The Zen Ultra is a
six channel all tube pre-amplifier that has been designed for the
audiophile who wants both home theater and serious two channel at the
It is also ideal for two channel audiophiles with bi-amp and tri-amp
systems, allowing you control over each amplifier.
Of course this could be done with three separate audiophile preamps...
that were all it did. The Zen Ultra brings something badly
needed to the table. It allows you to have total manipulation
over six stereo channels at the same time and can mix two
channels into any of it's six channels or visa versa.
This was done to handle and fix dozens of common problems in movie
sound tracks and it was done to allow 2 channel listening with
additional speakers in any ratio and level.
I started this project for myself around Christmas of 2000 and have
been testing it on an almost daily basis for the past 10 years and
still haven't had the urge to change or try to improve it. This
is how I know it's more than ready to go into your system and
successfully solve the same problems I had.
Below is a picture
of the Zen Ultra mounted into the top of my equipment rack.
If you're an
audiophile looking for the
ultimate two channel preamp, or wanting to do a bi-amp or tri-amp
setup, or HOME THEATER with real audiophile sound, or all of the above
same time... take a moment to bookmark and read this entire
different preamps at once
and switch between each!
is really cool if you enjoy rolling tubes since you can put a different
set of tubes in each section. This way you can A/B different
warmed up tube combination's while you listen... You might even
certain combination's that work best for certain types of music!
Use it to drive
2 or more amplifiers for bi-amp OR tri-amp systems
This gives you a master volume as well as
individual volume controls for each amplifier making it painless to
dial in your system's frequency balance!
you're interested in achieving true audiophile home theater...
to make a system that will do BOTH 2 channel audiophile playback AND
5.1 channel movies... please read this entire page, because after
years of field testing this preamp we have created something that
virtually solves EVERY frustrating problem you've had trying to reach
this goal in the past.
The Zen Ultra can run
multiple amplifiers, each with their own volume control. It can
even send one source to all amps or send separate sources to each
amp! Think about that
for a minute.
grouped into 3 stereo pairs - each with it's own
volume control. So it's exactly like having 3 stereo preamps each
with it's own set of inputs and outputs. HOWEVER, it does more...
call this "direct mode" where each channel has it's own discrete
input and output. This is what you need if you want to watch
movies in 5.1 surround sound.
is special because it has 4 pair of
inputs for 4 different sources. The remaining two preamps only
have 1 pair in and 1 pair out. That's a total of 12
switched to use their normal
input OR the input that is being sent to the first two channels.
This means that after the movie is over and you want to spend some
quality time listening to your favorite CD's or LP's you don't have to
change anything! It also does an INCREDIBLE Stunt...
speakers in stereo, you can
simultaneously send the signal to your rear speakers, or your center
speaker, or your sub - EACH WITH IT'S OWN volume control. This
allows you to blend the other speakers in at any level you want!
you like, THERE IS A MASTER
volume control for the channels you just added! This way you can
turn the added speakers up or down all at once and without effecting
anything that's happening on your main front speakers. This
concept preserves the carefully set levels between speakers that you
spent some time to achieve.
of the remaining two preamps that let
you go between direct and bridged modes, effectively allowing you
to turn on or off the center/sub channels OR the rear channels easily.
You can read an in depth explinataion of what you
can do with this preamp HERE.
How it handles movies:
THEATER AND 2 CHANNEL RIG
beautiful in it's problem solving abilities!
front channels, rear channels,
center channel and subwoofer with REAL KNOBS! No more remote
controls you can't read or on screen setup
menus with calibration tests that never work right anyway! You
simply start the movie and if nessesary make a couple easy adjustments
to the movie.
tube home theater setup you'll
have breathtaking resolution, enough to make movies sound better than
90% of all CD's and you'll quickly become aware of less than stellar
sound tracks on some movies that in the past would have gone unoticed
on a typical solid state home theater...
fact, here's some all too common let downs when you're expecting great
sound in 5.1 surround... and how to correct them on the fly with the
When the sound track
on a movie
find one of these
1) It was mixed with a dominent
center channel and the main speakers only come on when cars drive by or
on certain scenes. This can ruin a movie for any audiophile.
FIX: Take the stereo
output from your Bluray player and run it into one of the auxillary
inputs on the front channels. Select that input. The Zen Ultra
will downmix it to the center, sub and rears in any levels you
want, in this case the fronts. You now have a large stereo image,
sound comming from the
mains at all times, and still have your center channel doing the dialog!
2) The rear
channels are silent throughout 90% of the movie because they mixed it
that way. Then sounds blurt out from the rears the remaining 10%
of the time causing more of a distraction than anything.
FIX: Run the rears
at a reduced volume with the same signal on your fronts with a single
flip of a
switch. This actually sounds far better than you would think, in
fact it sounds so good this way that you'll find yourself doing it
3) There is no bass
because the movie was mixed for cheep hometheater crap where the sub is
doing bass instead of low frequency effects. Also common on many
FIX: Run the
center/sub channels with the same signal on your fronts with a single
flip of a switch. Now instead of the sub playing only low
frequency effects (some movies only have a few seconds of it in certain
scenes) it plays bass and your movie sounds full and tight.
