Zesto Bia 200 Select power amplifier Associated Equipment

Sidebar 2: Associated Equipment

Analog sources: Thorens TD 124 turntable/Jelco 350 S tonearm/EMT TSD 15N MC cartridge; Acoustic Signature Maximus NEO turntable/Acoustic Signature TA-1000 NEO tonearm/Luxman LMC-5 cartridge.
Digital sources: HoloAudio May DAC; Sonore opticalRendu; Roon Nucleus+; Small Green Computer power supply; TRENDnet switch; Apple iPad mini.
Preamplifiers: Shindo Labs Allegro (2), Sugden LA-4 line; Tavish Audio Design Adagio phono preamplifier.
Power amplifiers: Shindo Haut Brion, Pass Labs XA-25.
Loudspeakers: DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96, Spendor BC1.
Cables: Interconnects: Triode Wire Labs Spirit II (RCA), Analysis Plus Silver Apex (RCA, Neutrik. Speaker: Analysis Plus Silver Apex, Auditorium 23 (bananas). AC: Triode Wire Labs Obsession NCF.
Accessories: Pro-Ject VC-S2 ALU Record Cleaning Machine; Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner Pro; Hunt Mark 6 Carbon Fiber Record Cleaning Brush; IsoTek EVO3 Aquarius line conditioner; Salamander five-tier rack (2); IKEA Aptitlig bamboo chopping boards (under turntable, preamp, power amps); mahogany blocks (2" × 2" × 0.5") under cutting boards.
Room: 10' × 12', wood slat on plaster walls.—Ken Micallef

bhkat's picture

Measurements that askew could indicate something happened during shipping. Zesto should send another amp to be measured.

Bacheaudio's picture

I dont see terrible measurement, listen this amp a lot of times, good sound and design , good job Ken

bhkat's picture

Seriously, you don't see that the right channel has 20dB more distortion than the left?

JD85's picture

I heard some bigger Zesto amps at the Toronto audio show and found them wonderful - some of the best tube amps I've ever heard. I had to sit down and stay a while. In a show filled with bad sound, Zesto made great music.

georgehifi's picture

"I dont see terrible measurement"

If you can't hear + - 8db!!! (or even half that) of frequency variations from flat, your either deaf or not an audiophile.

Cheers George

ok's picture

..measure significantly different, something is obviously broken. It could be tube wear, loose logistics, poor quality control; some people might hear it, some others might not; it doesn't matter. This is not what the manufacturer intended and must be fixed asap. That's what measurements is all about - hardware failure alert, not subjective experience prediction.

JHL's picture

...as you put it, ironically becomes just that when people seize on an artifact without correlation in the actual sound of the device.

When data biases us we've lost perspective. Then we have *subjective prediction of experience* without known correlation and even without the suggestion of what that sound would be. That's subjective.

Yes, ideally the amp should be adjusted or the tubes replaced, but in any meaningful perspective this is another example of how data serves unconnected assumptions and does not serve sound, even if, in cases like this, apparently its purported benefits are virtually imperceptible.

No? The review itself describes real sound as it's altered by the aspects of the same product that actually influence it. Tube type, output circuit type, and so on, as it commonly is when evaluating these sorts of devices. Why? Because people consistently hear their objective sound and have for years. I suspect it's why makers include them.

These comments push that aside. I think we have it backwards.

JRT's picture

An alternative to this amplifier under review would be to use neutral sounding, low noise, low distortion, load invariant amplifiers to drive the loudspeakers, in combination with a tube-audio preamplifier providing tube-audio sonic qualities while driving the resistive (non-reactive) high impedance inputs of those amplifiers.

It was mentioned that this Zesto Bia 200 Select two channel stereo power amplifier has an MSRP of $15.9k, which is a budget that could accomodate some interesting alternatives.

For example, the "Bottlehead BeePre2 300B" stereo preamplifier kit is priced at $1529. There are some worthwhile optional upgrades, including the "Bee2Quiet Stepped Attenuator / Constant Current Source" for $349, and the "BeePre2 Output Upgrade – Hybrid Shunt Regulator and Low Impedance Balanced Output" for $249. Including those upgrades brings the kit subtotal to $2127. The aforementioned $15.9k budget could afford some very high quality tubes, including new Western Electric 300B direct heated triodes, which are available at $1.5k for a matched pair, sold direct from Western Electric. Complete with other items and consumables needed to finish the kit, end cost could be under $5k, or not much more than that if you include the costs of an inexpensive temperature controlled soldering iron and some basic hand tools.

Early hifi audio had at least some of its roots in DIY and in kit assembly. Some of the contributing writers at Stereophile have sometimes embraced, or at least have not completely eschewed DIY and kit assembly efforts, though the magazine articles and website content have not included more than a very little of that.

That "Bottlehead BeePre2 300B" is a preamplifier kit, and is not a stereo power amplifier, however it leaves almost $11k in the budget for power amplifiers and XLR terminated balanced interconnect cables.

Benchmark Media's AHB2 bridgeable two channel stereo amplifier with balanced inputs is available through retailers, or is available direct for under $3.3k each. The AHB2 has received very positive review in Stereophile, exhibiting neutral, clean, load invariant output. There is enough room in the budget for two of those, at under $6.6k for the pair. Each could be bridged as mono block amplifiers, and located near the loudspeakers, using balanced interconnection cables (XLR terminated shielded twisted pair or shielded twisted starquad cable) and short loudspeaker cables.

That brings the total to approximately $5k+$6.6k= $11.6k, not including the cables. That leaves $15.9k-$11.6k= $4.5k remaining in the budget, unspent. And it includes a pair of Western Electric 300B direct heated triodes in the signal path.

There are many other alternative possibilities within this budget, and I wanted to highlight at least one of those.

JRT's picture

Western Electric 300B direct heated triode vacuum tubes, matched pair:

Bottlehead BeePre2 300B two channel stereo preamplifier kit:

Bee2Quiet Stepped Attenuator / Constant Current Source upgrade for the BeePre2:

Hybrid Shunt Regulator and Low Impedance Balanced Output, upgrade for the BeePre2:

Benchmark Media AHB2 power amplifier: