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Finding a natural balance between plumpness and articulation involves control wedded to tone. After all, low bass isn't just noise down there or some incoherent chthonic energy. It's tones with pitch and harmonic content. If you've got 'triodized' sounds upstairs and 'transistorized' ones in the basement, something doesn't gel. While the Method is exceptionally well damped just as the Druid, it doesn't go about PRaT and articulation with dryness - again like the Druid. This sub's got tone, presumably a function of its paper cone woofers. Many expensive subs exhibit control aplenty but can veer into cyborg land by sounding unrealistic - texturally divorced from what occurs above the midbass.

Other subs suffer by being asked to cover too large a bandwidth. Our ears are still very keen in the upper bass region which is often called the power zone of music: 80 to 160Hz. This band is handled by the Druid (and extremely well I might add). Having the Method restricted to the lowest octave -- at 40Hz coming in at what amounts to an electrically/acoustically combined 12dB/octave slope -- minimizes certain challenges that arise when a sub (any sub) is asked to reach too high. This particular aspect of the game isn't unique to the Method. It simply manifests smartly in how the Druids and Method work together by design.

It remains to be seen how the Method behaves when asked to work to 80Hz or even higher, something I'll cover in a follow-up when the opportunity arises. For today, the task is simply to report on how well the Method goes about its job as the intended partner for its Druid stablemate.

Superior subwoofers like RELs that don't just go bloody loud -- and with 10% distortion while they're at it -- benefit
playback in ways often unexpected by listeners who've never heard what a truly excellent sub can do. In a nutshell, a lot of ambient information about the size of the recording venue seems to occur at infrasonic and very low levels. Where this information lives is often too low and out of reach for regular speakers. Once a capable subwoofer takes charge of that region, the spatial dimension opens us. It's not about boom-boom. It's about air.

Two moonies recently discovered such apparently out-of-range effects with the muRata super tweeters. It's a bit of a mind bender at first. Some of it could well be psycho acoustics, i.e. a perceptional change that alters perspective on how we react to what's occurring in the rest of the frequency spectrum (midrange and treble for a subwoofer, midrange and bass for a super tweeter).

However, there's nothing 'psycho' about how the Method affects the harmonic spectrum. It's a bit like switching from a solid-state preamp to a 6SN7-based valve unit - you gain tone and spectral density. Another side effect is increased focus or presence to the virtual images of performers in the soundstage.

The tag line on a package of health food I recently tried read "where you recognize all the ingredients". The same could be said for the Zu Cable Method. Instead of infrasonic noise and rumble, you can tell exactly what instrument -- acoustic or synthesized trickery -- is responsible for the various tones, be it the three Tulku incarnations, New Age fluff like B-Tribe, the killer "Gold Dust Bacchanalia" track of Mychael Danna's Kamasutra soundtrack, the ambient paisley music of sitarist Al Gromer Khan or the pipe organ excesses on Dr. Hsu's bass extravaganza compilation.

If you've never had flat-to-20Hz bass in your house, you could be alarmed to discover that certain areas in your
listening room trap and amplify it for pockets of mud. If yours is an open floor plan, you might walk through such pockets in your dining area. That's the shadow side of subbing. The long wavelengths involved have the unpleasant habit of interacting with architectural boundaries in very obvious ways. Also remember your neighbors and that American frame/sheetrock construction is very lossy. There could be as much or more low bass in the adjacent town home as what you're hearing.

That has nothing to do with the Method per se but simple physics. It's why placement within the room becomes important. You're aiming for a natural acoustic balance in your listening seat. Disregard that standing in a corner could give you a veritable low-frequency massage of your intestines. You're not habitually standing in a corner when you listen to your tunes, are you?

Definitely take it easy on the attenuator throttle though. The Method's output capabilities are far beyond what I could explore. A little goes a long way, especially since the Druids aren't brickwall filtered below 40Hz but simply roll off naturally.

