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New Portable Amp By DECWARE - Page 2

post #16 of 124
Is it possible to attach a line out dock to a Zune? I have never scrutinized one up closely.

My Zenhead is arriving next Monday according to UPS and I am looking forward to trying it out with my new Line Out Dock from Head Direct.

Now if only I could find a small battery operated DAC to connect to my laptop and Zenhead... The only inexpensive standalone DAC I have seen is the Go Vibe on Uncle Wilson's site. I don't know if it's any good or not though.
post #17 of 124

it has line out but requires a current to activate it.

So portable line out isn't achievable
post #18 of 124

How do you like your Keces DA-151? Its seems like a solid DAC for the price.
post #19 of 124
I love it!

I have only had the fubar III to compare to though.

However it kills the Fubar even though they share the same chip!

However the circuitry is completely different which results in the brilliant difference.

For the money I don't think you can go far wrong.
post #20 of 124
yashicaman, Fort_Worth_Keith,

I appreciate the replies. As I mentioned, I do like his gear as I have listened to several of his products over the years. I am curious about the portable, though!
post #21 of 124
Originally Posted by Pecker View Post
this statement is bugging me: Something I could plug a real set of phones into and get small listening devices like IPOD's and ZUNE's to sound good over long periods of time.

Using with the zune is double amping and kills his audiophile idea...

While this may be double amping & it may break the rule of putting less circuitry in the signal path, you may be making the incorrect assumption that doing such doesn't improve the sound quality of the Zune. The short answer is it does ,even if you are using quality IEMs. I also use UM2s w/ my Zune & I purchased a portable amp(Total Airhead) so that I could try using some headphones w/ my Zune. Curiousity got the better of me & I decided to try using the UM2s amped. Amped the UM2s sound a little bit fuller & also cleaner in the upper frequencies. In comparison the raw Zune/UM2s combo has a slight "ambient fuzziness" that disappears once the amp is inserted into the mix. I think the amp may be buffering some noise being generated from the Zune, but I could be way off base here as I'm not an EE. Yes , being able to use a line out connection is the best way to connect an amp , but I think you will find a lot of non-Ipod users on this site who amp their rigs. Having been long winded(yet again) I look foward to hearing everyones impressions on this amp as I'm afflicted w/ the dreaded disease "Upgradeittus", Thanks.
post #22 of 124

So far so good


I'll post a review in a couple weeks. So far, I really like the Zenhead, but I really need to listen critically and analyse what I'm hearing.

The Zenhead is rather big compared to the competition and that may be a drawback to some. Still it is pretty portable.

post #23 of 124
Got my Zenhead. Burning it in right now, but thought I should leave a short impression for the sake of those who are sitting on the fence and wonder if this amp is worth considering.

Decware readily answered my questions on the phone and by email, entertained shipping requests and deadlines and kept their promise. My credit card was not charged until the item was shipped, and 2-day UPS tracking # was promptly provided by customer service.

Package arrived well-packed and in as-new condition. 9V battery pre-installed in battery compartment. I like user-replaceable batteries in an amp.

Build Quality: Hefty metal case with 2 plastic trim pieces. Lettering is engraved as well as painted. Picture on manufacturer website accurately depicts the amp. Jacks, switch and volume control feel solid. Toggle switches inside are a nice touch. I like the 3.5mm jack - they click and grab on tight to any 3.5mm plug (tried generic, Switchcraft and Neutrik).

Included items: Amp, Battery, Mini-Mini IC, pouch.

This is the biggest portable amp I have tried. Not-quite Lisa III-sized, but bigger than my iQube or iBasso D1. Not including the volume knob and power switch, it is the size of a Nintendo DS Lite (closed). But since it is Nintendo DS Lite-sized, it should be easy to find a storage case for it. It is heavier than a DS Lite, but the case looks like it could stop a 5.56x45mm round.

Amp is still burning in, but tried it initially with
iPod Classic -> ALO Cryo Silver X -> Zen Head -> Denon D1001
Gain: Normal, Crossfeed: On, Input Impedance: Set to 10K

It has detail and transparency, a great soundstage yet is laid back and very relaxing. Bass is deep, vocals are sweet. Right now, the most remarkable thing about this amp is the soundstage - wide and immersive - probably due to the well-implemented crossfeed. I like the Zen Head crossfeed better than the Corda 2Move's.

