DATE: SEP 1998

Steve,

I said I would follow up with some comments. These are also posted in your audio forum. My new Zen amp arrived the other day and needless to say I am extremely happy with it!

Here is my system: Zen amp from Decware. $499. Denon DCD 2560 CD player. Second hand (for $275) and 8 years old, but solid, heavy, and has really nice sound. RA Labs (Roy Allison) Mini Reference monitor speakers. 2-way, 6 inch woofer, 90 db W/m, replaced tweeters (I blew the old ones and these newer cheap jobs don't sound as good).

I bought these four years ago after Sam Tellig (Stereophile) said they sounded as good as some $1600 monitors from England. I paid $189 for the pair, and extra $50 for stands. DH Labs BL-1 Silver Sonic interconnects. Good reviews on the web and in Audio Amateur. $90 Zip cord / house cable for speaker cable. Soon to go.

Did listening comparisons with FMS Waveguide (stranded cable) and Audioquest Indigo (8 solid copper conductors). Indigo sounded best, very clean and detailed; Waveguide also sounded good, the zip cord sounded flat and horrible. Rotel RB-855 turntable with Sumiko Blue Point cartridge. Four years ago cost $400. Luxman R-3045 stereo receiver. Second hand 4 years ago, cost $190. I use this for radio and as a phono amp stage for the turntable.

Listening comments. The sound of this system (using the digital source direct into the Zen amp) is extremely good. Using good speaker cable is necessary, the system is ruined with zip cord. Comments apply to the Indigo cables. We played a CD by Billy Novick and Guy Van Duser (they played at our wedding) and we could hear each nuance of sound from the guitar strings - the fingers stroking the strings, the tiny harmonic buzz of the first pluck, along with the actual note played. You could hear Billy's breaths as he played the clarinet. Everything was there. The imaging is superb too.

Closing your eyes while sitting in the sweet spot between the speakers, you can hear exact positions of performers or sounds, even how far away they are. You get both side to side placement, and depth perception. Wow. Well engineered recordings like Dark Side of the Moon just blossom to life and surround your head like no surround system ever could. Dark listening room is best. I am finding things in my music that I never ever heard before. Every day I just want to sit down and experience. Most of my listening is done at 1/3 to 3/4 volume level (on the Zen amp pot) with 2V digital source. For really involved listening, you don't need it any louder. Music played included Pink Floyd, John Lee Hooker, Hair (soundtrack to the film), Bach's violin concertos, Kate Wolf, Chemical Brothers, Charles Mingus, and others.

The complete cost of this system (excluding the turntable and radio) is about $1300 (including $200 speaker cables which I have yet to purchase). This is terrific value for the quality of sound. The analog side of my system is not up to par with the digital. The radio sounds nice, but records do not have the open, airy, detailed, beautiful feeling I am getting with the digital source. I really need a decent phono stage, and possibly (if I can afford it) a better turntable. My speakers are surprisingly good but they may go in the near future. Thinking "radial loudspeaker"... James

James Melhuish

http://people.ne.mediaone.net/jmelhuish/

 

 

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