The SmartVektor™ Digizoid Zo

digizoid_zo2_01

The SmartVektor Digizoid Zo is one of the more interesting devices we’ve seen in a while. More than just another portable amplifier released to the market to ride the rising popularity of IEMs and headphones, the Zo brings something entirely new to the market. It serves the duty of a headphone amplifier, but with extra tech thrown in the package. If you take some time to visit Digizoid’s website, you will find a sleek looking website filled with the usual marketing words.

SmartVektor™ technology revitalizes sound to produce a sonic experience previously thought unattainable. Our patent-pending techniques deviate from current industry practices, delivering market defining performance that enables you to provide new levels of product differentiation. Put the power, balance, and refinement of SmartVektor technology in your next design and discover the true power of sound.

The concept of SmartVektor™ is indeed an unfamiliar one, and unfamiliarity tends to breed negative perceptions — hence the seemingly mixed feelings people have towards the Zo. I asked a question on our Facebook Page to see what people’s perception of the Zo is. Some were interested to learn more about it, but quite a few people was also quick to diss it as just a marketing-driven gadget. Well let’s take a real honest look into the Zo and hopefully you can get a better idea of the product.

The SmartVektor™

I have no idea how the SmartVektor™  technology actually works. I don’t know what algorithm was used, or in what way it processes the sound signals to achieve the effect that I hear. One thing for certain is that the technology works, and the Zo would really give you a better sound.

At the moment I’m listening to music from the Ipod’s direct headphone out with the Goldring DR150 headphone. After a while I take it off and I take the Zo and connect it between the Ipod and the DR150, just how you would normally use a portable amp. The sound changes. You get the typical improvements as when using a separate amplifier. The headphone is driven more authoritatively and things like bass impact and PRaT factor noticeably improves, but there is more. Gone is the grain that was present before and now you’re listening to music within this black background where the instruments becomes much clearer and distinct due to the removal of background noise. The sound, to be frank, is a lot more “Hi-Fi”. Some really good digital-to-analog converters would do this, but the Zo doesn’t operate on the digital domain. It takes pure analog signals, sort of apply a filter to it, and output it as a cleaner signal.

I can notice some details taken out of the signal and the rolling off of top treble and bottom bass. Yet at the same time the Zo also brings in that beautiful black background that normally is reserved only for top end, multi thousand dollars desktop set ups. And it’s not only about the black background but the presentation of the music has gotten a lot smoother, cleaner, and more refined.  What’s amazing is that while these improvements may sound very technical, I’m actually tapping my toe and moving my body more often with the Zo. Musicality definitely improves.

The Contour Feature

The Zo also gives you an infinitely adjustable contour to the sound. You start at the middle, where the light indicator displays an amber color. If you hold the toggle lever down till the color displays a neon green, you get a leaner bass and midrange. This is sort of the flat, mildly thin sounding contour. If you bring the toggle lever up back to amber, you’d get the mids and bass back — though the bass also noticeably gets more boomy at this level. If you keep on holding the toggle till you get a red color, that’s when you get maximum bass boost. The thing that makes this contouring tech so brilliant is that you get 32 steps from the lean sounding green to the maximum bass red. Compared to the usual two steps bass boost, the Zo’s 32 steps really feels like an infinite number of EQ presets. I can tune the bass and mid level so precise to what I feel is right for that particular song-headphone combination, all with a simple flick of the toggle lever. You know how people say the Etymotics ER4 is too thin sounding for mainstream music? Not anymore with the Zo. Dial in some mid and bass body boost to a mild amber color, and I now have a full-sounding Etymotics ER4. And with a precise balanced armature driver like the ER4’s, I think the bass remains well controlled, never too boomy though going all the way to red would obviously give you a bloated with bass feel. But you know what, I can actually listen to trance with the ER4 now! What happens when the next track happens to be light acoustic jazz? Dial back down to light amber, all within the convenience of the toggle lever. Pretty amazing stuff.

 

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120 Comments

  • Reply December 20, 2011

    Guest

    yay you finally reviewed it!! awesome!!

    • Reply December 20, 2011

      Mike

      You have one?

      • Reply December 20, 2011

        Guest

        yeah, do you hear hissing with low impedence iem ? I have a Zo2 v1 and the noise level is quite high when I listen to quiet music or when there is a silence in movies.

        • Reply December 20, 2011

          Guest

          i’m using this on the line out from FiioE10 –> zo 2 –> iem/favorite headphone lol

          • Reply December 20, 2011

            Mike

            I use it more with the Ipod for my portable rig.

          • Reply December 22, 2011

            Djevoultion

            I’ve got the Fiio E10 aswell, what version of the ZO2 do you have? Do you have any problems using line out? 

            I’m assuming you would have to control volume levels via software from PC as I dont think the ZO2 has volume control like normal amps? 

            • Reply December 22, 2011

              Mike

              Hi Djevoultion,
              The Zo2 has a digital, 32 steps volume control.

