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Getting current Super Zen to open up (Read 1458 times)
KentOnDrums
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Getting current Super Zen to open up
04/03/14 at 02:24:53
 
Hi all, I have maybe 100 hours on my current model Super Zen with stock tubes. Certainly the tone is nice, but the amp lacks in terms of subtle detail. I crave to hear more detail as felt pads lift from piano wires, or as a drummer "stirs the soup" with his brushes. I would also not mind hearing a bit more air between instruments and a deeper soundstage.

Question: What should I expect?

Will some of what I crave come with more hours? Would a change of tubes make a meaningful difference? If so, which tubes should I put on my wish list? Or is this just a matter of the Super Zen is a great sounding amp for the price, the sound is pretty darn good considering the price point, and my expectations are not realistic?

Thanks for any advise you may have.
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beowulf
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #1 - 04/03/14 at 03:54:59
 
I don't have a Super Zen, but there are a lot of guys here who can guide you for tube rolling. †You can expect things to open up with more hours of usage (500+ seems to be a good estimate). †

From what I hear ~ the Super Zen is all about tonality and imaging with a good hit of bass, so give it some hours (500+) for burn in, however I would look into your source as a possible culprit if you aren't experiencing the micro details that you're looking for.

For example, DACs come in a few flavors ... warm and micro detailed are what comes to mind right now. †I have a Rega DAC, it falls into the warm cuddly side of things, as opposed to some of the newer DACs that focus on micro details.  The hard part is trying to find a nice balance of both.
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« Last Edit: 04/03/14 at 03:57:54 by beowulf »  
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busterfree
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #2 - 04/03/14 at 04:16:06
 
Tell us about your system and room
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KentOnDrums
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #3 - 04/03/14 at 09:42:38
 
Nearfield listening in a small room. 9 foot ceiling. Heavy plush carpet / pad over wood subfloor.

Omega Super 6 Monitors. They are fast and very good at imaging.

Monitors on Skyland sand-filled bases, pulled out from all walls.

Omega DeepHemp sub on spiked Maple base.

Red Wine Audio Isabellina DAC, via MacBook.

GIK Tri-corners in front. Custom bases so tri-corners cover all 9'. GIK 242 first reflection + 4 GIK Monster bass traps (3 behind and one in front of listening position). Back corners of the room are open, essentially removing corner reflections.

Listening chair nowhere near a wall, leaving listening area pretty good a minimizing reflective sound.

Iíve owned the system for several years, so I know what itís capable of. The only thing that Iíve changed over the years has been the DAC, and now the Zen. Iíve experimented with several DACs including a Wavelength Cosecant. But I prefer the sound of NOS, so the Red Wine Audio is my preference for the money.
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seikosha
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #4 - 04/03/14 at 14:27:05
 
Using a 6DJ8 in place of the 6N1P will supposedly give you more detail.  I'm surprised that you aren't getting enough as it is.  I've compared my Zen to at least a half a dozen other amps, tube and SS and I don't find it lacking in detail at all.  What amp have you compared it to that was more detailed?

Not sure how your subwoofer is set up, but if it has a crossover in it and you are running your signal through the sub and then the speakers, you'll obviously be losing something by doing that.

Although I'm sure you have, don't forget to play with the bias switch. In my system, it has a huge impact...I actually use it in the more laid back position.
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KentOnDrums
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #5 - 04/03/14 at 16:54:47
 
Q: What amp have you compared it to that was more detailed?

A: Last round was a Red Wine Audio Signature 15 with Signature 16 internal upgrades. The detail I refer to Ė maybe better thought of as resolution Ė would be fairly comparable between the Super Zen and Sig 16 equipped with stock JJ tube. But I ran mine with mid-60s Amperex 7308, and the NOS tube was a major upgrade.

Q: Not sure how your subwoofer is set up, but if it has a crossover in it and you are running your signal through the sub and then the speakers, you'll obviously be losing something by doing that.

A: Both mains and sub run in parallel via speaker output jacks, so mains and the Zen donít know the sub exists.

Obviously Omegaís are single drivers, so the only crossover is a low-pass internal to the sub.

This config is recommended by Louis from Omega for this setup. Iíve been running it this way for a number of years, going back to Omega Compact Hemps and a Vandersteen 2W sub.

Q: Although I'm sure you have, don't forget to play with the bias switch. In my system, it has a huge impact...I actually use it in the more laid back position.

A: Yes, thank you. It does make a difference. I would need to turn the system on to make sure where it is set, but I think mine to is set to more laid back.

The first time I was able to achieve the level of resolution I describe was with a Wadia CDP, FirstWatt F1, Omega Compact Hemps / Vandersteen sub. But the sound could be brash on many recordings.

The benefit in moving to Super 6s and the newer gear is a much warmer and more organic sound signature, without giving up resolution.

Again, if more burn in or tube upgrades will help the amp to dig deeper into recordings, that would be great.

Donít get me wrong, amp sounds extremely good for less than $1,000. But I was hoping that Zenís minimalist design matched with a system that in theory should be an ideal partner, the Decware may be able to destroy traditional price / value barriers.

