A U D I O... P A P E R

Radial Loudspeakers with Zen Triodes

 OCT 2002
by Paul Peterson


First Evaluation of Decware System:

I have delayed any feedback/critique of my Audio system consisting almost entirely of Decware components for good reason. It would have led to an inaccurate and inappropriate summarization to have done this prior to complete break-in, and before many hours of listening could be established. I also wanted to compare various configurations of Interconnect & Speaker Cable, and to make system upgrades as warranted. Familiarity of the Positive/Negative aspects regarding the source was an absolute necessity, as all weaknesses and strengths bare a profound link to the overall perception of musical accuracy. This I have discovered the core to an accurate assessment of the following. This is only the first phase as it is limited to the boundaries of a moderate digital source, without regard to the potential of a first rate analog front end which would catapult this system into the next realm of audio nirvana!

System Components and related Accessories/Modifications.

  • Decware SV83M-DC Mono Block SE Amplifiers. (Dual Core)
  • Custom anti-resonance Amp Bases.
  • Decware ZTpre Dual Mono Triode Preamplifier: Modified with 6922 signal tubes and Goldpoint Step-Attenuators. Vibration dampening provided by triad of Black Diamond Racing composite graphite cones.
  • Audio Power Industries: Power Wedge Ultra(model 115)High current, Isolated Power Conditioner.
  • Transparent Cable: Power Link "PLUS" power cords on source and on preamp isolated power supply.
  • Arcam: Alpha 9 CD source incorporating "Ring DAC Technology" derived from DCS. Vibration dampening provided by set of BDR Cones.
  • Decware RL-1 Radial Speakers: Modified with RL-2 High Frequency Ribbon Drivers only. Open Vent Base on triad platform consisting of Black Diamond Racing Composite Graphite cones affixed to BDR Composite PUCKS.
  • Custom built Solid SILVER/Teflon/Shielded Interconnects with CARDAS Silver RCA connectors.
  • Custom built Solid SILVER/Teflon/Shielded 8ft. Speaker Cables
  • All connections prepped with AudioQuest Ultra-connect cleaning fluid.
  • SANUS Systems : Audio Rack – 6 tier "Open" Air design with glass shelves.

In The Beginning……… Knowing in advance that I be prepared to NOT hear what should be expected from equipment of this caliber BEFORE initial and proper break-in adjustment, was the cold reminder that beckoned my ears upon the first throw of the switch. Realizing that all components, cables and the speakers were NEW, it was fully expected to be very disappointing at first- with a gradual and enveloping trademark sound which would eventually flourish to perfection upon significant burn-in time. This in mind, I still remember just how Radio Shack AWFULL this had sounded to me and how hard it was to believe that it could be this far off track from what it is today. At the very least, I would have expected the sound to be moderately good?? I could not and would NOT listen to this system while it was in the initial stages of break-in as it was absolutely unbearable to the point of which I thought something had to be wrong! Overall, the sound was flat, distorted and basically non-musical in every aspect. After all, I was not accustomed to what I was being subjected to………so I proceeded to allow the hours to pass, leaving the system on to cycle in repeat mode during the day while I was out of the house and not subjected to it’s presence. This continued over the first two weeks of which alas, TRANSFORMATION had taken its course. It did occur to me that even after the first twenty or so hours, much of what was unbearably lacking had very quickly begun to reach a new spectrum to the point of which most noticeably, I found myself decreasing the volume controls to compensate for the increasing dynamics.


The point had arrived to where I could finally sit down and audition this system in analytical perspective. Here is what I started with on through the progression of changes.   


Room Dimensions & Set-up.

The listening room is rather small but dimensionally satisfactory.

Height= 8 ft.

Width= 13ft. by 11ft.

The room is untreated with standard Drywall construction and the carpet is a tight weave low profile fiber. One sidewall exits off to the right into a hallway. The adjoining wall to that exit is comprised of fold out louvered vent panels, which enclose large closet area along its entire length. The opposing wall has windows in the adjoining corners, which are only covered with metal blinds. This is far from ideal as an acoustical environment but it represents the average listening room and it actually is quite forgiving to the usual problems associated with acoustical anomalies. Testing the room at various locations with a hard clap, this does not appear to be detrimental to the acoustics presented by the boundaries. The clap sounds natural with out any lingering echoes nor does the room sound deadened by any means. The handclap sounds sharp and "quick" with just a hint of decay. I will go on the assumption that this room will be of "moderately" satisfactory acoustical properties to conduct an adequate analysis. A future re-evaluation will be done with a full compliment of room diffusers and absorbers as per blueprints from Decware.

