From what I've seen and used, only Noctua CPU coolers and case fans are better (more flow, less noise, better build quality etc).
As for Zalman coolers, the ones I have ( 8700, 9500, 9700 ) are great from the noise/cooling power ratio. It is true they come with the crappy Zalman fan controller ("FAN MATE 2", which sounds like some Russel Crowe fan club or something ) and that the older models have no PWM compatible plug (the 9700 one is newer and has this type of plug). However I put in two of my cases a Zalman ZM-MFC2 fan controller, mainly because they come with a watt-meter to hook up to your PSU and they have compatible plugs for their coolers and fans and I use the ZM-MFC2 to throttle the fans and CPU cooler.
Also, the fans on the coolers I have are not user replaceable. The coolers don't have 90/120mm fans attached to the fins/body that can be removed and replaced by another generic 90/120mm fan.
As I've said, these coolers serve me well. I have the 9500 and the 8700 for almost two years and they are still doing their job. If I'll have to replace them, maybe I'll take a second look at Noctua's line, but for now they work good.