ZANDEN 3000mk2 in 1200mk3

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ZANDEN 3000mk2 in 1200mk3

OdgovorNapisal/-a Marko Puš » So Jan 18, 2020 5:50 pm


Zanden 3000mk2: Tube Preamplifier Of The Year

Zanden 1200mk3: Phonostage Of The Year

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Marko Puš
Prispevkov: 196
Pridružen: To Feb 24, 2009 5:18 pm
Kraj: Ljubljana

Re: ZANDEN 3000mk2 in 1200mk3

OdgovorNapisal/-a Marko Puš » So Jan 25, 2020 5:28 pm

Test predojačevalnika Zanden 3000 mk2 Alana Sircoma iz Hi-Fi+...


by Alan Sircom | Dec 11, 2018
Categories: Tubed preamplifiers | Products: Zanden Audio Systems Model 3000mk2

I had a niggling doubt floating round when reviewing the Zanden Model 9600mk2 power amplifiers. There was something missing; the Zanden Model 3000 line preamplifier had been upgraded to Model 3000mk2 status, completing the full Classic line of phono stage, preamplifier, and mono power amplifiers. This was the older of the two changes, first seen at CES 2017, but in a way discussing one without the other is like talking about Butch without Sundance or tuning in to watch a ‘Hardy’ movie without the ‘Laurel and…’ part. It’s just not done!

The Zanden Model 3000mk2 preamplifier sports three RCA and three XLR line-level inputs and a single set of RCA and XLR outputs to the power amplifier. An all-valve design, the Model 3000mk2 uses a single 5687 double-triode in the input stage and a pair of 6CA4s as line drivers in the output. This gives an 8V output to the power amp, with a low 300Ω output impedance making it ideal for the high 7.5kΩ input impedance for the balanced-only Model 9600mk2 power amps, or long pre/power interconnect cables.

Zanden’s Model 3000mk2 replaces the previous model Model 3000 preamplifier in the Classic Series and includes a number of crucial improvements. The input and output transformers were replaced with amorphous cobalt models (the predecessor used µ-metal on the output transformer). The tube rectified power supply has been completely redesigned. Zanden has also retained the highest quality ALPS analogue potentiometer while successfully implementing a motor drive system to achieve remote volume control. The model Model 3000mk2 also includes a full function remote which controls power, volume, switching of sources, absolute or reverse polarity and a mute function.

The solid excellence of the power amplifiers is echoed in the preamp. The build quality is truly from another world; we sometimes talk about ‘Rolls-Royce’ quality in the best of audio, but this is so sublime Rolls-Royce should be talking about Zanden levels of fit and finish inside its cars. This makes it hellish to photograph; it’s a high key pale gold finish with brushed and shiny chrome, and inset LEDs, and a power supply unit made of the sort of shiny chrome that camera lenses and fingerprints are a continual problem. In use, of course, the preamplifier and power amplifier sit on separate shelves and – aside from the occasional dusting – just look outstanding. Of course the sound is a perfect match, but such is the look and the sound quality, realistically you won’t be using anything else but other amplifier products from the company’s Classic range.

I’m conscious of not going over old ground and effectively re-running the review published in issue 161. So, focussing on the Model 3000mk2, what strikes you is an almost complete absence of background noise. This is expected (but often not delivered) in a solid-state amplifier, but with valve designs there is an understsanding and acceptance that there will be a spot of ‘rushing’ noises from the valves. But there is nothing at all like that. The Zanden Model 3000mk2 is whisper quiet in operation, even with the volume turned up.

The Zanden Model 3000mk2 is perhaps the ultimate expression of audio refinement. Where the power amps brought the beauty and the dynamics, this is all about texture and subtlety. In every angle; from the understated ‘click’ as you change sources, to the styling, and the sound, you can’t help but listen and think of fine jewellery. Not in a ‘bling!’ way, more taking a fine stone and refining it until perfect.

Of course, refinement requires quality. The Zanden Model 3000mk2 does not suffer musical fools gladly. This is a product that demands the best, and delivers the best. Ask any jeweller of note (as in the person who actually works with gems, not just the guy who sold you a watch strap) and they’ll say you can polish any stone to the highest degree and cut facets into that stone that will make it sparkle, but if you have poor quality stones, those facets will never sparkle with the intensity they could deliver. Feed the Model 3000mk2 with extremely well-recorded music and you will be given an excellent response; play something mediocre, and you get highly-polished mediocrity.

