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microZOTL 3 by Linear Tube Audio. True High End Audio.

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by jamato8, Dec 21, 2018.
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  1. Matthew Willims
    Strangely I actually prefer the Darkvoice for my headphones (AKG K712 Pro, Monoprice Monolith M1060C). Really like a Melz 6H8C hole plate + RCA 6AS7GT tube in it.

    That said the LTA MZ3 is easily the best preamp I've ever tried. :)
  2. GuyForkes
    Just received the MZ3 yesterday after a painful 3 week wait but it was well worth it. Right out of the box, this tiny integrated looked and sounded amazing. I use it mainly as a preamp combined with the Pass XA25 to drive my Susvara/Abyss TC. Compared to my other preamp, the Rogue Audio RP-7, the MZ3 sounded more refined and holographic with better dynamics and impact (this thing can hit HARD). There is also an alertness and clarity to the sound that goes really well with the darker/wetter sounding XA25. I also tried it as a headamp with my HD600 and was surprised at how much the HD600 was elevated with the MZ3.

    I've heard other tube amps including the Feliks Euforia, Auris Nirvana, Manley Absolute and the Woo Audio WA5 and feel that the MZ3 sounds better. Heck, I'm reluctant to admit this but it might sound better than my long-time tube amp, the Cayin HA-300. Not as spacious but better resolution and dynamics. Anyway, the MZ3 really doesn't get enough attention on here for how good it is, hopefully more people will catch on.

  3. highstream
    To anyone using the MZ3 with speakers, where on the cool - neutral - warm tonal continuum have you found it? What's your preference on that continuum? I ask because I've found that gear which is characterized as "alive" is often if not typically on the cool to neutral side. Thanks,
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019 at 8:07 PM
  4. Matthew Willims
    I'd call it neutral... I don't like bright, or overly warm gear.... I tend to gravitate towards solid state sounding tube gear for the most part if that makes sense.

    While I have run mine with speakers I much prefer using it as a preamp. Speakers are not quite efficient enough at about 98db to get the best from it.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019 at 8:21 PM
  5. highstream
    Thanks. I like my emotional involvement to come first from the music not the "sound effects," if you get what I mean. I'm not a headphones person, but this is the only LTA preamp disucssion going. The audio core of my system is a modified Oppo 203 to a Lampi Atlantic TRP dac to ATC SCM active speakers (and soon JL Audio e-110 subs). There's an iFi spdif iPurifier and Paul Hynes LPS in there too. A number of people have told me that adding a preamp would boost the SQ substantially, not that it's bad at all right now. The Lampi has a passive volume attenuator, so I've been focusing on active preamps. The two currently on my radar are the MZ3 and the Wells Audio Commander, both about the same price. LTA was recommended to me by Lampi NA, probably because they sold Mark one and he uses it for tuning his gear.

    I'm also wondering if there is a difference in tubes that would affect the tonal quality of the MZ3. There certainly has been with the Lampi.
  6. Matthew Willims
    The MZ3 makes for an incredible preamp, and while most people use for headphones I don't use headphones given a choice. I much prefer speakers.... Preferably open back / open baffles. Brings the performance right into my living room. It doesn't add or subtract anything from the music. You need to do that at your source.

    I prefer quite rich, palpable tonality. That's the job of your DAC, or cartridge + phono stage.

    I've never bothered tube rolling the MZ3 as it has very little tube coloration, though excellent tube sound staging with all the benefits of solid state thrown in.

    I'll not be looking for another preamp until sad day that my MZ3 fails which should be many years in the future. The MZ3 is an end game preamp. If you need balanced connections you'll need to spring for the LTA Preamp. I couldn't see the point with the short cable lengths I run.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2019 at 2:58 AM
  7. highstream
    Thanks. Here's what LTA's preamp sites say:

    "Traditional tube amps are known for their liquidity and linearity, but their “warmth” masks details and can sound thick. Solid state amplifiers give you that detail, but can be “clinical.” ZOTL amplifiers give you the best of both worlds: beautiful tube tone with the clarity of solid state (while being entirely tube-based.)"

    Does that mean they've given up the warmth, or just the more extreme versions that older tube gear had? I know that "neutral" is in these days, so developers are now often describing their products that way no matter what and sometimes revising their product lines accordingly (I better not name names or they'll be here commenting).

    A different question. LTA's site says the following about tubes and headphone amp: "12AU7s are often substituted for the 12AT7s to lower the gain if higher headphone output is not required." Since I rarely use headphones -- I still have a pair of Yamaha HP-1's from the 1980s -- but do use powered speakers and a dac with its own passive volume control, which with a preamp would be turned up to 0, I'm wondering how that option applies to my set up, if at all. I wouldn't want to change anything like that from stock unless absolutely necessary.
  8. jamato8 Contributor
    I have built my own tube preamps and other tube equipment. IMO, the MZ3 is one of the best headphone and preamps on the market. I can not stand overly warm tube sound as it masks the real sound, IMO. The MZ3 gets everything right. It has the 3D quality of good tubes but without making the sound unnatural.

    You can change the tubes to suit your taste as well. I like the 12SN7 in the Sylvania early 1950's type. Not overly expensive and they last a very, very long time. For the driver tube I use the 7062. It is extremely good and is a super long life tube, rated at 10,000 hours and will last even longer in the MZ3 because of the way they are implemented. I can see the tubes in the MZ3 lasting a lifetime of use.
    Matthew Willims likes this.
  9. Matthew Willims
    I suspect most people use the MZ3 as either a great headphone amp or as a reference grade preamp. I don't think too many people would have speakers effeicient enough to use the speaker outputs with great result. Maybe a pair of speakers based around a single Lii Audio F15 or a Crystal-15 would do it at 99db efficient.... My speakers are 3 ways though so harder to drive and I don't actually know the specs of the vintage Zenith 49CZ driver I run.....
  10. italiandoc1
    I'd say it's pretty darn neutral, which is my preference. When I switch to the Zana, it's very apparent how different "traditional OTL" sounds...I like the more colored euphonic sound as well (esp with the Utopias) but in a different way. I'm sure it's very similar to the Darkvoice mentioned above.

    I use the older gold pin sylvanias and phillips miniwatt

  11. Matthew Willims
    Yeah, I prefer the colouration of the Darkvoice 336SE for headphones, though the neutralness and transparency of the MZ3 as a preamp. I own both. :wink:
  12. highstream
    Under the rubric of to each their taste, I find moderate warmth similar to unmiked acoustical instruments and what’s commonly called neutral not so. Note that neutral literally means not taking a side. Concerts are typically miked on the warm side and when they’re not — usually the musicians’ doing — it’s really obvious.

    That aside, thanks for your comments.
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