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Germanium's Sound blaster ZXR mod thread

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by germanium, Feb 12, 2014.
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  1. germanium
    . ZXRmods.jpg
    The caps in the red box need to be shorted underneath the board. This is for the analog stereo output section of the card
    The caps in the green box need to be bypassed underneath with two 12uf metalized film caps each.
    The caps in the purple need to be bypassed with one 12uf metalized film cap each.
    The caps in the blue box are for the surround sound analog output section. These only need to be shorted if you are using 5.1 speakers with analog input.
    This mod requires a total of 7-12uf capacitors
    That is the extent of my mods to this card at this point. 
    The sound coming from this card is to die for it is so much better than when fresh out of the box.
    Everything has much higher resolution. Bass though just as present is more detailed & takes it's proper place behind the midrange & still adding tremendous foundation to the music. Treble is massively more detailed yet easier on the ears as well. This is not to say the treble lacks dynamics as even the dynamics are improved as well. Instrument such as bell & triangles have a piercing but sweet quality. By piercing I mean that it projects it's sound above other instruments, not that it sounds harsh as it doesn't.
    Saving the best for last, The midrange is what tube lovers love about tubes. Well you tube lovers can put away your tube amps now as this card has that type of midrange in spades with out all the fuss rebiasing your tubes every time you listen to your music, not that all tube amp need constant rebiasing but many higher end tube amps do. Just joking about putting away your tube amp really though. It's just this card takes on the midrange in such an excellent fashion yet retains all the best attributes of transistor amps. I.E. tight extended bass & extended treble but improving on the treble by giving it the sweetness & detail of the finest tube amps & yes I have heard some of the finest in the world tubes amps as one of the was built by a friend of mine that now deseased but in his heyday was lead audio engineer for A&M records as well as Disney studios. These were true studio grade amps. Before he died he sold the design which some parts were cheapened & turned into a consumer grade amp & they are charging 40,000 dollars for. Only 5 of the original amp were built before he became too sick to continue. He was only charging $7,000 for a 50 watt version & $3500 for the 25watt version amp that had even better parts & had an output transformer that was truly a design that was never seen outside of the studio. Instead of having the standard 4, 8, & 16 ohm taps found on most output transformers  the winding of the transformer were sent out to a jones socket where the windings were reconfigured for each impedance tap inside the jones plug. This allowed him to double up the windings so they ran in parallel for the 4 ohm tap or run them in series for the 16ohm tap. Note he was not making a killing on these amps as the parts cost for the 25 watt version came to $2500.
    These picture I'm posting now are posted with permission of NCSUZoSo.
    He did a nice job on his mod. Better looking than mine.
  2. atoff
    Do you happen to know what needs to be done to the lowly Z?
  3. germanium

