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As shown at CES 2011 with a Melody Valve HiFi preamp and 2wpc Yamamoto SoundCraft SET using EML 45 triodes

With the release of the $40.000/pr Dominance, Zu rewrites its market share ambitions to include unconditional reference products. Zu's UK importer Simon Matanle put it this way: With super-high efficiency and power handling, it’s capable of making a very loud statement of its abilities. But to this listener it’s not what Dominance does loudly that's most impressive. It's what it does softly after hours when the lambs are in bed. I'm thinking two in the morning, everyone asleep except me, half a bottle of burgundy, an open fire and some 'Dead Can Dance' to play amongst the candle flames. In such surroundings Dominance proves yet again that the heart and soul of the music lies in the deepest frequencies. I'm really not into measuring FQs. The feeling does it for me more than any test kit. When I say the organ in the cathedral gathered up its skirts and swept me down the nave on a wave of air, you'll hopefully understand just what real bottom end articulation does especially when every pedal note is nuanced to reveal a foot paddling away like a duck on speed. Dominance does the whole lot, the highs, the mids, the lows and the subterranean without any of them taking precedence. It's just one vast canvas of utterly seamless music about as far away from the anaemic sound of conventional hifi as you'll ever get. Initially I wasn’t quite sure about the name. Now that I’ve heard the speaker I don’t really care. When the bar is placed this much higher, they can call it whatever they like. Zu Reality perhaps? At least that would be appropriate. 

On concept, I asked Zu boss Sean Casey to get specific: The heart of the Dominance is our nanotech-impregnated wideband driver array contoured for perfect time and phase. That is pinioned by twin massively motored 3" ring radiator tweeters. Subterranean bass energy is controlled and achieved with an incredibly efficient 15" sub-subwoofer complex. The enclosure hull is a super structure which encases three discrete cylindrical ZuRG cartridges with rear slots, then decked by a billet-machined solid aluminum baffle and base.

Other statement speakers have many variously sized drivers where each is designed to operate across a small to medium bandwidth. This multi-way crossover intensive path leads to complexities which hinder integration of the super-wide musical spectrum. It also radically limits dynamics, harmony and organic resolution. While the Dominance too has many drivers, our approach and its results are fundamentally different. From 30Hz to 12kHz our three high-output widebanders cover the vast majority of the music and all its transient components without any filter elements. The inherent shortfalls in such a (paralleled) single-driver approach—lack of deepest bass and highest treble harmonics— are overcome by our sub-subcontrabass subwoofer and time-sensitive super-tweeter array. For dynamic unity, scale and expression the Dominance surely defines a new standard.

Our solution for the lowest bass was a very powerful 15" driver that's down-firing and loaded into a sealed labyrinth within the Dominance structure. Its regulated bandwidth blankets the deepest of bass sustain and fundamentals from the sub-subcontrabass (A1 or 14Hz to about 30Hz) and does so with massive dynamic range and super low noise. 

For the top octave and harmonics (A9+ or above 12kHz) we use two massively motored 3" voice-coil ring radiators, one on top, one on the bottom. This twin tweeter array aids in the holistic recreation of the soundscape and adds harmonic detail and symmetry to the highest octave and overtones. The complete six-driver Dominance array behaves as both line source and point source to realize exquisitely singular timing, phase and speed. But you would not properly call the Dominance a six-way loudspeaker. With its three widebanders covering 90% of the musical content in parallel and wide open, the Dominance behaves like a fullrange loudspeaker with infrasonic and ultrasonic augmentation.

Zu refers to the Dominance as a full-range time-aligned phase-accurate vertical array: This design is specific to how the drivers are aligned, their bandwidth, orientation, aspect and the space in which they are to be used. The design realizes comprehensive integration of mirrored voice-centric vertical sources for the seated focal point wherein timing and phase are accurately positioned across the musical scale. The design fulfills many of the benefits of point source models with characteristics of line source models.