I believe that the primary reason that this is acoustically acceptable is due to the arrangement of the equipment and the seating arrangement. I felt that I could best take advantage of the room by setting up everything in a diamond pattern with the center line of the speakers centered between opposing corners (*the greatest length x width). In actuality, the listener is offset by approximately 45 degrees. Off to my right side would be the louvered panels leading out to the hallway in front of me at the 2:00 o’clock position and the windows to the back left of me at about the 8:00 o’clock position. The equipment stand is in the far corner in front of me, on the centerline of my listening position. This is an open-air design with minimal contact to the floor and fitted with glass shelving. The speakers are set intersecting the centerline placed at 7 ft. apart at just over 3 ft. forward of the audio rack, with 1.5 ft from sidewall on left and open to the hallway entrance on the right. The RL-2 drivers are set at exactly 10 degrees angle of attack and pointed to intersect directly at the center point Behind the listeners head. This allows the high frequency beam to focus inline with Left/Right ears. The distance from this centerpoint to the HF Drivers are set at exactly the same distance which is approximately 7.5 Feet. This interfaces the listener to an almost symmetrical triangle pattern with the speakers. To "flip" the triangle from the chair it would almost be equal to the fwd corner.

On with the Audition……

At an estimated 200+ hours of Burn-In, It was now time to do some critical listening. *Remember, this only pertains to the Digital source evaluation and does not reflect the performance of an analog set-up. I will reflect on the contributions made by various cable changes and some minor modifications that were introduced.

The first part of this evaluation started with the following:

  • Original RL-1 Drivers(NO Modifications)
  • Transparent Cable (Premium Music Wave SUPER) 8ft. Speaker cables.
  • Transparent Cable (Premium Music Wave SUPER) 1 meter Interconnects from source to ZTPRE.
  • Decware:Silver/Teflon 1.5 meter Interconnects from ZTPRE to Mono Block inputs.
  • Transparent Cable (PowerLink Plus) Power Cords on ZTPRE Power Supply to Conditioner. And from Source to Conditioner.
  • Standard Power Cords that came with amplifiers.
  • Composite Graphite Cones (Pyramid Mk 3) & Pucks under Speakers with a vent height of 1.75"
  • Pyramid Mk 3 - C.C. Cones under the source (Arcam CD).
  • 16 ohm Ceramic Resistor on Speakers.
  • ZTPRE set up to the following specifications:
  1. Output Level toggled to High Gain position.
  2. Bias set to Normal position.
  3. Coupling Cap switched to position "B"

The only Preparation involved cleaning ALL connections with AudioQuest UltraConnect 2 and degaussing the system with the DENSON De Magic frequency sweep CD. I also treated the surface of the Compact Discs with OPTRIX.

First Impression

I wanted to test the entire spectrum of the musical range, so I concentrated on well produced discs ranging from Classical to Jazz to Blues/Rock on into Heavy Metal.

Telarc Label: Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture; Capriccio Italien performed by Erich Kunzel & the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. This is probably the finest recording of this piece and includes the following to it’s credit: Augmented by 12 piece Brass Band, A superb implementation of "Live" Bells captured from the 100ft.high carillon tower in Mariemont,Ohio. This provided the tumultuous clangor of church square bells, which Tchaikovsky envisioned.

Three different and Authentic 19th century cannons were utilized. A total of 24 different charges of varying sizes were exploded and recorded. Sixteen shots-as required in Tchaikovsky’s score were chosen. The shots were recorded in the courtyard at Baldwin Wallace College in Berea,Ohio.*In the process of firing the largest of the three pieces of ordnance, an oversize charge blew out the lower windows of a building several hundred feet away. The initial "crack" of the cannon upon ignition of the powerful charge lies in the 2,000 to 3,000 Hz region with the follow up BOOM down as low as 6 cycles which represents a phenomenal challenge for recording engineers and ESPECIALY playback equipment! There is a Distinct Warning on the label about the excessively HIGH levels of wide dynamic range in this recording. Believe me,I have always used this disc to do the most serious of auditions. No other recording that I know of will TAXI a system to the extreme like this one will.

