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microZOTL MZ3

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref,  AURALiC Vega, Jay's Audio CDT 2 MkII & DAC-2 SE
Preamplifier: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE 300B/VT52 or Elrog ER300B/50; Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module); April Music Stello HP100 MkII
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, SIT-3, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; April Music Stello S100 MkII;  Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; SAG AIO; Bakoon AMP-13R
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Acelec Model One; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence; Fram Midi 150 & 120
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL3000/5000 and Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub, Puritan Audio Labs PSM156 & PS106-DC
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands 
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: $3'700

What's better than $4'450?

A $750 savings.

That's today's math if you mean to zotl your way into a Berning preamp but don't need the extra inputs, optional Lundahl trafo-coupled XLR and single full-size chassis of the costlier microZOTL. Here's the sticker kicker. The MZ3's circuitry is identical. It just splits into two chassis. That outboards its linear PSU* with organic polymer caps and choke-coupled 12VDC/3A 4-pin output. It loses two RCA inputs and fixed i/o but gains 1-watt speaker terminals for a high-efficiency desktop. All other niceties stay put, including the ¼" headfi port, white dot-matrix display with menu functions, ceramic PCB, 100-step dual-mono attenuator to build in no-loss 16-step balance control, Belleson regulators, Vishay Dale resistors, Mundorf caps and other name drops. Even your last used volume level still saves independently for all three inputs; and Apple's pre-paired classy wand continues to grant more than three remote wishes.

* This LPS+ power supply is also available separately for $645 to update any other device that's happy on 12VDC and 3A. LTA will then modify the receiving end of the power umbilical to terminate as needed.

It all packs into a 12cm tall Fern&Roby case with a 25.5x18cm WxD footprint. The power supply goes 11cm tall and covers 13.5x31xm WxD. A 2-foot standard (4' by request) twist-lock umbilical connects the two. As a David Berning auto-biased class A p/p valve circuit, 2 x 12AT7 handle the inputs. 12AU7 substitutes can lower the 10.3dB/4Ω voltage gain. Two 12SN7 octals man the twinned 50Ω outputs (2Ω/6.3mm). A jumper enables the use of 6SN7 instead. Experienced tubers know. 12AX7/6922/5687 triodes don't hold an output candle to the 6SN7 family for tonal sophistication. Here too the MZ3 runs with the right crowd when power triodes like PX4, 45 and 50 are off limits.

Let's rewind to my prior Z10 and UL reviews. The latter began with Charles Dickens' immortal "can I have some more". It's because Linear Tube Audio marketing boss Nicholas Tolson had solicited it. He'd enjoyed what I'd done with my first review for them. Today the table turned. I asked. I selflessly wondered about readers who own transistor amps they'd never part with. If our sort wanted an injection of Berning tube flavor, shouldn't one of his preamps do the job? Eyeing our compact Bakoon AMP-13R and its lack of pre-outs to feed a Zu Submission subwoofer in my upstairs system, I took special note of the MZ3's dual outputs; its small size to mirror the amp; all other necessary features; and the lower price over the microzotl. Your selfless doctor understood just what was needed. Thankfully Nic proved game so my story wouldn't end in a webisode of pure window shopping. All this by way of explaining that whilst most my reviews are simply in response to being asked, at times I'm the one asking. Can I have some more?