Decware ZSLA-1 Zen Triode Line Stage Preamplifiers

ZSLA-1 Zen Triode Line Stage

Developed as a purist alternative to passive preamps this tube buffer stage with Alps volume control is all you need between a source and amplifier. Has it''s own integrated silver interconnects included.

User Reviews (1)

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Paul_Bui   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 07, 2003]

Well balanced ~ 100% Grain Free ~ Holographic Imaging ~ Beautiful Sound! No noise, hum or hiss ZERO negative feedback Lifetime warranty to original owner Never gets hot - can be left on indefinitely. Removable power cord which is a critical factor in its good sounding Excellent detail during low level listening with plenty of bottom end Excellent non-fatiguing high level playback without the glare Has the tube in easy reach so that the owner can plug in his choice of 6N1P, 6922 or 6DJ8. It will drive long lengths of cable without problems


None! But if I'm forced to be nit-picking: - Unity gain, so probably won't work with a phono stage - Extremely simple look, not having the preamp bells & whistles (remote control, various function knobs, fancy plate, etc.) - Ruthlessly revealing the audio components up and downstream (including tubes, power cords, speaker cables and interconnects), so the owner may have to re-evaluate his system's weakest link and/or find a reasonable balance.

This report refers to an upgraded ZSLA-1 built with signal path of pure silver litz, Decware signature grade WIMA coupling caps and a 20 step Alps carbon volume control. The unit is being used between the EVS DAC II and Decware SV83M monoblocks, driving the Horn Shoppe full range speakers with the Zero Autoformers and CAT5 speaker cables. First off, its "sound" is very similar to that of the passive EVS unit (mentioned below). The ZSLA-1 doesn't add extra warmth or do anything to alleviate your system's glare. What it does is faithfully bring more information fed from the front-end to the amplifiers. It does it better than the passive unit by matching the amp/source impedance using a tube buffer stage and an extremely simple circuitry. It doesn't beautify the sound IF the beauty doesn't exist in the recording, and I imagine this could be a tough pill to swallow for many people. My roughly $2K digital front-ends ( Redbook transport+ 24/96 upsampler DAC) is far from state-of-the-art gear but reasonably good for the time being, and the ZSLA-1's telling me that, too. With the active line stage in the system, any change down to the power cord, or input tubes on either preamp or amp, or speaker cables, even ICs and digital link, has no where to hide. Admittedly, I was initially bothered with this new behavior of the system (easily sensitive to any small change) after "adding" the ZSLA-1 to the audio loop. True, the sound was getting more robust, warmer, bigger (sometimes huge) image sige, well extended in bottom and top ends when called for, meanwhile more detailed to the point where even the noise floor buried in the recordings was also brought to the surface. Mind you, the 20-step ALPS pot (7 AM to 5 PM positions) is as quiet as the EVS wherever it is (min. or max. idle position). Only gradually later on, I became more appreciative of its "chameleon" nature as well as its "magnifier" capability. To describe how the ZSLA-1 sounds, Steve Deckert the designer has put it in his Designer Notes, accurately and completely, as you see in the Strengths section below. I'd only like to add a few personal comments: The unit shipped and arrived in excellent condition, as Decware's (a few others) tradition. The latest price is $475 stock (refundable with 6.5% re-stocking fee), optinally plus $199 for silver litz signal path, WIMA cap, and 20-step ALPS pot (non-refundable). The upgraded ALPS potis a very good sounding and invaluable piece - I find my favorite volume levels IN BETWEEN the STEPS, not necessarily right on the steps. My DAC output voltage is over 4 volts, so I most often listen to music with the volume pot at the 10:30 AM to 12:30 (max, rarely). Your mileage may vary. For under $700, I feel this line stage is a giant killer, a no-brainer winner. Considering its "weaknesses", highly and unconditionally recommended!

Similar Products Used: - EVS passive stepped attenuator (owned) - Decware ZTPRE signature preamp (home auditioned) - Bottlehead's Forelay (home auditioned)
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