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Decware Zen
49 Reviews
rating  4.86 of 5
MSRP  499.00
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Reviews 1 - 5 (49 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by ski2xblack a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: March 29, 2009

Bottom Line:   
This is a review of the SE84C+.

This amps only limitation is absolute output. Within it's limits, it is a solid dose of bona fide audiophile hard drugs. Utterly transparent, lightning fast, able to reveal dynamic shading to such a high degree that a tremendous sense of depth and pinpoint localization of individual instruments is achieved. Very 'live' sounding. Paired with appropriate speakers, this little amp can make magic.

These amps have exceedingly modest output; only those with efficient speakers need apply. I'm using two of these in monoblock configuration driving 92db efficient speakers to satisfying levels. Using just one, I would recommend pairing this amp with speakers having efficiency ratings of 96 or higher.

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2009



Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Brad Baker a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: December 22, 2003

Bottom Line:   
This is a quick review of a pair of SE84CSM (monoblocks) - identicle to the stereo SE84CS (Zen Select) with some slight differences due to the monoblock configuration. Ultimately I returned them after a 30 day evaluation because they did not have quite enough power for my speakers in my large room with vaulted cieling. Note: My Loth-X Ambience speakers are rated at 97db, but I don't think that is accurate. I think they are more in the 94-95db range.

Sound: I'm not going to elaborate with all the normal audiophile drivel. I will simply state the following. When I listened near-field, ie, very close to the the speakers (4-6ft) these amps sound the most like a good set of headphones than anything else I have ever heard. That is regarding tone, impact, speed, and microdynamics. Of course the soundstage and imaging was better, with a realistic/live sound, big, and 3 dimentional. They sound slightly better than the Decware SV83M monoblocks (which use 3 SV83 tubes in parallel-single-ended configuration). But the SV83M's are MUCH more powerful.

If you have a small room, very efficient speakers, normally listen near-field, or don't have a desire to play music LOUD, you can't do much better than the SE84CSM monoblocks or the stereo SE84CS NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU SPEND!

I do enjoy moderately loud (jazz/rock,tc.) music from time to time.

When/If I get more efficient speakers (TRUE 97db or more), I will most likely getting these amps again and keeping them.

5 stars for value and sound when sitting close.

4 stars overall only because it's not absolutely perfect for my room and speakers.

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2003

Price Paid:    $625.00

Purchased At:   decware.com



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Joe Schlabotnick a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: February 22, 2003

Bottom Line:   
When you've heard about Decware and you buy ANY AMPLIFIER REGARDLESS OF PRICE without hearing the Zen first, your making a terrible mistake! I will concede that hearing is believing... not that I thought all hype was overly enthusiastic bull scat, but sensational hype wears down after a while if the ears never hear. Man I almost bought something else a few weeks ago and it was fate that the company couldn't take care of me at the time because they were off to a trade show.

The entry level SE 84C is far more musical than I could have ever imagined. Sure it couldn't play loud on my speakers, but I don't care. It exposed the music unlike anything I've ever heard before. All the volume in the world may as just as well be noise if ain't coming from a Zen -save live music! And yes I have personally owned some big name products including Audio Research, Mark Levinson, and Pass Labs etc. And I've heard many others including some statement products priced into the stratosphere. But at the end of the day, you don't have to divorce your wife, mortgage the house and sell your soul to own a most astonishing amplifier.

Steve Deckert is not merely a genius, he is every bit as much a great philanthropist in making the Zen so affordable. If it had been me who had created the Zen, I would have made it cosmetically equally stunning and priced it so that if I sold only two a year, I could live a very nice life style.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by johnft a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: January 13, 2003

Bottom Line:   
I bought a Creek 4330 R (original model) and a Decware Zen 84C that had been upgraded at the factory to a Select—both at about the same time. Both were used, purchased through audiogon, both dated from about the same year, both were in good condition, and they were both in a similar price range, so I feel they make a good comparison, though it is important to disclose that I am comparing the original Creek (not the Mk2) and that both are used. As it happens, the upgraded Zen was being auctioned by the maker (presumably a trade-in), so I got the lifetime warranty with it. (Btw, the upgraded Zen doesn’t have all the features of a new Zen Select, such as front input jacks, so I guess I’d have to call it a hybrid-Select, but I think the sound would be the same.) I listen mostly to classical music.