It integrates the best of both with the added improvements of timing, resolution, texture, color and stereophony. Further benefits of the multi-element paralleled widebander array which are not specific to the ZuFTP-VA approach include reduced dynamic harmonic distortion, expanded dynamic range and impact, lower net contact resistance and fewer room integration issues.

On the widebanders: The specific version of Zu's signature fullrange driver as pioneered in the Dominance is called the ZuFRD-HO where HO signifies high output delivering stunning attack, shove, resolution and bandwidth. Features include a maximal motor for expanded dynamic contrast and reduced harmonic distortion; a lightweight neutrally hung voice-coil assembly featuring a paper/Kapton former; a linear inline layup of the inner cone for best resolution of detail; a diamagnetic shorting assembly for dynamic damping of the moving mass when playing at concert levels; nanotech-impregnated paper cones designed to support wide bandwidth; and a billet phase cone with concentric maximal length sequence diffusion for smooth high frequencies. All this is anchored to a heavy cast aluminum alloy frame with overbuilt bonded and riveted yoke/magnet/top-plate assembly.

On the loading for the three widebanders: Our original acoustic loading technology has progressed significantly during the development of the Dominance. All three of the widebanders are discretely tuned, housed and loaded by proprietary ZuRG cartridge assemblies. This increases detail resolution over the bandwidth covered and yields a fullrange driver system that without sacrifice extends much lower than previous Zu designs. This greatly improves the sub-subwoofer’s integration to achieve a very low subcontrabass 3rd-order low-pass filter point of 27Hz. Another nuance includes split tuning of the three widebanders. The center driver is tuned and weighted for deeper bass while the top and bottom units are tuned for increased pop and shove.

On the tweeter array these mirrored massively motored ring radiator tweeters are by far the sweetest most resolving most dynamically expressive tweeters we know. When matched and used in our ZuFTP Vertical Array you get perfectly integrated treble overtones and harmonic structure.

On connectivity: Our perfectly discrete interface sports three input binding posts for the subwoofer, widebanders and tweeters. Each is discretely wired to their driver element/s with pure silver Zu Event cabling and completely free of any solder, filters or networks.

This allows the user easy future upgrades or changes and affords experimentation for those inclined with filter points, changes in or removal of the speaker-level filters, line-level filters and discrete amplification and upgrade as technology advances.

On specs, the Dominance has HxWxD dimensions of 62" x 16" x 21" (157.5 x 40.6 x 53.3 cm). Weight is an extreme 350lb (159kg) each. Claimed bandwidth is 14Hz to 20kHz, efficiency 101dB/1W/1m at 6 ohms. Compatible amplifier power spans from 1 watt to 900 watts.

On nanotech: The Dominance features Zu’s new nano-sanctified fullrange drivers. The nano materials and application process reduce weight, increase strength and propagation velocity without incurring any sacrifices in damping. In 2004 we began to experiment with cutting-edge DuPont nanotech-engineered coatings and solids. The initial reasons were to realize the best possible gloss finish which would also be far tougher. These nanotech-engineered liquid solid ceramics, fibers and synthetic resins performed as promised. We quickly recognized the benefits and made the switch. It was during this process that we also got into experimenting with applications for loudspeaker cones and diaphragms.

While we had extensively tested coatings, microspheres and binders on driver cones over the years, this new nano material presented a novel set of attributes and opportunities for our widebander platform. Nanotech for cone materials, layups, binder additives and formulae, tubes, spheres, coatings, infusions etc. make for an exciting time to be a paper driver. Then we got sidetracked from the liquid solids and invested time again in a whole new range of satellite-grade graphite matrixes. After a few years of on/off experiments with these exotic layups, we returned to nano materials and liquid solids to start treating the paper with various micro materials for even more vibrant and detailed tone. Today we impregnate the paper pulp post pressing with a liquid solid matrix utilizing several nano-processed materials. Some key components and compounds include nanosphere ceramic balloons, melamine, synthetic epoxy A/B, cristobalite, amorphous fumed silica and aircraft dope. (Our apologies to DIYers, we cannot sell them this material due to the isocyanates. This can only be used in the industry and requires powered air-purifying respirators.)