My previous system which I still have, consisted of Solid State High current mono block amps bridged for maximum power. "Bridged Mono" set-up yields an output power rating of 1000 watts RMS into 8 Ohms @ clipping, as per manufacturers specifications. Output is very clean and powerful with these amps. I had them connected to very large panel speakers with an array of inline 12" Flat honeycone design woofers (440 cubic inches of displacement, capable of delivering 108 dB SPL @ 18Hz.) and 63" RIBBON drivers. The Ribbons, a single transducer surface that can reproduce all frequencies from 18Hz up to 40,000Hz. Overall efficiency was not good, rated at only 85db @ 3 meters/7.12 volts equivalent to 85dB, 1 meter/2.82 volts direct radiator.

These speakers required a tremendous amount of power to create "involving" levels of enjoyment. I have become very familiar with the audible detail and impact that this recording offers so I knew exactly what to listen for in the overall presentation. When "1812" was played back on my SS system, it was necessary to reduce the volume down to about half of what I normally used for attenuation. The cannon fire will VERY quickly thrust the amplifiers into severe Clipping if the volume is not set at moderate levels. Just knowing how demanding the reproduction of this piece was for a high powered SS system, I was very leery about trying it out with low powered valve amps regardless of design. I was particularly worried about the delicate drivers in the Decware RL-1’s. The large cloth covers on my panel speakers would literally ripple with waves, as the rapid displacement of air would push forward with the explosion of the cannons! The surge of this could be felt across the room with a very solid impact and anything loose would vibrate violently to the low frequencies. At this level,the amps were being driven hard to maximum capacity with the distinction of soft intermittent clipping.

It was my opinion that this would be the "ultimate test" to see what the RL-1’s and the rest of the system would be capable of. I set the dual volume controls to a fairly safe level to initially monitor the results of this recording. Set at around 10 clicks, I was even worried that this might represent a dangerous and possibly damaging threat to the system so I treaded lightly with skepticism. As with most classical music, there is such a variance in the dynamic range that it can be deceptive to believe that the constant output level is a safe one. With the exception of the "Grand Finale" Bells and Cannon fire, this would be a very low keyed but realistic piece to listen to.

Well, to my surprise, this turned out to not only be a safe level but a level which brought fourth a realistic three-dimensional presentation. No it did not have the visceral impact that my SS system produced but the cannons were reproduced faithfully with the distinction of being real, only lacking the forceful impact. The Decware Mono-Blocks finally clipped at 12 clicks of attenuation with the "Dual Core" engaged. There was something missing in the detail of the triangle, chimes and the overall sound of the Bells.This had always stood out to me in the past and it sounded as though the upper 10 to 15% of the high frequencies were indiscernible. I knew what I was supposed to be hearing and there was definitely something amiss. It was apparent without question that this would not be satisfactory, as the system was not reproducing the entire spectrum; unable to convey the subtlest detail for which had been presented on my old system. Disappointed I was, as this had been the general motivation to get into SE Triode "Purist" equipment. This after all was supposed to be the justification for owning such a design.

It occurred to me that this was just a few tweaks away from being justified and that there is a big difference between the massive 63 inch per side "Open Air" ribbon drivers that I was accustomed to and the tiny "Direct focus" metal tweeter that was trying to take their place.

I definitely prefer the smooth open accuracy that ribbons have to offer and standard tweeters just do NOT compete in the same league. Thus, the decision was ultimately made that this was a necessary upgrade. The problem was not entirely due to the inadequacies of the High frequency driver. Upon closer investigation, it became ever so apparent just how critical properly matched cables can be. This system demands cable with material and design, which is complementary to the resolution of critical detail. This is not to say that by any means, the cables currently in the system were of a sub-standard nature, these just did not favorably mate well with this system. These speaker cables (Transparent Cable "Super") retail for $1200 8ft pair, and one set of SUPER interconnects at 1 meter runs $400 pair!!! So you can see that price does not justify itself. I had 100 ft of AudioQuest Indigo+ Speaker cable that is comprised of 8 isolated leads of various gauges to overcome "skin effect" constructed of extruded Solid FPC Copper & Solid LGC copper Hyperlitz design. I constructed a 10 ft. pair of this cable, terminated the source leads with Cardas Silver spades to the amps, and merely bundled the bare leads on the speaker end together with a tight compression fit at the terminals. This cable was used in the past, so I was not concerned about anything more than a quick break-in of the cable before evaluating it. Right away, the sound already seemed to be smoother and more relaxed. I again let the system burn-in with the new cables for a few days and sat down for some serious late night listening. I had recently received some limited edition Japanese Audiophile Remasters of All the Early Pink Floyd albums ’67 to ‘77(Animals) on CD that were packaged as miniature LP’s and they are very unique. The sonic clarity is outstanding on these recordings and most notably all the way back to the early works of ’67. The sound quality meets or exceeds the standards used today on aluminum standard discs. It goes to show that the Analog equipment used to lay down the original masters was of a standard hard to exceed by any design. Anyway, with all power being supplied from the massive Power Conditioner, I was not able to notice any change in quality while listening between 2:00 and 3:00 A.M. as opposed to any other time of the day nor would I have expected such. This may have been a different verdict had the power cords fed directly from the outlets.*All grounds set to float.

