I had a niggling doubt floating round when reviewing the Zanden Model 9600mk2 power amplifiers. There was something missing; the Zanden Model 3000 line preamplifier had been upgraded to Model 3000mk2 status, completing the full Classic line of phono stage, preamplifier, and mono power amplifiers. This was the older of the two changes, first seen at CES 2017, but in a way discussing one without the other is like talking about Butch without Sundance or tuning in to watch a ‘Hardy’ movie without the ‘Laurel and…’ part. It’s just not done!
The Zanden Model 3000mk2 preamplifier sports three RCA and three XLR line-level inputs and a single set of RCA and XLR outputs to the power amplifier. An all-valve design, the Model 3000mk2 uses a single 5687 double-triode in the input stage and a pair of 6CA4s as line drivers in the output. This gives an 8V output to the power amp, with a low 300Ω output impedance making it ideal for the high 7.5kΩ input impedance for the balanced-only Model 9600mk2 power amps, or long pre/power interconnect cables.
Zanden’s Model 3000mk2 replaces the previous model Model 3000 preamplifier in the Classic Series and includes a number of crucial improvements. The input and output transformers were replaced with amorphous cobalt models (the predecessor used µ-metal on the output transformer). The tube rectified power supply has been completely redesigned. Zanden has also retained the highest quality ALPS analogue potentiometer while successfully implementing a motor drive system to achieve remote volume control. The model Model 3000mk2 also includes a full function remote which controls power, volume, switching of sources, absolute or reverse polarity and a mute function.
The solid excellence of the power amplifiers is echoed in the preamp. The build quality is truly from another world; we sometimes talk about ‘Rolls-Royce’ quality in the best of audio, but this is so sublime Rolls-Royce should be talking about Zanden levels of fit and finish inside its cars. This makes it hellish to photograph; it’s a high key pale gold finish with brushed and shiny chrome, and inset LEDs, and a power supply unit made of the sort of shiny chrome that camera lenses and fingerprints are a continual problem. In use, of course, the preamplifier and power amplifier sit on separate shelves and – aside from the occasional dusting – just look outstanding. Of course the sound is a perfect match, but such is the look and the sound quality, realistically you won’t be using anything else but other amplifier products from the company’s Classic range.