Zanden vs. Nagra

nirodha

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Aug 11, 2010
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Hi all, my all Nagra set combined with Elrod Master series and Kef 207/2 is singing like a nightingale :). However, it is hard to forget my experience with Zanden pre/power combination and Magico some years ago at a high-end show in Hilversum. Awesome!!! Afterwards I heard a Zanden combination a couple of times (Classic and Modern range) and every time they performed stellarly. My question is, has anyone ever compared a Nagra pre-amp (in my case the Jazz) with the Zanden pre (3000 or 3100)? And if so, what were your findings? Thank you all!
 

Anchorman

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Niroda,

I haven't compared the respective Pre's, but it is a thought that had occurred. I do have the Zanden DAC (their latest version currently available) and I can say it hit the Nagra Tube DAC (then called the HD DAC when tested with MPS and VFSs) out of the park. And I'm not even partnering the Zanden with it's proper cousin, the 2000P CD player.

I didn't buy the Nagra (and I love the brand) because at the time and for nearly 3X what my (then) existing Nagra DAC cost new at point of replacement (I had it for years, btw) it was barely an audible advance and I'm typically someone who once smitten has to buy it whatever the cost and howevere small the improvement. The Tube DAC has all the usual Nagra qualities and sonically was transparent, detailed with a palpably large sound stage; but it was about par with my existing Nagra DAC from years before. The Zanden was at least as transparent offered a wider, deeper sound stage, a more filigreed presentlation of notes, attack and decay all wrapped up in very holographic image (something my Nagra VPS excel at too). I understand that this character is endemic to the whole Zanden range, and it would make sense that such is the case.

Now, this was all strictly red book CDs so, perhaps with higher rez content it may have better outshone my original Nagra DAC but from my experience of HiRez, I still doubt it would be anywhere close to the Zanden 5000S. Here's the thing, when Nagra downgared the HD DAC to Tube DAC status and launched the impressive (but I have not heard) HD DAC (and Pre line) along with improved mechanical isolation, that didn't surprise. The Nagre Tube DAC just didn't seem like the best they could achieve. Nagra is faced with escalating costs just like everyone and additionally, a hugely appreciating currency and these have to be a factor in their ability to position product pricing. For me, the Tube DAC was more a lightly rodded version of the one that went before. Like changing to a new model of motor car. There are of course improvements with the passage of time, but the price is perhaps similar to that before subject to inflation and the changes reflect a gradual advancement. Get in to areplacement model at 3x the price and that changes expectations.

Here's another angle though, you can get service and excellent service from Nagra. It's a substantive business with years of fine heritage and teams of skilled and passionate engineers. Zanden is run by Yamada-san. No doubt a skilled engineer with a passion for music and art. But as I understand it, he is one artisanal guy who might want to retire at some point. For this reason, my investment is limited to the 5000S that owes me very little in the way of cash.

A.
 
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andromedaaudio

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I can only compare the old Nagra PLP with that flimsy battery pack power supply which sounded completely constrained dynamic wise .
I d be very carefull with battery pack power supplies dynamic wise.
I have been to that same demo , i think you mean zanden 3000 / 9600 on magico Q 7.
Those Zanden amps are endgame amps , good transparent/ layered dynamic sound .
My XPE and Convergent set up is at least as good though , just different
My XPE speakers run circles around the Q 7.
 
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andromedaaudio

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By the way i think the Kef 207/2 are very good speakers for the money especially the tweeter /high freqs.
You just have to be sure the iirc 90 watt 9600 can drive them properly .
 
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nirodha

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Aug 11, 2010
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Thank you both for your input. Really appreciated. I love my Nagra. Playing with Jazz pre, CDP CD player; both into an MPS (Multiple Power Supply) and the Nagra Classic Amp. The Kefs still outperform a lot of modern designs and I agree, the tweeter and highs are excellent; the bass could do with more control (but I would not like to give up the low frequencies). The Elrod Master Diamond cables are the secret ingredient: they are real components. This being said... the Zanden wowed me as no other piece of equipment. I hope to be able to compare my Jazz with the Zanden 3000 mk.2 this year. The shop to do so is Listening Matters in The Hague. Zanden is their top high-end line. One thing scares me.. Anchorman, I had the same thought: what if Yamada-San retires?!? Maybe I will write to him about this worry. Maybe he has a competent successor?! The same applies to David Elrod. As far as I know he builds all the cables himself. Memo to self: don't waste any time getting the remaining Master Diamonds ;-)
 

nirodha

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Aug 11, 2010
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By the way i think the Kef 207/2 are very good speakers for the money especially the tweeter /high freqs.
You just have to be sure the iirc 90 watt 9600 can drive them properly .
The plan is to go for the Zanden pre-amp 3000, when funds allow it.
 
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andromedaaudio

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The plan is to go for the Zanden pre-amp 3000, when funds allow it.
Go for it i think it will give you a lot of the zanden sound expirience you re looking for .
The stuff has excellent build quality .
The tube power amp will give you another level of speed / dynamics .
But they are indeed not cheap , zanden second hand gear is always among the brands i check myself online.
 