So, how did it sound???

Let’s just say that it takes quite a bit of inspiration to keep one listening for several hours straight when it gets to be this late at night, especially when driven at a constant moderately high level of output. I set the volume at 13 to 15 clicks during most of the session and this proves to be the sweet spot sonically as the bass or low frequencies in general, really begins to be spotlighted. Roger Waters laid down some very impressive bass notes throughout the Floyd studio tracks and this without question shines on this system. The notes snap with precision at a very rhythmic pace with each note easily discernable from the next. I have never before heard this level of exceptional balance at the lower end of the spectrum. The detail systematically keeps pace and distinction with the aggressiveness of each successive note. There is never any loss of cohesion here. I am amazed by the way that the decay lingers on well into the attack of each and every cord. Although a powerful SS amp may produce a more gut wrenching effect, I would not trade it for the exceptionally accurate presentation that this system is capable of. In fact, I believe that one would be hard pressed to find another speaker that is as effortlessly open in detail at the lower to mid-range frequencies. For the most part with some exceptions, the basic RL-1 tweeter portrays a convincing reproduction of the upper spectrum but I still prefer the delicacy of ribbons. The Floyd recordings are very good sources for which to analyze this system. Combining a multitude of mesmerizing special effects, openly blending together to create surreal three-dimensional perspectives.

Metamorphosis on the Horizon……

It had now become time to do some experimenting and I just was not fully satisfied with the performance of the High frequency Driver. I Removed the stock tweeter from the RL-1’s and installed the new RL-2 Ribbon drivers with the angle of attack set at 10 degrees. I knew immediately upon the moment that I took these out of the box, that these were going to be very special and without a doubt, far superior to their predecessor.

There was no "extended" concentrated effort necessary to find the difference here. Upon the first few seconds of the first musical passage that I listened to, that old familiar signature immediately satisfied me with the natural smoothness that I grew to love with Ribbon Drivers. I had made a significant improvement here and found the sound to be much closer to my expectations. The transition of the overlaying frequencies from the Midrange Driver to the High end was very natural and transparent without that hint of edginess or metallic flair. I am now excited to tear deep into some well known recordings and why not go for the gold. I have a collection of Mobile Fidelity Gold Discs Cut from the original Masters, the most sonically accurate CD’s that I have to demonstrate, with the exception of other premium discs such as those from CBS Mastersound, DCC, and MCA MasterDiscs.

Now that the system has undergone two vital changes and has had more time to season with age, The results should be very favorable.

Let’s start with an old classic, Lynyrd Skynyrd "Pronounced": Gold MCA Ultimate MasterDisc. I find the early works of Skynyrd to be timeless and I always enjoy hearing these songs. This album transfer to CD is absolutely one of the finest digital recordings that I have ever heard. It is so smooth and natural sounding that I forget that it is even a digital format. It is obvious that it was created directly from the Master Tapes, as it appears to be a vinyl illusion. The bass on this album played by Leon Wilkerson just stands out and maintains itself as a leading component of the musical structure throughout the album. When you have this many musicians entertwined with several guitar players, it can be hard to distinguish the notes individually. That is not even remotely the case here. This disc played on this system will soon make you realize that for all the countless times that one has heard these songs in the past, the truth finally becomes unveiled, letting the listener experience this music the way that it was intended to be heard!

The detail of every musician playing simultaneously throughout is astounding. You never hear an instrument overpowering another and the clarity is so real that it seems as if the band is playing in front of you at different placements around the room. Cymbals shimmer with extended decay, as you would expect to hear them. Double base thunders with tight, solid impact that will be FELT, not just heard.