Certainly for tone it does. And the overall sound is very good. But like I said earlier, itís still 10 cents short of a dollar in terms of resolution / imaging / size of soundstage.
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JD
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #6 - 04/03/14 at 17:26:41
 
Not sure what tube assortment you are using currently but if possible I'd throw a NOS Amperex 7308 in like you had previously.  Those are my fav input tubes on my Torii III.  Details, air between and soundstage are unmatched imo.

JD
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JD
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #7 - 04/03/14 at 17:28:05
 
Also forgot to add that the Decware amps I've had seem to blossom after a couple hundred hrs.

JD
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DBC
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #8 - 04/03/14 at 18:02:52
 
Quote:
Q: Although I'm sure you have, don't forget to play with the bias switch. In my system, it has a huge impact...I actually use it in the more laid back position.

A: Yes, thank you. It does make a difference. I would need to turn the system on to make sure where it is set, but I think mine to is set to more laid back.


KentOnDrums:

I had the Zen Select for 10 years and now the Super Zen for over 2 years. In my system setting the "Input Bias Switch" to the "Laid Back" position (switch toggled towards the front on my amp) is way too laid back for me. A noticeable reduction in overall volume output and loss of detail in my system. I'm using Klipsch RF-7 speakers which are not considered laid back by any means.

I run the stock tubes and have never lacked openness and/or detail as you describe. When I upgraded to the Super Zen I was surprised how much more detail and extension it had compared to my Zen Select. This also made it more sensitive to the interconnects being used. For instance I have a pair of the original Decware DSR interconnects and these just cast a thin veil that diminished detail and extension. So you might want to experiment with different interconnects.

Not likely but once I had a rectifier going weak and it really attenuated the highs. You might try swapping the rectifier and input tubes just to be sure they are functioning as designed. I usually keep a spare set of tubes on hand for this purpose. If there is no change then just put the originals back in.

I run a sub via speaker level connections as you describe so this should not be a problem. You may however try disconnecting the sub to check that the sub is not placing an undue load on the amp output for some reason. Probably not a bad idea to disconnect the sub temporarily anyway so that you are only hearing your source, interconnects, amp & speakers while experimenting.
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KentOnDrums
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #9 - 04/03/14 at 21:12:19
 
Thanks JD and DBC. I'll spend more time with the bias switch and take better note of which position I prefer.

Good idea on removing the sub DBC. In theory it should not matter, but a test is always worth while.

JD, I was stupid enough to sell my 7308s. At the time I was trying to raise cash and had planned to sell off the entire system. Then on a whim I picked up the Super Zen - based on price and reviews.

I'm glad that I still have the system. But would love to find the tweak or two needed to get back to where I was before starting to downgrade.

Thanks again for the input.
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busterfree
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #10 - 04/04/14 at 00:50:28
 
I think the amp will keep getting better as you put on more hours on it.

Using stock power cord? Using any power filtering devices?

You can try a different input or rectifier tube, but this will turn back the clock a little as you wait for the new tube to burn in.
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Rivieraranch
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #11 - 04/04/14 at 02:18:19
 
I read that this current design pushes the limits of the 6DJ8/7308 family, so it might not be optimal. The unit is designed for the 6N1P-EV input and 6P15P-EV power tubes. The source and cabling might be affecting detail. My rig sounds fine with plenty of detail. I've had mine for a year and a half running from 2-8 hours per day 5 days a week 48 weeks per year.
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seikosha
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #12 - 04/04/14 at 14:36:58
 
The only other thought I have (and I really don't think this is applicable to you since your speakers should easily be efficient enough) is that I have noticed that as you pair the SE84 with less efficient speakers, the level of detail definitely diminishes.

Anyway, let us know how it turns out.  Hopefully by experimenting a bit, you can find the detail that you are looking for.
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Lord Soth
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #13 - 04/04/14 at 19:57:28
 
Based on my experience with other Decware amps
(e.g. CSP2+ , CSP3 and Torii MK4), the tubes make a big difference. This is because Decware amps are designed to behave like a straight wire with gain.
A minimalist design helps preserve sonic transparency.

Firstly, I suggest that you ditch the stock rectifier and replace it with a NOS Philips 5R4GYS for only US$50 from Upscale Audio.
You will definitely experience an improvement.

Then if your budget permits, get the best NOS tubes for the other tubes (especially the input tubes) from Brent Jesse at  http://www.audiotubes.com/
They have a very good write-up of the different tube types.

Alternatively, Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio can provide free advice on getting the best cost-effective NOS tubes based on your budget.
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Lon
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Re: Getting current Super Zen to open up
Reply #14 - 04/04/14 at 20:01:25
 
I strongly agree with this, I just experienced again this morning what a difference a tube makes as I put an Arcturus 5Y3GT that was burning in in another preamp into my main CSP2+--no contest, the favorite old RCA 5Y3GT that had resided in there for a few years is indeed a superior tube in all important ways.

After burn-in I agree that substituting the rectifier will make a significant difference.
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