a gentleness and an ambient signature that seems very very fitting to me.

For the average listener (as I perceive that to be from years of reading on this forum) here I think the ZDAC-1 will represent a great great value and a killer source; for rock and blues and funk and pop this machine really delivers.  If jazz, classical and other less electric and electronic music is the main fare, there MAY be better sources.  The SCD-XA5400ES has really fit the bill for me for these genres, and I listen to these genres more often by far.  The ZDAC-1 really shines with the video leg of my system, and for the other music formats I listen to on cd; I'm very glad to have it. And I AM curious as to how the new linestage that Steve is about to introduce may play into this.  I hesitate to sell something and order one because. . . well I find that Steve generally likes presentations a bit more forward than I do. I think he hears as 'neutral' what I hear as a bit forward, and that's well and good, it's good to know that distinction.  If Steve were to say "the new linestage makes the ZDAC-1 sound a bit mellower," well that would signal to me that it may be just the ticket!  Looking forward to reports of that from the DecFest or earlier "adopters."

Really enjoying the music, now that I'm home. I missed my system. It's SPECIAL.
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« Last Edit: 08/19/10 at 20:36:08 by Lon »  

Decware:ERR,HR-1,ZP3,CSP2+(2),Torii Mk III, PS Audio PWT+PWD MkII,PowerBases,PPP,AC-12 pcs, Denon DBP-A100, Denon DCD-A100, Rega RP3 +TTPSU,white belt+Exact2, VooDoo Cable IC: Evo and UL, Mapleshade:Double Heiix Samsonv2+v3 and 4"platforms,Herbie's IsoCups+Tendft
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Lon
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"Love without
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Philip K. D*ck

Posts: 6770
Re: How good is the ZDAC .....
Reply #22 - 08/19/10 at 20:22:40
 
I just want to clarify one thing:  My ZDAC-1 was one of the first half dozen shipped, and after it was shipped Steve elected to change one of the opamps to another that in his words "has more detail and more focus."  Steve has offered twice for me to receive the new chip, but I'm of the impression that I generally prefer less detail and focus than some, and that I enjoy a slightly more forgiving and musical sound. The ZDAC-1 in the incarnation that I have it exhibits plenty enough detail and focus. I also bought the unit anticipating it was a finished design, and I don't want to open up and insert the new chip--I'm not really versed in these things--nor do I want to ship it back and be without it a while, I like it, I use it everyday. So I've elected not to change the opamp to the version that has been shipping to others since.

Please note that my impressions of MY ZDAC-1 don't reflect the ZDAC-1 that has been shipped after mine, and mine should NOT be considered the "production standard."  I don't feel that this means much of a high hill of beans personally in the overall character of the ZDAC-1, but I could be mistaken.  I'm very happy with the unit I have, as is noted by all my favorable comments above.  
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« Last Edit: 08/19/10 at 21:43:27 by Lon »  

Decware:ERR,HR-1,ZP3,CSP2+(2),Torii Mk III, PS Audio PWT+PWD MkII,PowerBases,PPP,AC-12 pcs, Denon DBP-A100, Denon DCD-A100, Rega RP3 +TTPSU,white belt+Exact2, VooDoo Cable IC: Evo and UL, Mapleshade:Double Heiix Samsonv2+v3 and 4"platforms,Herbie's IsoCups+Tendft
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