I like the way the amp portrays vocal music (Patricia Barber, Holly Cole, Lisa Ekdahl, Peter Cincotti) - there's a certain presence. U2 and rock tracks have a Grado-like presentation - slightly aggressive and sparkly. The soundstage makes Lounge/Ambient/House/Chill sound good - on a few tracks I was tricked into looking to the side or behind me.

I'm not good at describing amps, but right now this is really worth a try if you're sitting on the fence and if you can live with the size of the amp. I'll see how it develops with burn-in, but for now it looks like my goal of getting an amp that is warmer than my iQube with crossfeed has been met, and without sacrificing too much in terms of detail and transparency. The crossfeed of this amp is quite addictive.

yashicaman should be coming up with his review soon, and I'll let the amp burn-in some more before listening critically.
post #24 of 124
As this has been mentioned a few times already; Is the ultimate size of these amps really a deal breaker for some of you ? I think we may be placing too much importance on "ergonomics" when we can get the level of quality from amps of this size. I'm not a big fan of "rechargeable" anything, it's unecessary sq robbing curcuitry as far as I'm concerned.
post #25 of 124
Great initial review tricky!

Looking forward to getting mine and reading udates from you as well as the impressions of yashicaman.

post #26 of 124
The ultimate size of amps is a really big deciding factor. Especially if it's the size of a Nintendo DS Lite, there's a reason why my portable Nintendo DS Lite is mostly left at home.

In addition, on the subject of double amping. I never bothered to get a LOD for my iPhone thus my Tomahawk is being fed with the signal coming from the headphone out of the iPhone. From doing a/b tests with the volume being equal on both amp and direct from the headphone out, there's a very noticeable difference in sound quality. The Tomahawk widens the soundstage noticeably and gives a very commanding bass response.
post #27 of 124

Zen Head Review

I've been listening to my Phililps GoGear hard drive 2 gb music player with the Decware Zen Head for the last three weeks or thereabouts. I do not use any of the EQ features on the Philips. My headphone of choice for this review is a pair of AKG 271s with velour ear pads. I find the AKG 271s to be an accurate studio monitorish (read: flat sounding) honest sounding set of cans. My Grado 325i performs well with the Zen Head, but given the Grado sonic signature, I choose to focus on the AKG's for this review (Grado 325i and the Zen Head is another review waiting to happen).

Music choices include Issac Hayes', Shaft, Edgar Winter Group's, "Frankenstein," Flogging Molly's Float, Lalo Shifrin's Jazz Meets the Symphony, Maria Muldaur's Midnight at the Oasis, George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Alanis Morrisette, "Uninvited," Sarah McLachlan, "Angel" and Mike Oldfield, "Tubular Bells, Pt. 1."

The one thing that I first notice and which impresses me the most is the glorously rich soundstage--it's wide, it's deep, it's three dimensional. This is where the Zen Head excels! The crossfeed works well and I feel no need to ever turn it off (one can if one so desires by taking a trip into the interior of the Zen Head--there one can also change the input impedence, which I left at 10K--the standard setting). I find the crossfeed to be better than the Total Bithead (my only other headphone amp which I've had for a few years). I like how well the crossfeed circuitry works. Simply excellent.

Bass is excellent--tight, controlled, and rich. Midrange and highs are very good. Vocalists come accross well and life-like. Maria Muldaur's "Midnight at the Oasis" sparkles and comes across crystal clear and inviting. Lovely. Morrisette in "Uninvited" has great atmosphere and the vocals are ethreal. McLachlan's "Angel" brings out the goosebumps (but then this song is so well done, I'd get goosebumps even if I heard it over the 8 track in my now long gone 1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88) and the vocals come across rich and luscious. There is a bit of warmth reminiscent of tube amps (Decware is famous for its Zen SET amp--I have one), but not the over coloured euphonic golden velvety richness and bloom that I associate with AMC tube amps or even the venerable Dynaco ST70. If anything, the voice of the Zen Head reminds me a bit of my Zen SET Amp (again it's the soundstage and holographic imaging and the way voices sound).

