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ZSTAGE with Torii Amps (Read 1008 times)
Burgermeester
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ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
09/24/21 at 11:52:12
 
Hello. First post. As the Japanese say, please favor me with your beneficence.

I have a Torii Jr. on order. I plan to use it with a Border Patrol DAC.
On the forum I saw a comment that the ZSTAGE was not really needed for the Torii Jr. or its bigger brothers.

If I'm going to put a ZSTAGE between my DAC (output under 2V) and a Torii Jr. I'd like to decide soon, life being short and queues being long, etc. Any opinions would be much appreciated.
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will
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #1 - 09/24/21 at 17:34:15
 
I think "need" or not for a pre-stage with Decware amps may be a sort of misnomer unless your source voltage is low for the amp.

As far as I know, most Decware amps have gain adjustments.... so in many cases, you don't "need" a pre with them.

And though some folks seem to say a pre can make low power amps more powerful, this has not been my experience, at least to any notable degree. Maybe I am missing something, but these amps seem to have a max threshold of "volume" before distortion, and by increasing the voltage in with a pre stage, I have found the amps for the most part just tend to clip at a lower level on the gain on the amp.

However, Decware pres stages do do cool things that adjust sonic characteristics, and I really like them. Part is that the sonic values of each I use is different allowing balancing them to tastes with the amp. And being able to turn pre stages up, and the amp down, more voltage and pre sound character with the pre higher in the chosen volume balance, can give a more lucid, dynamic sound....  richer/fuller and more bass presence. And the opposite for recordings that are too full and thick, we can tone down the pre voltage into the amp while raising the amp gain, and lean the recording sound so it can balance best with the system and room.

I use 2 or 3 pres depending on balanced out or not from my DACs, adding a Zbit with my balanced DAC. And I have found that with more pre stages I need to lower the digital volume in my player software, as it seems that here, with more pres in succession, distortion potential increases if not compensated for. And my player software, doing volume on the digital files, does a nice clean job of reducing gain at the start, and making it more possible to push pre stages into sonic territories I really like...more dynamic, spacious, and lucid.

Right now, with my NOS Tranquility DAC in, which has a pretty high output voltage from its RCA outs (not sure exactly the voltage, but it acts strong..maybe 4 volts or more?), I am running the base gain in Pure Music at -6.5 dB, allowing me to push further into the lucid and dynamic areas of my ZRock2 and CSP3 before distortion from the Torii.

So as far as I can tell, for me, a pre is more about tuning sound than anything else, and I love using them.

Finally, if you are getting mods on your amp, I would recommend considering them on your pre stage also (if you go there), allowing them to match and support one another more completely.

Hope this helps some,

Will
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All Modified: Power-PSA P5, Brickwall/Shunyata Defender>RevolutionMacMini/PureM>Kitsune Singxer/Gustard x20pro or NOS Tranquility DAC; CSP3, ZRock2, Torii IV, HR1, DIY ZBIT; Cables DIY: PCs, ICs, USB, I2S, Speaker; Feet- Archie's platform, alum/ball bearing, SR+
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Burgermeester
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #2 - 09/25/21 at 11:51:58
 
Many, many thanks Will. Your insights are great and helped me tremendously to better understand Steve's own articles around the subject of preamps.

It looks like the bottom line from the information I'm seeing points to a CSP325 pairing with the Torii Jr. Maybe I can get a second job to pay for it. Brilliant!
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Tony
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #3 - 09/25/21 at 15:53:09
 
First, what a impactful Japanese phrase, I had not heard the word "beneficence" used in awhile, and enjoyed hearing it in that phrase.

Regarding the preamp, I am too old for a second job myself, but by postponing retirement, perhaps forever Smiley, I am planning for a new amp and the CSP3 preamp.  Might this preamp meet your needs?  

Is there something in the CSP325 that drew your attention?

