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ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3? (Read 515 times)
Steve Deckert
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ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
08/30/14 at 01:18:40
 
Quote:
Steve -- So I have been looking at various things you have written about improving CD, DVD, computer audio performance.
There is the CD player, the ZBOX, the ZSTAGE, and the CSP3. The ZBOX is the same as the CD player without the player.
The advantage is that it is separable from whatever CD player and can be used with a DVD player too. Nice.

But the ZSTAGE is supposed to give a BIG improvement by giving a lot of gain.
Boy it sure looks a lot like a ZBOX.

Then in the forum you say that you have had great luck pairing a good quality solid state dac without a tube stage
to your CSP3 preamp.


I assume from what you have said that putting a ZBOX or ZSTAGE in front of a CSP3 would offer little improvement.
Also the CSP3 would offer greater benefits than either the ZBOX or ZSTAGE or both together. Is this correct?
How does one chose between the ZBOX or ZSTAGE?

I'll stop now. I am confused.



Hi Kevin,

The CSP3 would offer greater benefits than either or both, yes.

The difference between the ZBOX and ZSTAGE is of course the gain.  The ZBOX is a buffer stage which means the 2 volts going into it from your CD player is reduced to about 1.8 volts and that's when the volume control on the ZBOX is all the way up - the normal setting.  This is ideal for the average stereo system, be it tube or solid state.  Either share two commonalities, high power and high input sensitivity.  The amplifier's typically would come to full power with as little as 1/2 to 1 volt.  The amplifier's  typically would not have a gain control on them.  A system like this often errors on the aggressive side of things and doesn't sound super great at low volumes.  A ZBOX improves low and high volume listening by adding density to the sound in a smooth and regulated way.

The ZSTAGE with the same 2 volts going into it can be adjusted to any output level up to around 5 volts or so.  This is handy with systems that require higher input voltages, like our Zen amps that like a full 2 volts to come to full power. It gives these types of system, or anything for that matter, more dynamics if it's turned up past 2 volts of output.

So in short, ZBOX to tame aggressive systems, ZSTAGE to add dynamics to systems that are not aggressive.

Of course the CSP3 does both and with more of that "tube love" that makes digital sound good.  

Steve
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Guy13
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #1 - 08/31/14 at 04:53:53
 
Hi Steve.
Can the ZSTAGE replace a pre-amplifier unit on my SE84C+ to improve the sound/dynamic?
My source is a Rega Apollo CD player with probably around 2V output.
Later I might add to my system a Schiit Bifrost DAC.
Thanks.

Guy 13
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Lon
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #2 - 08/31/14 at 14:06:12
 
I'm not Steve, but I think he'd agree the answer is "Hell YEAH!"
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Guy13
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #3 - 08/31/14 at 14:26:27
 
Lon wrote on 08/31/14 at 14:06:12:
I'm not Steve, but I think he'd agree the answer is "Hell YEAH!"


Of course you are not Steve,
because your name is Lon,
unless Steve has changed his name to Lon. Grin
Thanks for the answer, however,
how about if I wait a little more for Steve's answer,
he might say something you did not say.
Do you have experience with the ZSTAGE unit?

Guy 13
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« Last Edit: 08/31/14 at 14:27:38 by Guy13 »  
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Lon
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #4 - 08/31/14 at 14:30:48
 
Yes, I have one and have used it with a Decware C amp (modded by Eddie Vaughn). Works very well with this two watt amp, I'm sure it will work very well with all the others.
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Guy13
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #5 - 08/31/14 at 14:51:11
 
Lon wrote on 08/31/14 at 14:30:48:
Yes, I have one and have used it with a Decware C amp (modded by Eddie Vaughn). Works very well with this two watt amp, I'm sure it will work very well with all the others.


Hi Lon.
Thanks for your answer.
I see that you have a Rega P3, I have the same.
I see that you have an Exact 2, I have the Exact 2
Do you have the RB301 arm ?
Very soon I will be replacing the Rega RB301 arm by a PDR linear arm that I got for free from a generous Canadian AudioCircle member,
I will keep the Rega P3 (220V.) and the Exact.
I also se that you have the Rega white belt, I did not buy that up-grade because I thought that 60 USD was too much for an up-grade that might not make a big sound improvement, in addition, my budget is so limited that I have to replace my phono stage by a Pro-Ject Phono Box mm instead of a good Decware phono unit.
Thanks for sharing.