We continued to watch and occasionally experiment with new fibers and mats. They are still very promising, especially what's being done with buckypaper. For us however a tone promising pulp-free combination of these new materials has not yet been identified. Nothing has proven to be as well behaved as natural fibers. There’s just something about paper. Its balance of strength, propagation velocity and damping all contribute to that tone and fidelity we pursue. But add the right combination of old coating technologies plus nano materials and adhesives and fortuitously paper maintains its vintage advantages well into the 21st century. Currently the Dominance is the only Zu speaker to benefit from these nano-endowed drivers. There is rumor however of a Definition Mk3 nearing release that will get them too.

On finish options, standard Dominance trim is a machined aluminum baffle and base in black or bright 'corded' machine finish. Featured cabinet body paint includes cosmic dirt as shown above, dark chocolate, avocado, cobalt, phoenix red and black. Wood finishes include walnut, ash and hickory stained or dyed to suit and finished in a premium rich waterproof satin complete with UV inhibitors. The cabinet front wedge feature comes in cosmic dirt, dark chocolate, avocado, cobalt, phoenix red or black as shown.

Custom finishes will always be quoted. Most automotive gloss choices add about $4,000 to the base price. This would include colors like Ferrari red, Maserati Blue Netuno and jet black. But anything is possible. Zu’s nano-tech hand-cut and polished gloss finishes are expensive. They use only the very best from DuPont, PPG and a few others. Just the finish materials alone for a pair of jet-black Dominance run over $1000.

Add 40 hours minimum of craftsmanship labor, state-of-the-art paint booths and equipment, training, bake cycles, shop space real estate and more. In early 2004 we began experimenting with cutting-edge DuPont nanotech-engineered coatings and solids. The hope for these new materials was for a better looking finish that would leave no swirl marks when cleaned and would last for at least the lifetime of the original owner. These nanotech-engineered liquid solid ceramics, synthetic resins and other compounds did look and wear superior and by the end of 2004 we had switched to these revolutionary coatings. Today all our gloss finishes use ultra-premium nano coatings. These have proven their worth and also earned us a more ecologically friendly manufacturing process.

On drive requirements: The Dominance is a statement in fidelity and does require a little extra in gear. In addition to the typical stereo kit—player/streamer, preamp, amplifier—a user also needs to integrate a second amplifier that's dedicated to the subcontrabass section and a means to adjust its volume and process the incoming signal. For the minimalist path you'd want an amp with built-in signal processing and volume control. Options from Crown, Crest, QSC and other pro audio companies range from $800 to $6.000. We can also design a line-level filter to allow the use of a standard integrated amp.

For best fidelity one might want a secondary preamp for deep bass volume control from album to album; a custom in-line low-pass filter (27Hz/3rd order) or an adjustable low-pass filter ideally with fully adjustable parametric EQ (these two requirements are available as a one-box solution); and a stereo amp for the Dominance sub-subwoofer. For best and deepest bass we recommend a traditional non-switching amp with a power output rating of greater than 50 watts (massive power really is not necessary). A couple of good choices include a Pass Labs X150.5 or Bryston 2BSST2.

What main amps does Zu fancy? For our tastes and with the efficiency and grace of the Dominance we love the Yamamoto A-08 with Emission Labs output tubes. That's a fairly priced world-class amp which really matches up with the Dominance. 2 watts are plenty with the Dominance even for rockers. 10 watts make for block parties, 100 watts for mansions playing the entire venue to full-tilt Hollywood style parties.

On unpacking: Yes you will want to call your local professional piano movers to accomplish this not trivial task. If you want us to deliver and set them up for best possible sound, the fee for that service depends on where you live, where the speakers are to be installed within the home and what your desired install schedule is.
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