Parsound ZDAC kind of blowing my mind...


I was offered a nice deal, so I took a chance on this DAC, thinking it might be a good stop gap while saving up funds for something better. It replaced a Behringer DEQ2496 I had connected to my Mac Mini. (In my system, the Behringer sounded BAD, exhibiting all of the worst characteristics of digital sound). My files are AIFFs stored on an external drive, and I'm running Audirvana Free on the computer. Before going the computer-based route, I had a Sony 5400 that I really liked (I sold it to finance the computer and an iPad).

Anyway, it's only been a week or so, but I have to say I truly was not expecting the ZDAC to sound so good. I don't want to get all caught up in the typical audiophile subjective terminology, but this thing has dynamics, is clean and clear on top, full on the bottom, and truly allows me to just relax and settle into the music. And yes, I am hearing parts and details on (very) familiar recordings I never noticed before.

I am a bit intrigued to hear how a "high end" DAC might sound in comparison, but, honestly, as good as my system sounds now, I intend to live with this DAC for a long time. Nicely done, Parasound.
jonathan1257
Hey Jonathan1257,

Congrats, on your new DAC. I'm a staff reviewer for hometheaterreview.com and did a review on the ZDAC. Take a look at my review, it's in the archive section now, for details why I gave it five stars and believe it competes with much more expensive DACs.
Yes Teajay, your positive review was one of several that led me to try it. Thanks again.
It's always nice when you stumble upon "giant killer" components.....when you are up long hours playing material that you haven't heard in a while and now it sounds brand new, better than ever....then you know your money was well spent.
yes, Parasound has always known to be a giant killer for all the years that I've known its products. This time at RMAF2013 I got a chance to briefly meet the venerable John Curl finally. I'd heard a lot about him w.r.t all the good work he did for Mark Levinson (person & brand) & all that he continues to do for Parasound. So, it was nice for me to put a face to a name....
Enjot the ZDAC. Maybe it's zzz DAC for you! ;-)
I am definitely that guy who falls asleep if the system sounds good. Waking up always scares the crap out of me, though, and the system seems really loud, even when it's not. Weird.
I have always thought Parasound offers a great bang for your buck. I use JC1/2 amplification and have been very pleased with the sound.

While Behringer equipment is often used in professional sound environments, I would not consider it even close to Parasound products in audiophile quality sound reproduction.
Does that volume control only work for the headphone amp? If this thing will function as a passive preamp I'm taking it to the top of my shortlist.
The volume control is only for the headphone outputs.
I thought I had read that somewhere. Thanks. It's still on my shortlist.
This may not be the correct spot , but check out the prices on the Musical Fidelity M1 clic.It Can be used as a pre-amp. It can be had NEW for Less than $500 right now at Audioadvisor and Music Direct while they last .
Original MSRP of $1999.00.
I put it here to see if anyone has compared the Z-Dac to Musical Fidelity M1 clic
Musical Fidelity puts out several models in the M1 line. The power amp and network player are around $500 but I believe the DAC goes for a bit more. Audio Advisor is a good discounter of high-end gear but even they don't discount 75%, unless its a manufacturer close-out. Be sure to read the fine print!

12-18-13: Tonykay
Musical Fidelity puts out several models in the M1 line. The power amp and network player are around $500 but I believe the DAC goes for a bit more. Audio Advisor is a good discounter of high-end gear but even they don't discount 75%, unless its a manufacturer close-out. Be sure to read the fine print!
Tonykay (Answers | This Thread)
did you go to the sites and look ? I do not understand what you are saying . It is 75% off. It is on close out . But they do offer 30 day money back guarantee. The original MSRP was $1999.00 . Musical Fidelity M1 Dac MSRP is $799.00
Music Direct Musical Fidelity M1 clic
Wow, I hooked up the Musical Fidelity M1 clic . Its sounds pretty darn good . I have only tried the Usb front , optical in on the back from my Sony CDP-M555ES. I think it is a little better than its DAC. The internet Radio is Very cool . I think that it is worth the $499.00 price .I have a V-linkMk2 and usb a-b cable but have not yet purchased the PC . I was planning on trying jRivermedia and run the PC in on the Otical input . So far I am very happy.
I was considering the Parasound Zdac before i purchased this .
The M1 also was on my short list, but I got a great deal on the ZDAC, so I went for it. I hope you enjoy your new toy. It really is amazing what can be accomplished sound-wise these days for not a whole lot of money.
Greyhound,