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Torii MkIV w 25th Ann | CSP 2+ | ZRock2 w 25th Ann (waiting) | Cambr. CXNv2 | Ares II DAC | Decware I/Cs | Decware Pwr Cbls | Caintuck Lii Fast 8's & Bass Baffle | Sennheiser HD-650 | Elac speaker cables | Furman Conditioning
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Burgermeester
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #4 - 09/25/21 at 20:13:14
 
I did consider the CSP3, but I don't listen through headphones. Also Steve has rolled all possible upgrades into the price of the CSP325, making it seem paradoxically like a bargain (ha ha). I would agree that the CSP3 (maybe with a mod or two) is likely a better cost/performance proposition.
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will
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #5 - 09/25/21 at 23:49:37
 
Hey Burgermeester,

I am glad I was able to help.

In comparing the CSP3 with the full 25th anniversary mods, adding copper caps, VR tubes, and a stepped attenuator .... to the latest iteration of the CSP3 line, the 25th Anniversary version of the CSP3, studying the interior pictures, much of the audio design looks the same, or similar, so I suspect the sound would be pretty close.... But being Steve's latest layout and design, there are changes in the 25th version that, to me, make good sense for being more complete in all it does, so I can certainly imagine it as an improvement of an already good thing. Also a cool new exterior design, one more set of input jacks (one with a notably shortened signal path) and those cool colorful tubes. For $2995, what you get over the fully amped up standard CSP3 seems to reflect Steve's care in pricing to me... I came up with $2,664.00 for the fully modded/upgraded standard CSP3... the perk with it, you get a good headphone amp also...

If I were going for a new one, and did not want headphone jacks, I would be inclined as you Burgermeester, to go for the latest edition. But if you wanted a nice headphone amp also, I am guessing the fully modded standard version would be a quite nice pre also.
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All Modified: Power-PSA P5, Brickwall/Shunyata Defender>RevolutionMacMini/PureM>Kitsune Singxer/Gustard x20pro or NOS Tranquility DAC; CSP3, ZRock2, Torii IV, HR1, DIY ZBIT; Cables DIY: PCs, ICs, USB, I2S, Speaker; Feet- Archie's platform, alum/ball bearing, SR+
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Lon
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #6 - 09/26/21 at 00:52:57
 
I have the fully modded CSP3 with the Anniversary trimmings and it's both a fantastic preamp and an excellent headphone amp. A truly valuable component in my system that I don't want to do without.
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HR-1,ZTPRE,ZBIT,ZROCK2,SE84UFO3-25th x2, CSP3-25th.Taboo Mk IV; Rega RP3 w all GrooveTracer mods PS Audio: PST+DSD,P15,NPC,PowerBases,AC-12 pwr cbls, Reference spkr cbls;Mapleshade:Samson V3;;VooDoo:Cremona+Amati intrcncts, Iso-Pods;headphones:PM1,HD800S,ZMF Ori
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Burgermeester
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #7 - 09/26/21 at 09:50:18
 
Thanks very much will and Lon, it's invaluable to have your real-world experience in the mix.

Yes, headphones... I spent some time looking into planars as part of this decision. It's definitely something to consider, and would be something new to explore. I'm not yet sure I'd be able to make the most of the option, the way I listen to music.

Meanwhile, forehead smack because I also have several powered Dynaudio monitors I'd rather not part with. Powered = balanced output = ZTPRE, it looks like. Then I could feed the Dynaudios as well as passive speakers + Torii, using one preamp. And maybe build a new room to hold all of it, ouch. (I keep trying to convince my wife that "Where in the world are you going to put this?" is a question that is toxic to the creative spirit, but so far I've been unsuccessful...)

I'm currently using the Dynaudios with an ancient BAT VK-5i preamp (ah, youth), but I don't know if it's got that much life left. I just got it back from BAT after an overhaul (new caps and tubes) at it's already developed a hum in one channel. Viktor K. at BAT advised me to be philosophical about the longevity of units with thousands of hours and 25 years of use on them...never know what may fail when.

Again, post- and pre-thanks for your ongoing input!
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Burgermeester
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #8 - 09/26/21 at 10:32:01
 
Oops, cancel that. Not enough outputs on the ZTPRE!! Slight detail.

