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Mini-Review: digiZoid ZO "portable subwoofer" - Page 3

post #31 of 996

I just received mine today.  Initial impressions are:  It's very tiny; smaller than a 2nd gen nano. It has a slight turn on pop which I've been told they are fixing in v2.  Wow, this thing sounds pretty good.  It doesn't just boost bass but boosts the entire frequency, so that mids and highs don't get lost in the increasing bass.  Sounds good with my W4's; with one to two notches of bass from flat, they hit harder in mid and sub bass, while keeping the cymbal crashes loud and clear.  Very fun and seems to be pretty darn clean on my first few minutes of listening.

 

I'll have to spend more time with it to tell how good it really is but for IEM's I don't see a reason to by a regular amp over this thing.  I'm really surprised this hasn't taken off to FOTM status on head-fi.

post #32 of 996

The little thing also drove my Grado RS2 very well, of course not as transparent as my desktop amp, but the sound is very musical, wide, and detailed.  Colored - yes, but in a very good, musical, and joyful way.  It's quite impressive for the admission price.  I think until the big names (RSA, Headamp, Arrow, and such) dare implement the same or identicle implementation, the ZO and the anticipated v2 will be a hit sleeper here.

post #33 of 996
After sending some Facebook messages back and forth, I've learned that v2 will be the same size but will probably a flat black, instead of a glossy black. They plan on a low battery indicator and more changes to the color on the lightscale indicator, to better tell how many steps you've changed. They will be reducing or eliminating the turn on pop. There are more changes they will disclose later after testing them.

I suggested a second headphone port on the bottom, as well as volume control for LOD integration. I'm not sure if they will be able to make those upgrades at this time.
post #34 of 996

LOD integreation should be up there in priorities, but all those seem like pretty important issues too. Using this with my headphones does a ton, but doesn't do much to my IEM's. Granted, my M2's are as good as I have ($60) but does anyone have IEM's that have been able to handle a considerable amount of bass increase by using the ZO?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by shotgunshane View Post

After sending some Facebook messages back and forth, I've learned that v2 will be the same size but will probably a flat black, instead of a glossy black. They plan on a low battery indicator and more changes to the color on the lightscale indicator, to better tell how many steps you've changed. They will be reducing or eliminating the turn on pop. There are more changes they will disclose later after testing them.

I suggested a second headphone port on the bottom, as well as volume control for LOD integration. I'm not sure if they will be able to make those upgrades at this time.


 

post #35 of 996
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by shotgunshane View Post

 

 I'm really surprised this hasn't taken off to FOTM status on head-fi.


I think that is based on the fact that they don't really market the thing to HeadFi types. Reading the website could easily give you the impression that the zo is more of a toy than a legit device (which we both know is not the case).  



Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaphoenix View Post

The little thing also drove my Grado RS2 very well, of course not as transparent as my desktop amp, but the sound is very musical, wide, and detailed.  Colored - yes, but in a very good, musical, and joyful way.  It's quite impressive for the admission price.  I think until the big names (RSA, Headamp, Arrow, and such) dare implement the same or identicle implementation, the ZO and the anticipated v2 will be a hit sleeper here.


 

Good description. I did notice their website mentions that they can licence the technology to others. I think that would be a worthwhile thing for one of those other companies to look in to. Instead of a simple "bass boost" button or toggle, they could have maybe a dial marked 0-10 where 0 was "off" and 10 was "full boost" or whatever. I'd certainly choose one amp over another (all things being roughly equal) if it offered that feature.

 

post #36 of 996
Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post




I think that is based on the fact that they don't really market the thing to HeadFi types. Reading the website could easily give you the impression that the zo is more of a toy than a legit device (which we both know is not the case).  




 

Good description. I did notice their website mentions that they can licence the technology to others. I think that would be a worthwhile thing for one of those other companies to look in to. Instead of a simple "bass boost" button or toggle, they could have maybe a dial marked 0-10 where 0 was "off" and 10 was "full boost" or whatever. I'd certainly choose one amp over another (all things being roughly equal) if it offered that feature.

 


Same here. Every person has a different tolerance for bass. I had the Cmoy and it just didn't work out for me. With bass boost on it distorted everything and so there was no point to having the amp. The E5 on the other hand didn't give enough. It is essential to have at least 3 or more 'levels' of bass so the user can choose which works best for their headphones. This seems to me like the best option at the price range if you're looking for bass boost, I had a real tough time trying to find something else (Looked around for a few months until luckily stumbling upon this).
 

