DATE: APRIL 1998 - Namaste, Sail

Iíd like to start this with a quotation;
Where words fail, music speaks.

Hans Christian Anderson - From one of the most gifted writers of all time?

I like to call my little Zen amp, Za and it's a she (out of respect).

Iím a music lover, not a audiophile. Iíve been a computer software engineer for thirty years. Iíve been doing Zen for thirty five years. I can be highly logical as well as highly illogical. I have played classical guitar for twenty years and some portion of them with other musicians. I am a composer and created many songs but never wrote them down. Iím familiar with natural sound of most of music instruments and am capable of tuning my own piano.

After a dozen different configurations and varying equipment. Iíve settled with following configuration:


  • Kenwood KRX-1000 THX receiver with power amp section turned off. Using Line Straight mode to bypass all pre amp section except volume control. (A Remote volume control is very important to me. This one gives me ability to adjust 1 dB increment which I like very much.)
  • Kenwood 1050SW a 150 watts powered subwoofer handling 80 Hz and below. Set to music mode rather than movie mode. Signal received from KRX-1000 via Monster THX sub woofer cable. Set up 10 feet from my listening position in the middle of two ESS AMT Monitors. I found that for hi-fi application this is the only way to go. This is the first time I used a powered subwoofer for hi-fi application and I highly recommend this. Relieving main speaker from handling low frequency can give you remarkable results.
  • ESS AMT Monitor. Two way. 6 ohm. 110 lb. each. 93 dB sensitivity. Twenty two years old still works good. Iíve had these since new. Good bass and clean high. Mid, I donít know, I did not care and I donít care now. Any musical instrument including reproduction equipment with good highs and lows generally have good mid. Based on my experience, this hold true on all aspects of life. Hardware, software and even human being. The highs and the lows touch my body and soul not the mid. Receiving signal from my Za via Monster middle of the road cable. Set them up 5 feet from the back wall and 10 feet apart and directly facing towards my listening position.
  • Sony 200 CD changer. Many source saying that this is a mid-fi. A gentleman brought Marentz CD 63 SE to me to audition before the purchase. After AB test few songs he could not here sonic difference and neither did I. Sonyís sound stage was actually bigger. He took his CD 63 SE back along with information on my Za. Connected to KRX-1000 via Monster cable.
  • Luxman turn table with Sanshui cartridge connected to KRX-1000 via its own cable.
  • DECWARE Zen Amp Revision A. Connected to pre out of KRX-1000 receiving only 80 Hz and up via Monster cable. This allow Za to put out much more effective output than rated 5 watt/ch and better mid and high due to active bi-amping. I Selected my best CD and LP recordings. The reason for all this trouble was to know Zaís true capability. I was not interested in its adaptability. I like true and natural sound. I do not like the system producing better sounds than live music. Per other people such a system exist but I never heard them.

    Iíve realized for the first time the notion about speaker being most important component of hi-fi system is absolutely wrong. My ESS AMT Monitors were never sound this good. Now, I can here grand concert master piano rather than $5,000 baby grand I have. I can here unique sonic signature on different solo violin or cello. My LP was little better than CD before. Now, my LP is a lot better and CD became my weak link. Now I know that power amp is the most important component in hi-fi system. Without it other components are simply not allow to perform their 100%. Here comes my impression on my Za.


  • The sound: She does not have tube sound. She does not have solid-state sound . She does not have exaggerated sís. She does not have grainy sound. When I asked my wife for her impression she offered me only one word Ďtransparentí. When you remove all colors and dirt from glass window you will see transparently. However, from Zen perspective, you would not describe live music transparent. Because it is already transparent. Yes, you will always have glass, because it is not live.
  • The speed: She is very fast. If any faster she would not be natural.
  • The sound stage: Very wide and very deep. And unusually high.
  • The imaging: All instruments are rock solid in its position. Without good sound stage and image you will not get good mid. My opinion.
  • The dynamics: Re-create the dynamics of a full-size orchestra very well.
  • The output: Iíd like to listen to music as loud as possible before sound get to my face or null my ear. Iím enjoying my normal listening level with Za. Hard to believe she has only 5 watts to give.
  • SV83 Vs EL84: A beautiful 25 year old woman Vs a beautiful 45 years old woman. If you are younger than 35 you would not fully comprehend all the beauty 45 year old woman has. Me, on the other hand at age 48, I love them both and Iíll keep them both and switch them month at a time.
  • 2 A.M. listening: With low level listening she maintains all the good things listed above.
  • Surround sound: My final configuration with speakers 1 feet in front of my projection TV (now only 3 feet from wall) allow me to enjoy THX surround sound from only two speakers. Surround sound literally coming from back wall. I do not understand this but I do not care. Iím hearing a lot more information and I love it this way.
  • The conclusion: The most natural sounding system Iíve ever own. The most close to live sound system Iíve ever own. Yet, the only addition was Za.

    Steve, from one Zen man to another, my hats off to you. Society who enjoys music is healthy and you are enabling more people to do so. Please consider adding headphone jack into future Zen Amp for college students and me. Zen amp will become dual purpose SET amp. I heard you may need load-resister. Please let me know when you have this option ready or finished your radial speaker project.



    PS During 10 days of intense listening and evaluation Zaís sound was getting better everyday and still getting better. I heard tube amp requires at least 200 hours of use to become mature.



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