Another exceptional recording, which just happens to be a standard aluminum disc, comes from the DMP label. The artist is Flim & the BB’s and the Title is "TriCycle" ’83. This contains very fast paced, high impact Jazz. The piano, drums and other arrangement of instruments on this album form to create a stunning blend to push the standard of music outside of the "norm". This album sounds incredible on this system with an involvement that I don’t quite recall from the past.

I have been a long time fan of the "Fresh Aire" series by Mannheim Steamroller. Studio albums 1 through 7 are a must have in any serious audio collection. Each album a unique concept with an utmost artistical aproach to perfection. Though it is difficult to choose one of these albums to stand out above the rest, My favorite selections would come down to Fresh Aire IV and #7. Both of these albums just blow me away in their own right, and to hear them unrestrained as they are on this system does total justice to them! Keyboards are represented here with a very natural tonal balance. With the Grand Piano,there is a crisp impact followed by the lingering and intertwining slow decay of passing notes as each new note is struck. Every note is clean, clear and presented with precision. Fresh Aire 7-Track #6(CHAKRA 1) is a very interesting piece to give some perspective as to the Holographic presentation that this system will provide. Against a silent background, this starts out with several simple random drum beats placed at various dimensional points which gives a very natural and realistic impression, conveying to the listener, the feeling that you are in a deep and widely spaced cavern with which the decaying echoes provide the effect. It is a bit of an Erie effect in the dark.

More Changes on the Horizon

I wanted to find out what improvements could be obtained by upgrading to Solid Silver cables in this system. Since there was a positive change of character in the presentation by substituting the solid long grain annealed copper speaker cables for the highly touted and costly commercial models, my curiosity inspired me to develop some DIY Solid Silver cables.

Constructed of 99.99 Ag 0.015"/0.0190" Teflon coated solid Silver wire from www.a-msystems.com/electronics/products/wirerodpin/wire_rod_pin.asp and PTFE thick wall Teflon Tubing from McMaster-Carr Supply Company as the basis for material. Basic construction involves a center core of 1/8" ID, 3/16" OD, 1/32" wall PTFE tubing with the positive/negative signal wires spiraled in a candy-cane fashion running parallel at ¼"apart and with approximately 1" space between spirals. This is secured with a single wrap of PTFE yellow plumbers tape and then slipped into an outer shell of ¼" ID, 5/16" OD, 1/32" wall PTFE Tubing. This shielded with an outer layer of copper mesh braid to guard against EMI/RFI interference. The mesh braid is directly soldered to the SOURCE end Ground Shell only, rendering these as directional cables. The ends are terminated with Cardas Silver RCA plugs using Cardas Quad Eutectic solder to make the connections. For cosmetic flair, the final assembly covered with expandable sheathing.

At first, just two sets of these 4ft interconnect cables were constructed so that some direct comparison could be done against the existing cables currently in use. The Digital source to the ZTPRE (which replaced the $400+ "Super" cables) & the ZTPRE to the Mono-Blocks (replacing the 1.5 mtr stranded silver Decware models). Since these were new cables and knowing that silver will be ultra revealing to the digital source, I had expected this swap to be a bit bright until there was sufficient time to "cook" the new cables. My intentions were to just install these and let the system burn-in for a few days before a fair analysis could be done. I was surprised by the immediate improvement in overall clarity of detail from the very start, although there was that expected (slight) edginess, which should change with many hours of burn-in. I let the cables break in before sitting down to another audition and deliberately made sure that volume levels and settings were the same as before and that the music source used for the comparisons was the same. No other modifications were made at this time. The "edginess" was gone but there was a definite gain in Detail Retrieval, easily distinguishable in every disc played. This was all the confirmation that I needed to justify upgrading ALL cables in the signal path.

Next Revision

Now it was time to construct the new speaker cables utilizing the same design procedures and materials used in the interconnects. The cables measure 8ft, are terminated with Silver Spades at Mono-Blocks, and bare compression fit at speaker terminals. Again the process of "aging" was allowed before analysis and it was time to listen again. Yes, this has proven to be a positive step closer and the revealing nature of these cables are really taking their course, but I felt that there is still some constraint in the very high frequencies, depriving my perception of the finer detail that I could hear to a limited extent but which I felt could be refined.