The Method sub excels with pitch definition and how precisely low-frequency transients are rendered. When Kai Eckhardt or Brian Bromberg pop their bass strings, you hear a clean attack without fuzziness or indecision and no shift when the sub takes over. Just as importantly, the tone itself isn't encapsulated in noise nor does it leave a cloud of boom in its wake to blur the next tone.

Best of all, this precision isn't dry, sharp and robotic but soulful and bodylicious. Plucked bass swings rather than evokes machine-gun fire. Piano sounds like a wooden resonator rather than steel on steel.

Zu Cable's first production subwoofer thus excels in areas that often seem mutually exclusive. There's unreasonable headroom for prodigious output levels mated to an absence of resonance and noise. There's articulation and precision mated to tone. There's seamless blending in the tone and texture domains with the high-efficiency Druid whose speed would naturally raise expectations that a subwoofer would have to be a bit thick and ponderous by comparison.

After all, there's 15-inchers. Two of 'em. Preconceptions being what they are, you've now arrived in a cul-de-sac that says mudville in capital letters. "Proceed at snail's pace". You're aching for multiple small-cone'd drivers.

Way wrong! While it's all seemingly so much common sense and a popular mantra from reading one too many reviews, there's solid reason behind the madness called the Method. It's a Bruid (bass Druid) that's been optimized over a narrow frequency band.

It's geared for speed, output and tone. It's a bit of a counter culture statement to popular subs that rely on a very inefficient recipe of tiny cubes, high-mass drivers and max power to overcome inertia and excessive air pressure. The Method is about effortlessness, quality and quantity. It's about low distortion and accurate timing.

That particular recipe involves physical size. It's the only perceptional hurdle a Method owner must clear. Put a nice plant, lamp or sculpture atop and you've cleared it. This subwoofer will not shimmy across the floor as a result of enormous forces working in imbalance inside it. It stays solidly put and thus does make a valid display base for artwork.

As designers Sean Casey and Adam Decaria put it, the Method isn't really reinventing the wheel. But it is driving a wheel that many have forgotten exists. As with the Druid,
it looks at past accomplishment of the 1950s (and earlier) to reincorporate them into 21st-century HiFi. This is aided and abetted by modern computer modeling, test gear and evaluations against contemporary standards of execution and sound. The Method thus has one foot in vintage and pro audio, the other in consumer audio. It makes for the perfect accompaniment to the Druid and an attractive, cost-effective, anti me-too upgrade path. It also becomes an ideal counterpoint for inherently fast speakers like 'stats or horns.

Let's add up all the evidence. It clearly looks like mission accomplished for the original design brief and its keepers at Zu, doesn't it? While the addition of the Method to the Druid isn't mandatory at all, lovers of infrasonics, of big spaces, of developed harmonics, of image density and that heightened realism only full-range reproduction can cast (both dimensionally and as concreteness) will consider it mandatory once they've heard it. I know I do.

In conclusion and despite its apparently monstrous ambitions which seem so clearly telegraphed by massive driver artillery and beaucoup cabinet size, the Zu Method is all about agility and music. Mondo brutale turns mondo romantico. It's fulsome and organic and -- dare I say it once more, again like the Druid -- it packs both meat and wallop. (Commentary on suitability with monitor-type speakers to follow.)

The Zu Cable Method is an idea whose time has come now that single-driver speakers, high efficiencies and low-power amplification are once again a force to be reckoned with. And yes, the establishment at large naturally still views it as a temporary and isolated infatuation at best and toy audio at worst. To each his own. I cast my vote for the anti-establishment - not because it's 'anti' but because it's plain smart, performs with a vengeance and celebrates naturalness that gushes from effortlessness.
As realized here, it's also the Tao of Tone. And while a skoch-and-a-half of 20-40Hz reinforcement seems of merely obscure relevance, it's a shift in across-the-board quality, not quantity. That's worth every penny asked. It's all gain, no pain (and you can keep your flea-powered amps since the Method is duly outfitted with its own). Rather than an add-on crutch or accessory, the Zu Cable Method is a high-order musical instrument perfectly adapted to its chosen task. It's the singing bass of French five-string wizard Renaud Garcia-Fons. Bravo!
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