          • Reply December 28, 2011

            Djevoultion

            Thanks for your reply Mike, 

            So its possible to use it with Line Out On E10 with no problems and volume control will be digital controlled on the ZO2? 

            If I want to upgrade the E10’s DAC what would you suggest? (Price up to $300) 

          • Reply December 28, 2011

            Djevoultion

            Thanks Mike I’ll look into those, are they clearly better than the E10? 

            1. What about the Audinst MX1 (It’s a DAC/Amp) – is that much better than the E10? 

            2. Would it be worthwile to consider the MS2+ over the MS2 and DACPort LX, MX1? 

            3. and Lastly, If I could improve my budget what would you suggest as the next step up from the MS2+, MS and LX? (If you could provide your opinion on DAC and DAC/Amp if there is one that would be great) 

            Thanks for your help and sorry for the questions!

            • Reply December 29, 2011

              Mike

              1. Yes MX1 has a better DAC, though I like the E10’s amp better. 
              2. The MS2+ and the DACport LX is roughly equal. The MS2 is slightly better than the MX1. 
              3. If you have extra budget, I’d suggest a better amplifier than what you currently use. The MS2+ and Dacport LX is more than enough for most people. 

          • Reply December 29, 2011

            Djevoultion

            Thanks for your reply Mike, I was reading the review section and came across the Yulong U100 – which is a DAC/Amp all in one unit (seems to be the better option rather than buying a separate DAC and Amp). 

            1. How does the DAC section compare to the MS2 or DACport LX?

            2. I’m assuming being a desktop DAC/Amp, the U100 should clearly be better than the E10 in any case? 

            Also have you had a chance to hear the Yulong D100? 

            • Reply December 29, 2011

              Mike

              1. The MS2 and the DACport LX is better. 
              2. The amplifier is better than the E10. 

              No experience with the D100, sorry. 

        • Reply December 20, 2011

          Mike

          Hmm… no hiss but I’m not sure which version I have since they sent me two different ones. One is a higher gain, then they sent me another one with a lower gain for IEM.

          • Reply December 20, 2011

            Guest

            oh then you must have the rev 2, and 3. I pre-oredered mine early so i got the first batch and people were talking about it on head-fi. Mine’s a V1 so yeah … but I’m gonna RMA it after christmas since they are busy now.

          • Reply December 20, 2011

            Mike

            I heard the latest version will have selectable gain.

  • Reply December 20, 2011

    Guest

    Oh Yeah , before I forget, HAPPY HOLIDAYS and MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and your family Mike!  Thanks for a great year of reviews!

    • Reply December 20, 2011

      Mike

      Thanks! Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to you too.

  • Reply December 20, 2011

    Dennis

    How does it compare to Pico Slim and ALO RX2 ?  (with IEMs & portable headphones)

    • Reply December 20, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Dennis,
      It’s very different. For instance, the lack of sound processing on the Pico and the ALO Rx results in a purer signal path for better detail level, but they don’t have the SoundVektor effects nor the adjustable contour.

  • Reply December 20, 2011

    Harmi

    Hello Mike
     
    What is the Soundstage like with this and how does it compare with the CMoy and Audinst Amp-Hp? Did you try the Zo with the Beyer DT1350? Taking into acount the DT1350s detail levels which is extremely detailed, perhaps it would go well with the Zo? Just need some good soundstage and Praat for my DT1350s and hope the Zo can provide me some…? Cheers for the good review.

    • Reply December 21, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Harmi, 

      It’s a bit different the way they create the soundstage. Like the JDSLabs’ Cmoy soundstage is still very wide and spacious (the more I listen to it the more I’m convinced it has one of the best soundstage in portable amps), but it’s still a regular amplifier and you don’t get things like the black background and the SoundVektor effect. 

      Thing with the Zo is that having a very detailed headphone at output doesn’t really help, since a lot of the detail is already missing after the amplification stage. 

  • Reply December 20, 2011

    Spencer Chan

    Mike, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  (and you to Lieven)
     
    Do you have impressions for us vs Fiio’s E7?

    • Reply December 20, 2011

      Lieven V

      Thanks Spencer. Same to you 🙂

      • Reply December 20, 2011

        Gusto

         yeah Merry Christmas, happy holidays to you too Lieven. Keep up the great reviews 🙂

    • Reply December 21, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Spencer, 
      Again it’s a very different device. The E7 is a DAC/Amp and the amplifier section is not as powerful as the Zo. Not to mention the SoundVektor and contouring features. 

  • Reply December 21, 2011

    juiceb0x

    ” Obviously it would’ve been better if they can use higher quality components so you don’t lose the detail level and the frequency extension, but that would probably make the Zo a $500-$1000 device. ”

    Spot on. Sometimes I prefer the bang the Zo brings to the table, but sometimes I like my detail,  soundstage, and other little things the Zo actually takes away to give me that bang. 

    As a fun device though, I definitely say it is worth it. Especially if you are a casual listener and listen to a lot of bass heavy music.

