Reviewed by: Ralph , Audio Enthusiast, from Bay area, CA

Oct  2001


Product Model Year:
2000

Summary:
My amp is the Zen Select C-S version, which I bought used after carefully reading everything I could find, including the informative and entertaining DecWare website. There are several audio press reviews, but none yet on the Select version, which DecWare claims offers the sonic quality of their twice the price mono version Zen amp. I had considered holding out to buy the Monoblock amp because my speakers though 98dB sens. are a bit demanding on SET type amps due to a 5ohm impedance. Now that I took the chance and bought the Zen C-S amp rated for a mere 5 watts (or less), I'm glad I didn't wait. What makes this tiny, actually miniscule, amp so amazing is that it performs best with lower impedance rated speakers. This in contrast to typical SETs, which mate best with anything over 8ohms. Here I thought is a tube amp run single-ended (albeit with pentode SV83 output tubes) that can handle the real-world load of moderately sens speakers (DecWare recommends 90+ sens).

I've owned the amp for less than one week and I already love it. It has been completely trouble free and is exactly what I was looking for to complete my system. Why do I like this amp so much? If you've ever heard a really good SET amp, you'd understand because despite the conventional wisdom-- that an amp must be expensive to be SE--this baby has that midrange magic and it has the speed plus extension in the low frequencies to produce tuneful bass. I am completely blown away by the huge soundstage that it produces allied with very good instrumental separation.

It is possible that I have just found an extremely fortunate match for my wonderful Brentworth Type I speakers (www.brentworth.com) because, while sounding quite good on another 4ohm speaker with a mere 94dB sens, the combination just wasn't in the same league as when mated to the Brentworths which just seem to thrive on the amp. So, needless to say this one is keeper.

Its sonics are relaxed and tuneful, with great pace. Resolution is just short of what's possible by the big buck SET amps, but smart cabling helped add some transparency to the sound. I have already rolled the stock input tube with a Tele 6922 to bump up the transparency and now use the high bias position exclusively.

I couldn't be happier to recommend this amp from a company that is doing so much to make quality sonics more affordable by all. Check out the Brentworths too if you're looking for another unsung product in that category. 5 stars!

Strengths:
Soundstage
Bass Dynamics
Midrange clarity
Ease and coherence of sound

Weaknesses:
Low power requires 92db or above speakers

Similar Products Used:
heard SET amps by Cary and Wavelength

 

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