Our site has spilled a lot of cyber ink already on Zu Cable speakers. Even their cables, come to think of it. And, there'll be more. I'm expecting delivery of my new passive Definitions with Rane PEQ55 today. Les Turoczi is getting the same package for his formal review - but in a different color, blue instead of teal. Paul's already taking notes on the small (red) Tone monitors. Are we secret share holders in Zu? Not. Then why yet more ink?
Few speaker designs of late have drawn as much polarized chatroom commentary as Zu. Self-appointed experts on the theoretical side lines insist that they couldn't possibly work as claimed. They proceed to prove their points with hard facts and figures and express zero interest to actually hear these speaker since -- they're certain -- these designs are all wrong. Owners retort that they do exactly as claimed and express incredulity over how the prosecution operates purely in the abstract. To which some of the more obnoxious detractors retort that there's nothing wrong with liking an obviously deeply flawed product (if you're deaf - but that's not said outright, just implied). They, however, have no need for actual listening. They simply know. Okay, so I'm one of those deaf ones who still doesn't know that he's listening to deeply flawed speakers. And I'm happy as a pig in shit. Something doesn't add up here.
Interestingly enough, those 6moons readers who first became aware of the Zu Druid and/or Definitions on our site; then performed their own due diligence by soliciting owner commentary on the Audio Circles and talking to the Zu folks in Utah; then used the 30/60-day home trial period to find out for themselves... those who reported back to me all purchased. No exception. That even includes distributors and overseas retailers. In fact, here's a true anecdote I just got wind of due to a personal phone call from the importer.
This is a gent in a remote location. It doesn't allow him to presample things, hence reviews become the primary means to learn about products. If, as in his case, you've done this for 28 years with far more misses than hits, you begin to wonder. Are most reviewers deaf or lying through their teeth or simply don't know any better? You buy on their raves and then you can't give the stuff away afterwards. Anyhow, our man abroad had given one of my review subjects the benefit of the doubt only to go ape, sell a bunch of them, sign on for the line and pronounce the object in question a giant killer. He then figured that although my review did sound a bit over the top, he was now going to also take a chance on the Zu Druids. After all, I hadn't really gone off quite as loudly on anything else of late. If these strange speakers stood out in the Ebaen hierarchy -- and that other component already had suggested I wasn't entirely gone yet -- perhaps the German reviewer with the long-winded prose was right one more time?
The first thing that rattled our man to his hard capitalist core? He wanted to order a Method sub together with the Druids. The manufacturer refused. "We want you to hear the Druid first on its own merit. You might well conclude that it doesn't need a sub - but if we send you one with it now, you'll never listen to it without." A manufacturer who talked himself out of a sale? Now that was backwards news. Ditto for the speaker cable. He wanted to order the top-level Ibis. They wanted to sell him the 3rd from the top down instead. "Where do you live, what's your showroom like?" After describing his lay of the land, they stubbornly insisted that "you don't need the Ibis, the Libtech in your application will be indistinguishable". This was the first time in 28 years -- or so he claims -- that our importer's top dollars had been flatly refused.
I told him to insure that the Druids were fully broken in before he judged them (hey, I got a reputation to protect). As an importer, however, Zu expected that he'd handle break-in for his customers. Hence they sent him a virgin pair so he'd know, from personal experience and exactly, what the break-in regimen would sound like. Three days after delivery, I get my phone call. The man's dumbfounded. "Best speaker I've ever sold. And I'm not taking this lightly. I've sold speakers up to $20,000/pr. And these aren't even broken in yet. And I'm in deep shit. I already had one of my customers come in. I just sold him a $6,000/pr of speakers a few weeks ago. He wants to return them now and get these $2,800 boxes. I'm in deep shit. I've sold lots of far more expensive speakers. Once word gets around, they'll all want to trade down. What have I done?" I told him to bring in the $9,000/pr Definitions and see what happens.
What made the Druids "the best" seeing it couldn't possibly be an all-inclusive statement? This gent lives in the West Indies. Steel-drum music is huge there. So imagine a pan band. Six guys are hammering away on 6 pans each. As he describes it -- and I have two CDs in the mail to hear that for myself -- no instrument is as challenging in the 40-80Hz band as the ultra-percussive bass pans. Especially when there's multiples of them being played simultaneously and at full Carneval boogie. "Every speaker I've ever heard makes a mess out of it. The Druid is the first one that gets it right. And I should know. I've been involved with pan bands for years." As we compared notes, I began talking about timing as a function of absentee phase shift. How certain noises can get bloody spooky. He interrupted. "You're exactly right. I listen with the door open so as to not feel caged in. Last night, I was listening to a CD I know well. Suddenly I thought I'd heard my door slam. That occurs occasionally when the wind turns. So I look and it's still open. What the hell? It must have been on the CD then - even though I'd never heard that sound before. I played the same track again. Lo and behold, there it was again."
If I told you what speakers this gentleman listens to for his long-term personal references to have him call the barely seasoned Druids better, it would be quite the tall tale (and I'd get hate mail from that manufacturer). But when folks vote with their wallet, it's serious. So why mention any of that? Surely there's plenty of different ways to get to Rome. There are. That's what keeps reviewers and magazines in business. It all depends on what you listen to/for. Should you be very susceptible to timing accuracy, the only speakers that will ultimately satisfy you are those without a crossover or, at best, a minimum 1st order series or parallel network. Chances are pretty high that sooner than later, you'll also insist on 100dB or better sensitivities to capture the life charge of unstunted dynamics without requiring silly SPLs. You may not end up with the world's best or most expensive speakers but you will end up with something that gets the basics right - if you listen in a particular way.
|Choices in that sector aren't quite as stupendous as elsewhere but they have expanded notably of late. From Cain & Cain to Omega, Beauhorn to Avantgarde, Carfrae to Gemme, The Horn Shoppe to Rethm, Green Mountain Audio to Zu, this list is by no means comprehensive. I suggest that you at least once listen to one such design. You could be immune to its charms, of what it gets correct that other speakers don't. But you may not. Reader feedback suggests that those who've opened themselves up to being deprogrammed and reconditioned -- to finally hear timing done right without smears -- cannot go back. We've already gotten seven moonies into that dilemma. Stephaen used to listen to big Cain & Cains full-rangers, now grooves to Druids plus REL subwoofer - same recipe, different execution. Paul's a Green Mountain Audio Callisto man and recognizes in the Zu Tones a speaker of the same colors. I own Avantgarde Duos (no network on the midrange horn, first-order on the tweeter), Definitions and Gallo Reference 3s (1rst-order series). Marja, Henk and Jeff listen to Duos. Michael is an Abby man. Guess what? We feel lonely. We gotta spread this virus and infect others. See? That's what today's riff was really all about. Actually, not quite. It was to reconfirm that despite the prosecution doing its thing, you should listen to those who actually own speakers like this. I'm not even talking reviewers -- though we count, too -- but fellow 'philes who've worked their way through any number of different designs only to have ended up with zu-tsy speakers.
|It's not so different from tubes. Test bench jockeys diss 'em, theorists can rattle down all their shortcomings backwards and in their sleep. Yet an inordinately large number of experienced listeners swear by them and could care less what the mainstream has to say about it. Hey, at least give it a try. If it's not for you, nothing lost - except you just broadened your horizon. Personal experience -- as broad-based as possible -- is vital to engage in civilized discourse with fellow 'philes who get to Rome by some other avenue than you. Don't let the spirit of Johnny Cash getcha. He looks mighty charged...|