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Ovenmitt

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Nov 21, 2017
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I'm not sure if this is completely germane to the conversation, but maybe it's a useful data point???

Prior to my Nagra HD pre-amp and VPA mono block amps, I owned Aesthetix Callisto Signature preamp (with lots of NOS tubes), and an ART Audio PX 25 SET amp.

I had sent the Aesthetix back to the factory for repair. Since I was without sound, I figured it was a grand time to try some newer gear in my system to see where things stood. I contacted a local dealer to see if I could audition the Nagra classic preamp with power supply. This preamp turned out to be an absolute game changer. It easily outperformed the multiple chasis Aesthetix. When a friend and I tried it in his Wilson, ARC ref 10 system, we both preferred the Nagra Classic to his ARC as well.

Then I made the mistake of auditioning the HD preamp. This was again multiple degrees better than the classic.... All to say, my bank account suffered greatly. I have never heard Zanden equipment but it looks really nice. So, all with a grain of salt.

Another point - the Nagra HD preamp seems to have a very good synergy with the VPA amps - something one would expect but worth mentioning none the less.
 

nirodha

Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2010
400
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I'm not sure if this is completely germane to the conversation, but maybe it's a useful data point???

Prior to my Nagra HD pre-amp and VPA mono block amps, I owned Aesthetix Callisto Signature preamp (with lots of NOS tubes), and an ART Audio PX 25 SET amp.

I had sent the Aesthetix back to the factory for repair. Since I was without sound, I figured it was a grand time to try some newer gear in my system to see where things stood. I contacted a local dealer to see if I could audition the Nagra classic preamp with power supply. This preamp turned out to be an absolute game changer. It easily outperformed the multiple chasis Aesthetix. When a friend and I tried it in his Wilson, ARC ref 10 system, we both preferred the Nagra Classic to his ARC as well.

Then I made the mistake of auditioning the HD preamp. This was again multiple degrees better than the classic.... All to say, my bank account suffered greatly. I have never heard Zanden equipment but it looks really nice. So, all with a grain of salt.

Another point - the Nagra HD preamp seems to have a very good synergy with the VPA amps - something one would expect but worth mentioning none the less.

I totally agree with you about the Nagra quality. I came from Spectral, MIT and dCS and went to Nagra. Only one regret... that I didn't do it sooner. Nagra, in its latest generation, bridges solid state and tubes. Enjoy your music :) !
 

nirodha

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Aug 11, 2010
400
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433
Go for it i think it will give you a lot of the zanden sound expirience you re looking for .
The stuff has excellent build quality .
The tube power amp will give you another level of speed / dynamics .
But they are indeed not cheap , zanden second hand gear is always among the brands i check myself online.
It will take some time to get there financially but I hope to compare the Jazz and 3000 sooner. Will keep you posted :) !
 

nirodha

Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2010
400
27
433
I can only compare the old Nagra PLP with that flimsy battery pack power supply which sounded completely constrained dynamic wise .
I d be very carefull with battery pack power supplies dynamic wise.
I have been to that same demo , i think you mean zanden 3000 / 9600 on magico Q 7.
Those Zanden amps are endgame amps , good transparent/ layered dynamic sound .
My XPE and Convergent set up is at least as good though , just different
My XPE speakers run circles around the Q 7.
Saw the XPE speakers. Impressive! Are you going to get them reviewed somewhere?
 

andromedaaudio

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No not in the immediate future .
First of all the market for a 250 kg a piece large speaker design is small
In about 1-2 years time i hope to be more or less retired investment wise
The plan is to move back to holland and buy a nice commercial space and open up shop for 2 days a week .
Where they will be for everybody to hear , incl some smaller designs and passive subwoofers
And do some advertizing /offer them for review / go do a munich show may be etc

Ron and kedar visited me if you google mono and stereo andromeda audio design you ll find an impression.

If you google illusion loudspeaker / andromeda audio design you ll find a HVT review and a alpha audio review of my earlier mdf designs
 
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jfrech

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Thank you both for your input. Really appreciated. I love my Nagra. Playing with Jazz pre, CDP CD player; both into an MPS (Multiple Power Supply) and the Nagra Classic Amp. The Kefs still outperform a lot of modern designs and I agree, the tweeter and highs are excellent; the bass could do with more control (but I would not like to give up the low frequencies). The Elrod Master Diamond cables are the secret ingredient: they are real components. This being said... the Zanden wowed me as no other piece of equipment. I hope to be able to compare my Jazz with the Zanden 3000 mk.2 this year. The shop to do so is Listening Matters in The Hague. Zanden is their top high-end line. One thing scares me.. Anchorman, I had the same thought: what if Yamada-San retires?!? Maybe I will write to him about this worry. Maybe he has a competent successor?! The same applies to David Elrod. As far as I know he builds all the cables himself. Memo to self: don't waste any time getting the remaining Master Diamonds ;-)

The are both great brands. I think system matching is key here to. The Zanden has a little more beauty which may have been a great combo with the Magico's.

