Zen SE84C Review


Reviewed by: Ivan,  an Audio Enthusiast from Munich

Oct.  2002


Product Model Year:
2001

Summary:
Very simply put WOW! YOU HAVE TO BUY ONE!

I have listened to MANY different systems (all transistor based), and I have always found something missing, but I never knew what. Recently I replaced all my sound kit, with the idea that I was trying to avoid that dull lifeless sound. Sure as hell, that's exactly what I got. Very precise, very loud, and VERY lifeless. I thought maybe it was my nice and expensive AV amp being underpowered, listening to CDs instead of LPs, not having a 2nd sub, or perhaps because my room did not have a carpet and heavy curtains. Either way it seemed like an impossible( aka lots more money ) situation to solve. Don't get me wrong, it sounds GREAT when you pump Terminator 2 through it. But very dull when listening to anything in stereo.

Almost as a distraction, instead, I thought I would get get my feet wet in tube amps, they have some sort of allure for me, maybe the glow, or maybe it's just the romance of it all, dunno. I have never had one, or heard one, so this was really just a dabble into the unknown.

Personally the picture I had in my head was hum, heat, low volume, and sonic incompatiblity with the rest of my 5.1 home theater.i.e. I thought it would be a matter of getting to grips with the compromises in order to embrace something hopefully "warmer" (aka older and dated), more as a hobby than for real sonic ablity.

Sometimes the world really surprises you. I ordered my SE84C-S kit from DecWare and about 2 weeks later it arrived. I spent about a week putting it together. The kit is definately for skilled people,(probably only about 5 hours of real work if you know what you are doing). I highly recommend spending the extra money and buying it assembled. It not hard, but it is worth having it done for you. Although the sense of satisfaction, knowing that you built it yourself, is fantastic once you turn it on and hear the results.

When I plugged it in I immediately heard the difference. I now understand why tube people talk about transistorised sound as being thin and completly LIFELESS, its what I have been looking for all my life without really knowing it. I did not change ANYTHING else. It sounds like a matress has been removed from in front of my speakers. Everything sounds better, ESPECIALLY vocals and live/real accoustic instruments seem to come alive in your living room. Its like they are really there. I thi

Strengths:
Most of the tube amps I looked at in the shops were at MIND BOGGLINGLY high prices. If you are looking to get into tube amps, the Zen is exactly what you want!

As an upside it fits right into my 5.1 home theaters( as long as your amp has pre-amp outs ) with no problems or sonic incompatiblity.

Weaknesses:
This tube amp doesn't do LOUD. Don't try and have a showdown with the neighbours, there is enough headroom to seriously piss them off, but not enough to break any windows. If you planning to have lots of parties make sure you keep your transistor amp and install a switch to your speakers, or get a 2nd set.

Similar Products Used:
N/A since none offer any real comparison.

 

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