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.
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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