    • Reply December 21, 2011

      Mike

      Yes it’s not a high detail device but I don’t think they designed it to be like that. It’s definitely a lot of fun. 

  • Reply December 21, 2011

    Syakir Zainol

    Hi Mike,

    How is this when paired with a typical dark Senn?

    • Reply December 21, 2011

      Mike

      I actually like it with the HD580 even.

  • Reply December 21, 2011

    Cce121

    Hi Mike,

    Are you going to review an O2 amp? It’s around the price of cmoy without enclosure and ac supply. =)
    Interested in how it compares to other under $100 amps…

    Regards,
    cce

    • Reply December 21, 2011

      Mike

      Hi,
      Yes definitely. It’s going to be the O2 from JDSLabs, and the final price I heard will be over $100.

  • Reply December 23, 2011

    Bulmanxxi

    How do you control volume?  Could it be used with an LOD?  Thanks.

    • Reply December 23, 2011

      Mike

      You can control volume with the same multi-function toggle control that you use to change the contour. 

  • Reply December 23, 2011

    Bowei Zhao

    Hello Mike, how would you compare this to the PA2V2? I am in the field for a budget pocket amplifier. I like clarity in music, but also like the bass. I have an Ultrasone HFI 580 and Shure SRH 440. I am looking for that new edge in my music. My E5 broke. Would the ZO2 be a better investment than the PA2V2? 

    I listen to Eminem, Linkin Park, Lady Gaga, Skillet, Nickleback, Lil Wayne, etc (mainstream)

    • Reply December 23, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Bowei, 

      Due to the SoundVektor and the contour functions, the Zo is really a different kind of a device than regular amplifiers. The way it renders sound is a little different but in a very good and pleasing way. 

      Now if you happen to like bass, and with those music, I suggest you give the Zo a try. 

      • Reply December 23, 2011

        Bowei Zhao

        Would this be more worth it than the PA2V2? What about amplification power? Is it higher than the PA2v2’s. Do you have a definite opinion on PA2V2 vs the ZO2?

        • Reply December 23, 2011

          Mike

          Bowei,
          You should not have to worry about amplification power as the two amps should be powerful enough for your headphones.
          My definite opinion is this:

          • Reply December 23, 2011

            Bowei Zhao

            O so the ZO2 actually has two amps in it? Ok, I don’t have too much money to spend and would like to just get a new good amp 🙂 the Cirrus Logic CS4398 in my ipod touch with an LOD should suffice i guess.

            • Reply December 23, 2011

              Mike

              No what I mean is that the two amplifier, either the PA2V2 or the Zo should suffice for your headphones.

  • Reply December 27, 2011

    Michael

    Hey Mike, how did you like these paired with your Superlux’s HD661?  Are they a good fit for each other?

    • Reply December 27, 2011

      Mike

      Yes they are a good pairing. The Zo adds a nice mid and lows body to the HD661, making it sound fuller on the lows. 

      • Reply December 31, 2011

        Michael

        Do you know if it will get rid of the grainyness of songs?

        • Reply December 31, 2011

          Mike

          If the grain is on the recording, probably won’t be too efficient.

  • Reply December 27, 2011

    Davorin Stajsic

    I love my ZO2. Currently using it with the already bassy Crossfade LP, so I can’t really use anything over yellow contour setting. Can’t wait until I get HD598’s!

    • Reply December 29, 2011

      Mike

      Good to hear that, Davorin. 

  • Reply December 30, 2011

    F-stop

    Anyone paired the ZO2 with Shure Srh940’s? As these are very detailed cans, wondering if the sound might smooth out some for casual music listening vs. critical audio engineering work? Mike, when you say “loss of detail” do you mean just in the top high frequency range, or what? THANKS for the review, been considering this product for awhile. Also use UE TripleFi 10’s and AT m50’s–any pairing experience/suggestions with these monitors and the Shure 940’s with the Zo2?

    • Reply December 31, 2011

      Mike

      Hi F-Stop,
      The Zo should help to smooth out the SRH940 for casual listening, if that’s what you’re asking. The loss of detail is real detail loss, across the frequencies. I think the Zo should be good with the UE TF10s and the M50.

  • Reply December 31, 2011

    derpatron

    To Mike (or anyone, really), has anyone tried the ATH-M50 with the Zo2, with really bassy music? Does it compete with the ATH-PRO700MK2’s bass? And if it does, what are they like with the ZO2? Thanks!

    • Reply December 31, 2011

      Mike

      Hi,
      The M-50 won’t be able to match the Pro700Mk2’s bass regardless of amplification.

  • Reply December 31, 2011

    Anonymous

    How does the Zo and ipod, together, compare with the hifiman 801?

    • Reply January 2, 2012

      Mike

      Hi,
      In terms of source quality, the HM-801 is far superior. However the Zo does have its own specialty which is the SoundVektor and the Contour settings which the HM-801 doesn’t have.

  • Reply January 2, 2012

    James Hong

    hello, im new to the audiophile world, ive read your reviews both on the pro700mk2 and the zo. Do you think it’d be a good match to pair the two for bass?