So I have pulled the trigger on a pimped-out ZSTAGE. That will go with the Torii Jr. and should be enough to play with initially. The Dynaudios will have to go w/o the benefit of Decware I guess.

One set of balanced inputs to rule them all, TWO sets of balanced outputs to bind them, cryo-treated copper foil beeswax capacitors by Jupiter to bring them all and give them an out of body experience... Anyone listening? (ha ha)
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will
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #9 - 09/26/21 at 21:33:39
 
Yes, a tricked out Zstage will likely be a nice taste of Decware pre stages for you. Though they are all pretty different, they share Steve's creative design ideas and sonic choices, making them family, but definitely not twins. So beware, for many, one leads to another. I used a Zstage with Jupiter caps for some years, but have not modified it further. Having done a lot of modification explorations with other Decware though, I have every reason to imagine Steve's mods on your Zstage will be quite nice, and worth the added cost.

It sounds crazy to me now, but for ±5 years I have been working on modifications with most of my main system components, speakers, and cables, one or the other rotating in as the focus as the whole of the system improved. After the whole got really refined a few years ago, I did slow down with a number of slower periods, but all-in-all, a long time of fairly steady modification cycles has been a good teacher for how transformative they can be, and even when starting with really good baselines.

For the most part my method has been testing each part for sonic efficacy in the context of a neutral balance... usually taking a number of experiments to arrive at my favorite part in each position. And all chosen parts needed to improve the whole without a need for compensations to balance previous choices. I think this set up a smooth collective refinement progression for me.

And a lot of my explorations were before Steve started posting about his bypass mods. So it turned out that I made some choices similar to his, and some different. And having worked over all areas extensively in mine, bypasses, other caps, resistors, connectors, attenuators, signal and power wires, damping.... each broad area took the whole to new levels... It just keeps amazing me how really good things can keep improving.

Subsequently, I have tried some variations of Steve's particular choices in my CSP3, and adopted some while not others based on the whole that evolved for me. Anyway, because of all this, I feel OK hypothesizing on Steve's mods, having found similar modifications transformative when done with synergy. And this is one of Steve's specialties I think, putting together the right parts for the sound he wants. So I certainly can imagine Steve's modifications are really good, but not having heard them, I am glad Lon commented similarly on his fully modified CSP3.

Looking forward to hearing about your Zstage explorations with your new Torii!
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All Modified: Power-PSA P5, Brickwall/Shunyata Defender>RevolutionMacMini/PureM>Kitsune Singxer/Gustard x20pro or NOS Tranquility DAC; CSP3, ZRock2, Torii IV, HR1, DIY ZBIT; Cables DIY: PCs, ICs, USB, I2S, Speaker; Feet- Archie's platform, alum/ball bearing, SR+
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Burgermeester
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #10 - 09/27/21 at 08:51:47
 
Hi will,

Excellent insights as always, very much appreciated. I just joined this forum and I'm surprised at how many assumptions I had from the SS domain are already being overturned here in Tubeland.

I woke up in the middle of the night and realized I've been looking at so many input/output scenarios (with not always reliable visual memories of the terminals) that I got confused... The ZTPRE will indeed drive two powered speakers w/balanced inputs. And the Dynaudio monitors I just got have RCA inputs too, which means the CSP325 is equally viable. I could even run the Dynaudios (pending delivery of the DM945s...wondering what the queue for THOSE is like) with the ZSTAGE!

I'm just disappointed that there's no kidney index for me to check on the net, I might have to sell some body parts after discovering Decware. The modern malady...
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will
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #11 - 09/28/21 at 01:00:27
 
Hey Burgermeester,

I guess you will have to hear it to fully believe it or not, but I suspect you will be impressed with the speed, body and clarity of your Torii Jr2.... And with only that single amp, you can make many sonic adjustments by playing with a bunch of different inputs, rectifiers, voltage regulators, and power tubes, offering many, many variations in potentials for synergistic beauty.... not to mention how much it will let you hear cables, feet, etc.

Powered speakers are foreign to me, so I have not looked into it. But I am glad you are getting a handle on Decware pre stage choices with your current speakers.