In fairness, both preamp and power amplifier conspire to make demands on the musical content, but where the power amplifier reacts to less-than-excellent content by pulling back on the ‘beauteous’ aspect of the performance, the Model 3000mk2’s inherent refinement polishes the right and the wrong edges of music equally. This does not result in an ‘ugly’ sound (I don’t think the Zanden vocabulary includes the word ‘ugly’), but almost too much refinement for the performance.

This refinement aspect shouldn’t be overstated, but neither should it be underplayed. This preamplifier doesn’t omit anything in terms of detail, dynamic range, imaging, transparency, vocal articulation, solidity of image, coherence, micro-dynamics, timbral shading, or any other aspect common to the best of the best in audio, but it does so with an air of sophistication and refinement that is both beguiling and impossible to find elsewhere. This sophistication makes well-recorded music sound like you always wanted it to; shimmeringly beautiful sounds presented in front of you like a hologram, without emphasis or forward tilt, or any kind of excess. And when the music isn’t as perfectly recorded, the Zanden’s ability to sound sublime still shines through, but the limitations of the recording are not papered over in the process. I prefer this approach to the smoothed over interpretation of ‘refinement’ that many amplifiers strive for.

Of all the other attributes associated with audio electronics, I’d say that ‘coherence’ and ‘cohesiveness’ is the key aspect here. It’s not just that the Model 3000mk2 ties the disparate elements of a musical performance together, it’s that it also makes specific instruments within that musical performance sound cohesive.

The key point of the Zanden sound, expressed perfectly in the Model 3000mk2, is that element of unforced sound: not music filtered through the medium of hi-fi, but the sound acoustic music makes in its natural, unamplified, unreproduced raw state. For many, this will be a first-time experience, an antithesis of the hardpedge, forward-tilted, initially impressive sound many audio components produce, even in the top league.

Of course, it’s worth pointing all this out in context, because in context of the Model 9600mk2 power amplifiers, the products work so harmoniously there is little need to look elsewhere. Which means the preamp and power amp should be treated like a single item. Except that I think the Model 3000mk2 is the gateway into the full Zanden experience for those wanting to migrate, but not do so immediately. The character of ‘no character’ that applies to the Model 9600mk2 is built upon the disappearing quality of the Model 3000mk2, and if you applied the Zanden preamp to a regular power amplifier, it’s a more enjoyable intermediary than adding a pre to the Model 9600mk2s.

There is an oft-quoted statement in high-end audio, that good preamps are hard to find. It’s not cliché because it rings true. OK, there are a lot of good preamplifiers, but really great preamplifiers are extremely rare. And the Zanden Model 3000mk2 is one of those really rare, really great preamplifiers. It manages to dig out the refinement in almost any recording, but also plays music like it wasn’t in the system, and its overall tonality makes it exceptionally easy to just sit in front of. Putting it with its partners shows what the Model 3000mk2 is capable of with its wings fully unfurled, but with other amplifiers, the Model 3000mk2’s performance shines through.

Those who define their preamplification by the strong flavours it adds to the system won’t find much to like in the Zanden Model 3000mk2, but many others will listen to this preamplifier and rise to the challenge. Many will hear it, and initially think its fidelity to the source a beguiling, but somewhat academic, exercise. Those willing to go past the first toe of the learning curve, however, will quickly find that they are listening to a preamplifier of rare talent and elegance. It has quicksilver reactions and the kind of dynamic range that few solid-state preamps can match, and has the ability to just get out of the way of the music. That will improve the performance of almost any power amplifier, but when that power amplifier is Zanden’s Model 9600mk2, suddenly your audio system gets moved up into a new league.


Type: valve preamplifier

Tube complement: 1×5687, 2×6CA4s

Inputs: 3×XLR pair, 3×RCA pair

Outputs: 1×XLR pair, 1×RCA pair

Input impedance: 100Ω (XLR/RCA)

Maximum output: 9v

Frequency response: 10Hz–20KHz (-0.5dB)

Dimensions (W×H×D): 39.8 ×10.3 ×25.4cm (main); 17.5x16.5x35.7 (PSU)

Weight: 9.1kg (main), 5.5kg (power)

Price: £24,750

Manufactured by: Zanden Audio Systems Ltd. ... amplifier/
Marko Puš
Prispevkov: 196
Pridružen: To Feb 24, 2009 5:18 pm
Kraj: Ljubljana

