Date: Jan 11 1997 / Wes Keller

I believe the model was their #88 single ended. It was something like 20 watts. I heard it at a party in SF. He had two boston accoustic towers that, I believe, were 3 or 4 ways. Not only did they soak up a lot of power, but I think Boston Accoustic speakers are a good waste of money. I will admit they sounded good with the amp, though. But, voices weren't as clear as they should have been and didn't stand out as much as they do with Steve's amp.

It was a VERY "warm" system overall. Too warm for me. All in all, I strongly believe the man handicapped himself with those BA towers. Still, I am not convinced that it could duplicate the Zen's uncanny ability to make voices sound so real and 3 dimensional. It was pretty powerful, though. It did fill the room with sound without any problem. I want to go back with my Zen amp and do a head to head comparo, but I hardly know the guy, and I wouldn't want to soil my Zen amp with those Boston Accoustic speakers. :)

I would definitely Bi Amp if you could. I overdrive my amp often on techno and some rock. The highs are pretty good because my room is relatively small, but I could use a bit more bass "oomph". However, for jazz and most other listening, there's plent of power and ample bass. In fact, on my Kenwood AV 100 Watt/channel amplifier, I have to crank the bass up almost all the way to match the Zen amp's response at a given output level (The kenwood has a % power output indicator).

At about an indicated 6-12 watts, the Zen amp still has the kenwood beat on bass. Not until the kenwood gets to ~25 watts+ does it totally bury the Zen. I don't know how accurate the Kenwood is, but I do know that this Zen amp has no business putting out the bass that it does.

I cranked a composition by techno artist Danny Saber the other day and left my door open. When I told a friend of mine that the amp was only rated at 2 Watts, her eyes got bigger than Bill Cosby's! She would not believe me until I just gave up and said, "They rate tube amps differently..." Ahh well...

In all fairness, my amp is running some very nice tubes: A full compliment of Soviet/Sylvanian power/output tubes with a nice 12AX7 triode, which I am sure helps beef up the output a bit. Steve was kind enough to give me some tubes from his personal stock in exchange for an old tube amp I mailed him.

My next step is a good DAC/DTA/DTAC or whatever they're calling them nowadays. I may get a new CD player first, though. I will then likely get a set of Polk Audios that I have been eyeing/hearing. The midrange and highs are incredibly crystal clear. An $1100 pair of speakers never sounded so good. After that...another Zen amp! :)

Oh, another thing. I listened to a Marantz pentode 60 watt stereo tube amplifier hooked up to some VERY nice B&W speakers. The whole system was priced at a tad over $14,000. I listened to it for maybe 30 minutes, so the amp was barely warmed up. Still, I was extremely unimpressed for $14,000. That was with my own music, too. One of those CD's was Sister Machinegun's "Burn", which I raved about on the review. The Marantz was extremely accurate, and the system sounded _great_. But, I think two Zen amps would have sounded much better in it's place. The Zen amp gave the music(track #1 and 8, I think) more depth and made the guitar sound less "frizzy" for lack of a better word. I think Pentode mode, in general, is just not for me. I like the warmth, intimacy, and musicality of triode mode. The Zen amp has an uncanny way of giving the music shape and form.

I really wish I had a wider array of adjectives, but "musical" and "realistic" as well as "clear" and "deep" always come to mind when I describe this amp. What really surprises the hell out of me is I suddenly feel like, after 7+ years of owning these 2 AR's, that I _finally_ got to hear what they were really capable of. This whole time I was torturing them with this cheesy Kenwood system.

-Wes Keller




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