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In Reply to: RE: Linear Tube Audio - ZOTL 40 posted by willsw on July 05, 2016 at 09:09:38
Why did you drop the ZH270? This is a great amp
I must clarify, I have never owned the ZH270 but have heard great things about it. I do own the ZH230 (only 30'watts) which is incredible sounding. My understanding is the new ZOTL line is a slightly newer design using everything David Berning has learned in the last 5 years. I am a big fan of the EL34 tube for its beautiful midrange so this is the best of both worlds for me, ZOTL + EL34 = holy grail. I'm having fun tube rolling for now.
Coincidently, I saw David today at the Capital Audiofest.
Would be grateful to hear how the ZOTL40 compares sonically to the ZH30.
To me the ZH230 sounds only slightly better than the ZOTL40 with the stock Tung Sol tubes. My ZH230 has all NOS tubes. I am in the process of tube rolling in the ZOTL40 and am very optimistic that because of the many EL34 tube choices, it can exceed the the ZH230 sonically. The two amps have a similar character. Also, is the ZH230 almost 3K better than the ZOTL40? I don't think so but with the ZH230 you get a nicer laser etched case and stillpoints. More to come after some extensive tube rolling.
I will anxiously await your impressions. Am also curious to hear your experience with new vs NOS tubes.
Mark Schneider and his crew are coming over to my house soon. We're having an EL34 shootout. They're bringing lots of different EL34 tubes to try so it should be interesting.
I can say that the 6CA7 black bottle shuggys and the psvane EL34PH tubes are both better than the stock Tung sol tubes. I'm not sure which set I prefer yet, both sound great in the ZOTL40.
I'm especially interested in how the Gold Lion KT77s stack up against all these EL34s we've accumulated.
I hope you have the "well broken in" KT77's. I have not tried those yet. Also, if you have any reference CD's you want to bring that's fine.
In my VTL ST-80 I tried a lot of el34/6ca7 and finally put in the Gold Lion KT-77. Never tried anything else again.
ZOTL40 - EL34 shootout
The shootout was a lot of fun. For those of you who haven't met Mark, he's a great guy and a dedicated audiophile. I like his business model too. Start with a fantastic design and employ local people to manufacture great products HERE, not by slave labor in XYZ foreign country to maximize profits.
OK, the results are in, the EL34 Tung Sols that come stock with the amp sound very good, but there are a few other tubes that sound even better. Here are my Picks for the top tubes in the ZOTL40 in order, no. 1 being the best:
1. NOS Mullard EL34 XF2
2. Genelex Gold Lion KT77
3.NOS Sovtek EL34 Winged C
4.Shugaung Black Bottle 6CA7 (very long break-in)
5. psvane EL34PH
6. Tung Sol EL34
7. Mullard EL34 reissues
The Gold Lion KT77s are killer in this amp and are manufactured currently.
The very expensive Chinese 6CA7 black bottle tubes and the Phillips knock offs also sound very good but are costly. Equally as good as the Gold Lion KT77s are the NOS Sovtek winged C EL34's and maybe better, but I'm still listening to them. They're getting better with break-in, and I keep going back and forth on that one. I didn't get enough time with the KT77, but my first impression puts it near the top.
If you can get your hands on them, the NOS Mullards in this amp..... I can't explain it.... is the most incredible sound I have ever experienced. Yes, the Mullards are legendary and the ZOTL 40 takes advantage of these vintage tubes in a spectacular way. I bought a set of used NOS Mullards for a fairly reasonable price. Because the ZOTL is so easy on tubes, I expect them to last a long time.
I'm not really good at describing the sound differences in audiophile terms but it was all there, the sound stage, airy highs and tight lows. The top of the list giving the best of these attributes.
The upgraded tubes put the ZOTL40 a notch above the ZH230 in my humble opinion. Maybe that's why David Berning has decided to drop that amp from his line. I did hear that Berning is going to stick to his top of the line amps that he builds himself. The Berning 211/845 monoblock amps were reviewed this month in TAS and I think they used the term "best amp in the world." Oh well, $75K is out of my reach but I've got a ZOTL40.
If you ever wanted to own a $50k amp for a fraction of the price, this is it. I really can't say I've heard anything this good at any audio show. Although I've never heard the 211/845.
Janszen zA2.1 hybrid eltrostats
JL Audio E110 subs (pair)
PS Audio Direct Stream DAC networked
PS Audio P10 regenerator
Micro ZOTL as preamp with linear power supply
Morrow and Cerious Tech Cables
Thanks! That was VERY helpful.
I see from the LTA webpage that the amp now comes standard with the Genelex KT77's. Nice!
After lots of listening, we've decided to use all Genalex Gold Lion tubes for both the ZOTL10 and the ZOTL40 - the superiority of the sound is worth absorbing the extra cost.
My only wish: that they made a 6SN7. It seems like there's the biggest gulf in price for quality with the 6SN7, and the Tung-sol is the best current-production we've tried before you'd need to spend significantly more on high-end Chinese tubes.
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