For holding onto the kidney, not to confuse things, but another option other than a modded Zstage or CSP3-25, might be a ZRock2, though as you have gathered, in my system, I personally would not get one without full modifications. With mine, I had to go further than Steve's mods in order to get it to match the rest of my system. Replacing the primary signal wires with UP-OCC silver and copper, and upgrading to high grade KLE RCAs and a gold plated Furutech IEC inlet, this combo produced a powerful shift in transparency, solidity, and speed.... I guess at least as much overall improvement as the bypass and signal tube modifications I did. I ended up so far with Miflex copper .1 and .022s, and .1 Audyn True Coppers for power supply bypasses, and Miflex Copper/Oil .1s and .022s for signal. But having to go this far is because I had done similar with my other gear, so for matching resolution, transparency and speed I had to go more-or-less full on.

Which brings me to a thought that if one's modifications were all Steve's mods, in amp and pre stages, then these components will very likely match quite nicely while being a real upgrade set compared to stock, which is already good.

Anyway, with my ZRock2, there is an area from unity gain and up a little, (variable levels on the pot based on using 12AU7s, 12AT7s, and a bunch of tubes in between) where you get a nice range of more everything relatively evenly... not just bass, but lucidity, clarity, midrange richness, and dynamic hit. So if your objective is sonics rather than a gain stage for adjusting volume, it can be used for sound tuning and balancing similarly as with the variable voltage out between other pre stages and your amp.

A ZBIT is also a nice lower key tool if you have balanced outs from your DAC, the higher voltage out (compared to RCAs on the same DAC), being max output voltage of the ZBIT, a passive transformer setup that you can tune to max or lower to tastes.... With my system complex, I tend to run mine ± 3/4 and gain tune between components to help better balance different recording qualities from there. And it too adjusts clarity, dynamics, and liquidity but in a pretty pristine transformer sort of way... no tubes. So it can work similarly to a Zstage for tuning between amp and pre.

If you stay with a Zstage, you will likely want to explore tubes. With mine I ended up using 12AT7s most of the time rather than stock 12AU7s, making it more clarifying and dynamic. And like the ZRock2, there are lots of various choices you can get from different single tubes in and between these tube types.

So I think for the lower cost range, you have a number of nice Decware choices, and probably would like all of them. And some folks probably prefer a ZBIT or ZStage for a little more purist sense of transparency. But to me, if I was just getting into it, was looking for one pre stage, and could come up with the money without too much trauma, I would imagine the CSP3-25 would be my choice (or the fully modded standard version if headphones are wanted).... offering a huge voltage range, OTL tube outputs for an amazing range of lucidity, body and dynamics, and lots of tube flexibility for tuning to tastes.

That is me though, and I suspect any way you go, it will be exciting.

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All Modified: Power-PSA P5, Brickwall/Shunyata Defender>RevolutionMacMini/PureM>Kitsune Singxer/Gustard x20pro or NOS Tranquility DAC; CSP3, ZRock2, Torii IV, HR1, DIY ZBIT; Cables DIY: PCs, ICs, USB, I2S, Speaker; Feet- Archie's platform, alum/ball bearing, SR+
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Dominick
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #12 - 09/28/21 at 08:06:53
 
Burgermeester,

I run a ZSTAGE with my Torii MKIV and really like what it does to the sound.  As a tuning tool, it will allow you to shape the sound for your liking on different recordings.  As a single gain stage, it does the job well giving you a nice boost as a purist preamp. It does not have the flexibility of multiple tube types to roll (input,output, voltage regulator, and rectifier tubes) or the higher voltage gain that the CSP3 has, but it works well as intended.  I have lately tube rolled  an Amperex Holland pinched waist 7062 and it really puts life into the ZSTAGE versus the stock 12AU7.  

If I was starting out… I would take Will‘s advice and try and jump into the CSP3 if you can afford the cost.  It’s way more powerful and flexible. I had purchased my ZSTAGE a long time ago to be used with lower voltage output devices like an iPod or an iPhone.  While it has the upgraded beeswax caps, it does not have the Anniversay bypass mods ( not yet anyway 😉).   For my initial purpose… It fit the bill and worked very well.

