This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Bel Canto Design PRe2; Eastern Electric MiniMax; AudioZone PRE-T1 silver & copper [on review]
Amp: Decware Zen Taboo; 2 x AudioSector Patek SE; Canary Audio CA-308 [on review]; Fi WE421A [on review]
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Mk1.5 with new external bass attenuator (retro-fitted)
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S digital cable; Stealth Audio Indra; Zu Cable Varial [on review]; Cerious Technologies interconnect [on review]; Zu Cable Ibis; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; Z-Cable Reference Cyclone power cords on both powerline conditioner
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath DAC and preamp; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell and IsoClean wall sockets
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan and significant 'active' cubic air volume of essentially the entire (small) house
Review component retail: $1,950/pr introductory offer until December 31, 2005 with 30-day in-home trial; $2,450/pr thereafter

There's more to this inedible tuber than meets the eye. Vinh Vu's clever Tresolution trademark is the key. While très borrows from the French to become 'very' or 'ultra' (resolution), what produces it hides behind the number 3. After all, that's another meaning of 'tres'. So yes, the 5.5-ohm Tubulous One uses isobaric loading by way of three paralleled 16-ohm Tonagen-based units with 6.5" treated paper cones and vented pole pieces. They're mounted behind each other to act as one compound driver inside an 8" diameter 17" long tube. The unconventional idea for this exponential gain in driver control (one cone facing the room effectively driven by three motors) and reduction of cone resonance (the rear of the first cone actively pressurized from behind) arose with a close friend of Gingko Audio's. This mystery mentor is a near legendary underground worker in the speaker repair scene. To protect his identity, 'nuff said.

As a four-driver two-way with a modified 2nd-order crossover (self-depreciatingly
dubbed "nothing new"by the excessively humble designer), the Tubulous One sports a few more tricks up its cylindrical sleeve. For one, the upright post rotates freely on the spiked base with its integral bubble level, making precise toe-in a cinch [below as stand-alone stand]. Ditto for the horizontal driver tube. It rotates inside a precision
scallop. Center the time-aligned and thus physically recessed soft-dome bullet tweeter with its damped rear chamber right above the woofers. Or offset its azimuth inward or outward. Your call. With the crossover inside the vertical column (and tweeter and woofer circuit physically separated), the user has access to a tweeter contour pot that remains otherwise invisible to not mar the speaker's clean lines.

As a sealed enclosure, the precise fit of the two hidden drivers inside the main tube was key. It's just one of many practical challenges Vinh enjoyed check-mating. And yes, those tubes are paper. Sourced from construction supplies, they are so heavily impregnated with glue as to be harder and more inert than wood. This allows Gingko Audio to screw its woofers directly into the cylinder's cross section. Different wood veneers and synthetic finishes are available. Vinh even foresees one-up custom finishes should demand arise. A frontal dress ring hides the bolts through the first woofer basket for a tidy appearance. Internal hookup wire is expensive pure OCC copper sourced from Neotek. The tweeter cap is a Solen.

Two layers of absorptive rubber mesh compound line the inner wall of the horizontal tube behind each woofer. The upright can be filled with sand or lead shot poured inside a stocking to self-contain the loading mass.

Like Gingko's acrylic covers and isolation platforms, the Tubulous One is a poster child for applied practicality. More for less has been Vinh's battle cry since his company's inception. The recent sale of his resident Vandersteen 4s suggests he doesn't feel his new speakers lack much by comparison. That too is typical for Vinh. He doesn't believe in the best as though such an absolute existed in audio matters. He's far more interested to offer within reach of the best - for a significantly reduced capital outlay. To facilitate part one of this mission statement, the Tubulous One has been fitted with the already mentioned adjustment features of toe-in along the vertical axis for soundstage width and depth; driver alignment along the horizontal axis for focus and tonal balance; perfect plumbness via the inbuilt bubble level for symmetry with the listening position; and the tweeter contour pot to optimize sonics for a given room and electronics.

