AUDIO FORUMS >> Reviews >> 25th Anniversary Amp / Preamp Review

Message started by Steve Deckert on 11/05/18 at 15:52:23

Title: 25th Anniversary Amp / Preamp Review
Post by Steve Deckert on 11/05/18 at 15:52:23

The following review was sent to me by email:

Hi Steve,
I thought of posting this in the forum but due to the picture posting complication, I guess is best to email you directly.
The impression will based on the CSP3 25th mods & SE84UFO25 & cables..

DHC-1 Power Cord
Quality feel is on every single touch.
Item is as decribed.

DSG Copper Ref Interconnect
A starting choice where interconnects may not necessary be expensive for great results.
Item is as decribes.

DSR-II Silver Ref Interconnect
I like this more over the DSG. Instant results. Incredible details sound stage.
Item is as described.

Zen STYX Silver Ref Speaker Cables - Got these from the forum classified.
Item is as described - build simple with accurate results. Bees wax coating is awesome.

Impression on CSP3-25 & SE84UFO25
System configuration:
Rega Planar 3 to Cambridge Phono ZP2.0 to CSP3 to SE84UFO25 to Triangle Quartet 92dB  
Oppo UDP-205 to Teac Nt505 to ZBit to CSP3-25 to SE84UFO25 to Triangle Quartet 92dB
(at times active sub by Dynaudio Sub 250 is connected from CSP3-25 mono out)
Interconnects are by Decware, QED & BetterCables.
Speakers cables are by Decware.
Power cords are by Decware & other few names.

A little on the room setup.
Room dimension: 12Ft width x 21Ft length x 8Ft height
Floor are tiled with Merbau (Ipil) timber strip varnished.
Ceilling are tiled with 5/8" thick OSB boards on 2" suspended tee.
Walls are RC and painted.  
Room Acoustic: By Franck Tchang  

My review is based on after 50 hours. Tubes are all stocks.

Decware does not impress with their packaging - perhaps it's not the purpose money paid for.
Double boxed packaging. Not many but enough absorbing & protection material to keep them in safe manner.
Though I feel the packaging material & method can be improved further., and this is not important in this review.
When I open the package & carry them upstairs - I realized it was not heavy. Too light actually for a tube amplifier.
While I was stepping upstairs, I was thinking what this overly light thing could do as described by Decware & fans.

I am craftmanship myself for past 2 decades. I work with plastic, woods & metal. I build many objects in past years.
And I am very particular to details and finishing works. I could easily tell a slight flaws on the 3 dimensional of a work piece.
I hold the amp and twisted it to feel whether there is any movement in the joints - they are build solid and strong..!
I shaked the amp for any rattle sound - it's quiet, which means all parts are secured correctly.
The wood varnished is very consistent. No un-even layer, surface are smooth throughout.
The top face plate - paint job was nicely done. Quality works can be felt at anywhere on the plate. This extend to the back plate as well.
Normally many will concentrate only on the exposing surface but you will find good quality works on both sides.

Parts & components are of good and quality. Some looks upscale. Well the product came with lifetime warranty, I'm sure selection was carefully executed.
Tubes, transformer, switches, dials, sockets and etc are precisely arrayed on the face plate.
Names are silk screen accurately to their position. Font choice is also very matching to the zen dna., while their sizes are just correct.
It feels very balanced to operate or handle the amp. Very Yin & Yang feel.
It's these precised details that kept me excited to look more inside..
Point to point circuit as described. Clean soldering works. Little solder debris can be noticed.
Components are again placed at correct layout. Though is like a jungle but it can be addictive to look at.
The circuit design is actually very interesting, very pragmatic on how the signal path is laid.. It must have been a break through thing as described by Steve.
Lastly the chassis feet.. I have many similar to these installed on my units. I'm not sure whether it's from the same name but I got mine from Isonode.
These are very good feet. They functioned accurately very well and is not pricey.
One improvement Steve could do is to replace the face mounting screws to copper/gold finished material. I'm sure this will give the extra "wow" expression to the client.

The OA3 flashing during the start up is very interesting. It give you the security feeling that the system is going through the virus scanning..
The gain was up at 2pm - is very quiet and dark.. the amp is quiet. the speakers are quiet. the stage is quiet.
Musical, Neutral, Organic, Gentle, Transparent, Accurate, Deeper, Wider, and others as described by Decware.
The amp doesn't gets tired nor make you tired. It's always so energetic. Keeps you in mood for anything.
Everything will be placed accurately on the sound stage.., fast yet gentle.
I could see Joni's lips open and closing. Her emotion was clearly expressed. Connection was established in seconds..
John Prine gravelly voice couldn't be more better.. organic and transparent - so pure. I see his face and lips again.
Peter guitar notes didn't cut my ears like the EL34 did.. it was very nice when taken to high notes.
Bass response was good and not overly sparse. Time Out drums was very punchy and it hit my heart every single bit. And I repeated the track many times and get the same effect still.
My sound stage got wider, higher & deeper with OPUS 3 & Naim True Stereo. Very dynamic movement, fast yet precise. The bach piece was enjoying.
Mingus kills me in less than 5 minutes. Willie took me to front seat. I couldn't stop playing again and again..
Solo cello by Ma XinHua - Three Wishes for a Rose. So detail that I could catch every pull and push lifting of the string brushing sound. This is so awesome.
Vocal by Tsai Chin. Her haunting voice took the amp to the highest notes & came down in seconds and continue to pull it with ease. Sharp and focused with deep depth stage.

I have experienced this kind of sound from the high end builders. And those upper class owners which spend a gold mine on their system and thought it was heaven.
I'm sure if the zen amps were to be audition to them.., the first comment would be - "what.. 2 watts..? Don't waste my time.."    
I have not experience any SS system that could come near this 2 watts, not even the KARAN Acoustic that I auditioned early this year. Suddenly Mcintosh is so far away.
I believe there is something great about why 2 watts was chosen to be the 25th Annivesary Amp.
Such power requires no complicated circuit design, and simplicity design took it to many ways to establish such greatness results.
And the fact was these 2 watts actually killed many Decwarians., and including myself. Many would not wonder such 2 watts could do so much.

I had 211, Kt88 & EL34.
Love the way 211 control the sound stage - very musical, very transparent, very hot..!  
EL34 is always bright and bright and bright. Good at instruments. Great sound stage. Absolutely great for orchestra or bach music.
KT88 - after few upgrades to the amp. Very organic results, gentle, sharp & transparent.
Now with this 2 watts 6P15P, it is so pure and simple. There will be many "wow" if I don't stop..

And Steve,
This could be the last Zen anyone would want..
Great Music comes with Great Zens.

Test Album:
OPUS 3 - A Selection of test records 1,2 & 3
Naim True Stereo - Unprocessed Analogue Recordings
Joni Mitchell - Court and Spark
The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out
Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um
Willie Nelson - Last Man Standing
Peter Frampton - Fingerprints
John Prine - The Tree of Forgiveness
and few other Chinese vocals and instruments.

Above are of my honest own opinion which have no prejudice to anyone or any agenda.
If I have left out any questionable areas - please go through Decware's catalogue as most answer is there as described.

regards, Anthony

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