While I love the sound of my Torii out of the box… adding the ZSTAGE just adds another dimension to the sound that I could not live without.  Hope this helps and keep us posted on your impressions after you get your new Decware gear.

Dom
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iMac 7, Google CCA/Raspberry Pi 4, Schiit Bifrost True Multibit DAC, My Audio Cables [MAC] Ultra Silver+ Cables, ZSB, ZSTAGE [Beeswax Caps], DAG Cables, DHC1, Torii MKIV w/25th Ann. mods, Reg P3 Turntable, Velodyne Dual Firing Sub, ERR Radials [Bubbinga Wood].
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Burgermeester
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #13 - 09/28/21 at 11:46:31
 
will and Dominick, thank you. I think I was thrown by the notes to the ZTPRE on the site, which state that something like a ZSTAGE is needed if 2V or less input is being fed in from an unbalanced source.

But the ZTPRE has gain controls -- just like the ZSTAGE, no? Yet the ZTPRE notes indicate that plugging in my 1.7V (approx.) Border Patrol DAC to the ZTPRE is not the same as plugging it into a ZSTAGE first.

This actually makes no sense to me. Both the ZSTAGE and the ZTPRE (AND the CSP) come with gain controls, so...don't they achieve the same thing? Aren't the gain controls there to compensate for low source input?

Newbie inference (mental cogs and gears meshing): Choice is to procure ZSTAGE + CSP3-25, or ZSTAGE only and continue to benefit from two kidneys. My inference from the ZTPRE notes was that even with the ZTPRE (or by inference the gain control-equipped CSP3-25), the ZSTAGE would be required in any case. Not just a good idea, but required. That means "acquire first."

Given the current kidney shortage I would rather have one device feeding the Torii Jr., either the ZSTAGE or the CSP.

Of course, experimenting with one or the other first would make sense too, I might well want to own both as will recommends. OTOH, I suspect I'm talking to Decware old-timers who remember 4-month turnaround.

With turnaround looking more like 10 months these days, waiting around to experiment doesn't seem so attractive. It's blasphemous, but there are other tube preamps out there, available now.

Hey, you guys are helping me choose and I really appreciate it. But even more than that I'm interested in understanding why the ZTPRE notes emphasized the need for a ZSTAGE on a 2-volt unbalanced input, when the ZTPRE itself (and the CSP) has much more powerful gain adjustment built right in. What's it for if not to achieve the same thing as the ZSTAGE?

Thanks in advance. I'm not quite up to speed, obviously...
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Lon
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #14 - 09/28/21 at 12:57:22
 
I've had a ZTPRE over 3 years now and LOVE it. I've used it with un-balanced sources, but they were 2V or over so I can't answer about lower voltage sourcss.

But. . . here's the thing. . . if you aren't using balanced sources. . . I think a CSP3 with the mods is a better choice. I have one of these as well, use them both in my system as the CSP3 provides a headphone amp. My sources are all balanced so the ZTPRE is the first stop, then there's a ZBIT to a ZROCK2 and then that is fed into the CSP3. I love this setup. . . but if my source were not balanced the only preamp I would need is the CSP3. With the Anniversary mods this is an amazing machine to have in front of a Decware amp.
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HR-1,ZTPRE,ZBIT,ZROCK2,SE84UFO3-25th x2, CSP3-25th.Taboo Mk IV; Rega RP3 w all GrooveTracer mods PS Audio: PST+DSD,P15,NPC,PowerBases,AC-12 pwr cbls, Reference spkr cbls;Mapleshade:Samson V3;;VooDoo:Cremona+Amati intrcncts, Iso-Pods;headphones:PM1,HD800S,ZMF Ori
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will
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #15 - 09/28/21 at 21:00:23
 
I found the webpage confusing too, but I think I got a handle on potential input voltage issues from the manual:

"The ZTPRE is available with an optional transformer balanced input option making it possible to convert an unbalanced input to a fully balanced input. When this option is used a single RCA jack is seen instead of a 3 pin XLR jack.

