Zen SE84C Review


Reviewed by: Akshobhyavajra,  an Audio Enthusiast from Boca Taton

Feb  2002


Product Model Year:
2001

Summary:
This review refers to the 2002 model SE84C ZEN. This is a Pure Class A single ended triode stereo amplifier which is wired point to point in a symetrical layout and has only 11 solder points between the input and output jacks. The ZEN handles low impedance loads down to 1 ohm with speakers that have a 90 db or above efficency rating. This hand-built amp uses a special output tube called the SV83 (can be substituted w/o mods with EL84/6BQ5 - which makes it flexible) and uses the 6N1P or 6DJ8/6922 input tube as well as a 5Y3GT rectifier tube. ZEN is self-biasing and actually has a dual bias switch to provide different sound signatures, depending on one's personal liking. The rear of the amp has gold & teflon input jacks and the top includes the 3 way top mounted binding posts for speaker cables. The power supply is oversized which makes for extremely tight bass with significant extension.
After some initial hours of play the amp opens up, creating a detailed and realistic sound stage. To my personal surprise the ZEN provided more detail than the Sunfire Amp I've used since 1996 (the Sunfire is a powerful and accurate amp which costs well over $2000). Ideally suited for classical jazz, blues and chamber music, the ZEN nonetheless performs well with rock, Indie and alternative music at above moderate levels. It is the most musical amp I have listened to in this rather moderate price range. Frankly, compared to the likes of the Jadis Defy 7 it is a far greater return for the money. Don't be fooled though - the ZEN is indeed capable of reference quality. A few tweeks, like a factory upgrade to Select will further enhance this little wonder. In thirty years of buying and tweeking audio components I have never come across a better value on a new product. If you like simplicity and the softness of tubes take a close look at this amp.

Equipment used:

Zen Model SE-84C Triode Amp
Reference Line Preeminence One Line Stage
AMC CD8b CD Player
Klipsch Reference RP3 Speakers
Vans Evers Model 80 Line Conditioner
Transparent MusicLink Plus Interconnects
MIT Terminator 3 Speaker Cable
Lovan Audio Stand

Reference CDs

Chesky's Audiophile Test Disc Vol 3
Staccato by Audio
Cowboy Junkies - Trinity Sessions
Leo Kottke - One Guitar No Vocals
Rusted Root - When I Woke
Shaham and Sollscher - Paganini For Two

Strengths:
Very cost-effective, self-biasing, incredible 3D soundstage, accurate and detailed, versitile, mono-bridge capability, no pre-amp needed, flexibility in tube replacement, lifetime warranty to original owner

Weaknesses:
Not very pretty, but who cares

Similar Products Used:
Jolida, Golden Tube, Jadis,

 

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