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Zanden Jinpu - a special review on Thanksgiving Thursday

Life is a series of of events which include blessings and challenges and they usually run concurrently. For instance, today, Tokyo saw its first November snow in 54 years (kids will be excited) but this caused disruption to the traffic.

Although my system sound continues to improve  at a very gradual pace in last few months through acoustic tweaking, recently, I suffer from ringing in my ears which forces me to stop listening for a day or two. This experience has taught me not to take even life's smallest things for granted. Some folks I know love hoarding cash/money and some dump it like dirt without putting it into good use. I often remind myself a passage many of you must have heard somewhere "For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it". Life is about living in the moment as we, mere mortals, do not know what tomorrow will bring.

PT recently WhatsApp me recently when Zanden's super phono-amp finally arrived and said I should come over to have a  listen to this latest masterpiece of Yamada-san before it is delivered to his special client. Without any hesitation, I went to AE showroom to pay homage to the world's only full suite of Zanden top-of-line electronics driving the familiar Cessaro Carmen front-loaded horns.

As usual, the first impression after listening to a couple of LPs from PT's collection wasn't to my liking but I was quiet. PT asked me to give the records I had brought a quick spin, so I asked him to play my reference 'Warm Your Heart'. I requested for the 2nd track with setting on Columbia curve and on reverse phase. After 15 seconds of listening, I said to myself PT did not get his system tuning correctly. He then got impatient by my sound of silence and asked for my feedback, I replied in a polite manner and said although I recognise the vocal is Aron Neville, somehow it did not quite sound quite like him.

 It's been quite some time since I last visited the showroom but I can remember vividly the sound of its last system and I haven't the faintest idea what changes he had made during all this time. He then changed grounding cable as well as the positioning, the sound improved but both Azzurri and I concurred the bass was lacking. PT removed the platform placed on top of the Emperor where Jinpu is sitting upon (this is probably the least advantageous location in my opinion), the harshness was removed and bass is fuller and is more impactful but now we can hear noise and hum.......  The moral of this is high-end system is never a plug and play hobby if you have normal hearing ability.

PT finally decided he needed to do more and removed the Pranawire Linebacker 
from the Wadex and connected it to Jinpu, Bob's your uncle, we were satisfied and then we proceeded to more serious listening. Later that day, PT sent me an audio message Master Chik came in the afternoon and reinstated the original setting but made minor change to the crossover frequency of the Carmen and the system was singing beautifully, that was the Saturday 2 weeks ago.

Last Thursday, PT WhatsApp me a group of super audiophiles from Slovenia is currently auditioning the system and later on he messaged me again that they were mightily impressed and said everything they read in the forum about how good the sound is true.

I then asked PT if the Jinpu will still be there on Sat so that I get to hear it again under proper setting. I returned to AE last Sat after lunch and PT was spinning the Japanese record we listened to last time, immediately, it sounded better than the previous demo, it had perfect balance. Without further ado, he asked me to play my records. I quickly asked him to place the tone arm on track 2 of Aron Neville's "Warm Your Heart". Wow, all the slight reservations in my last visit were gone. I handed him one LP after the another to confirm what I am hearing is true.

Okay, let me give my verdict on Jinpu before I explain in detail why. Everyone should know by now my listening choice for hi-fi equipments are Zanden electronics, its top-of-the-line pre-amp Chukoh is the best I have heard, the power amp Choku is also the best among many of  of high end brands I have listened to and the Jinpu is no exception. However, I would like to elaborate a little more here, if all these 3 products are the world's best when compared to its global peers, how would you rate them "individually". Remember in my last write up on Chukoh in December 2015, if I were to choose either Choku or Chukoh, then I would pick the latter. If you ask me this time to choose only one of the 3 products, I would opt for Jinpu. If they were to compete in the hi-end Olympics, Jinpu will get my gold medal, Chukoh the silver n last but not the least, the bronze will be awarded to Choku.

With this ranking in mind, then I will confidently say Jinpu will get my gold medal award if it were to run against other world-class phono amps, if you are as biased as me, you can award ratings of the 2 similar products that AE stocks and I am sure they run well ahead of their competitors on the hi-end audio sports ground.

End of part 1


  • Top-tired Zanden electronics and if Jinpu is placed on the SRA rack, then sound will be ......

    For the first time ever, the sound (because of the synergistic benefits of running a full suite of Zanden's top electronics) coming out from the Cessaro Carmen is nothing short of phenomenal, as a result, I used my iPhone 6s to record the sound at AE demo room and do the same after returning home to make instant A-B-A comparison, as a result, after 24 hours of tuning, I was able to raise the sound performance of my home system a little bit (I have sent the same recording to PT for his review).

    After writing the verdict of my 2nd auditioning of Jinpu, let's go back to my second encounter last Sat. When I arrived at 2:30pm, PT was playing that Japanese live recording LP which was also used in my first visit, everything sounded better. The Aron Neville was merely used to test a system's overall balance (almost every system I listen to showed up certain deficiencies when track 2 is played) but it can't reveal a system's micro and macro dynamics. Quickly, after playing track 2 and 5 with flying colours, I handed "Sounds Unheard Of" to PT (Columbia curve and reverse phase). To my absolute amazement, I was completely in shock and awe after one minute of listening, the micro and macro dynamic contrasts were just crazy (sorry folks, I have lost for words). I can not believe the recording can be this dramatic !!! I can hear MORE of everything but the minute details and then followed by huge macro dynamic reproduction really shocked me (in the nicest way). Lesson learnt is a good recording can sound much much better if one day you play it on a super system, period.