Re: ZANDEN 3000mk2 in 1200mk3

OdgovorNapisal/-a Marko Puš » Ne Jan 26, 2020 10:11 am

Test Jonatana Valina iz The Absolute Sound:

Several decades ago I reviewed my first component from Japanese high-end-audio guru Kazutoshi Yamada of Zanden Audio Systems—the Model 1000 phonostage. Though Yamada-san’s phonostages are well known for their user-selectable EQ, it was not the difference between the RIAA and the Decca and the Columbia curves that made the audition so memorable. It was the Model 1000’s extraordinary reproduction of acoustic space—audible regardless of equalization—that stood out (and still does, in memory).

Where other phonostages reproduced a string quartet LP like the Bartók Third (in the great, mid-60s Juilliard performance on Columbia) as if the four instrumentalists were jammed together in a crowded elevator, separated by mere inches from (or layered atop) each other, the Zanden 1000 made them sound as if they were a single, arc-shaped, multi-handed entity, in which the individual players were (as they were) separated by feet rather than inches, and yet still parts of a sonic whole. I’d never before (and seldom since) heard a quartet or the space it was playing in reproduced so realistically on LP.

Of course, some of you are probably saying, “So what? I’m not listening to space. I’m listening to what is playing in that space.” Well, here’s what. When instruments in a quartet (or any group) are separated more distinctly in space without any loss of ensemble, their individual musical contributions are more audible, as is their bloom into the space surrounding them, which is a key to the illusion of three-dimensional presence. With that string quartet LP, for example, I not only heard the notes played by the contrabass and viola and first and second violins more clearly; I also more clearly heard how those notes were being produced, how each instrumentalist was articulating his part via changes in dynamics and durations, which in a highly inflected piece like the Bartók Third is every bit as important as the lifelike reproduction of pitches and colors.

Bloom, dimensionality, lifelike presence, soundstaging were unmatched in the Zanden Model 1000 phonostage. What wasn’t quite as matchless was its overall timbral balance and very-low-level resolution. In tonality the Model 1000 was a little bit on the dark and plummy side, which is scarcely unusual in a (non-ARC) tube unit but nonetheless a deviation from neutral. And while plenty clear (as noted) on the notes being sounded, the Zanden did not have quite the same X-ray vision of performance detail as the best solid-state gear. These weren’t trade-offs that overly troubled me, as what was being gained back in three-dimensional presence and nonpareil imaging and soundstaging made instruments sound more “there” regardless of slight differences in tonality and ultra-fine resolution. But I’m mentioning these minor issues here because the latest-gen, top-of-the-line Zanden gear I’m about to review doesn’t make such trade-offs; it is markedly more neutral in timbre, far more defined in pitch (particularly in the bass), and much higher in very-low-level resolution than that otherwise phenomenal phonostage of years gone by.

Of course, back then I was reviewing the Zanden Model 1000 phonostage as a stand-alone component. What I’m about to discuss is an entire suite of Zanden electronics—its flagship Classic line, comprising the $57,200 Model 9600mk2 monoblock amplifiers, the $23,000 Model 3000mk2 linestage preamplifier, and the $25,000 Model 1200mk3 phonostage preamp. And while I’ll have some comments on how several of these components sound when associated with non-Zanden gear, it’s my belief that (lucky) purchasers are more likely to buy the entire suite than mix and match its individual parts; therefore, my sonic commentary will focus on how the system sounds as a whole.

Let’s begin with a brief description of each item. As Yamada-san believes that proper amplification is the chief key to making recorded music sound like the real thing (a subject he has devoted his working life to, both as an electrical engineer and as the audio coordinator of more than 500 live classical and jazz concerts), I’ll start with the Model 9600mk2 monoblock—which is a thing of considerable beauty, both sonically and visually. Housed in a gorgeous, highly polished, stainless-steel and aluminum-plate chassis (with a clear acrylic porthole in the front and back panels through which you can observe the glowing tubes), this fixed-bias, fully balanced, push-pull, Class A (up to 60W, Class AB from 60W to 100W) power amplifier uses two KR845 output tubes, two 6CA4 and two 5R4WGB rectifiers (all rectification is tube), and two 5687 dual-triode first- and second-stage drivers. The mk2 version of the Model 9600 has different output transformers than the mk1, which make use of a Finemet core of nanocrystalline soft-magnetic material polished to a mirror finish. (The Finemet core material is manufactured by Hitachi Metals, and is expensive, difficult to make, and relatively scarce.) Another difference from the mk1 is the direct coupling of the second and third stages, derived from technology used in the Zanden Model 8120 stereo amplifier (reviewed by me five years ago). Other differences/improvements include battery-biasing of the first stage; separate rectification of the driver and output stages; polypropylene (as opposed to conventional chemical) capacitors in the signal path; completely push-pull circuitry from input to output; the use of input transformers to mate with the Model 3000mk2 preamp’s output transformers (a setup that Zanden claims sounds better with a balanced connection); and the application of an extremely effective noise-absorbing material called Pulseshut (originally designed for IT and telecommunications usage) around various components. Its effectiveness has been demonstrated in Zanden’s power cables, which showed an astonishing 4.9dB reduction in noise at 1kHz.