4) General sound
quality of the entire movie is offensively bad and edgy.
FIX: Downmix it from
the main front speakers into first the center/sub channels and then the
rear channels with the flip of two switches. Do one, the other,
or both. Another option is to then switch your input selector to
the aux stereo signal coming from your Bluray player. This gives
you 4 different sounds at your fingertips.
NEVER ONCE during one of these BUMMER SCENERIOS did you have to
the movie, find the remote, use a setup screen, or turn the lights
on. You simply turn a knob or flip a switch and instantly
save the movie without so much as a bump in the road. Your guest
won't even know what happened - except that it suddenly started
THE SOLUTION TO THESE 4 MOVIE BUMMERS
are solvible by no other means,
and it was 10 years and 500 movies of systematically overcoming all of
these things that created the Zen Ultra. NOTE: During this
R&D many many DVD and Blueray players were tested and found to have
great inconsistencies in how they decode various movies. For
example, when a movie exibits any of the prior mentioned bummers on one
player, the same thing would not happen on some of the other players...
but those other players would have the problems on different movies
whereas the original player would not. This is WHY you can't win
with a setup other than the Zen Ultra. (In addition to using several players,
several computers were also used with the same results).
You can read an in-depth article about
the design and what you can do with it HERE.
is 100% tube, all point to point silver wired and completely
hand built with no curcuit boards! It's pure analog - with
real knobs, real switches. That leaves virtually ZERO competitors
- there simply isn't anything anywhere near this quality that will do
what the Zen Ultra does.
The Zen Ultra uses vacuum tube
regulation! First of all, the vast majority of
tube amplifiers for sale do not even have tube regulation. The reason
is because it's a luxury in their eyes that just adds to the price.
Not to mention the obvious... but
just because an amplifier has tube regulation doesn't mean it's going
to sound better. Tighter and more control, yes. Better?
...not always. The classic shunt style regulation so
often seen in the tube amplifiers that do offer it, often poison the
transparency with injected noise
that must be further filtered out. The Ultra doesn't need tube
improve power supply performance. It features an oversized power
transformer with tube rectification with separate filter sections for
each channel. It's a
force approach that
delivers over 150 ma. of current when less than half of that is
actually used by the circuit.
The Zen Ultra is
regulated on every channel with VR Tubes (shown right) giving you four
of these beauties to watch
softly glow when the lights are out!
As usuall we do things a little
differently in that our Voltage Regulation tubes are wired in series with
the load. In that configuration they become a filtering device instead
of a regulating device. The VR tubes place a measurable vacuum gap between the load
power supply. This creates Ultra Clean Power because all of
the the contamination that creaps into your power transformer via the
wall outlet is filtered off. It literally doesn't make the jump
between the cathode and anode of the tube. (Noise from pollution in your local
power grid is greatly reduced)
Talk about black backgrounds, we
could call it the
grain eliminator or the liquidity insurance program, or just an unfair
advantage over virtually all of our competitors.
This is one of the
we know that unless you own
use a power generator, like the PS AUDIO power plant as an example,
there is no way your present preamp will sound as grain free as a Zen
ULTRA (...assuming all else was equal and even that's unlikely.)
And if it wasn't enough to do it once, we employed this technology on
That's a lot of GLOW from these beautiful tubes that don't even get hot
or wear out!
You won't find tube
regulation in the vast majority of power
amplifiers, or preamplifier and you certainly won't find it in a 6
channel home theater preamp!!! Yet, impressive as it might sound
it is only a small part of
why the Zen Ultra can achieve the unique sound quality that is has.
- 120/240 VAC OPERATION
- FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 10Hz ~ 70kHz
- INPUT TUBE CHOICES:
ONE 5Y3GT or 5AR4 or 5U4
- REGULATION: FOUR OA3 TUBES
- INPUTS: 12 RCA
TYPE INPUT JACKS
- OUTPUTS: 12
TYPE OUTPUT JACKS
- HIGH B+ VOLTAGE:
410 VDC CHOKE REGULATED
- INPUT IMPEDANCE:
100 K OHMS
- OUTPUT IMPEDANCE: >1000 OHMS
- INPUT SENSITIVITY:
FULL GAIN @ 2.0 VOLTS
- NOISE: -90dBOPERATION: CLASS
- SIGNAL TUBES: USES EIGHT
6N1P or 6922 DUAL TRIODES
- REMOVABLE POWER CORD
" WIDE x 13-3/4 " DEEP x 7-3/4 " HIGH
- NET WEIGHT: 16.8
LIFETIME TO ORIGINAL OWNER / 90 DAYS ON TUBES
The Zen Ultra has some options.
You can select from the Black Figured Base
(shown at the top of this web page) OR the Contemporary Style Base
(shown above). Different woods can be selected from the shopping
cart. The Black Figured base is only available in Black.
left to right are Ebony, Gold,
Black, Cream, Walnut. You can configure your Ultra with the knobs
you want from within the shopping
You can also purchase this preamp without tubes to save you
money. If you do select tubes, you can be assured of the finest
grade and all will be tested in your Ultra before we ship it.
We offer this
preamp with a 30 day money
back trial so you can hear one in your own room!