Zen SE84C Review

Reviewed by: Mike , Audio Enthusiast, from Boulder, CO

Dec  2001

Product Model Year:

review subject: Decware Zen SE84 revision "B" no. 293

I purchased my Zen used from Decware after reading many reviews and a conversation with Steve Deckert, the amp's designer. The amp has only a handfull of watts, so the 88 dB efficient speakers I had used with my 120 w/ch SS amp quickly showed their limitations. Ditto for my 90 dB mini-monitors. The amp would clip before reaching suitable listening levels while playing dynamic music (rock, reggae). While playing bluegrass and other accoustic music this was not the case.

So, the search was on for high-efficiency speakers that would not break the bank. After researching "Pi" speakers, the HammerDynamics Super12 and the DIY Afterburner project on the SingleDriver web site, I assembled an Eminence Alpha12 woofer, a 1.6k crossover and a horn tweeter (with an L-PAD) in an old set of 2 cu. ft. cabinets. The system has an efficiency of about 96-97 dB, and when combined with an inexpensive subwoofer I finally had full-range! (Most other options for achieving high-efficiency full-range without a sub are rather pricey, although I have read very good things about Ed Schilling's Horn.)

Now I finally started to hear what all the fuss was about. I am hearing detail, soundstaging and 3D imaging unlike anything my 120 w/ch arc welder was capable of. Accoustic bass in jazz ensembles sounds phenomenal. The slightly rolled off highs this tube amp produces takes the "edge" off of the digital source I use. The timbre of horns, jazz guitar, and percussion instruments are lifelike. Female vocals are stunning. Hendrix's guitar used to sound harsh and compressed on my SS amp. Not so with these tubes.

Excellect job Mr. Deckert, you've created a tube amp for the masses. If you can find efficient speakers, I highly recommend this amp.

3D imaging, accuracy of timbre

only high-efficiency speakers (95 dB +) will allow it to "sing"

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