My Lame Little Zero First Impression Review
Jul 7, 2009 at 10:47 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10


100+ Head-Fier
Aug 16, 2007
For the record, here is my set-up:

Rhythmbox-Ripped .flac files
Aqualung Media Player with no Add-Ons
Linux ALSA Output to Realtek Optical Output
Zero DAC with Included Cables
Audiotechnica A900 and Grado SR-225

I will pretty much just write what comes to mind as I listen. First, the A900s:

NoFx - The Decline
- On First Impression, this DAC balances out the A900s big time
- Glassy high end, but never harsh
- Leaner Bass than I'm used to with the A900s, which is not a bad thing
- I can hear every "grain" of distortion in the bass
- Cymbal Decay sounds great
- Decent soundstage, but nothing spectacular
- Little vinyl-esque pops make me think I may need to re-rip with EAC... sadly
- Vocals are fairly natural
- Balance may lean a bit to the high end, but it may just be this track
- Trombone sounds a bit odd. Not positive what it is, exactly.

Flobots - Handlebars
- Intro Violin Sounds pretty natural
- Bass is very present, and beautifully balanced, and tight
- Very forward vocals
- Cymbals sound good, and better balanced
- I hear guitar effects I haven't heard before
- Snare sounds great. Good ring to it.
- Trumpet sounds more natural than the trombone did. Maybe mastering.
- Violin throughout I haven't noticed before now.
- Double bass is tight, but still has power.

Coheed and Cambria - In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
- Nice sense of space with the intro guitar
- Vocals are well balanced, and natural sounding
- Can once again hear each "grain" of distortion in the bass
- Drums are perhaps a bit out of balance with the cymbals. Could use more drums overall.
- Apparently, the drummer had left-foot hi-hat chick going pretty consistently throughout the entire song I had never heard before.
- I hear more nuances in the snare drum than previously.
- More distinction between picked notes and hammer-on / pull-off notes than previously.
- With no cymbal involvement, the drums sound better, and more balanced. Maybe the cymbals / high end are a bit much.
- Good sense of dynamics in the build up to the end.
- The kick drum sometimes distorts. I think this may be a mastering issue, as I have heard it with other set-ups, with all variables changed.
- "Woahs" at the end sound appropriately distant and haunting.

Animal Collective - Fireworks
- The Phasing Effect if the intro is minimalized
- Very good balance
- Most natural vocals yet, oddly enough
- Electronic Effects Sound Very Cool
- Background Sounds and Instruments are subdued, but still clear, and present, though in their place
- Cymbals still seem a bit over the mix, but not as much as other tracks
- Most pleasant listen to this track I've had so far, though that may be the alcohol as much as it is the DAC.

Gustav Holst - Mars: The Bringer of War
- Very clear rhythms at the beginning
- Wonderful dynamics from ppp intro to fff ending
- Real sense of power, without loudness
- Some odd sort of phasing in the channel switching for whatever reason
- Brass sounds a bit unnatural at times
- Strings are well defined, and accurate
- VERY lean bass, but that is probably more due to instrumentation than the DAC
- Strong percussion, and excellent balance throughout
- Woodwinds add texture, without ever being the focal point, oddly enough
- Ending is very powerful, with wonderful decay that sounds natural and full

Lamb of God - Ashes of the Wake
- Cymbals are pronounced, and well balanaced this time around
- Tight, powerful bass for a change
- Great snare crack
- Sweet guitar sound
- Vocals sound over-produced. For the first time they sound like miced vocals
- Great rhythmic accuracy
- Good sound stage
- Some pops, but that may be the rip
- Drums are well balanced

God is An Astronaut - Tempus Horizon
- Amazingly spacious sound to start off
- Beautifully balanced, airy beginning
- Explodes gloriously into first chorus
- Open Hi Hat seems to jump out from the mix a bit, but the rest of the cymbals are better balanced
- Guitars and strings sound great
- Closed Hi Hat sound tight and precise
- Great bass balance, perhaps the best balanced track yet
- Drums sound amazing overall
- Nice, warm guitar sound, especially for a DAC
- Rhythm of all parts more prominent than before

Refused - The Deadly Rhythm
- Intro doesn't sound quite vintagey enough for me, if that makes sense
- I hear more nuances in the rhythm than previously
- Seemingly longer cymbal decay
- Very cymbal-heavy sound
- Fairly natural vocals
- Toms get lost in the mix, while kick and snare are fine
- Wow, didn't know there was reverb on that talking portion in the middle
- Lots of bass, in comparison to other songs
- Sounds very sloppy, and garagey, in an on-purpose sort of way

The Mars Volta - Televators
- Birds sound pretty natural
- Electronic noise has good soundscape
- Guitar sounds very natural
- Vocals are alright, but nothing special
- The layered guitars keep sounding better
- Chorus gets much, much louder, but that's probably the mastering
- Chorus vocals are better
- Feedback and tremolo sound appropriately insistent
- Louder vocals sound better in general o this track. The louder the better
- Percussion sounds well-balanced
- Layered vocals compliment each other well
- Final chorus is a bit much for my likings.