There was not much more that I could do except try some variations to the resistor as well as eliminate the resistor altogether and replace with a jumper of straight silver wire so that there would be no limitations on the Ribbon Driver. I opted to run the straight wire and let the driver run without restraint. This confirmed my theory that there was a bottleneck here and I was able to detect detail that is much more refined at this stage. There is a severe drawback to this alteration; ATTENUATION IS VERY LIMITED to moderate levels before severe clipping occurs to the Ribbon Driver. This, even though sounding very open and detailed at lower levels, was not going to be an acceptable situation overall.

Well, there was only one final stage left here. To eliminate the "bottleneck" and to be accomplished with the resistor in the path. This meant making the signal path as short and direct as possible to hopefully gain back the clarity that I was seeking.

I have bypassed the terminals altogether and soldered the 16ohm resister directly into the circuit path as well as the speaker cable directly connected to the circuit itself, further upline, bypassing the terminals on the midrange driver and directly soldered to the diaphragm leads. This makes the signal path as short as possible and allows the usage of Solid Silver Wire to be utilized throughout the circuit. This has paid off in leaps and bounds!!! Finally, the "bottleneck" has been eliminated and the source is freely revealed to expose its weaknesses or to showcase its spectacular ability to resolve the most exquisite detail!

Replaying the Telarc "1812 Overture", my expectations have now merged with the audio spectrum for which I am accurately presented by this complete signal path upgrade from source to driver array. The clarity and extension of this presentation portrayed by the Bells and triangle are now reproduced with stunning realism. There is one final stage short of any improvements gained by adding acoustical modifications to the room by the addition of Diffusers & Absorbers. That is to upgrade the Power Cords and discover what effect that may lead to the overall presentation.

Final Stage

Well, I was not completely devoid of my curiosity yet, so it was time to do the one remaining upgrade for this Digital source evaluation that had not been touched on at this point. Power Cords!

Knowing full well just how critical clean, regulated power is to the circuits ability to recreate a believable and convincingly accurate 3 dimensional model of the studio original recording, I really had questionable doubt as to the abilities of the stock cords that were supplied with the Mono-Blocks (a terrible misappropriation as later confirmed)! Mating these stock cords with a Reference grade piece of equipment such as the SV83M-DC is a total injustice not much less than adding urine to purified water and expecting the water to still be pure!

If you do not believe that reference grade power cords can make an astounding difference, than you might want to reevaluate this area of consideration and put it into proper perspective!

Utilizing material at hand, I constructed a set of 5 foot Power Cables from the Audioquest Indigo+ speaker cable (Solid Long Grain Annealed Copper) and terminated the ends with a Marinco hospital grade 3-prong connector on one end and a Marinco IEC Connector at the other. The only other necessary upgrade to this design was the incorporation of an outer braided shield with only one end terminated to the source plug ground. All points of electrical contact throughout the signal chain (to include all tube pins) were recleaned with Audioquest Ultraconnect 2 and treated with Caig Pro Gold GX-5 High Temp preservative.

At this point, it is difficult to determine whether or not that all of the previous tweaks have opened the door to the final metamorphosis of which these cords have divulged or that such a dramatic restoration of the soundstage depth could be attained just by the mere addition of these cords. I believe that it is composed of the total parts.

When I first installed these "Fresh" cords, I really did not expect to notice much of an improvement but I knew they were better than stock. I was prepared to sit down and concentrate on some very well known music used in the previous tests just to detect any minute changes that may have occurred.

Funny thing happened, I did not have to wait for that chance to come about. Now I will tell you at this point, I decided to polish the surface area of the discs with Mapleshade Mikro-Smooth compound and retreat with Optrix before playing. This is claimed to reduce the roughness of the playing surface, which is in turn supposed to significantly reduce the "Optical Jitter". Well who knows what led to the dramatic change that took place but I can tell you that this alone made more of a significant improvement than any other modification that I made with perhaps the exclusion of the Ribbon Drivers.

Again, it may have been the sum of all parts to create the image greater than the whole!

I had one of the Japanese Audiophile grade master Recordings of Pink Floyd’s early work ( A Suacerfull of Secrets) in the Alpha 9 so I decided to play it first with the new addition of the power cord upgrade. I had just listened to this disc about 2 hours earlier so I am quite familiar with it’s sound. I would never have believed what was about to transpire if someone else had told me this, but after all, I did witness this firsthand! After engaging play mode, I turned to go back to my chair. Without any time to "try" to reveal any change, the change hit me with an immediate and mesmerizing effect that I just paused there between the speakers for a moment to reel in this new found discovery!