    • Reply January 2, 2012

      Mike

      James,
      Maybe a little too much bass with that pairing. You really should try the Pro700Mk2 first. I don’t think you’ll feel it lacking bass at all.

      • Reply January 2, 2012

        James Hong

        lmfao! thank you, do u think i wud need an amp driving it out of an ipod? im on a budget around the same price as the zo2

        • Reply January 3, 2012

          Mike

          Yes you would need an amp for the Pro700 Mk2. Try the Fiio E10. 

  • Reply January 3, 2012

    Vuk

    Hi Mike, im currently searching for a portable amp to power my pro 900’s. So far I’ve narrowed it down to the Zo2 and FiiO e17. Which one would you recommend?

    • Reply January 3, 2012

      Mike

      Go with the Zo, unless you need the E17’s DAC functions. 

  • Reply January 9, 2012

    TheOneInYellow

    Hi Mike, I am a long time lurker and obsessive reader of your blog. (I also apologise for this, slightly, TL;DR post).

    Now, I am a long time user of JDS Labs cMoyBB amps, and currently own two, the cMoyBB v2.01, and a Custom cMoyBB v2.02 amp (link below).
    Earlier this week, I decided to go ahead, trust John Seaber (and his employee, Nick), and bought the c421 amplifier with the AD8620 opamp installed; I will be receiving this very, very soon (early next week, I hope…!?!).
    What can I say, John is awesome, and I love his amps (even if I got into trouble with the authorities at a ferry port a few years ago; nice,then, that one of the security guards knew about cMoy amps)!

    What was the reason I bought a new amplifier when I already had a great one, custom built by John himself from email exchanges in 2009, used to power my Etymotic Research ER-6i’s (and at the time my Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5 Pro’s, until I lost one of the earbuds at the end of 2009…  🙁 … )?
    I bought the Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 Pro’s for £109.99 discount deal from Amazon.co.uk (Amazon.com is selling them for $170.62). Again, links below.

    Unfortunately, I started reading up about headphones/earphones/audio-related stuff again, and now I am torn between getting the vSonic GR07 from FrogBeats.com (£100.00 + VAT+ free shipping), the FiiO E17 ‘Alpen’ (though I probably won’t buy this/no need currently), and now the Digizoid ZO2.

    So, here is my dilemma concerning portable audio:
    What I want to know form you are your impressions between the ZO2 and the c421, and which you prefer. Indeed, whilst I wait with eager anticipation and dread at your forthcoming c421 review, could you include a comparison with/against the ZO2 as well?
    Could the ZO2 and the c421 (or any other amplifier) be used together? To elaborate, if I were to purchase the Z02, I could connect my iPod to the ZO2 using the FiiO L9 LOD, then connect that to the c421, then my IEM’s. Is this good/safe/even necessary?

    On a slightly different topic but still regarding the ZO2; I can’t use my speakers properly due to poor room acoustics,and I prefer
    money spent on headphones/earphones that can give me greater
    bang-for-buck (pound sterling) and greater audio nirvana than treating
    my room.
    The thing is, could the ZO2 be used to improve my speakers SQ? From what I read it can do this, so again, is this sensible, and how would I
    go about doing this?
    I doubt I could use the ZO2 in my current desktop set-up, but I am interested.

    Here is my desktop rig as it stands if it helps:

    foobar2000 WASAPI > Asus Xonar D2x > ZuAudio PIVOT 3.5mm to RCA cable > NuForce Icon > AKG K 701’s/IEM’s or JohnBlue AudioArt JB3 speakers

    Thank you for your time, and I really look forward to your future reviews, especially the c421!

    TheOneInYellow
    ^_^

    Links as promised 😀
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/252802/review-cmoy-headphone-amp-bass-boost-edition/180#post_8024873

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/587208/amazon-uk-usa-cyber-monday-boxing-day-ue-triple-fi-10-pro-deals

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ultimate-Ears-Triple-10-Earphones/dp/B000JFJDAE

    http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Ears-TripleFi-Isolating-Earphones/dp/B0019RBJOE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324915835&sr=8-1

    • Reply January 9, 2012

      TheOneInYellow

      Oops, small error, I own the cMoyBB v2.00 and a Custom cMoyBB v2.02. I have never owned the cMoyBB v2.01.
      Again, small error, but it needs to be corrected for my own sanity 😉

    • Reply January 9, 2012

      Mike

      Hey excellent long post there. So basically it’s between the C421 and Digizoid Zo? 

      There have been many questions asked about the Zo vs , and the fact is that it’s hard for me to make that comparison. If I was talking about two portable amps, I can make comments about one being dark, having wider soundstage, more bass, etc. But the selling point of the Zo, I believe is the SoundVektor and the adjustable contours, both of which are not available in any portable amps I know. The SoundVektor works and so is the adjustable contours. 

      On the other hand, if I was talking purely amplifier performance, surely something like the C421 is simply better. You get better detail level, more frequency extension top and bottom, better articulation, better soundstage width/depth/image and so on. But then I can only make that comparison based on the amplifier performance, not Z02 vs C421 as complete products. I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. 

