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Parasound zdac reviews? - Page 2

post #16 of 56

A new review of the Parasound Zdac...it appears that the reviewers are hearing the same things I have. I don't know what the "best" DAC is out there for under $1000 but thus far the Zdac has impressed me the most in both my office and main system. When I first started listening to the Zdac I used its S/PDIF coaxial input but a few weeks ago I switched to its "asynchronous" USB input (using a $25 Pangea USB-PC cable) and this really took me by surprise as I was not expecting it to sound just as good via USB but I was wrong...it sounds terrific.

 

http://hometheaterreview.com/parasound-zdac-192khz-digital-to-analog-converter/

post #17 of 56

I have been looking for a dac with a built in headphone amp, and I had almost decided on the Emotiva XDA-2, but after reading the reviews and all I think I am going to get the Zdac after all. It is a little bit more money, but based on the reviews I think the Zdac is just a bit better both in terms of the dac itself and the headphone amp as well.

post #18 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by KLJTech View Post

 

Here you go, its a newer DAC so I'd look for more reviews to come:

 

http://www.audiostream.com/content/parasound-zdac

 

 

It "appears" that a mistake was made in this review, the Parasound website states that the Zdac does in fact use an asynchronous USB input. 

 

I've spend a while mulling over this and I believe that this reviewer is actually correct.  The Zdac in fact uses an "isochronous adaptive mode" USB input as he says. 

 

Take a look closer at what Parasound posts on their site: "Asynchronous sample rate conversion for all inputs including the USB input."

 

The important thing to note is that Asynchronous sample rate conversion or ARSC is not the same as asynchronous usb input; they are actually completely different terms that are used in the confusing context of USB DACs.  I'm actually still trying to wrap my brain around it all! 

 

Unfortunately the distinction is very real and important matter in today's market and should be duly noted for any potential buyers.


Edited by Mr.Sneis - 5/2/13 at 11:13am
post #19 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Sneis View Post

 

I've spend a while mulling over this and I believe that this reviewer is actually correct.  The Zdac in fact uses an "isochronous adaptive mode" USB input as he says. 

 

Take a look closer at what Parasound posts on their site: "Asynchronous sample rate conversion for all inputs including the USB input."

 

The important thing to note is that Asynchronous sample rate conversion or ARSC is not the same as asynchronous usb input; they are actually completely different terms that are used in the confusing context of USB DACs.  I'm actually still trying to wrap my brain around it all! 

 

Unfortunately the distinction is very real and important matter in today's market and should be duly noted for any potential buyers.

I have been thinking about this too.....my understanding is that an asynchronous USB DAC can generate its own clock and be the master clock through the USB. does ASRC imply a uniform upsampling(?) to a specified number regardless of sampling frequency of input signal?

post #20 of 56

I think the idea is that it will upsample the source material to a specified rate then interpolate the information in order to create the output signal that you hear. It happens across any/all of the inputs which is why in the zdac example their marketed claim doesn't say anything profound but it seemed that way at my first glance.

post #21 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Sneis View Post

I think the idea is that it will upsample the source material to a specified rate then interpolate the information in order to create the output signal that you hear. It happens across any/all of the inputs which is why in the zdac example their marketed claim doesn't say anything profound but it seemed that way at my first glance.

The confusing thing is that this same process is referred to as symmetrical and asymmetrical in asus xonar essence one marketing literature.......https://www.asus.com/Sound_Cards_and_DigitaltoAnalog_Converters/Xonar_Essence_One_MUSES_Edition/

post #22 of 56

I had a chance to audition the Zdac today, and it is a very nice sounding unit. Did not get to check the headphone amp though. Only other dac they had to compare was the DacMagic 100, and I couldn't hear much if any difference between them, I liked the appearance of the DacMagic better but it is just a dac, no amp, they had the 100 Plus which does have an amp, but it was considerably more money, I could get a DacMagic and an amp like the Asgard 2 for the same money and probably end up with an overall better sounding system. Sometimes I feel like I am trying to split too many hairs.

post #23 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by HPiper View Post

I had a chance to audition the Zdac today, and it is a very nice sounding unit. Did not get to check the headphone amp though. Only other dac they had to compare was the DacMagic 100, and I couldn't hear much if any difference between them, I liked the appearance of the DacMagic better but it is just a dac, no amp, they had the 100 Plus which does have an amp, but it was considerably more money, I could get a DacMagic and an amp like the Asgard 2 for the same money and probably end up with an overall better sounding system. Sometimes I feel like I am trying to split too many hairs.