I visited the Audio Advisor website and did find the Musical Fidelity M1CLic for $499, as you said. Audio Advisor claims that it is 75% off but other sites show an MSRP of $799. I don't know if that is the lowered price or if the M1CLic model is not the same as the M1DAC, and certainly different than the M1SDAC that has an MSRP of $1999. Very confusing! It bothers me when manufacturers play games with model numbers by adding a letter or changing a digit. Makes choices difficult.
The M1 clic is supposed to use the same dac as the M1 dac
Sorry, but I just have to ask the rhetorical question, i.e. if it's the same as the M1DAC, why did they rename it M1CLic? Who dreams up this stuff, and why are prices all over the board? No need to answer as I'm sure that anyone can guess the answer.
12-21-13: Tonykay
Sorry, but I just have to ask the rhetorical question, i.e. if it's the same as the M1DAC, why did they rename it M1CLic? Who dreams up this stuff, and why are prices all over the board? No need to answer as I'm sure that anyone can guess the answer.
Tonykay (Answers | This Thread)/
because it is much more than just a DAC . Have you looked it up to see what it is ?
While we're on the subject, I just read a past-posting where the poster was complaining about the service-after-the-sale at Musical Fidelity. It seems that they don't offer assistance for some of their high end products, i.e. Tri-Vista kw SACD, if the fail. One of the posters called them Musical Fatality. I'm not sure if any of it is true, but the name is clever.
They have a new guy taking care of distribution in the US, I am sure they had some issues in the past, but I have never had any problems with there equipment, still using a KW-500 that is built like a tank. The M1 Clic is pretty much just like the M1 Dac with Network Capabilities. I currently have the Parasound ZDac and I might buy the M1 Clic and compare the two, and just sell the only I don't like as much. But from the looks of it, there are plenty still for sale, I am sure these are going at Cost. The Clic however does so much more, for almost the same price now.
No balanced outs on the M1clic? Odd Parasound has balanced outputs.
For my last response to this post, check out the Winter 2014 Audio Advisor Clearance mailer. It proudly advertises the M1 CLiC and M1 PWR for a package price of $998. It says the regular price of the M1 PWR is $1,299, and the regular price of the M1 CLiC $1,099 for a total "regular price of $3,298." No, that adds up to $2,398. It says "Save $2,300." If that were true the pair would cost only $98. It should say "Save $1,400". Please, someone bring this to their attention! It's only a typo, but its misleading. Just be cautious of any manufacturer that offers so many products at diverse price points. It's hard to tell if you're getting a good deal or not.
No balanced outs on the M1clic? Odd Parasound has balanced outputs.
No balanced outputs, but do you really need them . they won't truly be balanced unless the unit is balanced internally. I would be willing to bet that the Z-dac is not internally balanced . If it is not then there is no real benefit.
I am returning my M1 clic and getting a NAD M-51. The M1 has a lot of features that i really will never use , like the usb thumb drive (front), the internet radio , and the network steaming capability.
I do not like scrolling through folders to play music, and the internet radio feature is nice , but most stations are mp3(not great quality). It is the same with playing over the network. You are limited to lower bit rates and ,once again folders .
I really want a just DAC . I thought i would give the M1 a try anyway . It is pretty good as a DAC, but not Great. The Bass is weak , but otherwise it has a very balanced sound .
My primary goal is to use a Pc as a Music Server (JRiver Media), because i have about 800 cds to rip . I will rip in .wav format. i COULD Definately hear a difference in the Music Ripped in the lower res formats, such as .ape , which i what JRiver defaults to for rips .
I think the Nad M 51 will be good , at least according to all the reviews .We will see
"no balanced outputs, but do you really need them?" People don't have them that why they don't need them. the choice is your.
Audio Output Level on the spec. manual:
Unbalanced: 2.1 V rms
Balanced: 4.2 V rms
The Parasound Zdac replaced my beloved Benchmark DAC1 USB in my office system and that's no easy task considering the price difference between the two. The Zdac has tight, powerful bass with a beautiful midrange and the treble is detailed yet sweet...a good bit smoother in the treble than my DAC1.

This is a great time to be a music lover/audiophile as there is a lot of great sounding gear out there that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. The headphone amp in the Zdac sounds pretty good, but the slight thump I get whenever I plug in headphones or IEM's annoys me so I use either the Schiit Audio Lyr or Asgard 2 for driving my headphones.