Zen SE84C Review

Reviewed by: Dave,  an Audio Enthusiast from New York city

Nov.  2002

Product Model Year:

I bought this amp as a no-lose (30-day trial) foray into the world of tubes. Previously an exclusively solid state listener, I am at this point very happy with my decision. As a single component change in my system, this was a dramatic change for the better. My system is a Fairchild turntable (s# 273!) and original Grado tonearm (walnut) and Grado Gold cartridge going into a Marantz 7t preamp and previoulsy Marantz 300 DC amp powering Klipsch Heresy speakers. The difference between the Zen and the Marantz was dramatic, and I'm not talking about the power. The most striking feature of it was the spaciousness of the sound, which seems to be the source of the incredible detail - I can hear in and around the instruments. By comparison the Marantz (which I liked very much) sounds blurred with all the sound jumbled together. Two weeks into the burn-in, the Zen is sounding very warm and natural. I never noticed it previously but after hearing the Zen the Marantz sounded rather harsh and unnatural. The sound also seems to travel differently from the Zen, I can really feel the sound physically, even at low volumes, the same way that live music sounds. The Marantz certainly allowed me to feel the sound pressure, but to me it sounded like I was behind a glass wall or something, which reminds me of the infinite clarity of CD sound at the sacrifice of presence which will always make vinyl more enjoyable for me. Now, obviously I'm in a different power category, but for my ears I can crank and be enveloped by the sound with the Zen and my Klipsch's no problem, and a much more pleasant, enjoyable and realistic sound at that. It of course lacks the dramatic dynamic peaks that are possible with major wattage, and while I could have probably impressed some people in that category with the marantz, I'm intersted in listening and for that the Zen does everything I would want. By comparison a friend has a typical high power solid state set up with a Bryston 4B powering some Dahlquist DQ-10s, which was previously my standard for high quality sound. Now I'll take my setup (at a fraction of the cost) any day and now happily every day. For the record the Marantz sold yesterday paying for the Zen and then some, and I'm all the happier.

Clarity, warmth, spaciousness of the sound, detail, presence. Great bass, treble and highs - musical and warm.

Compatible speakers necessary, but that speaks for any system and with the compatible speakers this amp sounds as good as any SS/speaker combination I've heard.

Similar Products Used:
Marantz 300 DC, Bryston 4B




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