Next comes the Model 3000mk2 linestage. Once again, this is a beautiful objet du son, housed, like the amplifiers, in a highly polished stainless-steel and aluminum-plate chassis. The Model 3000mk2 uses a zero-feedback Class A circuit, powered by a single 5687 dual-triode and rectified by two 6CA4s (in the outboard supply), with amorphous cobalt-core transformers at the preamp’s inputs and mu-metal-core transformers at its outputs. (Once again the use of transformers is claimed to improve performance in balanced mode.) The volume control is the top-line ALPS unit modified with a Zanden clutch and motor drive to allow for a remote control, which is supplied. (The original Model 3000 did not have a remote control.) Other improvements include the aforementioned use of amorphous cobalt (a material with no crystalline structure) in the transformer ahead of the input stage; higher plate current for increased dynamic range; a Finemet choke in the power supply; battery biasing and diode regulation; tube rectification; and, once again, Pulseshut noise-absorption material around select components. The Model 3000mk2 has balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs (both of which are hot and can be used simultaneously, in case you want to connect a powered sub to your preamp while also driving an amplifier). Zanden recommends using balanced connections with its own amps, to take full advantage of the preamp’s output transformer and the amp’s input transformers.

The Model 1200mk3 phonostage, also housed in a highly polished stainless-steel aluminum-plate chassis, uses a passive LCR circuit for equalization (so impedance does not vary with frequency). Output current is supplied by three 7308 dual-triodes (6922s can be substituted), with one 6922 and two 6CA4 rectifiers in the 1200mk3’s outboard power supply. Two pairs of Jensen step-up transformers, one low impedance (36 ohms) and one high impedance (470 ohms), boost the signal of the moving-coil cartridges connected to the unit. (The phonostage is moving-coil only.) In the mk3 version of the Model 1200, the number of user-selectable EQ curves has been expanded from three to five (Teldec and EMI have been added); the power supply has been improved; and Pulseshut noise-absorption material has been added around select components. Unlike its companion pieces, which are fully balanced, the single-ended Model 1200mk3 has RCA outputs only. The two inputs can be selected as either balanced XLR or single-ended RCA at the time of order.

Let me pause here for a word about Zanden’s alternative EQ curves. While the option of using different equalization for LPs released by different labels—re-introduced in the modern stereo era by Manuel Huber of FM Acoustics, but once commonplace in every mono preamplifier—has its advocates, and there is no question that non-RIAA equalization can make plainly audible differences in overall tonal balance, sometimes turning sow’s ears into silk purses, I’ve never seen convincing evidence that stereo recordings from any label were EQ’d using anything other than the RIAA curve from the time of RIAA’s worldwide adoption around 1953–1956 onward. Indeed, I rather think that using things like FM Acoustics’ or Zanden’s “Columbia curves,” for instance, which roll off the highs and boost the lower mids and bass, is tantamount to using a tone control to disguise the forest of hot, closely set mikes that Columbia typically deployed in its stereo recording sessions in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s. Though we have advocates on our staff who delight in—and swear by—these tonal Band Aids, I do not. Call me a self-deluded believer in the “folly of minimalism,” but I want to hear what was recorded in the way it was recorded. Indeed, I don’t know what “high fidelity” means if it doesn’t mean that. This isn’t to say that I prefer a brighter, more analytical sound to a smoother, more musical one. As you will see in this very review, I don’t. But what it does mean is that I prefer the tougher truth to the pleasanter lie, though I grant that in high fidelity “the truth” is always open to a degree of translation. I will also grant that, before the adoption of RIAA, mono recordings from the 30s, 40s, and early 50s were equalized with “house” curves, for which the Zanden’s options are quite useful.