    You can do the same type of mods It's just I don't have one to point to which caps need to bypassed or shorted.
  4. NoOneLt
    Nice, seems like i also will do this mod in near future, found these caps, will use 10uF, only thing i'll try to find some semi-pro to do soldering, as i'am afraid of my hands :D
    @germanium How do You think, what is the smallest capacity that is still usefull in this mod? Caps i found is 23mm diameter, and i'am afraid they could not fit, so then only option is to get even smaller. What is the smallest capacity You believe still do the job right?
  5. germanium
    5 uf each would probably work just fine but that is about as small as I would go & still have a nice consistent sound signature.
  6. NoOneLt
    Wanted to add schematics of what should be done, colors is the same as in first picture.
    UPDATED to the latest version germanium posted, not to confuse people who see different pic.
    If i brake any forum rule by posting image with logo on it please inform, this is not advertisement, google helped to find HQ image, and i didn't wan't to hide logo.
  7. germanium
    I would like to mention that D.C. offset must always be checked at the output before connecting to anything in order to make sure there is no bad connections on the shorted caps as if you have a bad connection on one leg you will have excessive d.c. offset that could damage anything it is connected to. D.C. offset should be less than 5mv when properly done. if there is a bad connection there will be about 2.5 volts. At that voltage you could see the hazard posed not checking.
  8. germanium
    Didn't mean to scare anyone off by this warning. It's just something that needs to be checked is all. Sound is wonderful when completed properly. I have yet to have a bad connection so it's not that hard to do this mod.
    NoOneLt likes this.
  9. germanium
    Man, have I been doing a lot of listening since my modifications were complete. I like what I'm hearing so far. The potential of this card is incredible sonically at least for music I have listened to my setup almost all weekend The incredible sound of this card really draws you into the music & you can clearly hear just about everything in the mix. Much better than I could hear stock.
  10. NoOneLt
    Huston, i have a problem :) The thing is that my CPU cooler leaves me very little space for modding (when ZxR is in PCI-E X1_1 slot). Imagine that free space where i can place caps starts after red line, until then there is CPU cooler and only few mm behind board. GPU blocks other PCI-E X1 slots, actually block only second, but leaves no place behind 3 one. So several solutions i can think of:
    1. Keep ZxR in PCI-E X1_1 (look MoBo picture) and design caps mod like in picture below, what i worry about that there is need in extending caps legs with some wires, and i afraid it will ruin the mod idea, there will appear interference or other electronic staff i have no idea about :)) What do you think about it?
    2. Get PCI-E cable extension, and just place ZxR somewhere.. Not such good idea as then i can not get to connections so easily. Also it costs.
    3. Place my card in PCI-E X8 slot, but then i loose my PCI-E X16 full speed, it becames PCI-E X8, it is not a big lost i believe, as benchmark shows only small lost of of VGA performance. Easiest solution, but what if i would like to go SLI someday, who knows :)
    Still i believe 1 solutions is the "neatest" one, because it is most universal one, and without compromises. But what will i loose by prolonging caps legs?
    Thanks in advance!
    My MoBo: http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=3853#bios
  11. germanium
     Yes, Houston we do have a problem. It does look like your placement will solve the problem though. Lead length shouldn't be a huge problem. Try to keep the voltage input side as short as possible & attached to the inner foil side ( side the writing begins on cap & the ground attached to the outer foil which is the tail end of writing). You can attach the ground side to an alternate ground site such as near the I/O panel of the card . That is how I did the Titanium HD card & it works fine.
  12. verde57
    An XO mod like on the STX is feasible here?
  13. germanium

     It may be feasible but then again it may be pointless. This card already seems to have better sound without changing the XO. there may be a circuit to remove jitter already on the board inside that big chip next to it. this card shows a lot of potential already by sounding better than the STX as much as I can remember it sounding anyway.
  14. germanium
    I just had a friend from where I work over to my place yesterday & listened to my setup. You should have seen the look on his face which emerged at the very first note played. His lower jaw dropped down almost to his chest & said this is good. He was shocked how good it sounds. I played several cuts from different albums & he remained very impressed the whole time including some very well recorded live stuff from the Allman Brothers band Live At the Phillmore East. His comments were about how clear everything was yet there was a natural warmth to the sound as well, never any congestion at all.
    NoOneLt likes this.
  15. NCSUZoSo
    Source for affordable caps:
    ERSE PEx 12uF 250V: http://www.erseaudio.com/Products/PEx250v/12uF-250-volt-Metallized-Polyester-Mylar-Film-Capacitor ($2.97/unit = $20.79 (For 5.1))
    ERSE PulseX 12uF 250V: http://www.erseaudio.com/Products/PulseX250v/MPX25-03-12-00   ($4.57/unit = $31.99 (For 5.1))
    The other good thing about ERSE Audio is the shipping rates in the US are very low, my cost was two dollars and some change to have 6 7 capacitors sent to my house for the 5.1 mod. 

    EDIT: It should be 7 caps, not 6.  This was an error that Germanium caught after I had done my mod.  All other posts were corrected to reflect this, but I forgot about this one.  Sorry to anyone who purchased 6 and is one short.  I actually have 3 spare PulseX Caps if someone did buy 6 instead of 7 please contact me through a PM.
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