Parasound Zpre3

Well, I did it. After ,months and months of refusing to think a separate preamp could be *that* much better than using my AV receiver as a pre behind my Belles 400A amp, curiosity finally got the better of me. After nights of study and going back and forth whether to buy an older vintage pre, like a Counterpoint or similar tube based pre, I finally decided to give the Parasound ZPre3 a shot. Got it as a fully warranted open box for about $325.00. Why? Well, #1 it has an AV pass-through (my system is dual purpose), #2 it is exactly the same width as my PS Audio Digital Link III DAC, so can sit on top of it and takes up very little room, and #3, it is a Parasound, a respected brand, and ‘new’.

I am still integrating my Ifi Mini-Tube 2 tube buffer (and pre, but only use it as a buffer) in between the Parasound and Belles, as I have been very impressed with what it can do while using my AV receiver as a preamp. Thus, also getting a bit of tube sound from the Parasound and into the Belles and ‘warm things up’.

But man, all my concerns that this could be throwing money down the drain is no longer a fear after setting it up this afternoon and listening to LP’s, CD’s, steaming, and even cassette tape through it. I’m pretty impressed; it sounds great, and much better than my Yamaha AV using ‘pure direct’ (which I now realize sounds like garbage) or even the AV’s ‘room correction’ equalization to try and make up for its shortfalls as a ‘do it all’ AV receiver. This Parasound Zpre is a very nice improvement, and it seems like I’m finally hearing what my old Belles 400A amp is capable of.

Not sure why this little preamp doesn’t get more attention (practically none), which also concerned me when finally deciding on it. I looked at the Parasound NewClassic 200 pre as well, but as I have a separate DAC and phono stage, I really didn’t need that, and it seems that is the biggest difference between the Zpre and 200 for the additional cost.

Anyway, wanted to give a ‘shout out’ to this little preamp, thus far I’m pretty impressed, and I’m looking forward to listening some more. The definition of the imaging and overall soundstage it produces is very nice indeed. Very easy set-up, and as I am a very frugal ‘audiophile’ (especially during these times as a self employed person) the price was definitely right. If anyone else is ‘in my boat’, a unit to consider.

that is very underrated

I am enjoying it. Have spent a good part of the day tweaking my Vandy’s, the Zpre, and the ifi Mini Tube 2, to explore all the various options and dial in the sound I (I think I) desire. A continual exploration, but I’m pretty darn happy with it....right now ;-)

I’m not sure if it is underrated as much as ignored because of its form factor. I have a feeling most think they ‘need’ to pair it with the rest of the smaller Z series, and that sure doesn’t seem the case for me. One of the reasons I considered it was to save space, as it fits on top of my DAC perfectly. But, I also wondered about its performance given its small size during that consideration, which is quite silly as I know what the even smaller ifi can do in my ‘large’ system. And was also pleasantly surprised how much more the ifi Mini Tube effects the sound with the Parasound in the path vs the AV receiver (which I bought to help ‘hide’ the receivers shortcomings). The options it provides are much more ‘pronounced’, detailed, defined, and refined with the Zpre.

I’m listening to Chailly conducting The Royal Concertgebouw; Mahler’s 4th, and it sounds wonderful.
Im glad I came across this thread. I too have been looking for a budget pre amp with a Home theater pass through and kept coming back to this little pre in my search. Actually I first found the Parasound NewClassic 200Pre and then within the website discovered the Zpre3.
Id be willing to bet $$$ that the internals of these 2 models are identical aside from the extras the classic 200 has. (which dont appeal to me what so ever)
I really like the fact that the HT pass through works without having to turn the unit on at all.
Like the original poster I have a yamaha receiver and am using the "direct stereo" pre out function that feeds an AdcomGFA5802 stereo power amp.
After finally finishing my basement I wanted to set up a nice home theater system with stereo capability.
Prior to this I was powering the 5802 with a JAS Audio Array 1.1 Vacum tube pre amp and some nice Cardas interconnects and all fed with a Musical fidelity V90 Dac in turn running some old Infinity Interlude series towers.
The synergy between that pre amp and amp and speakers was and is amazing.. Using the yamaha as stereo a pre amp , well lets just say its short of atrocious...
Its quite amazing how little thought is put into the stereo section of a receiver.
I would have to assume that any stand alone or separate pre amp would be better than a receiver.
Im sure if you throw enough money at the receiver things could be different as well.
My main issue with this little pre amp is the possibility of disappointment as I am expecting a higher caliber of sound now due to my previous pre amp.
This is a secondary system for me so I don’t want get carried away with pricey components.. They are all hand me down components due to the upgrade path of my main
I think Im going to hold off from pulling the trigger till this virus business blows over (or the stores open) and have a listen first.
Some times you do find nice little gems that fly under the radar and are priced well.

I’m not sure you can really compare the Zpre to your JAS Audio tube pre amp at a tenth of the cost. Although I am happy with it, and sounds good with my Belles and Vandy’s, it’s still an under $500 pre, but did solve my AV pre issue with little cash out of pocket. That said, it probably punches above its weight.

I agree though, I’m also pretty convinced the internals are the same as the Classic 200 without the DAC or phono stage at half the price.

And again, I’m running it with the ifi Mini Tube 2 between the ZPre and the Belles. I did run it straight to the Belles to check out, but dang it, that little ifi is a magical little tube buffer, (not to be confused with the majority of the junk on the market), and cost me as much as the Zpre. Back in it went. So together, about a $700 ‘package’. But, that’s what I would have spent (min.) on a few vintage/older tube pre’s I was looking at, without the AV pass-through. The thought of balancing an old pre and my AV receiver via the one of the RCA line stages, and fussing around with that every time I wanted to switch between 2 channel and HT was not something that thrilled me. The Zpre can become a pass though by not being on, or a simple press of the remote. And I have to admit, the tone controls are nice to have as well, and help balance for my room, as the treble can get hidden with the bass the Vandy’s and both my subs can create. So, between the Vandy’s on-board tweeter and mid-range controls, and the basic tone controls on the Zpre, having that available adjustment is convenient, and a real plus IMO.

Good idea to get a audition of this little pre. I didn’t, so took a chance. But, and I’m pretty happy with its overall performance. Not ‘tinny’, flat, dull, harsh, or sounds like my music is coming from can (alright, perhaps an exaggeration.....maybe). 
As I was writing that last post, I was curious, and thinking my opinion is being unfairly represented with the ifi Mini Tube in place. So, I decided to take the ifi Mini Tube 2 back out of the path and did an A/B test : CD player > Yamaha AV (via HDMI) > Belles playing via the pass-through, VS. the CD player > PS Audio DAC > Zpre > Belles. Compared each back and forth with a button press ‘side by side’.

Quite the difference, the Zpre/DAC/CD combo spanked the Yamaha handily. Depth, weight, detail, imaging, soundstage, all of it. Sure, the DAC helps (vs the CD player DAC), but many who purchase the Zpre, I would think, have a separate DAC for digital play.

I’m actually surprised how good the Zpre sounds without the ifi Mini Tube in the path, maybe better ?? Maybe I didn’t give it a chance without the ifi, and I’ll have to listen a bit more without it. mmmmm....
I wondered if anyone could comment on how good the channel balance is at low volumes. Especially if you turn it down to the lower parts of the rotation is it still even left and right?  Does it drop one channel before the other when turning it right down?