07, 1999 Comments by James Whiting
to write you yesterday and then inadvertently canceled my email before
I finished it. I very much appreciate you shipping the amplifiers 2nd
day air. It has also been interesting to find out how good the Zen is
from the get go.
home Friday afternoon and immediately proceeded to create my jumpers
to series mono-bridge the amplifiers. I am using the GQ25SE-AG ( the
same that I sent you) in a doubled run using WBT silver spades. You
can see by this that I am quite obsessive about my audio.
decided to directly solder the interconnects from my Cal CL-20 to the
volume pots avoiding the whole input connector issue. I hooked them
up and turned then on. Even cold, unbroken in they had a uniquely
neutral even quality. I found them within a few hours to provide
a much more emotionally satisfying presentation of music then I have
ever experienced in my system and only rivaled in one or two others.
the SE84B's arrived with the bias switch flipped towards the tubes I
left it there until Monday morning, only playing with it a couple of
times. I did find that in the late morning/early afternoon that it did
smooth some of the thin, slightly bright character of my power line.
Monday morning my step son came over, he wanted to listen with his
music. The system still sounded good albeit thin, bright and compressed.
I am sure this was a direct result of the particular CD he had chosen.
I let him turn it up and play. I found it quite a bit better switching
the bias switch toward the front of the amp(away from the tubes). The
amp had obviously started to break in and I noticed that this setting
provided a more open neutral perspective on both the singer and the
musicians in the background.
I put some of my favorite CDs on and noticed that the sense of top to
bottom harmonic bloom was better, more satisfying. My Wife and I kept
commenting to each other on how much more we could hear, finding new
information, small treasures of illuminated detail that made every song
brand new. And the amazing thing was it was not broken in more than
20 hours at this point. I had also neither leveled or spiked my speakers,
figuring I would let the amp break in for a much longer period before
really worrying about the speakers.
was so remarkable however that I just had to set the speakers up properly.
Oh my gosh! I put on a few CD's. The musical reality of these
little amps staggered me. The rooms boundaries disappeared. I pulled
out my Peter Gabriel's Secret World because it is a live concert recording
and, well I wanted to see how live it could get. How can this be happening.
I was there. Suffice it to say I have never heard better.
that my room is only 13' X 17' X 8' and I only use correct speaker positioning
to compensate for room anomalies, although my room is quite good. I
could close my eyes and have absolutely no sense of being in any place
but a large concert hall. I have heard larger rooms create a more physical
sensation of size but the boundaries were still present with or without
my eyes open.
sheer emotion of the performance. I have always believed that the combination
of precise note-to-note timing and consistent, evenly- weighted harmonic
structure provide the emotion of the performance. This started in the
Linn/Naim stage of my audio development, over a decade ago. No matter
what I have since owned this has always struck me as the most important
aspect of a great system. It is one of the reasons I love good baroque
music and will happily listen to it for hours. Here it was in spades,
offering a level of timing cues and harmonic structure that became the
music and started to move on an emotional level I have not previously
experienced from an audio system.
hear Peter Gabriel working his voice, changing pitch, texture, etc.
I don't know all the correct terminology for singing technique, but
I could hear him doing it. Then Paula Cole's sweeter, higher pitched
accompanying vocals blending with his deeper, more resonate tone. And
I could hear them wringing more out of the song then I had any idea
was in it. I could also hear instruments more clearly in their own space
with their own unique harmonic signature and sense of air and how tightly
the band played together. I was so magnetized by the counterpoint between
Peter Gabriel and Paula Cole that I primarily paid attention to them.
I could have just as easily listened to a particular musician or even
the crowded coughing, whistling or clapping. The whole sense of the
event was in my listening/living room.
since listened and been equally amazed by just how effortlessly this
amp both reveals and gets out of the way of music. I know I can't go
back to solid-state. I am inspired to learn and explore pure class A,
zero feedback, direct heated, single end triodes etc. But you know,
if I wasn't such techno-weenie maniac, audiophile I would just enjoy
the music. I will most assuredly do both. On an absolute basis a little
more volume and somewhat larger dynamics would be wonderful. I wish
I could get this amp in a version with say 50 watts. A more efficient
speaker? My Talon Audio Khoruses are about 91dBW/mtr. I am not willing
nor can I afford to give up this speaker for some of the better horn-loaded
types available. So I will happily give up a slight amount of large
scale dynamic and the last ounce of bass impact for the sheer musicality
and emotion that is this amplifier.
Oh, I also
noticed that better recordings seem to open up the dynamics of these
amps more than one would think possible. I believe this amp reveals
very clearly the compression that is in a lot of otherwise good recordings.
When I put on a Chesky 96/24' for example, dynamics and impact are certainly
there and even more remarkably there is an even greater level of difference
than I had previously heard, in comparison with normal CD's, than with
any other system on which I have compared these formats.
suppose I had actually intended to write a review, but 20 years plus
of audio obsession have brought to a point where this sort of just happens.
Anyway I will continue to let you know as my system progresses and the
Zens break in. I am also hoping within the next few weeks to order your