The effect was a widening of the soundstage that grabbed hold of my senses like that of a sudden jolt of euphoria. The floor seemed to drop out and the walls gave the illusion of spreading out around me! I do believe I’m on to something here!!!

I became readily involved with this moment and focused all of my attention on to the newly found signature for which I had obtained. This had made all of my efforts worthwhile and for the first time, I am in the zone of audio nirvana or at least for now as the present set-up allows. I wasted no time in constructing a third Power Cord for the ZTPRE/Power Supply. This only leaves the Alpha 9 for which still uses the Transparent Cable Cord. I would have changed this one too, but since the connector does not provide ground, I felt that it was pointless to do so. Anyway, I did not experience any more dramatic changes at this point, however, I believe that there have been very minor enhancements as a result of it. Listening in the dark does NOT reveal the position of the speakers or the limitations of the room boundaries. There is such intricate detail being revealed that it would seem that many of my well-known recordings have taken on a new life. It is as though they were re-recorded with extra detail added in!

One final note to satisfy those that are worried about this system not obtaining high levels of dynamic output or think that they might need the addition of a subwoofer; I have proven that those type of mindsets are completely unjustifiable and should NOT even be considered if the system incorporates the Decware RL series Speakers and that the room acoustics are tolerable.

This system, due to the super efficient and accurate speaker design, not to exclude the purity and power of the Mono-Blocks, will go head to head in SPL with a powerful solid state system using inefficient box or "Planar" speakers. As far as recreating the lower frequencies, that in itself is exactly what this system definitely excels at!! Not only would a subwoofer be unnecessary, it would be detrimental to the overall sound in my opinion. The Bass is Tight, Articulate, and Engaging!

I find that as far as sound pressure levels go, any worries about this aspect can be put to rest immediately. I definitely prefer the signature of the amps with the "Dual Core" transformer engaged as the overall presentation and soundstage just puts the fidelity in absolute perspective. The sound is truer to me with the ZTPRE bias set to "Normal" but there is definitely more punch to the output when selected to "Aggressive" as this will extend that extra low frequency response even at moderate listening levels (Not Loud) to an involvement that is felt as well as heard. I usually set the output of the Goldpoint dual attenuators at around 12 or 13 clicks (out of 23 total available) to achieve the perfect balance of clarity, impact, and connectiveness in my audio room. In an 11’ by 13’ room set up diagonally corner to corner, this creates a very lively and solid recreation of the music,(This is LOUD and CLEAN!). I can listen at this level for several hours straight without fatigue or losing interest. It is unnecessary to increase the volume any higher than this with the exception of perhaps Classical music. If you listen in the dark, you would not be able to judge the size or depth of the room nor would you be able to directly focus on the location or size of the speakers.

At this point, the system has 500+ hours of playing time accrued and it just keeps getting better! I have had zero problems or complaints with this system and it is everything that it is claimed to be and then some. In summary, it is extremely Vital that high quality and "Correct" cables are used throughout as they will definitely make or break the signature. This absolutely applies to the Power Cords as well. The output tubes are most likely coming to an end of their life expectancy with this many hours on them. However, there is no loss of fidelity detected as of yet that would justify a change. The Svetlana tubes are of very high quality and I highly recommend them. It would not make sense to try any other substitute unless it was necessary.


Additional Discs Auditioned That Sound incredible:

  • Kitaro-Tenku
  • The Alan Parsons Project-Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  • Dire Straits-Love over Gold
  • Tangerine Dream-Lily On The Beach
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan-Couldn’t Stand The Weather
  • Vivaldi-The Four Seasons
  • Shadowfax-Shadowfax
  • Sarah McLachlan-Solice
  • Roger Waters-The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking
  • Roger Waters-Amused to Death (Mastered with Q Sound)
  • Pink Floyd- The Wall Live 1980-1981(Is There Anybody Out There?)
  • Tangerine Dream-Optical Race
  • Heart-Dog and Butterfly
  • Metallica-Load
  • Sarah McLachlan-Surfacing
  • Jethro Tull-Songs From the Wood.
  • Supertramp-Brother Where You Bound
  • Sarah McLachlan-Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
  • Vangelis-Direct