      • Reply January 10, 2012

        TheOneInYellow

        Dear Mike,

        Thank you for your reply, and yes, I have a bad habit of writing long posts. :p

        As I said, I had already placed an order for the c421 (Jan 4th ’12 I believe) with the recommended AD8620 opamp, though after reading your preview on FB, the OPA2227P could have been a better choice (on the other hand, my JDS Labs Custom cMoyBB v2.02 has the OPA2227P, so this will be good for my future review on Head-Fi!).
        Based on your reply, I am happy that I purchased the C421, so again, thank you!

        The only real reason I asked was simply due to the interest of the Zo2, and if it was worthy to purchase as a ‘fun toy’. I don’t think I would have purchased it this month, as I am seriously thinking about getting custom moulds ear sleeves (tips) from ACS UK, or purchasing the vSonics GR07 (link below).
        Truth be told, I would like to know the prices of Unique Melody’s re-shelling of the TF10’s; I want to know how much will it cost to get either the TF10x6 and the TF10x8 reshells, from which I can judge if I can save up and get my TF10’s re-shelled.

        I am also highly interested in getting the Objective2 amp for home listening later this year. At the moment, I prefer JDS Labs take on the open-source amp (brand and aesthetics), though Epiphany Acoustics UK also make one, under the name EHP-O2, and sell it cheaply for £100 (but the delivery cost might be a little higher; link below).
        Again, as I wait for your review of the C421, I also wait for the JDS Labs O2 review. Indeed (again), if you could review the Epiphany Acoustics EHP-02, then that would certainly help readers choose what characteristics too look for if thining about getting NwAvGuy’s proof-of-concept (and controversial :O ) amplifier from different vendors/brands/DIY stores.
        In other words, do you think I should get JDS Labs O2 amplifier (Assembled) for my desktop rig instead of established, semi-expensive, branded amps, such as the NuForce Icon 2/Amp/HDP, Audinst Amp-Hp, something from Schiit Audio, something that I have forgotten or have not read yet…?

        I have much more questions, such as will you review Earsonic and vSonic IEM’s (SM3 v2 and GR07 respectively), would you review the very cheap FiiO RC-UE1 Earphone Replacement Cable, how about reviews or previews of Sleek Audio’s new range of IEM’s/CIEM’s, a more in-depth review of UM re-shelling of IEM’s such as the TF10’s, and other such questions.
        But I shall leave it at that for now. Well, I say this, but the UM re-shelling and the FiiO RC-UE1 are something I would like you to review very much. 😉

        I just want my c421 with the AD8620 ASAP, but I am very curious as to how far I can push budget purchases to create a fairly decent audio experience. Right now, the AKG K 701/TF10’s used in conjunction with the C421 (and maybe use the C421 with my NuForce Icon) will boost my audio set-up considerably.

        Kind regards,

        TheOneInYellow

        Links:
        http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=vsonic%20gr07%20frogbeats&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCgQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fshop.frogbeats.com%2Fvsonic-gr07&ei=SyQLT4bePM2j-gao4_zOAQ&usg=AFQjCNF5UBnw9KEplvaihR_l7bZazDOiPg&cad=rja

        http://epiphany-acoustics.co.uk/our-products/ehp-o2-portable-audio-headphone-amplifier/

        http://www.fiio.com.cn/product/index.aspx?MenuID=020303

        http://www.earsonics.com/SM3%20engl.htm

        • Reply January 10, 2012

          Mike

          Well, interesting suggestion there. I will try to email Epiphany and see if they would send me a sample so I can do a comparison to the JDS O2.

          I think for a desktop solution the Schiit Asgard is still better than the O2.

          As for IEMs, I haven’t plan to do anything on that area. I’m trying to focus on headphones for now.

          • Reply January 11, 2012

            TheOneInYellow

            Dear Mike,

            Thanks again for the reply. 😀

            First, just to let you know, I have received my c421’s today (yay!!!), and its truly an amazing amplifier! I have been using my K 701’s so far with them (BB on for trip-hop, electronica, metal, industrial, and rock; BB off for classical pieces and soundtracks), and this amp is something else. So far, my NuForce Icon’s headphone amp is no match to the c421, and
            both my K 701’s and the TF10’s work wonderfully with the c421’s too!

            Mike, I am happy that you have read taken my considerations/suggestions (thank you!), and I hope that Epiphany Acoustics contact you back. Your Objective2 review would be great if you can have these two amps, based on similar designs, reviewed and compared against each other.

            As for your suggestion for desktop amps, unfortunately, price is a major factor in everything I get, and I need to make sure I can get the best out of small purchases. The £109.99 TF10’s were a great purchase, as was my c421. I did add the FiiO L9 & RC-UE1’s (still yet to receive), Comply foam tips, and some other stuff which pushes my total cost of the last three weeks to about <£300.
            £300 alone would have gotten me a better DAC or desktop amp, but with what I bought I have exceed my goals of having great audio performance at budget prices.

