DECWARE OWNERS MANUAL
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MODEL SE84C+
Zen Triode Amplifier
2 watts x 2 or 6 watts x 1
Single-ended Class A stereo amplifier
Manufactured by High Fidelity Engineering Co.
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DECWARE OWNERS MANUAL
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MODEL SE84C+
Locations and function of front control
Manufactured by High Fidelity Engineering Co.
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DECWARE OWNERS MANUAL
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MODEL SE84C+
CHANNEL A
RIGHT INPUT
CHANNEL B
RIGHT INPUT
POWER
SWITCH
CHANNEL A
LEFT INPUT
CHANNEL B
RIGHT INPUT
IEC CONNECTOR
WITH HIDDEN
3 AMP FUSE
FIGURE 2
Location and function of rear controls and jacks
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DECWARE OWNERS MANUAL
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MODEL SE84C+
START UP
After unpacking your Zen amp install the tubes as shown in the pictures above.
ABOUT THE TUBES
Your amp is configured as a single ended triode with a single output tube per channel.
The output tubes can be your favorite EL84/6BQ5 or SV83/6P15P-EV. The amp has been
designed with a common cathode bias circuit o that the two output tubes remain
matched during operation even if you use unmatched output tubes. This concept is also
referred to as “self-balancing” and ensures perfect image focus even as the tubes age.
The small tube in the front of the amplifier is called the input tube and it's purpose is to
raise the input signal to a level sufficient to drive the output tubes. This small dual triode
is handling both channels. You can use either 6N1P or 6922 or 6DJ8 tubes in this
location. This is the tube that will make the the biggest difference in how the amplifier
sounds. Since the signature of each tube is different, even different brands of the same
tube type, using a dual triode is an advantage because it keeps the channels timbre
matched.
The last and largest tube is called the rectifier tube and can be your choice of 5U4, 5AR4,
and even 5Y3GT. This amplifier should not be used with 274B rectifiers without first
being modified by Decware. Trying different rectifier tubes will also change how the
amplifier sounds.
TUBE LIFE
The output tubes are the main tubes that wear out. We ship the amp with premium mil
spec Russian 6P15P-EV tubes with extra thick glass and extended tube life. You can
expect 5000 hours from a set. Tubes in this amp are biased to aprox 45 mils.
As output tubes wear out, they become softer sounding. Best way to tell if you need new
output tubes is to install a new pair and see if the amp sounds stronger. If you hear no
change, put the old tubes back in the amp and try again in 6 months.
Input tubes will usually last through 2 or 3 sets of output tubes, but again having spares
on hand lets you find out any time you want what the status is. Rectifiers can last up to
the life of the amplifier, however they are also the first in line to get hit by power surges
during thunder storms, etc., so they can appear to fail for no reason from time to time.
Always have a spare rectifier on hand. If a rectifier blows, the fuse will blow. Sometimes
rectifiers will simply arc and then work fine. This is not uncommon.
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MODEL SE84C+
Now that you have the tubes installed and know what each one is for, hook your
speakers and source up to the amplifier and turn it on. Be sure to have the volume
control all the way down. After the tubes slowly light up and begin to work (about 20
seconds or so) you can slowly start to raise the volume. If you hear distortion it means
the amp is still warming up. 60 seconds is the official warm up time before you should
panic.
POWER OUTPUT
Your amplifier will drive almost a dead short – meaning that a 2 ohm speaker won't
irritate the amp in any way shape or form. In fact it will like it – a lot. Because of this
unique ability for a single-ended amplifier, it is able to drive every speaker with a good
frequency balance. The issue is never going to be the amplifiers ability to drive a given
speaker but rather how loud it will get and if that volume is satisfactory. Complex, low
efficiency speakers typically have a busy crossover network that is sure to spend a good
portion of the first watt into heat before it ever reaches the drivers. With only a couple
watts to work with, you don't want to waste any power into heat if you don't have to.
