DATE: MAY 1998 -

Dear Steve,

After many hours of listening to oodles of albums, tapes, and CD's, I've come to the conclusion that the Zen amp is a winner. (And, interestingly enough, that the Caver 1.0t is a fine amp in its own right).

My musical listening tastes are quite varied and ecclectic. In any one listening session I may listen to Zydeco music, reggae, operatic arias, folk music, punk, and avant-garde classical music.

The Zen amp has a smooth and lively sound with the sweetness of tubes (wonderful midrange with lovely vocals) without the tubby bass and attenuated highs that I associate with the Dynaco ST70, the tube amp of which I am most familiar (having lived with one for three or four years).

One interesting facet of the Zen amp is its bias switch (to facilitate system matching or "let's dick with the current"). At one setting, it smooths out the soundstage--nice for them crooners and smooth jazzers. At the other setting, guitars take on a gutsy, blusey edge, the music becomes more aggressive, the little Zen imitates a guitar amp, sans the shortcomings of a guitar amp for reproducing full range music. The soundstage is wide, musical imaging is more three dimensional than the Carver 1.0t, grain is less. The Zen amp is not perfect, but it is damn fine. It is, in short, a winner. In an ideal world, I'd have two to use as monoblocks. But, alas, I live in a world constrained by economic limits.

Sigh... If you have efficient speakers (ideally, 90 or higher), you might want to give the Zen amp a go. You do have 30 days to evaluate the amp--I took this option very seriously and would have returned it had I not liked it. One feature about the Zen amp that I particularily like is the gain control. It allows me to go direct to any one of my line sources--CD, tuner, reel-to-reel, cassette deck--without having to go through my Carver C4000 preamp; however, I prefer the ultimate convenience of a preamp and am considering a tube preamp to replace the Carver. Surprisingly enough, the Zen seems to transcend the classic tube sound/classic solid state virtues and combines a bit of each. It is a marvellous little gem of an amp. So the music keeps on playing and my stereo kit continues on its evolution.

Kind regards,

Allan M. Hunchuk



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