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New Portable Amp By DECWARE - Page 3

post #31 of 124
Yashicaman:

I need to check with Steve regarding the crossfeed because I don't know how much of the psychoacoustics is psycho and how much is acoustics, and may need different test tracks to test it out.

I'm currently using a new 9V instead, and it has passed the 12-hr mark.

Per your suggestion, I'm right now I'm listening to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (live version) and the instrument placement is very good. Ron Bushy's drum solo just came up, I can place the drums and audience clapping/screaming/singing in the wide soundstage.
post #32 of 124
Okay I finally got my modded ZH1 Zen Head back from Steve today. It sounds fantastic with my 2005 Beyer DT 880/250 ohm headphones. The unmodded Zen Head I had received couldn't properly drive my Beyers without distorting due to the high impedance cables according to Steve. Anyway, I ended up mailing my Beyer's and Zen Head back to Steve at Decware and he soldered bypass wires onto the output 100 ohm resistor(s) so I wouldn't have to change out my cables on my headphones. The sound really is incredible. Steve offered to ship me a ZH2 (the Zen Head with a Gain switch) but I wasn't interested because what originally interested me in the Zen Head was its clean, no gain switch, signal path. I thought Steve's soldering solution was great. I will post a picture of the soldered bypass wires later when I figure out how to post the picture...

Okay, here is my feeble attempt to describe the signature sound of my Zen Head ZH1. Remember those old Marantz and Akai receivers from the 70's and 80's? Remember how butter smooth and liquid the signature sound of those receivers were? Okay fix that liquid "sound" in your mind as a starting point as we move onto the bass and treble knobs of our imaginary receiver. Now imagine that the bass knob is slightly past 12 o'clock and the treble is at 12 (or zero) or slightly to the left of 12 (or zero). The overall sound is rich and bassy without being muddy and I don't get any blasts of sonic shrillness that hurt my eardrums like I usually do with my 2006 Total Airhead. My Airhead has plenty of high frequency detail, but the problem is that to hear the lower frequency detail I would find myself turning up the volume to a point that was fatiguing to me. My Zen Head doesn't have this problem. It's like I am listening to my uncle's high end Akai receiver and turntable from back in the day! Keep in mind that my source is Itunes and my laptop! My mp3 files have bit rates ranging from 128 kbs and up. IMHO the two big advantages to this amp is that the signature sound is enjoyable and non-fatiquing for HOURS of continuous listening and it also seems to smooth out mp3 files.

Anyway, it's a keeper at this point. I would like to hear the new RSA Blackbird SR-71a but the price was announced at $450 plus shipping so I guess I will wait to hear one at a meet. I am hoping Steve comes out with a double 9V battery version of the Zen Head to go up against the RSA SR-71a. I paid $295 for my ZH1 and I feel its well worth it.

Anyway, Steve and Sarah at Decware were a pleasure to deal with and if you want an amp that has detail and plenty of bassy oomph, but isn't fatiguing that you can listen to for hours at a stretch, this a great choice in my opinion.

If you are planning on using your ZH1 Zenhead extensively with 2005 Beyer DT 880/250s, you may want to email Steve first asking him to do the mod before having him ship the ZH1 Zen Head to you. The other alternative is to get the ZH2 that has a gain switch.
post #33 of 124
Glad to hear the modified Zen is giving you the sound you want.

Unfortunately, the fact that it had to be modified casts a lot of doubt on the representations made on Decware's site. Decware claims:

"It has a built in range from 10 to 600 ohms so it will drive most headphones without issue and you

don't have to worry about what impedance they are or what impedance to set the headphone amp to for best results." Clearly, if it struggles with a 250 ohm Beyer, you do have to worry about impedaance and synergy, just like with every other headamp. 300 ohm Senn's or 600 ohm Beyer Manufaktur's are also going to require mods, etc.

The amp looks good and I'd like to hear it, but I can't say I care for the disingenuous sales pitch.
post #34 of 124
Fort Worth Keith,

I'm glad you like your modded Zen Head. The cans that I use with mine range from 32 ohm (Grado 60 and 325i) to 55 ohms (AKG 271s which, it turns out, are more difficult to run that I would have thought).

Deware excells in service and making things right.

Cheers!
post #35 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by yashicaman View Post
Fort Worth Keith,

I'm glad you like your modded Zen Head. The cans that I use with mine range from 32 ohm (Grado 60 and 325i) to 55 ohms (AKG 271s which, it turns out, are more difficult to run that I would have thought).

Deware excells in service and making things right.