 

post #37 of 996

Hmm, going to keep my eye on this. I have yet to step into the portable amp arena.. so this may be my first.

post #38 of 996

Personally, I frown a bit when companies make claims that go completely against the laws of physics. If an audio device's driver is incapable of physically outputting low sub-bass, then there's nothing you can do about it, period. You can boost all you want but the driver's physical limitation will prevent it from being able to output those rolled off low frequencies. What products like zo does it simply boost/enhance frequencies that are not quite low enough so that most audio devices can still output those frequencies, but what you'll be hearing will NOT be what the music should sound like, because the frequency range that is being boosted was never supposed to be boosted in the musical material--if they were, the mastering engineers would have mastered them that way to begin with.

 

Instead of using presets, it's far better to use a parametric EQ and actually dial in a contour that actually fits the specific headphone/speaker you are using. So let's say if your headphones start to roll off after 40Hz, and sounds a bit anemic in the 80Hz range, then you surgically dial in two separate parametric bands that specifically fill those holes. You don't just use a broadband curve that boosts the entire bass region, unless you just couldn't care less if the music actually sounds anything like what the mastering engineer intended the recording to sound like. But this is assuming your headphone/speaker CAN reach that low in the first place. If they can't, then you're only adding coloration that's going to screw up all the hard work the mastering engineer did.

 

If you're using products like zo on small multimedia speakers that have tiny drivers, there's only so much it can do because a 2" or 3" driver will not be able to output low frequencies past a certain point. Boosting frequency ranges within its physical limitation only makes it very colored and you're still not getting those missing low frequencies, which then makes the whole thing even less neutral/balanced. The mastering engineers who made those recordings you're listening to would have veins on their foreheads exploded when they see/hear you doing that to the music they painstakingly created using decades of hard-won professional expertise.

 

IMO, it's better to use that money to actually first get a pair of headphones that can output low enough frequency ranges, and then use a parametric EQ and dial in the ideal sonic signature for that specific headphone. For people who are using portable players that have parametric EQ's (for example, the "Equalizer" app on the iPhone/Touch/iPad), you'll save a lot of money because an app like that will do wonders for you and it costs only $2.99. If you're using the computer as a source, then that's even less excuse to throw away $100 on a gadget like zo because parametric EQ's can be had for free on the computer by using excellent professional quality VST plugins that don't cost a dime.

 

But if none of the stuff I've mentioned is a concern, and you just want to having someone else try to fix your very specific and idiosyncratic problem with a broad and imprecise solution, then I guess the zo is worth the price.

 

They do need to hire a better marketing/webmaster person though. They can't even spell "you're" properly in their own advertising copy.

 

 

post #39 of 996
The quality of sound from a hardware based boost and amplification is cleaner than a software EQ. I've used eQu ad Equalizer and I can tell you for on the go and for changing it song by song, the zo is better.

Also I couldn't care less how the audio engineer wants me to hear the music. They compress it to death, rob the dynamic range, then pump up the loudness. Wow, that's just great. As novice musician and having friends who are professional musicians, I'll trust my own ears anyday.
post #40 of 996
Quote:
Originally Posted by shotgunshane View Post

The quality of sound from a hardware based boost and amplification is cleaner than a software EQ. I've used eQu ad Equalizer and I can tell you for on the go and for changing it song by song, the zo is better.

Also I couldn't care less how the audio engineer wants me to hear the music. They compress it to death, rob the dynamic range, then pump up the loudness. Wow, that's just great. As novice musician and having friends who are professional musicians, I'll trust my own ears anyday.

 

You're assuming that everybody's musical library consists of only music that was mastered in the last ten to fifteen years, and contains only the most mainstream hip-hop/pop/rock genres catering to the lowest common denominator. There are plenty of excellent mastering that was done before the loudness war, and plenty still today by mastering engineers and artists who do not participate in the loudness war. To say that all mastering engineers are exactly the same would be like saying all singers and musicians are exactly the same. This is especially true that in the last ten years, the anti-loudness war movement in the pro audio community has been gaining momentum, and plenty of people have refused to take part in that war.

