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Sean Casey with Giuseppe d'Agata, a friend of Zu's Italian importer at HighEnd 2012
07 June 2012 23:24. I am just a few weeks from a trick solution for a new cabinet material. At least that's what I sense. I want Druid V to be as close to friggin' awesome as possible. If I don't have success in one week I will settle on the composite wood version which is done. The new material uses NidaCore. I love this stuff but am still working out some production finish issues. Last night I completed some sample test layups. While I had a few more blems in the thin gel coat than I would like—I would prefer to find a way to eliminate the gel coat altogether as it increases the Q and raises high-frequency resonance—the core and final product already had the anticipated sound and performance. I will be doing some additional layups and tests over the weekend and if all goes well enough start the full-size tooling on Monday.

14 June 2012 18:29. Finally have resolution on the things I was still fighting with the Druid 5 cabinet. The full-on composite cab using NidaCore has proven too complex from labor to finish and I am not going to push the price up any further. Until yesterday I had been working on a twin-path solution with the backup being to make the V out of a combination of Maple ply and composite high-density epoxy-wood skins aka Zu Super ply. I really was happy enough with the material's performance but there was still some box ring in the presence/treble region I was looking to remove. It really drove me quite crazy. It was something I could expect a Druid owner to listen through at $3.600 but not at $7.000.

1: custom layup 20mm Zu Superply-2
2: VE Resin + PP mat
3: PP veil
4: Nida-Core H8PP
5: veil + VE resin + PP mat
6: VectorPly E-TLX 2400 triaxial 26 oz. with horizontal bias
7: VE resin + 2" M.D. acoustic foam

The final solution was actually quite simple. I had to take what I'd realized with the NidaCore layups and apply the super-structuring and damping qualities within the Super ply frame. It's a simple and elegant solution that combines both cabinet builds in one. It seems so logical looking back. Even Peter Griffin would see it. And the process and material don't need big tooling. That keeps the price from spiraling out of control. Today I finish detailing out the parts and getting the materials cut and kitted so the first run of final Druid 5 cabs is now imminent.

Layup test sample

In the drawing below, green denotes the 2.5 x 7 x 28" tall Griewe cartridge wedge working in conjunction with the layout's arrangement of coring and bracing. The net result is an about 1:2 three-point acoustic impedance gradient for a full Griewe implementation in the Druid 5 (getting all that detail into the cabinet requires a bit of creative production). Clearance between floor and speaker bottom is still required. 1/4" [6mm] is a good start. The bottom porting feature which allows the driver and room acoustics to hook up is similar to the previous Druid version. The bottom view detail—looking at the plinth from below—shows the open area as black fill. The green is the center portion of the Griewe center wedge. Like in previous Druids users will be able to fine tune the loading for easy optimization with amps and rooms. There are two ways to do this: adjust the gap height with the footers which requires re-alignment or simply shim the gap with old issues of Tape Op or paper sheets.

The terminal plate is a double-up parallel thing with our ZuB3 interface via SpeakON 8-pole—the pin-outs are our convention— and CE-approved 5-way binding posts. ZuB3 termination connects solderless direct via euro block type termination into each contact rod. On the regular binding posts for standard and oversized spades, 4mm banana and bare wire, all three circuits within each charge (pole) are parallel connected and terminated into 1/4" [6.3mm] Panduit copper disconnects. That's about as good as it gets for a 5-way binding post termination. Though we think it's special, we aren't forcing anyone to use our interface. Users can try, compare and decide. While we view our own cables as good as it gets in each price bracket and for the majority of systems, we all have at least a moderate investment in loudspeaker cable. Many of those are not Zu but already matched up to best work within a given system. We encourage users to try what they have. If the choice is more music or another set of cables, all but the seriously blessed collectors of music should be rolling cash into more purchased music.
ZuB3 via SpeakON 8-pole yields less contact resistance than 5-way binding posts even if those be cold-forged to the non-plated Cardas patented binding posts as we've been doing in most our speakers for the last decade. We love the Cardas but at least for us this is even better. We publish our pin outs so you can terminate your cable to work within our architecture. Going ZuB3 via SpeakON 8-pole and not spades on a non-Zu cable will still reduce contact resistance by better than half. But you won't get the symmetrical and near uniform E&M fields propagation through the cabinet wall as you would with Zu Event, Ibis or Libtec speaker cable built around the ZuB3 E&M model. That's a cable archetype which measures and performs differently than twisted pairs, coax, braids or ribbons. We believe it significantly improves performance. Druid 5 features this cable geometry inside. Connecting Zu cable from the amplifier to the loudspeaker via the ZuB3 connection interface ensures best fidelity. It maintains the cable’s electric and magnetic features through the bulkhead of the speaker.

