Zishan Family (Z1 & Z2)


100+ Head-Fier
Zishan Z1 opamp rolling (Sparkos ss3602)
Pros: Warm engaging sound
Cons: Awkward volume level control (counterclockwise increases volume) and confusing control functions
Recently I upgraded my Zishan Z1 Digital Audio Player (DAP) with the Sparkos ss3602 discrete opamp.

In this short overview I would like to share my opinions and experiences with this upgrade.

Used headphones where AKG K712 Pro and Philips Fidelio X2

NE5532 is the default opamp of the Z1 DAP.
A few years ago after several tests and opamp swaps (including Muses8920, Muses8820, Burson V5i and LT1028) I settled on the Linear Technology LT1028. As these are single channel in a soic package you had to mount two on a dual 8 pin SOIC to 8 pin DIP PCB.
Compared to the default NE5532 the LT1028 gave the Z1 a much more refined, musical, warm and detailed sound. It should be stated however that the Z1 by default is on the warm side and it's bass can be a little uncontrolled and overwhelming.

Recently I upraded the prefered opamp (LT1028) with the Sparkos ss3602 which brought improvements in smoothness, detail retrieval, spaciousness and somewhat tamed the loose bass.

To my ears the ss3602 is the best sounding opamp for the Z1 but I am a little reluctant to advise this upgrade without reservations because the Z1 is a nice little DAP but has it's limitations that even a great sounding opamp like the Sparkos ss3602 cannot fully overcome.

On the other hand if your only concern is to get the best sounding opamp upgrade for the Z1 then the ss3602 should be on your list.


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Ver JJ

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Volume Knob, Metal Build, DSD Support, Sound Quality to Price ratio, Satisfying Button, Cheap (Of course).
Cons: Overpowers some IEM, Volume pot issue.
Alright.......... here we go, this is my first review in my life that is published.............. maybe, oh okay, but before that, there are a few things that I will like to clarify............ I am not a senior to this hobby so there might be some error in my way of reviewing my items but I hope that you can read it in an open minded way............ also don't take all my words for granted as it will only disbenefit you and keep in mind that this is a compulsive review so if you are confused by my words, don't hold back and kindly send my a pm as I am a person who loves to learn and correct my own mistake(s).......... all right lets get started.

Firstly, I will like to go through the spec & price & firmware and features however @musicday had done it on the thread he started

(Link for Z1: https://www.head-fi.org/f/threads/new-zishan-z1-dsd-player-thread.844417/ ) (Link for Z2: https://www.head-fi.org/f/threads/b...-link-to-order-firmware-update-page-1.854463/ ) therefore I am not going to repeat it again, head over there to check it out if you are interested.

Secondly, the gear that I used to test both Zishan are Audio Technica ATH-M40x, Shure SE-215 with upgraded SPOFC cable, Etymotic HF5, Ve Monk+, and others earphone in my inventory to support my opinion.

Lastly, subscribe those threads................. if you like Zishan family.

Build Quality:

  • I will give it a 5/5 because its body is made out of aluminium which my Sony NWZ-A15 isn't and considering the price of Zishan is far lower than my Sony DAP.
  • Volume knob is also made out of metal? (probably aluminium too?) but it fells solid and doesn't seems like it will break at any point of time which is a great thing since finding a replacement for it is kind of pain in the ass.
  • Both 3.5mm Lo and Po jacks are held in place neatly as there is no noticeable gap in between the ring and front plate, however it is not gold plated but considering the price you pay for it.
  • As for the button, both of my Zishan are “clicky” as it makes a very loud “click” sound when you press it which might (or might not) annoy someone sitting next to you when you are on a commute or in a library (generally quite place).
  • LED light… fun thing to have around but when you are using it to fall asleep with lights turned off as it is a little too bright due to the led used will emit blue light (hope that it is red light though, that way it will look cooler).
  • Power “On” and “Off” switches are snappy.
  • Keep in mind that this player doesn’t come with a screen so don’t border tying your hardest to search for it.
  • And the weirdest thing is that the micro usb port is inverted when you position the Zishan in an upright position (three button facing upward)… I have no idea what to comment about this.

Usage & Controll:

  • First thing to note is that the volume pot has a steep volume increase from 12 to 8 o’clock and a slow volume increase after that, for those IEM users out there keep this in mind as it will have a tendency to over power some IEM (even some of my headphone) and in my opinion, an impedance adapter might come in handily in this case.
  • Second thing is that there will be a loud or maybe soft “pop” sound when you switch on your Zishan player which might annoy someone however the sad new is that no matter how many way I had tried I couldn’t get rid of this annoying “pop” sound that might damage my audio gears.
  • I find that the track control for Zishan is very straight foward and no instruction menu is required.
  • Also to mention, I had tried out SanDisk 128gb Micro sd card on it (formatted to Fat32) and it worked really well as long as the files that I put in there is supported by the player.
  • Sadly, only Z1 can act as an amp however both Z1 and Z2 can act as a DAC but I highly doubt you are going to use them as a DAC as there are better once out there which plays back higher end format natively.

Sound Quality (My personal opinion so don’t get triggered):

Lets start with similarity,

  • Zishan has quite a punch as the kick from the song “By Your Side” is relatively fuller compared to Aune M1s. In other words, in terms of lower end spectrum, Zishan is more "solid" compared to Aune M1s which is more "airy".
  • There is no noticeable noise at the background when I am playing back a song which is great as I always got annoyed by that.

Now, differences,


  • It has a more circular sound field which extends to around 4 to 5 inches away from my head which makes it sound like there are speakers surrounding my head.
  • Imaging wise is not that great on Z1 as I could not really “tell” where a certain instrument placed when I played back “Fly Me To The Moon” which is quite frustrating if you listen to a more complex music like orchestra, in other words Z1 can handle a more simplistic music well like slow bossa nova or jazz better.
  • I will say that the tonality of Z1 is a tad towards the warmer side maybe because there are more mids to it.
  • As for humidity, I will say that it sounds quite wet compared to Z2 which make it sound sweeter too as the treble is not super emphasised.
  • Vocal is a little forward and engaging which pushes the instruments a little further apart, this allows me to focus on what the singer is singing and sometime I will loose track of the musical notes.


  • It has a more oval sound field which means the sound kind of extends out from both sides of yours ears (typical sound field of many dap), this will allow you to distinguish the position of instrument better as there is more space to “pack” those instruments.
  • Imaging on Z2 is an improvement over Z1 as I had mentioned above however it can’t be compared to Aune M1s………… sorry to bring another audio player up here but yeah……..
  • Tonality of Z2 is relatively neutral due to the more balanced dynamic range of frequency.
  • Humidity wise, Z2 sound a little drier at the treble section which might make it not that “musical” for me.
  • Vocal in this case is pushed backward where the instruments are brought forward, this will sometime make me loose focus on what the singer is singing and focus more on the instruments which is the exact opposite of Z1.

Alright, I think this is as much as I can (and want to) talk about each expect of both Zishan player…………… I might come back here to add some picture if I have time in the future.................... just to remind you to take my words as a huge grain of salt as I am still quite new to this hobby……………. until then……………….cheer………........