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EddieCurrent Zana Duex - impressions

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This impression might be a little early as the amp has just past 160 hours of broken in. The Singlepower Extreme Platinum impressions by Tbln and MAD HD2 impressions by osocan actually prompted me to place my thoughts for the ZD. :grin:

 

My Biases

I prefer warm, full-bodied, rich midrange with a smooth top end and an overall creamy sound. I also value musicality that allow me to enjoy the music without ear fatigue.

 

Associated Equipment

Source/DAC: CEC TL51XR and Bel canto DAC3

Interconnect/Cables : Acrolink, Virtual Dynamics, Black Sand, Signal Cable

Power: PS Audio Duet

Rack: Michael Green Deluxe JustaRack

Headphones: Sennheiser HD600 with Equinox, Audio-Technica W5000, Grado PS-1 (crushed bowls), RS-1 and MS-Pro (both used flats), Ultrasone Edition 9.

 

Music used

Jazz, some Classical, blues, some 80's pop, classic rock, and audiophile vocals.

 

 

On to the sound

The ZD has about 160 hours. So please take it with a big grain of salt.

 

The Zana Deux only ships with 6D22s rectifier tubes, the input and power tubes have to be purchased separately. There's no stock Zana Deux sound that I know, as it's already tuberolled from day 1, LOL.

 

The following comments are drawn from a relative point of view with the PS Audio GCHA or Yamamoto HA-02 in the fray using the same setup.

 

The ZD strikes me with its incredible soundstage, with air space filling between the music notes. Even headphones that known for no soundstage like Grado RS-1, has a deep soundstage depth and the music actually appears to be outside of my head. The imaging is excellent that I could easily "see" the instruments and the singer appear to have their own space and place in the soundstage. The imaging of ZD is so clear and precise that I can easily pinpoint the "location" of players, trumpets, violins or anything you name it, even the chorus girl hidden behind, I could hear them clearly, isn't it amazing? The one thing I have begun to crave now is deep and holographic soundstage, which seems to be one area that differentiates a good amp from a better amp. Another noticeable impression was the musicality. You are hearing the music, not sound. It has incredible musicality that make you forget about analyzing the sound. It's that good.

 

Vocals appears to be detailed and addictive. Depends on the driver tube used, I feel that the vocals appear to be more neutral with european made 6SL7s (Brimar, Mullard, FIVRE) with no apparent emphasis. It won't turn thin voice to sound thicker and vice versa. The american made 6SL7s (RCA, NU, Sylvania) sounded slightly more lush in comparison, with a bit more present and weight. It really boil down to one's preference. I am absolutely happy with both types, although my preference went slightly over to the american types 6SL7s for vocals.

 

The bass response of this amp also worth a mention. It goes deep and tight, very well-defined and fast. Listening to acoustic music, the bass can be felt like it's in my chest at the thump-thump-thump of a good bass drum. The bass of Yamamoto or GCHA sounded woolly in comparison.

 

Even thought it's a tube amp, it's very clean and transparent with great punch and dynamics. If I want something lush and tubey, I will go for RCA tubes. I feel that the ZD is as neutral as with no slight preference leaning towards either tube or solid state sound. For me, it's a perfect blend of the Yamamoto HA-02 (tubey) and PS Audio GCHA (transparent, neutral), with more than a notch higher in terms of soundstaging/imaging, resolution, musicality and SQ over the GCHA and HA-02. I know with this impressions I will have a hard time letting go of the GCHA. Sigh.

 

For summary,

1. Soundstage is deep and wide, it appears less in your head. The imaging is excellent as well.

2. Detailed, impressive resolution, all the details come through easily and well integrated into the music effortlessly. I constantly hear new things that I never noticed before or then becomes noticeable.

3. Bass is well defined, fast, deep, tight and detailed. Very good present, I could hear clearly how the bass works in some music. The bass on Yamamoto or GCHA sounded muddy or ill-defined in comparison.

4. Detailed midrange, and I found it's quite accurate here. Thin voice appears to be thin, thick voice appears to be thick.

5. Did I mention the black background? The background is dead silent and no hum/hiss/microphonics, for a tube amp.

 

Now the fun begins, to cut the long story short, the sound changes more via a change in input tube i.e. 6SL7 than the power output 6C33C-B's.

