Country of Origin


ZeroUno Ultra Plus

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with Ventura 13.4, 40GB RAM, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-6 & SW-8 network switches, Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box at 100Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos & EX-M7 stereo; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Vibra 68 footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Kinki Studio Earth; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Sonnet Pasithea; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box at 60Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Amplifier: Crayon Audio CFA-1.2 Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub on sound|kaos Vibra 68 footers; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Masterclock: LHY OCK-2; Headphones: Final D-8000; Headfi/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €12.4K for Ultra, ~€15.6K for Ultra +, extra for I²S over HDMI/RJ45, AES/EBU and balanced inputs

Venice. Just six letters long, the word invokes instant most picturesque associations. Amongst audiophile cognoscenti, it evokes brand CanEver helmed by engineer Mario CanEver. His ZeroUno range of D/A converters means friends with benefits. Think headfi; or 6SN7 triode outputs; or pure solid-state preamplitude with amorphous output iron. Digital or analog volume. Capacitor-free signal paths. No global feedback. Finally there's the optional universal I²S interface executed balanced on 19-pin HDMI or unbalanced on either 8-pin RJ45, 5/6-pin DIN, 9-pin D-SUB or 4 x BNC connectors. For Ultra it means four digital inputs which can consist of USB, coax, AES/EBU, BNC or I²S. The Ultra+ adds two or three line-level analog inputs in any combination of RCA/XLR then 128-step analog volume control. His LaScala and Olimpico amplifiers are different too. Both are DC-coupled, with a tube gain stage followed by a push/pull Mosfet current buffer coupled to transformer outputs and run off massive output power supplies. Mario likes simple circuits with coupling magnetics. Rather than pure tube, his inner engineer prefers hybrids which harness disparate strengths. His URL's suffix is .engineering not .audio or .eu. Coincidence?

Photo credit: Hifistatement.net 

At the Munich HighEnd 2023 show, Mario launched the ZeroUno Ultra. Given what came before, the suffix was tantalizing. Afterwards three samples would travel to sundry EU dealers. In the early fall, one of those was booked for an Irish pitstop. That's when this story would kick off in earnest. In May when I wrote this, 'twas just the flimsiest of teasers. But that's what teasers are supposed to be. You see a lot but never all. It's meant to stimulate your imagination, perhaps even appetite or lust. That's as far as the benefits go; until you become more than friends. In mid October, Mario announced imminent dispatch and that he was working on a full breakdown description of his latest machine so that, "if needed, you have a trace". Being a gentleman he said trace not clue. Grazie.

"Why did I develop a high-priced model? Because my distributors pressured me. In the beginning I was reluctant but finally accepted the challenge. And much to my surprise, sales have been robust since the Munich launch. We make this entirely in house, including all SMD population of the boards. We select and match all parts one by one. Production of one machine takes us a full 15 days. Our distributors compare us to units costing twice or thrice but then our marketing is very limited and we do remain very small. Those aspects must be factored into any fair price comparison. As you put it in the past, we're more of a boutique than factory. But then I'm always embarrassed to judge my own creations so that I'll leave to you.

"About the tubes, in the middle there is a 6H30Pi which could be rolled for a 6H6P substitute. It's the core of the anodic shunt regulator so not involved in signal amplification but power supply. The signal-amplifying tubes are the ECC88/6DJ8/6922 or ECC82/12AU7 on either side. Hidden on the mother board are the JFet SK170 to complete the hybrid gain block. The genesis of the circuit clarifies better than any other explanation how it works. I have in production the ZeroUno SSD-HPA and ZeroUno Plus, the first based on transistors, the second on tubes. Both can work as DAC or preamplifier because they implement an analog board to accept analog inputs. Alternately, they can be ordered with just digital inputs. We have fans of the solid-state ZeroUno SSD and fans of the triode Plus. The sound is different but a matter of feeling only and the final result depends on the whole chain from source to speakers. The Ultra unites transistor and triode behaviors to appeal to almost everybody. It was not simple to arrive at the final architecture. I felt like a chef in the kitchen, with all top ingredients on hand but no clear and concise instructions on how best to use them."