            For that reason, spending $298.12/£192.51 (from Schiit Audio themselves, cheapest shipping chosen) on the Schiit Asgard is way out of my budget right now, but the JDS Labs Objective2 is well within my budget at £102.21/$158.29 (including shipping, but without a power adapter), and is marginally more expensive than Epiphany Acoustics EHP-02.
            The performance increase of the o2 would go beyond the NuForce Icon and my new c421 right now, and will give me great enjoyment for a long time. I agree that the O2 cannot compete against true desktop amps, but I also see nothing in my price budget, except the 02, that can exceed what I have already.

            Many readers and myself have greatly enjoyed your recent spell of headphones reviews, and we all appreciate the time you take to review them (and other products) and the help/advice you give. Though I love IEM's and reviews of them, I am more than happy to wait until you are ready to review them again. For now, I think I shall put on some music, use my c421's and TF10's, and read your latest review (Goldring Headphones published today!).

            Best regards,

            TheOneInYellow

            ^_^

            • Reply January 11, 2012

              Mike

              Yes if the budget doesn’t allow, the O2 should be excellent. I have gotten in touch with Epiphany, so I should have two O2s to compare to.

        • Reply March 21, 2012

          Amardeep Saund

          hi, which opamp did u get with ur c421 because i also own a pair of tf10s.
          thank you

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Ubaid Saleem

    Hey Mike,

                I’ve been waiting for the ZO2 for a while and I think you did a fairly well review on the device. Just wanted an opinion before I buy this, do you think this would be a good pair up with the AKG 701′ s? I think the added bass of the Zo2 would truly give justice to the brilliant soundstage the 701’s already have, and at the same time filling in that “lack of bass” many have been complaining on the 701’s. I’d really appreciate your opinion on this.

    • Reply January 12, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Ubaid,
      I think the bass boost would help with the K701, but I don’t think that bass is the main issue with the K701 so I don’t know. I think what the K701 needs is a nice desktop amplifier.

  • Reply January 14, 2012

    Brandon

    Hey Mike,

    Don’t know if you will catch this, but I’m going to be using a pair of M-80s with an iPod Classic. I’m having a hard choosing between the cMoy and the ZO. I know the ZO would add bass to the M-80s, but would it change the flat sound of the iPod?

    • Reply January 14, 2012

      Mike

      Brandon,
      What do you mean by the flat sound of the Ipod?

  • Reply January 14, 2012

    Brandon

    Sorry. I came back to rewrite my question because I wasn’t very clear. Basically, I just want to get the best out my headphones while using an iPod. This is where I’m having trouble deciding between the two. I don’t know if I’d benefit more from a standard amp or the ZO. By “flat” sound I mean no EQing. 

    • Reply January 14, 2012

      Mike

      Brandon, 
      Either the Cmoy or the Zo would improve the sound out of the Ipod, but I can’t really say which one is best. Either of them comes with their own unique sound. Somewhat like asking what’s the best car out there. 

      If you use the contour settings on the Zo, it will definitely make alter the treble/mid/bass combination. 

  • Reply January 18, 2012

    Pickcick

    Hi Mike, nice review!
    Quick question, as you said that the ZO is “not a kind” of amp, have you tried by pairing it with other amps? Or will it just overkill? Thanks.

    • Reply January 19, 2012

      Mike

      I wouldn’t pair it with another amp because that would mean double-amping.

  • Reply January 19, 2012

    lavii

    Hi Mike, nice review, can you tell how zo2 amp/bass is as compared to e17 amp/bass.

  • Reply January 23, 2012

    Viet

    Hi Mike,

    After a long wait, my Zo2 rev3 came in today. The sound is very nice, very impressive, definitely an upgrade from my Cmoy 😀 But I have a small problem when using the Zo in low gain with Fiio L3 lod with my iPod, the sound get distorted. As in the Zo guide recommend, low gain should be used for lod while high gain is for headphone out. The Zo work nice with the second config even though the lowest volume level is still a bit too high for my taste. I wonder have you experienced a same problem as mine? My L3 lod is working fine with the Cmoy though. Btw, do you recommend any good, cheap lod for me (The headphone is HD25-1 II)
    Thank you very much,

    • Reply January 24, 2012

      Mike

      Hmmm… my Zo didn’t have the gain selector so I don’t know.. perhaps you have to ask Digizoid on this one. 

      The Fiio LOD is a good cheap LOD, anything else I usually make my own. 

      • Reply January 26, 2012

        Viet

        Hi Mike,

        As I’ve posted on headfi, the fiio L9 came in today and I cannot resist testing it out. The distortion is still there, surprise? It’s much less authority but it’s still there. At first I was like “What’s the heck is going on, am i that bad luck?”, so i pull out my old iPod Nano (2nd generation) to test again and you know what? All the distortion is gone, just left this beautiful, clean, punchy, addictive music (yes, it works with both L3 and L9). My guess so far is maybe that’s the iPod touch (2nd gen) is not fully compatible with the Zo in some way, not the Lod :))
        I wonder whether newer iPod touch model experiences a same problem?

