This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above

Reviewer: John Potis
Analog Source: Rega P9 turntable, RB1000 & Hadcock GH Export arms, Benz Micro MC Silver, Rega Super Elys & Garrott Bros Optim FGS Cartridges.
Digital Source: Accoustic Arts Drive 1/Audio Aero Prima SE DAC
Preamp: Bel Canto Pre2P
Power Amp: Art Audio Carissa, Bryston 7B ST
Speakers: Hørning Perikles, Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3, Ohm Acoustics Walsh 4 with 4.5 mk.2 upgrade
Cables: JPS Labs Superconductor and Superconductor FX interconnects and speaker wire, Furutech Digi Reference digital
Power Cords: ZCable Heavys & Black Lightnings, PS Power AC, Analog AC, Digital AC and Kaptovator power cords
Powerline conditioning: Balanced Power Technology 3.5 Signature Plus with ZCable Heavy Power Cord, Auric Illuminator
Sundry accessories: Vibrapod Isolators and Cones, Ultra & Heavy ZSleeves
Room size: 12' by 16' with 9' ceiling
Review component retail: $2,980 delivered to US/Canada, sold direct with 30-day evaluation period

I've given up trying to predict the future. The CD wasn't perfect sound forever and all these years later, vinyl still isn't quite dead but arguably, doing very well in the DJ culture. Silly me, I did think that between SACD and DVD-A, one of the formats would survive. I really did. Now some are predicting the end of CD as we know it - not the format, just the delivery. I already read about this 20 years ago. It was said that we'd plug in somewhere and download the music rather than purchase and carry home the physical disc. I guess the iPod has brought us one giant step closer to that eventual possibility. But I have a really hard time believing that this can be all that good for the industry at large. Don't get me wrong. Anything that keeps the kids interested in music can't be a bad thing. What I've got in mind is the gone and almost forgotten corner record store - certainly gone from my neighborhood for many years now. If you're old enough to remember them, you probably agree that it was the rare case when you walked in knowing exactly what you'd walk out with. Even if you knew what you wanted, you couldn't stop yourself from hanging around the store. Maybe you heard something being piped throughout the store's wall-mount speakers that caught your attention. Maybe you couldn't keep yourself from thumbing through the bins, checking out the cover art for something that looked interesting. That's how you sell music, I think. Making yourself blind scanning lists of text on your computer screen is a far poorer way.

Okay, so the corner store is gone. That doesn't mean that downloading from some far-off server is the answer. I don't know about you but I can only own what I can touch. Downloads to your computer hard drive? It's only a matter of time until that hard drive fails. Then what? Where did your music go? Here's to hoping you had a backup somewhere. So far, I don't see anybody bragging that they've got the perfect hard drive. Way down deep, most people know that it's not a matter of if but when the hard drive will fail. So I'm going on record opining that the CD is going to be around for quite some time to come. And I have to believe that the folks at Zero One agree with me. But are we right?

Years ago and while at SoundStage!, I interviewed Polk Audio's Matthew Polk and his director of propaganda, Paul DiComo. One part of the conversation has stuck with me ever since. We were discussing the then recent demise of the DAT format. Matthew Polk told me that when considering a new technology's viability, he asks himself four questions. Is it more convenient? Does it offer an economic benefit? Does it offer higher performance? Does it improve access to entertainment? In his opinion, the answers to at least three of the questions must be yes for any new technology to succeed. I thought that these four questions might help me evaluate the Zero One.

The Zero One Ti48 is indeed a hard drive based music delivery/storage system. But as you can plainly see, it doesn't forgo the usual disc drawer. The Ti48 utilizes a Toshiba DVD-ROM transport system that serves as both part of the playback and archival system. Place a CD in the drawer and you can play it back as you would in a normal CD player. Or you can tell the Ti48 to grab the CD and archive the data on its internal hard drive. What here doesn't scare the bejeezus out of me is the fact that one retains the physical CD for backup as well as for portable duties. That makes using a hard drive much easier to contemplate. Of course, having the CD on hand also means that sometime in the very near future, the need to shorten download times won't mean that lossy compression schemes have to become de rigueur. Maintaining the music's highest fidelity is the Zero One Ti48's raison d'être.

Fundamentally, the Ti48 is a computer with 240GB worth of hard drive capacity to store up to 350 hours of uncompressed CD-quality music. But computers make me nervous so I tried not to think of it in those terms. Isolated power supplies, strategic shielding and the kind of attention to detail one finds in the high end audio salons rather than in the computer isle at the Office Depot put me at ease. The IEC power inlet on the rear as well as the S/PDIF coaxial (RCA) and TOSLink options on the rear provided further assurance. Like any digital transport, the Ti48 eschews analog outputs. Its digital outputs pass a binary digital stream to an external D/A converter of your choice. Zero One does manufacture a matching DAC, the Ar38 that connects via a supplied I2S cable. Its large 25-pin source end fits to the Ti48 connector marked "I2S OUT" and the small 15-pin load end to the Zero One DAC at the connector marked "DIGITAL IN" and "I2S". It makes for a pretty idiot-proof connection. But get this. The output device on the Ti48 is set to S/PDIF by default. That is cool - immediate plug-n-play friendliness with DACs from other manufacturers. Since I decided to evaluate the Ti48 with my own DAC, the S/PDIF default meant I was off to the races. Of course, users of the Ar38 need only switch on the necessary I2S output device via the Ti40's menu.
Prior to the Ti48's arrival, I had been invited to a telephone tutoring session with Zero One's Alvin Heng from Singapore. Alvin suggested that everything I needed to know was in the manual but he still offered to flatten my learning curve by walking me through the steps. However, before our scheduled lesson even arrived, I already had the Ti48 up and running to make music. I found the 36-page manual exhaustive, comprehensive and exceptionally well laid-out.

All operations of the Ti48 are by remote. Outside the power mains switch on the rear (which cycles things up in the precise manner of all computers), there are no command buttons located anywhere on the Ti48. Again like a computer, even the power-down sequence is accessed with the easy-to-navigate menu. Of such importance then is the remote control that Zero One includes two identical wands in case you temporarily misplace one. Once acquainted with its features and layout, I quickly became comfortable but for one peculiarity. For want of a better term, the remote had what I'd call a hair trigger. Alvin Heng had pre-warned me, which lessened any frustration I would have otherwise suffered. Still, the fact remains that if you hold down a button too long, it sends its signal twice. Instead of hitting "2", you send "22". Instead of skipping one track, you skip two. Rather than entering a menu command... well, any number of things could happen. Once I got used to the feel of the remote and had the confidence that a quick stab at a button meant that I'd successfully sent a prompt, it became a non-issue. Because the display remains lit for a very short time following each new prompt, a lit display served as further confirmation that the Ti48 was receiving my commands. Nevertheless, I'm assured that Zero One has a new remote control that is being shipped as I write this. It will be sent to all of Zero One's existing customers.