To return to the review, it is tricky to describe the sound of Zanden’s Classic gear, not because it doesn’t have a sound (it does) but because, though its presentation varies (as one would expect) with the quality of recordings, in a fundamental way it also remains the same. Perhaps some listening examples will clarify this conundrum.

Take the absolutely superb Loma Vista recording MassEducation—a pared-down, wholly lyrical, acoustic version (just Annie Erin Clarke’s, aka St. Vincent’s, vocals and Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett’s grand piano accompaniment) of the densely scored, hyper-sexual, neon-clad, futuristic-pop songs from Masseduction. Sonically, what will strike you—what struck me—first is the astonishing and astonishingly equal naturalness with which Zanden’s Classic electronics reproduce both Clarke’s vocals and Bartlett’s grand piano. When you think about it, this is an exceptional feat. I mean, though they are often paired together, a female voice with its relatively narrow range of pitches, colors, and dynamics, and a percussion instrument with its enormous range of pitches, colors, and dynamics are very different instruments, and typically one (usually the voice—think Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”) will draw more of your attention (and will sound more completely “there”) than the other. Of course, much of this has to with the way the music has been crafted and the LP has been recorded and mixed, but some of it has to do with how it is being reproduced.

In MassEducation the minimally miked instruments, recorded live using, I believe, Wunder Audio CM7 FET Suprema condensers (solid-state versions of the great Neumann U47s) by engineer/producer Patrick Dillett at New York’s Reservoir Studios, are given near-equal weight and prominence in the mix—to reflect, as St. Vincent writes in her liner notes, the (very different from Masseduction) mood of “two dear friends playing songs together with the kind of secret understanding one can only get through endless nights in New York City.” The result of this new focus on voice and piano is a far more intimate album, the basic sadness of which the Zanden captures as clearly as it captures the spare engineering. (As reviewer Arielle Gordon shrewdly observes on the website Pitchfork: “The record gives Clark room to be completely vulnerable—on Masseduction’s ‘Sugarboy,’ the closing refrain of ‘Boys! *!’ sounds like an industrial machine running out of juice. Here, Clark embodies this exhaustion, as if fatigued by her own sexual intensity” [].)

Moving from a great recording to a run-of-the-mill one (albeit by a great artist), If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra [RCA], the Zanden trio still manages to preserve a taste of realism on Elvis’ voice (at least on piano-to-mezzoforte passages), in spite of the multi-miking, multi-tracking, and compression of the original recordings, and the layering on of even more tracks in this weird, purely commercial update. But in spite of making the LP pleasant-enough listening, the Zanden doesn’t kid you about what’s going on in the engineering. This ain’t MassEducation, and the Zanden gear doesn’t make it sound that way. It isn’t “forgiving” or disguising sonic problems; it’s just not rubbing your nose (or ears) in them.

This consistent (though anything but equal) listenability is one of the Zanden Classic suite’s sonic virtues. It is not a typical overlay of tubey-ness; indeed, for tube gear the Zanden trio sounds remarkably precise. Unlike, say, the superb Air Tight ATM-2001, which like spun sugar is made of air and bloom, the Zanden is focused, grain-free, and a little Class A “dark” in timbre, without any of the bottom-end plumminess of that original Zanden phonostage. Indeed, the bass of the Zanden is truly superb—richly (and accurately) colored, three-dimensional, bloomy, clear-as-solid-state in pitch, near transistor-quick and powerful on transients, and immensely detailed in performance cues. For instance, on MassEducation, the bottom octaves of Bartlett’s grand piano and his audible use of the pedals to sustain, soften, or damp notes couldn’t be more realistically reproduced. This is not typical tube low end.

