EQUIPMENT FORUMS >> ZSTAGE >> ZStage with a Rachael

Message started by hdrider on 07/31/16 at 16:19:53

Title: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by hdrider on 07/31/16 at 16:19:53

I am plenty happy with the ZMC1>ZP3>Rachael end of our system but am considering using a ZStage on the CD/streaming end of things. Anyone using a ZStage into a Rachael? Pros / cons? I think at the $$$ end of a Zstage with better caps and stepped attenuator maybe I should just look at a CSP3? Thoughts?? Happy listening, Chris.

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by mark58 on 07/31/16 at 19:27:50

My two the CSP3 with Bees Wax caps upgrade and run both the ZP3 and CDs through it.  I own one and use it in my main system with a Torri MK IV, ZP3, CD and SACD players.  It works great and adds versatility.  Some come up for sale used on occasion if you are the patient type. I bought all my Decware Gear new except a set of Zen Signature (2.3 WPC)
Monoblocks that are no longer made.  Mark.

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by will on 07/31/16 at 21:21:58


I don't think the amp matters much in my experience, at least with Decware amps and Decware "pres." I have heard the Rachael and SE34 with each, as well as a Taboo and several Torii models. They of course work within the differences of the amp signatures and setups, but then their character is Decware also, and like the amps, individual but within the "family character." And all are user tunable in pretty big ways I think.

I had both the Zstage and CSP3 with "stock caps" that were later changed to Jupiters. I like both better with Jupiters, a little more so the Zstage, probably because I liked the CSP3 stock caps better than the Zstage's. Not sure what is in the Zstage now, but after the Jupiters "woke up" I realized part of the transparency I was craving was limited by the original Auricaps. They could sound really good, but finally had a darkish veil that I suspect was associated with the idea of "warmth" by Auricaps and that limited the potential of the tubes used for me. Jupiters take a long time to burn in, but sound pretty good fresh, and in the end, less "there," more like music...more spacious, open, more fine detail, and with a nice smoothness.

The benefits of a Zstage I can think of are: very simple and small...less in the signal path, so more transparency; only one tube to roll, but you can do a lot with that one tube being able to use both 12AT7 and 12AU7 types, quite a difference in type sound, as well as individual tubes in each type being pretty variable tonally; the bias switch is a useful tuning tool also.

The benefits of a CSP3: more tubes for greater tonal complexity and for tuning to tastes; volume pots additional to the master volume...two for the input and two for the output tubes. This allows side to side volume adjustment, but more importantly for me, the pot levels are great for tuning. The balance of tone comes from the balance of how much comes from the input tube and how much from the output tubes. Additionally, the level at which the output tubes are powered has a pretty big effect on the overall sound character; two source inputs; ability to use as a headphone amp; the OTL flavor that is like nothing else.

Both are dependent on good cables, power and feet if transparency is a priority, the CSP3 more so.

I really like both. Considering the rest of my system is very transparent, that I have made very transparent ICs, and I have nice tubes, if I had to use only the Zstage or CSP3, I would choose the CSP3. But if I had only the Zstage for my recording fine tuning tool (gain riding) I would be quite happy, that is if it were modded with two outputs like mine!

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by hdrider on 07/31/16 at 22:08:21

Will & Mark - Thanks for the input and you both kind of verified that the CPS3 would be the upgrade path. Love this forum and the experience that the members bring to the table. Happy Sunday and happy listening. Chris

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by Rich on 07/31/16 at 23:36:47

Would you please tell me which specific Jupiter caps you used in your Zstage.

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by will on 08/01/16 at 21:09:30


Both have Jupiter HT cryo, but I wonder about the coppers now. I don't think they were around then. I have heard (or read) Steve calling the HTs more forgiving, and that may not be my ultimate preference, but I don't know. I hear all good things about coppers sounding like perhaps more complete open coverage.... so I got some to put in my Torii MKIV, but have not put them in yet so can't comment.

In a cap exploration now, I am a little confused as things burn in. I have been listening to some HTs as bypass caps on my HR1 tweeters lately, and there seem to be quite recognizable traits from having heard them so long as coupling caps in my amp and pre. Some of these may be things I would change if I could identify them as the caps...or at least do some mixing and matching to increase complexity, so I am in a grey area in terms of cap advice.

I used the HTs for a couple weeks on the speakers, followed by several days on a FryBaby, and then several more days on the speakers. At this point, for my ultimate preferences, they sound really good, smooth and alive, but perhaps a little dark/veiled low mids down, and a little too focused in detail especially in the mids and upper mids ....less micro detail to feather the edges than I would prefer. But these are typical mid-stage burnin effects, and familiar to earlier experience with these caps, so I think it is at least partially the need for more play time.

I have been going back and forth on the speaker bypasses with Mundorf Silver/oils and the HTs, and at this point, the Mundorfs are more to my liking in fine detail, speed, and other subtle traits within an also smooth foundation. It may be that these caps burn in faster.....

I remember quite clearly being really surprised how long the Jupiter HTs took to fully wake up in both the Zstage and CSP3...places where the rest was already burned in, so more time will tell.

But I like this way of listening to cap traits...right to the tweeter and it will be interesting to see where it all settles.

Long story short, I was quite pleased with the HTs in the CSP3 and Zstage as upgrades, just wondering at this point what the coppers might do...

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by Rich on 08/02/16 at 03:54:43

Will, thanks for your reply.  Do you know what value of HT caps you changed out in your Zstage.  I have not taken my Zstage apart yet, but was thinking of ordering some caps to try.  Also, who do you buy them from.

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by will on 08/03/16 at 15:50:52


I don't remember what caps are in the Zstage. I actually had Decware change them in the Zstage when I was having some other mods done. I tend to check several places for caps and parts, but Soniccraft has had really good prices on Jupiters lately (check the special area), also partsconnexion right now has a great price on Duelund RS caps.

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by Robem on 06/19/17 at 02:59:49

Windows PC With Roon Playing TIDAL > CA DAC Magic 100 > DECWARE Zstage > DECWARE RACHAEL (SE34i.5) > DNA Horn Speakers

I just added the ZStage, what a difference... Everything came to life, bass and midrange. I wasn't expecting this difference, i bought the line stage to give me a wider range of options for phono stages but this device has made such a significant difference with my other sources that I need to post here. The bass! what a difference, and the bass is desired. The DAC has a 2.3v output and while the Rachael is documented to prefer 2.5v input I found myself dialing back the gain that was output from the ZStage. This is a great combo Steve, have a listen.

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by Acetone on 07/03/17 at 02:01:02

I run CD source thru the Zstage to my Superzen CKC. Compared to Vinyl I've always felt CD lacked by 10 - 15% in soundstage and quality. Recently I added SV83's to the Superzen and put an Amperex 6922 back in (took out the 6n1p). CD play has improved immensely, so much so that I feel compelled to run my Zp3 thru the Zstage as well figuring if CD quality of sound has improved...why not Vinyl ?

Title: Re: ZStage with a Rachael
Post by Acetone on 07/19/17 at 21:58:28

Yup! Running ZP3 and CD source thru the Zstage now and enjoying it. Riding the gain helping on a few old Rock LP's that need that xtra push!
Can't wait to hear what the DM947's just purchased from Stone will reveal. It just keeps getting better!!

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