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How does the Zen Ultra sound to you? (Read 4027 times)
RoyMercer
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How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
06/30/12 at 00:34:50
 
Zen Ultra owners - how does the Ultra sound as a 2 channel preamp? Does it seem to be fairly transparent or more geared for smoothing out nasty SS op-amp driven devices?
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Velodyne SMS-1, DSPeaker Anti-mode 2.0, Decware Torii MK3, Dynaco MK3 Mono, Outlaw 7500, Modwright Oppo 95 & 105, Decware HDT's, Klipsch RC64 II, RS62 II's, QSC RMX 4050, 2 Danley Sound Labs DTS-10ís, P5 power plant, Powervar ABC3030, ABCE1440 & 30+GIK traps.
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Lon
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #1 - 06/30/12 at 14:08:58
 
As far as I know only Pale Rider has been reporting on the Ultra here in the forum, and he seems very happy with it as a preamp in all manners. I highly doubt that this is anything but a first class two channel preamp.
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Decware:ERR,HR-1,ZP3,CSP2+,Torii Mk III,PS Audio PWT+DS,PowerBases,PPP,AC-12 pcs, Denon DVD-A1UDCI, Rega RP3 +TTPSU,white belt+Exact2, VooDoo Cable:Stradivarius, Ultra Linear+Evo ICs, Iso-Pods,Mapleshade:Double Heiix Plus,Samsonv2+v3 +4" platforms,Herbie's Iso-Cup
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RoyMercer
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #2 - 06/30/12 at 19:00:33
 
Thanks Lon. Hopefully he and others will chime in.†I would be curious to know what Ultra owners are using as a source too. My Oppo BDP 95 Modwright tube modified output and my Torii MKIII create midrange to die for and some of the best imaging I have ever heard. Put my Ultra in between those two and itís not the same. The Ultra takes my magic away. It no longer sounds like I am live with the band. Tonight or tomorrow I will try to get my other channels hooked up and see what it sounds like for home theater and play with the mixing.
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Velodyne SMS-1, DSPeaker Anti-mode 2.0, Decware Torii MK3, Dynaco MK3 Mono, Outlaw 7500, Modwright Oppo 95 & 105, Decware HDT's, Klipsch RC64 II, RS62 II's, QSC RMX 4050, 2 Danley Sound Labs DTS-10ís, P5 power plant, Powervar ABC3030, ABCE1440 & 30+GIK traps.
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Lon
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #3 - 06/30/12 at 19:39:27
 
Interesting, I wouldn't have predicted that.  I would have thought that the Ultra would have improved the sound. I know that Pale Rider is using a PS Audio Perfectwave DAC with his Ultra and I think he's used it both with the Ultra and without and he may prefer it without. I have the same DAC and tend to prefer it without the CSP2, though it's very good with it.

I think the real issue is the Torii Mk. III. Were the Torii a more conventional power amp without its own "line stage" gain so to speak, the Ultra or the CSP2 would most likely make an improvement it would be hard to do without. But the truth of the matter is that the Torii does not NEED a preamp. Its own built in section is excellent, and if I'm not mistaken similar to the Ultra's. If I did not need more than two inputs on the Torii (for my PS Audio DAC which gives me Redbook, DVR and Blu-ray, my Denon DCD-A100 which gives me SACD, and my PS Audio GCPH phono preamp) I would not need to have a preamp in place; I'm using the CSP2 for the SACD and phono playback.

One other possible benefit with the Ultra and the Torii is "riding the gain." Have you experimented with varying the volume controls of both units and found any "sweet spots"? I find that with the gain adjustment and volume control of the CSP2 I can play with that and the Torii's volume control and reallly tailor a sound that does have the majic. . . .

