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Salute to Yamada-san of Zanden Audio

Zanden Model Wilson 211 mono amplifiers

Last year, the biggest thrill in my 30+ years of hi-fi encounter was the arrival of Cessaro Alpha One horn speakers, they were everything I wanted from a pair of speakers. However, as I had stated earlier in the forum, loudspeakers are the most important component in your hi-fi system as once you have chosen certain brand/design of transducers, you have to match the rest of your equipments to bring out the ‘best’ performance in them.

Every step I made in hi-fi these days are planned ahead, like playing chess as I know exactly what I want in order to achieve hi-fi nirvana. I invited Yamada-san last year to ear-witness how the big horns perform in my room so that he can specially design a pair of amps to drive these speakers. Yamada-san instantly appreciated the potential of these horns and later had an in-depth encounter with them when Cessaro and Zanden exihibited their products together in CES 08’, the sound produced in their room received many critical acclaims from hi-fi reviewers all over the world.

The horns had forced me to continue to tweak my room, my system and speaker placement for one year in order to reach a fine balance of metal, wood, water, fire and earth elements (pls refer to my freshly written article on this). My system has recently reached a level of performance I thought could not be bettered, therefore, I have asked PT not to rush Yamada-san to finish this 211 amp project for me as I’m too busy enjoying the sound of my system. When PT informed me 2 weeks ago the amps would be delivered soon, I read the manual of Zanden’s amplifier and in particular, I noticed Yamada’s goal of his design “ you’ll (the listener) be amazed not only by its ability to realistically reproduce the scale, size and impart of large ensembles but also its ability to retrieve the smallest most delicate details”.

After 12 months in the making, the 211 tubed-based amps finally arrived, they were a little heavier and very slightly deeper than the KR9600 845-tube based amps I have used for nearly 3 years (I had 2 models). Immediate impression after the amps were turned on was a very familiar tonal signature even though the tubes and circuit boards were totally different. However, after hearing the same music I had just played, both PT and I were thrilled/shocked to hear musical details which were not that noticeable before. To call these amp producing a subtle (like SET) sound would be an understatement as they convey both the micro and macro dynamics in music we both thought not possible, this was MORE apparent when I played vinyls that PT was very familiar with, the sound was almost like live music playing in front of us.

We were both deeply touched by the sound of these amps and made the same comment that Yamada-san designed these amps with a real passion and understanding of musical reproduction. It was then time for PT to go after spending almost 2 hours hearing my system.

I subsequently moved my speakers (by 1-2 mm at a time ) and tweaked the sugar cubes (by 1-2 mm also) everyday to achieve a near perfect (to my ears only) balance of the metal, wood, water, fire and earth elements from my system. My brother-in-law (he is also a hi-fi enthusiast) from overseas who visits me once a year heard my system last night, he also had the pleasure of listening to my big Avalons, Hornings and for the 1st time the big horns and commented that not only was the sound spectacular, every aspect of the sound, highs, mids and lows came out naturally and even the Linda Ronstadt’s Blue Bayou which we played together in the late 70s’ (which sounded coloured and muffled at that time) now sounded really good and he was totally bowed over later when I played the vinyl copy Harmonia Mundi’s La Folia (I had this for 30 years), the acoustic sound of each instrument was reproduced with startling dynamcis and realness which he thought was not possible.

I know this is not an aberration but a reality of what I have been hearing in last 7 days, the Model Wilson is unquestionably Yamada-san’s best product to-date, you can hear the pain sticking effort he has put in to design and manufacture these special mono amps. The Cessaro horns have thrilled me (just like Scheherade) for over 365 days and it is now the turn for this pair of special amplifiers to woo me everyday with its musical passion.

Yamada-san, allow me to salute you with my deepest gratitude for making these special amps, apart from the abovementioned praise, they are completely ‘grain free’, allowing me to play as loud and as long as I please. You have made this very demanding audiophile utterly satisfied and I look forward to your next visit to enjoy this latest masterpiece of yours (I’m certain more will come), your products deserve the highest praise especially from those who often listen to classical music - you have now given me the elusive pleasure to experience the live event in my own home.

Mr Zanden


  • Mr.Zanden, you certainly know the stuff. You are one of the very few who knows the stuff. I read your article with respect.
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