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ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component (Read 962 times)
Lon
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ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
08/24/17 at 14:04:45
 
Every day I learn to love the ZBIT a little more! I have had the ZBIT all this year and the last months of 2016.

I think this is a tremendous product, one of Steve's unique discoveries and implementations. I can see why he is incorporating the Jensen transformers with adjustable output on the digital products he is modifying and offering--they compliment and improve the sound of the digital source. I love my DirectStream and the ZBIT DOES make it better which took me a while to comprehend, wrap my head around. I had very little experience with balanced connections before this and once again Decware has led me to a new education in audio.

I do like my CSP2+ between the DirectStream and the Torii. . . a different window into the sound using single-ended output from the DAC and then amplifying it with the preamp, versus taking the larger gain from the DAC via the XLR output and attenuating it somewhat via the ZBIT. Both are great ways to enjoy the music. But with the preamp one can tube-roll and adjust gain to a maddening extent, and more fully alter the sound, not to mention have a power cable and interconnects in the mix. . . with the ZBIT there's the simplicity of the transformer and the attenuator (stepped in my case) and nothing else but the interconnects.

The varying voltage that the ZBIT allows to pass through to the amplifier allows the sound to take on a fullness that brings focus and depth to the soundstage and the imaging. It also seems to expand the frequency range with a delicate touch--highs and lows just gain a welcome presence.

And contrary to what some say (that cables don't matter as much with balanced operation) I find that the ZBIT really does show you what cabling you have. I've tried different cables: one built with Mogami wire and Neutrik connectors, the Take Five Audio "Deluxe" Neotech version, and the VooDoo Cable Evolution. Each gives a different presentation, with the VooDoo being my choice--it has a refinement of tonal quality and a "just right" presentation of detail and depth. Tomorrow I will have a top of the line VooDoo cable (Stradivarius Amati XLR) to pop in and I'm expecting an even more mind-melting sound from this cable. . . and next week I will have a fully balanced pathway with Amati cables from the DirectStream to a ZTPRE that will arrive to the ZBIT then single-ended VooDoo Cable Stradivarius Cremona to the Torii. Should be amazing sound!

Isolation matters to the ZBIT as well. In typical Lon fashion I've probably gone overkill int his regard. . . starting with a Samson rack that all my tube gear is on (a Version 2, all my other gear including TV and DVR, P10, DMP, DSD and CXU and soon to include a Magnum Dynalab MD-90T SE is on a Version 3), and then a PS Audio PowerBase that has my ZBIT on a myrtle wood stand I found on ebay that is perfectly sized, and on top of VooDoo Cable IsoPods. (My Taboo Mk IV shares the same PowerBase also sitting on IsoPods). I've had the ZBIT elsewhere in the system (sitting on the middle shelf of the Version 3 just on IsoPods, on Herbie's Audio Lab Iso-Cups, on myrtle wood blocks from Cardas, and on Aurios, and all four of these footers one after the other with the myrtle wood stand beneath them all) and tried all four of those footers under the ZBIT where it now stands, and each gives a different tonal picture and soundstage presentation from subtly different to one that my wife Lucy walks into the room and says "what did you do?") No one need be as futzy and experimental as I about this, but I will say the clarity of the sound from the ZBIT and the nature of its size, weight and chassis/box means that it will respond to its environment and placement.

Anyway, I just want to emphasize that this is a product that can make a system sing if you have a source with a balanced output. It will reward attention to placement and both balanced and unbalanced cabling, and with its adjustable output it's very easy to fine-tune the sound to a source (and in my case different inputs on the same DAC). I have tried to do without it and use my CSP2+ and I've been very happy doing so. . . but the minute I put the ZBIT back in for comparison it's unique character drew me in and compelled me to let it stay right there! BIG Kudos to Steve for seeing the magic in this XLR/single-eneded conversion and implementing it in the ZBIT and the digital products.
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« Last Edit: 08/24/17 at 14:10:50 by Lon »  

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Jeff of Arabica
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #1 - 08/24/17 at 18:04:22
 
Thank you Lon for that very detailed review.  I just got notified this morning that my ZBIT has shipped!!  Me and my DirectStream are very excited  :)

I was particularly interested in your impressions regarding XLR cabling and isolation for the ZBIT.   I have one cable I will start with but have my eye on another I will eventually get to compare.  Best one wins.  

