The Parasound Zamp v.3 Zone Amplifier is a half-rack stereo amplifier geared towards the discriminating home or professional user. It offers 60W per channel at 4 ohms, or 45W per channel at 8 ohms. It also offers a bridge-mono mode delivering 90W into an 8 ohm load. The Zamp ($300) is housed in an attractively simple black metal chassis with four simple indicator lights.
Product PointsApplications: Installation
Key Features: 60W per channel at 4 ohms, 45W per channel at 8 ohms, 90W at 8 ohms bridged mono
Contact: Parasound Products at 415-397-7100, Web Site.
+ Great integration features
+ Detailed performance
+ Subdued looks
– No separate volume control for headphone jack
– Channel controls are a bit too small and do not have detents
– No input signal detection indicator
Out of the box, it’s only 7 pounds. I was surprised because my initial perception was that it was much heavier. Looking through the fully vented chassis, it looks like they should have used a full rack width chassis; it’s remarkably filled with components. Nearly half of the space inside is taken up by the sizeable toroid transformer. Even the power cord is nice and fat. No cheap parts here! But that’s to be expected when a company offers at 10-year warranty (5 years labor). That alone says something about the components going into the system.
The manual is well laid out, well written, and easy to understand. It’s clear that Parasound spent some time on it. The amp interface is pretty simple, on the front panel a power button, a headphone jack, and a display for showing the activation of the protection circuitry, left and right channel indicators (they don’t indicate anything but the power being on) and a high-temperature warning indicator. For something as simple as a two-channel amplifier, the Parasound goes above and beyond the norm in terms of its functionality. Expected features, such as bridge/mono selection, independent level control, and mono/stereo operation are where you’d expect them. In addition, the unit features an automatic power feature. Sure, any powered subwoofer has this, but the Zamp includes a sensitivity adjustment. No longer will you need to turn up your preamp to make sure your power amp kicks on – simply adjust the threshold to your needs. And just in case you’ve located this amp on the other side of your house with a different ground path, there’s a ground lift switch to get rid of those pesky 60 cycle loops. For integrators, a 9 – 12V trigger function can automate the power switch as well. Parasound was even thoughtful enough to include a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter, knowing that other devices’ triggers may be sized differently. An audio loop output makes wiring multiple units a breeze. Indeed, the manual is not the only thing Parasound spent time on.
Parasound suggests several uses of this device: as a part of a mini component system, bedroom or den system, or even driving your PC’s speakers. On the commercial side, it could work well as an editing bay amplifier since it is passively cooled. Since it’s so compact, it could easily sit on a desktop or be mounted in a discreet location without the need for an equipment rack.
Its specifications make it a piece worthy of any demanding application: 116 dBA S/N, 0.07% THD at 8 ohms full output, and a damping factor of 400 at 20 Hz. Indeed, the performance is as expected: solid. Powering up the unit is noiseless. Turning it off is just the same. No jolts. Its clean, low-noise, straightforward audio path makes for a very clean boost. Background noise was virtually undetectable when I plugged in my Grado SR80 headphones and cranked up the volume. A great experience awaited me when I actually ran audio through it. I was most impressed with the low frequency reproduction. No doubt the damping factor (400 at 20 Hz) was part of the reason here. The mids and highs didn’t seem to have any of the bite or harshness that some lesser amplifiers can add. The amp had plenty of juice to drive various pairs of bookshelf speakers effortlessly. Unless you’re looking to blow the doors down, the output is more than ample for any casual listening experience. Its transparency makes it that much more pleasant. The Zamp does justice for those speakers that tend to be sensitive to the quality of the amplifier.
Though the target speaker is most likely a bookshelf or in-wall speaker, its very low noise (in terms of both physical noise and signal noise) lends itself to studio applications. The amplifier performed admirably with my Grado headphones, along with several different bookshelf speakers. It would have been nice to have a separate volume control on the front for the headphone jack. Since the headphone output matches the speaker output, it’s awkward to adjust the volume with the tiny knobs in the back if you’re not using a preamp. I would have preferred to see detents on the controls to make sure settings can be recalled with a bit more accuracy in this type of situation. In the overall scheme of things, it’s a minor gripe. If you’re in the market for a compact, high quality, noiseless amplifier, the Parasound Zamp v.3 should be on your shopping list.
Bose Model 150 speakers, Parasound amp, Panasonic A120 DVD/CD player. Thanks to Craig Underwood for his help in testing