Indeed, the areas where the Zandens show their tube lineage are the areas where you want them (indeed, pay for them) to show their tube lineage: three-dimensional bloom from top to bottom, exceptionally lifelike colors and textures without the scrim of grain or the looser, fuzzier imaging that tubes so often bring to the table, and that magical spatiality that so wowed me in the Model 1000 phonostage—and that makes speakers seem to better disappear as sound sources. This really is a uniquely remarkable Zanden quality: adding more acoustic space between and around more finely detailed and 3-D images of instruments. You hear it par excellence on MassEducation or on something like the fine Columbia recording of the Amati Quartet’s rendition of Ruth Crawford Seeger’s astonishing String Quartet (one of the—if not the—most original pieces of chamber music written by an American composer). On the Amati recording, the Zanden’s touch of Class A darkness, spaciousness, and liquidity do slightly (though not completely) obscure the inherent dryness of this Columbia recording. But, as I said a paragraph or two ago, the Zanden’s consistently superior listenability is anything but objectionable, as it is not plastering over sonic issues—only making them less likely to spoil your enjoyment. Indeed, with the trio’s other virtues, the Zanden gear reminds me of SET amplification, without an SET’s power or bandwidth or coloration issues.

I have tried the Zanden Model 1200mk3 phonostage with several other amplifiers, tube and solid-state, and think it is almost as exceptional with, oh, the Voxativ 805 integrated or the great Constellation Hercules II Stereo amplifier as it is with the Model 9600mk2. Like a blank piece of drawing paper, it simply takes on whatever colors the preamp and amplifier are adding, without (as far as I can tell) adding any marked color of its own or subtracting any speed or energy. (For tubes this phonostage is a very fast and powerful number.) What the Model 1200mk3 does bring to the table, regardless of amplification, is a large measure (though not as large a measure as the complete Zanden system) of that speaker-erasing spatiality and 3-D bloom that sets Yamada-san’s creations apart.

I have also tried the Model 9600mk2 with other preamplifiers, including the Soulution 755, the Constellation Altair II, and the Air Tight ATE-2001 Reference. Though the solid-state preamps seemed to lift the slight Class A darkness of the amplifier—making it sound utterly neutral from lower mids to treble—the Model 9600mk2 did not fare as well with the tough-load speaker I was also using, losing some of the incredibly lifelike transparency and neutrality in the bottom octaves and packing on a pound or two of midbass fat. In my judgment, the amp does its best with the Zanden Model 3000km2 preamplifier (and with a speaker with a stable 4- or 8-ohm load and moderately high sensitivity).

Used as a complete electronics suite the Zanden Classic components are, given the right speakers, simply world-class contenders, with world-class transparency, resolution, speed, dynamic range, liquidity, bloom, and spaciousness, as well as that signature listenability that doesn’t obscure engineering choices but makes even tough recordings a relative pleasure to hear (and great recordings unmistakably great). Last year, our sister magazine, Hi-Fi+, named the Zanden Classic Collection power amplifier and preamplifier its Products of the Year. I can assure you that the Classics will be short-listed for TAS’ next POYs. They are that good.

Specs & Pricing
Zanden Model 9600mk2 Monoblock Power Amplifier
Tube complement: KR845 x2, 5687WB x2, 5R4WGB x2, 6CA4 x2
Power output: 60W (Class A)/100W (Class AB)
Frequency response: 6Hz–50kHz (-3dB)
Input impedance: 7.5k ohms
Input: XLR
Analog inputs: XLR
Dimensions: 320mm x 440mm x 450mm
Weight: 42.5kg
Price: $57,200/pr.

Zanden Model 3000mk2 Linestage Preamplifier
Tube complement: (main) 5687 x1; (power) 6CA4 x2
Frequency response: 10Hz–20kHz (-0.5dB)
Input impedance: XLR 100k ohms; RCA 100k ohms
Maximum output: 8VRMS
Inputs: RCA x3, XLR x3
Outputs: RCA, XLR
Dimensions: (main) 398mm x 103mm x 254mm; (power) 157mm x 165mm x 357mm
Weight: (main) 9.1kg; (power) 5.5kg
Price: $23,000

Zanden Model 1200mk3 Phonostage Preamplifier
Tube complement: 7308 x3, 6922 x1, 6CA4 x2
EQ curve positions: RIAA, Teldec, EMI, Columbia, Decca
Inputs: Low-impedance MC cartridge x1; high-impedance MC cartridge x1
Input impedance: Low: 36 ohms; high 470 ohms
Output impedance: 3k ohms
Gain: Low MC 68dB (1kHz, RIAA); high MC 56dB (1kHz, RIAA)
Frequency deflection: 0.5dB (20Hz–20kHz) maximum
Total harmonic distortion: 0.1% @ 300mV RMS output, 1kHz
Signal to noise: -70dB (IHF-A, 5.0mV RMS)
Channel balance: 0.5dB maximum
Dimensions: (main) 398mm x 103mm x 405mm; (power) 155mm x 163mm x 336mm
Weight: (main) 8.0kg; (power) 6.2kg
Price: $25,000 ... ectronics/
Marko Puš
Prispevkov: 196
Pridružen: To Feb 24, 2009 5:18 pm
Kraj: Ljubljana

Re: ZANDEN 3000mk2 in 1200mk3

OdgovorNapisal/-a Marko Puš » Sr Jan 29, 2020 4:17 pm

Malce starejše, pa vendar še vedno aktualno poročilo o Zanden 1200mk3 iz Hong Konga...