While still in the conceptual phase, the inherent rigidity of paper cylinders and their natural avoidance of internal standing waves appealed to Vinh and his secret collaborator. Combine this with how easy to pack, impervious to shipping damage and lighter than an MDF carcass of comparable stiffness they'd be. The choice for an - ahem, off-the-roll cabinet that would double as integral stand became the logical one. It's also sensible for a firm that's never before attempted a speaker. Common sense predicts the usual complications (hence higher end user costs) of outsourcing traditional cabinets. There's delayed deliveries when your small
production runs get bumped back for larger wood shop accounts. There's edge defects where veneers have to meet on rectangular boxes. There's the precarious dance of cabinet volume vs. charged cost plus the associated real estate of warehousing. Dealing with regular stock inventories of concrete molds elegantly sidesteps all these issues.

Going Chuang-Tzu -- being Vietnamese, that's not too far a stretch for Vinh -- his mantra became easy does it. Everything about the Tubulous reflects this approach. That an enclosure no wider than the main driver would offer minimum diffraction effects gets crammed into the general drawer of "everything comes together". Though the end result makes perfect sense, getting there wasn't easy. Hatching creative ideas is child's play. Ending up with somethings that's manufacturable, consistently and reliably and cost-effectively, is not. To cross all the t's and dot all the i's in that department took Vinh a good year. The Tubulous One in prototype form first showed at CES 2005, then still with a rear-firing passive radiator. Subsequent iterations explored vented and sealed alignments and the latter won the designer's final approval.

When asked about his enigmatic mentor, Vinh offered the old parable of the four different levels of knowing. The lowest level is not knowing what you don't know. That's when you're so full of yourself to be sorrily ignorant about your ignorance. The next level is knowing what you know. You've become more humble. The scope of your knowledge is still small but more consciously defined. Even higher than that insight is knowing what you don't know. By now you realize the extent of personal ignorance, allowing real learning to occur. The highest level is not knowing what you know. Concern over or hunger for what isn't known evaporates. True knowledge now operates from an utterly unselfconscious uninspected place. Such a one expresses knowing in all her actions. Because of it, she doesn't know what is known. Such a one has become an automatic medium to the craft. Hence he cannot communicate how he does what he does. This type of creator has developed a knack. She allows her knowingness to reveal itself spontaneously. It's a joyous submission, of human life experience to a higher power.

According to Vinh, the designer of the Tubulous One is such a type. That fully explains his reluctance to take credit. A true healer won't take credit if a healing happens. One feels no more than a facilitator or midwife. Struggling and doing and giving birth was all done by someone else. The intuitive creator similarly won't dishonor the creative process by taking credit. Inspiration arises from a place other than conscious scheming and manipulation. Some people dream their inventions like Mozart who simply heard it and then set it to score. Others like Einstein see a complete mathematical equation appear, ready-made, in the bubble of a soap bath. After more than 30 years of refining his speaker repair craft, Vinh feels that the Tubulous designer has arrived at this childlike state. Hence I shouldn't expect any of the usual white papers, technical dissertations, quotable gems or impressive graphs and measurements. Before getting too serious about this stuff, however, Vinh ended his e-mail to me on a truly heavy note. "Looking forward to getting the speakers to you so you can tell us if we are smoking something". Sacre bleu. Now the bloody burden of tasting
this unusual tuber was left to a diehard non-smoker? Chalk one up for the Gingko Audio team. Even a foul scores.

By way of hard facts, Vinh did share one last item - the tweeter is crossed in at an unusually high 4,500Hz, about an octave higher than most 6.5" woofers on the market would ever attempt. Since human hearing is extremely sensitive in the 1-4K range, moving the crossover point above it makes perfect sense. That's why some designers do the opposite. They bring their tweeter down to 1,000Hz, an octave lower than the usual 2K, again for the same reason. The Tresolution principle of Gingko Audio is said to facilitate their upwardly mobile ambitions by adding enough speed and control to the first woofer facing the room air's impedance to remain fully linear to 4.5K. The designer added that though he can't prove it, his ears tell him that 3 paralleled drivers forced to operate in tandem behind one another do the work of more than three. "It's an exponential thing." He offered the comparison of driving a cabriolet at 50mph, then 150mph. The latter feels a lot faster than simply 3 times as speedy. Vinh meanwhile grabbed a boxer example, marrying Ali's speed and Foreman's power to explain the effects of tubular tresolution. Score another goal for the Gingko Audio team. Now I'd have to rely on my own listening impressions to discover whether I'd agree -- or not -- with their promise of electrostatic speed, dynamic punch and unusual bass extension.