Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › Parasound zdac reviews?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Parasound zdac reviews? - Page 3

post #31 of 83
Originally Posted by scottyfree111 View Post

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.

That's interesting that you did indeed hear an improvement with the Zdac once you upgraded the power cable. The stock cable that came with my Zdac is still in the box as I never tried it, I already had a nice power cable form Audio Art in place for my Benchmark DAC1 so I used it for the Zdac. I guess its possible that this is the reason why I've always heard the improvement of deeper, tighter bass with this DAC without it ever sounding as if its losing control in the bass region...who knows? I do know that the Velodyne DD-10 is powerful yet tight "IF" the signal feed to it is as well...feed it loose, out of control bass and you won't be pleased with the results.  


I'm fortunate that a very good friend of mine got into this hobby years ago at about the same time I did and this has allowed us to swap gear back and forth between our two homes and this way we're able to try out twice as much gear as we'd be able to on my own. We've done this going all the way back to the early 90's when Apogee Speakers were getting a ton of attention for their line of ribbon speakers and Infinity Kappa speakers were very popular. Back then, at one point we both owned a pair of Infinity Kappa 8's (with the incredible for its time EMIT tweeter) and later moved on to the Apogee Stage. We both bought so many amps, trying to find just the right one and back then it wasn't easy finding a solid state amp that didn't sound too dry, brittle at the top end. I think we started with the extremely popular Adcom GFA-555 and then the 555 MKII and later moved on to Nelson Pass designed Nakamichi PA-7 Stasis amp and a year or so later I ended up with Mondial designed Aragon 8008. This was before DAC's and I remember having so many mods done on different CD players that looking back it was ridiculous...we're so lucky now in that there is a TON of great sounding gear available and regardless of the price point there's truly no one right answer, be it for speakers, headphones, amps or DAC's. 


There are probably half a dozen DAC's under a $1000 right now that I would be more than pleased to own and with lower priced digital getting so good and advancements being made so often (so it seems) "I now try" to stay under a $1000 with my DAC's be it for my home or office system. I'm very pleased with the Zdac, yet I could easily live with thoroughly enjoy the Schiit Audio Bifrost with the available upgrades (I LOVE their Lyr HP amp) or several other high quality lower priced DAC's. Changing gear all the time can be a blast yet after a while if you're not careful it can become maddening...you can lose sight of the main goal and that is to enjoy music. I truly think the key is to find the gear that YOU enjoy most and then try very, very hard to forget about the components that you've put together and get back to focusing on the music. 

post #32 of 83
Has anybody compared the zdac vs schiit bifrost or nuforce dac-80, ..., or any dac under $1.000.
I've ordered a zdac demo (¡$370!!!!), I'll let you know what will I listen. I'm upgrading my DacMagic/Pangea 100/Pangea Power AC14SE (plan to use this with zdac).

So I have a converter Nuforce U192S, this is an asynchronous conververter from usb to coax and/or optical. An interface between the computer and the dac. I will compare this converter with the built in usb of the zdac.
Edited by RelayerCR - 12/25/13 at 4:52pm
post #33 of 83
post #34 of 83

OK, I’ve been using the zDac for two months. I bought this to upgrade from a Cambridge Audio DacMagic (not the Plus version). For specs look at: http://www.parasound.com/ParasoundZ/zdac.php . The zDac upsample has a Premium Analog Devices AD1853 24-bit/192 kHz Digital to Analog Converter, and all inputs feature jitter reduction and are re-clocked and up-sampled to 422 kHz / 24 bit.  I upgraded the Powe cable to a Pangea AC 14SE.  I use DH-Labs cables (both digital and analog).


I have a Nuforce U192S device (an USB asynchronous adapter) to transfer audio from my computer by means of USB. The u192S corrects digital signal distortion (reduces jitter) and send it thru coax and/or optical. However my first step will be to compare Cambridge Audio DacMagic vs Parasound zDac without the Nuforce U192S. Then I’ll talk about the differences that Nuforce U192S introduces.


Parasound says that zDac has “Asynchronous sample rate conversion for all inputs including the USB input”, so I’d like to compare this feature of zDac isolated vs. the addition of Nuforce U192S. Parasound zDac usb supports 16 and 24 bit up to 96khz , with the U192S I will be able to transmit up to 192khz. I will not make a review of the headphone amp.


So, let’s begin: the differences are clear and evident, zDac does not requires too much attention to reveal improvements over DacMagic: it produces more clear sound, improved dynamics (deeper bass, more precise and differentiable midrange and more natural highs), much more details are revealed, more natural timbre (for pianos, cymbals, human voices, …). So I perceive a deeper sound staging and it seems that there is a much better perception of the instruments, each one is more differentiable from another. zDac has a toroidal transformer, aybe this explains the deeper bass that I perceive. The zDac is a great improvement over DacMagic, I can listen easily improvements in all areas. When I use DacMagic, I am always using the Nuforce U192S asynchronous adapter. The usb of DacMagic is a poor implementation. So I am comparing DacMagic + U192S agains Parasound Zdac (without U192S)


Now I will compare zdac withouth U192S against zdac + U192S, I realized that there are some important improvements: the sound has more details and enhanced sound staging, the instruments seem to become dimensional (¡ 3D !). However with zdac, it is a matter of justice to say that zdac without U192S is simply excellent, I can live without the U192S, it just improves the sound. The U192S represents an extension of the capabilities or features for the zDac. Not only improves the sound quality, but gives to zdac the capability to reproduce 24bit/172.4khz & 24bit/192 khz through coaxial. However for any reason when I use optical cable it is limited up to 96 khz (it may be a driver bug in Windows 8.1). Take into account that zDac price is $475 and NuForce U192S is about $100 ($575 for both, ¡add another cable!).