        • Reply January 26, 2012

          Mike

          Sorry can you tell me what your set up is again? I mean with the Zo, the Ipod Nano, and the Fiio L9.

          • Reply January 26, 2012

            Viet

            Briefly, the Zo has some distortion with L3 and L9 (L9 is less authority) when connect to iPod Touch (2nd gen) while both work fine with iPod Nano (2nd gen). So it’s just a little info for anyone getting the same problem as mine sine it’s not the lod causing distortion 🙂

            • Reply January 26, 2012

              Mike

              Okay, right. I didn’t realize you were talking about the LODs. No LODs never cause distortions. Have you checked if you have the EQ turned on on the Ipod?

          • Reply January 26, 2012

            Viet

            All the EQ is turned off, digiZoid support asked me the same thing. I post this because there are some cases on headfi experience distortion between Zo and L3 while L1 is working fine. I try to move bit further by ordering a L9 to test it out 😀

            • Reply January 26, 2012

              Mike

              That’s really odd, but I appreciate you sharing this issue here with us.

  • Reply January 24, 2012

    Zeratul

    How does this compare to the portable amps regarding technicalities and musicality?

    • Reply January 24, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Zeratul, 
      I quoted this from the E17 review (http://www.headfonia.com/the-upgrade-fiio-e17-alpen/): 


      E17 VERSUS DIGIZOID ZO2There have been many questions asked about the Digizoid Zo vs , and the fact is that it’s hard for me to make that comparison. If I was talking about two portable amps, I can make comments about one being dark, having wider soundstage, more bass, etc. But the selling point of the Zo, I believe is the SoundVektor and the adjustable contours, both of which are not available in any portable amps I know. The SoundVektor works and so is the adjustable contours.On the other hand, if I was talking purely amplifier performance, surely something like the Alpen is simply better. You get better detail level, more frequency extension top and bottom, better articulation, better soundstage width/depth/image and so on. But then I can only make that comparison based on the amplifier performance, not Z02 vs Alpen as complete products.”

    • Reply February 6, 2012

      Mike

      FROM THE E17 REVIEW (http://WWW.HEADFONIA.COM/THE-UPGRADE-FIIO-E17-ALPEN/)

      E17 VERSUS DIGIZOID ZO2

      (quoted from one of my comments)

      There have been many questions asked about the Digizoid Zo vs , and the fact is that it’s hard for me to make that comparison. If I was talking about two portable amps, I can make comments about one being dark, having wider soundstage, more bass, etc. But the selling point of the Zo, I believe is the SoundVektor and the adjustable contours, both of which are not available in any portable amps I know. The SoundVektor works and so is the adjustable contours.

  • Reply February 1, 2012

    Anonymous

    Hi Mike! 

    You are on a desert island with your ipod, sennheiser hd25, a fiio l3 lod cable and a solar charging system for your setup. Your ship is sinking and you can save just ONE amplifier from this list: Digizoid ZO, fiio e17, fiio e11, ibasso d0, c421, fiio e6.

    Which one you take and why?

    😀

    • Reply February 2, 2012

      Anonymous

      bump!

    • Reply February 2, 2012

      Anonymous

      Wow dude great question! I’ve got a 4G iPod Touch, Fiio L9, iBasso D-Zero, and Senn HD25-1’s.  It sounds very good for rock and metal for sure, and also quite good for pop/R&B/hip hop.  Mike describes the sound of the D-Zero as a bit “V shaped”, and I would agree, so it’s lacking a bit of warmth in the mids.  But the combined setup I have right now does sound very good.  The bass is present and punchy, though not as overwhelming as something like the Beats headphone line.  The highs are bright enough to sound detailed but not so bright as to be fatiguing or annoying.  Details are good, instrument separation is good, and for a portable closed configuration, the soundstage is decent in width though not especially deep. 

      It’s funny because at various times over the past few months, I’ve also considered most of the amps on your list (C421, e7, e17, ZO, and even briefly conisdered a Headstage Aero) along with the D-zero.  I went with the D-zero because of it’s mostly positive reviews, compact size and weight, price point, and the fact that it bundles a USB DAC as well (though I rarely have need of it).  It would probably be just about perfect if it were slighly warmer in the mids and/or had an optional bass boost (most tracks are fine for bass but a few could use some help).

      That said, I now have a pre-order on a C421 (with the OPA2227 opamp choice as recommended by Mike over the default AD8620), and I can barely wait to get it!  It is a bit larger (especially in thickness) and heavier than the D-Zero, and certainly more expensive and lacks a USB DAC feature.  However it does add an on/off bass boost, and from what Mike has said, comparing it to the amp section of the D-zero, he much prefers the C421.  It’s supposed to be a warmer, fuller-bodied sound.  I’m looking foward to trying it, though to be honest, if I had never read about it, I would probably have been very happy just keeping my D-zero.  It is a great value for sure.