Wilson Leung
August 2009
For the record, I have to declare I am neither a vinyl junkie nor vintage LP collector, I just happen to have many records since I started buying them in the early 70’s.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m no expert in arm/cartridge set up and don’t pay much attention on the technical aspects of phono amps, my experience tells me MC cartridges are more musical than MM cartridges and although transistor phono amps are quieter than tube phonos (this is merely a fast-and-hard ruled but does not always holds true), they are not as musically rewarding from my past encounter, I have also tried MC/MM transformers, from the humming Ortofon (partnered with my first MC cartridge SL 15 to Supex) to Kondo etc etc. One thing for sure, many LPs in my collection did not sound good, some sounded much worse than CDs and over the years, many learned vinyl collectors advised me to buy and listen to Philips recordings as they produced the most consistent recording. This was my belief as despite market talk of recordings made by the legendary Wilkie - Kenneth Wilkinson were always top notched, my reaction after playing many of his recordings was not unanimous.

Only until recently, I guess 3-4 years ago when I came across the Zanden’s phono-stage amp model 1200 (mark one), I discovered because back in the golden era of vinyls, major recording companies did not adopt a standardized equalization curve in their recordings and they had their own ‘flavoured’ curves, namely, R.I.A.A., DECCA, EMI, COLUMBIA and TELDEC (Telefunken Decca – this curve was used by the famed Deutsche Gramophon or DGG for short), I noticed, except Philips recordings, most if not all other LP labels mentioned above recorded before 1972-77 sounded strange (not good), the sound was sometimes harsh, thin and lack the weight in the bass, if you compare the CDs which contain old recordings, more than half of these CDs sounded better than the LPs !!!

I was rather disillusioned with playing LPs and spent most of my time listening to CDs. However, after the arrival of Zanden phono amp which immediately displaced my famed silver wired transformer, my interest in playing LPs made by DECCA and COLUMBIA grew back. Nothing is perfect in this world, I still have many EMI and DGG recordings (especially the former) in my possession and they (old recordings) still did not sound good or normal to my ears.

Last Saturday, the arrival of Zanden 1200 Mark 3 finally dispelled my last bit of doubts of playing vinyls. Although I spent literally the whole day listening to my seldom-played LPs through my Kuzma, Thales and Shilabe vinyl system, I could not really hear clearly what was recorded on the records. The Shilabe (the new cartridge I have switched to very recently), due to its exceptionally low output of 0.23mV as opposed to the usual 0.4-0.5mV output from most MC cartridges, forced me to turn up the volume of my pre-amp and I could not get rid of the hum noise (trust me, I did not experience this problem when using the EMT gold cartridge but the Shilabe is a much better match to my taste). On Sunday, first thing I did was to remove the Flow interconnect (excellent interconnects but are very susceptible in picking severe hum noise esp. the balance version between my pre and power amps) from the Thales and replaced it by another make, after some fiddling, I got rid of 90% of the hum which had bothered me all these days. I sat down and started to listen to my collections, I could then hear much more in terms of tonality, details and low frequency info (yes, LPs have ‘better’ low frequencies than CDs). A record I have had for many years is the EMI recording of Saint-Saen Organ Symphony performed by City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Louis Fremaux, the low frequency of the organ went down to below 30 HZ. I was thrilled with excitement to hear this record properly for the 1st time (I heard it play live performed by HKPO 2 months ago). The excitement continued when I dug out my FIRST classical purchase made in 1972 or 1973, a 1968 EMI recording of Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony, I only listen to the side 4 recording of “ The Warsps “. It was dynamic with a very lively sound (the recording was made at the famed Kingsway Hall). Tears came out from my eyes (probably due to nostalgic stimulus) as after owning this record for some 36 years, I could now hear its true glorious sound. Finally, knowing that I have many DGG & TELDEC recordings, I tried to dig out from my store room (I recently moved to a new place and discovered I have 17-18 boxes of LPs. Some DGG recordings were very good but some were not. Without going into too much detail about DGG recordings, the Karajan’s Beethoven 9 Symphonies box set recorded in 1962 was very well recorded (PT was right).