I'm glad to hear about all your latest system additions and improvements.  Pretty soon you will be done, DONE!  ..............yeah, right   Grin

I'm beginning to realize there is no such thing, but that is what keeps us happy and entertained.  No need for any of it to end.  
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« Last Edit: 08/24/17 at 18:10:17 by Jeff of Arabica »  

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Lon
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #2 - 08/24/17 at 18:09:02
 
Ha! Yes, I'll be done, I swear it! Smiley You're in for a treat Jeff, and I'm eager to hear your impressions. Give the ZBIT a few days of play and you'll hear it open up. Trying cables with it (both XLR and single-ended) is recommended, and somewhat fun. Glad yours has shipped! You have some great listening ahead.
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stone_of_tone
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #3 - 08/24/17 at 19:20:15
 
I've been using a ZBIT since February/2015.....glad you guys have caught on........   Cool Cool Cool

.........but, to really hear what a ZBIT can do.....you would need Kimber KS1136, KS1030 and Kimber KS6063 to my modified Adagio's.   Cool
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« Last Edit: 08/24/17 at 19:26:34 by stone_of_tone »  

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Lon
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #4 - 08/24/17 at 19:51:25
 
To be specific: you are listening to Steve's implementation of the Jensen transformers in your ZDSD, not exactly a ZBIT, similar implementation.

As for the rest, I'm just fine with the signal path I have and don't want to change anything. Wink
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HR-1,ZP3,ZTPRE,Torii MkIII,ZBIT,ZROCK2,Taboo MkIV;PS Audio:Soloist SE,DMP+DSD,P10,PowerBases,AC-12 pcs,Mapleshade:Dbl Helix+,SamsonV2+V3;CambrAudi CXU;Rega RP3,TTPSU,Groovetracer upgrades,Exact2;VooDoo Cremona +Amati,Iso-Pods;MD90-T SE tuner,Oppo PM-1,Audeze LCD-2
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stone_of_tone
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #5 - 08/24/17 at 20:02:12
 
Ah no, just because you can attenuate the ZBIT that you run at almost full gain anyway......and if you have read and follow this Forum .....Steve's statements by comparison......you should know this Lon?

...............Steve can comment........... .

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« Last Edit: 08/24/17 at 20:08:25 by stone_of_tone »  

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Steve Deckert
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #6 - 08/25/17 at 01:29:52
 
I'm going to assume everyone has bad days when it's hard to know when to just let it go so I've rewound this thread a few hours in hopes that we can try again.

I've always been a big fan of variable output levels because I like to dial things in by sneaking up on the sound I'm after. My only regret with the ZDSD is that there wasn't room for a fully adjustable output level control. There is adjustable output from -9dB to -20dB which sort of saved the day, but it's not quite the same since you can't sneak up on it.

Thanks for the great review Lon.  It makes me realize that I've never had the urge to roll tubes in a ZBIT which is a good thing for obvious reasons Smiley

Steve
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« Last Edit: 08/25/17 at 01:43:14 by Steve Deckert »  
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Lon
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #7 - 08/25/17 at 02:35:04
 
Thanks for the rollback. You're welcome, this really was a sincere review, I think the ZBIT has been a catalyst for the best period of music listening I've had.

And I've ordered another, it's such a vital component for me. Smiley I've snuck a little second system into my life, and I know a ZBIT will be a benefit there.
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« Last Edit: 08/25/17 at 02:40:18 by Lon »  

HR-1,ZP3,ZTPRE,Torii MkIII,ZBIT,ZROCK2,Taboo MkIV;PS Audio:Soloist SE,DMP+DSD,P10,PowerBases,AC-12 pcs,Mapleshade:Dbl Helix+,SamsonV2+V3;CambrAudi CXU;Rega RP3,TTPSU,Groovetracer upgrades,Exact2;VooDoo Cremona +Amati,Iso-Pods;MD90-T SE tuner,Oppo PM-1,Audeze LCD-2
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Bottlehead
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #8 - 08/25/17 at 08:16:26
 