Shortly after we incorporated back in 2000, I conceptualized a new E&M model for transmission of signal/power that has proven to be real and beneficial in the larger audio bandwidth from 10 to 300.000Hz. Our first product with this technology was the Zu Wax loudspeaker cable and shortly after the original Zu Druid which like today's Druid 5 featured the ZuB3 interface and parallel standard binding post. But after the first ten pair we decided to kill the ZuB3 interface. There just were too many differences between what we were doing and established convention. The market or our lack of marketing couldn't come to terms with new cable technology, new cabinet/room loading technology, new interfaces, high efficiency and good bass all in a bold and different form riding on a pagan name from an oddly named company complete with underground cult buzz.

Until we got our first English loudspeaker review, it was just too much for our home market to swallow. Here is a photo of the shop as it was then, from the spot where I took Srajan's phone call inquiring about our review policy and saying 'count me in' when I told him he had to buy the speakers with a 60-day return policy.

Easy relaunch of a classic?
In the intervening years newer models had made serious progress. Druid V had catching up to do to rise from the ashes. To maintain personal tradition, I put myself down for a pair, then sent Sean this mark-my-merc photo for a color sample. I'd loved various white speakers I'd hosted or spotted elsewhere. I also fondly remembered the beefy Daimler-Benz taxis of my youth. Those always were parked en masse at the train station where my school bus departed. Those cabs came in just one color, a luxurious ivory that changed hue with lighting. I figured it would make for a luscious variant on the more formal piano gloss white.

Sean was instant game. Since it's Merc paint, old or not I'll be able to obtain the color codes from Ogden Auto Paint and get it just right. Two days later, we tracked that photo down to a 1996 E class sedan. The paint is called Polar White DP149. We are mixing up a batch and sending you a spray-out on Friday.
Incidentally we have moved our factory burn-in protocol up to 600 hours for all nanotech drivers. Less than that and they sound aggressive and bitchy. This is one of the reasons why we have been moving slow. I wanting to discover, know and then solve for these new products any curve balls before we ship product to customers.

When production for the Druid V had just about caught up with the announced release of Zu's new $5.000 Submission running the Def 4 woofer, solid billet plinth and Hypex-based electronics as a Def 4-sized tall subwoofer tower with a 32cm footprint, I agreed to add one to this assignment. After all, minus room gain the bottom octave of the Druid should be mostly MIA. Figuring that the Submission wouldn't have to segue in above 60Hz and perhaps lower still to make stereo bass less critical, I asked for just one subwoofer. Sean agreed to paint it to match for a cosmetic set. A customer eyeing the $16.000 Definition IV now had an alternate choice. Druid V plus double Submission are essentially like coin while the solo sub combo clocks in at $11.500. The zoo was growing. But there were to be even more choices.

Capiche? When Italian importer Salvo Giardina of Audio Point Italia received his first Druid V in Ferrari red, the Sicilian valve fiend and serious modder of personal gear (his tri-amped tube system in Catania at right) expressed dislike of the Mundorf silver/gold cap Zu used on their tweeter high-pass. Not having kept up with the latest boutique caps, Sean gave Salvo free rein to experiment. He then tested Salvo's top picks in Utah. As a result the Druid V comes with a good/better/best filter choice. The stock cap is a ClarityCap MR 630V unit. The step up becomes a German Intertechnik Audyn-cap true copper. The top and by far costliest option is the Danish Duelund Black cast part. Cap replacements are user fittable and require no soldering, just removal of the widebander. To splurge and report on a fully gussied-up Druid, my pair would have the Duelunds.

The Audyn True Copper caps add $200. The Duelund VST Black Cu-based filter adds $800. ClarityCap and Duelund caps are marched to within .005% and culled from the same production batch. While we try to keep inventory, Duelund caps have long lead times, hence there may be delays to Druid with Duelund orders. Duelund is the most well-rounded and clear, able to express dirty bluesy tones but really excelling in clean-tone sounds. This cap is well-balanced in transient and sustain/decay expression. Close to Duelund is the stock ClarityCap MR 630. It's not quite as low noise as the Duelund but close (and there's no surcharge). With the Druid V the ClarityCap MR was a nice improvement over the Mundorf S/O caps. The Intertechnik Pure Copper are similar to the ClarityCap MR 630. Mundorf S/O worked really well for electric blues and most rock but were not as extended or clean for pure tones.

Amped up. Asking Sean about his favorite Druid amp, yours was the answer. He too was in love with Nelson Pass' FirstWatt SIT1 monos and even agreed on the special synergy with DHT preamps, an Allnic in his case. For valve amps he fancied the Audion Black Shadow and well-executed 845 machines from other vendors seem equally copasetic and championed over other tube types.

To add some arm wrestling if certainly no twisting, Swiss reader Robert Sandru then contacted me to offer up his not-yet-delivered new Soul Supreme with the same optional Duelund upgrade for a session against the Druid V. Same drivers, same filter parts, different cabinets. How would sonics compare?