Parasound Zcd CD + MP3 Player Preview
20 Hz - 20 kHz, +0/-1 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion:
< 0.02% at 20 Hz
> 98 dB, IHF A-weighted
>75 dB at 20 kHz
Maximum Output Level:
AC Power Requirement:
110 - 130 VAC, 60 Hz or 220-240 VAC, 50 Hz (15 Watts)
(Voltage must be set inside unit)
9.5" (242 mm) Wide
10" (254 mm) Deep
Height, with feet: 2" (51 mm)
Height, without feet: 1.75" (44 mm)
5 lbs / 2.3 kg / Shipping: 8 lbs. (3.6 kg)
Rack Mount Accessory (purchased separately)
SBS - Side by Side mounting bracket for locking two Z custom units together
Zblank - Blank panel extender for mounting one Z unit in a standard rack space
Zrack - Half width desktop rack perfect for up to 5 Parasound Z components
The Parasound Zcd is a very targeted CD player and, frankly, it probably isn't targeted at you. The entire Z line is built around the idea that you'll be building a large rack of gear and need to get the best performance in the least amount of space. With few exceptions, every Z product is half a rack wide and Parasound has a special "SBS" (side by side) bracket for installing two of their Z products into a single rack space. This is great for custom installers that have lots of gear to install in very little space. It is probably also great for industry professionals with portable racks that are looking to decrease both size and weight without sacrificing quality.
Parasound has been around a long time and they have a reputation for quality. Their new Zcd player has a lot of interesting features that, while maybe overkill in a traditional home theater setup, could make industry professionals very happy. First, the Zcd plays both CDs and CD-Rs. It can playback MP3s from both the CD-R or a USB flash drive (port in the back). There are front-mounted controls for power and playback as well as a slot-loading drive and a single line LED readout. Inside, there is a built-in preamp with an independent analogue volume control IC. The volume is not controlled digitally within the DAC.
Turning the Zcd around, you'll find both variable and fixed RCA outputs. This is perfect for giving users a brainless solution to make sure that the internal volume control doesn't mess with their output when they want to use a separate preamp. Also included is both coax and optical digital audio outputs, a composite video output for viewing MP3 information, IR ports, RS-232 controls, and 12 volt triggers in and out. Most interestingly, there is a 3.5mm input on the back for integrating something like a portable device - an interesting addition.
The Zcd uses a 24-bit, 192kHz-capable Cirrus Logic CS4353 DAC with a Cirrus Logic CS8416 digital receiver. There is a dedicated remote for the Zcd for source selection, track and MP3 file selection, and volume control. A selector switch allows power to be controlled manually, when AC power is available, or via 12 volt trigger.
A CD player with a 3.5mm input and USB port with MP3 playback? For home theater it doesn't really make sense. But with 24-bit, 192kHz-capable DACs, integrated preamp, and a $400 price tag, the Parasound Zcd is an intriguing solution for industry professionals. With its diminutive size (half a rack space wide) and huge feature set, we're betting home theater buffs on a budget might even take a close look at this. Parasound may have designed the Z-line of products with industry professionals in mind but we wouldn't be surprised to see this one jump across the line into the world of budding audiophiles. We've seen it happen before.
For more information, please visit www.parasound.com.
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.