 

 

Tube rolls begin

These 6SL7s are my favorites, all are NOS unless stated otherwise :

 

1950's Sylvania Jan-CHS-6SL7GT/VT229 "chrome domes"

Tung-sol 6SU7GTY black glass, brown base

1944's National Union JAN-CNU-6SL7GT/VT229 grey glass

RCA 6SL7GT/VT229 black base, black glass

FIVRE 6SL7GT (Italian tube, rare)

Brimar CV1985, brown base

Brimar 6SL7GT, black base, white label and "O" getter

Brimar 6SL7GT, black base, orange label and "D" getter

Mullard ECC35 "short" black base tall

Mullard ECC35 "tall base" black base

Mullard ECC35 "short" brown base

1944's Sylvania JAN-CHS-6SL7GT/VT229

 

 

The following comments are drawn from the combination that I like out of the lot.

 

Of PS-1, I notice the following tubes are the most remarkable:-

PS-1/FIVRE 6SL7GT - fantastic bass, that you can feel it, but can be overwhelming on certain recordings if bass was more emphasized.

PS-1/Tungsol 6SU7GTY - Bass is controlled, in which the recordings I heard with HUGE bass become smaller in volume. However, the bass isn't as defined as the Mullard ECC35 "short" black base.

PS-1/Mullard ECC35 "short" black base - now the Mullard has better control over bass, it's never overdone with PS-1, the midrange is a bit cold however.

PS-1/1944's Sylvania JAN-CHS-6SL7GT - now I found the "right" tube for the ultra picky PS-1! Bass even more controlled, more balanced. It's a killer now, sound so much closer to a high-end loudspeakers or real music! The midrange has a great sense of fullness and body, emotionally involving. I grooved so much with this combo lately and ended up very late, every night.

 

Edition 9:-

Edition 9/ NU VT-229 gray class - full and rich sounding, silky smooth, very refined, bass is detailed, transparent. A very good rounder combo for jazz, classical and rock.

Edition 9/ RCA VT-229 black glass - even more detailed midrange, a bit slower in the speed but more tubey sounding, creamy and smooth. I like it.

 

RS-1/MS-Pro:-

The use of 1950's Brimar 6SL7GT CV1985 (brown base) produces the sound signature that I like best with Grados. What to say? It's a heavenly match.

 

HD600/equinox:-

HD600/ Tungsol 6SU7GTY - it's spacious, harmonic richness, dynamic drive and a 3-dimensional feel of "roundedness", the midrange presented have a fullness and body. The headphone itself disappear and left only the music. So musical. I should check out the pairing of HD650/Zu, damn, I miss the pair I sold more than a year ago.

 

W5000:-

I don't know which tube sounded best with this headphone, any tube I tried the W5000 just sound really nice. If I have to pick up, it would be Mullard ECC35, National Union VT-229, RCA VT-229. The ZD minimized the W5000's tendency to sound thin and lacking body, it maximizes its strengths in the following: resolution, sense of air and imaging, with deep and hitting bass. I'd heard a friend complaining the W5000 sounded thin with his MeloSHA Gold (tube amp), but it's not the case with ZD. System synergy.

 

 

 

Pros:

 

- NOS 6SL7 tubes are relatively cheaper and easier to find, as they are not as popular as 6SN7's

- black and dead silent background, even with highly sensitive headphones I can't detect any

- very musical

- three pairs of analog inputs and two pairs of pre-out

 

Cons:

 

- big size

- it runs very hot due to the 6C33C-Bs

- if tube rolling have to wait for the 6C33C-B heaters to cool down before powering back up, because 6C33C-B's get part of their bias from the 6SL7, and if they come up first they can draw too much current and pop the plate resistors

 

 

Originally written on 14 March 08, will be revised on and off during the next few weeks/months.

 

Zana Deux

 

Photo:

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Great write up!

 

We need to see more impressions of equipment we do not normally get to see here. :DD

 

Keep the impressions coming!

 

 

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Thanks tbln and minivan for your kind comments. More tubes to come, :600smile: Hope you enjoy reading my impression thread so far.

 

minivan, I am very pleased with the ZD and it exceeds my expectations, what's more to ask for? :grin:

 

tbln, do you still own Singlepower Extreme Platinum? ZD and Extreme platinum are in the same price range, maybe we shall have a tube amps meet up one day... ;)

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There is so much to enjoy with this amp.... I too am a happy owner :grin:

 

It is musical and transparent at the same time. Tube like with solid state punch....What I find fun is to tube roll and here clear differences between tubes even with my lousy cans (wallet punctured. :cry: No funds to buy proper cans yet) And here's something you don't hear everyday, It makes ALL headphones sound good !!!! :rclxms:

 

Livy's impressions are pretty much on the mark. Although I have a preference for the European tubes instead.