Well, this concludes the A900 section. I will update with my Grado impressions later.
Jul 7, 2009 at 10:49 PM Post #2 of 10
You lucky folks and your working Zeros.
Jul 9, 2009 at 3:12 PM Post #3 of 10

Originally Posted by pow3rtr1p /img/forum/go_quote.gif

NoFx - The Decline

That a good 19 minute or so listening
normal_smile .gif

Great song, has been one of my Favorite songs across the broad genres of music i listen to

Have you done any mods to your zero yet ? I still have had mine for a year now. Running an audio-gd sun HDAM in it. Still sounds good, but now I'm on the hunt for a better DAC, now that i have learned to appreciate music
Jul 9, 2009 at 10:05 PM Post #4 of 10

Originally Posted by katanka /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That a good 19 minute or so listening
normal_smile .gif

Great song, has been one of my Favorite songs across the broad genres of music i listen to

Shows you how different people's tastes in music are - I think after listening to that song that I utterly and completely wasted 19 minutes of my life that I will never get back...
Jul 10, 2009 at 1:58 PM Post #5 of 10

Originally Posted by richpjr /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Shows you how different people's tastes in music are - I think after listening to that song that I utterly and completely wasted 19 minutes of my life that I will never get back...

Ye ,but you gotta have some sorta love for NOFX to enjoy it. as i said , i listen to punk and metal all sort of bands in between. I really enjoyed listening to that song a lot 8 years ago, and will still queue it up now and again. but as you say, different strokes eh
Jul 10, 2009 at 4:03 PM Post #7 of 10

Originally Posted by richpjr /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I didn't word that real well - it wasn't meant to come out sounding that harsh. What is your follow up impression of the Little Dot?

No offense taken, i didn't see your response as being harsh, just honest.


Originally Posted by richpjr /img/forum/go_quote.gif
What is your follow up impression of the Little Dot?

Are you asking me or the OP ?
Jul 10, 2009 at 4:44 PM Post #9 of 10

Originally Posted by richpjr /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That was meant for the OP, but I'm interested in everyone's opinion of it.

Sorry, the reason i asked was because the OP was talking about a zero dac and not a little dot dac.

To the OP, i look forward to review of the zero with your 225's as i have the same headphones, except i have changed the op amps in the head phone section to LM4562NA's. A lot of people were using LT1364's with it , but i found it made my grado's even more brighter. I do however use the LT1364 with my little dot 1+

A lot of people who originally bought zero last year all oogled and googled at it, saying such wonderful things with each change they made. Some peoples zero's even failed on them, but I'm not surprised with so much modding, i'm sure their poor little dacs just gave in, as I'm sure they were not meant for such extreme modding. Anyway now they all hate them, and have since moved onto the compass. A couple of op amp changes will make a nice difference an overall , its not a bad first time dac/headamp to start off with.
Jul 13, 2009 at 1:45 AM Post #10 of 10
Sorry it took me a while, but here is the Grado portion:

NoFx - The Decline
- Equally Splashy Cymbal Sound, Without Being Overbearing
- Sounds Like Better balance overall
- Tight bass, but pretty lean
- Natural vocals, with a bit of sibilance
- Drums are punchier, and more present
- Good distortion, without hearing the "chunks" or "grains" from the A900s
- Clean bass sounds very mellow and pleasant
- Some of the effects on the vocals and instruments are more pronounced. I can tell when guitars change pedals, or when they put an effect on the vocals, more than before
- Nice, spacious soundstage
- As far as deep, booming bass ,it's practically non-existent, but since this DAC balanced out my A900s, and Grados aren't really bass heavy, it's to be expected
- The fewer the instruments, the better, it seems. Thigns are very open and tight with limited instrumentation
- Cymbals have a truly wonderful, washy sound. Blame it on the DAC or the cans, whichever
- Truly brilliant balance. I can clearly hear whatever I choose to listen to at any given time
- Trombone still sounds a bit odd, making me think it must be the mastering of this track

Flobots - Handlebars
- Intro violin sounds even more natural, and spacious
- Punchy bass, not booming
- Vocals are very natural, and forward
- Cymbal sound improved greatly
- Better overall balance than the A900s on both tracks so far
- Trumpet sounds great
- Toms and kick could use more body, to match the rest of the instruments

Coheed and Cambria - In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
- Great sense of space at the beginning
- Drums are better balanced with the cymbals
- Apparently the vocals have reverb, never heard it before
- Drums have a great sound, but minimal punch
- Travis' guitar (the dweedley dweedley solo guitar) sounds great

I will finish this later.

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