 

And as for hardware vs. software EQ, there's no clear better or worse between them. There are plenty of excellent software EQ's and there are plenty of bad hardware ones. The fact that zo has next to no customization controls (apart from degree of severity of its curve) makes it a helluva lot less useful to anyone that cares about any semblance of accurate, neutral, and balanced sonic signature. Now, if you're talking about boutique and vintage hardware EQ used in pro audio that costs well over a thousand dollars, then yes, some of them are damn good, but they are still EQ's with actual controls, unlike zo. Spend the same $100 you'd spend on zo on a high quality software pro audio EQ instead (there are plenty of them out there), and you'd get far, far more than you would ever get from zo. But the problem is currently, pro audio EQ plugins are all in pro audio formats like VST, RTAS, TDM, AU...etc, and AFAIK, there are no portable players that can host them, so you can only run them on the computer. But, there's also the truth behind all normal EQ's, and that is they are all identical, and they can all be nulled with each other once you match their curves. The only exceptions are EQ's that were designed to have coloration on purpose, such as tube, vintage, or whatever voodoo done to have extra "spice" like harmonic excitement and so on. In other words, unless someone is completely inept at coding a typical vanilla EQ, you pretty much don't have to worry about your EQ. And I'm willing to bet you that if you allowed me to take whatever headphone it is that you're using and then use something like the Equalizer app on the iPhone (which costs only a few dollars) and customize a curve that's surgically tweaked to transform that headphone into an amazing sounding set of cans, the result will sound better and more balanced than whatever zo can give you.

 

I think it's important for people to realize that companies like this who make products like zo are counting on a particular segment of the market--people who don't know much about the inner workings of audio or how to surgically tweak parametric EQ's to absolute perfection (subjective to each person's ideal sonic signature, of course), or people who just don't want to bother with having to learn all the pro audio knowledge and apply them to what is merely a hobby. So, $100 seems like good solution because it doesn't require any learning and experimenting--it's a simple and quick fix, even if it's a flawed one. And they're right of course, because to most people, listening to music is just a hobby--it's not like they are passionate composers/musicians who live and breath and die by their music, and have dedicated all their time and energy and their entire lives to the art of sound. That is how consumer electronics work--that's what the market is all about--simple and easy and without too much thinking/learning. But what I don't like when companies make claims about things that can't possibly happen because it's against the laws of physics. Some headphones and speakers just aren't capable of sounding like there's a subwoofer strapped to the head due to their driver's limitations, and fixed presets are just way too colored since they can't possibly know which model of headphone you'd be using it on. So let's say you have a pair of headphones that's got a prominent hump in the 125Hz region, but it also starts rolling off at around 70Hz in a sharp slope. As soon as you engage zo's preset EQ curve, you're going to push that 125Hz region waaaaay up and you'll get this ridiculously colored and unbalanced sound. A far better alternative would be to use a parametric EQ and do a low shelf boost that matches the sub-bass roll-off slope of that headphone, and also do a dip right around 125Hz to counter that bass hump so it actually sounds balanced and accurate. FIXED EQ PRESETS CANNOT POSSIBLY CATER TO YOUR SPECIFIC HEADPHONE'S FAULTS, and that is the most glaring issue with products like these. It's like prescribing the same medication to everyone, regardless of how different their illnesses are. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to people who have some understanding of audio and wants accurate and balanced sound.

 

 

post #41 of 996
Happy surgical eq'ing
post #42 of 996

EQ out of my iPod has never been any good. It makes the bass 'pop' or ruin the rest of the SQ. However, the ZO has been able to SUBSTANTIALLY increase the level of bass, while keeping the SQ just fine, if not better. Because of that, I know my headphones can handle the extra bass, the iPod just doesn't have that good of an EQ.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lunatique View Post

Personally, I frown a bit when companies make claims that go completely against the laws of physics. If an audio device's driver is incapable of physically outputting low sub-bass, then there's nothing you can do about it, period. You can boost all you want but the driver's physical limitation will prevent it from being able to output those rolled off low frequencies. What products like zo does it simply boost/enhance frequencies that are not quite low enough so that most audio devices can still output those frequencies, but what you'll be hearing will NOT be what the music should sound like, because the frequency range that is being boosted was never supposed to be boosted in the musical material--if they were, the mastering engineers would have mastered them that way to begin with.

 

Instead of using presets, it's far better to use a parametric EQ and actually dial in a contour that actually fits the specific headphone/speaker you are using. So let's say if your headphones start to roll off after 40Hz, and sounds a bit anemic in the 80Hz range, then you surgically dial in two separate parametric bands that specifically fill those holes. You don't just use a broadband curve that boosts the entire bass region, unless you just couldn't care less if the music actually sounds anything like what the mastering engineer intended the recording to sound like. But this is assuming your headphone/speaker CAN reach that low in the first place. If they can't, then you're only adding coloration that's going to screw up all the hard work the mastering engineer did.

 

If you're using products like zo on small multimedia speakers that have tiny drivers, there's only so much it can do because a 2" or 3" driver will not be able to output low frequencies past a certain point. Boosting frequency ranges within its physical limitation only makes it very colored and you're still not getting those missing low frequencies, which then makes the whole thing even less neutral/balanced. The mastering engineers who made those recordings you're listening to would have veins on their foreheads exploded when they see/hear you doing that to the music they painstakingly created using decades of hard-won professional expertise.