Ideal speakers are generally simpler designs with higher efficiencies.
INPUT SENSITIVITY
This is the amount of signal required to get full output from the amplifier – or put
another way – how much signal it takes the get the amp to clip. For whatever reason
the industry has used 1 volt as the standard requirement to bring an amplifier to full
power and this is fine. The standard output of CD players, DACs, and most line level
sources is 2 volts. We designed the Zen amps to use the full 2 volts in order to come to
full power. This means that with a CD player hooked directly to the amplifier you would
be able to turn the amplifier volume all the way up and reach the power limit just at the
onset of clipping. This makes it very difficult to clip (distort) the amplifier and
consequently the amplifier has the world's most graceful clipping – so much so in fact
that many people don't even know when or if the amp is distorting when they have it
turned all the way up.
CLIPPING
The first thing everyone is going to do when setting up a Zen amp with a given set of
speakers is find out what the max volume is going to be and if that volume is going to be
enough to satisfy. Because the clipping characteristics of this amplifier are so polite it
can be hard to hear exactly when the amp is beginning to run out of power (clip) so here
is a secret way to tell:
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MODEL SE84C+
Turn off the lights and look into the output tubes. There are some small square holes in
the gray plates inside the tube where if you look through them you can see a blue glow
on the internal grids of the tube. This blue plasma is your visual clipping indicator.
Simply find the line of sight that lets you see the blue glow inside the tube and raise the
volume of the amp until you see the glow start to flicker with the bass line of the music.
This is the max clean volume of the amplifier without distortion. You'll likely find this to
be at somewhere past ¾ on the volume control and on some softer CD's you may find it
to be all the way up.
BIAS SWITCH
The switch as seen in the second picture in this manual exists for one reason only – to
change the sound of the amplifier, giving you two possible sound signatures at any given
point while listening. The switch changes the bias current of the input tube that results
in a more laid back signature vs. a more pronounced dynamic and presence. No one
agrees on which way sounds best – so it is a function of the source and or preamp you
use as well as the type of speakeras you have that will determine which way will sound
best to you.
The switch can be operated while listening without damage to the amplifier or speakers
even though you will hear significant pop when the switch is changed. Don't worry this is
normal. At 2 watts the amplifier is incapable of blowing up a speaker (even tweeters).
On a similar note, the amplifier itself is impossible to blow up too. For example; shorting
the speakers wires together will have no effect. Leaving the speakers unhooked from the
amplifier, while usually death to most tube amps, will also have no effect. The output
transformers are oversized, and 2 watts is not enough to damage them.
OUTPUT TRANSFORMERS and IMPEDANCE
The Zen amp uses proprietary transformers. It's output transformers are wound on grain
oriented silicon steel and nickel cores. They are the result of a few years of R&D and are
one of the substantial secrets behind this amplifies huge success.
A couple things are different when compared to most other tube amps. First the outputs
(secondary windings that connect to the speakers) are floating with no reference to
ground. The Zen amp will work in either configuration meaning that if you did connect
the negative speaker jack of each channel together, or each to ground, the amplifier wil
still work fine. The advantage of the floating outputs is realized in the holographic way
the amplifier images.
The acceptable speakers should fall between 2 and 8 ohms. There is no need to worry
about changing the amp when changing speaker loads.
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DECWARE OWNERS MANUAL
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MODEL SE84C+
It is also possible to get excellent results from some 16 ohm high efficiency drivers as
well. However, if you try this and find the amp to sound a bit weak or thin, we can
change the output transformers to what we call the “EX” transformers that will target the
amps power band towards a higher impedance adding power, weight and body to high
impedance speakers.
Just remember that in the stock configuration the amp will increase in power as the
speaker load drops. That means if you take a pair of 4 ohm speakers and 8 ohm
speakers of the same efficiency, the 4 ohm speakers are going to get louder on a Zen
amp than the 8 ohm speakers will.