Monday night, I listened to LPs I normally used as reference in order to confirm my listening impression of the Zanden 1200 Mk 3, the sound lacked the last-minute detail I could recall. I am very familiar with Belafonte’s Live at Carnegie (PT & Marvel have heard this LP in my place and were both shocked/impressed – correct me if I am wrong gentlemen) but some inner details were not easily audible. Could it be the Shilabe which lacked the details that other users were commenting in this forum (the previous hum problem precluded me to notice this plus I was playing other LPs I have not played for over 10 years). I checked the alignment of the cartridge and with its odd rounded side body, this exercise proved to be very very tricky. After an hour of fine adjustments (resulting in back pain) with the alignment and mounting tightness (if slightly tight, the Shilabe would lack the natural tonality and air), I was able to restore the details I was hearing in the past icluding the air, spacial details of the hall etc (I play this LP/CD with inverse polarity). I then proceeded to play DECCA and ARGO labels, I was in ecstasy.

My initial impression of the latest Zanden is as follows : this is BEST phono amp I have ever listened to (this includes the many pre-pre amps I have owned, the MANY world class phonos I have listened to at home trials and other audiophiles’ home). Honestly, I can’t describe the sound of the Zanden as I cannot detect any sonic signature as opposed to some I had used before. It has enabled me to hear the “ true “ tonal colours of different recordings and the finer details hidden in the recordings. Good recordings sound very real and bad recordings are still bad (like some DGG recordings – sorry Marvel bro). I seldom play the whole side of classical records in the past because it is too time consuming but with the latest Zanden, I simply sit comfortably on my sofa and listen to the full side of the LP (those with good recordings of course) and the problem with this is, I don’t have enough time. I had spent whole of last Sat. and Sunday (over 12 hours a day – my wife & daughter went on their holidays without me) playing my old collections and I was thrilled after hearing one after the other (I chose the ones which I knew had very good recordings).

Obviously it is debatable or damn controversial to say Zanden 1200 Mark 3 is the best phono amp in the world, one can’t deny the fact, the 5 built-in equalization curves (extensively researched by Yamada-san) makes playing old and well recorded LPs fun (exciting, impressive, educational, fact finding etc). If you have MANY old DECCA, EMI, DG, COLUMBIA recordings in your treasured possession and you don’t play them through the latest Zanden, you are NOT hearing the proper recordings (Dave Brubeck’s Take FIVE – without the Columbia curve, the cymbals lack the body, decays and dynamics for instance). I will spend the next few days hearing my reference LPs and those I have put away before I make a concluding statement of this yet-another Yamada-san’s masterpiece. I am not afraid to turn into a vinyl junkie from now on because vinyl rules okay !

https://audioexotics.vanillacommunity.c ... ull-report
Marko Puš
Prispevkov: 196
Pridružen: To Feb 24, 2009 5:18 pm
Kraj: Ljubljana

Re: ZANDEN 3000mk2 in 1200mk3

OdgovorNapisal/-a Marko Puš » Sr Jan 29, 2020 4:35 pm

Zelo malo je avdio konponent, ki bi sploh zdržale na trgu 20 let in več, kaj šele zasedale najvišja mesta na lestvici kakovosti. Zanden 1200 je ena od takih komponent, ki od svojega rojstva v poznih devedesetih letih prejšnjega stoletja pa do današnjega dne v svoji tretji verziji ponosno, a skromno in dokaj neopazno stoji v skupinici najboljših. Glede na govorice, da se pripravlja mk4 verzija, lahko z zanesljivostjo sklepam, da bo tako ostalo še naprej.

Samo v ilustracijo zapisanemu navajam nekatera priznanja, ki jih je ta naprava prejela skozi zgodovino svojega obstoja.

2002 Model 1200
Recommended Component Class A

2003 Model 1200
Golden Ear Award 2003
the absolute sound
U.S. Golden Ear Award 2003 | the absolute sound

2007 Model 1200mk2

2020 Model 1200mk3
Product of the year
Marko Puš
Prispevkov: 196
Pridružen: To Feb 24, 2009 5:18 pm
Kraj: Ljubljana


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