That about covers my first stage of this Evaluation. I Have the majority of these listed titles on NEW 180 or 200 gram Virgin Audiophile grade Vinyl Pressings of which will be the basis for the next evaluation covering the Analog "Vinyl ONLY" stage. I have an abundant selection of 180 gram pressings (All still Sealed) of which are mostly Mastered from the original Master Tapes and some are Direct to cutting lathe masters, many which are totally analog using tube based mastering equipment. The albums that I really want to focus on are the newly remastered studio albums from Credence Clearwater Revival by AcousTech Mastering; pressed at RTI using a "Tube" based cutting system. These are reviewed as the most astounding reproductions released as of yet and they will be the primary basis for the next review. I will also focus on the remasters of the Led Zeppelin albums cut on Quiex Super Vinyl by Classic Records as well as The Doors, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Sarah Mclachlan and many others to include an extended listening of various classical recordings such as Mozart-Symphony no. 40 & 41 "Jupiter", Notturno for 4 orchestras, Serenade no. 11. Also, Dvorak-Slavonic Dances, Stravinsky-Petrushka, Trio Galanterie-Eighteenth century music for Lute and Strings, Beethoven-Violin Concerto with David Oistrakh, The Complete 4th Movement "Ode To Joy" from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Bach-Violin Concerto in E Major, Mozart-Violin Concerto no. 3 in G K216, Mahler-Symphony no. 2 Resurrection, Mussorgsky-Pictures at an Exhibition with Ernest Ansermet, Beethoven-Symphony no. 5 Egmont Overture with Pierre Monteux, Tchaikovsky-1812 Overture; Capriccio Italien;March Slave by the London Symphony Orchestra. Also, an album from the German Tacet Label: Die Rohre-The Tube (Exclusive process of mastering and cutting with only "Tube" equipment), covering the works by Corelli, Biber, Vivaldi, Boccherini and Sammartini played by Stuttgarter Kammerorchester.


The Equipment for the Analog Session:

  • Decware – ZP 1.5 Phono Stage
  • Teres – Turntable, Model150 www.teresaudio.com/product/t-150.html, with 3" thick Acrylic Platter, Reflex Clamp, Baltic Birch Base damped with lead shot and set on Black Diamond Racing Cones, DC Drive Motor and Battery Power Supply.
  • Origin Live – RB-250 Silver"Modified" Rega Tonearm of which I am rewiring with 28 Guage Solid Silver Wire into Cardas Silver RCA’s. Also Silk wrapped Litz cartridge leads from AudioQuest.
  • Dynavector – DV-20XH Moving Coil Cartridge.
  • Custom DIY Solid Silver/Teflon Interconnect Cable.
  • Custom DIY Power cord (Same as used on Amplifiers & ZTPRE) for the Phono Stage Power Supply.
  • Record Vacuum-cleaning machine to prepare all Vinyl for playback.

I estimate that it will be around the first week of December before I have a chance to thoroughly evaluate this stage of the review. I hope that in the meantime, I can begin construction of the full Diffuser & Absorber complement, to set up prior to the evaluation.

*Future plans are to begin design and construction of a separate Transport and "TUBE" based DAC. Basic design plans are to use The Phillips CD-Pro2 Module at the heart of the unit. The DAC will most likely utilize "zero – oversampling" digital to analog conversion chips as per research leading me to believe these sound best. This will be the most critical choice in the signature of the sound as well as the filtering, and it seems that the manufacturer’s render new chips obsolete very quickly, making them very hard to obtain. There will be no OP-amps used in the analog stage, instead opting for a valve final stage for the output. Possibly, the output tubes may be 6C45p-EV types as I have heard very good things about them. I am considering using Jenson "paper in oil with silver lead" capacitors for the output stage and using 4-pole Jenson electrolytic capacitors for the power supply of which I’d like to be Tube rectified with perhaps the Svetlana 6D22s half-wave rectifier tube?? This is all subject to change and will most likely be a long drawn out project.

This has been the BEST investment in an Audio System by FAR that I have ever made and it would appear to be my LAST as I believe that there is none better available and very few systems that can even approach this level. The few that are within range are so insanely overpriced that they are out of range for most people to buy and as proven, Price does not justify superiority!!! I give Decware products the absolute Highest ratings and there is just not enough that can be said about them. As "a picture is worth a thousand words" to convey a message, listening to Decware Signature grade equipment is the only way to appreciate the Audio bliss (with a sane pricetag), that can be derived from ANY system regardless of cost, make or model!

Thanks Steve, I hope that this has been helpful feedback to you from one VERY satisfied customer.

Paul Peterson









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