I have to tack myself onto Lon's review. I have a PS Audio Directstream dac that I connect by XLR to a ZBit and into my 10W 300B amp. This particular combination is wonderful, but could not exist w/o the ZBit. I have tried a number of other combinations, including my ZStage, (which I love for its purity), but the amp has only RCA inputs, and NEEDS the increased input voltage from the XLR outputs of the Directstream. So no ZBit, no magic. Good sound, no doubt, but no magic. Thanks, Steve - I think - because now you have me looking at the new ZDac2 with its built-in Jensen transformers. So I cuss you and salute you all in the same breath. Oh well, what the hell, it's only money. Or as a friend of mine, who has forgotten more about audio than I will ever know, says, "Music will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no music").
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Lon
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #9 - 08/25/17 at 11:34:35
 
Thanks for adding to the positive review Randy. The "magic," yes the "magic." Maybe the darned thing should be renamed "ZMAGIC"!
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stone_of_tone
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #10 - 08/25/17 at 14:27:08
 
Steve wrote:
"My only regret with the ZDSD is that there wasn't room for a fully adjustable output level control. There is adjustable output from -9dB to -20dB which sort of saved the day, but it's not quite the same since you can't sneak up on it."

Steve, could you put the output stage (I have) in a box for me, if my unit was not repairable?

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« Last Edit: 08/25/17 at 22:58:50 by stone_of_tone »  

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stone_of_tone
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #11 - 08/25/17 at 22:59:38
 
I guess I answered my own question by reading......"that there was not room for a fully adjustable output level control"  ....so, yeah, lets get this in an outboard box..... .

.......plus, unbalanced can be run to unbalanced. I will open her up tomorrow.

I would rather stick with this proven winner.  I will have it made.

Well, its been a pleasure gentlemen............. .  Stone does not do censorship.
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Tri-config/TipToes & Vibropods underneath Speakers
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Lon
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Posts: 13031
Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #12 - 08/26/17 at 21:10:55
 
Want to add that the transparency of these transformers and the ZBIT (I have stepped attenuators which I feel aids transparency) is such that I swapped cables from VooDoo Cable Evolution to Amati. . . and could clearly hear the differences between these two cables in the VooDoo Cable lineup via Audeze headphones and the Taboo Mk IV. The "blacker background" from the Amati and the smoother (in a good way) tonal balance hit me immediately.

The ZBIT does not occlude information and lets detail shine, in a natural way.
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Lon
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Re: ZBIT Review: wonderful Decware component
Reply #13 - 08/28/17 at 15:49:30
 
Wow. I've been running the new VooDoo Cable Stradivarius Amati XLR from the DirectStream DAC into the ZBIT for 68 hours now (had a mono SACD running in the DMP on repeat and from the ZBIT into the Taboo Mk IV powered on all weekend, except when I was listening to another disc or watching a show via headphones).

My instincts were right: climbing up the VooDoo Cable line was right for my system, and having Stradivarius from source to ZBIT to amp is an amazing pathway. Sweetest treble I've ever had, strong tight bass, open midrange, dynamics and a slightly laid back soundstage. Just what I wanted. The ZBIT lets me hear it all. Eager to see what the ZTPRE will bring in a few days, when I have it here and a second pair of the Amati XLRs.


This is a system I can (and most likely will) listen to for the rest of my days. . . with great satisfaction.
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« Last Edit: 08/28/17 at 16:13:08 by Lon »  

HR-1,ZP3,ZTPRE,Torii MkIII,ZBIT,ZROCK2,Taboo MkIV;PS Audio:Soloist SE,DMP+DSD,P10,PowerBases,AC-12 pcs,Mapleshade:Dbl Helix+,SamsonV2+V3;CambrAudi CXU;Rega RP3,TTPSU,Groovetracer upgrades,Exact2;VooDoo Cremona +Amati,Iso-Pods;MD90-T SE tuner,Oppo PM-1,Audeze LCD-2
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