Home Theater Review

 

Parasound Zdac 192kHz Digital-to-Analog Converter

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HTR Product Rating

Performance
5 Stars
Value
5 Stars
Overall
5 Stars

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Parasound-Zdac-DAC-review-angle-black.jpgHigh Points
The Parasound Zdac's build quality and advanced design in its chipset and circuit are at a very high standard.
This USB DAC offers wonderful tonality and natural timbres that allow you to relax into the music.
The Parasound Zdac produces excellent image density and air around individual players, along with great dynamics and top and bottom extension.
The Parasound Zdac has an excellent-sounding built-in headphone amp with its own volume control, which allows you to listen to the wonderful DAC section through your headphones.

Low Points
The Zdac performs at a much higher level with an after-market power cord than with the one provided with the unit. Therefore, this extra cost should be taken in consideration.
The overall sonic performance of the Zdac is at such a high level that it might expose shortcomings in the less-expensive entry-level systems that it would likely be matched with because of the reasonable price.

Comparison and Competition
The USB DACs in the $500 to $700 price bracket with which I have experience are the SimAudio Moon 100D DAC, valued at $650 and the Musical Fidelity M1DAC, valued at $799. Both these DACs offer excellent performance in the areas of details, dynamics, transparency and macro-dynamics. However, as I mentioned earlier in my review, these DACS are somewhat dry-sounding and lacking the image density of the Parasound Zdac. The Zdac really pulls ahead in the areas of tonal richness/timbres and 3D imaging, compared with the SimAudio and Musical Fidelity DACs. To learn more and see reviews of different DACs, please visit HomeTheaterReview.com's Digital-to-Analog Converter Review page.

Conclusion
With the Zdac, Parasound has a big winner on its hands that continues the company's history of great build quality, high sonic performance, innovative design, and one of the greatest "bang for the buck" found in audio gear. Based on its overachieving performance, especially in its tonal richness/timbres and 3D imaging, the Zdac competes with DACs that are really priced around $3,000 to $5,000.

In the context of this review, I would also like to share another amazing find regarding a digital cable. My reference cable for over five years was the amazing Stealth Audio Sextet that retails for $3,700. During the review process for the Zdac, I also auditioned the new Panatela digital cable, which retails for $475, from Sablon Cables. The designer/owner Mark Coles has produced the finest-sounding digital cable that I have ever reviewed for its remarkable price. The Panatela cable replaced the Stealth Sextet to become my new reference and was used to review the Zdac.

If you are in the market for a new USB DAC, I highly recommend you put the Parasound Zdac on your list before you go out and spend a bundle more that might not get you as close to the music as the Zdac. With the great amount of money you will save, go out, get a good aftermarket power cord and Sablon Cables Panatela digital cable to match with your new Zdac, and enjoy the music.

Additional Resources
Read more DAC reviews from Home Theater Review's writing staff.
Explore sources in our Disc Player Review section.

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