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Old 23rd December, 2004, 12:34 PM
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Zalman headphone amp on HiFi review

(Product Images copyright Zalman)


Using the Zalman headphone amplifier with Hi-Fi Speakers



Specifications:
Model : ZM-RSA
Power : 6V-9V DC
Power Consumption : 0.6W
Dimensions :
- When horizontally laid down : 197(L) X 140(W) X 45(H)
- When placed vertically with mounts : 140(L) X 45(W) X 212(H)
Weight : 12oz/329g (amplifier only)
Input Characteristics : Vin -6dBV, f=1kHz
Typical Output : 31mW at 32ohm (THD < 0.1%)
THD : 0.02% (BW=20Hz-20kHz)
Channel Separation : 90dB
Output Noise Voltage : -93dBV (BW=20Hz-20kHz)
Frequency Response : 20Hz-20kHz </font>


The Zalman ZM-RSA is basically a 5.1 channel surround sound headphone
amplifier for Zalman's own surround sound headphones. In that respect, it has
been reviewed before (one of the better ones is from bit-tech.net).
I'm going to see how well it does with full blown Hi-Fi speakers. The idea came
to me when I was looking for a 4 speaker amplifier I can use for 2 sets of old
speakers I had left over from old stereo systems. All I could find were high end
home theatre amplifiers which were too expensive and would defeat the purpose of
using old speakers as a way of building a budget speaker system. Browsing
through the internet, I came across bit-tech.net's review of the Zalman
amplifier. What interested me in the review was the Zalman amplifier's ability
to power two headphones independently:


close internal inspection revealed that the ZM-RSA is actually
two independent six channel amplifiers sharing only a power supply and set of inputs



That meant that the amplifier can power 2 headphones not just one. This is an
interesting point if you were thinking of using the amplifier with 20" speakers.


Before I bought the amplifier, I had to find a way to turn the speaker
connections into 8mm headphone jacks so that they can be used with any regular
amplifier. Heading over to Radioshack, I found the perfect solution - Solderless Phono Plugs.
Hi-Fi speakers don't have any plug or jack connection, the wire just ends in a split of 2 wires:
negative and positive. To turn that into a phono plug (the type that goes into a TV and comes
in red,white or yellow colors) you'd have to cut out the phono plug of an existing stereo
cable, let a bit of the copper stick out from the ends of the wire and solder
the copper ends to your speaker wires. If like me you haven't gone to the level
where you keep a soldering iron at home, you can try Radioshack's offering which
is a plug that does not need soldering. All you need to do is open up one of
these plugs and screw the copper ends of your speaker wires to specially marked
areas. After about half an hour of 'screwing' I got all my speakers to have
composite plugs.


The Zalman ZM-RSA, being a headphone amplifier, has headphone jacks for
output. Turning composite plugs to headphone jacks doesn't take more than
getting a pair of $1 plugs and wires. You'll need 4 stereo headphone jack to
composite cables and 4 Dual input RCA plugs (pictured below)

http://server2.uploadit.org/files/ma...-fmle2fmle.jpg


Since the Zalman head amp comes with 3 headphone jack to composite cables
you'll just need to buy one.

Here's how you put these cables to use:


1) Take 2 headphone jack to composite cables or Jack/RCA
cables. Plug the jacks into your sound card's front / rear plugs. Now you have
one cable for front speaker output and another one for rear speaker output. On
the back of the Zalman head amp you'll find 6 composite plugs - 1 pair for
front, another for rear and the last pair for subwoofer:

http://server2.uploadit.org/files/mashakos-rear.jpg

Connect the front
cables phono or RCA plugs into the Zalman's front input, and the rear cable
plugs into the Zalman's rear input.


Now you have 2 Jack/RCA cables and 4 Dual input RCA plugs left.


2) On the front of the head amp you'll find that the Zalman
has 4 headphone jacks; 2 on the left marked 'User 1' and 2 to the right marked
'User 2':

http://server2.uploadit.org/files/mashakos-front.jpg

Connect one Jack/RCA cable to the front (F) headphone jack of 'User 1'
and use the other Jack/RCA cable plugging it in the rear (R) jack of 'User 2'.

You've got 4 Dual input RCA plugs left.


3)Plug each RCA connection into one Dual input RCA plug for the 2 cables you
have connected to the front of your Zalman head amp. This way, you can connect
your speakers to these plugs.


Start positioning your speakers so that you have 2 in front of your computer
and two a little behind you. My space is cramped so this all I could manage:

My setup


4) Now you should have 1 front-left, 1 front-right, 1 rear-left and 1
rear-right speaker. Connect your Front-left and Front-right speaker plugs to the
left and right Dual input RCA plugs you have connected to the Jack/RCA cable in
the Front (F) jack of the zalman head amp. Here's a pic to clarify:

http://server3.uploadit.org/files/mashakos-plughelp.jpg


Connect your rear-left and rear-right speakers to the Rear (R) jack in the same way.
Now you can try out your new rig!


TIP: When I first tried my speakers, I found that only the front speakers
worked. I found out that it's because you have to configure your soundcard to
run in a quadraphonic (4 speaker) setup:

http://server3.uploadit.org/files/mashakos-winsetup.jpg


You can find that in control panel > Sounds and multimedia > Audio tab > advanced
button on audio device.


How was the amplifier with my new speakers? I put in my Fast and the Furious
DVD to find out. The first thing I noticed was how much the sound is similar to
one of those home theatre living rooms you see in electronics stores. Since my
left speakers were so close to the wall, it vibrates when the action heats up in
the movie so at high volumes bass is great but might bother the neighbors.
Better turn down the volume.


Having the front and rear speakers on 2 independent output sources means that
you can control the front and rear volumes separately on the Zalman head amp.
This can be done by adjusting either of the 2 volume knobs on the Zalman head
amp. I consider this a nice feature as I can adjust the volume the same way I
can adjust it on my car.

I found the zalman head amp a great alternative to the higher quality but
more expensive home theatre amplifiers. My gamble paid off and I am now enjoying
Hi-Fi goodness on a budget
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Last edited by mashakos; 23rd December, 2004 at 06:15 PM.
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Old 23rd December, 2004, 04:13 PM
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Nice review, Mashakos! Thanks!
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Old 23rd December, 2004, 09:00 PM
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Front Page! www.aoaforums.com

Thanks!
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