Country of Origin
This review first appeared in September 2023 on HifiKnights.com. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of HifiKnights or the manufacturer- Ed.
Reviewer: Dawid Grzyb
Sources: LampizatOr Pacific (KR Audio T-100 / Living Voice 300B + KR Audio 5U4G Ltd. Ed.), Innuos Statement
Preamplifier: Trilogy 915R, Thöress DFP
Power amplifier: Trilogy 995R, FirstWatt F7, Enleum AMP-23R
Speakers: Boenicke Audio W11 SE+, sound|kaos Vox 3afw all with LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers, Boenicke ComDev
Cables: Boenicke Audio S3 and 3 SE Evo+, LessLoss C-MARC and Entropic Process C-MARC, Boenicke Audio 3 SE Evo+
Network: Fidelizer EtherStream, Linksys WRT160N
Rack:Franc Audio Accesories Wood Block Rack 1+3
Resonance attenuation: 2x Carbide Audio Carbide Bases (under DAC, preamp and speakers), 3x Bindbreakers (under LessLoss power bar)
Retail price of reviewed components in EU (incl. tax): $2'397/pr as reviewed
Zu Audio are a US-based audio house known for high-efficiency speakers fitted with proprietary widebanders; and at reasonable coin. Recently I had a chance to take their latest DWX Supreme for a spin. I'm sure that most seasoned audio enthusiasts still remember their first serious speaker model. The odds are that these are fond memories like mine. In 2012 I got myself a pair of KEF LS50 monitors designed to celebrate the English manufacturer's 50th anniversary. Over a decade ago their signature Uni-Q drivers, gloss black Ply cabs and magnesium/aluminium alloy baffles screamed luxury. They still do to this day. These first LS50s were also priced to sell. Back then I saw them as a statement on how to load up a nice box with advanced tech that didn't have to cost an arm and leg. Around that time I already knew of many brands into wildly more expensive products. Roughly then my regular visits to 6moons had begun. This is where I learnt about Zu Audio. As a freshman to the stereo club, I used to investigate the websites of upscale audio brands, look at their really expensive stuff photographed next to a Steinway piano or exotic car and daydream. Perhaps one day I'd get to work with some of i? Today I know better. Handling 150kg speakers isn't exactly convenient so I don't have such aspirations. That aside, the Zu Audio site was professional yet different so more casual, easier to follow and appealing in the process. All this was in line with their portfolio targeting working folks not millionaires. One particular photo that stuck in my mind featured company founder Sean Casey in the mountains among friends. They were freestyle snowboarding I believe, camping out in the snow, one of his speakers set up in the wild. These people were my tribe. Unsurprisingly I've had my eyes on them ever since.
Fast forward to the Munich High End 2016 show. I finally got a chance to hear Zu. Those who don't attend shows should know that polite music picks and sane volume levels are the standard. Not all but most exhibitors stick to it. Upon entering the Zu room it was apparent that Sean and his team hadn't gotten the memo. Some people may consider high SPL Rock a sacrilege in such an environment. Sean, yours truly and about two dozens other people had a blast. During a brief chat outside that room, I asked the man about his repertoire of choice and approach, both unusual given the setting. He replied that they just like to have fun. This was the first and only time I heard something along those lines from an exhibitor; and I've met hundreds of them over the years. Now let's jump to mid 2023 when Srajan published his DWX Supreme review. Since logistics within the EU are easy these days, a chance to guest his loaners was on my table and I promptly in. Interestingly, Srajan's and John Darko's fantastic highly educational podcast about the DWX went live just several days after. I encourage anyone interested in this speaker to have a listen. My cargo comprised two large cardboard boxes with as many foam cradles per box. These thick inserts locked the goods into place to secure them properly. I found this utilitarian packaging which had already travelled from the US to Ireland very effective. Upon extracting the monitors I only had to detach their hard plastic covers on the main drivers and that was it. Later on it turned out that the 'remove to groove' stickers on these frisbee-like protectors were a spot-on forecast for what was to come. Each DWX measures 30.5² x 58.5cm WxDxH and 19kg. These are big suckers but one adult will manage fine. Further specs list 95dBV/2.8V/1m sensitivity, unusually high 12Ω nominal impedance, 38Hz–22kHz typical in-room response, 118dB max SPL and max input of 200W. 95% US-made and life expectancy of 100 years seal the deal.
The DWX fits the über-monitor profile given its large stand-mount frame. Two drivers per box may imply a two-way but this isn't the case. The company's very own Zu260FRD-ND 10.3" widebander with whizzer cone, paper membrane, stiff pleated cloth surround and hard-hung 2" voice coil on a paper/Kapton former operates without a crossover yet covers most the audible range. This means that our amp connects directly to that voice coil. The Eminence ASD-1001 tweeter inside a short aluminium waveguide features a titanium dome, ferrite motor and kicks in at 12kHz via a shallow 1st-order high-pass of just one capacitor. Most tweeters step in far sooner but the one in the DWX acts like a super tweeter. It merely boosts ambience and makes the finest shimmers on the very top more pronounced. The term Srajan used was 1.5-way. I think that calling it an augmented full-ranger or purist widebander with a twist is just as correct.
Zu's own DW6 is their slightly more expensive floorstander built on the same footprint. Some may thus wonder why even bother with today's shortie. The obvious answer is that customers asked so Sean delivered. But there's more to it. The DW6 incorporates a slotted port on its rear so some distance between that and the front wall is a must. The monitor version with its rather large bass-reflex bore on the front promises good performance even close to a wall. Those who can't set up in free space should find this a big plus. Today's speaker is also the first Zu that doesn't feature their traditional bottom-firing Zu-Griewe loading. The DW6's greater internal volume allows it to go lower. The DWX runs the same driver in less cubic volume but still means to work as full-fledged widebander without extra bass assist. Now porting wrings more reach from a smaller cabinet. In its core form, this big driver has been around for about two decades. It's an intrinsic part of Zu's voicing and pricing. Good. Big sound demands large cone surface.
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