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10/16/21 at 13:46:26 


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Zstage vs CSP3 or CSP325 (Read 730 times)
Verified Member

Posts: 16
Zstage vs CSP3 or CSP325
03/31/20 at 02:10:15
Has anyone compared the "gain" advantage and sound improvement between a ZStage which adds up to 15 volts gain and the CSP3 or CSP325 which can add up to 30 volts gain. Yes, I do understand that the CSP3 and CSP325 are preamps with or without headphone outputs, but I am attempting to understand which of these will offer a greater gain and perhaps improvement in weight and presence. The advantage of the ZStage is obviously its simplicity and cost. The advantages of the CSP line is the variability of the tubes which can also add different sounds, etc through tube rolling. I love my ZMA but have experimented with adding "gain" and that is amazing! Your experience and expertise in this area would be greatly appreciated.
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Seasoned Member

Posts: 457
Re: Zstage vs CSP3 or CSP325
Reply #1 - 02/17/21 at 05:36:11
Today I had an interesting experience that relates to your question although it is not specifically with respect to a ZStage.  I have a ZDSD that has a transformer coupled output that can give "full voltage of professional balanced output", -9dBFS up to -20dBFS.  

Initially the ZDSD was connected to a my CSP3 and indeed I was able to add weight and presence by adjusting the gain and increasing the density.

Next I added the ZROCK, updated to the ZROCK2 and now to the ZROCK with the Mundorf A-mods.  When I added the ZROCK I found that it had an even a more profound effect relating to weight and presence to the point that I had to dial back the voltage output setting on the ZDSD because I was getting distortion at times. As you dial up the ZROCK there is an increase in gain as well.  I also had to adjust the gain structure on the CSP3.

Today I removed the CSP3 so that I could send it in for the A-mods with the Mundorf caps.  It was a no brainer after getting the A-mods with Mundorfs on the ZROCK.  I decided to run the ZDSD/ZROCK2 directly into my SE84UFO25 because it has volume pots.

I had even more detail and after dialling up the voltage output on the ZDSD, even greater hit, without the CSP3.  At first it was impressive and I started to wonder if I needed the CSP3.  After not too long a period the hit began to wear on me and I realized that something was missing.  That is when, for the first time I began to understand what the CSP3 was contributing.  Something that I could never be without.  Something more than the option to roll tubes as I have done.

Without the CSP3 the presentation was coming at me like a wall instead of a structured layered sound stage.  A stage where the instruments and vocalists had separation or a structure that gain increase alone was not able to give.  A level of engagement and emotion was missing.  That is what I believe that the CSP3 was doing even without the mods.  When I asked Steve about what I could expect from the CSP3 once the A-mods were completed, he said that the A-mods would do wonders for the CSP3's sound and imaging. Imaging that I was already missing even without the mods!

I hope this helps in some way.  AND... all I have to ask Steve after this experience is; although the CSP3 is just starting it's journey to you, is there some way that I could get it back tomorrow with the mods of course???

Never mind, no need to answer  ::).

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