The advantage of this is in maintaining a fully balanced system.

Using a RCA to XLR adapter jack in place of this option will also work but will unbalanced the entire system which may or may not reduce sound quality.  

It is important to understand that most balanced sources will have somewhere between 3.5 and 10.5 volts of signal whereas most unbalanced RCA components will seldom have more than 2 volts. This means, even with the balanced input transformer option, whatever you have plugged into it will still only have 2 volts and thus play much quieter than your balanced sources causing you to have to turn the volume control much higher to reach the same listening level.

This is normal, but needs to be understood or else you might think something is wrong. One nice trick when running a single ended source into the ZTPRE is to put a single tube gain stage on your source to raise the voltage to around 6 volts or so.  Decware makes a product that does this called the ZSTAGE."




This helps corroborate some of Lon's thoughts to me.... If you are using multiple sources, an issue of mixing balanced and RCA inputs, even with a transformer conversion to balanced, is the potentially big difference in volume when switching the pre from a lower voltage source with a RCA connection, to a higher voltage balanced source.

So I think you are very likely correct with your question about the CSP3, ZTPre and Zstage all being gain stages, and all should work with your less than 2 volt DAC. But with the ZTPre, switching to sources with notably higher voltage out could be shocking, and/or make you need to mess with gains when making source changes. I guess this is why the ZStage recommendation... to gain balance various sources into the ZTPre...

Also a Zstage would work as a low key and simple pre stage on its own. But I don't imagine you would "need" it with your amp unless your DAC is notably lower than two volts.... though , like Dom, you might like it for gain tuning and more tube tuning.

Also, with the ZTPre, best I can tell, trying to figure out the shopping cart options, if you need more sources, going from one to three balanced source connections looks like a cost of $500. If you need an RCA input and want transformer coupling, one RCA pair in looks like it might be $500. Copper Foil caps look like $740. And stepped attenuators look like $200. So if I got all these options and numbers right, a full set of upgrades look like $1940 added to the initial price of $3095.....

Where a fully upgraded Standard CSP3 (with headphone outs) looks like about 2664 total (+ 50 if you want dual stereo outputs), and the CSP3-25, upgraded by design, is 2995.

Finally, this is confusing and I feel for you..... lots of options, and a call to Steve may be worth looking into. And just for clarity, I would probably not be inclined to recommending integrating a Zstage and CSP3, not having actually tried it. But I think it could work quite nicely as they do have different sonic qualities. But they are more alike than some other combinations, and for me, I really enjoy the variety of pre stages I use in my main system. When using my unbalanced DAC I go from DAC, to ZRock2, to CSP3. And if using my balanced out DAC, there is a ZBit between the DAC and the ZRock2, so three pre stages before the amp in this case, each with a somewhat different signature and emphasis for sound tuning.

All these options can be hard to get a handle on even if used to the Decware thing.... But I think options and variations on sonic tuning themes are a big part of the Decware magic. And from the beginning, it seems to me that Steve's design creativity is based in his own quest for a great musical experience at home, so he progressively gives us more and more cool options for shaping our sonic "landscape."
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All Modified: Power-PSA P5, Brickwall/Shunyata Defender>RevolutionMacMini/PureM>Kitsune Singxer/Gustard x20pro or NOS Tranquility DAC; CSP3, ZRock2, Torii IV, HR1, DIY ZBIT; Cables DIY: PCs, ICs, USB, I2S, Speaker; Feet- Archie's platform, alum/ball bearing, SR+
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Burgermeester
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #16 - 09/29/21 at 04:11:23
 
Bumbling further along here, the ZSTAGE manual has an explanation of "riding the gain." This requires having a gain control after the source AND on the preamp or amp.

A ZSTAGE alone, into an amp w/o gain control, would still be useful for the gain it provides, though not (it seems) critically required on a Decware amp with unbalanced inputs (as opposed to the ZTPRE, which is fully balanced and would benefit more from that extra gain).

The Torii Jr. has no gain control, so riding the gain wouldn't be possible with a ZSTAGE only.

