August
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 Plus, 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: Denafrips Terminator or COS Engineering D1; Amplifier: Bakoon AMP-13R or Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model One w. Franck Tchang magnesium 360° super tweeters, Zu Submission subwoofer, LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers; Power delivery: Furutech GTP-D2 NCF; 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

Zee one that makes everything betta? 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 our two Danes and business partners run UpperLevel ApS. That's the parent company to the brands Aavik, Ansuz & Børresen. They're all manufactured on these premises in an Aalborg industrial park I visited in April 2019.

Upon hearing early Z1 demonstrators at Denver's 2019 show, 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 Aalborg visit, I'd spied first prototype cabs but no opportunity for even a sneak listen yet. I was told that the B01's geometrically complex vents for dipole ribbon operation on the cheeks would have to go, its vertical bass reflex slot give way to a simpler horizontal slot port. The carbon-composite 4.8" driver's low-inductance neodymium motor with copper pole pieces would have to make do without copper, perhaps even go iron(ic). It'd be the familiar song. Shave off build costs without too much stepping on the dearer sibling's toes. Ergo, simpler squared-out cabinets plus other material savings to slash labor fees with the efficiency of Zorro's blade. Snip.

But Michael's signature sniper ribbon would have to stay. With a less aspirated classical silk drone er dome, it'd be no Børresen. Their team prioritize speed and dynamics. Low mass and maximum control are the mandate. Superior stop'n'go is the aim. With it come low energy storage and top resolution from proprietary low-mass drivers which are built in-house.

My prior review of the B-02 described their sound.

Once Warsaw contributor Dawid Grzyb traveled up north, he could take snaps of working Z1 protos. I inserted into the upper right corner the equivalent ScanSonic model for historical continuity. With said MB-1B still to market, Børresen's Z1 would obviously be keen to hone a most 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 is it about Nordic countries that make them so good at transducer design both as raw drivers by AudioTechnology, Dynaudio, Peerless, SB Acoustics, ScanSpeak, Viva & Co; and for loudspeakers 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 plus others I forgot or don't know of?

By May 31st, zee first images appeared to show unexpected flared grooves and port vanes. The €23'000/pr Z3 showed two 8" woofers which in the main line only factor in the B-05. That would signal a flagship were it not for the even bigger Z5. The Z2 is €16'000/pr and subtracts one 8" woofer from the Z3. All share the same 75x30mm ribbon, 5" mid/woofer and—except for the 2-way Z1—a 2.5 not 3-way split. Black and white paint skins eliminate the B range wood. With such cheeky treatments, veneer applications would only add unnecessary costs. At ~60% off the least loaded B-01, the Z1 presents a sizable savings on a new not used Børresen monitor. Zorro did visit if not the stands. At €2'400, those still command a premium. But being optional, the aftermarket offers far too many alternatives to get cross.

By late August, final specs for the Z1 were 37×18.5×33.8cm HxWxD and 11.6kg. Its 64.5cm tall stand adds 3.3kg. Like the B-01, published bandwidth is 50Hz-50kHz, sensitivity 86dB, nominal impedance above 6Ω. The Z2 with the extra 8" woofer above the floor grows to 102cm. Towering above it and the 120cm Z3 is still the 75kg heavy 155cm tall Z5. That runs twin midranges to bracket the tweeter, then places one 8" woofer above and three below. Its terse descriptions call it a "simplified Børresen 05 though the Z5 is far from being a simple speaker." In one fell swoop, this Danish speaker portfolio had added four new models. That was nothing if not industrious, prolific and ambitious. Meanwhile Aavik had launched the 180/280/580 ranges of separates. Just what was in the water of Aalborg?

By mid October, we syndicated Dawid's B-01 report. As reviewed, his samples demand a cool €34'100/pr. Have you wanted a non-Raidho monitor designed by Michael Børresen? Now the Z1 at just €12'400/pr on its own stand becomes cheddar that makes everything better. With the super-dynamic B-01 precedent, do we really think that this will be cheddar only for church-mice appetites? Say cheeeese.