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Lets get the pictures out first.

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My humble thoughts on the New Zapco Z-AP amplifier. It’s a little long.
I was very happy to have made the trip to CES 2018. The unveiling of the new Zapco products was awesome to see and touch. After the show, I had to ask John Borges if there was any chance that I could get a Z-AP to demo since I have a Z150.6 LX sitting in my office. A few days, John notifies me that he has one ready to ship to me. Anxiously waiting, the amp didn’t show up when expected. Three days went by and I messaged John to tell him I have not seen it. After two more days, USPS finally delivered.
The Z-AP 150.4 is a beautiful amplifier. This unit is serial number 1! The nice anodized black chassis is understated but pops with the Copper top piece. The top piece looks as if it can be flipped around for ease of installation. Fit and finish is great. The screw holes for the bottom cover seemed to be a bit too large for the screws. Unscrewing them took some effort. Another area that I would like to see improved on is at the terminals. The terminals have a clear plastic that protects the terminals. I believe having them black would cover up any machining marks that might be present on the terminals. The RCA terminals are nicely machined and the gold plating looks excellent. I know this might be weird, but the feeling of the gain adjustments feels very good with the heavy amount of drag.
The board layout looks very nice. Although, I must confess, I don’t know 80% of what I am looking at. I can see where power and audio enters the amp and where it spits it back out. I do see Wima capacitors, which are not normally seen in car audio amplifiers. I see the op amps and they do look like they are swappable. Reading the part number on the op amps is tough. My optometrist keeps telling me that I need bifocals, but I am not emotionally ready for them. My iPhone shows that they are LME49723. Meeting with Vinchenzo (Owner of Zapco), he stated that the LX was a good design for it’s age. As time passes, his group keeps pushing for performance improvements in their designs.
For the listening test, I decided to compare the Z-AP amp to the Z-LX amp. The reason for this is because I have the amp handy. I decided not to compare other brands for reasons of people being hurt by my opinions. I do believe in synergy of equipment choices to get the optimum sounds. Some amps do sound better with certain speakers and vice versa. Snake oil can help at times too. Lol!
The Setup
The setup I have is quite simple. My source unit is a Sound Monitor DTA-500X and cd changer combo. It’s quite a nice clean signal and very musical. All equalizer, crossover, and time alignment functions are off. The gains on both amps are matched. Signal cables are a set of vintage Belden 8402 outfitted with Switchcraft 3502 RCA ends. These are some of my favorite sounding RCA combinations. They are a musical set of cables. Speaker cables are 16 gauge silver plated copper with PTFE jacket. Quick disconnects are used for speaker wires. Supply comes from a 45 watt Cascade power supply. Power and ground wires are 8 gauge Monster Cable. Speakers used in this setup are a set of Dennis Murphy’s design called the CAOW1. These are one of my favorites. I built these many years ago using some pretty nice Sonicap capacitors, air core inductors, mills resistors, and solid core internal wiring. The drivers are Seas CA15 woofers and the infamous Hiquphon OW1 tweeters. Listening position is near field. The music used is a disc from Chris Pate’s Aggieland event from 2016 and the Red River Shootout disc. This combination does well for me. It gives me a chance to listen to the amps’ sound differences without car acoustics in the way. The changeover time is about 25 seconds.
So how does it sound???
Quite astonishing! Amazing sounding amplifier. Slap me silly, it’s that good.
Please remember, I don’t have a technical ear as I am still learning as time passes. But I know what I like.
I am very sorry to say, that the Z-LX amplifiers cannot hold a candle to these.
The Z-AP sounds better in everyway. I was expecting for the Z-AP and the Z-LX to sound somewhat similar but this is not the case. I wished I still had the Z-SP amplifier but it has sold.
Right off the bat, I was in awe of the Z-AP’s resolution and dynamics. Stage is substantially wider and deeper. The layers in the music are well defined and the sense of space is delightful. Extension and level of detail is excellent on both ends of the spectrum without any sense of anything sounding artificial or exaggerated. It’s a smooth sounding amp. Well balanced.
This is the best my speakers have ever sounded. I have used many amps, both car and home, and by far I love the Z-AP. I had a friend of mine come by to have a listen. His thoughts on the amp comparisons are pretty much the same as mine.
Please take this as my opinion on this. The LX amp is nice but I prefer the Z-AP. I believe the price will be about a 20 percent premium over current LX pricing which I do feel as it still being a good value for the performance.
 