A ZSTAGE into a CSP3 would allow gain riding, plus of course the substantial impact of the CSP on the sound. The ZSTAGE would not be critically necessary for its increased gain alone (although it seems this is always useful in isolation to some degree) but would serve as one of the two sources of gain required for gain riding specifically.

All of this suggests (to me) that the ZSTAGE may be of slightly marginal utility in most Decware systems for its gain alone -- unless you have a ZTPRE or you plan to use the ZSTAGE as your sole preamp. In the case it's purist and cost-effective, and neatly fills a hole in the lineup, function-wise.

This theory about the ZSTAGE's real-world utility seems to be validated by the fact that there are 4 ZSTAGES in the order queue at this time, compared to 27 CSPs. There are 6 ZTPREs on order, so presumably this is where most or all of the ZSTAGES are headed.

Does this sound about right?

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will
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #17 - 09/29/21 at 08:38:57
 
Hey Burgermeester,  I think I'll try these one by one.

From Burgermeester: Bumbling further along here, the ZSTAGE manual has an explanation of "riding the gain." This requires having a gain control after the source AND on the preamp or amp.


Yes, we need two gain stages for gain riding proper (riding one up and the other down while listening), for me, preferably a pre and an amp for a baseline sound. The amps are pretty neutral across their gain range, but with the pre stages modifying the gain going into the amp, this gives the effects of adjusting tone balance, dynamics, density, lucidity, etc. So I like referencing the amp for a reliable basis, and the pre being the modifier... but that could just be me.

A ZSTAGE alone, into an amp w/o gain control, would still be useful for the gain it provides, though not (it seems) critically required on a Decware amp with unbalanced inputs (as opposed to the ZTPRE, which is fully balanced and would benefit more from that extra gain).

Not quite sure I am getting this right but will give it a go... I don't know from experience how the relatively low voltage range of the ZStage would work as the sole gain... I have not tried this, but would think a ZTPre or CSP3, with their wider gain range, would be better for this. And yes, Decware amps with their own gains (looks to me like all of them in the current lineup) do not need a pre stage for volume adjustment, but many of us like the sonic influence of pre stages... Sorry, I am not understanding the parts about balanced and unbalanced and reference to the ZTPRE here, but the ZTPRE has I think 0-35 volts range, so a lot of gain.

The Torii Jr. has no gain control, so riding the gain wouldn't be possible with a ZSTAGE only.

If you mean the Torii Jr has no stereo gain control, I get your thought, "riding" the JR's two mono gain knobs at the same time with the stereo gain knob on the Zstage would be tricky at best! So not the most fluid method of gain riding. But you could still balance gains between the amp pots and the Zstage pot for an optimal average sound that brought the best out of the Zstage and JR combo... then make more minor gain balancing adjustments if you wanted or needed... but not as slick as riding two stereo gains together.

A ZSTAGE into a CSP3 would allow gain riding, plus of course the substantial impact of the CSP on the sound. The ZSTAGE would not be critically necessary for its increased gain alone (although it seems this is always useful in isolation to some degree) but would serve as one of the two sources of gain required for gain riding specifically.


I get these thoughts if one did not have an amp gain to "ride" with.

All of this suggests (to me) that the ZSTAGE may be of slightly marginal utility in most Decware systems for its gain alone -- unless you have a ZTPRE or you plan to use the ZSTAGE as your sole preamp. In the case it's purist and cost-effective, and neatly fills a hole in the lineup, function-wise.

I think these thoughts make sense. But I am pretty sure the current line of Decware amps all have gains.... so imagine a Zstage would generally be considered as modifier and enhancer rather than a sole gain in most Decware systems. And the Zstage, though not having the wide voltage range of the ZTPRE or CSP3, with its "single" tube, you can get a pretty wide sound range from the many variations of tubes that work in it, and the voltage gain it does have can be a fairly powerful tuning tool in gain balancing for sound. So yes, seems to me also that it could be thought of as a more "purest" concept, and economically less challenging.

