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Before going into different system configs, here are the performance aspects that were identical regardless of ancillaries and my conclusions drawn from that. The Zu Cable Druid Mk4 cheerfully stretches its envelope as your components get better. Even true upper-crust hardware won't get embarrassed, short-changed or signal that it's wearing a restraining muzzle to hold it back. You can thus upgrade your system over time to the best you can afford and the Druid can serve as the still point around which these changes evolve.

The Druid always remains entirely non-fatiguing to accommodate even marathon listening sessions like that distant day in your youth when you snuck from one movie to the next in your local multiplex until you were so overloaded that you didn't remember what the first flick was you'd seen. This aspect reconfirms the complete and utter absence of peakiness and glare. It also points at what some owners of ultra-rez speakers will perhaps call a modest reduction in ultimate resolving power. Certain micro details remain embedded in the soundstage rather than become fully extricated. I believe this to be a combination of deliberate voicing and the fact that a 10.3" driver covers most of the audible band. It's in its natural habitat from the midrange on down. As it reaches higher, the last finite degrees of microscopic magnification begin to elude it.

For most intents and purposes, this is a true asset and part of what I consider to be the Druid's greatest strength, i.e. how explosive dynamics are wedded to a warmish, bodylicious tonal balance that doesn't require a fully developed bottom octave to sound fully anchored and solidly grounded. I secretly call the Druid the meat packer. I'm quite certain that one area in which Zu's own Definition model pulls ahead is magnification power of micro details. The Definition doubles up on the main driver in a d'Appollito array in front and then adds four actively powered 10-inchers on the rear [below].

While we're on the $9,000/pr Definition subject, I'll make an educated guess. The Druid is better than 75% of its performance - for 1/3rd the price. After adding the $2,500 Method subwoofer to this equation, you'll cut the Definition's lead in half again, to get 87% or more of its performance for now 60% of the price. Plus, you'll enjoy more flexibility with setup and room integration, especially vital if your room is the antithesis of palatial expanse (James, could you please open the curtains to the courtyard and bring me a brandy? I'd like to take the Aston Martin for a spin around 3:00. Please have it dusted and ready).

The Druid is a phase-coherent, time-correct design and can throw monstrous depth if you give it sufficient breathing room from the front wall. Transient definition is completely coherent top-to-bottom and can retrieve the unexpected startle from a percussive event surrounded by con arco strings. It can thus separate out a 'spiky' peak from legato washes in terms of completely different texture and energy. This eludes most networked designs with high-order filters. This textural distinguishing power remains unerringly active no matter the complexity or orgiastic playback levels you apply. Dynamics likewise scale in linear fashion from the lowest to the highest notes and to levels far beyond common sense playback volumes. Think of tremendous and practically inexhaustible headroom reserves. Whether you'll ever fully explore them is highly questionable but rest assured that this humble meat packer turns into a vicious party animal should you be so inclined. The word 'compression' does not seem to exist in the Druid's lexicon.

One area where my -- expensive -- horns pull ahead is at subdued volumes. The Druid is very good there but not as good as the Duos. Their curtain call happens earlier. This is a function of not just high efficiencies but hornloading. It adds free acoustical gain to minimize driver excursion requirements so that even the most imperceptible transducer motions are magnified into something big enough to be audible. On the subject of excursions, the Zu260FR-G2 essentially refuses to visibly move even during sock-'em happy hour. It's an exceptionally well-damped driver. Pump the pedal, stand close and observe how rapidly it retracts. It's as though it had gotten burned by fire and reacted just as reflexively. Watching that is a thing of beauty.

The Druid's core quality around which everything else revolves is unmitigated directness. Any sense that there's something between you and the music is pulverized to dust. Some designs pretend at that with hyper detail but that kind of directness doesn't engulf music as a whole. It's about parts, not totality. The latter affects you on an animal gut level and your defenses melt. The former nearly prompts some kind of inner recoil. Very different indeed. Because the Druid is a scalemaster™ -- not stepmaster -- everything gets bigger simultaneously as volumes increase. If you're into size, you might find yourself listening slightly louder than usual - not by much, mind you, but just enough for things to get positively huge.

Part of this equation might be what I speculate is a reactive rather than resistive load. It slightly delays the aforementioned curtain call and means that 30-watt amps (on paper far overpowered) will actually sound gutsier than a 6-watter that has no issues with ultimate loudness at all. What I call aerators -- listeners excessively fond of a sort of fluffy, somewhat ethereal, highly oxygenated sound -- will have mild arguments with the meat packer. The power response of its tweeter compared to that of the big driver seems slightly shadowed. That's were Anthony Gallo's CDT has set new standards. Or perhaps it's deliberate voicing with the Druid? If the Definition is airier despite using the same tweeter and two 260s, that would certainly indicate a conscious design choice. Cymbals get the
initial attack right but some of the metallic fire flies that zip off into space for that mere microsecond flash don't fly as far or as brilliantly as with my Ref 3s or other speakers that implement their tweeters more conventionally from 2kHz on up. This is a truly trifling observation. It doesn't at all detract from musical involvement. Still, it's fair to mention it and paint the whole picture accurately.

The flip side thereof is, naturally, listenability. It not only ties into the long-term ease factor here. It also suggests that less well-behaved, HF-energetic amplifiers won't go on your nerves as they otherwise surely would. And while there's plenty of transistor amps these days that have nothing to be ashamed of, it still remains true that one strength of tubes lies in that peculiar elegance whereby they portray treble (and I don't mean roll-off). The Druid thus becomes an equal opportunity employer for both sand and glass applicants. That's rare in this sector. Most single-driver speakers are traditionally mated with tubes. Druid sez, down with apartheid! One $995 integrated transistor amp I'm certain would be a super match is Peter Daniel's Audiosector piece below. Add an Eastern Electric MiniMax tubed CD player for $899, some Zu Cable interconnect and Zu's Ibis speaker cable and presto, a $6K+ minimalist system I'd be proud to own and so would you.

This gets us back to my previous statement. Since power with the Druid isn't an issue, you can focus on the 10-50wpc market and save. My $10,000/pr Audiopax monos at 30 watts each strutted their stuff as did FirstWatt's $2,500 10-watt F1 current-source amp. If you're an adrenaline junkie -- think Patrick Swayze's Bodhi in Point Break -- the enhanced articulation and transient exactitude of the F1 should be high on your list. A fringe benefit of that particular amp is its absentee noise floor. It's flat-out MIA. Talk about iron-fisted driver control as well. Owners of high-gain preamps may notice that their gain control's taper is too steep and things get too loud too quickly. 101dB speaker efficiencies will do that. High-gain preamps are also liable to be a bit noisy, something you never noticed before with 88-91dB speakers. What you want is either a lo-to-medium gain preamp or a power amp with a low input sensitivity, i.e. not something that reaches its full rated power with 0.5 volts but well above 1 and ideally closer to 2 (the industry standard CD player output). What you don't want is some exotic source that outputs 6 volts. What you don't want neither is some noisy-as-hell tube amp or some high-power monstrosity whose power supply injects a noticeable hum into the electron microscope your system has turned into. If you're into valves, a power amp with an optional passive attenuator as I used to own in the excellent Art Audio PX-25 could be the ticket and eliminate the preamp altogether.

Admittedly, this is all fair and common sense if you've had 100dB+ speakers before. But the market regrettably isn't exactly crowded in that regard. So it's far more likely that you're new to this game. In that case, take what I've said to heart and consider the implications. They won't be obvious to you from experience. It's all good stuff of a purely practical nature but needs to be kept in mind.