 

Admittedly not the cheapest amp on the market and there is a bit of a wait to get one (they are pretty much custom built) but more than 1 person has said it is one of the best value for money items in Hi-Fi !! High praise indeed. I for one am not letting mine go....

 

The designer is presently working on a fully balanced design now.... but not tubed.

 

Can I be around for the Single Power/ Zana Deux shoot out ?? Please ? :rolleyes:

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The designer is presently working on a fully balanced design now.... but not tubed.

 

The upcoming HD2i is a fully balanced design with tubes. As I don't intend to go balanced with headphone rig, I'd give it a pass :rolleyes:

 

The picture of the back panel of HD2, courtesy of jp11801@head-case

 

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Did someone say balanced? Sounds interesting to me. :DD

 

While I believe in the benefits of going balanced, doubling up of the key components in balanced amplification sure can get expensive! :cry:

 

Am now working on my impressions of going balanced and hope to get it out soon.

 

The HD2i sure sounds like it may be something to tempt me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes, it sure get expensive if going balanced, cables upgrading etc... however my hubby can't tolerate my hobby anymore and had given me the last warning... unfortunately this amp is big size I cannot hide... :cry:

 

Last check the HD2i is going to price around US$2800, cheaper than your Apache! :rolleyes:

 

Waiting for your upcoming impressions with balanced setup, I am sure it will be a fun & useful read. :)

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Bought a HD650, it's great with ZD, using only the inexpensive Slyvania "chrome domes" 6SL7WGT, the HD650 with stock cable has a nice fuller and well balanced sound, good PRAT, fun and musical, although not very detailed, but really sweet sounding. I also didn't feel the strong urge to upgrade HD650's cable. It's too tight to detach!!! :yuck:

 

Using Mullard short brown base ECC35, the HD650/Equinox almost sound like electrostatics, detailed and superbly silky.

 

The ZD has great synergy with HD650 than HD600 IMO. It just sounds right. I never like HD650 so much before. :blush:

 

 

PS. Good news, Craig is able to make another 50 Zana Deux.

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Very nice impressions. How did I miss it? :bash:

 

One question: some say that good tube amps will begin to sound like SS amps in the bass department. From your impressions, t does seem like the ZD's bass is deep and tight. How would you compare its bass to that of an equivalent SS amp? It's good to hear that the ZD plays well with the W5000, a phone that I love very much but is also very picky about its amping partner.

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The equivalent SS amp I had owned was the Rudistor RPX-33, I couldn't remember much how the bass of RPX-33 compare to ZD, other than deep and tight, the ZD lacks a bit of punch in the bass compartment when pairing with the Edition 9. But when driving the RS-1/MS-Pro, they are actually punchy enough with defined bass.

 

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Thanks for the impressions. I have one on the way. Should be here end of June. I have ER-4P with P->S, HD580 with HD600 grills, HD650 w/ 20 ft. Cardas, RS-1's. My player is a Meridian G07. My expectations are HIGH for this amp :grin: Craig (Eddie Current) is a great guy, and quick to respond to e-mails. Other amps I owned were: RSA XP-7, RSA Hornet, RSA Raptor, Woo Audio 3, and Singlepower MPX3 Slam SE. The Singlepower was the nicest of the bunch. Wish I still had them all so I could compare to the Zana :rclxub:

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Congrats on your purchase! I am done with headphone amps and the Zana Deux is the only amp I am keeping now and still happy with it.

 

I have the ER4S but haven't tried it with the Zana. The Tungsol 6SU7GTY black glass, brown base is really nice with the HD650, nice balance sound. Mullard short brown base ECC35 also pretty nice with the HD650, silky smooth and very open, but it's rare and expensive; another tube that you want to take a look is the 1944's Sylvania JAN-CHS-6SL7GT/VT229, which is also Craig's favorite, are inexpensive and I like it very much with both Sennheiser and Grados (especially PS-1), a keeper. For RS-1 or MS-Pro, you might want to take a look at Brimar CV1985 brown base, it's heaven match combo.

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