Cheers!
By more difficult to run, did you mean you had to switch the gain to high for the AKG 271s ? I have a Zen Head on order & I currently am using a pair of Beyerdynamics DT 770/80 ohm pros . On one of the pages of the online owners manual Steve talks about how the headphone cable's capacitance may be at fault sometimes. Is the same cable used for all the Beyerdynamics HPs ? My DT770s are only about a month old so perhaps(hopefully) not the same cable used on Fort Worth Kieth's DT880/250s. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to contact Steve , but I really hate to be a nudge about something that may not even be a problem.
post #36 of 124

Multiple Replies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Podtweaker View Post
By more difficult to run, did you mean you had to switch the gain to high for the AKG 271s ? I have a Zen Head on order & I currently am using a pair of Beyerdynamics DT 770/80 ohm pros . On one of the pages of the online owners manual Steve talks about how the headphone cable's capacitance may be at fault sometimes. Is the same cable used for all the Beyerdynamics HPs ? My DT770s are only about a month old so perhaps(hopefully) not the same cable used on Fort Worth Kieth's DT880/250s. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to contact Steve , but I really hate to be a nudge about something that may not even be a problem.
Podtweaker,

I think Steve told me that he has the same headphones that you do and the Zen Head should work fine with your headphones. I would just wait until your Zen Head arrives and then listen to it with your headphones. If you hear the same distortion that I heard, and trust me its very dramatic you can't help but notice it, just mail Steve your Zen Head back with your headphones if you want him to do the same mod that I had done. I really don't think you will have any problems with your Beyers though. I think any model of Beyers with the 80 ohm impendance(?) should be fine. I don't pretend however to be an expert on these matters... I don't know how the Zen Head will work with your AKG 271's. Headroom.com says that the AKG K 271 MK II
headphones has an impedance of 55 ohm which should work fine with the un modded Zen Head but there is the question of the efficiency of the headphones, etc. The impedance and efficiency factors are basically witchcraft to me but if I had to guess or wager on whether both your headphones will work fine with the un modded Zen Head, I would guess both will work fine. Please post how the un-modded Zen Head works with your headphones! I would like to know.

Skeptic,

I hear what you are saying but I don't think Steve was being disengenuous (sp?). The Zen Head can drive my Beyers after he removed that 100 ohm resistor without utilizing a gain switch. Steve told me that he had lowered the impedance on his Beyer DT 880s prior to developing the Zen Head by replacing the cables. I think its an honest mistake on his part.

Yashicaman,

You did a great review on the Zen Head. I found myself unable to add little to what you had written. I am looking forward to hearing the changes in my Zen Head over the next several weeks.

Question, does anyone use the internal gain switch on the Zen Head? What is its purpose? Is there an additional gain switch on the ZH2 Zen Head? Or is the gain switch on the ZH1 disabled?

thanks everyone!
post #37 of 124
Yeah guys...I called Steve myself before ordering my Zen Head when I read about the possible issues with certain headphones. He assured me that with this latest version of the Zen Head...that he had yet to find a problem with any that he had tested. He did mention that there may have been a few compatibility issues with the previous version...like the one FW Keith had.

Obviously Steve stands behind his product...and is more than willing to do what it takes for anyone who may have an issue. Steve has been around for a long time...and I would not mistake what happened with FW Keith, with his misrepresenting the new Zen Head.

I am totally bummed....I have my new Zen Head in my hands, but can't give it a listen. I had ordered it because I thought that my Diablo was experiencing a short in the headphone jack, not to mention I wanted to hear how different the sound signature might be with this tube-ish amp.

It turns out that I have a problem with either the mini to mini, or my Portable V-Cap...and both are being looked at by ALO as we speak.

So once I get everything back...I will be able to provide you all with my thoughts and impressions of the Zen Head. And perhaps a nice little side by side comparison to the Diablo.

RIDE
post #38 of 124

Pictures of Modded ZH1 ZenHead

Quote:
Originally Posted by RIDE View Post
Yeah guys...I called Steve myself before ordering my Zen Head when I read about the possible issues with certain headphones. He assured me that with this latest version of the Zen Head...that he had yet to find a problem with any that he had tested. He did mention that there may have been a few compatibility issues with the previous version...like the one FW Keith had.

Obviously Steve stands behind his product...and is more than willing to do what it takes for anyone who may have an issue. Steve has been around for a long time...and I would not mistake what happened with FW Keith, with his misrepresenting the new Zen Head.

I am totally bummed....I have my new Zen Head in my hands, but can't give it a listen. I had ordered it because I thought that my Diablo was experiencing a short in the headphone jack, not to mention I wanted to hear how different the sound signature might be with this tube-ish amp.