 

 

What amp and speakers were you using to audition the Zdac and DacMagic 100? 

 

 

Parasound hired Holm Acoustics to design the Zdac and to rewrite the firmware code for the TAS1020B: (from InnerFidelity review...others cover this as well)

 

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/parasound-zdac

http://hometheaterreview.com/parasound-zdac-192khz-digital-to-analog-converter/  (new review)

 

 

"The Zdac accepts 24-bit/192kHz signals through both SPDIF inputs by way of an AKM AK4113 receiver. USB signals are handled by a TI TAS1020B which is an older USB 1.1 part rather than USB 2.0 and thus necessarily limited to 24-bit/96kHz signals. With many new USB DACs boasting 24/192 capabilities and beyond, the Zdac might initially seem underwhelming. Not so fast... this isn't your run-of-the-mill design.

Some DAC makers use the TAS1020B with its stock adaptive mode firmware and call it a day. Others like Benchmark, Lavry, and Bel Canto, license code from CEntrance, which offers much higher performance. Holm Acoustics has enough in-house expertise to create their own firmware from scratch which is not something many companies are equipped to do. This avoids licensing fees which would surely push this sub-$500 DAC into a higher price bracket. It also allows for potentially higher performance. USB 1.1 means no drivers needed - just plug and play. According to Holm, it's also more reliable with longer cable runs."

 

Honestly, I wasn't aware of any of this at the time I ordered the Zdac, I was just in the middle of trying as many under $1000 DAC's as I could for my office system AND the DAC I REALLY wanted to love (since it would look nice next to my Lyr...silly reason, I know) was the Schiit Audio Bifrost (very nice DAC). Frankly, lower priced DAC's are getting so good that it was difficult to find one that stood out as being clearly better sounding (to me) than my older DacMagic & Pangea 100 until I heard the Zdac. The Zdac was impressive in my smaller system with the Parasound A23 amp driving either the B&W 805's, CDM-1NT's or NHT Classic Threes with a Velodyne DD-10 so I used it to replace my Benchmark DAC1 (3 years old) in my main system. With the Zdac feeding an A21 and Magnepan 1.6's and another Velodyne DD-10 it sounded even better. I now have one in my office and a second Zdac has replaced the Benchmark DAC1 for good in my main system. I don't know how much difference it makes but I did allow the Zdac to cook for around 100 hours before truly giving it my full attention. 

 

Best of luck with whichever DAC you pick!


Edited by KLJTech - 7/9/13 at 9:34am
post #24 of 56

I'll have a review up on my blog in a few weeks.

 

cheers

post #25 of 56

I just posted my impressions of the zdac on my blog

post #26 of 56

I received my Zdac today.  Initial impressions are interesting -- it's certainly way different than the RME Fireface UC it replaced.  Using my monitors, the most noticeable difference is the low end, to the point where I'm suspecting that Parasound purposely EQ'd or tuned this DAC to be exaggerated in that region.

 

That's not to say that it's bad though, especially if the rest of your system is bass-shy, but it's by no means a neutral DAC.  This is probably one of the biggest changes in SQ I've noticed from switching DACs in my many years here on Head-Fi.

 

Edit:  the HD650s sound marvelous with a TON of slam straight out of the headphone jack though.  Can't wait till my SR-507 arrives to try that out with this DAC, since it should match well.


Edited by akwok - 7/15/13 at 10:51pm
post #27 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by akwok View Post

I received my Zdac today.  Initial impressions are interesting -- it's certainly way different than the RME Fireface UC it replaced.  Using my monitors, the most noticeable difference is the low end, to the point where I'm suspecting that Parasound purposely EQ'd or tuned this DAC to be exaggerated in that region.

 

That's not to say that it's bad though, especially if the rest of your system is bass-shy, but it's by no means a neutral DAC.  This is probably one of the biggest changes in SQ I've noticed from switching DACs in my many years here on Head-Fi.

 

Edit:  the HD650s sound marvelous with a TON of slam straight out of the headphone jack though.  Can't wait till my SR-507 arrives to try that out with this DAC, since it should match well.