The Ultra IS designed for six channel use, and I wager you'll be pleased using it for home theater.
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« Last Edit: 06/30/12 at 19:40:20 by Lon »  

Decware:ERR,HR-1,ZP3,CSP2+,Torii Mk III,PS Audio PWT+DS,PowerBases,PPP,AC-12 pcs, Denon DVD-A1UDCI, Rega RP3 +TTPSU,white belt+Exact2, VooDoo Cable:Stradivarius, Ultra Linear+Evo ICs, Iso-Pods,Mapleshade:Double Heiix Plus,Samsonv2+v3 +4" platforms,Herbie's Iso-Cup
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RoyMercer
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #4 - 06/30/12 at 22:29:35
 
I played quite a bit with different levels going back and forth with level changes from my source, Ultra and the Torii. It does make a difference but nothing like taking it completely out of my audio path. I have rolled several tubes too. I am pretty sure Steve designed this unit to add ďloveĒ and make nasty SS equipment in most DVD players sound better. It probably does that. It almost sounds like it is rolling the high end of the spectrum off too much. I need more time with it; I have only had a few hours off and on to play with it. However I am pretty sure that I have had enough time to know I wonít be using it with my 2 channel listening. I donít think it is a match for the Torii with a very high end source. Maybe the Torii is just too good! I am very disappointed in the Ultra but I donít want that to deter someone from trying one. It maybe my setup or any other number of things and I have not had it long enough to really say that. It is built very well, as well as the Torii if not better. †I will report back after I have had more time with it and tried it with 5.1 audio.

ďBut the truth of the matter is that the Torii does not NEED a preamp. Its own built in section is excellent,Ē I agree. I will put the Torii up against anything 5 times its price. The right source mated with a seasoned Torii is nothing short of magic.
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« Last Edit: 06/30/12 at 22:30:34 by RoyMercer »  

Velodyne SMS-1, DSPeaker Anti-mode 2.0, Decware Torii MK3, Dynaco MK3 Mono, Outlaw 7500, Modwright Oppo 95 & 105, Decware HDT's, Klipsch RC64 II, RS62 II's, QSC RMX 4050, 2 Danley Sound Labs DTS-10ís, P5 power plant, Powervar ABC3030, ABCE1440 & 30+GIK traps.
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Lon
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #5 - 06/30/12 at 22:38:37
 
I will suggest Roy, if I may, that the Ultra may need several hundreds of hours to really bloom. That's been the case with the CSP2 that I have had (and with another preamp I've used lately with a large power supply). It sounds as if all that bypassing its use for two channel now costs is another pair of interconnects, so I'd say revisit the use of the preamp for two channel after quite a number of hours have gone by; that may bring a difference if the Ultra is similar in that way with the CSP2.

But it sure is wonderful that the Torii Mk III, which really is a benchmark product I think, does so very well without a preamp. I can't imagine my system without the Torii now. It's very handy that it has two inputs, which should allow you for example one for the Oppo in two channel, and the other for the Ultra. . . . I believe the Oppo has both dedicated stereo and multi-channel outputs, correct?
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« Last Edit: 06/30/12 at 22:55:27 by Lon »  

Decware:ERR,HR-1,ZP3,CSP2+,Torii Mk III,PS Audio PWT+DS,PowerBases,PPP,AC-12 pcs, Denon DVD-A1UDCI, Rega RP3 +TTPSU,white belt+Exact2, VooDoo Cable:Stradivarius, Ultra Linear+Evo ICs, Iso-Pods,Mapleshade:Double Heiix Plus,Samsonv2+v3 +4" platforms,Herbie's Iso-Cup
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Pale Rider
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #6 - 01/29/13 at 13:39:05
 
Lon said:

Quote:
But it sure is wonderful that the Torii Mk III, which really is a benchmark product I think, does so very well without a preamp. I can't imagine my system without the Torii now. It's very handy that it has two inputs, which should allow you for example one for the Oppo in two channel, and the other for the Ultra. . . . I believe the Oppo has both dedicated stereo and multi-channel outputs, correct?