Advantages: The Creek is undoubtedly a good amp and I am very happy with it for my second system. But there is absolutely no question in my mind that the Decware is a lot better. The Creek has some non-musical advantages, such as a remote control with mute and volume control (though for what little it does control, it is a very pricey addition). It is a very reliable solid-state amp, with a good sound, and (ihmo) well worth the money. The Creek seems quite a solid unit, but the Zen, while minimalist, is extremely solid and gives confidence that it probably will really last the next 50 years. The most striking advantage of the Decware is its soundstage. It really is possible to hear where the different instruments (even just voice and piano) stand in relation to each other. This in turn adds both detail and depth, allows you to hear how the components of a piece of music come together, and makes the entire listening experience more “alive”—more vital and exciting. Even solo piano, I find, sounds better on the Decware: I find I can hear the whole instrument, with its decays and resonance, better. As for voice, this is another of the Zen’s special strengths: it conveys voice as though the singer were really in the room with you.

Disadvantages: By comparison, the sound of the Creek is relatively garbled. Because the Zen separates instruments so well, the Creek sounds (by comparison) as though it were conveying a wall of sound—it doesn’t have the same degree of depth and separation. The Creek does sound beautiful, but the Decware has a vitality, a sense of presence, and an “aliveness” that the Creek lacks. There are some disadvantages to the Zen, however. First, it is a tube amp, and the tubes do have to be replaced. I personally hate having to fiddle with the music hardware (I’m basically interested in the music), but the tubes are easy to find on the web, they’re cheap, and replacing them is as simple as pulling out the old ones and pushing in the new ones—done in a few seconds. So I find I don’t mind this disadvantage at all. (For people interested in such things, the tubes offer the opportunity of changing the sound some by replacing with different tubes.) More serious is the low power of the Zen: this amp will not drive many speakers adequately; it requires speakers with high efficiency. (There is a list of recommended speakers on the Decware website.) I’m currently using some Klipsch speakers (kg 4.5), which are not optimal. Maybe the best compliment I can give the Zen is to say that I like it so much I’ve decided to shell out the money for some new speakers that will be optimally matched to it, even though they mightn’t be a good match for other amplifiers: basically, I’ve decided the Zen is good enough that I’m now happy to design my system around it. I’ve pretty much decided to buy a pair of Parker 95 speakers ($650), which were designed specifically for the Zen by a different company (which is also small and web-based—there’s a link to this and other speaker companies on Decware’s site, which you can find through google or another search engine).

In sum, the Creek is a really good mainstream product for the money, but the Zen is a truly superb “indie” amp, which brings you to a whole higher order of music reproduction, if you’re willing to step out of the commercial mainstream. Buying from Decware is a bit of a leap in the dark (it’s a web-sales company), but the company’s customer-support is terrific: it’s easy to speak to the owner-designer (Steve Deckert), who is a great guy and always gives extremely honest advice—even to the point of steering you toward products (such as the Parker speakers) that compete with his own.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $500.00

Purchased At:   Decware auction on a



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by selmerdave a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: November 15, 2002

Bottom Line:   
I bought this amp as a no-lose (30-day trial) foray into the world of tubes. Previously an exclusively solid state listener, I am at this point very happy with my decision. As a single component change in my system, this was a dramatic change for the better. My system is a Fairchild turntable (s# 273!) and original Grado tonearm (walnut) and Grado Gold cartridge going into a Marantz 7t preamp and previoulsy Marantz 300 DC amp powering Klipsch Heresy speakers. The difference between the Zen and the Marantz was dramatic, and I'm not talking about the power. The most striking feature of it was the spaciousness of the sound, which seems to be the source of the incredible detail - I can hear in and around the instruments. By comparison the Marantz (which I liked very much) sounds blurred with all the sound jumbled together. Two weeks into the burn-in, the Zen is sounding very warm and natural. I never noticed it previously but after hearing the Zen the Marantz sounded rather harsh and unnatural. The sound also seems to travel differently from the Zen, I can really feel the sound physically, even at low volumes, the same way that live music sounds. The Marantz certainly allowed me to feel the sound pressure, but to me it sounded like I was behind a glass wall or something, which reminds me of the infinite clarity of CD sound at the sacrifice of presence which will always make vinyl more enjoyable for me. Now, obviously I'm in a different power category, but for my ears I can crank and be enveloped by the sound with the Zen and my Klipsch's no problem, and a much more pleasant, enjoyable and realistic sound at that. It of course lacks the dramatic dynamic peaks that are possible with major wattage, and while I could have probably impressed some people in that category with the marantz, I'm intersted in listening and for that the Zen does everything I would want. By comparison a friend has a typical high power solid state set up with a Bryston 4B powering some Dahlquist DQ-10s, which was previously my standard for high quality sound. Now I'll take my setup (at a fraction of the cost) any day and now happily every day. For the record the Marantz sold yesterday paying for the Zen and then some, and I'm all the happier.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Price Paid:    $499.00

Purchased At:   Decware




Reviews 1 - 5 (49 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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