Zen Amp

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Company name Zen Amp
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General information

Jonathan Bell (March 2, 2001): US based high end company, makes valve amps for Decware.

Steve (December 2, 2009): The Zen Amp was designed by Nelson Pass for the do-it-yourself market and was presented in the 2/94 issue of The Audio Amateur Magazine. I must admit that at first I had no interest in an amp that only put out 10 watts. Some two years after the article was published I began to have an interest in this amp. I called AA to order the kit and was told that the kits were all gone. Now I was mad and even more determined to have one of these amps. I ordered the circuit boards and set about ordering the parts. What an education I would get over the next six months as I ordered catalogs, parts, more parts from other vendors, and more catalogs. I am still surprised that it takes so many different suppliers to build one amp. I didn't speak the language so I couldn't make substitutions on the fly. On some of my earlier electronics projects I got a lot of help from the staff at Audio Amateur/Old Colony. This resourse had dried up completely and all I got on the phone at AA were people who had lists in front of them of which they new nothing. I fired off a letter of protest to Ed Dell who had been a Champion of the DIY process. Nothing but silence from him. Now I really felt like I was flying solo.

Somehow, I muddled through and got the amps built. I knew a fair amount about machining aluminum, so building the chassis was a long but not particularly difficult task. I did it all with a table saw with carbide blade and a stationary belt sander. I picked up some sheet aluminum at a scrap metal dealer and found some humongous heatsinks at a surplus electronics store. I bought a Variac for the big day. I turned it all on and....nothing happened. I checked and rechecked and made phone calls and e-mail. I replaced parts and cursed and cried. I put it aside finally and left it alone for a few months. One day I read an article in the Audio Amateur about checking the basics and taking nothing for granted. This particular piece was about a changed pin-out on a transistor.

Could that be? I went back to the original magazine article and checked the specs in the Digikey catalog. And finally there it was! Audio Amateur was still there to help like they always had been. The Mosfets were OK and the schematic was OK but the circuit board was wrong! All of the components went on one side of the board except the power Mosfets. Putting these on the bottom of the board made the hookup correct! Nelson Pass could have told me that when I asked him for help! Now I was heating up the house with these little jewels. I was also overheating the heatsinks. It was obvious that the heatsinks that I thought were so big were really not nearly big enough. Back on the surplus store circuit I searched and searched for months but could never find what I knew I needed.

Finally with much reservation I wrote the big check for a 6 foot length of the biggest thing in the Wakefield catalog. It is 10 inches wide and has fins 2 inches long. Two more months of sawing, drilling, tapping, polishing and finally I was actually using my amps to power my speakers. Wow! Never has a system sounded better.

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