      I’ll let you know more when I get my C421, if you are still undecided by then.  They are supposed to ship sometime this month, if all goes well.

      • Reply February 2, 2012

        Mike

        Yes the Dzero is an incredible package with the slim size, price, and USB DAC feature. Sound wise it’s also solid, it just happens that I like fuller mids. 

    • Reply February 2, 2012

      Mike

      I would definitely go with the C421. Because that’s the one I like the most and IMO the best sound quality.

  • Reply February 26, 2012

    Pickcick

    Hi Mike, how’s the performance of ATH-W1000X if paired with this ZO?
    Appreciate your views. Thanks.

    • Reply February 27, 2012

      Mike

      I would look for a nice desktop amp for the W1000X.

      • Reply February 28, 2012

        Pickcick

        Thanks Mike. 
        I just got the ZO2 today and after having fun with it for 2 hours, I think I can understand your comment above.

  • Reply April 6, 2012

    Fabio_Rocks

    Hey guys I just discovered how to get the Zo sound when i was playing with Ableton Live!
    Just add EQ and COMPRESSION to a song and you get the same Zo sound. That’s the magic. 🙂

  • Reply May 16, 2012

    one

    hi mike…need your feedback here. im currently using pico slim with my jh16. its more punchy with pico slim and details are still there. do you think zo will make a better match with my jh16…cos i like the sub woofer effect actually but im not prepared to compromise my treble and details. pls advise….thks

  • Reply May 16, 2012

    one

    hi mike..need your advice here…presently im using pico slim with my jh16. not much of a different accept its more punchy with pico slim. but now im wondering if i shd get Zo cos i like the sub woofer effect. but im afraid that i might lost my treble and details with Zo with im reluctant. thks

    • Reply May 16, 2012

      Mike

      No I don’t think you’ll lose the treble with the Zo. I just think that the bass may be excessive, but sure give it a try.

      • Reply May 17, 2012

        one

        thanks mike…will reconsider it again…since u mentioned the bass may be excessive…maybe i will just get a jh16+jh3A instead.

  • Reply August 8, 2012

    Zita Lai

    Hi Mike, I am looking for an amp to pair up with my SE425, is Digizoid Zo2 the best choice or do you have any other suggestions? Thanks for your help!

  • Reply August 13, 2012

    Sigve Hølleland

    Mike,
    I have read some threads about double amping with the zo + other amp. They says its amazing etc. Also saying that the zo isnt realy an amp? Can you confirm this?

    • Reply August 13, 2012

      Mike

      Sigve,
      I haven’t really tried double amping with the Zo, but from what it does to my headphones, I can’t see it not having an amplifier inside.

  • Reply December 19, 2012

    Amit

    Hiii mike..I am fan of your column. Can you guide me regarding portable amplifier with sandisk sansa clip zip and ortofon E-Q7? Please..

    • Reply December 19, 2012

      Mike

      Amit,
      Should just go direct with no amp.

      • Reply December 20, 2012

        Amit

        Thanks for reply sir…is there any way to further improve the sound of this setup?? Should I change a player or in-ears?? By the way I’m happy with my setup but just want to explore the sound further..thanks

        • Reply December 20, 2012

          Mike

          A better in ear would be a good way to go.

  • Reply February 13, 2013

    DIGIZOID ZO2 Version 3

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  • Reply November 13, 2013

    STARSTERN

    you wrote ;Obviously it would’ve been better if they can use higher quality components so you don’t lose the detail level and the frequency extension;can you further explain what you meant ,what exactly am I loosing ?
    treble am not loosing as you replied to someone else, ‘so am loosing which ?

    • Reply November 16, 2013

      Mike

      With a higher quality component or amp, you get to hear more detail.

      Sometimes people associate detail with treble presence since generally for first-timers the standard set up they’ve been listening on are usually warm and muffled. So when you introduce treble into the sound (or you boost the treble levels), you hear that extra detail in the cymbals, strings etc and you’re hearing more “detail”. However you can also hear detail in the mids and the bass and usually it takes some practice to be able to hear those mid and bass details.
      So to sum up:
      1. Treble is not detail
      2. Better components let you hear more real detail

      I hope that makes sense, sorry replying to a lot of emails so I’m just throwing my thoughts as they come out.

  • Reply November 17, 2013

    STARSTERN

    exactly ” I fully agree” ,after my own experiment years ago when was struggling to be able to hear a speech of my celebrity , which was recorded at a distance , plus speaker had low pitch voice ,recorded 55 years ago with the old wheels tape equipment , I found that when increase the high end am getting it more clear ,but still after I accomplished to get high end system and headphones ,came to find out that cant leave out the midst as this was part of the sound and with a more detail midst it was even more helpful then highs ,which just give fatigue to the ears very soon ;but the clear midst enable to really hear full words in the lecture ”

    I wonder whether BBE is doing that I.E. to fulfill in the midst and lows

    http://www.bbesonicmax.com/powered-by-bbe/

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