Switching to Lalo Shifrin's Jazz Meets the Orchestra, the opening cut, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is delightful. Here a jazz combo meets a full orchestra and the results are awe inspiring. I usually use this album when I go out to listen to stereo gear as it is well engineered and sounds excellent.
Dynamics are good, soundstage is awesome.

George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord, " takes me back to my soul searching days. Elton John's "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy," sounds rich. Detail is great. Voices handled well. Again, superb soundstage.

Flogging Molly's Float, an Irish folk themed rock band, had good presence, was nicely balanced, and the strings sounded just right. The Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein," was nicely handled. Solid bass, wide soundstage.

Issac Haye's Shaft is a revelation. Amazing engineering on the hybrid SACD version. Jaw dropping, goosebumping fantastic. Again, it's got a soundstage to die for and the overall presentation is stellar. The same for Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells, Pt. 1."

The Zen Head is a highly listenable amp. It is a bit tubelike, has an incrediable soundstage, is transparent, and does vocals right--male and female. Sarah McLachlan and Elton John will melt your heart. The Shaft soundtrack is amazing. I should dig out my cd of Holst's Planets and take the trip. I only wish that I had a cd copy of Iron Butterfly's "Ina Gadda da vida."

It's hard to find fault with the Zen Head. One could criticize it for its tube-like sound as it does colour the music, albeit in a way that tube affectionados might relish. I didn't find this colouration to be too obtrusive and actually find it pleasing. One might be dismayed at the largeness of the Zen Head. It's about five inches long and about 3 inches wide. For me sound quality overrides size. If I wanted small, I'd have bought a pair of Yuin PK-2s and run them directly into my Philips and be done with it. Maybe I should borrow my wife's PK-2s, grab my Philips and go for a hike through the neighbourhood tonight...or better yet...grab my son, Zak's African thumb piano and make my own soundtrack as I trek through the neighbourhood...but I digress.

My Zen Head is still burning in (I've only gone through one 9 volt battery--about 40 hours or so). I think I've logged in about 60 hours on it so far. I would expect that in another couple hundred hours, it'll sound even better or that I'll be so used to it, my ears will adjust. This is a headphone amp that I can happily live with.

It is large, but it's robust. The sound is terrific. I'm glad that I purchased it.
Eventually I'll get around to evaluating how well it works with my Grado 325i cans. Some say that the 325i's sound best with tubes, that they have a small soundstage but great immediacy. Hmmmm...maybe there will be a synergy between the Grado 325i and the Zen Head. I'll explore this in the coming weeks.

post #28 of 124
Great review, yashicaman. Pretty much have the same experience with the Zen Head. Transparency-wise, it doesn't make me miss my iQube. The coloration of the Zen Head gives the bass some richness, and there is a lot of airiness to the vocals (which some may not like).

But the most outstanding sonic characteristic of the Zen Head is the soundstage. It is wide and immersive.

I've been using a Maha rechargeable 9V battery, and getting only around 12 hours with each charge.

Size-wise, it is not a shirt-pocket amp like the Decware website claims, but for listening around the house, it is fine.

I had to turn the crossfeed off because it seems to work on one channel only, so I'm waiting to hear from Steve what to do next.
post #29 of 124
Great review yashicaman!

With only 60 hours on it...I bet it only gets better from here. I am hoping mine will be here this coming week so I can begin to see what this sound is all about!


post #30 of 124

I've reread your fine review and noticed that we are pretty much on the same page. The soundstage is stellar. And it's not neutral, but good nonetheless.

Your comment on how rock sounds a bit Grado like, makes me want to listen to the Zen Head with my Grado 325i and 60 cans. I did choose the most neutral cans that I own for my review. It gets complicated with layers and layers of gear.

Pity about the crossfeed. Given Steve's committment to service, he'll work as quickly as he can to fix things.

Something can be said for superb customer service. It's no small wonder that I'm considering someday getting a pair of Decware speakers. Maybe the next time I drive across the country, I'll stop in at his shop for a listen. Maybe bring something home (for the wife, of course--souvenir of my trip and to show her how much I missed her).

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