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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Music First Audio Passive Magnetic [on review]
Amp: 2 x AudioSector Patek SE; Yamamoto A-08S
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Mk1.5 with new external bass attenuator (retro-fitted)
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S digital cable; Stealth Audio Indra; 2 x Zu Cable Varial; Zu Cable Ibis; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; Z-Cable Reference Cyclone power cords on both powerline conditioner
Stands: 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 DAC and preamp; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell and IsoClean 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 and significant 'active' cubic air volume of essentially the entire (small) house
Review component retail: $9,000/pr + $999 for Rane PEQ55; $400/1,800 color/gloss lacquer option

Would I be interested to trade up, from my monochrome black Definition Mk1.5s to a new passive version with Rane PEQ 55 "dual mono parametric EQ that has five floating points per channel? Each point is infinitely adjustable from 12.5Hz through 200Hz (actually through 20kHz with the multiplier on but that's not how it will be used), each with adjustable Q (allows you to contour the slope, 1.0 being about 6dB/octave through 0.1 with a razor-thin focus like 128dB/octave) and each point with boost/cut. Both channels have individual input gain slider and output gain. Plus bass/mid/treble tone control. This is about as flexible a piece as you could ever need seeing how the Def's low frequency section already gets the timing right. Of
course you will need to find some low freq amps you like, the NuForce 8s, Flying Moles, AudioZone, First Watt etc. The low-frequency section doesn't need a lot of power, those drivers are innately efficient. That window is wide open, even tubes work well. The Melody/Onix SP3 for example is a good sub amp on the Definitions. "

Sean Casey also mentioned a new a custom matte paint finish. Since I already owned potential bass amps to take over, my expense to go this route would be limited to the Rane and color surcharge. "This is the exact same setup Les Turoczi is getting for review. His pair with PEQ55 will ship out in about 2-1/2 weeks. Originally, I did not think the normal HiFi guy could handle PEQs so we looked for a DSP solution with dbx, preprogramed, no buttons. It was a bit expensive and complex if changes to the preprogrammed settings needed to be made. The original users of Definition bi-amp loudspeakers were supplied dbx DSP engines (A/D > processing > D/A). This worked well but introduced 2ms of latency which became a factor with the Mk.1.5. The Rane unit works very well and we give owners an easy-to-use PEQ guide. The PEQ is only hung on the low frequency section, roughly 40Hz and down. As a reviewer, the Def bi-amp will continue to show the bandwidth potential of an amp save for 24Hz and lower. The majority of the low-frequency transient info is still coming from the two full-range drivers with their limited reactive impedance characteristic. The sound bottom to top will be much better and allow you to hear deeper into your system and into the items you will try as a reviewer - source gear, pres, cables, recordings. And you will have more fun and not by some small margin."

About the color options, Sean had the following to say: "It's pretty hard to simulate the optical qualities, those being the amount of pearl or iridescence; the reflective quality (satin, eggshell or matte), that kinda stuff. The process we really like and will be introducing with a few color choices uses the following process. This should allow you to visualize the effect hinted at on the mockups. Available finish types are:
  • Zu Iridescent Frost (cool iridescent eggshell/matte with fine sandstone texture)
  • Zu Frost (much less gradient shift, eggshell/matte with fine sandstone texture)
  • Zu Satin (slightly reflective, with a texture like glove leather)
  • Zu Gloss (slicked up like glass, 100% reflective - carries a surcharge)

We recommend our Zu Iridescent Frost. We lay down a medium metal-flake silver as a base coat. Over this we lay down a pearl-enhanced base color. Over this we lay down a mix of custom clear coat that is doped with pearl and the base color coat. All materials are the DuPont Chroma system. (Wilson is also using this system). The result is a very interesting gradient-shifting loudspeaker that has an iridescent glint to it in the highlight areas, fading to a deep base color in the shadows. Texture on this system is like fine sandstone and the reflective quality is eggshell to matte so the color is true and doesn't reflect the room back at you."

Being a Southwestern household not afraid of color, Ivette and I hunkered down in front of Photoshop's "color wheel". In no time, we cooked up two samples with the associated numerical color codes. Less than 24 hours later, Sean e-mailed back the two mockups above. We settled on the Teal and placed the order. When this pair arrives in December -- broken in at the factory which now is the standard service for the Definitions -- you'll be able to compare the final product finish to the mockups. Needless to say, were it just for the color, I probably would have passed at this time. The truly tantalizing upgrade -- and really mandatory once you consider it -- is the now fully EQ-able infrasonic region. 16Hz extension kicks, no doubt about it. But unless you live in a Rives-designed sound temple, there's no way on this green earth that your room won't throw a monkey wrench into anything resembling linearity. Adjustable cut and boost independent from channel to channel; with 5 user-adjustable points between 16 and 40Hz where this device would enter; each point with assignable contours - this Swiss Army knife approach from an established pro company promises to be just the ticket for renters like me who aren't at all keen on leaving any permanent room treatments to the landlord after moving on to the next digs. Even with properly designed movable room treatments, they'd be all wrong for the next abode. Analog-controlled digital equalization is more cost-effective and mobile (though in this case, not used up to 200 or 300Hz where effective room treatment would begin to kick in but similar in concept to Rives' own PARC).