I also have my BDP-95 (unmodified) hooked up to my Ultra for 5.1, and stereo, but recently began using the second input on the Torii for my PWD input. And I think it sounds better for it as well; I am a bit of a detail nut, so as much as I love the Ultra on 5.1, it subtracts from the excellent stereo of the PWD. I think the speculation here may be correct, that the Ultra is designed to improve otherwise harsh and 2-dimensional solid state. I think the unmodified Oppo sounds excellent through the Ultra, but I have not run the Oppo stereo out directly into the Torii yet, and will try that as soon as she returns from her trip to the shop. I would say my Ultra did not blossom for at least 500 hours. Moreover, though I have not heard a Modwright Oppo, I am not surprised it might indeed sound quite good without the Ultra, possibly better, as it is already very good in its in modified state.
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Decware: Ultra | Torii MKIII [2] | SE84ZS | Taboo MkIII Sources: Synology 1812+ | Baetis Revolution | PWD DAC MKII | Lumin Network Player | Mytek 192 | Oppo 105 DSP: DEQX Mate | Emotiva Outputs: ERR [6] + Servo Subs | LCD-2 & other cans
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Pale Rider
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #7 - 01/29/13 at 13:51:02
 
Roy, I am curious about which mods you chose for your player. I have been considering Oppo mods for two years. I like the player very much, but both the Modwright tube and multichannel solid state mods make sense to me. I have written them, to inquire about this, but was curious about your experience. Thanks!
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Decware: Ultra | Torii MKIII [2] | SE84ZS | Taboo MkIII Sources: Synology 1812+ | Baetis Revolution | PWD DAC MKII | Lumin Network Player | Mytek 192 | Oppo 105 DSP: DEQX Mate | Emotiva Outputs: ERR [6] + Servo Subs | LCD-2 & other cans
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JD
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #8 - 01/29/13 at 14:52:17
 
I was running my unmodded oppo 95 directly into my Torii and it was benign.  I recently added the CSP2+ to "ride the gain" and also increase my amount of inputs.  The CSP2+ has taken a looong time to break in and at first thought it might have been an expensive mistake. It never hurt the sound just seemed to work as a line level pass through.  Now fully broken in it will never leave my system. THere is so much fine tuning and tailoring that the CSP2+ allows you to investigate and master...Would the mod's be better than adding a Zstage? Curious to hear how the mod's helped the oppo.  Love the Oppo!
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Pale Rider
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #9 - 01/29/13 at 22:13:46
 
JD shared: Quote:
I was running my unmodded oppo 95 directly into my Torii and it was benign. †I recently added the CSP2+ to "ride the gain" and also increase my amount of inputs. †The CSP2+ has taken a looong time to break in and at first thought it might have been an expensive mistake. It never hurt the sound just seemed to work as a line level pass through. †Now fully broken in it will never leave my system. THere is so much fine tuning and tailoring that the CSP2+ allows you to investigate and master...Would the mod's be better than adding a Zstage? Curious to hear how the mod's helped the oppo. †Love the Oppo!

My experience with the Ultra is more like yours with the CSP2+ JD; I love "riding the gain." But Roy has the benefit of the Modwright tube mods, and so the multiple tube stages might in fact be adding more veil than clarity. I have a spare ZSTAGE that I have been meaning to gift to one of our members, but it would be interesting to hear how it sounds between the Oppo and the Torii. I also want to try it out between my PWD and Torii, but the current PWD/Torii configuration is very good indeed.

I am very interested in the Modwright mods for my Oppo [the most compelling ones I have seen thus far]. Interestingly, I have learned from MWI that their tube mods can be combined with the multichannel solid-state mod for just $500 extra. [I say "just" in some small wry jest.]
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Decware: Ultra | Torii MKIII [2] | SE84ZS | Taboo MkIII Sources: Synology 1812+ | Baetis Revolution | PWD DAC MKII | Lumin Network Player | Mytek 192 | Oppo 105 DSP: DEQX Mate | Emotiva Outputs: ERR [6] + Servo Subs | LCD-2 & other cans
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RoyMercer
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #10 - 01/30/13 at 01:08:04
 