Guy 13

By the way, at one time, I wanted to by Eddie Vaughn amplifier, but I thought that the Decware SE84C+ was more in my price range for the same power output, minds you, I did prefer the look of Eddie's unit.
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« Last Edit: 08/31/14 at 14:53:00 by Guy13 »  
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Lon
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #6 - 08/31/14 at 19:39:25
 
Guy, I thought the white belt was a worthy upgrade, I bought the RP3 with one on it and then compared it to the unit with the stock belt instead (I have two RP3 decks). It's clearly an improvement in pitch control which aids the frequency balance as well.

I have the stock arms on my two RP3 decks, I'm happy with that.

I bought the C amp modded by Eddie Vaughn used off this board and am not sure how it differs from the stock unit but it sure does sound good, and the ZStage helps it.
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Rivieraranch
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #7 - 09/01/14 at 19:00:48
 
I have a Superzen and Zstage. I have commented at length on this forum about the happy combination. The Zstage makes the sound versatile as to what you can achieve.
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Guy13
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #8 - 09/05/14 at 03:27:19
 
Hi all.
What is/are the advantage(s) of using a ZSTAGE with my SE84C+ when my Rega Apollo and my Pro-Ject Phono Box mm sends 2Volts to the SE84C+ amplifier?

Guy 13
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will
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #9 - 09/05/14 at 17:41:31
 
Guy,

The stock Zstage comes with jacks for only one source whereas the CSP3 accommodates two sources.

The Zstage is a very simple circuit and quite transparent, especially with Jupiter caps. It gives you several main areas to play with and quite a lot of flexibility within these.

It runs everything through a 12AU7 or 12AT7 tube giving you the tube beauty of refined tone and harmonics.

These tube families have different signatures, the AT pushing things more. Both can sound really good in my Zstage, but I usually use 12AU7s lately.

Then within each family, each tube make and vintage usually has notable variations of general tone, range, and dynamics. So with several different tubes, you can tune your whole sound to taste, or just change things up when you feel like it.

The stage needs it own power cord and ICs, and you can tune to taste with these.

And finally, once everything is tuned to your liking, you have gain riding. With the Zstage 0-5 volts range, you can push more or less of its tube sound into your system. At the same time, retaining a given volume, you can ride the gains of the amp with the Stage gain. By increasing the Zstage and lowering the amp, the same volume will have more of the qualities you tuned into the Zstage, but as important, by pushing the tube and circuit harder, you add weight, body and dynamics as you increase the gain on the Zstage.

Or by increasing the amp gain while reducing the Zstage gain, you increase the balance of the amp signature while generally leaning the sound.

This can be very useful for tuning various recordings more to taste...too thick, or too lean, both can be touched up some with gain riding.
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« Last Edit: 09/05/14 at 17:49:35 by will »  

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Lin
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #10 - 09/06/14 at 01:09:23
 
Not all CDs are recorded at a level that will allow your amp to reach full output with a standard 2v out player.
IME SE84s always sound better with a quality gain stage (preamp) in front of it.
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« Last Edit: 09/06/14 at 01:09:48 by Lin »  
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Guy13
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Re: ZBOX or ZSTAGE or CSP3?
Reply #11 - 09/06/14 at 13:15:37
 

Lin wrote on 09/06/14 at 01:09:23:
Not all CDs are recorded at a level that will allow your amp to reach full output with a standard 2v out player.
IME SE84s always sound better with a quality gain stage (preamp) in front of it.


Hi Lin.
That's exactly the answer/recommendation I was looking for.
When I play a CD that is recorded below the average level,
I have to crank up to near maximum the volume control
and of course I loose dynamics and introduce some distortion.
When the CD is recorded at a good level then
I enjoy a lot my SE84C+.
Thanks.

Guy 13
ZSTAGE is on my wish list.
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