Zanden 5000 Mk.IV/Signature D/A converter & 2000 Premium CD transport Manufacturer's Comment
On behalf of Zanden Audio Systems, Ltd., I would like to express our gratitude to Mr. Fremer for the excellent review. The Model 5000 Signature DAC and 2000 Premium CD transport have been reviewed numerous times, and the response has just been tremendous. Without exception, every reviewer has been overwhelmingly positive. Among digital playback systems, the Zanden combo is something special and must be heard to be believed.
I would also like to apologize to Mr. Atkinson for having sent a unit with some faulty wiring. The 5000S DAC normally measures quite respectably. I'm sure any discrepancies with the manufacturer's specifications will be dispelled by the unit we shipped immediately after being notified.
As Mr. Fremer aptly pointed out, it is very difficult to design good digital equipment, and the answer is not simply higher sampling and bit rates. What are the inherent problems of digital formats? Maybe the only person who understands the requirements of good digital playback is Kazutoshi Yamada. So far, he is the only person to have put a digital audio playback system on the market that addresses them. For nearly 30 years, he has been involved in both the recording and playback of music, and his goal has always been clear: bridge the gap between the live event and recorded music. In fact, Mr. Yamada started out exclusively designing analog components, and his phono stages have received both Class A awards from Stereophile and a Golden Ear award from TAS. Only someone like Mr. Yamada, who understands the strengths and weaknesses of both playback systems, could design a digital audio system like the 5000S DAC and 2000P transport: a system that combines the best aspects of digital and analog.—Eric Pheils, Zanden Audio North America
According to an email I received from Mr. Pheils a week before this issue went to press, the review sample of the 5000S had been manufactured with a wiring fault, that "led to malfunction of the phase inversion switch," which in turn led to the performance of the unit in correct absolute polarity being "severely compromised. This was due to the fact that the miswiring caused an excess of current to flow into the interstage transformer, which controls the polarity and drives the analog filter." It was suggested that had I tested the unit in inverted polarity, which was how Michael Fremer did almost all his auditioning, I would have observed that the unit's measured performance was far superior.
Zanden specifies the 5000S as being non-inverting, which is why I measured it set to that condition. Michael, however, followed the indication of the miswired LED. I must admit that I did not do a complete set of measurements in the DAC's inverting mode. In my defense, however, as the simplest means of inverting signal polarity in a DAC is to do so in the digital domain, where it doesn't run the risk of sonic compromise, it had not crossed my mind that the 5000S would invert phase in the analog circuitry and that its performance would thus be very different in the two conditions. Mea culpa.
Zanden shipped me a second sample of the 5000S but it didn't arrive in time for me to measure the unit and for Michael to compare its sound with that of the original for this issue. We will do both for a Follow-Up to appear next month. In the meantime, I must note that it is this magazine's policy to assume that all samples we are sent for review are representative of the manufacturer's production. I will sometimes postpone publication of a review to investigate possible problems, but that was not possible in this case.—John Atkinson