I had a bybee rail installed on each DAC, all SS channels modified and the tube mod. I absolutely love it. I did not like the player much stock for two channel listening. †I also have a PS Audio PerfectWave Dac II w/bridge. I really like the PS DAC but I always find myself playing the Modwright. †Tubes make a huge difference in the Oppo. The Raytheon CK5694 (requires an adaptor) is the most dynamic, transparent, detailed and non-fatiguing tube I found. They are hard to find NOS and non-microphonic but they make my Tung-Sol RBPís sound inferior. I would place the Modwright another level up from the PerfectWave Dac II, especially with the right tubes. I find that the taller early 1950ís NOS 3 hole Sylvania 6SN7ís are wonderful sounding tubes too. †The short chrome tops Sylvanias are better than any current production except maybe the Sophia Electrics but much more magic can be heard with others. They are different and I would say it comes down to preference but in my opinion the Triode output on the ModWright Oppo BDP-95 is well worth the cost. Dealing with Modwright is as good of an experience as dealing with the Decware folks. †

As far as the SS mod goes, it made a big difference for Blue ray movies but the SS mod alone does not place the Oppo in the same league PS DAC II. It takes off some of the digital / SS edge for a smoother sound. †If ones budget does not permit the tube mod, it defiantly makes a better sounding unit.

Since the BDP-105 is out, Dan has modified the power supply with tube voltage regulation. It is my understanding that it further improves the sound of the mod and the new power supply works with the BDP-95. †If your room is properly treated and you are using a Decware amp, I would absolutely highly recommend the Modwright Oppo tube mod.
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Velodyne SMS-1, DSPeaker Anti-mode 2.0, Decware Torii MK3, Dynaco MK3 Mono, Outlaw 7500, Modwright Oppo 95 & 105, Decware HDT's, Klipsch RC64 II, RS62 II's, QSC RMX 4050, 2 Danley Sound Labs DTS-10ís, P5 power plant, Powervar ABC3030, ABCE1440 & 30+GIK traps.
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Pale Rider
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #11 - 01/30/13 at 02:01:56
 
Great info Roy, thanks much. I did not see the Bybee Rail at the MWI website, but inasmuch as that was one mod in which I was interested, I will inquire again.

One other question: what type of adapter does the Raytheon require?
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« Last Edit: 01/30/13 at 02:31:24 by Pale Rider »  

Decware: Ultra | Torii MKIII [2] | SE84ZS | Taboo MkIII Sources: Synology 1812+ | Baetis Revolution | PWD DAC MKII | Lumin Network Player | Mytek 192 | Oppo 105 DSP: DEQX Mate | Emotiva Outputs: ERR [6] + Servo Subs | LCD-2 & other cans
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RoyMercer
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #12 - 01/30/13 at 03:45:59
 
You bet. Let me know there is anything else I can tell you about it. This is an expensive hobby and I think hearing from other users is important. I don't think Modwright ever advertised the bybee rails. If I remember correctly, they were installed at $225 each. If you go with the tube mod I would only do the multi/ch SS mod or not do any SS mod at all.

6SN7 to 5694 adapters are not easy to make. Unbelievably, I had someone from China off Ebay make me a pair with gold pins for $60 or $70 and they work great. They look better than the several pairs I made and sound just as good. Send me a PM and I will get you the pin outs and a link to the EBay place I used.

Is your PSA DAC an MKII? †
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« Last Edit: 01/30/13 at 15:16:26 by RoyMercer »  

Velodyne SMS-1, DSPeaker Anti-mode 2.0, Decware Torii MK3, Dynaco MK3 Mono, Outlaw 7500, Modwright Oppo 95 & 105, Decware HDT's, Klipsch RC64 II, RS62 II's, QSC RMX 4050, 2 Danley Sound Labs DTS-10ís, P5 power plant, Powervar ABC3030, ABCE1440 & 30+GIK traps.
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Pale Rider
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Re: How does the Zen Ultra sound to you?
Reply #13 - 01/30/13 at 13:50:02
 
Roy, appreciate the info. Yes, my PWD is an MKII. Will send you a PM.
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Decware: Ultra | Torii MKIII [2] | SE84ZS | Taboo MkIII Sources: Synology 1812+ | Baetis Revolution | PWD DAC MKII | Lumin Network Player | Mytek 192 | Oppo 105 DSP: DEQX Mate | Emotiva Outputs: ERR [6] + Servo Subs | LCD-2 & other cans
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