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Thanks for this. Have been trying to decide if I was gonna do LX or these. Think u just made my mind up for me!


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i think zapco made up your mind for you, as the LX isnt going to be produced anymore as far as i remember a part of a particular conversation
 

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i think zapco made up your mind for you, as the LX isnt going to be produced anymore as far as i remember a part of a particular conversation


Lol was gonna pick up a used one. They’re popping up for sale like hot cakes as of late


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Such a good looking amp! S/N is pretty damn high. Thanks for the comparison. I keep going back and looking at these. Already have some ST-X (non sq variants) for my Midbass and widebands but dammit I want one of these



Nice finish.
Korean built? Looks it
pretty sure its Chinese IIRC. The president(or CEO?) cant remember moved to within 30 min of the build house as well to make sure quality is maintained on their products
 

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Some really interesting products coming from Zapco now. Has certainly hit my radar. Thanks for the write up.

So I get the impression from top down in terms of SQ it would be:

Z-xAP

Z-xLX

ST-204D SQ which I’d love compared to the LX. Big power, low battery draw efficiency appeals to me.

ST-xX SQ which is by no means a slouch.

Don’t know where the other ST-xD line up falls in line with these. I know Linda has been doing quite well with those.


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Were the amp gains set to the same level? On the LX minimum gain is 8 volts and on the AP it is 9 volts. An input voltage difference can make an audible difference.
 

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Some really interesting products coming from Zapco now. Has certainly hit my radar. Thanks for the write up.

So I get the impression from top down in terms of SQ it would be:

Z-xAP

Z-xLX

ST-204D SQ which I’d love compared to the LX. Big power, low battery draw efficiency appeals to me.

ST-xX SQ which is by no means a slouch.

Don’t know where the other ST-xD line up falls in line with these. I know Linda has been doing quite well with those.


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I forget who did the write up....but I saw a guy compare his SP to his LX...and he actually preferred the SP. So if he has any idea what he’s talking about....then it’s Z-AP...Z-SP....Z-LX


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Discussion Starter #12
I forget who did the write up....but I saw a guy compare his SP to his LX...and he actually preferred the SP. So if he has any idea what he’s talking about....then it’s Z-AP...Z-SP....Z-LX


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Yes, for me it’s

Z-AP
Z-SP
Z-LX
ST-204D-SQ (i only tested this against the ST-4X SQ)
ST-4X SQ

Oh, and I am not always sure I know what I am talking about. Lol!
 

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I’m old school and it’s been since the Rockford symmetry days since I’ve done a SQ setup and I’m sure it’s different now.
How can the amp increase width and depth? If I remember right that’s a product of speaker placement.
 

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I’m old school and it’s been since the Rockford symmetry days since I’ve done a SQ setup and I’m sure it’s different now.
How can the amp increase width and depth? If I remember right that’s a product of speaker placement.
Speaker placement is the primary requirement for the soundstage, but some frequency adjustments in the 4-8Khz range as well as the amplitude between the left and right channels can affect the width and depth. That's why I asked above if the two amps had their gains matched. Even a very slight mis-adjustment between the two channels in one amp could have a very audible effect.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Speaker placement is the primary requirement for the soundstage, but some frequency adjustments in the 4-8Khz range as well as the amplitude between the left and right channels can affect the width and depth. That's why I asked above if the two amps had their gains matched. Even a very slight mis-adjustment between the two channels in one amp could have a very audible effect.
The gains were matched on all channels.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I’m old school and it’s been since the Rockford symmetry days since I’ve done a SQ setup and I’m sure it’s different now.
How can the amp increase width and depth? If I remember right that’s a product of speaker placement.
I am no expert but I think it has to do with the preamp section of the amplifiers. Components used like opamps and what not.

I have modded amps using different opamps and caps and they do alter the stage.
 

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I’m old school and it’s been since the Rockford symmetry days since I’ve done a SQ setup and I’m sure it’s different now.
How can the amp increase width and depth? If I remember right that’s a product of speaker placement.
Crosstalk

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