Unlike a solid state amplifier, it is OK to short the speaker wires together accidentally or
on purpose.
BRIDGING THE AMP INTO MONO
The SE84C+ can be bridged mono without the typical smearing you get from bridging
most stereo tube amps. Using two of these amps, one per channel, will give you 6 watts
per channel instead of 2 watts. Getting back to speakers for a minute, the stereo amp
by itself will actually drive 2 ohm speakers and like it. In fact some manufactures have
made 2 ohm speakers just for this amp. If, however, you bridge the amps into mono it
is best to have speakers rated at 4 ohms or higher (all way up to 16 ohms is OK).
To bridge the amp into mono you simply series the output jacks. To do this, take a piece
of wire and connect the left positive speaker jack to the right negative speaker jack. The
two remaining jacks will be used to power the speaker.
Also, it is important to feed a signal into both the left and right input jacks
simultaneously. This can easily be done with a Y-Adapter cable with two male RCA jacks
on one end and a single female RCA jack on the other.
BREAK-IN
During the first few hours of days with your amplifier you will no doubt wonder about
break-in, if for no other reason than hearing about it constantly every time you read
about new amplifiers.
If you're new to tube gear the amp will sound so good right out of the box that you will
have a hard time worrying about break-in, so don't.
If you've been around the block a few times, the fastest way to break in the amp is 5
hours on with music and 5 hours off. Repeat this process 5 times. This process will
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MODEL SE84C+
speed the seating of the dielectric in the coupling caps and you can then expect the amp
to bloom in the very near future.
Beyond this, the amplifier will continue to improve and become more and more refined
over the next 200 hours or so. After that, the output transformers and wire will season
with age. That means that an amplifier that is 5 years old will always sound better than
an amplifier that is 1 year old. Yes, it just keeps getting sweeter as time goes by.
WEAK LINKS
Please, if even only for an evening, lift some of the handicaps you've placed on your new
amplifier so you can hear more of it's inner magic. The fidelity of your amplifier is limited
by the weakest sounding link in your system. The quality of your source component and
interconnect cables is of paramount importance because you now have an amplifier so
good it will never become the weak link. You can't spend enough money on a source to
hear how good the amplifier actually is, so each time you upgrade your source the amp
will blow your mind all over again.
Make sure you pull your speakers well out into the room set up in a triangle with the
listening chair. In this arrangement you will be able to hear the music go holographic
with outrageous depth and width. Amuse yourself with how well your speakers
disappear.
Statistically most owners of Zen amps have never heard the read potential and inner
magic the amp is capable of. Because it sounds better than what they had, they stop
exploring. Room acoustics are what create the boundary between potentials with this
amplifier. Even with a 7 figure DAC as your source, you will not get to the magic place
I'm talking about in an un-treated room unless by sheer luck.
It is possible to take a spare bedroom of smallish size and create a dedicated listening
space that literally sounds like it's 8 times larger than it really is. Imagine perfectly
rendered 3D space throughout as if your walls didn't exist. If more people realized this is
possible with diffusion and absorption I think you would see a lot more treated listening
spaces and a lot less equipement swapping.
MAINTENANCE
Cleaning should be done with the amplifier OFF and at room temperature. Tubes should
be removed prior to cleaning. A damp towel with alcohol is ideal for removing any
smudge marks.
Input jacks can also be cleaned with an alcohol soaked Q-Tip inserted into the jack and
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MODEL SE84C+
rotated. If the Q-Tip comes out with dark stains on it, your jacks were dirty. Jacks can
get dirty after only a single insertion of a non-cleaned interconnect cable. Having clean
connections is important. Finger oils do not help the sound.
Products like Caig DeOxit, ProGold and other contact cleaners/enhancers can also be
used as a part of a regular maintenance program. The volume control should not need
cleaning as the chassis for this amp is sealed to keep dust and smoke out of the inside of
the amplifier.