 

I'm sure it will sound different from one system to another but I can tell you that with my Parasound A21 amp driving a pair of Magnepan 1.7's and a Velodyne DD-10 sub (sealed, powerful sub) that the Zdac had the lowest, most powerful and tightest bass of any sub $1000 DAC I've yet heard (no, I've not heard them all).

 

After I let the DAC cook for a few days it was obvious that the Zdac had more low end impact and was smoother sounding (without lacking detail) than the other DAC's I tried. I replaced my Benchmark DAC1 one with a Zdac...I'm not saying that the Zdac is the best (under $750-$1000) or even the best choice for you but in MY system it sounded better than the DAC1 and cost me half as much. The midrange is spooky good via the Zdac through the 1.7's...to me, with a good recording it sounds like live music being played in the room.

 

There are A LOT of very good sounding DAC's out there now...its a good time to be a music lover and in this hobby. Once you find a DAC that makes you happy try your best to forget about the gear and just enjoy the music!

Best of luck!


Edited by KLJTech - 7/16/13 at 2:59pm
post #28 of 56

Ahh... so you ended up with the KGSS!  I was not in the right place at the right time for it this time.

 

I'd say the same about the bass tuning; I almost wanted to say it very nearly loses control sometimes but it wasn't something that was a deal breaker.

 

I have passed too much gear through my hands over the years and the ZDac was a solid performer for sure; the lack of asynch usb is not ideal but it's not a weakness for the dac's overall performance imo.

post #29 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Sneis View Post

Ahh... so you ended up with the KGSS!  I was not in the right place at the right time for it this time.

 

I'd say the same about the bass tuning; I almost wanted to say it very nearly loses control sometimes but it wasn't something that was a deal breaker.

 

I have passed too much gear through my hands over the years and the ZDac was a solid performer for sure; the lack of asynch usb is not ideal but it's not a weakness for the dac's overall performance imo.

 

Yeah, I couldn't let that KGSS DX pass, especially since my biggest qualm with my previous Headamp KGSS was that it was too honking big!

 

In other news, I received my SR-507 and I'm really disappointed.  However, the HD650 sounds ridiculously nice straight out of the ZDac, and I'm considering getting a beefier amp for it since at this point it clearly fulfills all of my criteria already.  The lack of async usb on the ZDac isn't that big of a deal for me since I prefer using optical for stability reasons anyways.

 

I just don't know what electrostatic to get for the KGSS in the meantime, since the next jump is the SR-007 MK2 (which I don't really like), and the SR-009 is just too expensive.

post #30 of 56

I've been using the ZDAC for 5 months and I like it alot. Very smooth sounding and little digital glare. I've tried a bunch of USB cables from my computer and settled on the Cardas Clear which is a good match. I tried the Black Cat 75 ohm spdif and was wonderfully detailed but lacked density and was just too analytical for me. Also tried toslink from my Creative ZXR daughtercard via the Van den hul Optocoupler and still preferred the USB port even though it's max is 24 bit 96khz. I tried ASIO with the ZXR/ toslink with JRiver 19 and kept losing the signal so went back to USB WASAPI. One thing I found is that the ZDAC needs an upgraded power cord. The Pangea made a small but noticeable difference, Venom 3 was similar, especially in the midrange. Then I took my Cardas Clear from my reference system and tried it and I was not prepared for the staggering difference that made. Holy crap it is delightful! But a $750 power cord on a $475 DAC is not something everyone could try. If you do not believe that power cords make a difference, please do not comment as I don't want to hear it because I AM hearing it right now. Amazing. Then last month I got the HE-500 cans with Q Audio French Silk cable, changed my wall outlet to a Maestro, and used a Cardas 1/4" to 1/8" adapter since the ZDAC only has a 1/8" headphone plug. After a 10 day break in I was really impressed with the dynamic, clear sound but felt something was still lacking so I ran a 1/2 m Audience AU24SE interconnect from the ZDAC to my new Schiit LYR headphone amp with the Venom 3 power cord. Now things are getting interesting! Then last week I rolled the tubes to NOS Siemens 6922's and am finally getting the transparency and dynamics for which the HE-500's are so famous. Diana Krall never sounded better and The Tord Gustaven Trio sounds incredible. I am a long-time analogue buff and I can state that this is real high-end sound now. Of course I will keep tweaking and might get a more expensive DAC to complete the setup but for now I am in audio bliss. BTW the ZDAC has Asynchronous sample rate conversion for all inputs including the USB input.

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