This theory about the ZSTAGE's real-world utility seems to be validated by the fact that there are 4 ZSTAGES in the order queue at this time, compared to 27 CSPs. There are 6 ZTPREs on order, so presumably this is where most or all of the ZSTAGES are headed.

Does this sound about right?


If the idea of real-world utility is a traditional pre use, as a volume for an amp without gain, I can see where it sounds like you are going. But with amps with gains, to me the ZStage is as valid a choice as any of the Decware pre stage lineup for sound tuning... just another choice with its own tuning attributes... and if it appeals and fits, a good one. Interesting thought on where Zstages might be going.... and I couldn't say if most or all of the Zstages on order are going before ZTPREs. Might be.... But, at least in threads I have happened onto here, they seem to be generally used for sound tuning...  More thoughts anyway.

Hope this helps.

Will

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Burgermeester
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Posts: 11
Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #18 - 09/29/21 at 21:44:03
 
will, Lon, Dom, Tony, thanks for all your input. Very useful for this (ex) solid state music lover.

(will: FWIW my understanding is that gain controls and volume controls are not quite the same thing, this may have been another distinction I was taking too far...)

Oh well, I guess life with one kidney won't be too bad. I went ahead and added a CSP to the queue. Now we wait...
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Lin
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #19 - 09/30/21 at 01:02:39
 
The CSP with a 100k input impedance is a good fit with a BP dac.
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will
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Re: ZSTAGE with Torii Amps
Reply #20 - 09/30/21 at 21:19:48
 
Sorry Burgermeester,  I am admittedly one who has become (perhaps too) unconcerned with the distinctions between definitions of gain and volume .... at least relative to these amps and pre stages, and for talking about this interesting area of sound shaping. So my apology for contributing to confusion.

Thinking of how we express things, I should probably also mention that it might be that with my pretty deep focus on the last percentages of sound quality, depending on sonic priorities, my focus and comments on potentials from good pre stages may seem exaggerated? For me the last percentages are mainly to do with the subtler aspects of very fine information in space, contributing to refining more complete sonic balances throughout in musical ways.The hardest to get, and the easiest to lose, these refinements seem to be what is takes to get a "real" music feel for me, and once found, I can't do without.

Then, seeking to have subtle aspects of the music present and balanced across various recording qualities, one or more resolving and musically balanced pre stages before the amp, with very transparent cables, etc, this complex helps me enhance and balance musical beauty in general, and for various recording qualities.

So.... I think I might notice and focus a lot on subtle areas of system/room sound, and these things can be pronounced for me.

It is a funny thing...when my wife and I used to watch and document fish on various reefs, we sometimes got grief from our fellow fish watchers that our heads were always in the sand or coral. This was because we loved finding and looking at very small and secretive fish that would often hide in coral holes or crevices, or holes in the sand they had created. A number of these fish are only 1 inch long give-or-take, part of why they may not be as fully studied, or even known, making finding identifying traits and behaviors all the more important. With magnifying glasses, and care not to be intimidating, we would often settle in with a fish for bit. Imagine a giant thousands of times your size with strange suits and gear on, breathing bubbles out and staring at you at close range with a magnifying glass. But after lots of underwater time over years, and the meditative focus of scuba diving in pristine wildernesses, we became more and more "transparent" I guess, and saw lots of these cool little fish.

But when back on the boat, and asked how big so-and-so Blenny or Goby was, we almost always recalled these super small fish as notably bigger than they were. And even after getting to know some of them well, after one of these immersive dives with the little guys, a fish that is only 3/4" might come to mind as 1 1/2 - 2 inches... little things feeling bigger!

So I wonder.... when I get fine detail and space really right, and within really good balances otherwise, a pre stage or two or three can really help me get me deeper into finding the beauty... But at the same time, one pre with my amp was really nice for a long time for gain tuning for various recordings. And before that, for most recordings, the amp alone did a really nice job. But after tuning everything together, I am glad to have several on-the-fly tuning tools now... The deeper the magic potential, the deeper the musical experience. But I also imagine there are a whole lot of folks who get great music with no gain balancing!

So I realize talking about all this can get tricky.
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