|The news of a Zu product demonstration in eastern Pennsylvania was music to my ears. The strong performance that Srajan has reported in his own home with their gear certainly was part of the inspiration for me to attend this event but there were other aspects to explore as well.
The proceedings were spread across a Friday night and Saturday, which made life easy for me. I was already booked to record a pipe organ concert on Friday evening and the one-a-half hour drive south, on a pleasant early fall Saturday morning, felt just fine to me. The Easton/ PA Hampton Inn room is a large multi-purpose space on the order of 40' x 65' x 9-12' of varying ceiling topology. While certainly not an ideal listening space, a small amount of wall treatment with large foam panels was obvious and the sound was satisfactory, all things considered. Both Sean Casey [left] and Adam Decaria [right] , the big time Zuids, traveled from Utah to do this weekend in Pennsylvania. They were cordial, informative and obviously happy to be involved with the attending listeners.
|I spent about 6 hours there and had the opportunity to hear all of the Zu loudspeakers with alternate amplification provided at various points. The playback system was comprised of a Sony CD player coupled to the Benchmark DAC1. Various pairs of monoblock amps were utilized including NuForce 8s, a pair of Consonance SETs and finally an|
|audience member's push-pull 300Bs built by Kevin Carter, formerly of VAC Audio. Naturally, Zu wires and cables were in the system. The range of music was wide and included discs brought along by the Zuids as well as from the attendees. I think with the exception of the few classical tracks I provided [from a compilation disc of my own making], most of the music was in genres emphasizing vocalists in jazz, pop, blues, R&B and rock.
The listeners appeared to be very much into the 'music lover' frame of mind and only a small amount of the 'terminal audiophilia syndrome' was manifest; a refreshing and welcomed balance if I may say so. The size of the audience fluctuated through the day and plenty of opportunity was given for questions, discussion and listening. I liked it all!
An added bonus for me was to meet Koby Koranteng who runs a shop, Hifi Logic in Maplewood/NJ. He is a fine chap with much enthusiasm and audio awareness. Koby sells excellent gear including Zu products and the NuForce electronics which were in use during the demo. We could benefit from having more solid citizens like Koby in the trenches of audio sales. I look forward to interacting with him in the future to see his shop and chat further on music and audio goodies.
So, what about the sound? Clearly, a venue such as this is not a place to make critical evaluations of audio gear. Nonetheless, it was possible to witness overall differences between the four models of Zu speakers, as well as between the varied styles of amplification.
The small Tone speakers [$1,800 a pair] did a very nice job on most music, especially styles that did not emphasize deep bass or bombastic pyrotechnics. They were particularly good at disappearing, leaving a believable soundstage and proper placement of performers. To be fair, during my visit only a small amount of time was spent with this model in use.
The Druids [$2,800 a pair] did get the lion's share of play time. This also seemed to be the item of highest interest to the folks I spoke with in the audience. A really enjoyable, well-balanced presentation was the order of the day. The imaging, tonality and transient reproduction were quite fine, particularly from the sweet-spot seat. It was easy to tell how each of the different amplifiers behaved; distortion-free, loud sound pressure levels were a snap for these transducers. At one point late in the afternoon, it was decided that the nearby flanking larger speakers [the Definitions] should be moved further away from the Druids. When that simple change was implemented, the soundstage and dimensionality blossomed beautifully and, to my ears, even the tonality improved. For the sake of demonstration completeness, the powered Method subwoofer [$2,500] was connected up and it provided useful bass extension, but surprisingly not so dramatically as to make one say they were an absolute 'must have' augmentation. My guess is that in a more normally sized listening room, this addition would have had more of an impact - but we are guessing here. My sense of things is that the Druid Mk. IV speaker system is among the few products capable of delivering this level of performance for these kinds of bucks.
The Definition Mk1.5 speakers came into and out of the picture a few times during the show. This $9,000/pr system did provide a refined level of performance that made my little tootsies tap away. The similarity in sound to the Druids was obvious, but I appreciated the additional fullness and bass impact that complimented the classical music I brought along to the party. Full orchestra benefited with a kind of richness that has always sucked me in to the aural experience. I do hope to hear the Definitions in a more normally sized room soon.
One topic of perpetual discussion among my audio buddies is the loss of young people entering our hobby. The range of variation at this demo was pretty wide and the youngest listener there was Jonathan, a Penn State grad student. At other audio events I know, it seems that enjoying music reproduction in two-channel stereo has become relegated to those of us who need to worry about ear-hair. Yes, home theater has its place and iPods abound but I do fret over the diminishing numbers of younger folks who are missing out on appreciating the benefits of a solid performing domestic sound system. For me, having fine music in my home means a form of pleasure, a kind of therapy and a time and place for comfort. I suspect this worry will become more fretful as fewer people avail themselves of live music in good settings with attractive meaningful sonics. I'll stop moaning about this now.
In closing, I am very happy to report that the Zu demo in Easton/PA was a treat. Adam and Sean care a great deal about music, sound reproduction and their customers. I would encourage anyone who can attend one of these sessions to take the time to do so. The enjoyment quotient is high and meeting enthusiastic like-minded people at events like this is always fun.