The amp is self-biasing so there is no maintenance or adjustments to make after you
install new tubes.
POWER CORDS and CONDITIONING
Upgraded power cords can and do make a difference when the overall strength of the
audio chain begins to show a sock power cord as the weak link. We hear nice
improvements with the use of silver/Teflon DHC-1 power cords.
TWEAKS
The biggest thing regarding tweaking the amplifier itself is going to be tubes. Every tube
will sound a bit different. Rolling tubes, in particular the input tube, with your favorite
NOS (New Old Stock) can yield some very synergistic effects. Beyond tubes, a good
power cord and clean power, the only thing left is vibration control. This amp will suffer
from vibration less than most due to the heavy steel it's built from. Things like tube
dampers and high mass stands can further improve focus.
SERVICE and REPAIR
Your amp is covered parts and labor for the lifetime of the original owner. Should it ever
need repair or you just want it checked, contact us or fill out the RA form on our web site
and include it with your amp when you ship. We'll contact you after it has arrived and let
you know what we've found and determine exactly what caused it. So far less than 1%
of Zen amps have required service since the amps were launched in 1998.
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DECWARE OWNERS MANUAL
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MODEL SE84C+
GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR ZEN
Your amplifier comes with a lifetime warranty. Probably one of the only amplifiers in
production that has one. Decware is a small enough company to consider these hand
built amplifiers to be like our pets. We like to keep tabs on them and make sure their
healthy and happy at all times. We don't want to see one get stuffed in a closet and go
unused.
If you're not getting the sound you're after or grow tired of your amp please feel free to
contact us. Talk to Steve (the designer) directly. He is always pleased to offer some
free consulting in the interest of making your stereo sound better. The advise is always
honest even if it means recommending someone else's gear.
There are also over 100 articles written on the web site to this effect and active support
forums for you to meet like minded audiophiles and share experiences.
SPEAKERS
You'll find that if you don't require loud listening levels, the Zen amp will drive most
speakers without issue. Finding speakers that are more efficient will lift this restriction.
We find 94 ~ 96 dB at 1 watt to be ideal for unrestricted playback in medium to larger
size rooms. Decware manufactures a nice selection of ideal speakers for these and other
tube amplifiers. Decware speakers have the speed and openness to really show off what
is possible with this amplifier.
MODIFICATIONS
Your amp was built with top grade audiophile parts and requires no tweaks or upgrades
to improve the sound. When asked, we will often approach improving the sound of your
amplifier by identifying and eliminating weak links in other components so you can hear
what the amp is actually capable of.
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DECWARE OWNERS MANUAL
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MODEL SE84C+
SPECIFICATIONS
Weight
Dimensions
Circuit type
Power output
Input sensitivity
Input impedance
Inputs
Noise /Hum
Response
Feedback
Rectifiers
Outputs
Ground
Interconnect
Signal tube
Transformers
Power
Switches
Biasing
Resistors
Caps
Signal Cap
IEC
Consumption
Input jacks
Output jacks
Chassis
Speakers
Warranty
17lbs
8”H x 6.125” W x 12”D
Single ended class A triode
2.3 watts RMS into 4 ohms
5 watts RMS into 8 ohms bridged
2.0 volts for full output
100K Ohms
2 pair for 2 sources
Less than 1.5 millivolts
20Hz ~ 20kHz
No negative feedback used
5U4
SV83 / EL84
Star ground with silver wire.
Mogami
6N1P / 6922 / 6DJ8
9800 ohm Decware EM406
World voltage compatible 150ma Decware
Silver contacts
Self-biasing
Dale, Vishay
Nichicon, Sprague ATOM
Polyester film
Fused with removable power cord
65 watts
RCA
5-Way binding posts – up to #8 bare wire
Steel with baked on high gloss powder coat
Ideal is 96dB or higher / Minimum is 89dB
Lifetime to original owner
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