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Character brief. Once the speaker recovered from its sub-zero transport temps—it was bass-less, tipped up and emaciated right after being unpeeled from its expanded foam clamshell packing despite the 600 hours—sounding 'normal' simply implied well balanced. Unlike Rethm and Voxativ, the core flavor or presentational perspective wasn't one of hellraising speed. First and foremost the Druid V communicated high image density from whisper levels on up, great color saturation and dynamic expressiveness. The latter wasn't obvious at very subdued volumes but moved into the foreground starting with lower room levels where the sound begins to activate the entire space rather than being an isolated puddle/bubble between the speakers.

This nimble-footed beefiness or rosy-cheeked vitality came off with just transistors, say Metrum Hex directly into the Bakoon or gainclone amps. Yamamoto's A-014 added 300B gelatin to their stew. Textures thickened, separation reduced, the top end shaded, rhythmic charge mellowed. Very simple material benefited, more complex multi-layered urgently grooving stuff didn't. Clearly the V proved very responsive to what drove it. Just as clearly actual bottles weren't required to arrive at valve-type colorization. Where certain ceramic drivers punch hands on edge where transients dominate over follow-up, the V goes full-fisted knuckles. Its sound has none of the former's slicy dicey nervousness. It also doesn't have the built-in warmth of my big 5-driver 3-way AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200. Curiously given its much reduced diaphragm area and one less octave of bass, the Druid V produced very similar in-room density. I was very puzzled by how it did that!*

* Hazarding a guess, it's this particular quality I assume the Definition IV elaborates on further simply as a function of twice its air-moving cone surface. That's what this game is all about after all: getting air to move around our ears.

Basso inconspicuo. Deliberately forced ported alignments exhibit bass which, whilst at first impressive relative to drivers and box size, tends to soon betray telltale ringing and resonance. It's the currency in which these gains were (ill) gotten. Zu's own take on 'reverse' compression loading—downfiring without port tube but instead an elongated dense foam pyramid which progressively narrows the internal air space before the rear wave escapes between plinth and floor to turn the latter's spacing into a default tuning feature—doesn't ring. It doesn't sound tacked on. It's not about maximal bass boost for a given driver and air volume.

It's about a texturally cohesive continuation which in this context means tight, snappy and well damped. It's not the big boisterous bass of my Lithuanians. It's not the super-punchy striated wiry bass which Anthony Gallo's TR-3D subwoofer makes in the nearfield from a cylindrical enclosure with nearly no free air inside. It's less overt than either. In the middle. Let's call it 'just is'. Given the speaker's size when viewed straight on to disguise its very shallow depth, extension and bass weight track well with reasonable expectations for a 2-way floorstander. This has welcome implications for woofing with a sub. One really is interested only in adding the bottom octave (give or take depending on room gain). With stereo bass solid to 50Hz in standard living rooms, monaural fill below it is unproblematic and won't become directional giveaway.

This also keeps the vital upper bass free from introductions of potential phase errors. Finally it means only bona fide subwoofers need apply. Many so-called woofers really are just bass extenders for small monitors which here wouldn't suit. This scheme has certain advantages over a passive three-way which must filter its critical mid driver on both top and bottom. With Druid V + sub, the widebander remains filterless whilst the bass driver gains its own dedicated enclosure (good for interference freedom and ability to place independently) and its own attenuator (very useful to dial in the most desirable in-room bass volume independently whilst not putting any LF strain on the main amp).

In my 5.5 x 12m room, the Druid V's unassisted bass had very satisfying extension but—no surprise—couldn't produce the roiling pressurization of my bigger speakers. Low drum rolls with their synthesized reverb thus didn't swamp the room with the same sense of force and scale. Here the design brief clearly prioritized deft articulation over raw displacement. Where the Druid surprised again was with dispersion. I netted far more even continuous off-axis staging than expected. Absence of holes or threadbare sections enabled a very wide base-line setup for the stereo triangle to produce the concomitant panoramic width without collapsing the center or thinning out tone. I even had respectable spread from my diagonal work desk in the room's nearer corner. That essentially places me in front of the left speaker for mono. Not here. Whilst Zu's trade show demos routinely emulate a club vibe with music selections normal attendees don't connect with, the Druid V still stages like an audiophile-approved diva.

This 'they're here' perspective has very good physicality of virtual images dominating your empty space. It's the other half or alternate version of the 'I'm there' recreation of the recorded acoustic which Anthony Gallo's speakers with their small drivers excel at but which the Druid V doesn't do to the same heightened regard.

Before we submit to submission for 20-cycle bass, let's return to dynamic expressiveness. How does it manifest? In my mind transient fidelity relies on taut top-to-bottom timing plus good in-room treble response. It's about how precisely 'vertical' rather than diagonally zigzagged in time harmonics shoot up straight above their fundamentals. This alignment defines that of-a-piece onceness of live attacks. If you remember the earlier distinction between bell-like very dynamic clarity of the compression tweeter's operational range and the whizzer's less illuminated band below, you'll appreciate that because of the latter the Druid V's transients lack the Teutonic sizzle of high-output Burmester AMT units. Here dynamic expressiveness isn't about assaulting your ears with tattoo needles that draw blood. Nothing of the sort. It's about coherent quickness allied to realistically fat tone. This combination nets the necessary incisiveness, then robes it in proper substance without highlighting the presence band as so many widebanders do. Attacks make nicely physical contact as though they were backed up from the hip. Proper pow, not partial zing. It's the obvious thing to say but despite the very lavish metal trim, this really is the antithesis of a metallic sound.

with Bakoon AMP-11R and Yamamoto A-014

Where particularly the unassisted Voxativ can get a bit relentless, whitish and hollow, the latest nano'fied 16Ω Zu widebander is fatter and darker. It's not tonally dry—the Vox is to need tubes, preferably 211—and why the Druid works very happily with ultra-fast wide-bandwidth transistors. That in trade for this beefiness max elucidation of massed strings like Claude Chalhoub's neo Baroque ensemble wouldn't be on the to-do list should be intuitive. The full separation of mass-paralleled violins into individualities down to their very f-hole 'throats' is beyond the rebuilt Eminence. I don't think anyone at Zu would take offense if I said that classical music probably doesn't factor in bulk on their daily musical diet.