The headphone amp in zDac is a plus, I don’t need it because I have a better one, I would preffer to have a better good asynchronous technology instead of the headphone amp. Of course this is a very personal opinion, if you don’t own a good headphone amp, … then zDac has a very god one, I’ve tested with my Grado 225i and it performs very detailed and full bodied.


Conlusion: for a price of $475 the Parasound is a excellent option, the only drawnack I find is that the USB is limited to 96khz, I’m proving to my self the improvement that I get from an external asynchronous USB converter, so for me it would be a nice to have that zDac included internally something like U192S, and I’m willing to renounce to the headphone amp for a better usb build. However this is my personal opinion, there should be other ideas out there. Parasound zDac has a solid contruction, as with all other Paraound gear this has xcellent finish, high quality components (difficult to find at this price), it performnce simply impressive and musical, it would be hard to find something with similar level of quality at this price.


A competitor should be the Schiit Bifrosft, but apart of the sound quality that Schiit can produce, visually it seems to me to have inferior parts in its built, however I like the idea of being upgradable.

post #35 of 83

I bought a Zdac and a pair of DT990 premiums from a local dealer.  When I got them home, the headphones distorted using the on-board headphone amp.  That's when I learned that I'd walked out with a pair of 32ohm DT990 premiums (I'm a head-fi noob so I didn't know they came in three different versions).  I went back and since the dealer didn't have any 250 or 600 ohm versions, I traded those in on a pair of HD600, which match up nicely with the Zdac. Just marking my experience in this thread for others that may be considering the Zdac.

post #36 of 83

I am looking to use this as an all-in-one solution as a headphone listening station. So that begs the question, how good is the amp section (I know the dac seems to be very well received) . Would like to hear from High Impedance can owners (HD650) and Low (Grado). I am a little upset at how many dac/amp manufacturers seem to just throw the amp in as an added 'bonus' and it isn't worth the trouble it takes to plug your phones into it. Why put an amp in at all, just to get a few extra sales?

post #37 of 83

HPiper, it sounds great with the HD600 and also ath-AD2000's.  The ad2k IMO can sound a bit bland out of certain amps and it does not sound bland with the ZDac. I'd still rather have a separate dedicated amp, if desk space were confined to just this one component however I think it would be a good call.

post #38 of 83

HPiper, let put it simple, I have a headphone Grado 225:



so I have earphones Nuforce NE-700X: https://www.nuforce.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=27&Itemid=384


The Parasound Zdac is an excellent amp for both, I could live happy many years with this headphone amp. However, I have a Musical Fidelity entry level headphone amp, a 3 years old V-Can, original price was about $175. V-Can is just a better amp over zDac, I can hear more bass and a full bodied sound, more clear details. So is just a matter of budget, you can be happy with zdac, but you can improve the amp section adding a better amp.


As a DAC the Zdac would be very difficult to surpass at this price.

post #39 of 83

RelayerCR, did you compare the Zdac to a fully upgraded Bifrost? It wasn't clear from your post whether you'd heard the Schiit.

post #40 of 83
Eric_c I tried bifrost but not the last update, I think it is excellent, but it was some months ago, and I did not have opportunity to compare one by one these units. However I prefer the high quality and buid of the Parasound equipment, for example: the toroidal power supply, the xlr connection, ...
post #41 of 83

Thanks for the response =)

post #42 of 83
In this review you will find a comparison of zdac and bifrost: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/parasound-zdac
post #43 of 83

Looks like the price of the Zdac just dropped to $299 on Audioadvisor, making it the likely candidate for bargain of the year.

post #44 of 83
Originally Posted by hahahigh View Post

Looks like the price of the Zdac just dropped to $299 on Audioadvisor, making it the likely candidate for bargain of the year.
indeed it is case, even at $475 it is a bargain!
post #45 of 83

I still think this DAC has a unique sound to it that gets more right than wrong, the ZDac really doesn't get enough love.  In hindsight I think Parasound took the high road in trying to design a DAC that is affordable and sounds good in a market that cares not only about great sound quality (or maybe not even SQ at all) but also the right combination of modern doo-dads.


Let's see; it doesn't do Asynchronous USB, it doesn't do DSD/DXD, it upsamples, the DAC chip and USB receiver chip are not TOTL, and worse I don't think Parasound quite knew how to market the thing.


It's a shame because these features don't necessarily guarantee a great sounding DAC or properly design implementation but I guess it's the sex that sells!

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Dedicated Source Components
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › Parasound zdac reviews?