If the last guy makes six figures and "can't afford" an amp like this, then why are you even on this site ? You simply have no passion for audio. I make a measley 36K a year and still find a way to "afford" quality gear like this.
O.K., let's see...a 3.5wt single ended triode monoblock, three little bitty output tubes per side. Should sound soft on top and the bottom, buttery through the midrange, no dynamics, yadda, yadda. Too bad, so sad, it drove the hell out of my 86db Proac Response 2.5s. Not headbanging loud but a pure, neutral passage of the music with highs that went out as far as the notes and bass that sounded just like the damn instruments! The music sways and swaggers, sighs and slugs, and soon you aren't listening to the amps, you're listening to Sonny Rollins, Rachmaninov, Steinway, and Paste (I can't spell Zeljian). One warning, though. These lil' things will tell you exactly what preceeds them, front end wise. By ready and willing to hear what your turntable and C.D. player are really giving you. I'm sorry, but this is an amazingly neutral amp by any standards. It still has the SET magic but also performs a great disappearing act leaving bear your other stuff. Be warned! Designed by Steve and put together by the gang at Decware High Performance Audio and shipped to your door, you don't even have to get off the couch. 30 day listening test in your room with your equipment, 5% restocking fee (big deal!), you can't go wrong. By the way, you can carry each amp in one hand and take right out to the local high fi store to amaze your friends. The Zens are what audio is all about; getting to the music along as clear a path as possible (Zen, get it?) We should all take Uncle Artie Dudley's (Listener Magazine) and own two amps. So,if $2,500.00 is too much, then immediately order the $700.00 stereo version (check their website www.decware.com), relax, and enjoy your life! By the way, call Steve and ask him to explain how he gets these things to more easily drive speakers than the 2A3SEs at 5wts and about as easily as the Super Amp at 25 wts.
In a word, for those in a hurry: WOW! The amps have warmth with clarity, high-frequency detail and all the low-end slam I could ask for. They rock, they have soul, they dance all night, and still have enough energy to go to the opera. Very very nice. And, the price for now is $2,495 not the $3,295 listed above.
I’ve been playing them for about a month, and I still distinctly have the feeling that they are just getting warmed up. There was a very distinct break-in point at about 2 weeks of heavy use, when one day they just sounded better, smoother, and all around more amazing.
I have used the SV83S monoblocks with the ZTPRE preamp in two systems – with excellent results in both. My home system is:
A classic Carver TL-3100 CD player -> Nordost Blue Heaven ->ZTPRE Preamp->Blue Heaven ->SV83S Monoblocks-> Audioquest Type 4 -> Cabasse Pacific 600 Speakers. For analogue, I have a Project Perspective table with a Quicksilver Audio Phono Stage in the same setup. I use a Monster Cable power conditioner.
I have also heard the amps in my friends system with a Sony DVP-S7700 and the Merlin VSM-SE’s.
From the get-go, these amps are impressive. The fit and finish is exactly what I would want – they are beautifully made, with the crinkle black finish offsetting the chrome plate – without being over-the-top in terms of styling. They are very heavy, solid and substantial.
The ZTPRE preamp is a master of clean understatement – clean, simple and unassuming in looks, and a joy to use. Separate power supply. Dual mono construction. And currently still $895 (although about to change). There are rear switches for setup and input selection which are actually quite easy to use – I can easily reach behind and flip them with a satisfying click. Likewise the dual-mono volume controls: the Goldpoint stepped attenuators have a very satisfying feel, and I have already grown to like the control I gain with the separate volume controls. (Steve let it slip to me that he is making only a few more of the pre-production models as the production version of the ZTPRE will be out soon…not to spill any beans, but it won’t have the ultimate setup-flexibility of this version, but it will offer an additional input with the input selector knob in the front as normal…).
I’d like to highlight the amps by talking about the differences in the two systems I have heard them in. In my system, the detail and clarity in the upper and mids is simply stunning. Most albums in my collection have revealed many new layers of detail, way beyond what I have heard in auditioning other amps. But the detail is present alongside musicality galore. And the bass goes as deep as the recording. With 93.5 dB/4 ohm efficiency, I can play music as loud as I want – and it’s crystal clear, even across the house in the kitchen. The SV83S / Pacific 600 combination sounds clean, musical, and most of all effortless. The music comes through at any volume, but I find myself listening at consistently higher volumes than before with ZERO listener fatigue. Even the distortion of Smashing Pumpkins is refreshingly clean but so earthy and tangible it makes the volume knobs creep up and up until it the windows are shaking.
I should point out that I also do much late night listening at the lowest levels, and I don't feel cheated of any musical magic even on the first click of the preamp. There is no noise, so the music comes through.
I’m currently listening to Coltrane on my turntable (Soultrane) and I can honestly say I’ve never heard him sound this good, nor, for that matter, have I ever felt like I was in the room with him. His tenor sax was bright and clear, full and lush, without being harsh or overbearing to the rest of the band.
On my CD player or with vinyl, orchestral music is phenomenal. There is enough power in this setup to finesse Beethoven until you grin from ear-to-ear, and if I want more from my system I think about my speaker cables or power supply, as they might be letting me down a little bit, but the amps are clean through and through.
As a test of the ZTPRE sound, I did an experiment by connecting my Phono amp outs directly to the SV83S’ inputs. No volume control, but one fewer component and cable. The result – a very nice clean sound, loud and clear – but with a little less separation between channels. Put the ZTPRE back in the loop – all I noticed was that the soundstage expanded, I had volume control, and it otherwise was the same. That, to me, is perfect.
When I brought my amps to a friends to hear in his system, I immediately realized the genius of all those little switches on the back of the ZTPRE – without clouding or masking the sound, I have the ability to tweak the sound to bring out the best in each recording, or with each change in equipment. As there is nothing else in the world like it, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Steve’s description, but already I see the power he has given me by adding those options. (I can’t go into more detail that that – check out the website for more info…)
To be more clear – he’s given me the flexibility of having 9 separate pre-amps into one little box. I never have to worry if my preamp is going to sound good – it does sound great regardless.
To all of you out there who have the ability to listen to the Merlin VSM-SE’s: do yourself a favor and listen to them with these amps. Wow – there is something spooky and magical going on here. A little less detail than with my Pacific’s, not quite as full, but my they draw you into a new realm nonetheless. With classic rock and folk, this combination is unbeatable. At loud volumes the deep bass of Massive Attack broke up, but put a chill down my spine along the way. The bass has a tight, clean, addictive punch not present with my Pacific 600’s. The sound was lush, and most of all intimate. In a 6 hour listening marathon, the volume knobs were often almost at halfway, and with one exception the sound was a loud as we ever wanted.
So, in two systems two deliciously different and wonderful sounds emerged – clean, full and effortless, or tight, punchy and staggeringly intimate. Given the differences in room, speakers, cables, and source I think that this comparison spans a wide spectrum of conditions, and my conclusion is that you can’t go wrong with this setup. It’ll play all the music you want, how you want it, sound good with most anything out there, and look darn good in the process.
Do yourself a favor – go to www.decware.com and order up a pair and give a listen. If you’re disappointed, you have a 30 day home trail, but I don’t think they’ll end up going back.
5 Stars for Quality is obvious, but can I give more for value? This is especially true for the ZTPRE. $895 for a hand-wired dual-mono tubed preamp with separate power supply??? ***** for the ZTPRE quality as well.