    This time, the analog playback of this system has reached a level I would never have thought this to be possible. Starting with its tremendous transparency, you do not not to pay any attention to the details, they are all there and you are literally shocked to hear much much more details which you are not aware of that were there all along. After adjusting yourself to this 1st phenomenon, you can discern each instrument and human voice has its own tonality, everything sounds more real (palpable) and finally and certainty not least, the micro and macro dynamic contrast literally  takes your breath away (this only occurs when a very well-recorded LP is used). I must admit only when you are in a live concert environment that you will ever be able to experience this kind of experience.  A quick calculation, if I stop going to concert with my other half from now on and also the associated dinners, I can save US$ 1,500 annually, PT, how much did you say the complete system costs ???

    To be fair, if these Zanden electronics are played through a pair of conventional flagship loudspeakers, the sound effect will be very much diminished. Dear Ralph, you are absolutely right when you chose the horn design/solution for maximum playback performance, I am sure you will enjoy as much as me when you listen to these 3 top Zanden electronics operating through your horns at next year's AE show. Eddie was also there when we played the abovementioned LP and he took a note of it (Master Chik, you have an order for this record).

    Next LP was ASMIF and I chose Handel's Largo, the church organ in the beginning was reproduced with upmost clarity, every note played on the foot pedal was clearly audible (demonstrating the transparency of the system including the speakers are the BEST I have ever experienced), when the strings and later mass strings came along, I was completely melted (I memorised the crescendo and tried to replay that in my home system). Next LP was Take Five's Take Five, the cymbals were reproduced with complete clarity without any thinness and with tremendous treble extension. What I was not prepared was reproduction of the bass drum and the bass, they hit the floor with mighty authority and then the drum solo was rendered with rhythm and dynamics (it usually sounds thin and anemic when played through over 70% of the systems I have heard).

    Another demanding LP is the RCA Heifetz Mozart's no 4 violin concerto recorded by Kenneth Wilkinson. Mass strings in the beginning were reproduced with nice colourful tone and when the Strad (Dolphin) came on, no trace of hardness (80% of the system I have heard reproduce some form of hardness), every stroke of his bow can be heard with ease and the master's skillful paying was immediately discernible. A demo can not be complete without vocals, we played Weavers' Reunion set on "DECCA" curve and on reverse phase, the guitars (can you count how many are there) were reproduced the highest transparency and clarity I have ever heard but the vocals got even more crazy (sorry I am still lost for words), you can hear the curling of Ronnie's tongue (the female singer) much much more clearly than before, Pete Seeger's voice could be heard singing from his throat.

    LPs used to evaluate the system's sound

    Well, what more can I say, the experience of this afternoon's audition is both shock and awe as well as a humbling encounter, anyone out there who thinks he posseses one the best sounding systems should give this system a quick listen and you will be forever quiet until you have this system in your home and the right person to set up for you under the right acoustic environment.

    Now I know the importance of synergy of having a full suite of Zanden gears (other designers have no idea the difference/improvement a piece of electronic can make if the wires are soldered in the right direction as well as the fuse, even a plate of metal has a correct side up or down which affect sound/vibration). When Chukoh, Jinpu and Choku are played through Cessaro Carmen, you have the most enjoyable, revealing, life-like and dynamic system in the world and one should spend time to appreciate it  instead of looking for other systems to compare or compete (because it has no peers in my opinion).

    Today is Thanksgiving Day, a day to be thankful for the things you have in life and to give praise for receiving God's grace. Heavenly Father, thank you for lifting me up by giving me the opportunity to hear the ultimate hi-fi system but also to appreciate mine. Thank you for my making Zanden products and Cessaro horns to be my choice of hi-fi equipment, my acquaintance with Yamada-san and the knowledge I learnt from him over the years, his latest collaboration with Mori-san leading to the successful launch of Jinpu and last but not least, the noble gesture from current esteemed owner of Jinpu to allow fellow Zanden lovers to have the rare chance of listening to a complete Zanden top-tiered system. I feel truly blessed and may I treasure the listening pleasure every time I play my home system. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.


    Mr Z

  • Mr Zanden,

    I am about to audition the whole system soon.  PT told me that he had plugged in Beethoven power cable to the JINPU yesterday. I am sure it must be even better.  

    Always enjoy your writings. 

  • Mr Zanden's review is very comprehensive. I concur everything you have highlighted on the whole system. With respect to which component belongs to the gold medal, it is very hard for me to choose amongst Jinpu, Chouku, and Chukoh.  I am more inclined to pick the Chukoh preamp as gold medal. 

    Phono stages under the umbrella of AE are all very strong candidate. I am also eagerly awaiting Robert's seminal work on phono stage.
  • Mister Zanden,

    Regarding the gold medal, that is a tough call.  But a full suite of Chukoh, Chouku and Jinpu is indeed special.  The presentation of micro and macro dynamic in relation to space is certainly unique and never experience before until now.  The uproaring of symphonic crescendo no longer has traces of "timidness" of Yamada and yet the elegance of high pitch piano notes remains as elegant as ever.  When both macro and micro dynamics are called for simultaneously, true color unveils.  The bigger the scale, the more complicated the music passage, the better the system delivers.  Even just playing the recording of a piano sonata, the fluency of lyricism of the pianist is a new experimence to me because of newly found micro-dynamic contrast.  
  • Mister Zanden,

    I want to tell you straight that you always write very engaging article.  You know the music.  You know how to judge.  There is no one better than you to write about the Zanden Super electronic series.  I always need your ear to help me.  At the highest end, we all know it is not about plug and play.  For a super phono like Zanden Jinpu, you really understand her magic. I don't have enough time to understand all incoming masterpieces as they are either for urgent delivery or absence of space to accommodate it.  (Without sitting on SRA, no comparisons can be done in a fair manner.  This is a fact.)  

    Now I have time to read through your writeup word by word.  I hope we shall have more time to understand the JINPU in partnership with Choukoh and Chouku.  
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