Parasound Zdac 192kHz Digital-to-Analog Converter

By |

Parasound Zdac 192kHz Digital-to-Analog Converter

Page 1 Page 2

Parasound-Zdac-DAC-review-angle-silver-small.jpgThe last four to five years have been a fascinating time when it comes to what has taken place in the entry-level niche of USB DACs. Their sonic performance has vastly improved, to the point where a music lover on a budget can get great sound with very little strain on his or her pocketbook. Historically, Parasound has always offered wonderfully built, excellently designed high-performing gear at very reasonable prices. The company recently came out with a USB-equipped DAC called the Zdac, priced at $475.

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

It took Parasound over two years of experimentation/modification to get the level of sonic performance that they were after in the company's new DAC. The Zdac also has a built-in high-quality headphone amp. Another interesting aspect of the Zdac is that Parasound hired the highly-regarded Danish digital company Holm Acoustics to design the chipset/circuit used in this DAC. Holm Acoustics has designed much more expensive DACS for other well known companies that have received very high praise for their sonic performance. Let's see if this joint project between Parasound and Holm Acoustics could bring this type of excellent sonic performance in at a much more affordable price in the Zdac.

The review piece sent to me was in an attractive silver finish. The overall appearance of the Zdac was quite handsome regarding the case work and visual details. The Zdac weighs five pounds, the width is 9.5 inches, the depth is 10 inches, and the height is two inches. The left side of the front panel is where the headphone input, power button and volume controls are located. In the middle is the screen that illuminates in clear green the input (OPT-COAX-USB) that is engaged. Finally, on the right side of the front panel is the input selector knob. The rear panel is where the two sets of outputs (RCA/XLR), the digital inputs (OPT-COAX-USB) and the AC inlet are located. Parasound is very clear in its assertion that the Zdac virtually eliminates jitter contamination through all inputs by the use of two premium parts: an Analog Devices AD1895 asynchronous sample converter and an AD1853 DAC IC. For increased resolution and sound quality, all incoming data is upsampled to 422 kHz.

My experience with solid-state USB DACs in the Zdac's price range has been that the company offers good clarity/details and dynamics, but lacks in two major areas. Many of the USB DACs sound rather dry and bleached out in their tonality and timbres. The other aspect that I find very noticeable is that they lack air around individual players and they tend to sound thin or lean when it comes to image density. These concerns completely vanished with my first music selection of guitarist Kenny Burrell's version of "Wavy Gravy" from his album Midnight Blue (Blue Note Records). The Zdac produced the warmth and tonal richness of both Burrell's guitar and Stanley Turrentine's tenor saxophone with a natural and lifelike ease.

One of the all-time great voices in the history of jazz is Billie Holiday. On her highly acclaimed album Body and Soul (Verve), the Zdac gave her rendition of "Darn that Dream" so much space and air around her in the soundstage that it created the illusion that she was standing between her band mates. Also, the little details and emotion in her voice were delivered with the right amount of texture and natural timbres.

My last musical selection was the tenor saxophonist Anat Cohen's version of "Cry Me a River" from her album Noir (Anzic Records) to see how the Zdac would handle big dynamics and the pop of a brass section at full gallop. The Zdac had no difficulties at producing the right amount of macro-dynamics with great bass tautness and extension on the bottom octaves. This cut also showed off how natural and airy the Zdac's top end was in its rendering of cymbals and other percussion instruments.

Read about the high points and low points of Parasound's Zdac on Page 2.

  • Comment on this article

Post a Comment
comments powered by Disqus

HTR Product Rating for Parasound Zdac 192kHz Digital-to-Analog Converter

Criteria Rating







Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.

Latest Digital to Analog Converter Reviews

Sep 12
Mytek Liberty DAC Reviewed Steven Stone says the Mytek Liberty is a professional-quality DAC that stands toe-to-toe with competitors that sold for twice as much just a couple years ago.
Mytek Liberty DAC Reviewed

Sep 05
Lab 12 DAC1 Special Edition Reviewed Terry London says the Lab 12 DAC1 SE crushes the price-versus-performance ratio in a totally absurd fashion, with beautiful timbres and tonality, powerful macro-dynamics, and an overall analog liquidity you have to hear to believe.
Lab 12 DAC1 Special Edition Reviewed

Jul 23
Micromega M-150 Integrated Amplifier Reviewed How on earth Micromega managed to cram 2x 150 watts of Class AB amplification and dual power supplies into this slim little integrated amp is beyond us, but it sounds as delicious as it looks.
Micromega M-150 Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

Mar 28
Mark Levinson № 526 Preamplifier/DAC Reviewed Mark Levinson. The brand represents the pinnacle of automotive and home audio luxury. The company's products are meticulously engineered, and...
Mark Levinson № 526 Preamplifier/DAC Reviewed

Feb 07
Bricasti Design M1SE Dual Mono DAC Reviewed Ben Shyman explores the M1SE dual mono DAC/preamplifier from Bricasti Design--a high-end DAC that is built like a tank and offers a full suite of digital inputs.
Bricasti Design M1SE Dual Mono DAC Reviewed