Steve Deckert / DECWARE
There's tons of
little portable headphone
amps available today and most for a fraction of the Zen
Head's price. I make no apologies. I wanted a true audiophile
headphone amp that would do two things;
A) Something I could
plug a real set of
phones into and get small listening devices like IPOD's and ZUNE's to
sound good over long periods of time.
B) Be good enough with my hi-end source to sound hi-end.
I'm a tube guy, spoiled by the openness, ease
and dynamics of our Zen Triode SET amplifiers. I wanted a headphone amp
that got real close to this sound so I started with Burr Brown Op amps
known for these attributes. From there I applied the same design
principles and pain staking voicing that I do on everything we make.
The end result more than earns it's reference to Zen in the
name. It's a headphone amp done right and for people who think
they don't care for headphones, well the vast majority of headphone
amps be it portable or not, portray music in an unnatural way sounding
either artificially wide or inside your head, either of which is
fatiguing. This one does it right, and not by any magic, but largely
from the absence of all the extraneous crap that is left out of it.
If you're into bells
and whistles, want to use it as a flashlight or alarm clock, or just
want something cheap, look elsewhere. The Zen Head has a
perfect center of gravity both in your hand and inside your
head. It was designed for serious audiophiles or anyone who wants
to reach for a higher fidelity in this format.
- Steve Deckert / DECWARE High Fidelity
The Zen Head was voiced to be musical and
non-fatiguing with an openness typically only found in the sound stage
between your speakers or of course a live performance.
You can listen to them literally all day with zero fatigue.
Layers of detail are here, as well as some impressive dynamics
and range, but nothing is over done or artificially featured that
shouldn't be. Voiced with Burr Brown's best Op Amps and internal
parts it tries rather successfully to sound like tubes - dynamic and
1 inch x 3
inches x 5 inches.
The Zen Head is 9 Volt DC battery operated with around 50
hours play time
from a single battery. It drives headphones between 10 ohms and
ohms with authority. It aflso drives line level applications up
100K ohms making it very at home as a line level preamp. Internal
set up switches have also been provided for Hi-Z and Lo-Z output, Hi
and Lo gain, Hi and Lo dynamics, and Cross-feed On or Off.
The case and face plate are machined aluminum and all
internal parts are premium grade making this bomb proof little buddy
likely to outlast you! it comes with a lifetime warranty.
It has a built in range from 10 to 600 ohms so
it will drive most headphones without issue and you don't have
to worry about what impedance they are or what impedance to set the
headphone amp to for best results.
Cross-feed is well thought out and works so
transparently to preserve imaging and keep the sound out of the center
of your head or from getting too wide that it needs no adjustment,
ever. So once again you don't have to worry about what
crossfeed setting to use from recording to recording and source to
source. Cross-feed is also defeatable so if you don't like
crossfeed, or use a portable source that has crossfeed options in the
digital domain (like the iPod Touch for example), you can use that
BATTERY POWER SUPPLY
It uses a single 9 volt battery that can be
removed and installed without taking the unit apart and without tools!
Battery life is 50 plus hours and unpolluted with a
charging circuit allowing you to use often better sounding high
current alkaline batteries. There are also no voltage level
circuits to pollute the sound, just a simple green LED that glows when
the unit is on. A dim LED or premature distortion at high volume
means it's time to change the battery.
The on/off switch is a mil spec toggle clearly
marked ON / OFF. (In fact the switch I use costs more than a
cheap battery powered headphone amps total sum of internal parts!
When you get one of these in your hands -
before you even listen to it, the quality is immediately apparent.
The entire chassis is machined aluminum, even
the thick aluminum faceplate is powder coated and engraved. It
has a perfect center of gravity with no rattles. Even the battery
compartment was designed with viceoelastaic lining to snuggly hold the
battery in place. Internally only the best precision resistors are used
on a top grade circuit board. Polypropylene film caps are used and
selected OPA2132 Burr Brown amps.
The volume control is a high quality feature
in this unit with a smooth analog / infinite adjustment like any fine
piece of audiophile equipment. Easy and intuitive.
Besides the fact that overbuilding and
resonance control in a personal headphone amp help it sound good,
it also makes it pretty bullet proof. Nothing gets hot, nothing
is going to burn out, it has perfect RF shielding and yes you can run
over it with the car and expect zero damage. In other words; it's
designed to last a lifetime, and it will. To prove it we offer a
lifetime warranty parts and labor to the original owner and a 30 day
money back trial!
- High quality 3.5mm stereo input &
- DPDT Gold heavy duty power switch to
perfect connection to the 9 VDC
- Expensive high quality miniature
for setup instead of inferior sounding dip switches.
- Carefully selected precision
each part of the circuit demonstrate that voicing was taken seriously.
- High grade electrolytic's (light
rated voltages well over twice what was needed.
- Audiophile grade polypropylene film
used for both coupling caps in the signal path and power supply bypass
- Polyester Film caps with rated
100 times greater than required live in the carefully executed
- Select grade Burr Brown OPA2132 Op
- High quality stereo carbon volume pot
excellent feel. Adjustable range can be achieved with the input
- Setup switches (miniature red
Cross-feed, Gain, and input impedance allowing you to switch on the fly
while you listen for the best combination. Lame portable sources
like the iPod Touch will require the lower 10K input impedance to have
any real gain and preserve dynamics, while sources with a bit more
drive will prefer the higher input impedance of 32K to keep things from
getting too aggressive and or too loud.
- Double sided fully shielded circuit
faceplate attached is easily removed from the chassis by removing the
two front screws and sliding the unit out.
- Hand stuffed and hand Silver soldered
- Alkaline Battery life is 50 hours.
Compatible with all 9 volt battery types.
- No surface mount components
resistors and board traces are over-sized to prevent the dreaded dry
solid state signature so commonly seen in these things.
- No sockets used on Op amps - no
degrade the sound over time and because no other Op amps will work as
well in this circuit.
BOTH the Apple iPod Touch and the Microsoft
ZUNE piggyback nicely on a Zen Head.
Comes with a leather pouch and a 3.5mm stereo
patch cord 12 inches in length for piggyback applications.
amplifier is hand built in the USA by
DECWARE / High Fidelity Engineering C0. It comes with a lifetime
warranty to the original owner. If you purchase one second hand and
ever have questions or technical problems we WILL be happy to check it
out for you and service it if needed for a very reasonable rate.
have a support forum
many people who own this amplifier who's experiences you may benefit
DECWARE Zen Head has been reviewed in TONEAudio