Dismiss Notice
We are making some updates and reconfigurations to our server. Apologies for any downtime or slow forum loading now or within the next week or so. Thanks!

Parasound Zphono: a very brief review

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by The Seeker, Aug 22, 2015.

  1. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm always curious about budget phono preamps. I had the opportunity to purchase an inexpensive, second-hand Parasound Zphono recently and did so to try it out. It has MM and MC capability, but I have only tried the MM so far. I am very impressed. Previous to this, the unit I was most enamored with in this category was the Vincent PHO 8. The Parasound is just as dynamic (more, actually) and big sounding as the Vincent, but it is more natural and upon initial listening, simply better. The sound of the Zphono is bold and authoritative, with a shockingly low level of artifacts at this price category. It's life-like and clean, but never tizzy, harsh, tinny, thin, or artificial as many low end units are. I would say that it's very slightly to the warm side of neutral, but only because there is an absence of glare and an ease, fundamental rightness, and slight softness to the sound that makes it relaxing to listen to and will surprise many people who are used to hearing most cheap phono amps on the market. It is likewise expressive, detailed, insightful and lively with fantastic, well-defined, deep and rich bass. Overall, I would not call this an overly warm or romantic sounding piece. It does not muddle the sound or fix bad records. It's not flashy or bright. It excels at just sounding very, very good. It's tonal balance is neutral, exciting, and extremely smooth. Soundstaging is average to slightly above average in terms of left to right and pinpoint imaging, while depth of stage may be a little lacking. Refinement and tonal sophistication is average to above average. The Parasound Zphono is now my favorite inexpensive phono stage, highly recommended, and is a ridiculous bargain for the price of $75-100 used. I have not had the opportunity to compare it side-by-side with the Vincent PHO-8, but according to my recent memory, my opinion would not change if I did so.

    Also, to be clear, I really love warm-sounding gear and tube amplification. That is my preference. If you're reading this and you like the same, the Parasound Zphono will likely please you. It's one of the rare machines that is "open" and "detailed", yet also relaxed and extremely musical and will never sound ugly. I think the Zphono would be an excellent match with just about any system, regardless of your personal taste. If you're looking for a phono preamp that will 'fix' the sound of your cartridge or turntable, this isn't it, though it will probably give you the bass slam you crave. However, if you're happy with your hifi system and need a great phono stage, try one of these.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2015
  2. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Update: after spending all day with the Zphono, I've come to the conclusion that the problem with it is that it's not seductive. It's exciting. I like seductive. Still, it's damn good and I'm not done with it yet. Just thinking out loud...
     
    timztunz likes this.
  3. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Audiophile wannabe

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    Thanks for your review! It is very timely, indeed, since I had just narrowed my choices down to the Zphono and Vincent for my second system. I spent the afternoon listening to the Parasound at my local HiFi shop and was impressed. I also like the fact the Parasound has more gain than the Vincent (46db to 40db, I believe). But I like the external PSU and build quality on the Vincent. So do you have the Vincent now, or are you relying on memory from a previous encounter?
     
    The Seeker likes this.
  4. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I am relying on memory, however I have two friends within three blocks of my house who own the PHO 8. Hold off for a few days and I will bring one home to do a direct, intensive, side-by-side comparison. I think it would be in your best interest to wait for this.
     
  5. RoyalScam

    RoyalScam Luckless Pedestrian

    I have a zPhono paired with my SL-1200mk2/AT-440mLa and dig it highly. Haven't felt the need to try anything else. (Disclaimer: I'm not a regular vinyl listener, only when I can't find something on CD.)
     
  6. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Audiophile wannabe

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    I've been agonizing over this decision for a while now, so what's another few days? I'll eagerly await your review. Thanks, ArdenHiFi!
     
  7. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Another update: listening to Zphono with various string concertos and quartets....strings are alive, open, and definitely not dark, but are never shrill, piercing, or aggressive.
     
  8. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Good plan. I'm eagerly awaiting the comparison as well. It's a deal. I keep coming back to wishing that the Zphono was a little more romantic. It's musical and natural, but I wish it was a little more soothing. I remember the Vincent as being just that, but I'm not sure the Vincent was as tonally accurate as the Parasound. If you get a chance, check out my Vincent PHO 8 review that I posted here a while ago.
     
  9. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Plugged the Parasound Zphono into my power conditioner. Things just got a hell of a lot smoother!
     
  10. OcdMan

    OcdMan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    Thanks for the review. The Zphono looks nice. I had been wanting to check out one in person along with some other inexpensive phono stage but never got around to it. What other cheap preamps have you evaluated or compared besides the Zphono and Vincent? I read in another thread where you said you've checked out more than few.
     
    ScottInDallas likes this.
  11. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    That's a good question...Hagerman, Bottlehead, Jolida, Bellari, NAD, Pro-Ject, Pyle, Creek, Vincent, and more that I can't remember. Name one and I'll tell you if I've heard it or owned it.
     
  12. rebbi

    rebbi Active Member

    I just love your moniker and profile quotes, that's all. :D
     
    RoyalScam likes this.
  13. Hershiser

    Hershiser Forum Resident

    This is over 10 years ago but I had one of these in my system for a few months while my current phono stage at the time, the Creek OH8 was in for repair (faulty switch). Never really was too impressed with it I was happy to get the Creek back.

    My turntable at that time was a Rega Planar 2 with Elys cartridge.
     
  14. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Would you elaborate?
     
  15. Hershiser

    Hershiser Forum Resident

    My recollection at the time was that I thought it sounded "small" and rather undefined. It was 15 years ago upon reflection. The Creek in comparison just sounded fuller and I guess was a better match with the Rega components.

    EDIT: my bad it was actually a Parasound PH 100. I think this pre-dated the Zphono. It had the similiar casing.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015
  16. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Oh, okay. Thanks for clarifying. That was puzzling because my memory of the Creek phono stage I heard was that it sounded sort of wimpy and bright. I have no idea what model it was, though. It was a tiny little box.
     
  17. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Stop the presses. I've been using an extremely warm tube amp for most of my reviewing. Now I've switched to a pair of EL84 mono amps that have a bit more high frequency energy. They may be telling a different story. Nobody buy anything until I report back.
     
  18. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Depending on your amplification, the Parasound may or may not work for you. It is definitely not warm. It's evenly balanced from top to bottom. I was hearing some additional highs with a different amp that weren't pleasant, but it has been determined to be the amp and not the Zphono.
     
  19. OcdMan

    OcdMan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    Thanks. What phono cartridge did you use with the Zphono?
     
  20. lou

    lou Fast 'n Bulbous

    Location:
    Louisiana
    Has anyone heard the musical fidelity V90 phone preamp? How would that compare to the Zphono?
     
  21. timztunz

    timztunz Audioista

    Location:
    Texas
    I applaud your open mindedness.
     
  22. beavis

    beavis Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sayre, Pa. USA
    What's the final word on the Zphono?

    Which cartridges were used during the review?
     
  23. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Audiophile wannabe

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    Yes, I'm very interested in hearing about the shootout!
     
  24. rockadelic

    rockadelic Forum Resident

    Location:
    Singapore
    Does the Zphono have a low pass filter switch? Have you tried using it? If you did, what was the result?
     
  25. The Seeker

    The Seeker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    No, it does not.
     

Share This Page

molar-endocrine