Living Legend: The Zana Deux

As a headphone enthusiast, one of the gear that has ranked very high on my audition list is the Zana Deux. What an amplifier! The sight of the Zana is breathtaking, and it looks much bigger in person than it does on the pictures!

The design has a cool American vintage look to it. Instead of the regular anodized, hairline, or glossy finishing often found on amps, the Zana has sort of a semi crackle, very soft half round abrasive marks done very tastefully around the casing. All over the top panel, you find metal screws protruding for securing tube sockets and other things to the chassis that reminds me heavily of hot rod american cars.

The Zana runs very hot when in operation, and there are some vents on the top and on the sides to help with air circulation on the inside. The entire Zana Deux chassis is a heat sink. The massive 6C33C-B power triodes is a main source of the heat, it seems, and it spreads some of the heat through the sockets and to the chassis. After roughly 30 minutes of heat up time, the Zana’s top panel gets really hot. Touching the top panel feels as hot as the heatsinks on the 4-channel Beta22 amplifier. As for the 6C33C-B tubes, it’s probably close to touching a soldering iron. Craig told me that the metal film, paper, polypropylene coupling caps sound best when warm.

The volume and input selector knob is shamelessly plastic. Probably unacceptable to other amps selling at the $2,000 range, but the Zana is able to pull it off. Even the headphone socket has a super stiff clamp to it, heck Craig probably used one of those super stiff Neutriks that is designed for proffesional mixing consoles.. On a regular amp, I would be complaining that the headphone socket clamps too hard, but this is the Zana, and that seems to be a part of its attitude. On the front panel is found the words “Zana Deux” written in a gray color serif font, and on the top panel, a plate with the klunky looking Eddie Current logo. What a design! While other product designers are trying to make their stuff looks like Murcielagos, the Zana looks back to the great American design such as the ’67 Mustang.

On the back panel I found three sets of inputs! A nice feature that seems to be rare in today’s amps. Also included is two sets of preamp outs — another nice feature. The connector for the umbilical cable that connects the amplifier chassis to the PSU uses 24-pin black industrial plastic Amphenol connectors. You locate the orientation notch on the cable, plug the cable in the socket, and rotate the screw-in safety lock. The cable won’t come off even if you pull the amp by the end of the cable. Then, on the other side of the cable is the same heavy-duty 24-pin Amphenol connector for the PSU box that houses a big oversize toroid (by headphone amplifier standards). The PSU box looks plain business in matt black, yet it has the same abrasive marks finishing found on the amplifier chassis. The Zana is one of the most beautiful amplifier I have ever seen.

The Zana uses two 6D22S rectifier tubes (Sovtek or Svetlana, same tube despite the different name), one Tung Sol 6SL7 driver tube, and two 6C33C-B power triodes. According to Craig Uthus (the man behind Eddie Current), there are three diferent 6C33C-B factories, and the amp is shipped with tubes from the same factory, matched for a close manufacturing date. The 6SL7 is the tube you want to do tube rolling with. I’m still in the honeymoon period and would hate to have the beautiful sound changed to something that may not be so balanced as this one. The 6D22S rectifiers have the cathode plate on the top part of the tube, and there is a cable with porcelain caps to connect the cathode plate to the pin jacks next to the tube socket, otherwise there will be no power for the amplifier circuit. The power supply box runs a wire to the amplifier box (through the umbilical cable) where the power switch is located. My version ships with a toroidal travo, but latter versions ships with an EI core made in California.

During this opportunity I would also recognize Craig Uthus not only as a superb amplifier designer and builder, but also in customer service and support. From the first time I received this amplifier, I have been emailing with Craig back and forth with long questions in just about any topic that I can think of regarding the Zana, and he’s been very helpful in answering my questions. If you’re interested in acquiring the Zana, you need to ask Craig (cuthus@charter.net) on when he’ll plan another batch of Zana Deux builds and put your deposit then. However, Craig does build some extra units during those production runs, and if you’re lucky, you may be able to get one ASAP!


Living Legend: The Zana Deux
5 (100%) 2 votes

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6 Comments

  • Reply July 2, 2011

    Albert

    Hi Mike, do you think the ZD fall into lush-tubey-sounding amp? Does it have wide & deep soundstage and great attack/PRaT? Cheers.

    • Reply July 4, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Albert,
      It’s not too lush-tubey, though it is very analog sounding.
      The soundstage is not so wide, but the depth is the best I’ve heard on
      any amps. Likewise soundstage imaging, three dimensionality and ambiance
      is also the best — better even than the Manley Stingray or the Beta22.
      The only amp that I’ve heard that has better the ZD’s soundstage is
      Manley’s Neo-Classic 300B amp.

      The attack is there, but not too sharp as most solid states are. The
      PRaT is also there and among the better ones among tubes, but not as
      much as say the Burson amp.

  • Reply October 2, 2013

    chuck77

    Mike, do you know of any difference between the Zana Deux and the Zana Deux SE? Most interested in learning about any sonic differences and suitable headphone impedance for each. Which one sounds better in your opinnion?

    Thanks!

    • Reply October 2, 2013

      Mike

      I haven’t listened to the SE, chuck so I can’t comment on that, sorry.

      • Reply October 4, 2013

        chuck77

        No problem Mike. I just sold the Bottlehead Crack and picked up a Zana Deux Transformer. Extremely happy and patiently awaiting its arrival!

        • Reply October 7, 2013

          Mike

          Crazy! I miss mine.

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