The Decware SuperZen Triode is a handmade 2.3 watts/channel tube amplifier that hits much harder than its power rating would suggest in a smaller room or home office. There are two pairs of RCA inputs, and it is available with several different bases for additional cost.
It’s built incredibly well by a company that has such a cult following that the waiting list is getting longer and longer with each passing day.
The amplifier has a rather non-conventional look (12”D x 6”W x 8”H) and absolutely becomes the focal point of any system; both aesthetically and sonically.
It’s rare to find their products on the “used” market and they don’t last more than a day when one pops up. $1,395 for this 18-pound amplifier that has a lifetime warranty and delivers rather remarkable performance at this price.
Made in America to very high standards and I’ve never heard a single Decware amplifier that didn’t sound great with high sensitivity loudspeakers.
They also stand by their products, offer excellent customer service, and their amplifiers don’t use super expensive exotic tubes that cost a fortune to replace.
The Decware SuperZen Triode Model SE84UFO2 is shipped with premium quality NOS 6P15P-EV output tubes with gold grids rated at over 5000 hours. These Russian military spec tubes are the top grade of what we came to know in this country for a brief spell as the SV83. You can also use EL84 tubes in this amp.
What makes the Decware SuperZen Triode such a good amplifier is that it gets the basics right; quality circuit design, good iron, affordable tubes, and excellent reliability.
Zu Audio’s Sean Casey is a very clever and forward-thinking guy. He’s definitely the anti-audiophile high-end loudspeaker manufacturer from the perspective that he builds products that are good to go with every genre of music, and he’s proven to be far more astute when it comes to what people are listening to and what they’re looking for in a system.
Zu Audio broke the cardinal rule of high-end audio (don’t expand too quickly) and paid for it by almost tanking after a very successful first few years. Fortunately, Casey and Co. are a creative and passionate crew who really love to build great loudspeakers and managed turned their ship around. Fast forward to 2021 and it’s still kicking ass and making some of our favorite loudspeakers in the world.
There have been only a handful of audio shows over the past 18 months, but if you have ever been to an audio show, you are painfully aware (unless you are one of those people) that listening to music that you might like is a major no-no with some companies.
I’ve had CDs or records handed back to me because the exhibitor was afraid that they might illuminate some issues in the system – never judge any system you hear at a show and think it’s going to sound that way in your own home. It’s a pointless act.
Manufacturers have evolved over the years, but it’s not uncommon to clear a room with some EDM or rock music that wasn’t recorded well.
Sometimes you have to know your audience. Traditional audio shows have seen a demographic shift in recent years which is a huge step in the right direction, but the audience is still primarily older male audiophiles.
Headphone shows like the CanJam Series skew the opposite direction with more men and women between 20-40 and exhibitors encourage bringing your own music.
Ironically, the Zu Audio room usually sees the most traffic and the fastest exits as Casey and his son, Ian, spin music that drive the audio cognoscenti into fits. How dare they play music other people like? The Zu “sound” is about connecting with the music – the passion, the energy, the gestalt of the moment.
It does most of the audiophile things well too, but for some, the exuberance and overwhelming wall of sound is too much. If connecting to the music is what matters to you most, Zu offer a great sounding pair of bookshelf or desktop loudspeakers that have a lot more presence than most other loudspeakers in the same category.
The Zu Cube are 10.5” x 10.5” x 10.5” and a rather hefty 27 pounds each. Offered in walnut and in a variety of satin finishes (ask and Zu Audio will quote you a price), the Cubes are ideal for a desktop because they are so easy to drive.
With a 98 dB sensitivity rating, they need only a few watts to really sing in a small space, and while they sound stellar with a quality stereo integrated amp, they really get under your skin with a low-powered tube amplifier. Sean Casey sleeps with a turntable under his pillow so those looking for a great loudspeaker to enjoy vinyl through are well served.
Zu’s cabinetry is beautifully done and well-constructed, but the magic comes from the speaker’s custom 10-inch, full-range, nanotech driver which incorporates a woofer and tweeter in the same package. This is custom work which some might consider a bargain, considering the quality of the construction and materials.
The Zu Cube start around $1,100 for a pair and the price increases based on the level and type of finish.
Tone is the real strength of this loudspeaker and a level of engagement that reaches out and grabs you by the shirt collar. The tweeter is not even remotely strident or hard sounding, and a great amplifier will extract just enough detail without crossing the line into too much of a good thing.
The Cube might look like bass monsters with a 10.5” custom driver but they’re actually not that way at all. Bass it tight and detailed, but also lacking some punch below 70Hz – a subwoofer with these makes a lot of sense.
A pair of IsoAcoustics Aperta stands on a credenza or desktop make a huge difference when it comes to imaging and transparency. You can also angle the tweeter more at your head than your chest if placing them on a desk.
The one big negative right now is that Zu Cube won’t be available again in 2021 for a few more months while they deal with supply chain issues and older orders that have to be fulfilled.
Is it worth the wait? Indeed it is.
The high sensitivity rating and 8 ohm impedance make them very easy to drive.
The tonal balance of the Decware SuperZen Triode amplifier matches the Zu Cube perfectly and the overall sound quality from this unique combination is rich with tone, very transparent sounding, and rather spooky with vocals.
There are a wide range of DACs and streamers that work well including the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt (which you can use separately as your headphone amplifier), Andover Audio Songbird/Schiit Audio Modi 3 Multibit combination, or Cambridge Audio CXN V2 streamer/DAC.
Another excellent network streamer that keeps the cost down is the brand new Bluesound NODE which keeps things really simple as it already has an internal DAC. $549 and access to all of the major streaming platforms.
The Decware almost screams out for a good vintage turntable and we’re huge fans of the restored Thorens turntables by Vinyl Nirvana which is based in New Hampshire.
Select either the Croft Acoustics or Moon by SimAudio phono stage from our list of favorite audiophile phono preamps and you have a very high-end system for under $7,000.