Zen SE84CS Review


Reviewed by: Reviewed by: Randy, Audio Enthusiast, from Falmouth, KY

Dec  2000


Product Model Year:
2000

Summary:
I own the SE84C-S version of this amplifier.

As many of those reading this can relate to, I have been pursuing the quest for a satisfying and involving audio system for more than 25 years ..... never with the success I was hoping for.

What a change in mindset this little amplifier has put me through .....

I ran across Steve Deckert's early web ramblings quite a while back (when he was in the early designing stages) and found it interesting, but didn't think much about it after that.

I owned a Conrad Johnson MV-50 ("carmel colored" but very musical) and an Audio Research VT-100 (retail $4500.00 !!!), so I was thinking that I was "good to go".

I had heard a pair of Golden Tube 300B SET monoblocks in my system ..... but they didn't do a thing for me and I concluded that the whole "SET thing" was a Fig Newton of the imaginations of those owning them ..... ; )

One day, a good friend and fellow music lover drug this "toy like" little amplifier over to my house and despite the fact that my speakers (ProAc Response One SCs) were in no way efficient enough to be powered by the "scrawny" 2 to 5 watts output ..... I was floored.

The next two weeks were spent in total denial ..... there was no way that this sorry little joke of an amplifier was shaming my "well regarded" brand name amplifiers. But it was ..... and in a big way.

Unfortunately, my ability to hear is pretty good, so it was just a matter of time before the inevitable happened and I became a Zen owner ..... and the CJ and the AR went to live with someone else. Sound familiar ? I'll bet it does for a lot of people who have purchased and /or posted reviews of Decware Zen amplifiers.

There are several versions of these amplifiers ..... a standard version, a select version with premium parts and a more powerful pair of monoblocks (in two versions).

If you own an efficient (90 db or better) pair of speakers and listen in a moderate sized room at reasonable levels, either stereo model of this amplifier will put an ear to ear smile on your face. If you have speakers that are not as efficient, a larger room or listen at high volume ..... I would recommend the mono blocks.

The low level detail, three dimensionality of soundstage and harmonic integrity that these amplifiers produce is absolutely breathtaking with a good recording and associated equipment.

If your taste is acoustic instruments and female voice, you will be enjoying your collection of music as if hearing it for the first time. Instruments such as piano are reproduced with all of the complexity intact ..... very tasty.

Happily, there are a good number of speakers that work well with these amplifiers. I own a pair of The Horns (http://www.thehornshoppe.com) and there is a database of suitable speakers on the Decware website.

For about $1500.00, you can buy a "Stan Warren modded" Pioneer 333 CD/DVD player (see the Decware forum), the basic Zen amplifier and a pair of The Horns and have a system that is musical beyond belief.

It's also hard to beat the 30 day return policy.

You can check the product line out at :
http://www.decware.com

I can recommend the Zen amplifiers without reservation.
Five well deserved stars !

Strengths:
Musicality, incredible value

Weaknesses:
None to my ears .....

Similar Products Used:
Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, Golden Tube, Dynaco, Heath

 

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