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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Decware SE84CSP [on review]
Amp: First Watt F-1; First Watt F-2 [on review]; Decware Zen Taboo
Speakers: Zu Cable Druid Mk4; Zu Cable Method
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Stealth Audio Indra (x2), Zu Cable Gede to subwoofer, Zu Cable Ibis, Zu Cable Birth; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; ZCable Hurricane power cords on both conditioners
Stands: 1 x 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 stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell 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
Review Component Retail: $9,000/pr in two standard colors

Outer space transmission. Come in: In Akkadian mythology, Zu (called Anzu in Persia and Sumer) was a lesser god, the son of the bird goddess Siris and first commander of the Nibiruan space station on Lahmu (Mars) as well as the first Nibiruan cosmonaut on planet earth. Both Zu and Siris were depicted as massive birds (astronauts) who could breathe fire and water, although Zu is alternately seen as a lion-headed eagle like the griffin. Zu was a servant of the chief sky god, Enlil. He stole the Tablets of Fate from his master, hoping to determine the fate of all things. (If you want to know who Enlil was and how to decode the mythological descriptions, read Zecharia Sitchin's The Lost Book of Enki - Memoirs and Prophecies of an Extraterrestrial God [Bear & Company]. It covers millennia of colonizing by Nibiru whose visitors mined Gaia for gold and seeded and shepherded much of human evolution. Since Nibiru's erratic trajectory as our solar system's 12th planet means one of its solar orbits called a shar equals 3,600 of our earth years, its inhabitants are practically immortal from our perspective. All this according to Sitchin and the Old Testament. Definitely far more interesting reading than any audio reviews - to which we'll now return zurreptitiously.) Outer space transmission, over.

Seven drivers, four of 'em active. That makes a double-blind euphemism out of calling the Zu Cable Definition a single-driver design. Conversely, two of these drivers do cover 40Hz to 12kHz each by their lonesome and without any crossover. That makes calling the Definition your average 3-way quite unimaginative. It also misses the point by a league and a half. So exactly what should we call this unusual offering?

For one, a sealed design that redefines the notion of full range in two ways once you think about it. This speaker is centered on two paralleled ultra wide-bandwidth drivers that are augmented by additional hardware merely in the bottom and top octaves. For two, a Zu Druid/Method combo [below] in a single box. Except that definition doesn't account for the MTM array upfront. It adds one Zu 260FR transducer over the Druid. (Incidentally, four rear-firing self-amplified 10" woofers don't equal the cone area of the Method's dual 15 inchers either. Alas, eight x 10" woofers for a pair of Definitions go beyond even the stout subwoofer and guarantee stereo rather than mono sub bass.) For three, a serious attempt at combining a number of items: high efficiencies (101dB); easy drive behavior (resistive 6-ohm load); over 90% of the audible bandwidth reproduced by proprietary crossover-less drivers (with crossover points at 40Hz/4th-order and 12kHz/1st-order); and full-range extension to 16Hz in a reasonably sized box with a 12" x 12" footprint (actually, 12.8"
wide by 12.5" deep) and 49" of height.

Phew. That was a mouthful. But then, the Definition really is a mouthful. With 5 to 500 watts power handling, it's an omnivore. At just a skoch over 4 feet tall, it's demure in the scheme of flagship efforts. At 120 lbs each, it won't require reinforcement beams under your floor. At $9,000/pr, it's an embarrassment of riches that questions -- silently if you would listen -- whether spending 2 or 20 times that amount really is mandatory to enjoy uncompromised Mount Olympus performance as competing flagship efforts would seem to suggest.

As if all of that weren't enough to raise a few eye brows, the Definitions are sheer simplicity. No tri-wiring, no external jumpers, no crossover or attenuator options to foul up factory voicing. A single Cardas pure-copper custom terminal and a power IEC are it. That means a single run of speaker cables. For those with flea-powered amps, it also means that the Definitions will deliver 16Hz all day and night long from their own internal amplifiers. Include triode lovers with bass-challenged amps into that group while we're at it. Since your main amp transfers its THD behavior to the Definitions in toto (and not just their MTM array), there's no worries about tube/transistor discrepancies.

Pondering the Definitions, one can't fail to proclaim "smart!". This is a very clever and practical design that attempts to do it all in a real-world package. My question had nothing to do with speaker or designer IQ. Reviewing the Druid and Method had already convinced me of the brain power and ears working at Zu. What concerned me were those quadruple rear-firing 10 inchers. Yes, they'd only play below 40Hz. Yes, they'd barely have to move even during loud infrasonic eruptions. Yes, they'd be fast as hell. But, they'd be facing a wall. In my case, a wall that couldn't move farther than maximally 4 feet from that woofer array. Undue reinforcement for bass-heavy tonal balance? Fully accounted for by how the design was voiced? Only one way to find out.

Sean Casey -- one of the two designers -- had business in my state and thus proposed to personally deliver the review pair. Spotting an opportunity for some one-on-one Q&A time (never mind having some fun listening together), I said yes. Getting experienced ears into a reviewer room that otherwise tends to be a pretty self-involved zero feedback zone always makes for a welcome reality check as well. Zu-per! If Sean hated the sound I made, I could always whip out one of my iron-clad non-disclosure agreements. To be honest, since I sold my Audiopax Model 88s to finance my current exploits into Zu speakers and various affordable amps to drive 'em with, I haven't yet found an amp that does exactly what the Brazilians did. I don't really expect to, either. If I can get into the ballpark -- what our John Potis calls "the lion's share" -- for a fraction of the price, I'll call it mission impossible - accomplished.

Like the Druid, the Definition wears a phenolic undergarment. It sits between the MDF carcass and the primer, both of course below the paint or lacquer you see on the surface. One assumes constrained-layer damping benefits from this approach. Since I'd have one of the designers present, I didn't have to assume. I could ask. What a concept. Incidentally, a non-refundable $1,500 and a 3-week lead time will buy you any imaginable custom (automotive or other) lacquer finish your heart desires. Below, a Maserati Blue Nettuno pair is nearing completion for one of Zu's customers.

Other questions I expect many readers would be curious to have answered? Considering the size of the main drivers and their proximity to each other in the Definition, what about beaming and lobing? Considering that the Definition uses the same tweeter as the Druid but two wide bandwidth units surrounding it, how has the difference in cone area and efficiency been addressed to maintain natural tonal balance and appropriate HF power response? As far as the cabinet goes, are the woofers mounted into their own sealed sub enclosure? How has the overall enclosure changed the loading of the main drivers as compared to the downfiring slot-loaded Griewe alignment of the Druids?