Given your set up, I would not switch brands. You have a killer good set of electronics. Do you have the Nagra VFS base under your Jazz/CDP? Another thing to consider is upgrading your Nagra MPS to the new Nagra Classic Power supply. It's a serious upgrade and positions you for a Nagra Jazz to Classic preamp move one day also. I traded my Nagra MPS for the Classic Power supply on my Nagra VPS phono stage. It's not subtle. A Nagra dealer should be able to loan you one hopefully for audition. (hint: Only the MPS will be going back). Good luck !
 
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nirodha

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Aug 11, 2010
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Thank you for your answer! I am very happy with my set :) Unfortunately, I am also an audiophile ;-) We will see. Just have a big softspot for the dedication of Yamada-san ánd the looks of his products. I had the VFS but impoved on them by a design of my own (also incorporating the Alpha-gel used by Nagra itself). Keep enjoying your music and I will keep you posted.
 
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nirodha

Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2010
400
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433
No not in the immediate future .
First of all the market for a 250 kg a piece large speaker design is small
In about 1-2 years time i hope to be more or less retired investment wise
The plan is to move back to holland and buy a nice commercial space and open up shop for 2 days a week .
Where they will be for everybody to hear , incl some smaller designs and passive subwoofers
And do some advertizing /offer them for review / go do a munich show may be etc

Ron and kedar visited me if you google mono and stereo andromeda audio design you ll find an impression.

If you google illusion loudspeaker / andromeda audio design you ll find a HVT review and a alpha audio review of my earlier mdf designs

I wish you all the luck in your enterprise! Hope to hear your speakers in the future.
 
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Anchorman

Member
May 12, 2020
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I'm not sure if this is completely germane to the conversation, but maybe it's a useful data point???

Prior to my Nagra HD pre-amp and VPA mono block amps, I owned Aesthetix Callisto Signature preamp (with lots of NOS tubes), and an ART Audio PX 25 SET amp.

I had sent the Aesthetix back to the factory for repair. Since I was without sound, I figured it was a grand time to try some newer gear in my system to see where things stood. I contacted a local dealer to see if I could audition the Nagra classic preamp with power supply. This preamp turned out to be an absolute game changer. It easily outperformed the multiple chasis Aesthetix. When a friend and I tried it in his Wilson, ARC ref 10 system, we both preferred the Nagra Classic to his ARC as well.

Then I made the mistake of auditioning the HD preamp. This was again multiple degrees better than the classic.... All to say, my bank account suffered greatly. I have never heard Zanden equipment but it looks really nice. So, all with a grain of salt.

Another point - the Nagra HD preamp seems to have a very good synergy with the VPA amps - something one would expect but worth mentioning none the less.

Thanks Ovenmitt, Pretty useful data point for me. I wondered if all that silent PS and circuit architecture of the HD Pre would be wasted on a relatively straightforward tube design from 1998. Fantastic to hear that is not the case, though I noticed my wallet just sprouted legs and ran off.... Part of me is hoping Nagra launch a VPA successor perhaps with a more sophisticated power supply and more power. It's beguiling amp. I was running four at one point bi-amped. I have more space and airconditioning now, so it might be something I return too...
 
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jfrech

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Sep 3, 2012
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Thanks Ovenmitt, Pretty useful data point for me. I wondered if all that silent PS and circuit architecture of the HD Pre would be wasted on a relatively straightforward tube design from 1998. Fantastic to hear that is not the case, though I noticed my wallet just sprouted legs and ran off.... Part of me is hoping Nagra launch a VPA successor perhaps with a more sophisticated power supply and more power. It's beguiling amp. I was running four at one point bi-amped. I have more space and airconditioning now, so it might be something I return too...

I to have wondered about a VPA successor. I will tell you this latest update on the HD Amps moves it closer to sound of VPA's but with extraordinary power...
 

Anchorman

Member
May 12, 2020
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Thank you jfrech. I hve wondered if the HDA might be the spiritual (mosfet) successor to the VPA. No insurmountable reason to build the HDA as towers yet Nagra did so. It wasn't so long ago that Nagra didn't recognise any need for more than 60 watts. Times change and in any case, you can hear power even if you don't use it. My last Boulder amplifiers exerted such grip it was uncanny. I may try to listen to a set of HDAs...just so long I can keep some tubes somewhere in the system chain...
 
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jfrech

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Sep 3, 2012
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Thank you jfrech. I hve wondered if the HDA might be the spiritual (mosfet) successor to the VPA. No insurmountable reason to build the HDA as towers yet Nagra did so. It wasn't so long ago that Nagra didn't recognise any need for more than 60 watts. Times change and in any case, you can hear power even if you don't use it. My last Boulder amplifiers exerted such grip it was uncanny. I may try to listen to a set of HDAs...just so long I can keep some tubes somewhere in the system chain...

I started off with the HD Amps on my former Robert Koda K10 Preamp. It was a sweet combo. I will say they HA amps exert a same kind of grip you mention above.
 

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