It turns out that I have a problem with either the mini to mini, or my Portable V-Cap...and both are being looked at by ALO as we speak.

So once I get everything back...I will be able to provide you all with my thoughts and impressions of the Zen Head. And perhaps a nice little side by side comparison to the Diablo.

RIDE
Ride,

What version of the ZenHead do you have? What does it say on the circuit board? I have the "Rev. 4" ZH1 ZenHead. Did you end up ordering a ZH2?

Here are the pics of the modification Steve did and a shot of the battery.

I am looking forward to reading what your impressions are of your ZenHead!
LL
LL
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post #39 of 124
Yo Keith....

According to Steve, I have the latest version. I litterally got it last week...so its the current Zen Head (ZH2).

RIDE
post #40 of 124
Podtweaker,

The AKG 271s do need more gain that I thought a 55 ohm set of cans would need (the Sennheiser HD-595's at 50 ohms work effortlessly), but the Zen Head handles them (I do have to turn the volume control much more than the Sennheiser). I haven't gone inside to try the high gain switch. The sound that I am getting with the AKG 271s is quite good, I just was surprised that I had to turn the volume control up so much.

Fort Worth Keith,

Thanks for your kind words on my review. As you can tell, I really like my Zen Head. One of these days I'm going to try the internal gain switch and just for grins and giggles turn off the crossfeed.

Cheers!
post #41 of 124
I can only add my "+1" to the above comments! I am finding that I am listening to my ZH1 more than any other of my amps.
The amp sounds especially good when paired with my RS1s. Perhaps it is the superb crossfeed that makes this sound so good. I haven't yet tried it with the crossfeed off.

I have yet to find any of my phones that the Zen fails to drive to live levels effortlessly.

In comparison to my iQube, I find the Zen to be more satisfactory for long listening sessions...I listen more to the music than to the amp, whereas the iQube is more neutral, crisper, and an overall cooler sound, reminding me that I am listening to a high-quality amp.

That said, most halls are anything but neutral, and I find that my favorite genre, which is classical, sounds more realistic thru the Zen.

When listening to my DX-1000s with their huge soundstage, coupled with the superb crossfeed and wide soundstage of the Zen, it is very easy to forget you are listening to recordings rather than a live performance! This combination ROCKS!
post #42 of 124
I would like to add my "+1" to the above comments, and to remind the audience who just joined us from Google or another search engine that HiFlight is referring to the Zen Head headphone amplifier, not the Creative Zen media player.
post #43 of 124
FWK,Yman,RIDE, thanks for all your replies. Man, I can't wait to get this amp. Thanks again, I will definitely check back with input to this thread when I am able to speak from my experiences .
post #44 of 124
HiFlight,

You nailed it. The Zen Head doesn't get in the way of the music. It lets the music be. (I've taken too many philosphy courses). Yes, there are lots of other headphone amps out there (which I've love to try out btw), but when it comes down to sheer enjoyment/musicality the Zen Head delivers.
Excellent crossfeed and soundstage with very good overall sonics make the Zen Head a brilliant little (okay, kinda largish) headphone amp.

The Zen Head deserves to be considered a serious choice for those desiring a really musical headphone amp. If my sister (I only have one) were an avid headphone user, I'd buy her one just because it is that good. Anyway, all she listens to is Neil Diamond. I'm not sure what sort of headphone and headphone amp combo would suit his musical style (and I just don't want to go there).

Cheers!
post #45 of 124
The amp really does shine with classical music. I think Steve on the Decware site really does explain well in the owner's manual of the ZenHead the non-fatiguing sound signature he was after.

http://www.decware.com/newsite/zenheadmanual.pdf


I have been reading posts in Head Fi off and on for over two years and a common complaint I have heard again and again is that the 2005 Beyer DT 880's are "too bright" and "too sibilant". It struck me today that real problem has been that the Beyer's aren't "too bright" but that most portable amplifers are too fatiguing because too much high frequency material is brought to foreground of the soundstage as a consequence of decisions made by the designers of most portable amplifiers.

If you already own a pair of Beyer DT 880's, you really owe it too yourself to try them with a ZenHead.

Side note. If anyone is interested in listening to FM Radio during the day (I enjoy listening to NPR) here is a moderately priced Sony Portable FM Tuner that works well with the ZenHead. Sony SRF-M37V as a tiny source of FM.

Amazon.com: Sony: Electronics SFR-M37V-Weather-Walkman-Presets/dp/B00008W7LS

Here is what Dr. Xin has to say about the Sony SFR-M37V on his website.

Pocket radio, the best gift for Dad!

This portable FM Radio also sounds very very good with my Shure SE310 IEM's.
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