June
2020

Country of Origin

Denmark

Z1

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref SD transport & USB bridge; Preamplifier: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE VT52/300B or Elrog 50/300B; Power amplifiers: LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos; Headphone amp: Kinki Studio; Headphones: Final D8000; Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Aurai Audio M1 [on loan]; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL3000; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, LessLoss C-MARC Entropic cords between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators; Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Second system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; DAC/pre: COS Engineering D1; Amplifier: Bakoon AMP-13R; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model One w. Franck Tchang magnesium 360° super tweeters, Zu Submission subwoofer, LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers; Power delivery: Puritan Audio Lab PSM-156; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Room: ~4x6m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headphone amp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Audeze LCD-XC; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 150
Upstairs headfi system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Headphones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: 
Source: Oppo BDP-105; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp: Wyred4Sound STP-SE II; Power amp: Pass Labs XA-30.8; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €10'000/pr, add €2'400/pr for stands

The €25'500/pr – €32'200/pr model 01 with its rakish shape and narrow spine is what the Z1 scales down.

At Denver's 2019 show, attendees had their first exposure to Børresen's latest monitor. It's to their main line what ScanSonic is to Raidho, former home of Lars Kristensen and Michael Børresen. Today these Danes and their business partners run UpperLevel ApS as parent company to brands Aavik, Ansuz & Børresen. Those are all manufactured in these premises in an Aalborg industrial park.

Upon hearing the Z1 demonstrators in Denver, PartTimeAudiophile called them "an absolute assassin at this price point. With so many ultra-high-end brands debuting bookshelf speakers in this price range almost monthly, none off the top of my head other maybe than Vimberg impressed me more than the new Z1." [Vimberg's Amea is a ~€13'000/pr two-way monitor with rear-firing passive radiator in all Accuton driver trim – Ed.]

During my August 2019 visit to the Aalborg factory, I'd spied first prototype cabinets but no opportunity yet for a sneak listen. The B01's geometrically complex vents for dipole ribbon operation on the cheeks and its cross-vane-enhanced vertical bass reflex slot would give way to a simpler horizontal rear slot. The low-mass carbon-composite mid/woofer's low-inductance neodymium motor with copper would have to go copper-less, perhaps even ferrite. I'd be the old song of shaving off build costs without too much stepping on the pricier monitor's toes. Ergo, simpler squared-out cabinets to slash labor fees with the efficiency of Zorro's blade; plus other bill-of-materials cuts on sundry ingredients.

But Michael's signature ribbon tweeter would have to stay. With a less aspirated classical silk drone, er dome, it'd not be a Børresen. These folks prioritize speed and dynamics. Low mass and maximum control are the mandate, superior stop'n'go the aim. With it come low energy storage and top resolution from proprietary drivers built in-house. My prior review of the B02 described their sound.

By the time Warsaw contributor Dawid Grzyb traveled up north after I'd returned from my factory tour, he could already take these snaps of working Z1 protos. I inserted the equivalent ScanSonic model for historical continuity. With said MB-1B still to market, Børresen's Z1 would obviously be most keen to offer a competitive edge. "Newer equals better" is what consumers expect no matter what came before. And what do we think the MB of Scansonic's model name stands for? It can keep a designer who already did good sleepless.

Scandinavia's crop of ambitious monitors, just around the time of the cancelled HighEnd Munich 2020, had grown another contender in Mårten Design's Parker Duo. It applies a concept and execution very similar to Vimberg's Amea. What was it about these Nordic countries that made them so good at transducer design both as raw drivers by AudioTechnology, Dynaudio, Peerless, SB Acoustics, ScanSpeak, Peerless, Viva & Co; and speakers by Amphion, Arendal, Audiovector, Aurelia, B&O, Børresen, Buchardt, Dali, Davone, Dynaudio, Gamut, Gato, Genelec, Gradient, Gryphon, Jamo, Mårten, Peak Consult, Penaudio, Qln, Raidho, Scansonic, Transmission, XTZ and others I forgot or don't know of?

By May 31st, these images appeared. Z had grown its own flared grooves and split in two. The €23'000/pr Z3 shows two 8" woofers which in the main line only factor in the B-05. That signals a flagship. Thinking folks still expect a Z2 model in between. That will be €16'000/pr and subtract one 8" woofer from the Z3. All share the same tweeter and 4.5" mid/woofer. Black and white paint skins eliminate the B range wood look. With such a cheeky treatment, veneer applications would only add unnecessary costs. At 40% of the B01's ask, the Z1 presents a very sizable savings for a Børresen monitor. Zorro definitely visited if not the stands. At €2'400, those still command a very exclusive premium. But being optional, the aftermarket offers far too many more affordable alternatives to get cross.

… to be continued…