 

IMO, it's better to use that money to actually first get a pair of headphones that can output low enough frequency ranges, and then use a parametric EQ and dial in the ideal sonic signature for that specific headphone. For people who are using portable players that have parametric EQ's (for example, the "Equalizer" app on the iPhone/Touch/iPad), you'll save a lot of money because an app like that will do wonders for you and it costs only $2.99. If you're using the computer as a source, then that's even less excuse to throw away $100 on a gadget like zo because parametric EQ's can be had for free on the computer by using excellent professional quality VST plugins that don't cost a dime.

 

But if none of the stuff I've mentioned is a concern, and you just want to having someone else try to fix your very specific and idiosyncratic problem with a broad and imprecise solution, then I guess the zo is worth the price.

 

They do need to hire a better marketing/webmaster person though. They can't even spell "you're" properly in their own advertising copy.

 

 



 

post #43 of 996
Quote:
Originally Posted by slapshot30 View Post

EQ out of my iPod has never been any good. It makes the bass 'pop' or ruin the rest of the SQ. However, the ZO has been able to SUBSTANTIALLY increase the level of bass, while keeping the SQ just fine, if not better. Because of that, I know my headphones can handle the extra bass, the iPod just doesn't have that good of an EQ.

 



 

 

Same thing happens with Equalizer or eQu.  It has to lower the gain in order to activate the software EQ.  Now they both have implemented updates to let you push the gain back up to normal levels.  When you do there is obvious distortion, if pushed too much, so you have to keep volume levels much lower than without EQ.  This isn't the case with the ZO or with any other typical amplifier with hardware bass and treble boosts.  The great part of the ZO is instead of 4.5, 6 or 9 db's of bass boost, you instead get 32 steps of analogue boost.  All levels across the spectrum are amplified and are very clean.  I cannot recommend this small device enough for what it does.  Simple, clean and portable.  I would love to see a dap, like the Fiio x3, implement this hardware OEM.

 

post #44 of 996
Quote:
Originally Posted by slapshot30 View Post

EQ out of my iPod has never been any good. It makes the bass 'pop' or ruin the rest of the SQ. However, the ZO has been able to SUBSTANTIALLY increase the level of bass, while keeping the SQ just fine, if not better. Because of that, I know my headphones can handle the extra bass, the iPod just doesn't have that good of an EQ.

 

Everyone should always avoid presets, unless you know for a fact exactly what EQ curve is for the preset, and it just happens to match the deficiencies of your particular headphone's frequency response. Apple sucks donkey XXX for not having a customizable EQ native in the iPod app, but fortunately, with cheap apps like Equalizer and EQu, you can pretty much achieve anything you set out to do, unless you don't know what you're doing and create a distorted mess.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by shotgunshane View Post


Same thing happens with Equalizer or eQu.  It has to lower the gain in order to activate the software EQ.  Now they both have implemented updates to let you push the gain back up to normal levels.  When you do there is obvious distortion, if pushed too much, so you have to keep volume levels much lower than without EQ.  This isn't the case with the ZO or with any other typical amplifier with hardware bass and treble boosts.  The great part of the ZO is instead of 4.5, 6 or 9 db's of bass boost, you instead get 32 steps of analogue boost.  All levels across the spectrum are amplified and are very clean.  I cannot recommend this small device enough for what it does.  Simple, clean and portable.  I would love to see a dap, like the Fiio x3, implement this hardware OEM.

 

 

I have both Equalizer and EQu, and I have NEVER heard any distortion with them, and this is mainly because I know the do's and don'ts of EQ'ing. The key is knowing WHAT to do with parametric EQ's. If you don't really understand the relationship between the frequencies you're tweaking and the limitations of the drivers of your headphones, or how to precisely cater to that headphones inherent frequency response, then you will cause distortions. I suggest buying a good book on professional audio mixing and mastering techniques, and critical listening skills for pro audio engineers--they will make a world of difference on what you can do with EQ's. There are specific do's and don'ts when it comes to EQ'ing, and if you don't know them, you would be doing more harm than good. I suppose in this regard, for those who don't have the time or the interest to learn, ZO would be a quick fix, even if it's not ideal.
 

 


Edited by Lunatique - 4/17/11 at 9:37pm
post #45 of 996

EQ ? Nah - thats a Shelbyville thing. I like my music straight and full-bodied, like my women.  

 

 

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