It was apparent right off that this Zu is no Harbeth or Spendor. Considering its driver array, I can't say that ace nearfield performance came as shock. But something else did. This specialty turned out to be a real banger. It set the DWX apart from the über monitor lot as much as its own widebander kind. Prior to revealing this forté, let me get back at positioning. I think that monitors this large really ought to sit atop a shorter stand that's properly wide to look good. My Soundstyle Z1 speaker stands were the exact opposite. More importantly, neither their skinny steel pillars nor my Ikea Poäng chair are height adjustable. So the DWX with its tweeters above the widebanders put the soundstage baseline a bit higher. Moving the speakers farther from my seat closer to the front wall would have alleviated this some but I wasn't yet ready to sacrifice stage depth. Since the Zu can invert upside down without changing widebander height, it was worth a shot. Bingo. More air and a soundstage perspective roughly in line with what I'm used to. Considering my stand height, I thought this setup probably as good as I could manage. Then I had one of those Eureka moments. Right-side up or inverted, the DWX's main driver doesn't change position. But laid on its side like in a recording studio lowers it by about 15cm. This turned out wholly positive. The soundscape no longer felt suspended higher than it should. Now images occupied spaces I recognized. All mandatory tracks on my playlist were spatially familiar and music in general felt more anchored. Since horizontal flippancy was another option, I had to decide whether I wanted the bass ports in and tweeters out or vice versa. In the first scenario the backdrop for instruments and vocals was a bit wider and more enveloping. Vents out caused mild midbass boost likely due to more sidewall gain. The DWX was plenty rich in that band already so the first positioning was my choice. Gentle toe in sufficed to lock images into place with great focus which again was typical for widebanders. The distance between each Zu and my front/rear walls was 120/85cm respectively and all good. Although getting to this point may read like a hassle, it wasn't. Rather, during this fun adventure the DWX showed itself to be more adaptive and easier to work with than most other speakers I've auditioned. Used in the horizontal or vertical orientation, nearfield, close to the front wall as shown or in-between… it didn't care. I found that very practical and many listeners should, too.

With that sorted, I could move to deciding on best amplification. My arsenal comprised a Firstwatt F7/Thöress DFP and Trilogy 995R/915R combo plus Enleum AMP-23R. The DWX is an easy load so compliance with all of my amps was in the cards. Enleum's tiny footprint and price much below the others made it an appealing first candidate. When I see large monitors, I subconsciously think big beefy round sound. The Zu's wasn't. During normal ~75dB SPL, it brimmed with easy detail, radiance, nuance, contour but also was lean. With Enleum's volume at ~10:00, I had plenty of headroom left. Although going louder had the music grow more muscular, sunny and spatially expansive, quick low beats like on Hecq's "Steeltongued" remained quite tame. Of course widebanders show off well what kind of amp precedes them. So at that point I thought that perhaps this was it. Enleum's aesthetic is highly resolved, organic, texturally fruity, quick and just a touch warm. It most certainly isn't thick, syrupy or densely voiced. The Zu communicated this and mastery on delicate vocal music. The level of textural charm, nuance, sensuality, moisture and overall sophistication on Caetano Veloso's "Come As You Are" was admirably high. Then again, on that score I expected no less. Since the DWX handled calm minimalist tracks well, early on I considered it as primed for that. Large paper cones on barely moving suspensions propagate lots of air, however. The stiffness of these surrounds, high efficiency, easy impedance and lack of crossover networks render that motion responsive and controlled for high directness, immediacy, elasticity, effortlessness and open-baffle spaciousness. Most single-driver implementations are rear horn-loaded delicate specimens not tailored for slamming high SPL. Yet as I would learn, the DWX very much is. It's a finessed charmer as much as roaring dynamically talented wildling so quite the outsider and very special at that.

Although on rapid synth bass my Vox dug noticeably deeper, its bass still felt smaller. Both are ported affairs but the Zu didn't sound like one. Its snappy impact, articulation and ability to effortlessly pump more air at a listener prevented that. By changing repertoire and hardware, I put its bass behaviour under the scope. Team Firstwatt/Thöress replaced the AMP-23R and heavy music served up. Things escalated very quickly. The Firstwatt is designed to act more powerful and authoritative than its specs suggest while the tubed preamp packs tonal richness, density and warmth atop closely served images, hard hits, high dynamics and outstanding agility. I cued up "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" by Queens of the Stone Age. Now the Zu no longer felt lean or tame in any way. Quite the contrary. I'd finally let Mr. Hyde out to effectively pin me to the seat with a big grin. I didn't expect that and am sure that most listeners not previously exposed to Zu wouldn't either. Short finely timed drum hits followed hefty well-anchored guitars. All its tasty rawness and anger didn't stop Joshua Homme's voice from being as substantial as it was finely outlined and perfectly intelligible. The scenery was spatially massive, intense, packed with saturated substance, dynamics and sheer enjoyment. Audiophile lingo would call it stout upper bass and elevated midrange presence with a properly developed top end but fun was the key word.

I can't recall the last time I had this much fun with this specific song. A different story was Therion's "Never Again". Although the album's mixing is average at best, I was certain that I'd never heard this track better. The DWX mixed fully ripe tone and density with dynamic prowess and quickness for an outstanding outcome. Informative, articulate, precise and punctual, this speaker was free from any blur, spatial confusion, wooliness, hollowness or other lag. Considering this, it mattered not that it neither went as low as the Vox nor was as strikingly intimate. As far as heavy fare went, the Swiss couldn't compete on effortlessness, substance and raw energy. The Zu's silly good performance on this count is its banger trait and greatest asset. I'm not aware of any other similarly sized even larger purist widebander that packs it. Again, the DWX fares brilliantly on music most other widebanders aren't equipped to handle well at all. Although it clearly thrives on heavy challenges and has what it takes to shock, it's a master artist on unplugged instrumentals too. On Rodrigo Y Gabriela's "Orion" it brilliantly showcased how much energy acoustic guitars have in store and how quick, substantial and crisp they get upon releasing it just to return to mellowness and elegance shortly after. Dullness, sharpness or fatigue of any kind weren't on the menu.